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Tim Challies

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March 2006

March 23, 2006

loveyourgod.gifI have never read beyond the first sentence of Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. The first sentence was so perfect, so cutting, so convicting, that I felt the rest of the book could only be a let-down. “The scandal of the Evangelical mind,” he writes,”is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” It is the perfect opening to a book. I do wonder how the book ends, so at some point I will have to read it.

March 23, 2006

Thursday March 23, 2006

Sexuality: The Daily Mail reports that “Children exposed to sex in TV programmes, films, magazines and music are more likely to engage in sexual activity than those who are not, according to research out today.” Is this news?

Bible: ESV Blog celebrates the 549th anniversary of the first Bible coming off the printing press at Gutenberg with “a brief tour of major landmarks in Bible printing, starting with the Gutenberg Bible itself.”

Humor: If you’ve ever wanted to hear J. Ligon Duncan rap (and you probably haven’t) you can listed to this audio file. You’ll have to listen about five minutes in.

Preaching: Ray Van Neste addresses the practice of pastoral plagarism and how men like Rick Warren are encouraging the practice.

March 22, 2006

There are a few topics I have collected over the past week that do not merit an article of their own. So I thought I would compile a few of those into a single article today.

Blue Like Jazz: Matt Redmond sent me an email letting me know that he had reviewed Blue Like Jazz. One particular thing caught my eye in his review. He asked, “Since when is autobiography an acceptable genre for Christian Spirituality? This may be the most distrurbing and dengerous part of the book. It only makes sense that a book on Christian Spirituality would look closely at the best resource for such a subject…the Bible. Whip me, beat me and call me a fundamentalist but I am stickler for looking to the Bible for help in these matters. Anecdotes of a personal nature might be helpful but they are shifting sand. Perhaps it would be easier to understand this book as one Christian’s Spirituality instead of Christian Spirtuality.”

I think that is a good point, though one that merits further reflection. I know that biographies can be presented as Christian Spirituality and I have greatly benefitted in my Christian walk by reading about the lives of other great believers. But it seems that perhaps autobiography is not the best genre for this type of writing. What say you?

ASSIST News on Brian McLaren: I posted in A La Carte this morning about an article dealing with Brian McLaren that was published by ASSIST News Service. McLaren made some comments about Christians who disagree with the Emerging movement:

It’s true there has been a lot of criticism. And, of course, when a group like this is raising very deep questions, such as do we have the Gospel right? - and you don’t get much deeper than that – people who feel we do have it right already have to criticise what we’re doing.

And we have to listen, because maybe they’re right. So for people who feel, for example, that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology the kind of conversation we’re having is a waste of time.

But for people who feel that the Westminster Confession arose at a certain time, addressed certain concerns of that time, then we have to be as faithful to our time as the framers of the confession were to their time.

In the US you see a very strong polarisation, where the religious right has had a strong monologue, and it’s been a kind of retreat, a feeling that the good old days are back in the 1940s or 50s or 70s.

One of the effects of this emerging church conversation is a sense of hope and enthusiasm about the future and the need to engage, and less of a feeling of defeatism and retreat and nostalgia.

I don’t know of anyone, Presbyterian or otherwise, who believes that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology. I do know of many who feel that it is a sound, Scriptural understanding of particular points of Christian theology, but none who believe it is inerrant. McLaren often engages in this type of senseless attack, throwing out barbs of this nature. It goes without saying that a person who believes Christian theology has been perfectly encapsulated by the Westminster Confession would reject the Emerging movement. But since nobody actually does, this is little more than a red herring. People who love and respect the Confession reject the Emerging movement because it tampers with the very gospel, which is contained not in the Confession but in the Scriptures.

Allah Junk: It seems that Christians do not have the market cornered on ridiculous products designed to somehow enhance our spirituality. A company in Italy has now designed a pair of jeans created specifically for Muslims.

I am AL QUDS jeans, the jeans of choice for Islam as the inspiration comes from here and it is to this world that they refer.

The precious stimuli and suggestions that come from the sacred Arab World and from ordinary, every day life are captured and brought to fruition in AL QUDS jeans satisfying the needs of a couture fashion line which arises from the most “cultural” gesture of the street: jeans made to pray in, jeans for those who choose a different path. It is a wider concept because it is a step made for the World, seductive original and distinguished.

This line is therefore serious, looked for with discretion, natural elegant and not ostentatious. This is reflected in the care and attention to detail, from the denim material to the design which offers the comfort necessary for everyday wear.

A new expression for an old tradition; a way to express your origins and show them.

