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Tim Challies

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February 2005

February 21, 2005

After posting last week about some new site designs, I had several people email and request information about having a redesign done by yours truly. I worked on a couple of designs last week and over the weekend before finishing them off this morning.

First up, we have someone many of you many be familiar with. PenguinBoy has moved from his old digs into a new domain (PenguinBoy.us) and has a new design as well. I am really quite pleased with the way this site turned out. There are a couple of tweaks I may want to make in the future, but on the whole I like it (which is quite unusual for me - I am my own harshest critic). I especially like the penguin sitting up at the top against the backdrop of the banner, and actually really like the whole banner. I’m also fond of the penguin foot favicon. If I had to do this site all over again, I might use a bit more color, but I know PenguinDude likes to post lots of pictures both in his articles and in his sidebars, so I thought I would let those provide the color.

The second site is the new blogging home of Bill Streger who previously resided at BlogSpot and who also contributes to the community blog right here at Challies Dot Com. His new site is kaleobill.com. I am thrilled with the way this site looks and there probably isn’t much I would change if I had to do it again. As with the previous site, I think his favicon is pretty neat (much accolade about a 16 x 16 pixel graphic most people never notice). The only problem I had was in importing his previous entries from BlogSpot as the import just plain didn’t want to work. Hopefully I’ll be able to remedy that shortly.

That is it for now, but I have two more blog designs underway, so I should have a new update sometime in the next week or two.

And as before, I’ll let you know that I am accepting new work and that my rates for blog design are ridiculously low. And yes, you may take that as a broad hint!

February 21, 2005

As you may know, I run my own business. Most self-employed people will nod knowingly when I say that this rarely gives me opportunity to take sick days. Back when I worked a real, salaried job I had 10 or 15 sick days every year, but now that I am self-employed, my ability to pay bills is directly proportional to my ability to work the necessary number of hours. Thus taking time off is really taking potential money out of my pocket.

I’m sick today. Actually, everyone in the family is sick today. My daughter has a fever of 102 and was up in the night, my son has an ear infection, I’m 24 hours into a whopper of a cold and my wife seems to have a delightful combination of all of the above. So while I am still working, I am simply incapable of doing the research I need to in order to write my post on the inerrancy of Scripture. Thus I hope to bring you that post tomorrow. I am taking a blogging (or researching, anyways) sick day!

February 20, 2005

Last Sunday I quoted extensively from Don Whitney’s book Simplify Your Spiritual Life in which he writes about Three Views of Sunday. Today I will move on to Delighting in the Lord’s Day.

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the biblical term Sabbath? Many people, including those familiar with the New Testament, may think first of legalism. That’s because nearly every mention of Sabbath in the Gospels has to do with the Pharisees accusing Jesus of violating their manmade rules. God’s original intention, however, was for the Jews to “call the Sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13). He meant for each of them on that day to “delight [themselves] in the LORD” (verse 14). Far from being a day to dread because of its restrictions, God designed the Sabbath to be a delightful day, the best of the week.

If that is true in the Old Testament, how much more should those who know God through Christ and have his Holy Spirit find delight in “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10)?

How do we do this? There are differing views on what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s Day, But those rooted deeply in Scripture would agree on at least these two principles (though some would argue for much more): First, our greatest privilege and most important responsibility on the Lord’s Day is to worship Him with His people. Not only was the Old Testament Sabbath a day of worship, but we also have the apostolic command about “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25). And the apostolic example associated with this command is worship “on the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2).

Second, all our activities on Sunday should reflect the fact that it is “the Lord’s Day” (over and above the fact that, according to Psalm 118:24, every day is “the day that the LORD has made”). As you would expect, the practical aspects of what this means are very personal and intensely debated. In general, I think it means devoting ourselves to the pursuit of those things that promote the enjoyment of God. This also includes those activities that edify our churches and families, extend the kingdom of God, and refresh our souls and bodies.

Whitney goes on to describe how a few years ago he began to spend his Sunday’s more deliberately, turning off Sunday afternoon football in favor of taking a prayer-walk, reading the Bible or other good book, or spending the time with friends and family. He concludes by saying “Imagine living to age seventy and spending every Lord’s Day in the ways I’ve suggested. You’d experience ten years of worshiping the Lord with His people, reading great literature, playing with your children or grandchildren, taking long walks, enjoying fellowship, and taking naps. Does this sound like burden to you? Most people dream of a life like this. It’s the kind of life you can enjoy when you delight in the Lord’s Day.”

That truly does sound delightful, and not only that, it sounds easy to attain. I found this challenging because in my experience it is really only Presbyterians and other “covenantal” Reformed churches that call the Sabbath a delight. My experience in Baptist and other Evangelical churches is that Sunday is a day to fight back against old-fashioned beliefs about honoring the Lord’s Day. For many, the only thing that makes the day different is a trip to church in the morning. I was glad to read of a committed Baptist who has intentionally made the Lord’s Day special.

