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Tim Challies

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March 2008

March 31, 2008

Have you ever wondered if you are emergent? I know I have! Here is Kevin DeYoung, co-author of Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be) on how you might know if you are emergent…


After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse, but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac; if your reading list consists primarily of Stanley Hauerwas, Henri Nouwen, N. T. Wright, Stan Grenz, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, Jim Wallis, Frederick Buechner, David Bosch, John Howard Yoder, Wendell Berry, Nancy Murphy, John Franke, Walter Winks and Lesslie Newbigin (not to mention McLaren, Pagitt, Bell, etc.) and your sparring partners include D. A. Carson, John Calvin, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and Wayne Grudem; if your idea of quintessential Christian discipleship is Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Desmond Tutu; if you don’t like George W. Bush or institutions or big business or capitalism or Left Behind Christianity; if your political concerns are poverty, AIDS, imperialism, war-mongering, CEO salaries, consumerism, global warming, racism, and oppression and not so much abortion and gay marriage; if you are into bohemian, goth, rave, or indie; if you talk about the myth of redemptive violence and the myth of certainty; if you lie awake at night having nightmares about all the ways modernism has ruined your life; if you love the Bible as a beautiful, inspiring collection of works that lead us into the mystery of God but is not inerrant; if you search for truth but aren’t sure it can be found; if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches, or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintage, and dance; if you grew up in a very conservative Christian home that in retrospect seems legalistic, naive, and rigid; if you support women in all levels of ministry, prioritize urban over suburban, and like your theology narrative instead of systematic; if you disbelieve in any sacred-secular divide; if you want to be the church and not just go to church; if you long for a community that is relational, tribal, and primal like a river or a garden; if you believe doctrine gets in the way of an interactive relationship with Jesus; if you believe who goes to hell is no one’s business and no one may be there anyway; if you believe salvation has a little to do with atoning for guilt and a lot to do with bringing the whole creation back into shalom with its Maker; if you believe following Jesus is not believing the right things but living the right way; if it really bugs you when people talk about going to heaven instead of heaven coming to us; if you disdain monological, didactic preaching; if you use the word “story” in all your propositions about postmodernism—if all or most of this tortuously long sentence describes you, then you might be an emergent Christian.

March 31, 2008

Young, Restless, ReformedThough it is the emerging church that seems to have received so much attention in the past few years, just under the radar there has also been a quiet and steady growth of interest in far more traditional Reformed theology. All across North America (and perhaps beyond) Christians, and young Christians in particular, have been rediscovering the church’s historic theology. These disparate movements seem to have grown from a common source—a reaction against the kind of “big box Christianity” of the church growth movement. Tired of seeing people as products and weary of experiencing church as a form of entertainment, church-goers have searched to find churches that offer a more satisfying approach to the Christian life. Many have gravitated towards emerging churches. Many others, though, have taken the opposite approach and have discovered the theology of the Reformation.

March 31, 2008
Monday March 31, 2008 Should We Call it Quiet Time?
David Powlison writes about personal worship and whether or not we should call it “quiet time.”
Don Cherry’s Favorite Left-Wing Kook
Your enjoyment of this video may depend on your knowledge of Canada. But it’s fun for those who know this country!
Dan Kimball on New Emergent Book
Dan Kimball has posted some thoughts on the new book “Why We’re Not Emergent.”
Who Says What’s Christian Music?
Here is an interesting article about which music gets to be declared “Christian” and which does not. “If you don’t want to play the game (regardless of clearly Christian content), you will not be sold through us; and if you do play our game, denying the Trinity is just fine.”
Williams Syndrome Blog
Paul has begun a blog called “Williams Syndrome Web Watch: Resources and updates from the Web on Williams Syndrome.”
March 30, 2008

Some time ago my mother made me aware of a poem her grandfather had written many years ago. My great grandfather was an Anglican minister somewhere in Quebec’s Eastern Townships and, to be honest, beyond that I know very little about him. But I really enjoyed this poem (which would have been ideal to post a week ago, perhaps on the Saturday before Easter).

O little child of Salem
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle master
Who wiped my tears away.
Last night in Joseph’s garden
All cold and white he lay,
And now my heart is breaking
While other children play.

O little maid of Jairus,
Why weep ye so today?
Your dusky lashes trailing
The cheeks of ashen grey.
I weep the mighty master
Who waked me from my sleep,
But now in Joseph’s garden,
He slumbers, still and deep.

O Mary, timid Mary,
Why weep ye so today?
I weep the gentle Saviour,
Who took my sins away.
My spices all are gathered
To grace the rocky bed,
For now in Joseph’s garden,
My Lord is lying dead,

O child, O maid, O Mary,
Lift up your eyes and see,
The lilies all a-rocking,
In winds of Araby.
The turtle-dove is calling,
The birds are singing gay,
And there in Joseph’s garden,
The stone is rolled away.

