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

Tim Challies

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December 2007

December 28, 2007

I’ve got two quick book updates for you. And then I’m going to relax for the rest of the morning before heading into Chattanooga for the Reality Check Conference which begins later this evening. I’ll be bringing live updates from that event from this evening until Sunday morning.

First off, my book is now in stock at Amazon. So if you’ve been waiting to buy The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment at Amazon, you can now do so and get it shipped immediately. Once you buy it, be sure to write a review and post it at Amazon (whether you love or hate it)! I’ll let you know as it becomes available at other booksellers. I believe Monergism Books and Westminster Books will have it in stock in the next few days.

UPDATE: My book is now listed at Monergism Books. You can access it by clicking here.

Second, my friends at Monergism Books are having an “End of the Year Sale” that they are proclaiming their biggest sale ever. There are well over 100 products on sale and many at pretty deep discounts. It’s worth noting that all ESV Bibles are 45% off in case you’re in the market for a new Bible.

You can see the sale by clicking here.

December 27, 2007

It doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to do my weekly John Owen “Reading the Classics Together” post today. And for that I apologize. Being away from home has completely disrupted my ability to keep this site operating as it usually does. I’m a routine-based person, it seems, and being away from my usual day-to-day life really changes my ability to do what I usually do. I woke up very early this morning and, with a touch of panic, my first thought was, “Today is John Owen day.” Yet I haven’t read the chapter carefully yet. In fact, I haven’t even thought of doing so. Most weeks I read it at least twice prior to Thursday morning and once more write before I write about it. This week I haven’t even thought about the book. I blame the disruption of my routine.

I’m a routine-driven guy. Case in point: my side of the bed. A few weeks before our youngest was born Aileen and I began planning how we would restructure certain parts of our lives to accommodate an entirely helpless infant. As we did with our first two children, and to the great chagrin of all the Ezzo followers out there, we decided to have the baby sleeping in our room for the first few weeks (or months, depending on how soon we would get tired of having a baby in such close proximity). Because the master bedroom in our new house was oriented differently than in our old house, we realized that, for sake of convenience, it might be easiest if Aileen and I changed sides of the bed. That way, when she needed to nurse the baby at night, she would not have to climb over or around me. So on Friday night we changed sides. I didn’t sleep. On Saturday night we tried again. I didn’t sleep. Finally, in the middle of the night, when my tossing and turning had woken her up, we switched back. I slept like a baby. My routine survived.

My ability to carry on normal operations on this site depends on routine, I guess. As soon as I travel, I find that the time I usually spend reading the Bible, praying, reading good books, reflecting on life, and so on, is very hard to come by. I stay up late yacking with my siblings and then sleep in late the next morning. When I’m usually writing, I’m now sleeping. When I’m usually sleeping I’m now talking. Of course it’s great to have some time off and time away from the day-to-day, but it certainly does impact my ability to keep this site going.

So please just hang on for a few more days as I continue to focus on lighter fare at this site. Beginning tomorrow I’ll be spending the weekend at the Reality Check Conference and look forward to bringing some good updates from what promises to be a really interesting event. Sunday evening I’ll be speaking at Lyndon Avenue Baptist Church in Chattanooga. Monday I’ll be driving home. Tuesday is New Years and then on Wednesday life returns to normal. As much as I love being away and love being with family, it will be good to be home and it will be good to be back to my beloved routine.

December 27, 2007
Thursday December 27, 2007 Joel Stein, Starbucks and Heaven
Randy Alcorn has an interesting article about columnist Joel Stein and his interest (or lack thereof) in heaven.
Internet in the Air
This article outlines some of the trials sure to arise when airlines provide internet in the air.
On Discussing Doctrine in Public
Dr. Mohler tries to bring clarity to some statements made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. This task is getting harder and harder to accomplish!
December 26, 2007

Jerry Bridges’ The Discipline of Grace is one of those books that is worth reading slowly and meditatively, pausing often to reflect and, in my case, to write. I rarely dwell too long on a single book, but because of the sheer quantity and quality of Bible-based teaching within this book, I felt compelled to read it slowly and meditatively. It was well worth the effort and the time spent.

