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The Major Life Decision That Put My Theology to the Test
October 09, 2015

It’s always a little easier to help others live the Christian life than to live it myself. It is easy enough to tell others how to face temptation when that particular sin has no hold on me. It is easy for me, a married guy, to give instruction on how to live the single life. And, as I recently discovered, it is easy to tell others how to make decisions when I’m not the one who is facing the life-altering choice. But then, a few weeks ago, I had to make a decision that would impact my life, my family, and my church. It was grueling and it put my theology to the test.

For the past five years, my time and attention has been divided between writing and serving as associate pastor at Grace Fellowship Church. I love to do both of these things and have wanted to give them each my full-out effort. For several years I was able to maintain that balance and still have lots of time to be a husband and father. But over the past couple of years both the church and my web site have grown substantially. I came to the growing realization that I was no longer giving the best of my time and attention to either one. At least, not unless I was willing to steal it from my family.

I consulted with friends, Aileen and the kids, and my fellow elders at Grace Fellowship Church. We thought a lot and prayed a lot. And together we decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign my full-time position as associate pastor so I could dedicate the bulk of my attention to this web site and to writing projects. My resignation was effective as of September 30. To be clear, there is no scandal or sin that pushed me here. I am still a pastor/elder at Grace Fellowship Church; it’s just that I am now doing this on a volunteer basis instead of being on staff. (Paul Martin, the senior pastor at GFC, provides his perspective here: About that Tim Challies Guy.)

On the one hand, this was a straightforward decision. I was beginning to crumble under the weight of all my responsibilities and even seeing my health start to suffer. But on the other hand, it was grueling because I have such affection for pastoring and, even more, for the people I pastor and the people I pastor with. I wanted desperately to find a solution that would allow me to give equal time to both of the things I love to do. But, try as I might, I couldn’t come up with one.

I have often written and taught on how to know and do the will of God. (See, for example, Why Making Decisions Is So Hard.) This situation represented the first time in quite a while when I had to make a major, life-altering decision. I found myself surprised by the difficulty. I know how to do it by the book: I followed the process and came to a decision—a good decision, I think. But I didn’t love it. I had to push myself to believe that this is all God requires of me—to seek his revealed will and to then live boldly, with confidence in him.

I resigned from Grace Fellowship Church with a nagging sense of failure. I have seen others succeed at local church and wider ministry. Why couldn’t I? I resigned with a frustrating lack of clarity. I wanted to have more facts at my disposal, and especially more facts about what the future holds. I resigned with more than a little regret, regretting my inability and limitations.

But I also resigned with conviction and excitement. I am coming up on 12 years of daily blogging and in all that time have never been able to do it on more than a part-time basis. In the early days I was a full-time network administrator, then a full-time web developer, then a full-time pastor. October 1 represented the very first day I have ever been able to give my writing the absolute best of my time and attention. And, between you and me, it felt great.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but as the saying goes, I do know the one who holds the future. And I look forward to learning what he has for me.

Now, before I close out this little article, I want to express my gratitude to you. Thank you for reading this site. Thank you for making it a part of your day. I thank God for you and hope to be able to serve you well in the days and years to come. I do not plan to make any major changes in the near future. I do not plan to write a whole lot more. But I do hope that this increased time will allow me to write deeper and better.

Image credit: Shutterstock

October 09, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include two from Christian Focus, a trusted publisher: How Prayer Impacts Lives by Catherine MacKenzie ($1.99) and Input Output by Jo Boddam-Whetham ($0.99). You may also be interested in I Will by Thom Rainer ($2.99).

Andrew Peterson’s Newest Album Is Now Available

You can now purchase Andrew Peterson’s latest album, The Burning Edge of Dawn.

Everlasting Way

And while we’re on the subject of music, a reader pointed me to this EP by Dan opdeVeigh. You can listen to it for free on Bandcamp. My only complaint is that there are only 4 songs.

Were Early Christian Scribes Untrained Amateurs?

Michael Kruger takes on a common fallacy. “In the ongoing debates about the reliability of early Christian manuscripts, and whether they have been transmitted with fidelity, it is often claimed that early Christian scribes were amateurs, unprofessional, and some probably couldn’t even read.”

5 Warning Signs for the Church in a ‘Facebook Culture’

Sticking with Michael Kruger, he has also written on a very different topic: “What effect does ‘social media’ technology have on the way we view the church? On the way we conceive of life in Christ’s body?”

The Meaning of Marriage

Westminster Books has a great deal on the book, study guide, and DVD for Tim Keller’s excellent book The Meaning of Marriage.

