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Tim Challies

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May 2008

May 31, 2008

My recent travels allowed me another opportunity to really put my Kindle to the test. (Because I live in Canada, several of its best features are only available to me when I head south of the border.) And having done so I can’t deny that I like it better than ever. Beyond the benefits I laid out in my recent review of the Kindle, here are five good reasons to own one.

Thousands of Free Books

Just about any book that is available in PDF (Adobe Acrobat) or in e-book format can be read on your Kindle. That gives you a vast library to build upon.

If you would like to build your library of Christian classics, visit CCEL. Browse through the library and download any of the books in PDF format. You can download books by Edwards, Bunyan, Augustine, Chesterton and just about any other classic author you can think of. There are literally thousands of titles there for the taking.

If you are a fan of John Piper, visit Desiring God and download any of Piper’s books for free in PDF format.

If you would like to catch up on classics or just browse other free e-books, visit Feedbooks. They have thousands of great titles available, all of them entirely free. Go there to download your fix of Orwell, Austen, Dickens, Tolstoy, Hawthorne…

How do you get these books to your Kindle? Easy. When you buy a Kindle, Amazon gives you an email address (your-username@kindle.com). Simply email the file to your address. Amazon will covert it and for $0.10 send it immediately and wirelessly to your Kindle. Want to save the dime? Then send the file to your-username@free.kindle.com. Amazon will convert the file (for free) and send it back to you via email (for free). You then simply copy it to your Kindle using the USB cable.

Buy Books Anywhere and Anytime

While enjoying a brief break at a recent conference, and while sitting in the back row of a university chapel, I felt the urge to buy a new book that I could enjoy while traveling home (and something that would be a little lighter to read than the Banner of Truth titles I had stuffed into my suitcase!). Within sixty seconds, using nothing but my Kindle, I had purchased a book and had begun reading it. Just like that. Using your Kindle you have access to well over 100,000 books at any time and any place.

You will also never have to worry about books going out of stock. When books run out of stock at Amazon or your local bookstore, they are always available on the Kindle. Anywhere, anytime. When the books go out of print, I suppose they’ll still be available for download to your Kindle.

Check Your Email Anywhere—For Free!

Many people pay a lot of money for the ability to check their email via their cell phone. With the Kindle you can actually check your email remotely and entirely free wherever you can get a Sprint cell phone connection. The same technology that allows you to purchase books anywhere allows you to check email anywhere. And it’s entirely free. You may wish to purchase the $3 e-book How to Use the Amazon Kindle for Email & Other Cool Tricks: Read and Answer Email Anywhere, Anytime on the Amazing Amazon Kindle… to read instructions on how to do this (and to learn some other interesting tips and tricks…like how to play Minesweeper on your Kindle).

Free Wireless Internet Everywhere

It’s true—you can use the Kindle to surf the web wirelessly…anywhere. Anywhere serviced by Sprint, at any rate. Granted it’s not going to look wonderful since the Kindle does not do color and isn’t meant to display pretty graphics, but it you want to visit sites you like to read (and remember, the Kindle is a reading device) you can do so from anywhere using the same cellular service for which everyone else pays $60/month.

Read the Bible

A quick search turned up at least eight different Bible translations already available for the Kindle (ESV, KJV, NIV, NASB, etc). They all cost less than $10. This article outlines some good suggestions for using the Kindle for Bible study. As with any other book, you can take notes, highlight passages, search for words and phrases and otherwise interact with the text of Scripture.

May 30, 2008

I returned home last night from my final conference of the year (or of the spring season, at least). At this point I’ve got only one tentative date on my calendar through the rest of 2008. While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going to this year’s conferences, I’m not sorry to have a rather barren travel schedule for a while. Looking back at my calendar I can see that this spring I was in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee.

I enjoyed the Banner of Truth experience. It’s certainly unique as the conferences go, with a very conservative constituency, yet a very vibrant faith obviously active in the hearts of those in attendance. It was good to revisit some old hymns and Psalms I haven’t sung for many years and to catch up with some old friends I haven’t seen for just as long. Yesterday my friend Steve Burlew, who heads up Banner in the U.S. drove me over to the Banner offices and warehouse and it was good just to poke around there for a few minutes. In case you are not aware, they have an extensive “damaged book” section there where you can get some really good deals on books that have been damaged. The damage may include nothing more than the tiniest tear on the jacket, yet it will get you a great discount. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth dropping in just to look for a bargain.

