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Tim Challies

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December 2003

December 25, 2003
Merry Christmas! I don’t suppose you expected me to say anything else on Christmas Day.

I have been up for the last hour, waiting for the kiddies to get up. I’ve taken the time to do checks of all my regular Web sites (news, blogs, etc) and now am just waiting…

And so I wish you a Merry Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour.

December 24, 2003

Since it is the Christmas season, I will be easing off on writing for the next few days. I intend to spend my vacation primarily engaged in reading, writing, talking and eating. I will also be drinking copious amounts of Coke.

Here are some of the things I am working on for 2004:

  • Continuing my Basic Christianity series. I am receiving some nice feedback about it and am enjoying researching and writing it. That will be an ongoing project.
  • I hope to write a very detailed, in-depth study of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church. My site receives the bulk of its traffic via Google searches for Warren and The Purpose Driven Life so I may as well continue writing about him! He is, after all, one of the most influential people in the Christian world.
  • Weekly look at other blogs. I want to post about some of the other blogs that can be found on the Net. I want to feature a few of them and then provide updates about what the authors are writing about.
  • Lots of book reviews. I have plenty of books in my “to read” pile and there are several book-shaped gifts with my name on them under the tree. I will be reading and reviewing those as well as some others I have borrowed from the bookshelves of various friends and relatives.

Other than that, I am not sure what the future of this site holds. I am hoping to continue to update the site on a daily basis.

December 23, 2003

This is a song I found while digging around the Internet and is a pretty funny parody of Arminian theology. Unfortunately I did not record where I found it so can not cite it.

To the tune of Amazing Grace.

Arminian “grace!” How strange the sound,
Salvation hinged on me.
I once was lost then turned around,
Was blind then chose to see.

What “grace” is it that calls for choice,
Made from some good within?
That part that wills to heed God’s voice,
Proved stronger than my sin.

Thru many ardent gospel pleas,
I sat with heart of stone.
But then some hidden good in me,
Propelled me toward my home.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Because of what we’ve done,
We’ve no less days to sing our praise,
Than when we first begun.

(With apologies to John Newton)

December 22, 2003

This is the fortieth and final chapter of The Purpose Driven Life. As I expected, it wraps up with a review of the five sections and encouragement to develop a personal purpose statement. Rick Warren begins the chapter with a discussion about the importance of a personal “Life Purpose Statement.” Such a statement will keep me focused on achieving all of my purposes and help me remember what is most important in my life. He provides five questions that I should consider as I prepare this statement.

  • What will be the center of my life? This is the question of worship. Who am I going to live for and what am I going to build my life around?
  • What will be the character of my life? This is the question of discipleship. What kind of person will I be? God is more interested in what I am than what I do, so I need to concentrate on improving my character.
  • What will be the contribution of my life? This is a question of service. I need to decide what my ministry will be and how I will use my SHAPE to serve the body of Christ.
  • What will be the communication of my life? This is the question of my mission to unbelievers. It will include my commitment to share my testimony and to share the gospel.
  • What will be the community of my life? This is a question of fellowship. How am I going to demonstrate my commitment to other believers and my connection to the family of God?

Warren suggests that I spend weeks or even months thinking and praying about my mission statement and fine-tuning it to be just the way I want it. I should then form a smaller version of it that summarizes the main points.

The book closes with a short section encouraging me to believe and accept that God truly wants to use me. By living a life of purpose I can serve God to the best of my ability and look forward to an eternity of continuing to live for His purposes.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty nine times using eight translations and paraphrases. I found that he used The Message far too much in this chapter, often taking wonderful passages of Scripture and assigning them a whole new meaning. Phillipians 4:7 reads, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Message paraphrases it “Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” I don’t see what is wrong with the more accurate translation that made Warren think The Message could improve it. Another case in point is Revelation 4:11 which Warren uses to close the book. The NASB translates it “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” That is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring passages in the entire Bible. The Message reads “Worthy, O Master! Yes, our God! Take the glory! the honor! the power! You created it all; It was created because you wanted it.” The Message paraphrase sounds ridiculous and loses the grandeur and power of the original. Again, I fail to see why he thought this paraphrase was better than a more accurate one.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “living with purpose is the only way to really live.” At this point I am not ready to agree or disagree with that statement. I am going to take a few days to let what I have learned settle and to think about what this book has taught. At that point I am going to write a final article in this series which will summarize what I have learned and what I believe about the Purpose Driven approach. So stay tuned!

