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Tim Challies

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February 2009

February 25, 2009
An Approach to Family Devotions
Z gives a roundup of Mark Driscoll’s approach to family devotions. I’m always interested in seeing how other people manage this time of family worship.
Every Student an A Student
Owen Strachan has a couple of interesting articles on the phenomenon of grade inflation and the kind of mindset that goes with it.
The Kind of Men God Used
From Ray Ortlund: “Horatius Bonar, writing the preface to John Gillies’ Accounts of Revival, proposes that men useful to the Holy Spirit for revival have been marked in these nine ways…”
Dead Sea Scrolls in Toronto
My fellow Torontonians may be interested in knowing that a selection of the Dead Sea Scrolls are coming to the Royal Ontario Museum beginning in June of this year. “They include portions of the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy and Psalms. In addition, there will be a fragment of the Ten Commandments on display for a limited time.”
Begg on the Beatles
“Discover the extent of Alistair Begg’s Beatles knowledge, as well as the nature of his true accent.”
February 24, 2009

One True God Paul WasherIt is a question I am asked a lot: what Bible study curriculum do you recommend? I rarely know what to say. There are so many of them available; time would fail me to collect, examine and review them all. I was interested, then, to see that Paul Washer is releasing a new edition of The One True God, a title first released several years ago. It is published by Granted Ministries Press. No less than Iain Murray declares that it is “the best introductory work known to me. … Young Christians could scarcely spend their time better than working carefully through these pages.”

February 24, 2009
When Missing Your Free Throws is a Good Thing
Ray Fowler shares a feel-good sports story.
Win a Calfskin ESV Study Bible
A Boomer in the Pew wants to give you a calfskin ESV Study Bible. Take a look to see how you can win it.
Reading Leviticus
Julian Freeman: “If you’re on my Bible reading plan (there are at least two of you that I know of :)) or any other similar plan, there’s a good chance you’re finding yourself smack-dab in the middle of Leviticus right now. That’s not an easy place to be.” He gives three helpful tips for enjoying Leviticus.
Families and Technology Seminar
Matt McAlvey (of Parkside Church) and I are teaming up to lead a seminar on families and technology at Five Points Community Church in Auburn Hills, MI. I’ll be leading sessions for the adults while Matt leads sessions for teens. If you’re in the area, think about attending!
Social Websites Harm Children’s Brains
This is a good warning (though you’ll find scientists who say the opposite as well). “Social networking websites are causing alarming changes in the brains of young users, an eminent scientist has warned. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Bebo are said to shorten attention spans, encourage instant gratification and make young people more self-centred.”
February 23, 2009

I’ve been to my share of conferences in the past few years and quite a few of these have been geared toward pastors. There’s a phenomenon I’ve noticed at the beginning of these events. In many cases these conferences are an opportunity for old friends to reconnect. Many times pastors have been attending the same conference year after year and have met new friends there or have reconnected with old friends from their college or seminary days. This is a once-per-year opportunity to spend a little bit of time together and to play catch-up.

I suppose there must have been a time when people carried printed photos in their wallets. Today, though, people carry photos on their cell phones or on their iPods. So often, when these men meet after the passing of yet another year, I see them embracing and then immediately digging out their phones or their iPods to show off the pictures of their children or grandchildren. And it is interesting to hear them talk; to hear them share proudly about the children they’ve already begun to miss even after only one day apart. As you listen to these pastors tell about their children, you notice that they dwell on the things that make them proud. “Brian’s nine. He loves basketball and leads his team in scoring. He’s getting so tall! His head comes up to my chest now and he eats like there’s no tomorrow. And here’s Rebecca. She’s fourteen. You can see she looks just like her mom. She loves cameras and says she wants to be a photographer…” Of course you know as you hear this that the last year has not been free of conflict. You know that mom and dad are probably working hard to maintain boundaries around Rebecca who is already acting out as a rebellious teen and that they are working hard to make Brian respect authority. It may well be that the night before he left, dad had to invoke some discipline and left the house only after making Rebecca promise that she would obey her mother. But when dad gets together with his friends, these things are not at the front of his mind. He loves his children, he is proud of his children, and he wants to tell others about them.

I thought about this a short time ago when I was considering how God feels about us, how he feels about me, how he feels about all of his children. I guess I often go through life thinking that God is generally displeased with me. I see my sin, I see my failings, I see my heart. At the same time I see from Scripture God’s majesty, his holiness, his perfection. And when I put these together I suppose that God must be looking at me with at least some level of disgust. He must regard me as I regard myself so much of the time; as a person who may try to do what’s right, but as a person who is just an abject failure when it comes to holiness. At the end of the day, I do love him, but I also love sin. At the end of it all, I pledge allegiance to him, but prove allegiance to myself seemingly just as often. So what could there be for him to love here?

But I’m starting to think that I’ve had this all wrong. I don’t know that there is a single Bible passage I would point to. But more and more, as I study God’s Word and as I learn about who he is, I see that he is a loving Father who is lavish with his love. Maybe it was my recent studies in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Maybe it was my reading through the prophets, seeing how God hates sin but loves his people. Maybe it was just talking to my mother who came to this realization, I think, long before I did. But somehow I am starting to see that God hates my sin but that he loves me. God despises the evil that lurks within me, but is extravagant in his grace. He actually, really loves me.

And maybe in that way God isn’t so different from the pastors I see at conferences. He loves us. He loves me. And more than that, he’s proud of me. He isn’t petty, filling his mind with all those things I’ve done wrong, but rather he is gracious, seeing all those evidences of his grace in my life. And, you know, I think this is one of the reasons that The Shack has done so well and has sold so many copies. It presents a God who not only loves people, but who also likes them and who is proud of them. Maybe we can be so careful in (rightly) understanding God’s hatred for sin and his desire for holiness that we forget about his great love for us despite the sin that still pollutes us. Maybe we forget that God truly does regard as children—children he not only loves but children he also genuinely likes. And there’s a difference between the two, isn’t there?