One of the areas of that book that has impacted in my life came when I read about the importance of disciplining myself to make choices that glorify God. Bridges says that “the practice of putting off sinful attitudes and actions and putting on Christlike character involves a constant series of choices. We choose in every situation which direction we will go. It is through these choices that we develop Christlike habits of living.” I was intrigued by this. I soon thought back to a time a couple of years ago when I discovered, much to my surprise, that I excelled in the not-too-spiritual gift of discouragement. I realized, through God’s work in my heart, that I was often being a discouragement to other people. I tended towards the pessimistic and sarcastic and seldom sought to bring encouragement. And so I put some effort into cultivating a spirit of encouragement. I initially found this to be a difficult task. One would not think it difficult to be an encourager, but I found that it truly was difficult to reverse course. I would be encouraging for a short time but would soon slip back into old patterns. I continued to be a discourager.

One day it occurred to me that I was going to have to discipline myself to encourage others. And so I took the strange and seemingly-artificial step of calendaring time to encourage others. It sounds strange, I know, but I opened up my Outlook calendar and created a 5-minute appointment recurring every three days. The appointment simply said “Encourage!” And so, every third day, while I was hard at work, a little reminder would flash up on my screen. “Encourage!,” it said. And I would. I would take the opportunity to quickly phone a friend or dash off an email to someone I felt was in need of encouragement. This felt very artificial. I felt like a fraud as I, with a heart of discouragement, attempted to be an encouragement to others. But as time went on, it began to become quite natural. I soon found that I no longer felt the same spirit of discouragement within me. Encouragement slowly became more natural. What had begun as a discipline that felt artificial, soon became a habit that felt natural.

There was a lesson in there for me. I agree with Bridges who often says “discipline without direction is drudgery.” Had I disciplined myself to be encouraging without first being convicted by the Spirit of my sin, and I had I attempted to be an encourager without first setting a direction that honored God, I doubt that He would have blessed my efforts. But I believe that He did bless them. I can still be as discouraging as anyone I know, but I also think that discouragement is no longer as quick to arise as it was before. More and more I find that I tend towards encouragement rather that discouragement. After a couple of months I was able to remove the recurring appointment from my Outlook calendar, for encouragement began to come naturally. Since then I’ve sometimes had to add the appointment back to my calendar just to encourage me to once again encourage others, but it never takes all that much effort anymore to get myself back into the mindset of being an encourager.

Bridges writes, “Habits are developed by repetition, and it is in the arena of moral choices that we develop spiritual habit patterns.” I believe this was proven true in my experience. “It is through righteous actions that we develop holy character. Holiness of character, then, is developed one choice at a time as we choose to act righteously in each and every situation and circumstance we encounter during the day.” I think there are some who feel that discipline brings about holiness. These are men and women who are unbelievably disciplined. They get out of bed at the same time each day, spent 22 minutes praying and 17 minutes reading the Bible. They feel that this discipline leads them closer to God. But I disagree. It is not discipline or commitment or conviction that makes us holy. Rather, “we become more holy by obedience to the Word of God, by choosing to obey His will as revealed in the Scriptures in all the various circumstances of our lives.” Conviction, commitment and discipline are necessary to making the right choices, but true spiritual growth can come only when we choose to obey God’s commandments, one at a time.

Discipline, commitment, conviction and Godly habits are closely related. It is important that we are disciplined, but only after we have been convicted and have set a direction towards godliness. At this time discipline and commitment can be used by God to work in us His holiness. Discipline is but a means to a much higher, more Christ-like end. It is a cruel master but a wonderful servant.

December 25, 2007

It has been a long but good day here in Woodstock, GA. We got up early and had the kids dig into their stockings. Then, once family had arrived from far and wide, we got busy opening what looked like just an obscene amount of gifts (there are, after all, eighteen people involved). After a great breakfast, a few of the menfolk (mostly) headed downstairs to package up copies of my book to be sent all around the world.

