Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

February 2007

February 25, 2007

King for a Week is an honor I bestow on blogs that I feel are making a valuable contribution to my faith and the faith of other believers. Every two weeks (or so) I select a blog, link to it from my site, and add that site’s most recent headlines to my right sidebar. While this is really not much, I do feel that it allows me to encourage and support other bloggers while making my readers aware of other good sites.

This week’s recipient of the award is The Purple Cellar, a site owned and operated by Lydia Brownback. Lydia works as an editor for Crossway. The Purple Cellar draws its name from Lydia of biblical fame (she was a purple seller. Get it?).

Lydia, a seller of an expensive clothing dye called purple, came to know the Lord through the ministry of the apostle Paul (Acts 16). In addition to managing a business and household, this zealous convert opened her home to the apostles in loving hospitality. So often the Proverbs 31 wife is the paradigmatic biblical female model, yet women living in today’s culture can find equally as much to emulate in Lydia. Although caught in the whirl of what surely was a hectic schedule, Lydia opened her heart to the Lord and her home to the saints with no ambivalence. The Purple Cellar is, therefore, named for her.

She describes the blog as being a place “for Christian women zealous for God’s glory, and anyone else who’d like to visit.” Lydia’s blog made me think. I know of several blogs written specifically by and for women. I have given many of them a King for a Week award. And yet I don’t know of any blogs written specifically by and for me and dealing with the difficult subject of biblical manhood. Perhaps there is an opportunity there that some wise and discerning man can take! Anyways, I digress. Though Lydia has not been blogging for long, she has already invested a lot of time and effort in the site and I can see that she is going to make a valuable contribution to the blogosphere. Though women are the primary audience, as a man I’ve enjoyed reading it and have benefited from it. I trust you will too.

In the coming days you will be able to see the most recent headlines from this blog in the sidebar of my site. I hope you will make your way over the site and look around.

I continue to accept nominations for King of the Week. If you have a site you would like to nominate, feel free to do so. Thanks to all who nominated this week’s honoree.

February 24, 2007

As I reach the end of the assigned writing period for my book (my official deadline is April 1) I am increasingly aware that writing a book, though in many ways a private pursuit, is also a pursuit that depends on an increasingly wide group of others. I have had to open the book to more and more people, seeking feedback, suggestions and so on. I’ve even turned to the readers of this site a few times and intend to do that again today.

First off, I have to begin thinking about finding people who might be willing to endorse the book. The process works something like this:

  • I am now ready to begin asking people if they would be willing to consider endorsing the book.
  • After I have finished writing the book but before it has been edited I will actually send the manuscript to those who are willing to read it.
  • Those people will read it and, if they feel so inclined, will write an endorsement.

It’s that simple. Now I know that people are busy and am aware that some who say they will endorse it will no doubt have it fall off their list of priorities. As per my publisher’s wishes, I need to find at least five people who will endorse it.

Endorsements serve to give a book credibility on at least two levels. First, there are the words of the endorsement. These provide a quick word of praise for the book so that a person who pulls the book from the shelf can get some idea of what others think of it. Second, there are the names of the people who provide the endorsement. A potential reader will be more likely to read a book endorsed by a person he respects than a book that is endorsed by someone he does not respect or that is not endorsed at all. Or so the thinking goes.

The general strategy with endorsements is to determine what type of person would benefit from reading the book and then to gain an endorsement from someone who will appeal to that audience. So if I wanted to get my book in the hands of middle-aged Southern Baptist women, I would ask Beth Moore for an endorsement. If I wanted to put it in the hands of atheists, I’d ask Richard Dawkins and for cyclists I’d ask Lance Armstrong. And so on.

I have been attempting to identify the most natural audience for this book and have then been attempting to think of people who would best reach that audience and who has the highest profile within that audience.

So here I appeal to you. If you can think of an audience that would or should read the book and a person whose endorsement may be useful in promoting the book’s usefulness to that audience, I would love to hear your suggestions.

Additionally, as I wrap the book up, I would be interested in hearing any questions you may have about discernment that you think the book should answer. I do believe I have covered many different angles and also know that I cannot answer every possible answer and address every possible issue. Still, if you do have questions or concerns about discernment, feel free to post them and I’ll see if they would fit the flow of the book.

