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Tim Challies

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August 2004

August 31, 2004

It is precisely 1403 kilometers from my house to my parent’s house. I discovered that last night. It costs almost $70 (US dollars) in gas and takes just about 14 ½ hours, though that includes a couple of quick bathroom breaks and a half-hour dinner break. Driving the I-75 in the dead of night is both rewarding (because it is usually wide open with very little traffic) and terrifying (because the traffic that is on the highway are large trucks hurtling through the hills of Kentucky and 90 miles an hour.) I also discovered that 4 adults and 2 children can very comfortably fit in a Ford Windstar for an extended period of time.

I managed to do all 14 ½ hours of driving by myself. During that time I listened to a fantastic message by Phil Johnson which was an hour + examination of Dave Hunt’s book “What Love Is This.” It’s safe to say that Johnson isn’t a good fan, and based on his review, he has good reason for this. I have always found Hunt’s research suspect and certainly this book won’t do much to convince me otherwise. During the drive I also managed to get much of the speech together that I am going to be giving in honor my sister and brother-in-law. Now I just need to commit it to paper and work it over a few times. I consider my foremost means of communication the written word, so to do a speech is a bit intimidating. I find I communicate better in writing, but this will be a good opportunity for me to try to work on another form.

That could be all you get out of me today. I’m so tired I can barely think! I’m running on about 3 hours of sleep (disturbed by having to share a bed with a 2 year old) and am already looking forward to getting to bed tonight!

August 29, 2004

The Olympics have finally ended. As Olympics go, this one was relatively free of scandal, which really means there were only a few scandals instead of so many that the whole two week time period falls under suspicion. It seems that the events that generate most controversy are the judged events. It is much more difficult to contest results in non-judged events.

Probably the most contentious issue this time around has been the medal awarded to the American gymnast Paul Hamm. He was awarded gold, but the South Korean team protested, saying that their athlete had his event improperly judged and that he deserved the gold medal. Their case is just about watertight and it seems that the Olympic Committee may have to strip Hamm of his medal. A Canadian athlete also lost out on a medal when judges did not remove the necessary marks from a vaulter who stumbled out of bounds after his vault. Again, their case is solid, though it seems less likely that anything will be done in this case. As I think about these events I’m reminded of the last Winter Olympics where there was a huge figure skating scandal as it became obvious that judges were in collusion and the entire competition had been tainted.

I can’t imagine dedicating years of my life to a task only to have my greatest accomplishment stolen from me by corrupt people. Imagine how these people must feel, having given years and even decades of blood, sweat and tears - so much sacrifice - only to unfairly lose out. That has got to hurt!

It makes me glad that the ultimate Judge is completely unbiased. When our time comes, He will judge completely fairly. And that’s a good thing since the stakes are so much higher than gold, silver, bronze and a few brief moments on adulation.

August 28, 2004

I have been thinking about writing this for exactly 148 days now. That is how many days the staff at the juvenile detention centre near my house have been on strike. The centre lies directly between my house and everywhere I ever drive, so I go by it just about every day. Every day they update their little sign to tell the world how many days they have been sitting outside, waiting for their demands to be met. My friend Jason thinks that if, after 148 days the jail is not falling apart, they have likely learned to get along quite well without the staff. He’s probably right. I wonder why they don’t just let the staff sit out there forever.

August 28, 2004

This morning I spent an hour wandering the aisles of WalMart while I had the oil changed in my van. Here’s a shopping tip for you: you can beat the back-to-school craziness by shopping at Wal Mart at 8 AM on a Saturday morning. I very nearly had the place to myself!

As I wandered I came across the electronics section where they sell electronics (obviously) but also video games, DVDs and so on. One DVD in particular caught my eye. I do not remember the title, but right below the title were the words “bringing the Bible to life.” I picked it up, took a quick look, and tossed it back on the shelf. I still don’t really know what it was. I suspect it was a DVD-based multimedia experience that was intended to help bring the Bible to life. It made me think of a ministry I saw not too long ago, and their description was almost exactly the same: “bringing the word of God to life.”

There is just one problem with that: the Bible doesn’t need us to bring it to life. If the Bible depended on us to bring it to life I would want to part of it.

