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Tim Challies

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October 2004

October 31, 2004

Today marks an anniversary of sorts for this web site, for it was exactly one year ago that I decided to commit to writing on a daily basis. The last day I did not write anything was October 31, 2003. That means I have posted at least something for 365 consecutive days. I do believe that is one of the very few goals I have ever attained - I tend to aim high and get bored easily. But writing has become a passion of mine and something I look forward to almost every day.

In the past year I have posted some 568 times. I would estimate the posts would comprise somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 words. I could find out if I really cared to, but I guess it isn’t all that important. There have been several thousand comments made but at least 500 different people. I never would have guessed. The software running the site changed from Geeklog to Movabletype and in the summer I changed from Movabletype’s commenting system to a forum system to escape the spam bots.

The most memorable time of the past year was the release of The Passion of the Christ. I wrote some very early reviews of the film and for several weeks had a completely irrational amount of traffic through the site. I believe the most-read post of all, though, is my review of The Purpose Driven Life which continues to drive in quite a bit of traffic.

In case you are wondering, I am renewing my committment and intend to post (Lord willing) every day between now and October 31, 2005. Yes, even on Christmas. So I thank you for continuing to drop by and for taking the time to encourage me when I’m down and calling me to account when I’m too high up. I look forward to seeing what the next year brings for this site!

October 31, 2004

Today marks the 487th anniversary of the day Martin Luther triggered what is surely one of the greatest acts of God’s grace in all of history when he nailed his ninety five theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Having become increasingly disillusioned with the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and in particular the sale of indulgences, Luther wrote his theses to try to begin the process of reform. While he was unable to bring reform to the church, he did trigger the Protestant Reformation by rediscovering the Gospel - the good news of salvation by grace through faith. The Reformation had profound influence in politics, art, literature and theology - while it was at its heart a Christian movement, it impacted all areas of society.

Sadly, Reformation Day is rarely acknowledged in evangelical and even many Reformed churches. This is sad, for in remembering Reformation Day we remember the incredible work of God’s grace in calling Luther and so many others to turn back to the Scriptures and to bring back Biblical Christianity.

October 31, 2004

James White is a Reformed apologist who specializes in defending the faith against the doctrines of Roman Catholics and Mormons – two groups which deny the doctrine of sola scriptura or Scripture Alone. He is uniquely qualified to write such a book as he is intimately familiar with the arguments against the Bible’s sufficiency. The book comes at a time when much of Protestantism has lost sight of this doctrine and has been slowly denying it. White defines this doctrine as “Scripture alone as the sole infallible rule of faith for the church.” Thus he teaches that Scripture has been given to govern and guide what we believe and why we believe it and is the only guide that can do so infallibly. He has written this book to “lay a foundation for all Christians who desire a deeper understanding of biblical sufficiency” (from the back cover). The book is targeted not at theologians and apologists, but at laypeople who are interested in being able to defend their faith and have firm convictions regarding the Scriptures.

October 30, 2004

On a mailing list that I am part of, a person asked an interesting question, and one that I have come across before. As a matter of fact, I had been planning on writing about it for some time now, so thought this would be a good opportunity. Her question was about sin and whether all sin is the same or whether some sins are more serious than others. It is no uncommon today to hear Christians say that all sins are the same. This often comes in discussions about things like homosexuality. Someone might ask why we regard homosexuality as such a grave sin while the very person condemning it may have their own ongoing sin - perhaps that person is an alcoholic or is addicted to some sort of medication.

The answer to this question, is all sin the same, is both yes and no.

There is a sense in which all sin is the same. Any sin, whether it be speeding, lying, cheating or even something as grave as murder, is enough to condemn a person to hell. This shows the gravity of sin, that a single one gives God ample justification to condemn us to an eternity apart from Him. This is not God being petty or being a stickler for the rules - this is our own deliberate actions requiring that God’s justice be done.

Furthermore, it would be correct to say that all sin grieves and angers God. God despises sin for it is completely contrary to His nature. He existed in perfection long before sin entered the world and the perfect world He created sprang from His perfect nature.

In these ways, then, all sin is the same. All sin requires justice and all sin grieves the heart of God.

However, it is also correct to say that some sins are more grieveious than others. Perhaps it would be more proper to say that the consequences of some sin is more significant than others. While it is wrong to tell even a little “white” lie, for this makes a mockery of God who is Truth, this cannot compare to deliberately taking the life of someone created in God’s image. To equate a white lie with murder or alcoholism with infanticide is ridiculous.

We can see that God does not regard all sin the same way in the laws of the Old Testament. We see, for example, that the consequences of stealing are not as grave as the consequences of killing. Similarly there are degrees of consequence God lays out in regards to sexual sin - some is to be punished by paying fines, other by banishment from God’s people and still other by death. If God regarded all sin the same, it would stand to reason that the consequences would remain consistent. But this is not the case.

It is clear to me that there are more and less serious sins. While they are all heinous in God’s eyes, they are not all the same in consequence. However, this should not be seen to give license to Christians to evaluate their actions on the basis of whether something is a more or less serious sin. We are to “be perfect” and anytime we encounter the possibility of sin, we are to choose the more righteous path.

October 29, 2004

I believe the extremely busy period of these past couple of weeks is just about over. While it was nice to be busy, I’ll be glad to be able to slow down a little bit next week. If I want to get through 50 books this year (a goal I set myself to begin the year) I am going to need to devote a bit more time to that pursuit. I have read 33 and have another two well underway. That leaves me needing to read 15 books in the next 8 weeks. Even I can handle that math. That means I have a lot of reading to do! A lot of the books remaining on my shelf are quite heavy books (not in terms of weight but in terms of difficulty) so it won’t be an easy task.