Thanks in advance!

February 23, 2007

Two related new stories caught my eye yesterday. This first came courtesy of The Independent and was titled “Our sexual obsession damages boys as well as girls.” It spoke of the results of a study completed by The American Psychological Association which found “that the portrayal of girls and young women as sex objects harms girls’ mental and physical health.” In his brief commentary at the Reformation21 blog, Carl Trueman sarcastically called this a “stunning and profound insight.” Christians already know this. This report summarized the dangers of these findings like this:

The saturation of sexualised images of females is leading to body hatred, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, high rates of teen pregnancy and unhealthy sexual development in our girl children. It also leads to impaired cognitive performance. In short, if we tell girls that looking “hot” is the only way to be validated, rather than encouraging them to be active players in the world, they underperform at everything else.

But the consequences of sexualising girls are far more devastating than this. Rape is at crisis levels, and one in three women will be a victim of stalking, sexual harassment or sexual violence in their lifetime.

The men who are committing these crimes are not a small number of psychotic individuals, but a wide range of seemingly normal guys who have grown up to see and understand women as existing for their pleasure. Because the report is written and interpreted by the anti-biblical American Psychological Association, some of the conclusions are unbiblical and all of the conclusions avoid any sense of sin and offense against God. But I do agree with many of the conclusions. This one rang especially true:

The sexualisation of girls is not just shattering the lives of girls and women, it is preventing boys and young men from relating to girls and women as complex human beings with so much to offer them. It is preventing boys from forming healthy friendships and working relationships with girls and women. Instead, it is nurturing potentially violent abusers, rapists and johns. Ultimately, it means boys are not free to be themselves, to know their own humanity.

Pornography does prevent boys from forming normal and healthy relationships with girls. Implicit in pornography is the understanding that women exist to be exploited and exist primarily for the pleasure of men. They do not need to be embraced as friends or wooed or admired. Rather, they are to be conquered, used and left behind. Boys that immerse themselves in pornography are not able to fulfill their God-given roles as leaders and protectors. They are, instead, exploiters.

A second study came across my RSS reader yesterday. This one was completed by University of Alberta researcher Sonya Thompson. In early 2003 she provided a questionnaire to 429 rural and urban Grade 8 students aged 13 to 14. “She asked about their exposure to and use of sexually explicit material on TV, DVDs, movies and the Internet, as well as about their interaction with their parents about such material.” She found that 35% of boys and 8% of girls had already watched pornography more times than they could count. Even more alarmingly, the parents of these children were completely oblivious to their kids’ addictions. Her conclusions were similar to that of the American Psychological Association:

She also said sexually curious teens who are watching porn are getting the wrong messages about healthy sexuality and don’t distinguish between actors getting paid to perform and real-world sexuality.

“Parents need to be talking to their kids about porn in a non-judgmental way and to keep the conversation happening,” said Thompson, who is also a sexual health educator.

The fact is that children are increasingly learning about sexuality through pornography, and in particular, through Internet pornography. I find it absolutely terrifying that children are learning all about abnormal, deviant sex before their minds have even begun to grasp normal and pure sex. They are filling their minds with exploitation, rape, homosexuality, bestiality, degradation and brutality long before they would even consider that sex is meant to be loving, tender, reciprocal, and passionate. Not too long ago I was disturbed to read a book where the author, a single woman, reflected on this pornified culture and mentioned that whenever she dates a man now, he wants to have anal sex with her. He wants to sodomize her and often do far worse than that. He wants to do what, by any measure, is degrading and humiliating. Her conclusion is that traditional, normal sex is passe. She realized that men she dated just wanted to use her to act out what they saw when they watched pornography. They didn’t care for her as a woman or even as a person, but saw her only as a means to achieving their porn-induced fantasies. Young boys and girls are growing up now with this mindset. And all the while their parents are unaware and oblivious, not knowing that the children are imbibing endless amounts of perversion.

This is the culture we live in. Our children will be exposed to this, if not through school it will be through the church. It may be through a seemingly-innocent Google search. But sooner or later our children will see pornography movies and images. It is going to happen. And we, as parents, need to be prepared. Here are just a few suggestions:

Prepare to take preventive measures on behalf of your children. The best thing you can do is to ensure that the computer is in a public, high-traffic area. Password the computer so the children can only use it only when other people are around. I have found most porn-prevention software to be utterly useless (either it blocks everything or it blocks nothing) but you may be able to find some that is useful. Do not allow your children to have a computer in their rooms and do not allow them to have their own televisions.

