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January 25, 2015

I hate to bring bad news on the best day of the week, but I think this merits attention. In his book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church, Deepak Reju provides a look at the techniques of a sexual predator, and focuses on the way a predator will prepare or groom an entire church so that he can take advantage of its children. His words are worth reading and worth considering.


The most common technique for sexual offenders to gain access to children is to cultivate a double life. Sexual offenders work very hard to be likable and respectable members of a church. If they are liked and respected, they earn the trust of the church community. Once they are trusted, they gain access to children. This is known as “grooming”—a process of working over the children and adults in a church in order to earn their trust.

Offenders don’t usually rush through grooming but instead take the time to develop relationships with the members of a church community. In order to win over the adults and become an accepted part of the church, they put on a persona of being useful, kind, useful, helpful, polite, and caring to adults and children alike. Author and expert Anna Salter comments,

The double life is a powerful tactic: There is the pattern of socially responsible behavior in public that causes parents and others to drop their guard, to allow access to children, and to turn a deaf ear to disclosures. But a surly and obnoxious person would have little access, no matter how proper and appropriate his public behavior was. The second tactic—the ability to charm, to be likable, to radiate sincerity and truthfulness—is crucial to gaining access to children.

Most violent offenders know enough to keep their behavior in check publicly or else their plans would be ruined. The fact that a sexual offender is not off-putting but might actually have lots of good qualities makes it very difficult to pinpoint one. Most people think of a sexual offender as all bad and can’t conceive of such a person having anything good about him or her.

Once the sexual predator has gained the trust of a significant number of people within a church, suspicions become harder to articulate. Conformity studies show that few people will publicly disagree with a majority opinion. And if the person gets enthusiastic support from church friends or church leaders, it makes it all the more difficult to speak out against them with persuasive conviction.

In reality, what is happening is that the sexual offender is regularly manipulating and pretending to be someone he or she is not. Offenders are professional liars—very skillful at what they do because they’ve done it for years. They’ve lied to everyone in their lives—church members, friends, their victims, and even to themselves—in order to justify their sinful desires and continue on the destructive path of harming children. According to most experts who work with sexual offenders, not only is their lying hard to detect, but it is often quite convincing.

If a predator is roaming around your church, he is probably not a stranger to you. More than likely, he is someone whom you already know, like, and do not see as a threat to your children.

January 24, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle Deals: Jesus, the Only Way to God by John Piper ($0.99); You, Your Family and the Internet by David Clark ($0.99); George Muller of Bristol by Arthur Pierson ($3.96); Igniting the Fire by Jake Hanson ($3.82).

You may enjoy this article on The Jennifer Epidemic. It traces the rising and waning of the most popular baby names over the past decades. And apparently there has never been a name like Jennifer.

Al Mohler looks at Downtown Abbey and asks What Are Americans Really Watching?

Here is an Ode to Skymall as it announces its bankruptcy. “SkyMall, that stupid wonderful completely American wonder that, with its insistence that you take your own free copy, announced it was your right as a human in the ‘90s to never not be shopping.”

Gavin Ortlund offers 7 Principles of Sabbath Rest. “Here are 7 principles about Sabbath rest that I am learning. I share them in hopes they might help others fighting the battle of busyness, fatigue, and endurance.”

Amazing Grace is a brief and quirky update from Scotland and the ministry 20 Schemes (which I both love and support!).

Jamie Brown has an interesting one: Pointing at the Same Thing from Different Angles.

As pastors, you will find that guarding the gospel will cause you intense personal pain. —Sinclair Ferguson

Ferguson

January 23, 2015

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Scripture Memory Kids. There will be 5 winners this week and each of the winners will receive a copy of both of the Scripture Memory Kids CDs. Here is what they say about their albums:

There is just something about music that makes memorizing easier and that is at the heart of what we do here at Scripture Memory Kids ™ .  Our fun and lively Scripture Memory CDs help kids, of any age, memorize God’s Word in an exciting and effective way.

Scripture Memory Kids also provides lots of fun, free downloads intended to further assist people in memorizing God’s Word. You can check some of those out here.