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That’s my brother-in-law Rick checking labels against the spreadsheet, me stuffing books into envelopes, my brother-in-law Justin putting the 3 cent stamps on, my dad putting on the rest of the stamps, and my brother-in-law Pat writing “Media Mail” in hundreds of envelopes. It wasn’t fun work, but we had a good time. Or I did, anyways.

We got most of the tough work done and it remains just to take all of those books to the post office tomorrow.

Anyways, from my clan to yours, have a very Merry Christmas…

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December 24, 2007

I’ve seen a few blogs where the authors are outlining their Christmas traditions. I’ve also been asked by some readers what my Christmas includes. So I thought I’d let you in on the Challies family Christmas. The way Aileen and I celebrate Christmas is a bit of a blend of two family traditions.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up as part of a tradition that celebrated Christmas but did not generally emphasize it as a day to remember the birth of Jesus. It was not quite a secular holiday, but neither was it a sacred one. Aileen’s family was actually quite similar. So our Christmas traditions include little by the way of reading nativity stories (though we did that on occasion) or lighting candles. It’s also worth mentioning that our Christmas traditions are evolving as time goes on. Now that my family has moved to the U.S., we spend every second Christmas in the south. My parents and all of my siblings gather (from Toronto, New York City, Atlanta and Chattanooga) and we celebrate Christmas together. That means we have (at the moment) 18 people gathering together. The off years, where we celebrate at our own at home, is a lot quieter but maybe not quite so much fun.

On Christmas Eve we usually just enjoy appetizers and snacks and try to get the children to bed at a good hour. And we tend to turn in fairly early as well as we know the next day will begin early. We might watch a movie or play a game or just hang out. Just before bed we lay out the stockings and make sure the gifts are where they need to be. There’s no mention of Santa.

Christmas morning we begin with stockings for the children and then eat a breakfast of croissants and bacon and egg rings (which my mom makes). Those bacon and egg rings are made in muffin tins and are really quite delicious—much better than standard bacon and eggs. That’s a tradition that goes back as far as I can remember. After breakfast we get to work and begin opening gifts, moving from youngest to oldest and going round after round. After a few rounds order inevitably gets thrown the wind and we just open whatever is left. Then we begin to look towards the afternoon and begin work on a turkey dinner (which we try to convince my brother-in-law to make since he cooks up a mean turkey). We tend to spend the day fairly quietly, just enjoying family and lots of good food. There’s inevitably a game or two going on and some music playing. We eat together and then head our separate ways. This year we’re beginning what we hope will be a new tradition by heading out the day after Christmas for a family outing (which, this year, will probably take us to the Chattanooga aquarium).

And that’s about all. We try to keep Christmas fairly simple and low-key. It’s usually just about the best day of the year.

December 23, 2007

A couple of days ago, a skid’s worth of books showed up at my sister’s place. Two days later I showed up and finally got to meet my book. After almost two years from the time I first to pen to paper, I finally saw the results. It wasn’t nearly the moment I thought it might be. But it was still fun and it’s good to have something to hold in my hands.

So here I am starting out signing all those pre-ordered books.

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And then, quite a long time later my brother-in-law snapped a shot of me signing the last one.

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And here are the results.

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Tomorrow we’ll put together an assembly line and stuff all of those books into envelopes. Then we’ll stamp them, put them in the back of my van, and get them to the post office. Good times!

For those wishing to order through Amazon or another retailer, I suspect you’ll have to wait until very early in the new year before they have stock available.

December 22, 2007

I have a particular interest in books that seek to give us categories through which we can understand this strange new world that is being built around us through the internet. The sheer pervasiveness of the internet has allowed it to impact our lives so deeply and so profoundly and I’m not sure that many of us really understand this. One person seeking to bring sense to it is David Weinberger, a writer, teacher and marketing consultant. In Everything is Miscellaneous he offers a tour of the new digital disorder that is happening as we move from a physical to a digital world.