Direct Revelation and Marriage Proposals

And speaking of marriage, we have all heard of these marriage proposals, right? “God told me we should get married,” Jacob said with enough strength to mean it—and with enough of a pause between, “God told me” and “we should…” for Lisa to deduce that he wasn’t so sure about what he was saying.

This Day in 1971. Russell Moore was born. Happy 44th birthday, Russell! You can wish him a happy birthday at @DrMoore.

Restaurant Conveyer Belt

If this is the future of restaurants, I think I’ll just eat at home, thanks.

The Frightening Promise of Self-Tracking Pills

And if this is the future of medication, I think I’ll just take my chances without. Yet a few years from now, both will probably seem perfectly normal.


The Bible simultaneously pictures God as utterly sovereign, and as a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God. —D.A. Carson

October 08, 2015

There may be no theological topic more controversial than divine wrath. While most of humanity is eager to acknowledge the existence of God, and while most love to acknowledge his traits of grace and mercy and kindness, very few want to acknowledge his wrath. Yet wrath is a consistent theme in the Bible and a defining characteristic of the God we meet in its pages. Divine wrath suffers when we fail to understand it aright. Here are two serious, common misconceptions.

The first misconception is that God’s wrath is cruel. Too many people associate God’s wrath with human anger which, indeed, is often arbitrary and mean. The truth is that God’s wrath is always the wrath of God as Judge. Thus, God’s wrath is always a measured, just, judicial wrath.

According to J.I. Packer, “the explicit presupposition of all that we find in the Bible … on the torments of those who experience the fullness of God’s wrath is that each receives precisely what he deserves. ‘The day of God’s wrath’, Paul tells us, is also the day ‘when his righteous judgment will be revealed.’ And in that day ‘God will give to each person according to what he has done’ (Romans 2:5ff).” Just as our justice systems dole out punishments fitting for particular crimes, Jesus himself taught that God’s retribution will be proportionate to the individual and his offense (see Luke 12:47ff) .

Of course that is precisely why God’s wrath is so fearsome. No one will suffer beyond what he deserves. But what he deserves is unspeakably terrible. “If it is asked: can disobedience to our Creator really deserve great and grievous punishment? anyone who has ever been convicted of sin knows beyond any shadow of doubt that the answer is yes, and knows too that those whose consciences have not yet been awaked to consider, as Anselm put it, ‘how weighty sin is’ are not yet qualified to give an opinion.” God will serve as Judge and will judge justly.

The second misconception is that God’s wrath is something God inflicts upon ignorant, innocent people. This misconception teaches that God inflicts hell upon people who would have chosen God if only they had the option or the appropriate understanding. But

God’s wrath in the Bible is something which people choose for themselves. Before hell is an experience inflicted by God, it is a state for which a person himself opts, by retreating from the light which God shines in his heart to lead him to himself. … The decisive act of judgment upon the lost is the judgment which they pass upon themselves, by rejecting the light that comes to them in and through Jesus Christ. In the last analysis, all that God does subsequently in judicial action towards the unbeliever, whether in this life or beyond it, is to show him, and lead him into, the full implications of the choice he has made.

Packer goes on to say, “Nobody stands under the wrath of God save those who have chosen to do so. The essence of God’s action in wrath is to give people what they choose in all its implications: nothing more, and equally nothing less. God’s readiness to respect human choice to this extent may appear disconcerting and even terrifying, but it is plain that his attitude here is supremely just, and poles apart from the wanton and irresponsible inflicting of pain which is what we mean by cruelty.” And then he provides this memorable line: “What God is hereby doing is no more than to ratify and confirm judgments which those whom he ‘visits’ have already passed on themselves by the course they have chosen to follow.”

God is not cruel in his wrath. He is not arbitrary. And his wrath will never extend to the ignorant or innocent. He will apportion his wrath with perfect fairness upon those who have chosen to face it.

Next Week

If you are reading Knowing God with me as part of Reading Classics Together, please read chapters 16 and 17 for next Thursday. If you are not yet doing so, feel free to join us (and catch up with the reading).

Your Turn

The purpose of Reading Classics Together is to read these books together. This time around the bulk of the discussion is happening in a dedicated Facebook group. You can find it right here. A thousand people are already interacting there and would be glad to have you join in or just read along.

October 08, 2015

Yesterday’s test on the Trinity was surprisingly popular, with 21,000 people completing it by the end of the day! I can’t see individual results but I can see trends. I may write an article or two to address the most common mistakes (which may also have just been badly worded questions). In the meantime, enjoy today’s links:

A Songwriting Rant

You will probably appreciate Andrew Wilson’s songwriting rant. “I’m not really ranting about songwriters, but about the pastoral carelessness, verging on negligence, shown by a fair few guardians of the church simply because someone is holding a guitar. For most modern charismatics and evangelicals, our hymnody is our liturgy - a problem which is the subject of a whole other post - and that makes thinking it through carefully extremely important.”

