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Tim Challies

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August 2009

August 31, 2009

The Bible tells us repeatedly that we will eventually and inevitably begin to resemble the people we spend time with. If we walk with the wise we will become wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20). Much of the book of Proverbs deals with this very theme, warning the young and foolish to avoid similarly foolish companions. Such proverbs cannot always be taken too woodenly or literally, yet they do point us to an important truth. If you spend time with a person you will begin to resemble that person. Perhaps you will not resemble the person in appearance (unless you are a teenager) but at least in spirit, in thought, in attitude, you will. Experience shows me that this is true. This is one of the great blessings of the local church, that in the church the foolish are able to spend time with the wise, learning how to be like them.

Again we know this is true with teenagers, isn’t it? Many boys will drift toward older, cooler, more popular teens. They will do what they do, play what they play, wear what they wear, speak the words they speak, watch what they watch. In each of these things they give testimony that they want to be like the older boys. Maybe it is not too much to say that they want to be these older boys. Girls are no different. They find heroes and model themselves in that image. With each moment they spend with their heroes they learn to be more like them.

As adults we have probably learned to be a little bit more subtle. We have learned not to be quite so shameless. But still we gravitate toward the people we want to resemble. A man who wants to be rich and powerful will find any excuse to hobnob with powerful men. He will live where they live, drive what they drive. And as he spends time with such people, he will develop their thoughts and will look at the world in the same way they do. A woman who craves popularity will spend time around the women she deems most popular and, in so doing, she will begin to emulate them, hoping that she can capture the same formula that made them so popular.

It is easy to see this as a curse, to focus much on the fool and his folly. And while certainly it is true that the person who spends time with a fool will begin to be a fool himself, the opposite is also true. That we begin to look like the people we spend time with can be a great means of God’s grace. Have you ever considered that the people you spend time with are a reflection of the person you want to be?

I thought about this topic and wrote this far and then began to think about the people I love to spend time with and the blessing they are to me. Would this not prove a reflection of who I want to be? And from there I thought of the people I have spent time with in recent weeks and the character qualities, the fruits of the Spirit I would love to see in my life. It just so happens that I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time with the men in my local church who have been set apart to serve as elders and pastors.

There is Murray whose love for people and whose genuine interest in them is unsurpassed. I am a person who is naturally shy and I can allow shyness to be an excuse to permit me to be reclusive. Murray’s love for people stands as both a challenge and an inspiration. And I mean that; he truly inspires me to grow in my love for others, to extend hospitality, to be a genuinely caring Christian. I love to spend time with Murray because I want to be like Murray.

There is Tom whose patient kindness resonates in my soul. I cannot think of anyone who has so powerful a combination of gentleness of spirit and firmness in the faith. Always ready with a word of encouragement, always eager to steer a conversation to spiritual matters, Tom serves relentlessly with kindness, with patience and with boldness. I want to be like Tom.

There is Julian who, though young the youngest of the bunch, exhibits such spiritual maturity. He is proof that though an elder is not allowed to be a young and immature Christian, a young man can be mature and be well-qualified to serve God as an undershepherd. In Julian I see a relentless desire to read Scripture, to study it, to live it. And through that I see such growth in maturity and godliness.

And there is Paul. From Paul I’ve learned to love and respect my wife as I’ve seen the way he loves and respects his wife. From him I’ve learned to refer to Aileen not only as my wife but as my bride. I love that word; it points to a freshness that looks back to the day that she was first given to me. And from Paul I’ve learned about the importance of, the skill of, applying the gospel to all of life. He loves the gospel and knows of the importance of living in the joy and freedom of that good news. And I love to spend time with him because I want to be like him, to resemble him in these ways and so many others.

In these men God has given me the opportunity to learn how to love, how to be gently bold, how to grow in maturity, how to treasure my wife and how to hold fast to the gospel. Each one has blessed me immeasurably. What a blessing it is that, by spending time with them, I can eventually be like them. And what a blessing that he who walks with the wise grows wise.

August 31, 2009
Too Great a Good for Caesar
John Mark Reynolds offers a good perspective on health care. “Even fans of the President should be hesitant to give the government such powers. The Obama plan may be passed with great intentions, but Obama will not be President forever. Worse men may come to power and use increased government control of health care to enforce their will. Caesar naturally wants more power, but the same government that runs the police, the armed forces, and the prisons should not also come to dominate medical choices. Reasonable citizens must not plan for the saints who will govern us, but for the great sinners.”
The Perfect Body
Here is something for parents to think about. “According to a study published in the journal BMC Public Health, children as young as 10- and 11-years-old already have notions about the ideal body. An analysis of more than 4,000 students from Nova Scotia revealed that young girls’ happiness with their body image is directly linked to how thin they are. Boys, on the other hand, were happiest when they were neither too lean, nor too heavy.”
Banish the Honeymoon
This is good food for thought: “But what if the whole idea of going on a honeymoon is mistaken? Consider the underlying message this sends. After what is usually a public ceremony with friends and family, the newly minted husband and wife abruptly escape from the very community that helped them consecrate their vows.”
The Next Disney Star
WSJ talks about the next Disney star, showing how Disney is manufacturing the successor to Hannah Montana.
What Good Deed Must I Do?
We had the privilege of having Thabiti Anyabwile preach at Grace Fellowship Church yesterday. It was a powerful message that combined exposition with personal testimony. It’s well worth the listen!
Deal of the Day: Death Penalty on Trial
Monergism Books is offering a good discount on Ron Gleason’s The Death Penalty on Trial.
August 30, 2009

Yesterday I came across a “playlet” (the first time I’ve ever heard the term) called “The Long Silence.” If you’ve read John Stott’s The Cross of Christ you’ve probably read it before. I haven’t been able to find out who authored it or when he did so (though judging by the word “negro” it must have been a few years ago), but I do know that it is well worth reading and pondering.