Monitor the use of instant messenger software and web browsers. Let your children know that you will be monitoring what they see, do and say on the computer and that they will not be able to view pornography without you knowing. Be sure you know how to look through a computer’s history to see what your children have been looking at.

Be especially careful with sites like Google Video and YouTube. In many ways these sites, which can seem innocent (and most often are) feed the porn industry. It is a small step from videos of girls kissing and other exploitive videos to pornography. Many of the videos on these sites exist only as a bridge to other sites that are far less innocent.

Talk to your children about pornography and do so before they encounter it for the first time. In my generation, most boys were probably thirteen or fourteen before we were introduced to pornography, and even then it was typically difficult to obtain. Today it is as close as a Google search and most children will be introduced to it far earlier. Teach your children about real sex, and about pure sex, and about God’s plan and desire for sex. Talk to them about pornography, not leaving it as “pornography is filthy and disgusting” but discussing why they might be interested in it, what it will do to them, and how they should react when (not “if”) they are exposed to it. This is not a traditional “birds and bees” discussion that you can have once, but an ongoing conversation you need to have time and again. Continually talk to your children, know your children, and challenge them.

Model purity and love and respect in your own marriage. Let your children see healthy relationships in action so your words about the devastation pornography and the objectification of women brings will be set against what is good and true and natural.

Pray for your children. This is a strange and awful and topsy-turvy culture we live in. We are reaping the “rewards” of generations of feminism run amok and are seeing with clarity that we cannot continue to exploit women and allow boys to exploit girls, without suffering serious consequences. Our children are at risk and only God has the power to save them.

February 23, 2007

Friday February 23, 2007

History: One of Canada’s last World War 1 veterans has died at the age of 107. There are only two remaining.

Technology: This seems to be the place to track down the perfect wallpaper for your computer.

ChurchMerch: Yet another piece of ChurchMerch. In this video game you play Moses. A very violent Moses.

Theology: Rebecca talks about propitiation.

News: An interesting story. Can’t say I agree with either party on this one!

February 22, 2007

Final Exam - Pauline ChenI assume that Pauline Chen’s experience is quite typical of doctors. She began medical school dreaming of being a hero and of saving lives but had little idea of just how big a role death would play in her chosen profession. It did not take long for her to learn that death would be a regular occurrence and one for which she was largely unprepared. She found that her vocation, which is premised on caring for those who are ill, also systematically depersonalizes dying. Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, another book I found on the New York Times list of bestsellers, represents her attempt to come to terms with this brutal truth of the medical profession.

February 22, 2007

Monday February 22, 2007

Church: The author of a new book says “says the achievements of the African American community are losing ground, especially among church leaders who have shifted more focus onto individual achievement.” The cause is the prosperity gospel.

Technology: Looks like Windows Vista isn’t selling so well. Like everyone else, I have been very hesitant to make the jump and don’t plan on it anytime soon.

Reading: Al Mohler has a “why didn’t I think of that?” moment.

Film: Amazing Grace, the movie about William Wilberforce opens tomorrow. Carolyn McCulley is a big fan.

February 21, 2007

I am quite a fan of sports, or certain sports at any rate. One thing that has always attracted me to sports, and baseball in particular, is the numbers. I can take a brief look at a list of players and immediately have a sense as to how they are doing. The sports pages always have these great lists of statistics, showing batting averages, on base percentages, numbers of hits, home runs, singles, doubles and runs batted in. Sorting those lists quickly allows the best players to rise to the top. Statistics has become such an art, such a science, that every aspect of the game can be boiled down to a number or a rating. Even the inevitable intangibles have been boiled down to numbers and percentages. The fact is that success in sports is easily measured, easily tabulated, and easily understood in simple numbers.

