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Tim Challies

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August 2008

August 26, 2008

So You Don't Want to Go to Church AnymoreJake Colsen is the author of So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. Jake Colsen does not exist. Rather, he is a pseudonym for the combined work of Dave Coleman and Wayne Jacobsen. You may recognize Wayne Jacobsen as one of the founders of Windblown Media, the company that published a little book called The Shack—a little book that has gone on to sell well over a million copies. As The Shack has found international renown, it has pulled in its wake Windblown Media’s two other titles, both of which are written or co-written by Jacobsen. At the moment I write this review, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore is ranked #259 in Books at Amazon and #4 in Religious & Spirituality Fiction (placing behind three editions of The Shack). Its success is very clearly related to that of The Shack (where it has an advertisement on the back page).

August 26, 2008
Tuesday August 26, 2008 Amazon Prime Free Trial
Sign up for a free Amazon Prime trial and you’ll get 30 days of two-day shipping (or $3.00 next-day shipping). After that you can cancel or pay a yearly fee to continue. It’s a program I’d join in a heartbeat if it was offered in Canada!
New WORLD
WORLD Magazine has redesigned their web sites and have done a good job of it.
How Your Printer Tricks You
You may want to file this article for the next time your printer [supposedly] runs out of toner. Here is a guy who got 1800 prints out a printer after it claimed it was out of toner!
Don Miller at DNC
At Don Miller’s site you can read the text of his prayer at the DNC.
Moonbats
Little Green Footballs has some amusing photographs and commentary from the protests that marked the first day of the DNC. “Hatred of the United States makes strange bedfellows, and for now the natural enemies — communists and anarchists — seem to have set aside their differences and agreed to bring down capitalism together.”
Abortion Is About God
This new curriculum from The Bethlehem Institute is now available. It features, of course, John Piper. You may also be interested in this video from Piper.
Flew’s Review
For atheist Anthony Flew has written a rather scathing review of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. “What is much more remarkable than that economic achievement is that the contents - or rather lack of contents - of this book show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: namely, a secularist bigot.”
August 25, 2008

We, as human beings, love underdog stories. Yesterday I watched a couple of episodes of Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, a six-part series that aired as part of the “American Experience” program. As with any bio of Lincoln, it contrasts his early years with those of his wife. Where Mary Todd was raised in a huge home filled with servants and slaves, Abraham Lincoln was raised in a one-room cabin far from civilization; where Mary was given many years of formal education, Abraham studied what he could when he could and had less than a single year of formal education from only the lowest of teachers; where Mary was cultured and proper, Abraham was rough around the edges. They are in so many ways a study in opposites which makes their romance and their love for one another all the more interesting. Where many would have seen in Mary the kind of person who would some day become the wife of a President, few would have predicted Abraham’s rise to the highest office. When he ran for office, he was the rail splitter President, the one who came from the backwoods to make a bid for the highest office. Lincoln stands as proof, even today, that in America people can rise beyond their circumstances and play formative roles in the nation. America is the land of opportunity for the Lincoln’s of the world.

After watching the episodes of “American Experience” I wandered into my office and noticed a little piece of paper, a Post-It Note. Occasionally I have a thought that I figure I should record for one reason or another. Sometimes these get jotted down on little bits of paper and eventually thrown away. I don’t remember when I wrote this one, but in light of what I had just watched, it seemed appropriate. I had written two lines, the first of which was the following: “Christ found it tough to lay aside his glory.” That seemed appropriate in light of what I had just watched. Here is the reverse of the Lincoln story—the reverse of the underdog story. Though Jesus Christ was “in the form of God, [he] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6,7). Jesus had been exalted far beyond the office of President. He was in the form of God; He was God. And yet he humbled Himself far lower than a rail splitter living in a squalid little cabin miles from nowhere. “[B]eing found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Lincoln worked hard—extremely hard—to rise above his circumstances. In fact, once he left his home, he returned only many years later, as if just being near his father would somehow interfere with his desire to become more than his father was. He was driven by a desire to succeed and to make more of himself than anyone could hope to expect for a man with such humble origins. As a young adult he may not have known what he wanted to be, but there is no doubt that he knew what he did not want to be. And with hard work and incredible drive, he become a lawyer and politician and President. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can see that he became exactly the President America needed in her greatest hour of need.

Which of these is the greatest story? Which of these strikes deepest? Here is where the second line of my little note comes in. After writing “Christ found it tough to lay aside his glory” I had written “Why do I find it hard to put on?” It’s a fair question, I think. Imagine what it must have been like for Abraham Lincoln to rise from rail splitter to President. There would have been difficulties, for sure, but such a rise is the stuff of dreams. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, dreamed of rising from obscurity to fame? Who hasn’t cheered on an underdog as he claims a political office or a gold medal?

But now imagine what it must have been like for Jesus Christ to put aside such glory in order to become merely human. This is the stuff of scandal. Who cheers when a famous person falls into obscurity or when a politician leaves office to sweep the hallways of a local primary school. We feel pity, not honor, for such a man. How can we even begin to understand the infinite difference between God and man? The Bible turns to superlatives, saying that Christ made that step, putting aside everything to become nothing. He came not as a king or a President, but as a servant. And this was only the beginning. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). He died under the verse curse of God.