Remember that rather awful movie Titanic? What was it that made the movie so popular? Some would say it was the romantic story that made so many people break down and cry. When the movie released I was working next door to a brand new, state-of-the-art theatre that showed Titanic all day and all night. I saw all sorts of people come into the store after seeing the movie. Some had red eyes and some even continued to sob. I was amazed at how that movie caused so many people to break down and weep. But I digress. What made the movie so popular? I think a large part was that it brought history to life. Everyone who remembers what happened on the Titanic is dead. The events had long-since been relegated to the history books when James Cameron decided to make the film and bring that small piece of history to life. We all got to see what the Titanic looked like, got to meet some of the people who were on it and got a glimpse of life in that day. In that regard it was fascinating. In that regard he made something that was dead to us come to life, even if the life was only 3 hours long.

History is like that, isn’t it? History is dead. History books are dead. They may be interesting and can provide all sorts of great information, but they’re dead. But not so the Bible.

The Bible says of itself “the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) From that passage, do we see God telling us to bring life to His word? Is it our task to take the dead words of the Bible and make them alive, to make them more interesting or to make them more appealing? Clearly not! Jesus tells us that “the words I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) How can we bring life to something that is already alive? And why would we want to replace Scripture’s immortal life with the mortal life we experience on earth. Imagine perverting God’s perfect word with our imperfection!

Will you try to bring life to God’s word? You will fail. You must fail, for the word is alive before you even begin to breathe your life into it. Do not try to bring life to the word. Bring the word. That is enough.

August 27, 2004

I realized yesterday that some days I blog while other days I write. Some days I write little snippets about my day and my life, while other days I concentrate on longer, (hopefully) well-thought-out articles. The past few days I’ve enjoyed blogging while the days before that I enjoyed writing articles. I guess that’s the nice thing about having this site and not being accountable to anyone for the content. When I want to write something deep and spiritual I can do so. When I want to just talk about life (which may or may not involve spirituality at that particular moment) I’m free to do that too.

I think one would find a definite correlation between how busy I am with work and whether I write or blog. When I’m busy I tend to blog as writing takes far more time.

It seems today is another blogging day…

August 27, 2004

Someone sent me the following article yesterday. I have searched in vain to find a source to link to for it. I understand that it was written by Dr Peter Hammond, but that is about all I know. It provides an interesting perspective on the Olympic games.

Various newspaper articles, media networks and the Olympic website have made reference to the fact that in AD393, the Roman emperor Theodosius banned the Olympic games for “being too pagan”. Some have also mentioned that under the emperor’s direction, fanatical Christians closed and later tore down the temple (of Zeus) built in Olympia. Numerous reports have characterised Christians as anti-sport - even though many Christian athletes are performing in these games.

It is worth noting that the original Olympians were professionals - they trained and competed fulltime, profiting royally from their wins, receiving huge amounts of cash, pensions and slaves as prizes. The original Olympic Games were thoroughly pagan. Before the games began, competitors went in procession to the village of Piera, there priests offered an animal sacrifice to Zeus. Then the athletes participated in a religious ceremony of purification and large numbers of animals were sacrificed before the colossal statue of Zeus in the Olympia. The athletes swore allegiance to the Greek gods and specifically to Zeus.

Winners of the events visited the temple of Zeus to sacrifice to the gods. The opening procession, where priests carried glowing embers from the fire of the goddess Hestia, was carried on past spectators singing a hymn to Zeus. Arriving at the temple of Zeus, the priests mounted the steps and lit the fire in the altar with the embers. There they slaughtered and sacrificed a hundred bulls.

In the original Olympics, men competed in the nude. Married women were not allowed in the stands, woman who flouted this prohibition risked being pitched headfirst off the nearby cliffs. Unmarried women were allowed to watch and prostitutes from the temple of Aphrodite were available to the winners.

The original Olympics were also incredibly violent. One of the most popular events at the ancient games was the Four-Horse Chariot Race which often resulted in multiple spills, accidents and gory pile-ups. Numerous participants were disfigured beyond recognition.

The Olympics also featured a “ferocious, no holds barred brawl known as the Pankration.a vicious mix of wrestling, boxing and street fighting in which punches, kicks to the groin, shoulder and ankle dislocations and choke holds were allowed.” One famous contestant specialised in breaking his opponent’s fingers. One Damoxenos jabbed his opponents with the fingers so violently that he would pierce men’s ribcages and yank out their intestines. (Christian History)

Hence, when on 24 February 391AD the emperor Theodosius began issuing the series of decrees that effectively outlawed all pagan sacrifices, divination, and occult rituals, one can understand how this led to the closing down of the original Olympics.

Christians were not hostile to sport in and of itself. There are numerous positive references to physical exercise and running the race in the Scriptures. “For physical training is of some value.” 1 Timothy 4:8; “Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified from the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 - 27; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

The third century minister Hippolytus listed 24 vocations forbidden to Christians in his book Apostolic Traditions. Eight of these involved brutality, including chariot driving.

