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Tim Challies

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March 2006

March 28, 2006

Tuesday March 28, 2006

Film: Newsweek discusses the rising popularity of bloody horror films. “Some critics—smart ones like New York Magazine’s David Edelstein, not just nervous Nellies—argue that the trend verges on “torture porn.’”

Du Jour: C.J. Mahaney has asked the Together for the Gospel guys two good questions: “What is the gospel? What is the most serious threat to the gospel in the evangelical church today?”

Blogging: Rebecca has compiled a lengthy list of blogging resources that you may find helpful.

Debate: This could be a good one. On October 16th, 2006 James White and Tom Ascol will debate Dr. Emir Caner and Dr. Ergun Ehmet Caner on the subject of Calvinism.

March 27, 2006

This little devotional, which I wrote partially a couple of years ago and finished this morning, was primarily for my own benefit. It was inspired initially, as I recall, by reading John Piper’s book Desiring God.

I can almost never bring myself to buy greeting cards. When it is Aileen’s birthday, I either tell her how I feel or I buy a blank card and fill it with my own words. For some reason it just seems too fake to give her a card with a little poetic inscription written by someone else - someone who has never met her and knows nothing about her. It seems that a card like that really means nothing to me, and I would rather give her a card that has come from my heart instead of someone else’s. I prefer to invest the time and affection in expressing myself for her benefit.

Have you ever stopped to consider what it must be like to work for Hallmark or another of the companies that create greeting cards? Imagine spending your whole day attempting to come up with wonderful statements of deep feeling – love, remorse, sympathy - yet without feeling any of the emotions. Imagine having to write words that express sympathy, yet not feeling any sympathy yourself. Or imagine having to write words that can express the deep, passionate love a man has for his wife as they celebrate fifty years of marriage, but without having ever experienced that sort of love yourself. It must be unspeakably difficult to spend the whole day writing words of love and passion but then return alone to an empty home and a life lived alone.

I fear that all too often we, as Christians, worship God in just this way. So often we sing songs with the most wonderful lyrics. We sing “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” But when we sing those words, so often it is as if we are single men writing a greeting card to celebrate a fiftieth anniversary – though the words may sound wonderful, they are devoid of any true meaning to us. When we sing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” do we even try to understand just how amazing God’s grace is? Have we experienced that grace and allowed it to transform our lives? Do we know that the very grace we sing about is the only thing keeping us from an eternity of separation from God? Do we feel deep love and affection to the giver of Grace? Or do we merely speak the words?

True worship relies on both feeling and understanding, or as Jesus said, on spirit and truth. Worship that is devoid of feeling and emotion will be dead worship, for the God we serve is worthy of feelings that express His worth. It is the very height of hypocrisy to pay lip-service to God when we do not truly feel affection for Him. At the same time worship needs to be thoughtful. While it engages our feelings it must also engage our minds. Our feelings must have their basis in what we know about God so that the more we know about Him the greater will be our feelings of affection for Him.

Before I married my wife I heard time and again from the wonderful older couples in our church that after forty, fifty or even sixty years of marriage, they continued to love each other more deeply and more intimately. I marveled that this could be true, yet through the first years of my marriage I have already seen that it is not only possible but it is the way God intended marriage to be. I love my wife in a deeper way now than I did the day we exchanged vows. In the ensuing eight years we have faced trials together and have spent countless thousands of hours talking, laughing and crying together. The more I learn about Aileen and the more time I spend with her the greater my feelings of affection for her. To know her is to love her, and to know her more is to love her more.

Great knowledge of God must produce great feelings of affection for Him. These feelings of affection give me the burning desire to worship Him. I long to express my feelings, not as a means to some devious or selfish end, but simply as an expression of the affection I have for Him. As such, worship is not a means to an end, but it is an end in itself.

March 27, 2006

Monday March 26, 2006

Humor: Members of the Church of Nazarene of West Palm Beach delivered some old fashioned vigilante justice to a marauding thief. PalmBeachPost reports.

Praise: The case against the Afghan Christian, Abdul Rahman, has been dismissed and he is likely to soon go free. Paul, among many others, reports. Afghani Muslims have vowed to kill him regardless, and I don’t think it would be a suprise to learn that he does not survive long after his release.

Technology: An interesting article at The Motley Fool discusses Google’s future plans. He thinks Google is targetting a “Google-powered browser loaded with accessible, Office-like services and deep hooks into the best information the Web has to offer.” Google is becoming incredibly powerful!

Politics: I’ve got to say - these rallies where illegal immigrants are voicing their rights to immigrate illegally are downright bizarre. The U.S. wants to restrict the flow of illegal immigrants, and somehow this is a bad thing? I’m a bit confused here!