In addition, for the next seven days Scripture Memory Kids is offering a 25% discount at the Scripture Memory Kids store, exclusively for friends of Challies.com, when you enter the discount code challies2save at the time of checkout at ScriptureMemoryKids.com.

 

SMK

Enter the Draw

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.

 

January 23, 2015

Spoiler Alert - This is an interesting one from Slate: “Children’s birthday parties are getting more and more extravagant. Here’s how we let it happen.” I have noticed this trend!

Going Paperless - This is a long but helpful guide on going paperless. It’s easier than ever!

What I Saw at the Abortion - Trevin Wax: “Ross Douthat linked to this first-person testimony from Richard Selzer, a surgeon, as an example of a pro-choice person who can’t ‘unsee’ what they’ve witnessed in an abortion.”

When You’re Prayerless - “Prayerlessness is not fundamentally a discipline problem. At root it’s a faith problem.” And it happens to all of us sometimes.

Under the Microscope - You know you want to see what some common objects look like under the microscope.

Patterns of Evidence - Here’s another review of the new documentary film Patterns of Evidence.

3 Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill - Gavin Ortlund looks to Winston Church to find 3 important leadership lessons.

When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything. —G.K.Chesterton

Chesterton

January 22, 2015

I knew next to nothing about my wife on the day I married her. We had dated for a few years, we had spent countless evenings talking on the phone, we had attended church, we had organized events, and even run a business together. But despite all that, we still barely knew one another. The knowledge we had was genuine, but it was shallow. Still, that small amount of knowledge was enough to compel us to invite our friends and family to a little church in Ancaster so we could pledge our lives to one another.

I have never had a moment’s regret for marrying Aileen (which is not the same as saying we have never had disagreements or difficult times). This is remarkable when I consider how little I knew of her on the day of our wedding. I loved and appreciated her as far as I knew her, but in retrospect can see how little knowledge I really had.

Fast forward through sixteen years of marriage, and our knowledge has increased dramatically. It has increased to a level that all those years ago would have seemed downright creepy. Through the pleasure of living together, the toil of working together, the intimacy of sleeping together, the delight of having children together, and all the normal joys and trials of life, we have come to know one another in a much deeper way. I love her much more now than I did at the time, because today’s love is based on much more substantial knowledge.

Don’t hear me saying that I have now learned everything about her, as if sixteen years has been sufficient for that. I am fully aware that, should the Lord grant us thirty-two or sixty-four years together, I’ll look back and marvel at how little I knew of her in 2015. This is part of the joy of marriage—spending a lifetime growing in my knowledge of, and therefore love for, another person. This is part of the honor of marriage, that another person would allow me to know her to this degree, to allow me to know her mind, body, and soul.

When I first began writing these words, I intended to make a comparison to the Christian’s relationship with God. And there is a sense in which the comparison works. But there is another sense in which it fails.

When you became a Christian, you did so on the basis of partial knowledge. You had genuine knowledge of genuine truth, but it was very limited knowledge. Still, it was enough—it was enough to see yourself as a sinner and Christ as a glorious Savior, and so you put your faith in him. But to some degree it was still a leap in the dark. Then, as you have grown as a Christian, you have inevitably come to a better and deeper understanding of God, and his glory and grace; that small faith has been rewarded as it has grown into a fuller and more robust faith. You love for God has grown as your knowledge of God has increased.

But God’s love for you has remained unchanged. It has not grown a bit, and that’s because God’s knowledge of you has not advanced one bit. Before you were born he knew everything you would be. “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:16). Before he saved you, he knew everything you would do: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). He knew it all. His knowledge of you was complete and is complete. His love for you was complete and is complete. It will never change. It can never change.

Image credit: Shutterstock

January 22, 2015

Here are a few new Kindle deals: On Guard by William Lane Craig (free); The Forgotten Trinity by James White ($1.99); Heresy by Alister McGrath ($1.99). (Complete list)

How Small Is an Atom? - Very small, apparently, according to this video.

Books on Sale - This week’s deals from Westminster Books include excellent resources for middle schoolers.

I’ve Sinned; Now What? - Here are eleven reminders for dealing with sin.

