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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

September 2007

September 25, 2007

This blog passes a milestone…

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the day I began this web site. In September of 2002, the first month this site was in operation—just a little blog dedicated to sharing pictures of my children with family members who had moved far away—it had two visitors, my mother and my wife. And I thought that was just fine. Just five years later, in September of 2007, the pictures of my family are long gone from the site and I expect nearly 200,000 people to take in at least one of its articles. And that’s fine too. I had no expectations for the site when I first registered the domain challies.com, but had I taken the time to dream a little I’m confident I could never have imagined so many people would make it a part of their lives. I find it profoundly humbling. I did not set out to create a blog that anyone beyond my family would care to read. Having said that, I am grateful that God has seen fit to so bless the site and I now seek to be a faithful steward of the responsibility with which He has entrusted me. It’s been quite the ride. And I suspect it’s only just begun.

When I look back to the history of my blog I can see that the site began to gain a bit of momentum and became much more valuable to me—much more of a pleasure to me—just at the time God graciously taught me that the site is not primarily a forum for me to voice my opinion, as if that is worth anything, but rather that it represents an opportunity to serve the church. It was then that I began to focus attention on directing people to resources beyond the site—to other blogs, to other ministries, and to books, resources and services that can benefit the church. It was then that I began to turn the focus from myself and turned it instead to the church. Long-time readers may note that it was about this time that I turned away from “watch-blogging” and moved instead towards what I hope is a more biblical form of discernment. It has been this desire, the desire to serve God by serving the church, that has led me to invest so much time and effort in this blog.

It’s that desire that keeps me going. And I do intend to keep going. I love blogging and intend to keep it up for the long haul. I love writing. These words, drawn from the Acknowledgments section of the book Women’s Ministry in the Local Church continue to inspire and motivate me. “Writing … is sweet fellowship with the Lord. He instructs me as I write. If no one ever reads it, His purpose has been accomplished in my own soul. I am satisfied. If He is pleased to use it in the lives of others, may He be glorified.”

At least one thing is going to change around here. As traffic to the blog has increased and as my responsibilities to it have grown accordingly (to say nothing of Discerning Reader!), I’ve become increasingly aware of my inability to provide the quality (and to some degree, the quantity) of content I would like to be able to create. At the same time I’ve begun to realize the potential difficulties I face in attempting to balance writing with providing an income to care for my family through my full-time occupation as a self-employed web designer. There are so many things I would like to be able to do, but so little time as I have to dedicate myself primarily to web design.

I feel that God has entrusted me with a unique ministry through my blog (and through Discerning Reader) but increasingly feel unable to give it my very best. There are hundreds of articles I would like to write for the blog and so many ways in which I’d like to support ministries and to support other bloggers, but time fails me to even attempt many of the things I’d so like to do. I receive many important and thoughtful emails, but am often unable to dedicate the time to crafting similarly thoughtful replies. As the release of my book draws near I am receiving increased invitations to speak, to participate in conferences and radio programs and to write for other publications.

So I’ve made the decision that I am going to begin running a few advertisements on the blog. I have been very hesitant to do so in the past, but can see that circumstances are now making it a near-necessity. So in the coming weeks you’ll start to see some ads show up. I hate to do this in some ways, but just feel the time has come. I hope you’ll keep an eye on the ads, clicking them and making this experiment a success!

It is my hope and prayer that this will allow me to dedicate more time and attention to writing content that will serve the church, thus serving the Lord of the church. I’m going to keep writing, praying that God will continue to work in me as I do so. And I hope that He grants grace that I can study His Word and share with you some of what He has been teaching me. So stick around; I think we’re only just getting warmed up around here.

As I wrap up for the day, I know I would be remiss to neglect thanking you, the reader of this site. Your prayers and support and gifts and encouragement have blessed me immeasurably over the years. I’m grateful to count many of you as friends and eagerly anticipate getting to know more of you as time goes on. You are a blessing to me.

SDG.

P.S.- Here’s a picture my friend Peter sent me this morning. He’s obviously getting an early start on celebrating the site’s birthday…

Peter

September 25, 2007
Tuesday September 25, 2007 Cruel Logic
Brian Godawa illustrates the importance of absolute values in an intense short film I stumbled across yesterday.
Tullian’s Smaller List of Books
In response to my post a few days ago, “A Small List of Good Books,” some have asked me to provide a smaller list of books geared more specifically toward helping a young Christian grow in their understanding and application of the Christian faith.
Piper on Pre-Order
Logos just announced the prepublication of the John Piper Sermon Manuscript Library. Jacob Hantla explains why we should be excited.
More Must-Read Mohler
Al Mohler posts on “Arrested Development and the Civilizational Crisis.”
Homeless on Tuesday
I happened upon this blog yesterday and enjoyed it a great deal. It tells the story of what’s happening at a ministry serving the poor and the homeless.
September 24, 2007

Tim Begs Shamelessly…

The Discipline of Spiritual DiscernmentAs of this very moment, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (written by yours truly and with a Foreword by John MacArthur) is available for pre-sale through this site. As a bonus I’ll be signing all copies purchased in advance. This is the only place you’ll be able to order a signed copy.