I love the Lord’s Day and love to spend it with Him. Some weeks I do this much better than others. But I am trending towards being intentional about my activities on this day, so that I can delight in the Lord on this day, and hopefully He in me.

February 19, 2005

I am looking for suggestions on a Bible for my children. My children are five and two and seem a bit bored by their current Bible story book. The one we have was given to us but features awful, cartoonish pictures and the text is very simple. So we would like to bump them up to something with less of a cartoon feel, but also something with more meaningful text.

We went to the local Christian bookstore last week, and while they have a very good selection, there did not seem to be one that was quite right. We did find one that both my wife and I thought looked excellent, but when I flipped to the story of Jesus’ birth, it had Ave Maria printed in the margin and seemed to be as much an exulation of Mary as a story about Jesus. Looking at the back I saw that one of the three authors was a nun and another taught at a Catholic seminary. What appealed to us about the book was that it had lots of wonderful illustrations and focused on the historical aspects of the stories. For example, in the margins there were pictures of artifacts from the time, little “snippets” of information, and so on. My son loves looking through history books, so I think this would have appealed to him.

Ed, who owns the local bookstore, recommended John MacArthur’s series, and they did look good, but while they had plenty of pictures, the book did not have a historical feel and probably would not have appealed so much to my son. My priorities are a) well-written stories targetted at young children. b) good illustrations that are not too cartoony and c) solid theology. A Reformed perspective would be nice, but, but at a children’s level I do not think there will be a vast difference.

I told Ed that I would ask people here what they find are the best books and would report back to him. So, if you have any suggestions on Bible story books or children’s Bibles, I would love to hear from you.

February 19, 2005

Mark Roberts, pastor, author and blogger, is in the midst of a series about Today’s New International Version of the Bible. If you are not aware of the TNIV, allow me to explain. “This translation, though closely related to its predecessor, the NIV, is a new translation based upon the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic texts from which we get our English Bible. According to Zondervan, 93% of the TNIV mirrors the NIV, while 7% is a fresh translation. The new material ‘clarifies and updates passages and words to provide a more timely, contemporary English rendition for a new generation of Bible readers.’ Yet the TNIV is not meant to replace the beloved NIV, but to complement it. Nevertheless, Zondervan claims that the TNIV is ‘uncompromisingly accurate Bible translation in today’s language from the translators of the most trusted modern English translation, the NIV.’ This claim to accuracy is central to the TNIV’s purpose.”

This translation received a lot of publicity when Rolling Stone refused to carry an advertisement for it based on religious grounds. After much outcry, the magazine eventually relented. The Rolling Stone advertisement was an important aspect of Zondervan’s marketing plan, because the TNIV is a translation that is meant to bridge the gap between 2005 the thirty years since the NIV was published.

Allow me to interrupt here with a personal note. I find it inconceivable that people can have such difficulty reading a book that was written only thirty years ago. I, and so many other Christians, continue to read and learn from books written even hundreds of years ago. Sure some words have changed, but if one is truly interested in learning, a gap of even a few hundred years is easy enough to overcome.

The TNIV is supported by a long list of popular Evangelicals, a couple of whom are considered quite conservative. However, there is also a group of well-known Evangelicals who have come out in opposition of this new translation. The issue they object to is gender neutrality. The TNIV is one of the first translations, and certainly the first that is likely to garner a large readership, that is almost entirely gender neutral.

There are gender changes throughout the text. For example, where the original reads “brothers,” the TNIV replaces that with “brothers and sisters.” Because English does not have an easy way of indicating both genders in the form of pronouns, “He,” “him,” “his” and “man” are generally replaced by the plural “they.” A noun like “someone” may be followed by a plural pronoun such as “they.” This represents either very poor or rashly feminist grammar usage (some feminists are trying to legitimize these number disagreements for the sake of gender neutrality). Matthew 18:15-20 provides a clear example:

If a brother or sister sins, go and point out the fault, just between the two of you alone. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they refuse to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Note the change in number. If a (singular) brother or sister sins…if they (plural) listen to you, you have won them over. It also bears mention that they original text says merely “brother” and not “brother and sister.”

It is these alterations in gender that have fueled the controversy over the TNIV. Mark Roberts has dedicated five articles to the background of this controversy. He is an able scholar and one who is familiar with the principles and difficulties of translation. In the coming week he intends to write further about his disagreements with the TNIV, and I look forward to his thoughts on the matter. For now, here is a link to the first five articles.

February 18, 2005

It was going to be my time to shine - my time to prove that I am a nice, thoughful guy. Of course this runs counter to my nature as really I’m more of a selfish person, but this was the beginning of a new me! And it was all for nought.