December 21, 2003

Blessed are the balanced; they shall outlast everyone. In chapter thirty nine of The Purpose Driven Life Rick Warren describes a life of balance – a life that is equally devoted to each of our five purposes. He provides five pointers for keeping on track with a balanced life.

  • Talk it through with a spiritual partner or group. We learn best through community, so we should be sure to share our journey with other people.
  • Give myself a regular spiritual check-up. I need to evaluate myself periodically to be sure I am devoting sufficient attention to each of my five purposes.
  • Write down your progress in a journal. The best way to reinforce my progress is by keeping a spiritual journal. I need to write to help clarify what God is doing in my life. I need to write down both pleasant and unpleasant experiences and realizations.
  • Pass on what I know to others. The best way to grow is to pass on what I have already learned.

The reason I need to pass on what I have learned is that it glorifies God. God calls us to do the work of fulfilling our five purposes and help others to do the same.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible seventeen times using seven translations and paraphrases. Generally he quotes good translations within the proper context. I did find that perhaps he stretched the meaning of John 17:4 to suit his model of our five purposes. It seems that when one looks at the Bible looking for a specific theme, one can find it anywhere.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “blessed are the balanced.” A life of balance is important. I have seen many churches and individuals that so attune themselves to purpose that they lose site of the others. Some churches devote themselves only to building up the members while others devote themselves only to evangelism. Obviously if God has called us to five purposes it is important to devote attention to all of them. I would not say that we need to devote equal attention to each, as some of us are gifted in a particular area more than another, but I do think all of us need to maintain some degree of balance.

I found this chapter to be very repetitive as everything Warren said had been said before at least two or three times. At this point it seems that perhaps he was struggling to find forty days’ worth of material. Though what he says is good, it has all been said better in the past.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Living With Purpose

December 20, 2003

Day thirty eight of The Purpose Driven Life discusses the difference between a worldly Christian and a world-class Christian. Whereas worldly Christians are most concerned about themselves and their own happiness and blessing, world-class Christians are far more concerned with their mission of reaching the lost. As the world shrinks through increased transportation and communication it becomes easier and easier for Christians to fulfill their mission of reaching out to the world. Rick Warren provides several pointers on how to think like a world-class Christian.

  • Shift from self-centered thinking to other-centered thinking. Mature Christians, like mature people, think more of others and less of themselves. I need to ask the Holy Spirit to help me think of the spiritual needs of unbelievers whenever I talk to them. I need to figure out what is keeping them from coming to Christ and do what I can to help remove that barrier.
  • Shift from local thinking to global thinking. The business world thinks in global terms and we need to learn from that. I need to begin to think and pray globally, focusing on particular nations and groups. I need to pray for opportunities to witness, for courage to speak up, for those who will believe, for the rapid spread of the message and for more workers. Warren says that the best way to switch to global thinking is to go on a short-term missions trip and actually experience global missions.
  • Shift from “here and now” thinking to eternal thinking. To make the most of my life I need to maintain an eternal perspective. This is an area the book has focused on in each chapter, and as we have learned, it is far more important to build up treasures in heaven than on earth.
  • Shift from thinking of excuses to thinking of creative ways to fulfill your commission. If I am willing I will always be able to find a way to serve. I do not need a special call as all Christians have already been given to call!

The chapter closes with more discussion of the importance of every Christian going on a short-term missions trip.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty five times using eight translations and paraphrases. One verse was used outside of its proper context. In speaking about the importance of praying for specific countries he quotes Psalm 2:8 which reads, “If you ask me, I will give you the nations; all the people on earth will be yours.” He does not quote the next verse which reads, “You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” When read in context we see that the verse refers to something other than praying for the conversion of the nations. The Psalmist is talking about vanquishing nations.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “the Great Commission is my commission.” I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. The Commission was given to the apostles and extends to us today. Each and every Christian bears the responsibility to carry out this commission. However, I am not sure that it means that each of us is to go on a missions trip. I struggle a bit with Warren’s teaching on this matter.