But sports is one of the few areas where this actually works. Back when I used to work in the corporate world I would have to undergo the annual process known as a “performance review.” I would be given a form which would guide me in rating myself in various areas. I had to determine if I was poor, below average, average, above average or excellent in my leadership skills, in performing the responsibilities of my job, in participating in teamwork, and on and on. I would then submit this form to my manager and he would walk me through the form he had filled out on my behalf. We would compare notes to see where his impressions of me were different from my impressions of myself. It was sometimes a helpful process, but there was something just a bit humiliating about it. There was something dehumanizing about boiling down a year’s worth of work into a number between one and five. There was little room for the unmeasurable skills, for the contributions that are not mentioned on the form or that are not easily measured. I hated performance reviews and am thankful that, because I am self-employed, I no longer have to endure them.

The success of a Christian life is difficult to measure. Occasionally I receive some kind of a test or assessment that seeks to lead me through my skills, gifting, abilities and so on. This assessment will apparently help me understand how I am doing as a Christian and what areas I need to work on. But, as with a corporate performance review, boiling down the Christian life to a list of numbers and ratings just doesn’t work. I can’t rate myself between one and five in areas like evangelism, personal devotions and church attendance. It just doesn’t work.

And yet there is one time in the year when I receive a numeric rating that helps me gauge my “performance” in at least one area. And at the same time of the year I receive a numeric rating that helps me see just how much God has blessed me. That time of the year is right now—it is tax time.

I dislike tax time almost as much as I dislike performance reviews. As a self-employed guy I know that I will never again experience the wonder of the tax refund. I owe money, and lots of money, to the government every April. Every spring I have to dig deep and come up with a year’s worth of income tax so I can pay the government what I owe. With Canadian taxes being what they are (this “free” health care we enjoy isn’t really anywhere near free as so many Canadians are reminded this time of year) this is never a small amount.

So while the very bottom line on a tax return (the “this is what you owe us” line) is often painful to me, the one immediately above that, the one that shows my income, is always a blessing. I typically cringe to see it because I know that the very bottom number is necessarily influenced by the one right above it. And yet I am always amazed at just how God has blessed us financially in the year that has just passed. Since Aileen and I have been married we have seen that number go up and down. But always it has been enough. Usually it has been more than enough. For just one brief moment I can see God’s providence through another year written plainly in black ink on that little line.

There is another line that is of equal importance. Further up in the form is the spot where I have to list the amount of money I have donated to eligible charitable organizations throughout the year. Through the first two months of the year, these organizations are responsible for sending tax receipts to anyone who has donated money and, as often as not, I am surprised when I receive these forms. I expect one from my church, but often forget other individuals and organizations I have supported through the year. I compile these little numbers and arrive at a bigger number. And then I compare this number to the number mentioned earlier, the one on the second line from the bottom. This may be a moment of humility and a moment of shame, especially if the one number is just the tiniest fraction of the other. Hopefully, however, it will again cause me to marvel at God’s goodness in providing for my family. Hopefully it will be a moment of holy humility as I see the hand of God’s provision. It may be a moment of joy as I see that God has continued to impress upon me the importance of being obedient to Him so that I understand the importance of giving regularly to His work. Not many unbelievers would be willing to give away ten percent of their income; not many would be able to. And yet, as Christians, we know that all we have is God’s and that He rewards faithfulness, consistently providing for those who return to Him the first fruits of their labor.

Of course numbers are not a thorough measure of our giving. They may tell how much we have given, but they cannot tell us about the spirit in which they have been given. God knows and judges our hearts, and He cannot be fooled by mere numbers. He expects that we give joyfully. Numbers look much the same whether they are grudging or joyful. But not to God. He knows.

Tax time is an awful time. It is mostly a thankless time. And yet we would be remiss if we did not use it as an opportunity to examine our hearts, to measure at least the quantity our gifts and offerings to God, and to see at least some measure of His faithfulness to us through another year. It more than offsets the pain of having to empty bank accounts to give to the government what they demand and deserve.

February 21, 2007

Wednesday February 21, 2007

Personal: I apologize to the three or four of you who really enjoy A La Carte. I find it difficult to maintain while I am at conferences, so expect more of these week-long gaps in the months to come!

People: Please pray for Paul (who pastors our church) and Julian (who serves as a deacon) as they mourn the loss of Bill Martin, Paul’s father and Julian’s grandfather.

Interview: J.T. interviews John Ensor.

Language: Peter Leithart has contributed to the discussion about Christians and vulgar language.