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Tim Challies

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July 2003

July 26, 2003

The Case For Christ should be required reading for all Christians. A bold statement, I know, but it truly is an incredible book. I certainly would not say it is the best book I’ve ever read, nor the most profound. But what this book does, and does very well, is set forth in a clear and unequivocal manner, the evidence that Christ existed and that He was exactly who and what He said He was.

July 24, 2003

Baptism means different things to different people within the Christian world. There are disagreements in the meaning, the methodology and the importance of baptism. In this four part message series, John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, seeks to interpret the Biblical meaning of baptism.

To understand Piper’s analysis of baptism, it helps to know a bit of his background. He is pastor of a Baptist church and thus believes in believer’s baptism by immersion. However, he spent much of his youth in Lutheran churches and now preaches in a predominantly Catholic area, so he has a good understanding of those views of baptism. At the same time, he is Reformed, so understands infant baptism as practiced by Presbyterians and most Reformed denominations. This puts him in a unique position of having a deep understanding of each of the forms of baptism.

As a Reformed Christian who grew up in churches that practiced infant baptism I appreciated that Piper really understands infant baptism rather than falling into the usual arguments against infant baptism (“So you believe that your child is saved when he is baptized.”) This alone, in my view, made this series worth listening to. His argument against infant baptism is that it is built on a false principle. Baptism is not simply a continuation of circumcision as most Reformed Christians believe, but “an indictment of a misuse of circumcision as a guarantee of salvation. Circumcision was a sign of ethnic continuity; baptism was a sign of spiritual reality.”

This message series is well researched and well taught. It is well worth listening to if you are struggling with the issues surrounding baptism. I would especially recommend it to people who believe in infant baptism and who would like to have a deeper understanding of believer’s baptism. Incidentally, if you would rather read the series, you can do so at http://www.gracesermons.com/robbeeee/4partbaptism.html.

Key Words:

  • Baptism
  • Believer’s baptism
  • Infant baptism

July 23, 2003

Before I begin a review of Charismatic Chaos it is only fair to point out that I have really come to appreciate John MacArthur Jr. I cannot think of many contemporary authors whose beliefs and theology line up so closely with my own. So having been challenged to discern what the Bible says about speaking in tongues, signs and wonders and other marks of the charismatic movement, it only made sense that I would read Charismatic Chaos. Though written over twenty years ago, this book is as relevant to the Christian world today as it was then. The edition I read is the second edition, which was updated and published in 1992.

July 21, 2003

Browsing through one of my favorite Web sites yesterday, I found that someone had posted a link to an article about the life of Jeffrey Dahmer. I assume that most North Americans are familiar with him, as he gained great notoriety in the 1990’s as one of America’s most vile serial killers. Over a two-decade period he was responsible for the murder (and sometimes cannibalization and other unmentionable acts) of seventeen men. The usual American media circus accompanied his trial and sentencing. His life came to a violent end when, shortly after being sentenced to life imprisonment, he was murdered by another inmate.

I read the story of his life, from his upbringing in a normal family to his gruesome death in prison, with a kind of horror, but also with a kind of fascination. Though the article was, thankfully, short on specifics, it certainly provided enough detail to show just what a depraved individual Dahmer was.

Later in the evening I reflected on the fascination I had felt when reading the article. Why is it that I could be absorbed with something so vile and so unnatural? Why would I even want to know the details of such a life? A couple of possibilities came to mind.

Perhaps it could be that it is simply inconceivable to me that such evil could exist in a mind and body just like mine. In many ways Dahmer was little different than me. He was raised in the same society (albeit a few years before my time) with many of the same values, had a job and paid his taxes. Yet within him lurked this terrible evil. So perhaps my fascination was simply my mind crying out in disbelief that this was a man not too terribly unlike me.

The second possibility may be easier to explain by analogy. I was reminded of a recurring theme within that timeless story Lord of the Rings, a story that most people are now familiar with. Frodo Baggins has been bequeathed a ring of immense power. Though at first he does not realize it, this ring is actually a source of incredible evil. It contains within it the wrath, fury and evil of the sorcerer Sauron, who represents the source of evil within Middle Earth. As the story progresses, we see that Frodo has begun to fall under the ring’s power. The ring has a kind of mind of its own and desires to return to its master. As Sauron’s minions search for this ring, Frodo finds himself drawn to them. The ring, which he wears on a chain around his neck, pulls him towards the power of evil. This evil ring around his neck, desires to return to its wicked master.

Within every human there is an evil nature. The Bible, in Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Anyone who denies that he has these sinful inclinations is in defiance of the obvious. So perhaps the fascination I felt in reading about someone so vile as Dahmer is simply the evil within me drawing me to an even greater source of evil. Perhaps the evil within me is just crying out and pulling me to allow it to return to its master. It is a daunting thought, that lurking within my heart, just barely beneath the surface, is an evil that is fighting to escape.

The third possibility is that my fascination was based on a combination the other two reasons. The side of me that is appalled by wickedness recoiled at the thought of such evil. At the same time, the part of me that delights in all manner of wickedness was drawn towards more and greater evil. One thing that is certain and is beyond possibility is the wisdom of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-24. “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.”

July 16, 2003

Just a few months ago I came to the sudden and perhaps not-so-startling realization that although I have been reading the Bible for more than twenty years I had never really been taught how to study it. I have been told of the importance of spending time each day reading God’s Word, meditating on it and even memorizing it, but I do not ever recall being taught how to systematically study it.

After explaining this predicament to a friend of mine, she recommended the inductive Bible study approach, which she had only just discovered through buying the New Inductive Study Bible. Kay Arthur edited that version of the Bible and knowing she was a proponent of the inductive method, I decided to read How To Study Your Bible by Arthur.

July 12, 2003

From the time we are young children we are taught to behave ourselves in public. We quickly learn what behaviour is and is not acceptable when the eyes of our families and friends are on us. But who we are in public is not an accurate guage of our character. Our true character is shown when we are alone and no one is looking. It is at these times that we display our true colours.

In Who You Are When No One’s Looking, Bill Hybels outlines several character traits that he believes are becoming endangered in our culture and outlines ways we can incorporate these traits into our lives. The traits he focuses on are courage, discipline, vision, endurance and love. Love is so important that he dedicates half of the book to it, dividing it into several kinds of love, namely tender love, tough love, sacrificial love and radical love.

July 05, 2003

Before I began to read The Upside Down Church I had already decided I was not going to like it. I’m not sure if it was the picture of Greg Laurie sitting on his Harley that turned me off (to my shame) or if it was that I had just read The Purpose Driven Church and I didn’t much want to hear another theory on church growth. My first two minutes of reading only confirmed my irrational preconceptions. Laurie begins his book by listing the accomplishments of his church (Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California). Over fifteen thousand attend the church every week; three to four thousand come to Christ every year through those services and so on. This all seemed a little self-serving to me. He then describes the unusual way he was thrust into the ministry.