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Tim Challies

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July 2004

July 31, 2004

I’m just about to head off to a wedding rehearsal. I have been asked to do the sound and recording at a wedding tomorrow - the first time I’ve done sound for something other than a church service. Of course the wedding is in the auditorium our church uses and will use all the same equipment, so I guess it won’t be radically different. Still, it’s a little more nerve-racking since a problem here and there could really effect an otherwise perfect wedding. Anyways, I’m sure it will all be fine.

I read an interesting article on an African news site. The article is entitled “Demons Attack Kiboga Pupils.” A man was arrested and charged with setting demons on school pupils “He said the demons demanded for 300 virgin girls and cows to provide them with blood for sustenance.” If that happened in Canada I would write it off as nonsense. However, having heard stories from places that are not as “Christianized” as North America, I can see this story being true. You can read it here.

I have had two words playing in my mind for several weeks now and am still trying to figure out how to use them. The words are “small steps.” Yup, that simple. But somehow I sense I’ll be able to write something neat around that theme. So perhaps next week I’ll sit down and see what I can come up with. It’s funny how sometimes words get stuck in my head like that…

That’s all I have to say for today. That wedding rehearsal starts in 25 minutes and I don’t want to be late!

July 30, 2004

I received a late entry so am going to post it here. This one comes from my buddy James from What Is This.


Email From God: Depend on Me

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever – Hebrews 13:8

My Child,

A lot of adults you know probably run their lives based on their feelings. Maybe they’ve been taught to believe that being true to their feelings means they are being true to themselves. But think about it. Feelings are the most unpredictable, undependable, things in the world.

If the gauges in your car registered your feelings, one minute your engine would be running hot, and the next minute, cold. One minute the gauge would show a full tank of gas, and the next minute you would be on empty.

But My character, My strength, and My love are unchangeable. I love you today and that is never going to change. It’s so much better to run your life based on the steady, unchangeable gauges of Who I am and how much I love you. Depend on me.

Your Father,

God

July 30, 2004

This week’s BlogSwap entry is provided by Joe Missionary and is on the subject of How To Pray For Missionaries. Take it away Joe…


Brothers, pray for us (1 Thes 5:25).

Before Jane and I left the States, we of course spoke before a lot of groups. A common question was, “How can we pray for you guys?” From that, I was motivated to do a little study on how Paul requested prayer, and for what. Below you’ll see every prayer request of Paul (I’m pretty sure), which I have grouped into three general prayer requests. So if you know missionaries but don’t quite know how to pray for them, what better place to start than from the Bible?

  1. Pray for boldness (Eph 6:19-20; Col 4:3-4). Paul wanted people to pray that he would clearly and fearlessly preach the Good News. In both verses mentioned here, he reminded his readers of the chains that bound him as a result of his preaching, so he asked that people would pray that he would have the opportunity to preach, and that he wouldn’t miss the opportunities when they arose.
  2. Pray for deliverance:
    • from persecution (Rom 15:30-32; 2 Cor 1:8-11; 2 Thes 3:2). In light of the constant harrassment and persecution Paul was receiving, Paul asked the believers to join him in his struggle by praying for him. He was dealing with life-and-death stuff, here, so he asked to be “rescued” and “delivered.”
    • from prison (Phil 1:18b-19; Philemon 22). Paul trusted that the prayers made on his behalf will lead to his being released from prison.
  3. Pray for the spread of the gospel (2 Thes 3:1). Paul’s desire was that the gospel would spread rapidly and that it would be honored. You could also add Col 4:3 here, where Paul asked that people pray for open doors.

I hope this short message is helpful to you, as you pray for your brothers and sisters serving God overseas.

You can visit Joe Missionary’s site at joemissionary.blogspot.com.


My entry will be posted at danny.brendoman.com.

July 30, 2004

Today is BlogSwap 3 and it was an open assignment - people were free to write about anything they wanted, and could even submit a favorite article they posted in the past. Despite it being a “freebie” with no real effort required, several people did not participate. Tsk tsk!

Here is the list of participants:

BlogSwap 4 will be coming up in two weeks time. If you have no signed up in the past and would like to participate, drop me a line.