I often wonder if the thousands of dollars spent sending a person on a mission trip would not be better spent on those already engaged in missions. I have little doubt that missions trips have a great affect on those who go on them, but I am a little more skeptical that they have the same type of affect on the people they are intended to reach. It is common knowledge that the best missionaries are those who are indigenous to the nation they work in. The two or three thousand dollars I might spend on a two or three week trip to a third world nation might support one or two indigenous missionaries for an entire year! Would it not be better to use the money to support someone who can build deep and lasting relationships with the people in the other nation? Having spoken to some missionaries about this matter, they will often say that mission trips, especially involving groups of teenagers, can damage their work as it consumes resources, both time and money, that would be better used elsewhere.

I am uncertain on this matter and would love to get some comments on what other people think.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Balancing Your Life

December 19, 2003

What Is The Bible?

The Bible is, at the most obvious level, a book. Admittedly that does not sound like anything remarkable. The word Bible is simply the Greek word for “book,” and is the same root from which we derive the words “bibliography” or “bibliophile.” Yet the Bible is exceptional among books as it came into existence in a unique way.

The Bible is a book that contains within in sixty six other books. These books were written by more than forty authors over the course of 1600 years, the first being written in approximately 1500 B.C. and the last shortly before the end of the first century A.D. Some books are named after their author, while others are named after an event or are named based on the content of the book. There are books of vastly different styles – some are poetic while others are prose; some relate history while others relate prophecy; some were written as letters to a person or group while others were written after many years of being conveyed orally through the generations.

December 19, 2003

God has given me a life message to share. From the moment I became a Christian I became a messenger of God. I have a life message that I am to share with unbelievers and this message contains four parts.

  • My testimony. My testimony is the story of how God has made a difference in my life. My job is not to try to convict others, but simply to be a witness to them of what God has done in my life. A personal story is valuable to people - often more valuable than sermons or doctrine.
  • Life lessons. My life lessons are the truths God has taught me through my walk with Him. Though it is wise to learn from experiences, it is even wiser to learn from other people’s experiences, so God calls us to share these.
  • Godly passions. God is passionate - there are some things he loves passionately and others He hates passionately. He will give me passions for serving Him and I need to speak up about this and do what I can to make a difference.
  • The Good News. The Good News is that when we trust God’s grace to save us through Jesus’ sacrifice, we receive forgiveness of sins. Every Christian is called to spread this message to unbelievers. I am responsible to maximize the opportunities He provides me to share this news with others.

Of the five purposes Rick Warren has outlined in this book, this last purpose, being a messenger of His Good News, is the only one that I can do only while I am on earth. The other four purposes will continue for all eternity, but sharing the Good News can happen only now. That is why it is so critically important.

Bible Passages

Warren quotes the Bible twenty times using eight translations and paraphrases. The only verse that stood out to me was Psalm 119:33 which in the NASB reads “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, And I shall observe it to the end.” Warren uses The Message paraphrase which says “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.” The proper meaning of the verse is that we are to learn God’s laws and to honor Him that way. The paraphrase speaks of learning life lessons which is quite different from following God’s laws.

Point to Ponder

Today’s point to ponder is “God wants to say something to the world through me.” There are two things that came to my mind as I studied this chapter. The first was when the author taught about witnessing and that our job is just to be witnesses and not to be the judge and jury. I was reminded of an excerpt from Keith Green’s diary which simply read, “Tried to be the Holy Spirit to [someone] today.” I read that several years ago and it has stayed fresh in my mind. Too often I can become the accuser and I can try to convince people of what I know to be true. But the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the accuser and I just need to be the witness.

The other thing that came to mind was that I have always felt like I have a pretty poor testimony. Warren says it is important to point out in my testimony what my life was like before I became a Christian, but in reality it was not much different. I was raised in a Christian home and read the Bible and prayed every day from the time I was a child. I attended church and all-in-all was a pretty good kid. Now there came a time when suddenly it all “became real” to me and I made the faith my parents taught me my own, but it did not result in any huge changes. Now in a sense that is an exciting testimony as it shows the power of the witness of parents to their children, but when compared to people who have incredible stories of hurt and restoration, it seems trite in comparison. Of course I am thankful that I did not need to hit rock bottom before coming to faith.

Up Next

Tomorrow’s topic is Becoming A World-Class Christian