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Tim Challies

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January 2007

January 31, 2007

Being a parent is wonderful. Parenting is filled with moments of joy and happiness and excitement and love. But it’s also filled with moments of almost overwhelming frustration. We’ve had plenty of great times and plenty of awfully frustrating times in the past few weeks. A couple of days ago Aileen and I were talking about the children (our two older children in particular) and I said, “You know, what I find most frustrating is that they seriously think we’re out to get them. They really think that we are always raining on their parades rather than looking out for their best interests.” And sure, there are times that we are acting selfishly, putting our own interests ahead of those of our children. But far more often than not, we are truly interested in protecting them, and most often we need to protect them from themselves—from their own silliness, willfulness or ignorance.

“No, really, pants that end four inches above your ankle look really, really silly!” “No, those are long johns, not pants. You wear them under your pants, not instead of pants!” “You do NOT want to eat that. Trust me!” And so often the response we get is anger or frustration rather than gratitude. If you are a parent you know exactly what I am referring to. Children are constantly doing, saying and attempting things that are going to put them in danger or perhaps even just make them look and feel ridiculous. We are constantly reacting to these things, trying to help them understand what is best for them—what will serve them rather than hurt them, what will be good for them rather than harm them. It is a constant battle to help them understand how to live in this world.

Over the past few days I have been reading the manuscript of a book that will be published later this year. It is a book dealing with relationships between men and women. It is quite atypical as these books go, focusing on complementarity and focusing on the gospel. In reading the book I was struck by how the sin of my children is really so similar to my own and to the sin that has plagued humanity for so many years.

You know the story of Genesis 3 as well as I do. That crafty serpent comes to Eve and says to her:

“Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

God, the one who created the world, told Adam and Eve how they were to live in it. They were able to enjoy everything the world had to offer, but for one tree. The whole world was open to them but for this one small thing. But we all know how it happened. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God was not really looking out for their best interests at all. No, God was being selfish to deny Adam and Eve the fruit from that tree. He was holding them back, keeping them from being like Him, knowing good and evil. And so they rebelled. They did things their way. They lost confidence in God’s benevolence and gobbled down the fruit. But no sooner had they eaten that fruit than they saw that they were naked. Their eyes were opened, the Bible says. Their hearts were shut. The wages of their sin would be death. I can’t help but wonder how long it took after they sank their teeth into the fruit that they saw some innocent little creature be pounced on and devoured before their eyes. How long before they saw blood flow and began to witness the carnage they had unleashed?

Since that day we have all rebelled against authority. We no longer believe in the benevolence of those who lead us. Children naturally assume that their parents are out to get them. Wives believe that their husbands are looking out for their own interests above anyone else’s. Citizens assume that governments are shortchanging us. And all of us believe that God is being less than forthcoming, less than loving. We believe that God is giving us something less than what is best. We react to his loving commands with groans and grumbles and frustration.

The frustration I feel with my children when they rebel against my concern and my love for them, must be only the faintest shadow of the frustration God feels towards me. They rebel against me in small ways while I rebel against Him in ways that are so much bigger and so much more significant. The sin of my children has given me opportunity to reflect on the state of my own heart and to repent of my sin of rebellion against God’s authority. Parenting is sometimes a delight and sometimes a frustration, but always an opportunity to learn and to grow. I’m grateful that God let me learn this lesson.

January 31, 2007

Wednesday January 21, 2007

Technology: Jollyblogger thinks that pastors should begin to use LinkedIn, software that builds contact networks.

Cool: Memorizable is a flashcard wiki. Anyone can use the site to build interactive flashcards on any topic. So get to it!

Bible: Travis Carden has released an ESV Bible language spell-check dictionary for the ESV. It means that the spellchecker won’t trip up on all those biblical names and places.

Bible: If you aren’t using it yet, you should consider trying out BibleMemory.us, a site that helps you memorize a Bible verse per week.

January 30, 2007

1401302378.jpg“The Long Tail” is one of those buzz-phrases I have heard time and time again in the past couple of years. In my ongoing pursuits to catch up with books that have been sitting on the New York Times list of bestsellers and to better under the culture we live in, I decided to read the book that seems to do the best and most thorough job of explaining this phenomenon. Written by Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine, The Long Tail seeks to show “why the future of business is selling less of more.” While Anderson did not coin the phrase, he is the man primarily responsible for popularizing it (and, I suppose, for turning it into a proper noun rather than simply a descriptive phrase).

January 30, 2007

Tuesday January 30, 2007

Du Jour: Julian reflects on the “inadequacy” of language to describe God.

Music: Derek Webb releases a new album today composed of acoustic versions of some of his hits (which, in my opinion, were already plenty acoustic). You can read a review here. Sounds like this one may be for only the real Webb fans.

Humor: I hear Mike Huckabee has declared his candidacy for President. I wonder if this will come to haunt him (this is what Canadians do for fun).

Art: Reformation Art is now offering a John Calvin t-shirt.

January 29, 2007

There is always a catch. You’ve gotten the letters, phone calls and emails just as I have. There is always someone wanting to offer us something, but things are never as they seem. There is always a catch. You can have a wonderful vacation in Hawaii, but you’re responsible for paying for your own accommodations and it can only be at this or that overpriced hotel. You can get a free barbecue but first you need to sit through a three hour presentation on summer cottages. You can get a free iPod, but only if you first sign up for a high-fee bank account. People are always giving, but at the same time always taking. There’s always the catch.

I was thinking about this this morning when my iPod began playing Matthew Smith’s rendition of “Come, Ye Sinners,” a hymn written by Joseph Hart sometime in the mid eighteenth century (you can see it and hear a clip here). While there seem to be a couple of versions of it, the one Smith sings goes like this:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus, ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power.
He is able, He is able;
He is willing; doubt no more.

