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Tim Challies

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September 2008

September 25, 2008

Talk!Last week I added a poll to this site and asked where you buy the majority of your books. The results really surprised me. As of this moment Amazon has a clear lead with 55% of the votes. That means that half of us buy the majority of our books from Amazon instead of the local Christian bookstore or one of the many online Christian retailers. There are almost three times more votes for online retailers as brick-and-mortar retailers. While I’ll grant that this poll is far from scientific, it does show a clear trend (and one that makes sense of the fact that so many Christian bookstores are closing their doors).

In the comments, of which there are currently 89, many people indicated that Christians should do better than Amazon—that we should go out of our way to support Christian-owned businesses (see, for example, this one or this one).

I thought this was worth thinking and talking about and would love to hear some feedback. Do you think Christians should go out of their way to support Christian-owned businesses? Is this a moral imperative? Or should Christians feel free to shop wherever is most convenient or wherever offers the best prices? What is our obligation to other Christians in such matters?

September 25, 2008

Thursdays are the day I dedicate to reading and writing about the classic books of the Christian faith. We’re well into Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections and have been moving at about a chapter (or heading) per week. This week I did not live up to my end of the bargain. It was one of those crazy weeks where it seems I spent more time out of the house than in and where the time I spent in the house was dedicated to everything but reading. So with my apologies I am going to have to bump this week’s reading into next week. Hopefully this gives us all a chance to take a breather and catch up with our reading. I’ll bring you the next update next Thursday. Sorry!

September 25, 2008
T-Wax Interviews JT
Trevin Wax posts the second part of an interview he conducted with Justin Taylor. They talk about the forthcoming ESV Study Bible.
The Blind Spot in Spiritual Formation
Craig Brian Larson addresses a blind spot in the spiritual formation movement. “Read books on spiritual formation and you will be hard-pressed to find listening to the preaching of God’s Word mentioned as a first-order spiritual discipline in its own right.”
Is Success a Hindrance to Marriage?
“A few months ago, the subtitle of an MSN article caught my attention: ‘Today’s talented, ambitious women are staying single in droves. Are they too busy, too picky or — horrors — too awesome?’”
PluggedIn Reviews Fireproof
“This is the kind of movie that succeeds, sometimes despite itself, because it does a superlative job of digging into serious issues that so deeply affect so many of us every day.”
Jollyblogger looks at an article discussing human nature and controlling parents.
From Stand to Reason: “Read this billboard and then read Greg [Koukl’s] most recent Solid Ground article that explains why John Lennon’s song (which inspired the billboard’s text) is devoid of the hope it envisions.”
The Precious Gift of Baby Talk
An interesting article from John Piper. “Jesus spoke baby talk. The Sermon on the Mount is our baby talk. His high priestly prayer in John 17 is baby talk. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” is baby talk. Infinitely precious, true, glorious baby talk.”
September 24, 2008

I woke up early this morning, a long time before my alarm was set to start buzzing. I woke up with a phrase bouncing through my mind—a phrase I’ve been thinking about for a long time. Some time ago I was thinking about children who have the privilege of growing up in Christian homes but was drawn to the many I know who have fallen away from the faith. Despite the great honor given them in being raised in a family where they were taught the Christian faith, they fell away and rejected the faith of their parents. What a horrifying thought it is that these people will have to stand before God knowing that they rejected a gift of inexpressible value.

I thought about this for a little bit and then turned to the lesson I’ll be teaching tonight at our mid-week services. Aileen and I lead a class for junior high kids and are working our way through a Children Desiring God curriculum. It just so happens that this week’s lesson is one that challenges these children not to neglect the gift they’ve been given. This week’s focus statement is “Man is without excuse when God rightly withdraws His restraining grace and gives man over to his sin.” As you might expect, the key verse is from Romans (Romans 2:4 - “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”).

The phrase that was bouncing in my head this morning and the phrase that summarizes this lesson, at least in my mind, is this: “living on borrowed grace.” Those children who are born into Christian homes—children who from their earliest days learn stories from the Bible, who watch their parents living the Christian life and who attend church week after week—are living on borrowed grace, at least until they turn to Christ in repentance and faith. This is true of all unbelievers though in a particularly pronounced way with the children of Christians. They enjoy a grace given by the God in whom they do not believe. As Jesus tells us, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Grace abounds in this world and grace abounds in a special way in the homes of those who love Him.

Those who do not love the Lord, those who do not serve Him, are living on borrowed grace. They are living in light of a grace that is not rightly theirs; they have not turned in love and faith to the One who gives such grace. They live like this grace will continue indefinitely, eternally, while in reality the clock is ticking down.