March 26, 2006

Well here it is, my first post from the new house. The move yesterday went very smoothly - it took three trips in a 14’ U-Haul with about eleven people helping (most of whom, strangely enough, were pastors). We were amazed with the amount of “stuff” we own, but I suppose there is nothing like seeing all of one’s possessions in boxes to understand just how blessed one is! Our friends were most gracious with their time, muscle-power and, occasionally, their bodies as they hefted heavy items up and down staircases and into the truck.

I am almost six years old now than I was the last time I moved, and it seems that there is a significant physical difference between the early-twenties and the almost-thirties. It was only willpower that allowed me to make it through the day yesterday, and only a dog barking desperately to be allowed out that convinced me to get up from my bed this morning. Even so, it tooks lots of hot water and massaging to get me to be able to stand upright. I’m old before my time!

I seem to have under-estimated my book collection and had to make a quick trip to Ikea to purchase another bookshelf. Even then I am not sure that my shelving will last beyond another year or two. I am greatly enjoying my new office and look forward to many long, product hours spent in here. There seems to be a disctinct lean to the floor on the wall I have setup my desk, so anything that is round in shape quickly rolls from the back to the front and lands on the floor. It is quite annoying, but I’m sure I will get used to it. I am exceedingly glad to have all my books back, as it has been several months since they have all been available to me. My books are among the best friends I’ve got (though they were more of a burden than a help when the call went out to my friends to help me move).

Anyways, there is no rest for the weary. I still have lots to do around here, and the family across the way is moving today and I’ll go and see if I can pitch in somehow. I’m a glutton for punishment. Have a blessed Sunday. I look forward to life getting back to normal tomorrow.

March 25, 2006

amycarmichael.gif“Amy Carmichael’s life is a model of selfless dedication to the Savior, a life of discipleship and abandonment. She lived for one reason, and that was to make God’s love known to those trapped in utter darkness.” So begins a short biography of Amy Carmichael, provided by InTouch Ministries. Carmichael is one of those Christian personalities from days past that I have never had opportunity to study, though I have often come across her name in other writings. I was eager, then, to watch The Story of Amy Carmichael: And The Dohnavur Fellowship. This is a presentation, nearly an hour long, that provides a short glimpse at her life and examines the work she left behind—a work that continues to this day.

The distributor, Vision Video, says the following of the film:

Early in her life, Amy Carmichael was called to the Lord’s work. She never hesitated to answer Him. After extensive mission work in her native Northern Ireland, Amy set off to distant shores. She longed to be in China where many of her missionary friends had gone to spread the Gospel and help those in need, but the Lord had another plan for Amy Carmichael. She would soon find herself in the mysterious land of India where the suffering was great and where her faith would be tested to the utmost—a place called Dohnavur, where God’s love truly exists.

This is a simple, bare bones film. It is well-made and contains enough information to provide an overview of Carmichael’s life. We watched it as a family and benefitted from doing so. And that, I believe, is as good a testimony as I can leave to a film. This makes an excellent choice for a church or public library, or perhaps a person library.

March 24, 2006

First off, I’d like to apologize for the lighter-than-usual blogging over the past few days. As you may know, we are preparing to move this weekend. We signed the final papers yesterday morning, hope to be handed the key to the house early this afternoon, and will be actually moving tomorrow. We’ll be heading over this evening to clean, move in some of the more fragile and important boxes, replace the locks, and so on. As you might expect, our house is in a state of chaos as we prepare to leave it after almost six years. My entire library is sitting in boxes in the basement and there is not a bookshelf in sight. This is a great hardship for me. Thankfully, I had a box of books show up in this morning’s mail (to my wife’s chagrin. “As if we don’t already have enough boxes…”) so I can at least have something to read before those boxes get unpacked (Not that I expect to have a lot of time to read).

So I do apologize that there has not been a lot of inspiring content to be seen in the past few days. I have great plans for the next couple of weeks and hope to atone myself in my own eyes, at least. If this blog is a guage of my spiritual temperature, it seems that I must be heading towards hypothermia. The reality, I hope, is that I have been very busy and very distracted. And even more significantly, I have been out of my routine. My daily routine is an important part of my blogging, and when the routine is disrupted, so is blogging!

On to business.

I am looking for a person to help me with a project I am embarking upon. I need someone who is eager and willing to read at least fifty books a year (give or take) and review them. I hope to be able to supply the books so this should not be an expensive venture. The books will cover a wide variety of topics, but will be primarily what is published by Christian publishers. Past experience has shown me that many people are willing to accept books, but fewer are willing to actually read them, and fewer still to review them! And of even greater importance than the quantity of reading, is that this person must display sound theology and the gift of discernment (not to be confused with the dubious gift of complaining about everything). Unlike some of my previous ventures, this person does not need to have a blog or other web site. And finally, this person must agree not to be offended if I opt not to select him over others who inquire. So if you feel this is something that would interest you, please contact me by email.