Perhaps I should backup for a moment. As you know, I am engaged in convincing Christian authors to sign and send me their books so that I can give them away. It sounds pretty ridiculous when I write it like that, but that is the gist of what I’ve been doing with these giveaways. Recently I convinced one of my favorite authors, Michael Horton, to participate. I have a friend who attends Westminster Seminary, so I worked out a whole great plan. I purchased the books and had them shipped to my buddy. He then took them to Dr. Horton to have them signed. But there was one caveat. I asked my friend to have one of the books signed over to my friend Doug, who loves this particular book (Putting Amazing Back Into Grace). Two weeks ago my friend wrote to say he had the books signed and they were in the mail.

Clear as mud?

This morning the books showed up at my door. I cracked open both copies of A Better Way and they both contained some sort of ink markings that I presume represents a signature. Allow me to digress for a moment to observe that judging by their handwriting, both R.C. Sproul and Michael Horton must be descended from a long line of doctors. Anyways, I opened the first copy of Putting Amazing Back Into Grace and sure enough, there was the same mark. And then I turned to the final copy of Putting Amazing Back Into Grace. And what do I read? “To Greg, with best wishes, M. Horton.” And I heard myself wonder aloud, “Who’s Greg?”

My buddy assures me that it is all his fault and that he is the one to blame for the miscommunication. Knowing him as I do, I suspect he is correct in this, so I fully exonerate Dr. Horton. Those who know the fishy friend of whom I speak are probably giggling at this very moment.

So, what are my options here? Do I send Doug a book signed to Greg? Do I find a Greg and try to convince him that I had this book signed to him, even though I don’t think I know any Gregs? Do I hold a Greg-only giveaway? Or perhaps I can just cover up the name Greg with some whiteout and try to imitate the handwriting. What would you do?

February 18, 2005

I had so many great articles I wanted to write this week, but unfortunately my time has been in short supply. The February giveaway ended this week, which required a lot of time, and both of my kids are sick which cuts into my evenings. Also, I currently have nine (count ‘em, 9!) different web designs underway have provided several quotes that could well turn into work. This is not to complain, of course, as I have a rather hefty tax bill I need to address in a month or so. But all this work has sure cut into my blogging time, or more specifically, into my research time.

At the top of the list of my planned articles was one to address Michael Spencer’s article on The inerrancy of Scripture. Michael writes “I don’t believe in inerrancy, a view of how scripture is inspired that means well, but just can’t get traction with me. My problems with inerrancy have been going on for a very long time, and I’ve heard it presented and taught by the best. It’s never sat well with me, probably because I have a lot of literary interest in the text of scripture, plus I don’t like to be bullied. I get a rash.” The article contains seven reasons that he does not adhere to inerrancy. Most of them are quite silly. I did not intend to refute each point, but rather to point out what inerrancy is and why it is inseperable from so many other important doctrines. I will attempt to return to this on Sunday or Monday.

In case you have been hiding under a rock this week (or do not read very many blogs), you should know that Al Mohler wrote a fantastic review of Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy. Here is a small sampling of what he writes:

The problem with A Generous Orthodoxy, as the author must surely recognize, is that this orthodoxy bears virtually no resemblance to orthodoxy as it has been known and affirmed by the church throughout the centuries. Honest Christians know that disagreements over issues of biblical truth are inevitable. But we owe each other at least the honesty of taking a position, arguing for that position from Scripture, and facing the consequences of our theological convictions.

Orthodoxy must be generous, but it cannot be so generous that it ceases to be orthodox. Inevitably, Christianity asserts truths that, to the postmodern mind, will appear decidedly ungenerous. Nevertheless, this is the truth that leads to everlasting life. The gospel simply is not up for renegotiation in the twenty-first century. A true Christian generosity recognizes the infinitely generous nature of the truth that genuinely saves. Accept no substitutes.

And while we’re on the subject of Mohler, his thoughts on the newly-discovered homosexuality of Abraham Lincoln are right on the mark. “Andrew Sullivan, a prominent homosexual advocate and political commentator, quickly celebrated the book as a great work of scholarship. Even acknowledging the book’s lack of clear historical evidence, Sullivan is undeterred. “Certainly if you’re looking for clear evidence of sexual relationships between men in Lincoln’s time in the official historical record, you’ll come to the conclusion that no one was gay in the nineteenth century. But of course, many were.” Of course, this is simply not an argument. What Sullivan is really arguing is that the lack of historical evidence should not deter modern interpreters from arguing for a homosexual Lincoln.”

Finally, there is always a lot going on over in the Community Blog, so if you would like to do some interested reading and engage in good conversation, that is the place to be.

February 17, 2005

How Can IAlmost everyone who believes in the existence of heaven also believes he will be there. I cannot count the number of times I have heard the statistic that fully 99% of Americans believe they will be in heaven some day. However, the Bible certainly gives no reason to believe that 99% of people will be welcomed into heaven. Thus many people, and perhaps even the majority of people, live with false assurance of their eternal destination. How Can I Be Sure I’m A Christian by Don Whitney, is a book concerned with helping Christians understand how they be assured of their salvation and how to discern true from false assurance.