February 23, 2009
An Illuminating Housing Chart
“Here’s the big problem with almost all the current rhetoric about the housing crisis: It presumes that the goal should be to get house prices rising again. The problem with that idea is that, even after a 25% decline, house prices are still way too high.”
Flight 1549 Interview
“You heard the miraculous news of the US airplane going down in NYC. Did you know there was a CMDA student on board? Listen to how God worked in and through this catastrophe in this first person account.”
What Does coram Deo mean?
If you read Tabletalk you’ve undoubtedly heard this phrase many times. In a brief article R.C. Sproul explains what it means.
Everyone Loves Google…
…until it gets too big. “ ‘You almost feel sorry for Google,’ said Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of Search Engine Land. ‘They’re doing a good job and people are turning to them. But when they pass 70 percent share, people are going to be uncomfortable about Google becoming a monopoly.’”
February 22, 2009

It was a long but beautiful day today. I spent just about all of it, from beginning to end, with God’s people—time spent with them worshiping God, time spent with them in fellowship. Early this morning I had hoped to post a prayer from the Valley of Vision but time got away from me. It seems even more appropriate to do so now, with the day drawing to a close. Here is “Evening Praise,” a prayer that brings to a close a glorious day.

Giver of all,
Another day is ended
and I take my place beneath
my great Redeemer’s cross,
where healing streams continually descend,
where balm is poured into every wound,
where I wash anew in the all-cleansing blood,
assured that Thou seest in me no spots of sin.
Yet a little while and I shall go to thy home
and be no more seen;
help me to gird up the loins of my mind,
to quicken my step,
to speed as if each moment were my last,
that my life be joy, my death glory.

I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world—
the refreshing air,
the light of the sun,
the food that renews strength,
the raiment that clothes,
the dwelling that shelters,
the sleep that gives rest,
the starry canopy of night,
the summer breeze,
the flowers’ sweetness,
the music of flowing streams,
the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends.
Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort.
My cup runs over.
Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies.
Thy hand bestows blessings:
Thy power averts evil.
I bring my tribute of thanks for spiritual graces,
the full warmth of faith,
the cheering presence of thy Spirit,
the strength of thy restraining will,
thy spiking of hell’s artillery.
Blessed be my sovereign Lord!

February 21, 2009

As I read John Piper’s book Finally Alive I came across a lot of godly wisdom. But there was one quote that, more than the others, jumped out at me. I thought I’d share it with you today…

*****

This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:11-14)

Now this specific form of love in verse 12 may seem to you to be totally unneeded. “Don’t be like Cain who murdered his brother.” Am I really concerned that there will be a spate of murders among Christians? No. And I don’t think John feared that either, though it does happen. He doesn’t focus on the murder. He asks in verse 12, “And why did he murder him?” That’s John’s concern. There is something about Cain’s motive that he thinks will be relevant to the way believers love each other.

He answers at the end of verse 12: “Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” What John is saying here is not merely that love doesn’t kill a brother, but that love doesn’t feel resentful when a brother is superior in some spiritual or moral way. Cain didn’t kill Abel simply because Cain was evil. He killed him because the contrast between Abel’s goodness and Cain’s evil made Cain angry. It made him feel guilty. Abel didn’t have to say anything; Abel’s goodness was a constant reminder to Cain that he was evil. And instead of dealing with his own evil by repentance and change, he got rid of Abel. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, shoot the mirror.

So what would it be like for any of us to be like Cain? It would mean that anytime some weakness or bad habit in our lives is exposed by contrast to someone else’s goodness, instead of dealing with the weakness or the bad habit, we keep away from those whose lives make us feel defective. We don’t kill them. We avoid them. Or worse, we find ways to criticize them so as to neutralize the part of their lives that was making us feel convicted. We feel like the best way to nullify someone’s good point is to draw attention to their bad point. And so we protect ourselves from whatever good they might be or us.

But John’s point is: Love doesn’t act like that. Love is glad when our brothers and sisters are making progress in good habits or good attitudes or good behavior. Love rejoices in this growth. And if it happens to be faster than our own growth, then love is humble and rejoices with those who rejoice.

So the lesson for us is: Everywhere you see some growth, some virtue, some, spiritual discipline, some good habit, or good attitude, rejoice in it. Give thanks for it. Compliment it. Don’t resent it. Don’t be like Cain. Respond the opposite from Cain. Be inspired by other people’s goodness.

Love is humble. Love delights in other people’s good. Love doesn’t protect its own flaws. Love takes steps to change them. What a beautiful fellowship where everyone is rejoicing in each other’s strengths, not resenting them! This is what the love of God looks like when the new birth gives it life in the people of God.

February 20, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

This week Evangelical Press, celebrating the opening of their US store, is offering five copies of Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan. You may recognize the title from a review I wrote just a couple of weeks ago. I said there that “This is a fantastic biography—one that is well-written and nicely paced. It could so easily have bogged down through discussions of Bunyan’s voluminous writings, but Cook does an excellent job of saying only what needs to be said and allowing the book to move along. One endorsement of this book suggests that it is Cook’s best book yet. Though I have not read all of her works, I’d be inclined to agree. This is a very good biography and one that is worthy of a place on your bookshelf.”

Fearless Pilgrim

Also, anyone shopping at the Evangelical Press store may be interested in using a special coupon code. If you enter the code “Challies” upon checkout, you will receive $5 off any order. This code is valid from today until March 20.

In the meantime, fill out your name and email address to enter the draw. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. The giveaway closes tonight at midnight.