I wonder if they make them for women…

Jesus Junk: And while we are on the topic of junk, Slice of Laodicea points to a new product by Zondervan. WorldNetDaily describes True Images Bible, a Bible created specifically for teenage girls. It includes “profiles of fictional teenagers discussing oral sex, lesbianism and ‘dream’ guys. The publisher insists that the Bible merely deals with issues that teens face on a near-daily basis. Those who disagree with the product feel that it introduces topics that are unsuitable for young girls. It seems to me that many girls do face these issues, and parents do need to deal with them, but that a Bible is not the appropriate way of doing so. Unlike what the article suggests, though, homeschooling is not the final solution for dealing with this kind of issue. We can and should have this type of discussion and deal with how we will equip teens to deal with issues they will face at some point in life. Not every child can or will be schooled at home.

March 22, 2006

Wednesday March 22, 2006

Purpose: Ken reports on the latest Purpose Driven gimmick. “For only $3.99/month you can receive a short devotional thought from The Purpose Driven Life on your mobile phone daily.” Sign me up!

Emergent: Brian McLaren is at it again. “So for people who feel, for example, that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology the kind of conversation we’re having is a waste of time. But for people who feel that the Westminster Confession arose at a certain time, addressed certain concerns of that time, then we have to be as faithful to our time as the framers of the confession were to their time.”

Education: Ubiquity by Espen Andersen outlining twelve reasons you should choose to study math in high school. It’s too late for me, but others may benefit from this!

Theology: Rick Phillips, over at Reformation21 has some good thoughts about martyrdom as a way of life. You may like to read some of the other recent posts at the blog as there are some good ones.

March 21, 2006

contendingforourall.gifEach year at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors, hosted by Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis, John Piper delivers a biographical address dealing with a notable Christian figure from the history of the church. Every few years, several of these addresses are compiled into a book as part of “The Swans are Not Silent” series. The most recent of these titles is Contending For Our All, subtitled “Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen.”

March 21, 2006

gratefulsons.gifIn Prophetic Untimeliness Os Guinness argued, successfully I think, that our culture has an irrational and dangerous fixation on the present and future. Our emphasis on the latest and greatest comes at the expense of all that the past has to offer us. Tragically, this distaste of the past has become prevalent in the past and we, as Christians, risk having to re-learn lessons that we would already know were we to keep one eye fixed firmly in the past.

The League of Grateful Sons is an organization dedicated to preserving memories from the past, and in particular, the memories of fathers who fought during the Second World War—to pass the legacy of these men to another generation. This war took the lives of 182,000 American fathers. Hundreds of thousands of fathers did return, but many of these never took the opportunity to share their legacy with their children. With thousands of war veterans dying every day, the opportunities are growing ever more seldom. But within the ranks of these survivors of the war are a collection of men who made it their life mission to tell others of the providences of God and the meaning of manhood. These men have sought to share their experiences with later generations and to begin to build a legacy in their sons and their grandsons. We can honor God by honoring these men and encouraging them to share their what God has taught them. They can, in turn, honor God by attempting to leave a legacy for coming generations.

The Faith of Our Fathers Project has released a DVD entitled The League of Grateful Sons that examines a few of these great war heroes as they return to one of the bloodiest and most infamous battlefields of the war: Iwo Jima. The film introduces “Colonel” Bell Henderson, a hardened Marine who maintained moral purity throughout the war, Bill Brown, a fighter pilot who was shot down and later rescued, and other men who fought bravely for a cause they believed in. It follows them as, for the first time in sixty years, they walk upon the black sands of Iwo Jima. But this time, rather than being accompanied by their friends, they walk arm-in-arm with their sons and grandsons. They pause and reflect, recalling events still as clear in their minds today as they were six decades ago. They share the past so they can build a better future.

“Our goal with The League of Grateful Sons,” writes Doug Phillips,” is to honor the sacrifice for freedom made by these men, and all who fought during the Second World War, and to pass on their legacy to the next generation. May this story inspire you and your family to keep their memory alive, and to preserve the heritage of your own fathers for generations to come.” This story is inspirational. It is deeply and profoundly moving. It is a testament to the power of God, not only in his acts of providence in the lives of these brave men, but in motivating them to share their stories with a generation in desperate need of godly heroes.

The League of Grateful Sons is a beautiful film that will move you to tears and leave you grateful for the peace we enjoy today, and for the brave men that fought for that peace, several generations ago.

You can watch a trailer here, and can order it either from The Vision Forum or Amazon:

March 21, 2006

Tuesday March 21, 2006

Du Jour: Al Mohler covers a New York Times article discussing the plight of black men.