Come ye needy, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry ‘til you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Let not conscience make you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requires
Is to feel your need of Him.
This He gives you, this He gives you,
‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

Lo! The Incarnate God, ascended;
Pleads the merit of His blood.
Venture on Him; venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.

I was gripped by a few of those lines. It occurred to me that the offer of salvation could easily be the greatest catch of all. Come to Jesus but only once you have tidied yourself up and dusted yourself off. Come to Jesus but only once you really feel you need Him. Come to Jesus when you are good and ready. But as Hart says, “If you tarry ‘til you’re better, You will never come at all. Not the righteous, not the righteous; Sinners Jesus came to call.”

So if God does not require that we improve ourselves before we come to Him, if He does not require prior righteousness, what is He after? Hart answers, “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him.” In other words, we have to desire God and come to Him in repentance. But how can a sinner who is “poor and wretched, Weak and wounded, sick and sore” desire anything as holy and as good as God? Why would we ever feel our need of Him? We would never clean ourselves up and dust ourselves off enough to feel worthy of Him—worthy of entering His presence.

Ah, but God knows this and has provided for us. “All the fitness He requires is to feel your need of Him. This He gives you, this He gives you, ‘Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.” And how does He do this? Joseph Hart answers in another of his hymns, this one called “Free Grace.”

Free grace has paid for all my sin
Free grace, though it cost so much to Him
Free grace has freed even my will
Free grace to the end sustains me still.

God’s free grace frees the will. God changes the will so that it desires what is good. The restless soul suddenly and finally finds it rest in God. It turns to Him. And now we can say, with Hart:

It’s not for good deeds,
good tempers nor frames
From grace it proceeds,
and all is the Lamb’s
No goodness, no fitness
expects He from us
This I can well witness,
for none could be worse.

There’s no catch. It’s an offer of free grace. God asks much, but provides all that is needed. All that he requires he also provides. It’s really and truly free.

January 29, 2007

Monday January 29, 2007

Church: From Fayetteville comes news of a church whose ads are too steamy for local newspapers.

Technology: Ever wondered what slows Windows down? Here is a list of culprits. At the top of the list is Norton, to no one’s great surprise.

Weird: A small town in Alberta is rocked by a two-car collision that killed two sets of brothers.

Music: Bloomberg has an interesting article about U2 and their finances. “This is somebody who’s exceptionally rich taking the opportunity to shift his tax burden to somebody else, but then asking governments around the world to spend that tax take in the way that he would like”

Blogs: It was obviously a quiet weekend on the blog front. I’ll try to have more news from the blogosphere in tomorrow’s A La Carte.

January 28, 2007

Guidance and the Voice of God is one of several books I have read that discusses the way God speaks to and guides His children. I initially turned to these books in response to the words I hear all around me in modern Christianity. People continually ask God to speak to us in circumstances and situations. Likewise, I am often asked how God spoke to me during a period of time or perhaps during a specific event. The terms people use would seem to indicate that many of them hear audibly from God on an ongoing basis and that such revelation from God is normative for the Christian life. Yet I have been a Christian for many years and have never knowingly received a “word from the Lord” and have never had a vision, dream or whispering that I can conclusively attribute to God. Is this a matter of theology or a matter of simply not listening?

Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne, authors of Guidance and the Voice of God believe that God has spoken to us fully and finally through the Bible and that this is the only way we should expect for Him to speak to us. They make five propositions about how God guides us:

January 27, 2007

Just for kicks, here is a list of things you never knew about me and never wanted to.

Since we got married, Aileen and I have lived in four different houses. Our current home is the only one we have owned as the previous ones were all rentals.

The first vehicle I ever owned was a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. Since then I’ve owned two Toyota Corollas, one Ford Windstar and one Dodge Grand Caravan.

I was raised on a steady diet of the NIV. In grade school and high school we studied the RSV. The church I attended in college used the NKJV. I now use and prefer the ESV.

I have one older brother and three younger sisters.

I started at a new high school for twelfth grade. On my first day at this new school I met a young lady whose first words to me were “Shut up or I’ll kill you. I’m going to absolutely kill you.” She never did kill me and despite her threats I married her a few years later.

The taste of alcohol makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I have been in a wedding party twice, both times as a groomsman. At this point, with most of my friends being married, I don’t like my chances of being in too many more.

The first real job I ever had was pumping gas.

I drink two cans of Coke per day, one just before lunch and one in mid-afternoon. I used to drink two cans of Diet Coke but Aileen decided that Aspartame is evil and that sugar is better for me. I have the remarkable ability to make these two cans of Coke last for pretty well the entire day.

I am incapable of throwing a Coke can away until it has been thoroughly crushed.

My wife and I got married on August 8 of 1998. It was well over one hundred degrees that day and neither the church nor the reception hall had air conditioning. Bad move.

I have never eaten Chinese food or eaten at a Chinese restaurant. I don’t intend to do so anytime soon.

In high school I was sent to the office only once. My transgression was in secretly solidifying the teacher’s coffee. The principal burst out laughing when he heard what I did.

In the eighth grade I ran a smuggling operation where I would disappear from school property during lunch break and run to a local store. I would buy candy and sell them to other kids at marked up prices.

I don’t drink hot beverages.

The first book I ever remember reading is The Pilgrim’s Progress.

I likely only passed eleventh grade chemistry because during the exam I was sitting immediately behind a very clever girl who happened to be left-handed while I am right. I was able to see and copy her answers. Despite having repented of this, I still feel guilty about it.