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Tim Challies

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January 2009

January 27, 2009
Christianity Today Book Award Winners
Over the course of the week, CT will be releasing the list of their top books of 2008. They’ve announced the first two winners already…
Equipping the Saints Through Blogging
Yesterday I contributed to a radio program dealing with blogging. You can hear the audio here.
Trial by Fury
The Washington Post has a story on Ted Haggard. He’s going to be in the media spotlight a whole lot in the days to come.
Unsold Car Gallery
Here is a sign of the times. The Guardian has put together a gallery of photographs showing the multitudes of unsold cars around the world.
How To Use Greek Properly
Mounce answers the question of how to best use Greek in the pulpit. He has some good things to say! Here’s just one: “Do not correct the English Bible. Ever! Never say, “the translators got this wrong.” The damage you can do to a person’s trust in Scripture is unimaginable.”
Being Pro-Life in a Culture of Death
T-Wax interviews Russell Moore on being pro-life in a pro-death culture and on dealing with the specifics challenges brought about by Barack Obama.
January 26, 2009

At Grace Fellowship Church we’ve been praying for something big and we’ve been praying it for quite some time. We want a meeting place of our own. It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with the school we meet in now, but more that we can foresee how our own building would be beneficial to the church and to the community. Oh, and we want the building to be free. We’re quite a small church and the leadership (wisely, I think) is hesitant to rope the church into a long and expensive mortgage. Real estate prices being what they are in Toronto, it would realistically be a very long and undoubtedly very expensive mortgage. This would not be a good decision for our church. So we continue to pray for a building of our own, for free.

I am confident that we can pray for such a thing and am confident that God can answer our prayer in amazing and unexpected ways. And really, I’ve seen him answer such prayers in other churches and organizations. The Apostle had confidence that God was able to do things far beyond our ability to even imagine, closing his prayer for the Ephesians by praying in the name of “him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” What seems so big to us is so small to God. Is the Creator of all the universe bound by the limitations that seem so clear to us?

It’s strange to me, then, that I can pray in such confidence that God is able to do great things and yet still pray with such a diminished sense of my prayers actually mattering to God. I am coming to realize that this is one of my great struggles in prayer. I believe in God’s sovereignty; I believe what he says in the Word is true and that he is not only able, but willing to grant what I ask in prayer. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” God wants to hear the prayer of his saints and as a father delights in giving good things to his son, God delights in giving good things to his children.

And yet so often I pray like it doesn’t really matter. I make it a habit to try to pray for every person in our church every week. Far too often I pray these prayers like I am praying to someone who is not eager to hear the prayers and is not eager to answer them. I pray like I am asking difficult things of a reluctant ruler. I pray like I need to beg God that he will bless these saints, like he is uninterested in hearing my requests that these people will apply to their lives the Word they heard on Sunday or that they will come to church eager to enjoy communion with him. I pray like prayer is a duty, not a delight.

But lately God has been showing me that prayer can be so much more than duty. When prayer is mere duty I see myself falling into the trap of the Gentiles that Jesus talked about in his Sermon: “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” My prayers can be so empty, so meaningless, little more than empty phrases heaped one upon the other. But God has been showing me that they are so much more. They are so much more to him.

So this has been my prayer in recent days—my prayer with which I begin to pray. “God, help me to have confidence that my prayers matter.” I’ve found that such a sense can transform a prayer. With such a prayer I am reminding myself of God’s truth—that He is eager to hear and answer my prayers—and I am asking him to give me a renewed and enlarged sense of this great truth. As I pray this I am reminding myself that God is no petty tyrant disinterested in what I may desire to ask him, but that he is a gracious Father who desires good things for all of his children. And I remind myself that prayer is a means, and often the means, by which he gives us those things that will bless us and bring glory to his name.

Prayer matters—my prayers matter. I fight to keep this in my mind and I fight to keep it in my heart.

January 26, 2009
A New Series on Revive Our Hearts
Nancy Leigh Demoss has begun a new series on Revive our Hearts radio. The subject is “Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.” It promises to be a very good series.
Photographing the President
TIME offers this neat little movie sharing the reflections of two of the men who spent eight years (or longer) photographing President Bush.
1 in 3 ‘Christians’ says ‘Jesus sinned’
WND comments on a new Barna poll which finds that half of Americans who call themselves “Christian” don’t believe Satan exists and fully one-third are confident that Jesus sinned while on Earth.
Abortion Talking Points
John Piper offers fifteen pro-life truths to speak. These make for good conversation points with Christians and non-Christians alike.
Shepherds’ Fellowship Media Vault
The Shepherds’ Fellowship media vault has been opened wide. All of the past sessions and seminars from the Shepherds’ Conference are now free to download.
Deal of the Day: ESV Study Bible
Monergism Books has the ESV Study Bible Genuine Leather Black and Burgundy both for 50% off while quantities last.
January 25, 2009

Today is widely regarded as the best Sunday of the month at Grace Fellowship Church. We gather in the morning for our regular morning service but afterward, instead of going our separate ways, we enjoy a potluck fellowship lunch. Following that, we have a brief second service that culminates in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I thought this was an appropriate prayer for any of us who are preparing to enjoy Lord’s Supper on this Lord’s Day. It is drawn from The Valley of Vision.