Children: C.J. Mahaney has a wonderful article in which he discusses how he helps prepare his son (and himself) for Sunday worship. “My approach to preparing Chad for the Sunday meeting has been informed by the doctrine of the church as clearly taught in Scripture and the Savior’s love for the church as compelling demonstrated on the cross.”

Persecution: Many bloggers have written about Abdul Rahman, a Christian in Afghanistan who may face the death penalty for being a Christian. Michael Haykin has a good suggestion for Muslim clerics: “read some of our Baptist forebears to see what real tolerance is about.”

Church: Take a look at the preaching lineup that will be holding down the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church while John Piper is on sabbatical. The list includes Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, C.J. Mahaney, and Bruce Ware.

March 20, 2006

I love, respect and appreciate the ministry of John Piper. I have learned a great deal through his teaching and am convinced that I will continue to do so in the years ahead. Much of what Piper has taught has resounded deeply within my soul and has helped shape and mold my faith. Yet despite all of this, I find his books difficult to read and truthfully, often finding reading them to be something of a chore. I don’t really understand it. Still, because I have always benefitted from reading his books, I do try to read new ones as they are released.

Yesterday, after seeing it on my shelf for the better part of a year (first in pre-release and now in a printed copy), I decided I would read God Is The Gospel (perhaps because we are moving this week and it is one of the few books that has escaped my wife’s attempt to corral and contain my entire library in cardboard boxes). I was only a few pages into the book when I found a passage, a question, that left me nearly undone. Piper is discussing the gospel and the full message it contains. He asks about heaven:

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever say, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?

That question led me to put down the book and to spend a few moments in self-examination. I had to admit, to my great shame, that there are many times in my life where I feel that I could be perfectly content to consider a Christless heaven—a heaven that did not include the one who purchased my redemption so that I could be there in the first place.

This took me back to the very first page of God Is The Gospel. There Piper, having challenged the reader to understand that “The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ,” says, “In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of.” Of all the gifts God offers, I continue to embrace the love of God as the gift of everything but Himself. I have a faulty understanding of what it means to be loved. “Our fatal error is believing that wanting to be happy means wanting to be made much of. It feels so good to be affirmed. But the good feeling is finally rooted in the worth of self, not the worth of God. This path to happiness is an illusion.”

And he is right. And so we return to the question: If I could have a heaven that was built around all I wanted and all I loved and all I desired at my weaker moments, would this satisfy me? I know in my heart of hearts that it would not, for I know that it would not be heaven if Christ were not present. But in my day-to-day life, I know that I often consider heaven as being a place where what is most important to me is what is most important to me here on earth. This would be true, if only Christ were always foremost in my thoughts here and now.

Piper challenges Christian leaders:

Do we preach and teach and lead in such a way that people are prepared to hear that question and answer with a resounding No? How do we understand the gospel and the love of God? Have we shifted with the world from God’s love as the gift of himself to God’s love as the gift of a mirror in which we like what we see? Have we presented the gospel in such a way that the gift of the glory of God in the face of Christ is marginal rather than central and ultimate?

In heaven it will be Christ Himself, not His gifts, that are the supreme pleasure. This makes our culture’s obsession with heaven all the more ridiculous. Surveys of North Americans continue to show that most people want to go to heaven and most feel that they indeed will go to heaven. Yet the vast majority of those surveyed are not Christians. Why would a person want to go to heaven if the ultimate pleasure of heaven is a person they hate or deny? What happiness would be found in such a place? What joys could there be for one who has refused to take joy in Christ while sojourning here on earth? Maybe the most difficult question to face is whether this misunderstanding of heaven is one that exists only outside the church, or whether we, as those who profess Christ, have made heaven out to be a place that exists primarily for our pleasure—a place that substitutes something other than Christ as the great and final gift.

Piper closes this short section with a reflection. “Nothing fits a person to be more useful on earth than to be more ready for heaven. This is true because readiness for heaven means taking pleasure in beholding the Lord Jesus, and beholding the glory of the Lord means being changed into his likeness.”

I wrote this article this morning after spending some quiet time with God. I can’t express the longing that I felt in this time to desire Christ above all else. I can’t describe just how much I wanted to long to be with Christ and to desire Him as the great and final gift of heaven and earth. How I wanted to know Him in that way here and now, and not to have to wait for heaven to delight in the Savior in such a way that He is what I want above all else. Oh, that I would desire Christ above health and friends and food and leisure and beauty and and pleasure and all manner of earthly satisfaction!