Looks like we have a moderately busy weekend ahead of us. Tomorrow I need to do a bit of yard work, but since we only have a bit of a yard, that will not take too long. It is Abby’s second birthday tomorrow, so we are having my in-laws over and will be celebrating in the evening. She doesn’t quite seem to know what to make of this birthday stuff, though she does know that she is going to be getting some new toys. Needless to say she is quite excited. A Nicholas, who is four, is getting a little bit jealous. While he does understand birthdays, he is struggling with handing all the attention (and the toys) over to his sister for the day. I think it will be a good lesson for him to learn.

I learned a lesson myself this week. As I was writing my review for the movie Luther I came to the not-so-startling realization that I am terrible at writing movie reviews. I could probably write a lengthy, boring summary of the movie’s contents, but to write something interesting that doesn’t merely recap the movie’s events is quite difficult. I had all sorts of things I wanted to say, but most of them just didn’t quite come out right. One thing I meant to mention is that the movie portrays all of the Catholic characters in a negative light with the one exception of Luther’s Father Superior. I was actually happy to see this, not that I bear animosity to Catholics in general, but simply because it seems all the major players actually were pretty awful people. I was worried that they would tone this down, but the viewer is left with the sense that all of these people were concerned far more with money and stability than with serving God.

Yesterday afternoon I was at the local Christian bookstore and the staff were setting up for a little concert that was going to happen there later in the day. Some local no-name singer was going to be coming in to promote her new album. The equipment provided for her was:

  • A CD player
  • A microphone
  • Two small speakers
  • One small mixer/amplifier

The poor girl didn’t even get a microphone stand. I thought to myself how much courage it must take to stand in a store and sing away, knowing that in all likelihood the only people watching you are your husband and close friends. Everyone else is just hurrying about, trying to buy what they need and keep out of your way. I admire people who have the courage to stand there and sing their hearts out, caring little for what others think.

I wish you all a good weekend! I intend to relax, to celebrate my daughter’s birthday and to kick back with a few good books (and a couple of Diet Cokes).

October 28, 2004

I entered the theatre fearing the worst. I saw little reason to expect that a movie being distributed in the mainstream markets would be able to do justice to a character so reviled as Martin Luther. While he is a hero to many, to far more he is a villain – sectarian, racist, arrogant and divisive; a man who tore the Christian world apart and whose legacy remains to this day. I am happy to say that my fears were unfounded. Luther represents the man fairly, portraying him as a reluctant hero and one who, though plagued with doubts about his own abilities, was able to stand firm in the face of fearsome opposition.

The scope of the movie is impressive. It begins in 1505 with a young Luther running and crawling through a field, trying desperately to escape a fierce storm, all the while crying out to Saint Anne to save him. It ends twenty five years later, again with Luther in a field, though this time he is rejoicing, for he has just received the news that Emperor Charles V has given in to the German princes and has allowed Protestantism to survive. The movie ends at the beginning of religious tolerance in Germany.

October 28, 2004

In the past 24 hours I have been able to launch two new Web sites. I love launching new sites. Often I have worked on them for hundreds of hours and have toiled over tiny pieces of code for days or even weeks. But then I get to launch them, see the final product, and of course, get paid!

The first site is Convertec, a communications solutions company that develops software for Norstar phone systems. I had developed several possible designs for this site before I came up with what you see here. I am absolutely thrilled with the final product and regard it as one of my favorite designs. The client had me make a few changes that I wasn’t thrilled about from a aesthetic standpoint, but he really wanted to keep pages short, so I had to make some concessions. In the end I think it’s quite an effective site and should serve them well.

The second site is CD Rack Shoppe, a site that sells CD, DVD and Multimedia storage solutions. I have worked with the owners of this store for several years now and this is the third full-size project I have helped them with. You may recognize the design as I made a blog template with very similar colors for a friend. This site did not come together exactly as I had imagined, but there were some limitations in the shopping cart system that kept me from adding some pretty cool bells and whistles. Still, it is an attractive and different design and should serve them well in a competitive marketplace.

I have one more site I am hoping to launch this week. After that I get to start a whole new batch of projects.

And incidentally, I will probably be offering some new blog templates to the public over the next few weeks. I am hoping to barter some designs for a few books from my Amazon wish list. I need to support my habits somehow!

October 27, 2004

Every believer has at least a passing familiarity with Romans 8:28 which reads “We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” If you’re like me, you probably have lost track of the number of sermons you have heard and books you have read which make mention of these verses and the promise they contain. And truly they are verses of great comfort as they prove God’s concern for every area of our lives.

While the promise in these verses is incredible, I think we often lose sight of what the Lord is really telling us. We sometimes seem to think that what God works for our good will always feel good, as if what is good for us will always make us happy. But what does God mean by the word “good?”

I believe the key to understanding what “our good” is, is found in the next verse. Verse twenty nine reads “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” God’s desire for His children is that they more and more become conformed to the image of His Son. So when God tells us that He will work all things for our good, He indicates that all things work to make us more like Jesus. Those who have been believers for many years will know that this is not always a gentle or fun process. Sometimes God has to use radical, terrifying or even sorrowful measures to help us change. Sometimes we work in concert with God in our sanctification, but other times He has to reach down and force the issue. My pastor is fond is saying that “God is less concerned with your comfort than your character” and this is exactly what Romans 8:28 tells us. God will work for the good of His purposes, not necessarily our purposes.

This may sound like cold comfort for those experiencing trials and feeling the pain life can bring. It may be hard to believe that God’s hand is in what is happening or what has happened. But God is consistent and will not lie. If he says that all things work for good – that all things will work to conform us to the image of His Son – we can have confidence that this is so. We may not enjoy pain and we may shy from difficult situations, but we can have the comfort that in all things, God is working towards His purpose in our lives. Thank God that no situation, no matter how dismal, is void of spiritual significance.