God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’

Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.

January 24, 2009

The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan EdwardsIn 2006, Reformation Trust published Steven Lawson’s Foundations of Grace, the first volume in a promising series titled “A Long Line of Godly Men.” Though the original publication schedule called for a new book every year or two, the second volume, Pillars of Grace has been repeatedly pushed back and is now listed as a November 2009 release. However, while we’ve been awaiting that title, we’ve been treated to two volumes in a companion series called “A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles.” The first of these told of The Expository Genius of John Calvin while future releases promise to focus a spotlight on an aspect of the ministries of Martin Luther, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, and other notable pastors and theologians.

January 23, 2009

The Christian LoverMarriage is under attack in our day; there is little doubt about it. We need only look to the divorce rates among professed Christians to see that believers have been far from immune from the spirit of this age. In his new book The Christian Lover: The Sweetness of Love and Marriage in the Letters of Believers, Michael Haykin says that “reading expressions of love from the past can be a helpful way of responding to the frangibility of Christian marriage in our day.” And so he offers a collection, a small anthology, of letters from husbands to wives and wives to husbands—letters that share the beauty of the gift that is marriage.

January 23, 2009
Four Reasons You Might Be Aborted
Joe Carter writes an open letter to fetal humans explaining four reasons they might be aborted.
Newsbusters on Obama’s Million Ghost March
Newsbusters looked at the satellite photos, did the math, and determined that the estimates were massively inflated. “I doubt it would surprise anyone here that the media would go to their best lengths to over-estimate the number of people at Obama’s inauguration. But just how far? Try a million people.”
22 Weeks
You’ll likely be hearing more about this movie, 22 Weeks, in the coming weeks and months.
Are You Good at Multitasking?
Congratulations! You’re hopelessly inefficient. Matt Perman shares a quote from a book I almost purchased last night when I saw it at the local bookstore.
Today is John Donne’s Birthday
Fred Sanders offers a brief overview of the life of this great poet and preacher.
The Year’s Weirdest Headline
I’ll grant that it’s only January 23, but what are the changes you’ll see a more bizarre headline than this all year? “Clinically Depressed Poodle Mauls Former French President Chirac.”
January 22, 2009

This is a guest post from John Ensor.

*****

Today I join hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in the annual March for Life to publicly lament the death of 50 million preborn children and to pray for the day when abortion becomes unthinkable.

In doing so, I acknowledge the resistance, even offense, taken by many by asserting that abortion is the moral issue of our day. I am familiar with the claim that asserts equal concern for poverty, global warming, aids prevention, war, and more. All of these appear to me worth researching and debating, as iron sharpens iron, as to the various causes and possible solutions.

But abortion is not on par. I remember how and when I came to this conclusion. It was the week of February 12, 1990, as marked on the Newsweek magazine I was reading. Kim Flodin, in an article on why she did not counter-march for abortion rights, wrote, “I was pregnant, I carried two unborn children and I chose, for completely selfish reasons, to deny them life so that I could better my own” (My Turn).

There it was: a momentary lapse into honest concrete language about abortion from an advocate. No ancient Baal worshiper could have described the reasons for their child sacrifice better. I was stunned that it had to be stated so plainly for me to grasp the preeminent evil of it. It is not one issue among equal concerns. Abortion is our postmodern version of child sacrifice for the Me Generation. As such, it is an incomprehensible and unthinkable evil.

Unthinkable is the best word to describe it because that is the way God describes it. “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah saying, … “They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination” (Jeremiah 32:35; cf. 7:31, 19:5).

Among the many ways we offend God, the greatest offense are the shedding of innocent blood and idolatry. These two come together in child sacrifice. At the outset, God taught Israel to be shocked and repulsed by its practice among other cultures. “You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31). The word even here rings remarkably close in meaning to unthinkable or something that “did not enter into my mind.”

Some years ago, a woman named Suzanne came to me while I was setting up a pregnancy-help clinic in Boston. She said, “If I have the abortion, I will have more money to spend on my other two children.” I asked, “What do you think your children would say if they knew you were doing this so that they could have cable TV and other stuff?” She said, “Well, I’ll ask them.” Then and there I knew the baby would live. Abortion is unthinkable to children—incomprehensible, horrific, something that would never enter their minds to do. Sure enough, the children were aghast at the thought. “We want the baby,” they reassured her. Some months later, after the baby arrived, I heard her share her story. She said she was embarrassed to think back on her earlier state of mind. She had joined the circle of those who think abortion unthinkable.

Sanctity of Human Life Week is like Good Friday—a sobering time to stare unflinchingly past the ho-hum of abortion as a common practice; to grieve, lament, and morn; then to take up our cross and humbly obey God’s call to “prosper” the cause of the fatherless and “defend the rights of the needy” (Jeremiah 5:28). In this context, that means becoming cross-bearers for child-bearers.

*****

John Ensor is the Vice President of Heartbeat International and author of Answering the Call: Saving Innocent Lives, One Woman At a Time .