July 29, 2004

1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

A Traditional Explanation

This is a well-known passage from the book of Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1-7 NKJV). Theologians have traditionally interpreted the first two verses of the passage to show that Paul is suggesting celibacy as a higher calling than marriage. The typical explanation we hear in this regard is that celibacy allows people to be freed from the responsibilities of marriage and family, which gives them greater opportunity to dedicate themselves entirely to the Lord. Many Bible translations render the words “touch a woman” as “marry.” They believe it shows that Paul is suggesting that since it is good not to marry, therefore celibacy must be better than marriage. However, if a person is unable to control himself because of sexual immorality, he should marry to avoid sinning. It almost seems he should accept a substandard Christian walk because of his lack of self-control. The church fathers taught this view and it impacted the Roman Catholic Church as they forbade their clergy to marry, lest it keep them from their higher calling.

This explanation has always troubled me, for at the beginning of time, while the word was still perfect, God said “it is not good for man to be alone” and in a sinless world instituted marriage. Since then it would seem that marriage has been normative for Christians – unless we have a good reason not to marry, we should get married. I have often struggled with reconciling God’s plan that we should marry and Paul’s words that we should avoid marriage unless we will not be strong enough to avoid sexual sin.

A New Perspective

I have recently been reading a study of 1 Corinthians by Richard Ganz entitled 20 Controversies That Almost Killed A Church. In his explanation of this chapter he provides an alternative to the traditional view. He suggests that what Paul is telling us to flee is not marriage but sexual immorality. The word that most Bibles translates “marriage” is really synonymous with “sexual intercourse” – a meaning it carries in other places in the New Testament (though he does not tell us where these words appear). Paul’s usage, then, should be similar to what we read about in regards to Abimelech not touching Sarah or Boaz who ordered his men not to touch Ruth. The sexual context of these words is clear. So when Paul says not to touch a woman or not to marry, he is actually saying “it is good for a man not to be involved in sexual immorality.”

When we view the verses through that understanding, the meaning changes completely! He does not say that because of the dangers of sexual immorality we should marry. Rather than teaching that marriage is a second-rate institution, the passage teaches that:

”In the face of all this sexual immorality, remember that each of you should be having a sexually intimate relationship within marriage.” “Each man having his own wife” means, “Each man having this special sexual relationship only with his wife.” This, friends, is very different from thinking that this passage teaches that marriage is not good! (20 Controversies – page 100)

Having dispensed with the possibility of sexual immorality within a Christian marriage, Paul explains the importance of a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. He does so with words and explanations that place him far ahead of his time. In an age where women were regarded as second-class citizens, Paul writes about the importance of a husband dedicating himself to his wife and giving to her any rights he might hold back that would keep her from enjoying sexual intimacy with him. And of course the same is true of the wife to her husband.

This passage concludes with the words “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.” In light of the traditional interpretation we would assume that Paul wishes that all Christian men were able to remain unmarried and that the gift he refers to is celibacy. In the interpretation provided by Pastor Ganz we have to change the explanation. Now we see that the gift he has is the gift of self-control. He wishes that all men were able to avoid the temptations of sexual immorality as he does.

Analysis

As one who has long been dissatisfied with the standard explanation of these verses, I was intrigued by Pastor Ganz’s new take. He seems to provide adequate Scriptural support and takes into account other passages of Scripture.

There is one thing that continues to trouble me, and that is in the verses immediately following the passage I outlined above. Verses 8 and 9 of the same chapter read “8But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” It seems that these verses may be easier to understand in light of a traditional interpretation of the first 7 verses.

It is first important to note that the “unmarried” Paul is referring to are people who have been previously married but have gone through a legitimate divorce. Paul places himself in the group of people who are either previously married or divorced (we do not know which, but it is likely that Paul was married and perhaps his wife left him when he became a Christian). To these people he says that it is good for them to remain unmarried but if they are unable to exercise self-control, they should marry instead of burning with passion.

In light of the traditional interpretation, we would assume that Paul is instructing these people to place a priority on the Lord’s work - dedicating themselves to that task - freed from the need to dedicate themselves to a marriage. However, if they feel they will be unable to contain themselves sexually, they should marry to avoid sin.

By the time Ganz reaches verses 8 and 9 he has begun a new chapter and looks at the verses under a different topical heading. He does not directly show how these verses apply to the preceding ones in light of his new explanation. I can assume, though, that he would provide the same explanation as before – though it may be good for them to remain unmarried, this does not make it the best or necessary decision, and certainly does not insinuate that remarriage is a lesser calling than remaining single. Or perhaps since they have already been married, they have in a sense fulfilled their obligation in that regard and are no longer normatively required to marry. I do not want to put words in his mouth, so will leave it at that.