The book will become available near the end of December and will be shipped to you as soon as I get my hands on it. Because I will be in Chattanooga at the time the book releases, it will ship from there. The publisher’s suggested retail price is $16.99 and I’m offering it for a nice round $17 which includes shipping via media mail. I realize the book may eventually be a little bit less expensive at online retailers, but I simply can’t sell it as cheaply as they can or I’d be losing money on every sale! Plus, I’m including shipping. So there.

So here’s the deal. I’m not the kind to beg, but I’m assuming that quite a few of this site’s readers intend to buy the book. If you do, I’d sure appreciate it if you’d consider buying it in advance and buying it through my site. It allows me to offer the book for a price similar to what you’d eventually pay elsewhere, but keeps just a little bit more of the proceeds here at home. And that, as I see it, is a good thing.

You can learn about the book, read the endorsements, and buy it right here.

Buy It!

So here’s the part where you go nuts and buy one for yourself and a few for your friends. You know the drill!

Some readers have asked if the book will be available on time for them to give as a Christmas gift. Unfortunately, it will not. However, if you would like to make a gift of it, I can offer you a card you can print and give to your loved one(s). The card will say that you’ve got the book on-order and that it will arrive (signed by the author!) very shortly after Christmas Day.

September 24, 2007
Monday September 24, 2007 Felicity Margaret Piper
John Piper has requested prayer on behalf of his son, Abraham, who heads up content on the Desiring God blog, and on behalf of Abraham’s wife Molly. Felicity was due to be born this week but was stillborn on Saturday night. “This seems so preventable. By God and by man. Yes. So easy. But neither man nor God prevented this. Man, because he did not know it was happening. God, because he has his wise and loving reasons that we wait to learn with tears and trust.”
Movabletype 4 vs Wordpress 2.3
Jesse gives bloggers ten good reasons to upgrade to Movabletype 4 rather than Wordpress 2.3.
Not in Love with Jesus
John Stackhouse is not in love with Jesus.
Family Integrated Churches
Jim Hamilton shares a Q & A on family integrated churches.
Warnock on Owen
Adrian Warnock is expending a lot of effort in blogging through some John Owen.
September 23, 2007

A few days ago I provided some suggestions for reading more and reading better. I recently dug up this valuable advice from the Puritan Richard Baxter. Centuries ago he wrote some advice on reading that seems as appropriate for us to learn from today as it was for the men and women of the seventeenth century. Perhaps the advice is even more important today as we have access to far more books and writing than the puritans could ever have imagined. The following is drawn from an article printed in the Banner of Truth (Issue 11, June, 1958). My commentary appears italicized.

“Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.”

This is invaluable advice. Devotion to reading must never take pre-eminence over our reading of Scripture. If we spend many hours every day reading but only a brief period of time studying the Scriptures, we need to examine our priorities. We should also take care if we find that we enjoy reading about the Bible more than we enjoy reading the Bible itself. When we do read, we need to give priority to good books that increase our knowledge of and love for the Scriptures. Beyond them, it is wise to study the history of the church so we can never lose sight of our roots and seek to avoid the mistakes of the past. And finally, we should read with discernment and avoid submitting ourselves to the writings of false teachers who will corrupt our understanding of the truths of Scripture.

1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

Once again, the Bible must be pre-eminent. The Bible alone is God’s full, inerrant, infallible, authoritative revelation to us and we must treat it accordingly. All other books must take a subservient and complementary role to Scripture.

2. The writings of divines are nothing else but a preaching of the gospel to the eye, as the voice preaches it to the ear. Vocal preaching has the pre-eminence in moving the affections, and being diversified according to the state of the congregation which attend it: this way the milk comes warmest from the breast. But books have the advantage in many other respects: you may read an able preacher when you have but a average one to hear. Every congregation cannot hear the most judicious or powerful preachers: but every single person may read the books of the most powerful and judicious; preachers may be silenced or banished, when books may be at hand: books may be kept at a smaller charge than preachers: we may choose books which treat of that, very subject which we desire to hear of; but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. Books we may have at hand every day, and hour; when we can have sermons but seldom, and at set times. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it: and if we forget it, may again peruse it at our pleasure, or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world: the Holy Ghost chose the way of writing, to preserve His doctrine and laws to the ‘Church, as knowing how easy and sure a way it is of keeping it safe to all generations, in comparison of mere verbal traditions.

Perhaps the greatest reason to read is that it gives us direct access to the God-given wisdom of some of the greatest preachers and theologians of our day and days past. While Charles Spurgeon (and Richard Baxter, for that matter) has long since gone to be with the Lord, we can learn from him as readily and effectively as did those people who sat under his ministry in the nineteenth century.

3. You have need of a judicious teacher at hand, to direct you what books to use or to refuse: for among good books there are some very good that are sound and lively; and some good, but mediocre, and weak and somewhat dull; and some are very good in part, but have mixtures of error, or else of incautious, injudicious expressions, fitter to puzzle than edify the weak.