March 29, 2008

We are just a couple of weeks away from Together for the Gospel—undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated conferences of the year. I first mentioned a few weeks ago that at the conference there will be a small gathering geared specifically to Canadians and to people with an interest in ministry to Canada. This is a ministry of Grace Fellowship Church of Toronto and there are no expenses involved. It will be lead, at least initially, by my pastor Paul Martin and myself. We simply wish to invite all of the Canadians in attendance as well as anyone who has an interest in ministry in Canada, to meet with us for a short time after the day’s proceedings wrap up on the Wednesday of the conference.

We will be meeting in Room 112 at 9:30 PM on April 16 (or as soon as the day’s final session ends). This room is right within the convention center immediately below the main hall where the conference will be held. We know this will mark the end of a long day, so we will not keep you for long.

The purpose of this brief gathering will be to help network Canadian pastors and church leaders with a shared love of the Gospel as well to enable the flow of information on events and happenings between our churches. We do not wish to create another association or denomination or publication or anything of the sort and we are not formally associated with Together for the Gospel! Our goal is to help Canadian pastors network with each other at today’s event, as well as to begin a small website devoted to highlighting information of the Lord’s work that would be of interest across our country.

We will start by creating a database of names that will receive regular email updates as information is sent to us. We hope to allow your church to alert other like-minded Christians of events or needs as they arise.

If you are interested in attending, please mark the date and time on your calendar. If you’d like to ask questions, if you would like to let me know that you will be attending, or if you cannot attend but would like to be added to the email list, you can send me a note by clicking here. I have already received plenty of such notes and will be sending a brief email to everyone by way of reminder. Meanwhile, please spread the word to anyone you know who will be at the conference and who may be interested in attending.

We hope to see you there!

March 28, 2008

It’s Friday and there are a few things I’ve been saving in my Favorites folder that I’d like to mention today.

The Internet Effect on News

I say, without any hyperbole, that this article from TIME may be the most important you read today. In it Michael Scherer explains how news has become commoditized through the internet.

Here is a basic shift that has occurred in the news business: Because of the Internet, you, the reader, no longer have to buy information in pre-fabricated packages like “newspapers.” You can just go online and individually select the articles you want to read. And there are lots of websites and blogs to help you out. Every day, Matt Drudge, the Huffington Post, Yahoo, Google, Swampland, or a hundred other different bloggers, will pre-select articles for you and provide links. You choose your own adventure.

There is a corollary effect here: As the value of the package declines, the value of the individual article increases. Online, news organizations charge advertisers based on the number of hits they can get on a site. And since the hits are often coming for specific stories, and not the entire site, a blockbuster story that gets linked to, say, Drudge, is money in the bank.

This means that the competition on the level of the individual story is more intense than ever before, and there is enormous pressure to distinguish yourself from the pack. Assume, for instance, that 12 news organizations do the same story on the same day about how Hillary Clinton has a tough road ahead of her to get the nomination. Which story is going to get the most links and therefore the most readers? Is it the one that cautiously weighs the pros and cons, and presents a nuanced view of her chances? Or is it the one that says she is toast, and anyone who thinks different is living on another planet?

The author explains that, as we rely more on isolated headlines and less on the total package, we become enamored with flashy headlines and stories that are fast and provocative rather than methodical and accurate. “This trend towards story-by-story competition, and away from package-by-package competition, is a blessing and a curse. It is forcing better writing, quicker responsiveness, and it is increasing the value of actual news-making and clear-eyed thinking. But it is also increasing pressure on reporters to push the boundaries of provocation. I am not sure that the Politico story crossed any boundaries, or distorted the truth. I do believe that what Allen and VandeHei did is very much the future of news.”

This is something that we, as Christians, need to consider and consider well. Of all people we are the ones who should value truth above speed or controversy. We should be people who do not allow what’s controversial and provocative to titillate us, even while many of the facts may be wrong. I’ve seen this tendency in my own heart and at times even on my own blog.

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

I just found out yesterday that my book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, has gone into a second printing. I’m not too familiar with the whole publishing industry and associated terminology but what I do know is that this means the book has sold most or all of the copies Crossway printed. I’m guessing their sales forecasts were for the book to sell fewer copies than it has. So I suppose that’s a good thing.

Thanks again to all of those who purchased it. Since the book’s release I’ve been blessed with many kind and encouraging emails. Several people have written to say that they are using the book with youth groups, Bible studies, and so on. That is both humbling and gratifying.