Surely it must have been exceedingly difficult for Jesus Christ to lay aside all that He was in order to become one of His created beings. But He did it and in this way was able to offer the gift of salvation to all men. And to those who believe, He offers the holiness that is His. He offers us far more than the difference between rail splitter and President. He offers us the privilege of being remade more and more in His image. And yet so often we accept this gift hesitantly. Or, at least, I know that I do. I look at the Bible, the guide to living a holy life, and accept it with great reluctance. I turn to it with hesitation and wrestle with its words, hoping it is not demanding of me what I know it is demanding of me. The glory that Christ found so hard to put aside is the very holiness I find so hard to accept. As it must have torn Jesus apart to take off that garment, there is a part of me that is torn apart at having to put it on.

And yet Christ died for even this sin, this sin of reluctantly accepting His free gift of grace—His free gift of sanctification. Despite my sin, I know that Christ has been working in me a desire for holiness. Being God, His power is far greater than mine and He is able to overcome even my ungodly reluctance. He is able to erase my nothing and to give me everything. And, by His grace, He will.

August 25, 2008
Monday August 25, 2008 Warren on Politics
WSJ has an article on “What Saddleback’s Pastor Really Thinks About Politics.”
America Refuses to Accept Defeat
This article from the Times says that China was the clear winner of these Olympic games and I’m inclined to agree.
CCW Blog
Christian Communicators Worldwide (think Jim Elliff) now has a blog that may be worthy of a bookmark.
How Fast Can Humans Go?
TIME asks just how fast it is possible for humans to run before they hit the end of their physical limits.
A Brutal Olympics for Christians
This little article points out why the Olympics were particularly brutal for Chinese Christians.
Donald Miller to Give DNC Benediction
Author Donald Miller (of Blue Like Jazz fame) will give a benediction Monday night at the Democratic National Convention. CT conducts a brief interview with him to ask why.
August 24, 2008

I had a bit of a rough week—or at least a rough end to the week. I was struggling with a strange infection through the week and by Friday and Saturday was pretty well laid out, unable even to stand up a lot of the time (since the pain was far worse standing than lying flat on my back). Thankfully it seems that I’m on the mend. While I was lying around I thought of The Valley of Vision and sought out prayers for times of illness or trial and here is an old Puritan prayer that I enjoyed.


Father of Mercies, Hear me for Jesus’ sake. I am sinful even in my closest walk with thee; it is of thy mercy I died not long ago; Thy grace has given me in the cross by which thou hast reconciled thyself to me and me to thee, drawing me by thy great love, reckoning me as innocent in Christ though guilty in myself.

Giver of all graces, I look to thee for strength to maintain them in me, for it is hard to practise what I believe. Strengthen me against temptations. My heart is an unexhausted fountain of sin, a river of corruption since childhood days, flowing on in every pattern of behaviour; Thou hast disarmed me of the means in which I trusted, and I have no strength but in thee.

Thou alone canst hold back my evil ways, but without thy grace to sustain me I fall. Satan’s darts quickly inflame me, and the shield that should quench them easily drops from my hand: Empower me against his wiles and assaults. Keep me sensible of my weakness, and of my dependence upon thy strength. Let every trial teach me more of thy peace, more of thy love.

Thy Holy Spirit is given to increase thy graces, and I cannot preserve or improve them unless he works continually in me. May he confirm my trust in thy promised help, and let me walk humbly in dependence upon thee, for Jesus’ sake.

August 23, 2008

Have you ever noticed that when someone says, “Don’t look at that!” you immediately look at it? I remember as a kid I used to delight in finding something gross and rotten and disgusting and showing it off to my friends, seeing who would flinch first as we dug around with sticks inside some rotten carcass. Perhaps I was a disturbed child but I don’t think my experiences were unusual. After all, there are any number of web sites that specialize in showing off the disturbing images of war, violence and stupidity. People have a fascination with spectacle. How else do we account for so-called reality television (not to mention the multitudes of Olympic blooper reels making their way across the Net right now)?

August 22, 2008

Lessons from the Road - Third DayI still remember buying my first Third Day album. It was their self-titled debut album and I purchased a cassette copy of the original 9-song version released by Gray Dot Records. It was a bit rougher and, in my mind, a little bit better than the subsequent major-label re-release a year later. I loved the combination of Mac Powell’s voice with the southern rock and occasional bluesy melodies. I remained quite a fan of Third Day until Time or so. While I have since grown a little bit ambivalent about their music, I continue to respect them as a band and as individuals; I admire the fact that they have strayed true to their Christian roots despite finding a great deal of fame and popularity. They seem committed to serving God in the unique way He has gifted them.

August 22, 2008
Friday August 22, 2008 MacArthur on Christians as Douloi
Shepherd’s Fellowship is offering a free Mp3 download of MacArthur’s 2008 conference talk on the New Testament’s use of the word doulos, or slave, to refer to Christians.
Barak Obama: the Messiah
This fascinating site collects praise for Obama. An example from Halle Berry: “I’ll do whatever he says to do. I’ll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear.”
Free Tabletalk
“If you are not aware, Tabletalk published a great issue on “The New Atheism” this month. In light of this timely topic, we would like to equip you with extra copies to discuss atheism with those close to you — or, maybe more importantly, those distant from you and God.”
Library for Sale
Here’s an amazing and unique theological library for sale. It’s crazy expensive but contains over 30,000 volumes.