For every good book, there are five or ten (or, more likely, far more) that are fit only for the trash. Much of what is published under the banner of “Christian” is anything but. Be careful what you read, for a book can lead you astray as easily as it can lead you closer to the Lord. Find mature believers who can guide you to books and authors that will edify you.

Baxter’s Guide To The Value of a Book

1. Could I spend this time no better? - Some of the most godly men I know of are (and were) voracious readers. Charles Spurgeon read tens of thousands of books, and in our day I know that John MacArthur and Al Mohler are both examples of men with extensive libraries who read constantly. So Baxter was not downplaying the importance of reading, but merely suggesting that it is not a pre-eminent concern. It must not take priority over all other responsibilities. If I read while watching my elderly neighbours shoveling snow from their driveway, I need to examine whether I have given reading undue importance.

2. Are there better books that would edify me more? - While reading is a wonderful way to spend time, it is merely a means to an end. It may be that there is a book I can read that will edify me more and prove more valuable.

3. Are the lovers of such a book as this the greatest lovers of the Book of God and of a holy life? - This is a difficult question. I sometimes read books that are popular, but favored by those who do not hold high the Word of God. While I do believe there is value in reading books for the purposes of research (for example, to understand what 22 million people are reading in The Purpose Driven Life), I need to prioritize good books that are loved by godly men and women.

4. Does this book increase my love to the Word of God, kill my sin, and prepare me for the life to come? - In other words, does this book complement my reading of the Bible and help me live a life of godliness? Or does it pull me further from God or leave me with feelings of skepticism?

In all things, we must use discernment. As we read books we must continually search the Scriptures to “see if these things are so,” all the while praying to God for wisdom. Baxter’s advice is sound and we would do well to heed it, even (or perhaps especially) hundreds of years after it was written.

September 22, 2007

Lessons on Earth Joy—From the Man who Spent 90 Minutes in Heaven

Heaven is Real by Don PiperDon Piper was relatively unknown for even a couple of years after writing 90 Minutes in Heaven. But something must have happened, because now it seems that the longer his book sits on the shelves, the more it picks up steam. It has now sold well over a million copies and shows few signs of abating anytime soon. It is still sitting at the #2 spot in the softcover non-fiction portion of the New York Times list of bestsellers. Piper has made appearances on countless talk shows and has taken his message to millions. His message is this: heaven is real.

September 21, 2007

Worship in the Light of Eternity

A Taste of Heaven by R.C. SproulAny time I set out to write a review of a book by R.C. Sproul I feel compelled to begin by lauding his accomplishments. But surely I can dispense with that formality this time. I am confident most of my readers know of Sproul and have benefited from his ministry and from his almost unparalleled teaching ability. We talk these days about a Reformed revival and about “Young, Restless, Reformed.” No discussion on the modern revival of Reformed theology can ignore the role of Dr. Sproul. While perhaps less visible in ministry than in days past, he continues to be profoundly influential.

September 21, 2007

Blogging is an interactive affair. Not only does it invite comments from readers but it also invites discussion on other blogs. An article posted at one site can generate discussion at many others. It’s a unique and valuable benefit of blogging! I used to expend a bit of effort in drawing the attention of my readers to places where discussion that began here has continued elsewhere but, for some reason (which is probably simple complacency) I stopped doing that. I think it will be valuable to resurrect the habit, so today I’m going to do some blogspotting. This list is far from exhaustive but does point to some of the highlights—places where you can hopefully do some good reading.

At the New City Presbyterian Church blog Tullian Tchividjian mentioned my list of tips to read more and to read better. He follows up with a small list of good books. The list is solid gold!

At Against Heresies Martin interacts with the post on Brian McLaren and the two gospels he contrasts in his new book. Martin says, “The implied contrast between these old and new gospels reminded me of some words penned by Gresham Machen in the 1920s. They give weight to the concern that McLaren’s theology bears more than a passing resemblance to the old liberal gospel.” Machen fought a similar battle almost a century ago and his words ring true today.

TentPeg also reacts to the post and, like Martin, sees that this is essentially liberal theology. “I sometimes wonder if McClaren is aware of the fact that this gospel isn’t really that new or emergent. It’s basically repackaged liberal theology. Jesus came to save us by giving us truth. He shows us what grace, truth, and hope really are. Through his work on this earth and the work God does through it, we can change the world and make it a better place. “The world God dreams of…”? The problem isn’t that the second version is blatantly wrong. It’s just so vague as to be almost meaningless.”

Responding to the article I wrote about the Shorter Catechism, Joe at Emeth Aletheia discussed his family’s catechism practice. “I don’t post this as some legalistic form that everyone should follow. It is something we have been doing and enjoying as a family. If others find it valuable and helpful - fantastic.”

I’d also commend to you the discussion based on this article that happened right here at my blog. You’ll read how other families teach their children the catechism and lead them to a knowledge of Christian doctrine. You can read it here.

Ally at Carpe Diem is another person who is sometimes frozen by the amount of choices she faces.

At Boundless Line Motte Brown talks about the unknowable providence of God. Tom Neven follows Motte’s post with one of his own: Taking God’s Name in Vain. He shares some good insights.