May Giveaway Winners

This morning I sent out an email announcing the winners of the May giveaway. The following three people have won the Monergism Books gift certificates (and will need to send me an email to claim them!):

  1. Rick Aldrich
  2. Mike Driskill
  3. Christa Allan

The Seven Sayings

I apologize to those who are reading with me The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross. As I was traveling yesterday I did not manage to post my reflections on the chapter. I had good intentions but they just didn’t work out. I’ll pick up again next Thursday.

This Site

I’m hoping that by next week this site can return to normal, whatever normal means in this context. I apologize that the content around here has been just a bit “light” over the past week or two.

May 30, 2008
Friday May 30, 2008 My Friend, My Hero, My Dad
Stephen Altrogge has just released a free e-book about his dad.
Stryper Meets Boston
I was rather surprised to hear that Michael Sweet of Stryper fame has recently become a member of the band Boston and will be singing and playing guitar for them.
411,422
That’s how many new books and editions were published in 2007. No wonder I’ve always got so much to read.
Small Stories, Big News
Politico has a good look at how small stories can become big news. “The signature defect of modern political journalism is that it has shredded the ideal of proportionality.”
Must Watch Dever
Here are a couple of videos which are an interview between Mark Dever and Ed Stetzer. They’re well worth watching.
May 29, 2008

Last night I grabbed a few of the newest Banner books from the rather well-stocked bookstore here at the conference.

This morning Rick Phillips preached his second message on the book of Hebrews, this was entitled “Outside the Camp.” It was based on Hebrews 13:9-14: “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” Those who were at Together for the Gospel will note that this was the same text that John Piper spoke on and while Phillips’ sermon was very different, there was certainly some overlap. He focused especially on verses 12 and 13, saying that these verses are the very heart of Hebrews. It is the heart of the pastoral message and motive that is being given to these Christians (and to us today). He warned against the lure of false teaching that draws big crowds and wins popularity and encouraged instead that pastors need to be willing to go outside the camp and to suffer there with Christ. The suffering of pastors as they face persecution for the message they preach is the same suffering that Christ passed through when He was on the cross. Pastors must be willing to bear the reproach that Christ has already endured.

After a brief break, Ian Hamilton took the pulpit to preach his second message, titled “The Minister’s Character.” His text was Isaiah 42:1-5. Looking to this text he showed that here we are introduced to the servant of the Lord—Jesus Christ Himself. There is no other kind of gospel ministry than that of servant ministry. So pastors need to consider, ponder, behold this servant. God raises up servant, the second man, the second Adam. He is God’s answer to the darkness and vanity. We see here that he is set up as the model of true servanthood.

Servants are answerable only to God and are committed to doing His will come what may. We are not only the servants of God but also of the people of God. If you do not have a heart for God’s people, you should not be in Christian ministry. If our hearers do not feel that they matter to us more than life itself, if they do not see, hear and feel in what we say to them and how we interact with them than their good matters to us more than life itself, our preaching will never impact their lives.

The remainder of the message was structured around found things the Lord tells us to behold in this passage. What is it that He is particularly reminding us to behold in Christ?

His complete dependence on God (“whom I uphold”) - The Savior was upheld by God and the Spirit of God was placed upon Him. It was by the power and grace that He was enabled to carry out His ministry. He lived and ministered in humble dependence upon His Father.

His unyielding faithfulness to God - He would allow nothing to distract or divert, far less determine, what He would do. He was utterly faithful to the calling God had given Him. We need to let this mind be in us—that Christ had a commission from the Father and though it would cost Him everything, He would pursue and fulfill it. Being united to this servant of the Lord, we must go through many tribulations to enter the kingdom.

His personal humility before God - The servant’s service was humble. He does not shout others down or seek to promote himself at the expense of others, for He is the servant of Jehovah. It is never enough to speak the truth; the way we speak the truth is every bit as important as the truth we seek.