Conclusions

I generally get a bit nervous (justifiably, I think) when I read words such as “I have already presented my interpretation, which is substantially different from that of my fellow Christian theologians.” (page 103). Though I hesitate to accept explanations that differ from what the majority of Christian theologians have believed, they cannot be summarily disposed simply because they are new. In the case of this one I do find it satisfying, and more satisfying than the standard explanation. But that, of course, does not make it right. Sorry to defer a decision, but I am going to reserve judgment on this one for the time being while I see what other Christians have to say on the matter.

Got something to say? Why not drop into the forum and let us know what you think!

July 29, 2004

I found a link to a great little article on Dead Man Blogging. The article is written by R.C. Sproul Jr and deals with being set apart.

I don�t know what shows are on TV, and I don�t know what songs are on the radio. I couldn�t name enough current NBA players to fill a single team�s roster. I�m not even sure if they still play the game in college.

So what have I lost? One of the ways we seek to spiritualize our worldliness is to see it as a tool for evangelism. That is, if I�m hip to the lyrics of the real Slim Shady, then I can help the homies be down with Jesus. If I devote my time and conversation to a disposable pop-culture, then maybe I�ll lead the poor deluded fools to a more permanent city. Trouble is, of course, when I spend all my time down at Pleasure Island, what should happen but that I begin to grow donkey ears, and begin to bray rather than pray. I end up worrying more about Valerie and Eddie�s relationship woes (or, to be slightly more current, Jennifer and Ben�s) than I worry about the relationship between Christ and His bride. Yes Paul quoted Cretan poets, but until we master the Bible as well as he did, I�d suggest we�d be better off learning David�s lyrics rather than 50 Cents� lyrics. Meeting people where they are simply leaves them where they are and moves us closer to them. Interbreed with monkeys, and you won�t lift them up. Rather, devolution will follow.

Our calling isn�t to mix and mingle, but to be set apart. That such scares us scares me. Where are they now? In a surreal world. Where should I be? Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This is wisdom not from a dime-store poet, but from the very Spirit of Life. This is what�s best for me, best for you, and equally important, best for those yet outside His grace.

July 28, 2004

I often find Amazon is an interesting place to get a guage on how people feel about books. Anybody is free to post a review there so popular books often compile several hundreds reviews. The Purpose Driven Life, which places 47th on the Amazon sales list, currently has a whopping 561 reviews with several more appearing every day. For what it’s worth, the average review is 4 out of 5 stars.

Buried near the middle of all those reviews is one I wrote at the end of January. One feature of Amazon is that people are allowed to give a “yes” or “no” answer to whether each of the reviews was helpful. I have found thus far that whenever I review a book negatively I get more “no” than “yes” answers and when I review one positively I get more “yes” than “no” answers. My review of PDL is a case in point. Of the 165 people who have answered the question, a mere 35 have indicated that they thought the review was helpful. If you are interested in seeing my review, you should be able to get to it via this link. You will need to scroll down to near the bottom fo the page.

I do not mean to boast but I thought my review was very helpful. As Christians were are called to be Bereans - to examine everything in the light of the Scriptures, and that is exactly what I did. I merely held the book up to the Bible and found it lacking. Compare my review with this one which had 46 of 49 positive responses:

With all of the crime going on in the world, I would think that this book is more valuable now than ever. Don’t just read it, apply it. Don’t just read it, live it.

The Purpose Driven Life was recommended to me by one of the elders in our church. I don’t know of anyone with a legitimate religious background who has not read and is impressed with The Purpose Driven Life.

Highly recommended. This book can change your life.

Now please tell me, which is more helpful? The review that really says nothing except that the author enjoyed it or the one that compares it to Scripture?

Or how about this one which scored 149 out of 155.

The Purpose Driven Life inspired me to make several changes in my personal and business life. For one, I am now more active in my church and in regard to family, I am now spending more time with family where previously I was a workaholic going for the money, spending way too much time at work and giving whatever was left (which wasn’t much) to my family.

The Purpose Driven Life is an OUTSTANDING book that will impact your life. This is truly a must read.

You should note that the other people who reviewed the book negatively also had a great imbalance of “yes” to “no” votes.

I guess this just goes to show that people are not actually indicating whether or not they find a review helpful, but whether they agree with the reviewer’s conclusions. Whether you love a book or hate it, you should be able to differentiate between helpfulness and agreement. I would like to think that Christians would have this ability and see the importance of it. Amazon seems to prove me wrong.

July 28, 2004

It seems GMail (Google’s mail service) invites are a new currency on the Web. I have a whole stack of them, so if you are one of the five or six people left who doesn’t have an account, send me an email or post here and I’ll get you hooked up.