Fortunately, today, athletes are no longer required to sacrifice animals to Zeus, and cruelty to animals and brutality to fellow contestants is no longer on the Olympic programme. However, after the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, one reporter noted: “The spirit behind Zeus, the ancient god of the Olympics, would have been pleased. Never has so large a flock sung his hymn and cheered his sacred flame. Never have so many people celebrated the timeless ritual involving earth centred spirits and the tribes they inspire.” The Olympic Dream by Berit Kjos

Those who think that the present Olympic Games have nothing to do with the mythological paganism of Ancient Greece should consider the present day Olympic anthem: “Ancient Immortal Spirit, chaste Father of all that is Beauty, Grandeur and Truth descending appear with thy presence, illumin thy earth and the heavens. Shine upon noble endeavours wrought at the games, on track and in the field.to thine Temple, to thine worship, come all. O Ancient Eternal Spirit!”

One description of the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympics in Athens observed: “A centaur (half human, half horse) launches into the darkness a javelin, a shaft of light arching through the air. Then the Greek god Eros descends over scantily clad lovers sensually clutching and releasing each other as they folic in the water.the procession of Greek history begins with float after float.culminating in the persona of the goddess Athena and replica of the Parthenon - religion. Over all this, Eros hovers, as though the god of love is guiding the course of history.”

If the Olympics are only about sports, then why are the increasingly pagan opening ceremonies glorifying ancient religions - all of which practiced animal and human sacrifices, infanticide, slavery and brutal oppression of women?

There is a pervasive tendency to ignore our Christian heritage and how Christianity introduced a respect for life and liberty that was completely unknown before the coming of Jesus Christ. In the ancient world, the teachings of Jesus Christ halted infanticide, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired the first charities and relief organisations, created hospitals, established orphanages and founded schools. In the medieval times, Christianity built libraries, invented colleges and universities, dignified labour and converted the barbarians. In the modern era, Christian teaching has advanced science, elevated political, social and economic freedom, promoted justice and provided the greatest inspiration for the most magnificent achievements in art, architecture, music and literature.

Christianity has been the most powerful agent in transforming society for the better across 2000 years. No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation or movement has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done. Yet at the Olympics billions of people worldwide choose to unite in pagan worship rather than acknowledging our Creator, Saviour and eternal Judge.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

August 26, 2004

My sister’s wedding is one week from Saturday. They asked me today if I would give a speech about her. I have a rather poor memory and I’m sure this will strain it to the max. Of course it doesn’t help that for the past five years the family has been living just about 1000 miles away from me so I haven’t had many memories of Susanna at all! So not only do I have to try to dredge up memories, but I also need to do error-checking to make sure I’m remembering the right sister (since I do, after all, have three of them). I’m going to have to use my mom as a fact-checker!

August 26, 2004

I used to spend a lot of time at a reasonably popular forum where people from across the world gathered to discuss, well, just about everything. Though the site was dedicated to computer gaming, something I used to devote a lot of time to, the forums seemed to be devoted to just about everything else. We had some great discussions there, talking and arguing (usually nicely) about all sorts of topics, both spiritual and non-spiritual. I had the reputation of being one of a handful of Christians who would defend Christianity when it started to come under fire. Those were good days.

Unfortunately, like most things on the Web, popularity changed the site for the worse. Where I was about the 120th person to register for the forums, there are now several thousand. Where discussion used to be intelligent, it now seems to focus on smart-alec remarks and pornography. While the site does not allow porn to be posted on it, it certainly is a popular topic of discussion. Just try to convince people that their addiction to pornography is bad and you’ll come under some of the most severe attacks you’ll see in life. For every intelligent post, there now seems to be twenty or thirty unintelligent, offensive ones. Most of the people who have been visiting the site for three or four years and remember what it used to be like back in the good ol’ days seem to have moved along, frustrated that it has devolved into just another immature forum.

I found the following scientific chart and it gave me a good laugh. It really does seem to sum up that particular forum as well as so many others. While the Internet is an amazing blessing and can be used for so much good, the bad seems to be pressing forward so much faster. If you ever want some interesting food for thought, consider that pornography is one of the main forces that has made the Internet what it is. It is such huge business and generates so much money, that in a sense every Internet user has pornography to thank for making the Internet faster, better and bigger. Those dollars generated by sexual perversion have gone a long way to supporting the infrastructure of the Net. But I digress. Here is that chart I promised. I will endeavour to never allow this site to follow the chart!