My heart longs for my children and for all of the children in my church that they would embrace the faith that is being taught to them and modeled for them. The consequences of such a rejection are terrifying. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” For those who turn away, this borrowed grace will begin to be withdrawn. God will withdraw His restraining hand and give them over to their sinful desires. Paul says as much in Romans 1:24-25: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” I have seen this and you undoubtedly have, too. I have seen young men turn away from Christ, turn away from their families, turn away from the faith, and embrace lifestyles of gross immorality. That borrowed grace that had restrained sin was gradually loosened as they rejected the source of all grace.

And still they continue to live on borrowed grace. Though they have rejected the Savior, rejected the Creator, they continue to enjoy the beauty of this world and so many of the graces it contains. This is what Christ would say to them: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Romans 2:5). A time will come when all grace will be removed. Rain will no longer fall on the just and the unjust; the sun will no longer shine on those who have rejected God. God will demand an accounting of the grace that gave them life, the grace that sustained them through life, and the grace that was freely offered to give them everlasting life. May they, in that day, be found in Him.

September 24, 2008
I’ll Only Kiss My Wife
“In Kirk Cameron’s new movie, ‘Fireproof,’ he has to kiss the actress playing his wife. That was a problem. Cameron will not kiss any woman who is not his wife. To get around the conflict, the filmmakers employed a bit of movie magic…”
A Christian View of the Economic Crisis
Dr. Mohler: “Christians should think seriously about this economic crisis and ponder what it would mean to come to a Christian understanding of what it means to be participants in this economy. As Adam Smith recognized, the economy is a moral reality.”
The Peasant Princess
Here is a micro-site for Mark Driscoll’s new sermon series on Song of Solomon. Love it or hate it, you can’t argue with the skill and creativity of Mars Hill’s creative department.
The new edition of Themelios, the journal of The Gospel Coalition, has been released on a nice, new web site.
Pastor, Mentor the Young Men
On Monday my pastor spoke to a local pastors fellowship on the importance of mentoring young men. I’m sure any pastor could benefit from listening to or reading his paper.
September 23, 2008

He Is Not SilentPreaching is not just for preachers. Every Christian can, and, I’m increasingly convinced, should be educated about the task and calling of the preacher. I am convinced that there is great benefit in all Christians becoming students of preaching. This applies even to those who will never stand behind the pulpit and bring the Word of God to His people. The book I would recommend to laypersons wishing to learn about preaching and to pastors wishing to learn how to preach better, is Al Mohler’s He Is Not Silent. Just released by Moody Publishers, this book is a brilliant and insightful look at the task and challenges of preaching in a postmodern world. It is not a how-to guide and is not a dry exhortation valuable only for those with theological degrees; instead, it is a compelling, winsome, biblical case for understanding the utter centrality of preaching to Christian worship.

September 23, 2008
More About Harsh Language
If you read last week’s exchange between Nathan Busenitz and Doug Wilson, you’ll want to read this follow-up by Busenitz.
Can’t You Take a Joke?
Wired writes about the man who invented the emoticon. -)
The Cross: Can We Have More?
Darryl Dash reflects on Brian McLaren’s understanding of the gospel and pleads for more of the cross.
Children as the Ultimate Experience
Owen Strachan writes about two articles, one by Mohler and one by Driscoll, that discuss the importance of the family as constructed and formed by the Bible.
R.I.P. Emerging Church
The term “emerging church” has already fallen out of favor among those who once used it as a descriptor for themselves. “Now comes word from recognized leaders and voices within the emerging church movement that the term has become so polluted that it is being dropped.”
The Prince’s Poison Cup
The Prince’s Poison Cup is a forthcoming children’s book written by R.C. Sproul (and with great illustrations by Justin Gerard). The Ligonier blog shares some information about it.
Quick Links:
Ending is Beginning
Kathryn Scott: I Belong
Using God’s Will to Manipulate
September 22, 2008

I have often expressed my love of biographies. I consider them to be among the most helpful of resources in helping equip Christians in their lifelong quest for Christ-likeness. We can learn much from the examples of those who have run the race before us. We can learn from what God taught them, learn from their triumphs and learn from the times they were defeated. I have a passion for biographies. I also have a passion for the English language. I love to see how we can use the language to craft works of art. I cannot express myself in the fine arts - music and art are both disciplines that escape me. But I consider myself a wordsmith-in-training. These two loves come together in Jack, a biography of C.S. Lewis written by a veritable master of the English language.