The Boy Who Didn’t Come Back From Heaven - The Guardian: “Alex Malarkey co-wrote a bestselling book about a near-death experience – and then last week admitted he made it up. So why wasn’t anyone listening to a quadriplegic boy and a mother who simply wanted the truth to be heard?”

5 Scientific Problems with Current Theories of Biological and Chemical Evolution - Justin Taylor summarizes some work from the Discovery Institute.

Before He Preachers - Thom Rainer makes six observations about speaking to the pastor right before he preaches.

Idolizing the Bible - Is it possible for Christians to idolize the Bible?

God never made a promise that was too good to be true. —D. L. Moody

Moody

January 21, 2015

I receive the emails often, the emails from the man who wonders how he, he of all people, could possibly lead his family. He has blown it. He has sinned too often, too flagrantly, too publicly. Usually it is the porn: She found the stash on his hard drive or the links in his browser. Hard-earned respect was demolished in a moment.

Aside: Men, don’t you know what it does to your wife’s heart when she learns this about you? Don’t you care how it destroys your reputation in her eyes? Don’t you fear how it shatters her confidence in the man she married? 

Or maybe it wasn’t porn, but years of apathy, of neglect. How could he lead after so many years of being so passive? Or maybe it is neither porn nor apathy, but fear, fear of a woman who is so much wiser and so much more knowledgeable, who knows so much more about the Bible and so much more about the God of the Bible. How is he supposed to lead his wife and family when she is the one who knows so much more?

Whatever the reason, he hasn’t led. He hasn’t given direction to the family, he hasn’t called the family together for devotions, he hasn’t prayed with the kids, he hasn’t stepped up and been a leader. And the longer he goes, the harder it gets.

This is the most difficult time to lead. The most difficult time to lead is when you have forfeited the respect of those who are meant to follow you, when your confidence, and theirs, is shattered. But this is also the most important time to lead. This is where a real man will, and must, lead.

No one leads because he is worthy of the honor. In all of human history there has only been one person who was a worthy leader, and only one person who perfectly succeeded in his leadership. The rest of us, the best of us, are unworthy. We fumble along. We lead and stumble. We lead and fail. We lead and lose our way. We lead and hope desperately to learn something from it all. In all of human history there has been only one person who was a worthy leader, but the call to lead goes to the unworthy as well. And so we lead. Like it or not, confident or not, skillful or not, we lead.

We don’t lead because we are worthy, but because we are called. You don’t lead because you are worthy, but because you are called. And, my friend, you have been called— commanded and called by God himself. If you are a husband, you have been called. If you are a father, you have been called. You have been called to lead—you and no one else. You have been called to lead despite your sin and your failure, despite your fear and apathy. There is no backup plan, there is no one to lead in your absence, no one better suited, no one better qualified.

It won’t be easy, but it will be right, and God always blesses when you do what is right. So ask forgiveness for your sin. Turn away from those failures. Put to death the doubt and pride that traps you in inactivity. And lead. Lead gently, lead humbly, lead prayerfully. But lead.

If you won’t lead, who will? If not today, then when? You know what to do. So do it.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

January 21, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler ($2.99); Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Wax ($2.99); The People of God by Trevor Joy & Spence Shelton ($0.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($4.99); Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom Rainer ($4.99); The Wisdom of Narnia by Pauline Baynes ($0.99); The Church by Richard McBrien (this is history of Catholicism by a liberal Roman Catholic may be of interest to some readers) ($3.99). Complete List.

Women’s Discipleship and the Mommy Blogosphere - Hannah Anderson has some valuable things to say about the mommy blogs—their strengths and their weaknesses.

God’s Light in Our Darkness - “Being ‘saved’ doesn’t save us from facing sickness and sword, including depression. However, God does promise to give us the proper footing as we walk through hard terrain.”

How Should We Respond? - Justin Taylor suggests an appropriate response to the new reports that a fragment from the gospel of Mark dates to the first century.

The Gospel in Colombia - The Gospel Coalition reports on the state of the church in Colombia.

Husbands, Pray with Your Wives - Wendy Alsup encourages husbands to love their wives by praying with their wives.

Stop Obsessing - Mike Wittmer gives you 4 good reasons to stop obsessing about heaven.

When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad. ―D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Lloyd Jones