The Raging Waters

Derek Thomas brings an update from South Carolina. “Our beautiful city has been ravaged, more than a dozen lives have been lost and thousands have been displaced and ruined; and as I write, further threats are in view.”

Fixing India’s Railways

In world news: “[India’s] railway, often dubbed as the ‘Lifeline of the Nation,’ shuttles more than 23 million people a day via 12,000-plus trains across some 7,000 stations. But congestion, frequent train accidents, and a lack of funding and political will to improve the rail system has made it inefficient and outdated.”

Christian Album Covers

Here’s a roundup of some of the most ridiculous and hilarious Christian album covers. Personally, I think Petra’s More Power To Ya was pretty awesome.

Be Kind To Yourself

I just love this new song and video from Andrew Peterson. His new album comes out in just 2 days. About this song he says, “I wrote this for my daughter, and the day I sang it for her I realized it was for me, too.” (Also, you can read an interview with him at The Gospel Coalition.)

This Day in 451. The first meeting of the Council of Chalcedon opened, near Constantinople. Dealing primarily with the Eutychian Christological heresy, the council created a confession of faith which has been regarded as the highest word in early Christian orthodoxy. *

The Most Spoken Language

A study has found that in 2050 the world’s most spoken language may just be French. That’s largely because of the high birth-rate in African nations where French is the dominant language.

Ditching the Rhythm

As a person who loves routine and who is trying to learn some new routines, I appreciated this article.


Inerrancy means the word of God always stands over us and we never stand over the word of God. —Kevin DeYoung

Take a Test on the Trinity
October 07, 2015

How well do you know the doctrine of the Trinity? In his little book Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves calls the Trinity "the governing center of all Christian belief" and "the cockpit of all Christian thinking." In other words, it is not an irrelevant or secondary doctrine, but one that is of primary importance.

How well do you know this central doctrine? Together with Rebecca Stark, I have put together a little quiz that will allow you to test yourself. Here are 33 statements related to the Trinity. Simply answer true or false to each one and see your score at the end.

(Can't see the quiz? Click here: Thirty-three on the three-in-one.)


The information for this quiz was largely drawn from:

October 07, 2015

There are a few excellent Kindle deals today, including Answering Your Kids’ Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick ($1.99); Roman Catholic Theology by Gregg Allison ($4.99); Run to Win the Prize by Thomas Schreiner ($2.99); The Underestimated Gospel edited by Jonathan Leeman ($0.99). New from GLH Publishing is The Precious Things of God by Octavius Winslow ($0.99).

How Do I Know That God Loves Me?

“How do we know God loves us, and what does His love look like? How we answer these questions, and we all hold answers to those questions whether we are aware of them or not, is what determines our view of God and the health of our faith.” 

Five Questions about Sanctification and Good Works

This promises to be a good series from Kevin DeYoung. Over the course of 5 days he will answer 5 questions about sanctification and good works. It’s not the easiest reading, but worth pushing yourself, I think. (Also, here is part two.)

‘Captive’ and the Christian Film Industry

This article may be a bit too harsh toward Christian movies, but I think the main point is valid. “No non-Christian is going to see one of these films and think ‘hey, I should follow Jesus now.’ They will watch them and either laugh, or nod off.” God’s Not Dead was an especially bad offender.

This Day in 1873. Extraordinary missionary Lottie Moon arrives in China. She once said, “If I had a thousand lives, I would give them all for the women of China.” *

New Planned Parenthood Video

This is beyond horrifying. “New undercover video footage released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) shows a Planned Parenthood abortionist describing how she tears away preborn babies’ ‘lower extremities’ in an effort to get at their torsos.”

Why Annihilationism is Wrong

Gavin Ortlund: “The traditional doctrine of hell is currently undergoing significant challenges from both within and without the church. Many question the reality of hell outright, while many others opt toward annihiliationism—the belief that the damned won’t suffer eternally but will instead have their consciousness extinguished at some point.”

The Preacher and His Technology

David Murray talks about the preacher and his technology. In the bottom part of the article he discusses how he uses various technologies in his sermon preparation.


Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life; it offers us a less busy heart. —Paul Miller

October 06, 2015

Pastoring is a difficult calling. Those who commit their lives to pastoral ministry commit to a tough, tough job. I’m convinced there is nothing quite like it. There are other jobs that require more precise skill and longer training. There are other jobs that demand longer hours. There are other jobs that require more exertion. But somehow, when taken as a whole, I can’t imagine a more difficult vocation. That is especially true for the pastor who takes the lead role within a church. What makes pastoral ministry so difficult? I think there are many factors.