His servant’s unimaginable grace that magnifies God - The Lord’s servant in this chapter is not less than God himself. He is the true revelation of Jehovah. Here is the animating pulse of the servant’s ministry—He is gentle with the weak and the fragile. But it is far easier to preach grace than to practice it. Christ doesn’t just welcome sinners—He runs after sinners and embraces them. Does this kind of grace mark our ministries? Does it mark our churches?

And finally, we need to note that God says “Behold my servant…in whom I delight.” God delights in those who preach His Word and He loves them. This gives grace and confidence to the servants of the Lord.

May 29, 2008
Thursday May 29, 2008 How to Read 500 Books a Year
Denny Burk points to D.A. Carson’s explanation. The question is, who can afford 500 books a year?
White Board or Just Bored
Matt Schmucker shares some quotes and reflections from the recent White Board Sessions. The quote from Ed Stetzer is particularly good: “For most here today ministry won’t look like what we have heard today. Conferences are like ministry pornography — a picture of something we’ll never have.”
Irish Calvinist Reviews My Book
Erik Raymond was kind enough to post a review of my book.
The Forgotten Vice of Gluttony
Joe Carter writes about a vice we tend to prefer to ignore.
May 28, 2008

This evening’s session was based around a talk given by Iain Murray and entitled “Our Present Needs.” It was a message that felt like an older pastor lovingly exhorting younger pastors. He covered three great needs for pastors (he spoke in the first person plural and I will do the same even though the “we” doesn’t really apply to me as a layperson!).

Our Need for Less Self Confidence

Calvin’s Institutes begins with by saying that sound wisdom begins with two parts—the knowledge of God and of ourselves. When we are young we pursue the knowledge of God but often omit the knowledge of ourselves. We assume that the knowledge of ourselves is a comparatively easy study but this is really an expression of our self-confidence.

He showed a few ways that we inadvertently display our self confidence.

First, we set out in our work, find difficulties, and tend to think that they are not insurmountable; if we give ourselves to it we shall overcome and win. But we come to find that there are difficulties that can be overcome and we tend not to anticipate this. We do not realize the importance of spending time in the school of failure. We have to learn our inability.

Second, we show our self-confidence in our prayer lives. We all confess there is a discrepancy between what we believe about prayer and what we actually do. We could offer many reasons that this is so. God has given us great promises and yet we pray in secret so little.

A third illustration of self-confidence is in the satisfaction we have with our theology. The Lord has taught us certain great truths and we should love and honor these. Among these truths we hold fast to the doctrines of grace and in the past fifty years there has been a remarkable recovery in these doctrines. But the danger comes that when men think they’ve ascended to these heights they feel they’ve mastered any point of theology. There can be a satisfaction in theology that is warranted in the Scriptures, but we do well to remember that the most advanced in the school of Christ are still but little beginners. There is so much we do not know and do not understand. The man who thinks he knows anything knows nothing. “We are called to preach far more than we understand.”

Our need of increased and persevering faith in God

When we consider our weakness and our inability, is it not amazing how many have done such great things for the cause of Christ? Faith is the mainspring of the Christian life and ministry. With all that the Bible says about faith and the importance given to it, it is no surprise that our faith is the main point of Satan’s attack. There is such a thing as being an “unbelieving believer.” In a real sense this applies to all of us.

We need an increase in faith in Scripture as the Word of God. Such is the perversity of our nature that we can become hardened even during the exercise of studying the Bible week after week, day after day. One can study Scripture and be dry as a bone. We can become people who feel nothing for the Word we preach.

We need an increase in faith in all of God’s attributes but particularly in His goodness and love. The first temptation of Satan was to tempt Eve to doubt the goodness of God. The message of the Bible is that God is benevolent and that He is friendly-minded towards sinners. Murray offered two reasons that this area needs to be strengthened: our spiritual happiness depends upon it and the recovery of the orthodox faith depends upon it. We can err in giving the impression sometimes that God is just interested in a small number of people whom He favors while the rest of mankind is outside of His compassion and interest. The way to counter this is to show God’s love for sinners. We can also fall into the trap of repeating truths but ones that have not been properly digested and meditated upon. For many people the intellectual priorities are too high while the priority of reaching the lost and serving the church is too low.