The Atonement

Some time ago Shai Linne was kind enough to send me a copy of his new album The Atonement. I can’t say that I listen to a lot of rap music so I’m not the kind of person who can adequately evaluate the album from a musical standpoint. However, I can say that it is very strong lyrically. The only real parallel I can draw is to Voice and his albums. The songs deal with real and deep theology. The music is interspersed with snippets of sermons by John Piper and C.J. Mahaney.

Here is a brief biography:

shai linne is living proof that God has a wonderful sense of humor. He once told his mom that he would never, ever become a Christian, completely oblivious to the fact that God had chosen him to be a Christian before time began. He doesn’t like the spotlight, so God gave him natural gifts that put him on stage as an actor. He doesn’t like to be in front of people, so God gave him spiritual gifts that are mostly public in nature. shai has appeared on numerous independent and national Christian Hip-hop releases, including his 2005 full-length debut, The Solus Christus Project. All this from someone who doesn’t like hip-hop and never pursued a career in music. Someone in heaven is having a big laugh at his expense. After all this time, shai still doesn’t get the joke.

For more information and to listen to song samples, check out his MySpace page.

Earth Hour

Tomorrow is Earth Hour. People around the world (but mostly around North America) will be turning off their lights for one hour at 8 PM. “Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.” Toronto is a flagship city and many people here will be participating (though surely far less than the organizers would like). I noticed that even the Toronto airport will be dimming the lights for that hour. The management of a local mall just held a contest to seek ways to save energy. The prize was a trip for two to Australia. I couldn’t help but wonder…wouldn’t that trip to Australia cause more pollution than anything they might hope to save by turning down the lights? But I digress. I don’t think I’ll be participating (though it’s possible I’ll change my mind if we’re the only family in the neighborhood with lights on). How about you?

March 28, 2008
Friday March 28, 2008 Isaiah 53
Here’s an interesting and creative take on Isaiah 53.
Narnia Interrupted?
Please say it ain’t so! “…studio suits seem to be cooling to the idea of producing movie versions of all seven of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books.”
The Leniency of Excommunication
I’ve long thought of excommunication as an act of mercy, but in this short post John Piper shows that it is also an act of leniency.
All About Deacons
Thabiti has a good post on the oft-overlooked office of deacon.
March 27, 2008

You’ve probably seen this video. If not, you’ll want to take six minutes of your life and give it a look. It’s Bob Newhart at his best, really. If you’ve heard his old bits about the discovery of tobacco or the invention of baseball you’ll see that not much has changed over the years. He’s as funny as ever. His stuttering, his naivete—it’s the same as it ever was. It’s brilliant.

In the case of this video, though, every time I see it I can’t help but think he’s just a little bit more than funny—he shares some advice that is surprisingly valuable, even if it is both abrupt and hilarious. I keep the video around and watch it every now and again. I think it’s good for me to do so. Sometimes I think that, as a Christian, I can go looking for cures for sin that are long and involved and a little bit mysterious. I can go to friends or pastors or books for counsel and, like the woman in this video, I’m looking for a cure that I can jot down in a notebook and follow step-by-step. I want something I can do twice a day for ten days and watch the sin magically fall away. I want a five or ten step program. Sometimes such strategies work. Often they do not.

In Mark Driscoll’s book Confessions of a Reformission Rev he shares a late-night conversation with a member of his church. This video reminded me of Driscoll’s tale. The man called him in the middle of the night crying and begging for help because he had committed a certain sexual sin yet again. Though Driscoll’s answer was a tad vulgar I think he essentially gave the guy the right one: Just stop it! His counsel to the man was probably exactly what he needed to hear: shut up, grow up, man up and stop sinning. The guy called his pastor looking for a shoulder to cry on but what he got was a lesson in growing up. I hope it wasn’t lost on him.

Some time ago I spoke to a friend about an ongoing sin in his life and tried to show him that the essence of his problem was this: he hates his sin just a little bit less than he loves it. Sure he wants to stop sinning, but even more he wants to keep sinning. And I think he came to agree. My advice was pretty well what Newhart offered the woman in this video: “Stop it!” Are you fighting sin? I’ll pray for you—really, I will. And I’ll recommend that you memorize some Scriptures, some fighter verses, that will help you battle that sin by bringing to mind the promises of God. But I’ll also challenge you to just stop it and to stop it now. You stop sinning by turning your back on it. You do not sit back and wait for God to change you while you remain in your sin. Rather, you join him in the fight, joining your will with His strength. And together you go to war.

I can memorize Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and I can have the whole world pray for me. But there comes a time when forsaking sin, truly putting it to death, requires a decision of the mind and an act of the will. Sooner or later I need to just stop it. And God can give me the strength to do so.