  • Satan hates the church and knows that he can destroy the church by destroying its leaders. For that reason, spiritual leaders tend to face his strongest and most pointed attacks.
  • Pastors face a multitude of issues and are expected to bring wisdom to bear on each one of them. One day the pastor may need to bring comfort to grieving parents, the next day to bring counsel to an addict, and the day after to interview and hire staff members.
  • Pastoral ministry remains the one job for which a man is qualified not by his skill but by his character. Where other jobs are driven by results, pastors are qualified and evaluated primarily on the basis of their godliness and spiritual maturity.
  • Pastors face constant scrutiny. Week by week they bare themselves before their congregation and week by week they face critique and rebuke. Often the most withering attacks come from those they love the most.

David Hegg says it well: “Ordained ministry is a serious and strenuous calling that requires from a man a radical refusal to set any limits on what God may demand of him.”

But despite all the difficulties, there may be no other job as satisfying. Certainly there is no other vocation to which God attaches greater significance. It is a glorious calling not despite the difficulties, but because of them. I thank God for pastors.

New from Jason Helopoulos is The New Pastor’s Handbook which is subtitled Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry. Helopoulos wrote the book to serve as a guidebook for the first years of pastoral ministry. In his opening words he says,

Consider this book as an outstretched helping hand from a pastor a little further along in the journey than you—a pastor who experienced his first years of ministry just a decade ago. Those memories and challenges are still fresh in my mind. I hope this freshness, along with some seasoning through experience as the years have passed, will provide ready wisdom and aid to those just beginning this journey. Much of this book draws on advice mentors have given me over the years, but some of it is what I wish I had known and unfortunately only learned by experience.

In forty-eight short chapters he provides counsel on knowing and heeding God’s call, on starting out strong in ministry, on the pitfalls young pastors face, and on the joys of ministry. The biggest section is comprised of very practical tips and pointers on a selection of pressing issues: caring for family, reading, leading, busyness, friendship, suffering, and many more.

The book’s endorsements point in a consistent direction—the endorsers wish they had been able to read this book when they were younger and starting out as pastors. Kevin DeYoung says, “I wish I could have read this book when I was just starting out in ministry” while Alistair Begg echoes, “I wish The New Pastor’s Handbook had been available when I was starting out.” My own blurb begins with the question, “Where was this book when I was first ordained?”

If you are in pastoral ministry (and especially if you are newly in ministry) or if you are considering pastoral ministry, I know you will benefit from reading The New Pastor’s Handbook. Ultrapractical and stuffed full of timeless wisdom, this is a book I will recommend often and reread regularly.

October 06, 2015

Today’s Kindle deals include The Insanity of Obedience by Nik Ripken ($2.99); Ordinary by Tony Merida ($2.99); Preparing Expository Sermons by Ramesh Richard ($2.99); Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey ($2.99); My Daily Pursuit by A.W. Tozer ($1.99).

Ten Commandments for Pastors

Joel Beeke has ten wise and helpful commandments for pastors.

The Vine Journal

I’m excited about this! GoThereFor, a ministry connected to Matthias Media, has announced The Vine Journal, a new journal they will be publishing 3 times a year. The first issue is free to download. (You can read the announcement and rationale here.)

A Lack of Confidence

This article was written specifically for worship leaders. But even though I’m no worship leader, it still slapped me across the face. “One issue that can sink worship leaders is a lack of confidence. And when I say ‘confidence’ I mean a confidence in the power of God’s call on you, the power of the Spirit within you, and the power of the gospel no thanks to you.”

Joy - An Irish Christmas

Don’t wait to get your tickets for this year’s Christmas tour with the Gettys (since many of the shows will sell out!). I went last year and enjoyed it thoroughly. If you’re going to the Toronto concert, I’ll see you down at Roy Thompson Hall. If you’re going to the Louisville concert, you’ll get to support 20schemes.

This Day in 1536. William Tyndale is martyred at the stake in Antwerp for his Protestant views and for his efforts to translate the Bible into English. *

The Perspicuity of Scripture

As Burk Parsons points out, “what is so hard about the hard sayings of Jesus is not our inability to understand them fully but to believe them fully and obey them fully.”

ECFA Strips Gospel for Asia’s Membership

I am not certain if this will be relevant to any of my readers, but it may be good to know that The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) terminated the membership of Gospel for Asia Friday for violations of ECFA standards.


You and your sins must separate, or you and your God cannot come together. —C.H. Spurgeon