On a similar vein, if you are a discerning person but sometimes prefer watching good DVDs (the type of DVD I tend to review on this site) to reading books, please drop me a line as well. I may have a variation of the first project in which I can involve you.

I suppose all of this is leading to what I consider a rather exciting announcement that should be coming in the next week or two. But for now you’ll just have to wait.

Turning to matters of far less importance, this morning I headed to Canadian Tire (kind of like a Canadian version of WalMart, I suppose) to buy a cordless drill. I have to get serious about this home ownership stuff, and I think a cordless drill is a prerequisite to that. Knowing nothing about such power tools, I asked one of the helpful retired staff members for advice. I gave him three criteria: I don’t want to spend too much, I am not going to use it very often, and it has to be good enough that my father-in-law won’t laugh at me when he sees it. We eventually picked out a “Mastercraft” drill, which is, I believe, Canadian Tire’s generic brand. I wanted to get a Dewalt since my friends tell me that this is the best brand (and might even make my father-in-law jealous), but it was almost $150 more for roughly the same features. And hey, my Mastercraft came with a good warranty and that’s usually good enough for me. It has already proven its worth in making quick work of disassembling our bed. I’ll let you know if I get laughed at.

The final selling feature for this drill was when the guy at Canadian Tire told me that his son is in the Canadian Navy (we have a navy? This guy may have been putting me on…) and that they use this drill on the frigate his son serves abord. I guess Canada has a budget navy. I bet members of the U.S. Navy are stocked with brand name tools. But if Mastercraft is good enough for the Royal Canadian Navy, it’s good enough for me. I think I’m getting all misty-eyed.

Finally, I just received an email blast from the Together for the Gospel crew. Apparently there are only 400 spots remaining. The conference will be held from April 26-28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Why not group together with a few people in your church and raise enough money to send your pastor? It promises to be an amazing, encouraging, edifying event.

And now, I have boxes to pack and furniture to move. I’ll check in tomorrow once we are a little more settled.

March 24, 2006

hymnsofpraise.gifCharles Wesley was a prolific hymn writer who penned a mind-blogging 6,500 hymns over the course of his life, often writing one hymn per day for extended periods of time. Of course only a tiny percentage of these continue to be sung with regularity in today’s churches. Among the enduring favorites are the holiday mainstays “Christ The Lord is Risen Today” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” We also continue to sing, among others, “And Can It Be That I Should Gain,” “Oh For A Thousand Tongues To Sing,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” and “Rejoice! the Lord is King.” Wesley left an enduring legacy to the church and one that is loved and respected within a wide variety of Christian traditions.

When Wesley began writing hymns, congregational singing was largely unknown, something that might come as a shock to many contemporary Christians. Anglican churches, which represented a majority of British and North American believers, sponsored magnificent choirs, but rarely encouraged the congregation to sing along. Having been inspired by a group of Moravians with whom they shared a journey from England to the United States, Charles and his brother John began to write hymns, and in doing so, changed the church forever.

Hymns of Praise: Charles Wesley, is one man’s attempt at allowing today’s Christians meet this prolific hymn writer and inspired man of God. John Jackman portrays Wesley in a one-man play. He mixes narrative with song, often leading the audience and his small foundry choir in renditions of his hymns, even occasionally playing the hymns with their original, long-forgotten tunes. Jackman, as Wesley, recounts the history of his life: from the early days of Methodism to his conversion and to his ministry with his brother John. He discusses his growth in understanding biblical theology and even discusses the wedge that existed between himself, an Arminian, and the great George Whitefield, a Calvinist. In short, he provides an interactive, amusing, 90-minute biography of this man of God.

On the whole the results are very good. I enjoyed this film and, to be honest, struggled only with the actor’s attempt at singing with a period British accent. Beyond that small complaint, I found the play and production sound and can honestly say that I benefitted from watching it. Hymns of Praise: Charles Wesley is quite a unique idea, and one that Jackman delivers successfully. It would be a valuable addition to a church or public library.

March 24, 2006

Friday March 24, 2006

Evangelism: I’m proud of my sister. When she gets an idea into her head, look out! She has gotten the ladies in her neighborhood mobilized!

Humor: When the Reformed speak in tonuges. (HT: TulipGirl)

Music: Here is a song that I am quite sure will not be winning any songwriting awards. It is “Love Addict” by the band Family Force 5 (from the album Business Up Front, Party In The Back). For some reason the lyrics for this other song remind me of my family down in Atlanta.

Blogroll: Here is a blog you may wish to add to your reading list. Pulpit Live is the official blog of the Shepherd’s Fellowship.