Our Need for Guidance on the Best Use of Our Time

When we first became Christians we became aware of the fact that time is precious; time is short. But as we get older it is a solemn reality that there is a divine inspection before us. We will all stand before the Judgment Seat to give an accounting. Only what Christ does in and with and through us will last; only that is of spiritual value. Should we not dedicate our time to those things? We need guidance about the best way to use the time we’ve been given. We need guidance to do the things we’re called to do and to leave aside the things we’re not called to do.

Here he offered six points directed especially to young men:

  1. It has been the practice for many ministers to be away from the routine and to look closely at our lives in the light of eternity. This is a valuable practice—taking a day per month or a few days per year.
  2. Watch your own temperament. If you love being out and about you probably need to be in your study more; if you love to be in your study you may need to be out and about more.
  3. Read the best books and only the best and read them with a pencil in your hand or with some other system so you can recall even years later what you’ve learned.
  4. Be sure you do not let emails and web sites control your priorities.
  5. We need very carefully to avoid losing time on controversies. Sometimes it is necessary but most often it is not.
  6. Do not “see” in your churches what you cannot change. In most churches there are things we’d like to see changed but that we can’t change. Sometimes it is good not to see such things—to just ignore them. It is better not to see a disputable matter that can disrupt the whole church.

The Need to Pray for a Great Awakening

We can become so accustomed to the status quo that we stop anticipating great change. The keenness of our expectation slowly disappears. Very few ministers keep up the edge on their spirit that was there at first. There is a sense in which being dissatisfied with the present is sinful, but we can still eagerly anticipate God’s works. The extraordinary is not ordinary and there is a real sense in which we need to be satisfied with what God is doing now. But at the same time it is true that we need to expect great things from God.

Murray’s final exhortation was this: we may not see a revival in our lifetimes but we have a present duty to be filled with the Spirit. There is a great danger that we’ve lost the awareness of the changes in our ministries if God was to fill us with the Holy Spirit.

This was a wonderful message and one that seemed to move the men in attendance. If you can find the audio, listen to it!

May 28, 2008

I had a good and restful evening last night. My roommates never showed up (or maybe I was never assigned any). Regardless, I got to bed early and woke up early; just the way I like it! I enjoyed breakfast with some fellow Reformed Baptists, though these ones hail from Maryland. It was good to spend some time with them.

This morning began with a sermon from Rick Phillips, whom I’ve written about several times in connection to his involvement with the Reformed Expository Commentary series. He preached on Hebrews 7:26-28 (and having written a commentary on the book he is well qualified). This is the first of two messages he’ll preach. This one was meant to lay much of the ground work with the bulk of the application coming in the second.

The passage he spoke on is one of the great chapters in the Bible and is Scripture’s most concentrated teaching on Jesus’ High Priesthood. His sermon reminded me of James Boice’s “Where is the Lamb?” sermon that he preached many times. From this text Phillips taught that there are four things that must be asked about any sacrifice: what is offered; to whom it is offered; by whom it is offered; for whom it is offered. He moved through each of these headings showing that the sacrifice was for sinful man under condemnation of the law; that it was offered to the Holy God; that Christ Himself was offered; and that it was offered for the sake of those who would be Christ’s. He taught that though “Where is the lamb?” is a great question, we must also ask “Where is the true priest?”

He offered just a few words of application to the pastors here, focusing on the necessity of preaching on sin and atoning blood. Those Old Testament sacrifices always pointed forward to Christ; as blood was so central in the sacrificial system, so Christ’s blood must be central to the theology of the New Testament church. His exhortation was to hold to this theology and to preach this theology with boldness.

After a short break, we enjoyed a sermon by Iain Hamilton entitled “The Minister’s Calling. ” He preached from Romans 11:33-36. It was a message very much geared towards pastors and very much encouraging them to press on in their calling to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ even as they deal with the tough times that are inevitable to those who are called to minister.

May 28, 2008
Tuesday May 28, 2008 Dr. Mohler at New Attitude
Though I have not yet had opportunity to listen to it, I’ve heard good things about this Q & A session with Dr. Mohler.
Maria Chapman
Here is a touching news report about the funeral for Stephen Curtis Chapman’s daughter Maria.
The Gospel of Judas
Dr. Mohler looks at the latest (and most devastating) critique of the Gospel of Judas.