*****

At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly - not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.

“Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?” snapped a pert brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror…beatings…torture..death!”

In another group a Negro lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched..for no crime but being black!!

In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. “Why should I suffer?”, she murmured, “It wasn’t my fault.”

Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said.

So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered most. A Jew, a Negro, a person form Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the centre of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever.

Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live one earth - as a man!

“Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured.

“At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.

“As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled.

“And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.”

August 29, 2009

Money Greed and GodThe twentieth century was witness to a great battle between capitalism and communism. Early in the twenty-first century it is clear that capitalism won a resounding victory. Yet many people living in victorious nations continue to be uncomfortable with capitalism. They see it as a system of economics, a way of life that transfers wealth from poor to rich, that exploits the planet, that is somehow inherently biased toward the few at the expense of the many. An increasing number of increasingly vocal Christians even claim that capitalism is at odds with the teachings of the Bible. After reading Jesus’ words that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” they determine that capitalism, which seems to be founded on just such a love, must also be evil. Could it be, though, that such claims are based on a misunderstanding of capitalism? Could all these people be battling against a mere caricature?

August 28, 2009

Free Stuff Fridays

With another Friday (it’s amazing how quickly they come and go) we have another edition of Free Stuff Fridays. This week’s sponsor is Frontline Missions International. For nearly 20 years Frontline has worked among people in areas of war, persecution, and poverty, primarily in restricted-access countries, seeking to strengthen the Church, give voice to persecuted Christians, and proclaim the Good News. Recently, FMI has developed a new DVD series on 21st-century missions entitled Dispatches from the Front.

Islands on the Edge

Dispatches is suitable for individual, small group, and congregational use. It exposes believers in a more authentic way to the Gospel’s power in some of the most difficult and least expected places of our world, renewing our vision of Christ and the unstoppable advance of His saving work.

Episode 1: Islands on the Edge takes you to parts of southeast Asia where the Gospel is transforming lives in the face of persecution, desperate poverty, and Asia’s secret slave trade. The journal format of each episode underscores the daily unfolding of God’s activity on the “frontlines,” bringing the viewer up close to sights and sounds from distant corners of the Kingdom.

I’ve got ten copies of the DVD to give away.

Rules: You may only enter the draw once. Simply 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. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.

(The giveaway is now closed)

August 28, 2009
Jennifer Knapp To Make a Comeback?
Well isn’t this a good bit of news. Several years after falling off the face of the earth (having released a collection of very good albums) Jennifer Knapp appears ready to try again.
Unpacking Forgiveness
Chris Brauns: “I’ve been thinking recently about something television star Kelsey Grammer said. It’s not because I saw a rerun of Cheers. Unfortunately, the context is tragic. Grammer has me thinking about well intentioned people who end up “packing unforgiveness.” Where deep wounds are concerned, there are those who try and do what they believe faith requires. Yet, they end up hurting all the more.”
Questions To Ask a Potential Church
Colin shares a list of questions that may be useful for a prospective pastor to ask a church that is interested in having him minister there.
Snow Leopard
Mac users will want to know that Snow Leopard (the next version of the Mac Operating System) is now available. And it’s cheap. Amazon seems to have pricing that is as good as anyone else…
August 27, 2009

So, today we come to chapter 10 of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. We’re on the homestretch now and it seems that Burroughs is concentrating quite a bit on the negative aspects of the topic. This week he offers a series of “Aggravations of the Sin of Murmuring.”

Summary

In this chapter Burroughs considers eleven aggravations brought about by murmuring.

I. To murmur when we enjoy an abundance of mercy; the greater and more abundant the mercy that we enjoy, the greater and the vile is the sin of murmuring. When God has given us great mercies, such as those extended to Israel when he delivered them from Egypt, murmuring is all the greater sin, such as when Israel complained against God’s provision for them. And, when we are honest, we’ll see that all of us have far more mercy than affliction to the extent that any murmuring is done in the face of great blessing and favor. What right have we to murmur in comparison to the abundance of mercies?

II. When we murmur for small things. It is sometimes easier to stand up under a heavy burden than a light one. “To be discontented when the affliction is small and little that increases very much the sin of murmuring.” Sinful human nature often leaves us forgetting about the greatest blessings and focusing instead on the very small aggravations that remain.

III. For men of gifts and abilities to whom God has given wisdom, to be discontented and murmur, is more than if others do it. Said otherwise, to whom much is given, much is required.

IV. The consideration of the freeness of all God’s mercies to us. “If what we have were earned then it would be something, but when we consider that all is from God, for us to murmur at his dispensations is very evil.” Here he suggests rightly that if we go to a restaurant and pay for a meal we would have much more cause to have high expectations than if we receive free room and board from a friend. And what have we that is not a gift from God? “Now when we are at the table of God (for all God’s administrations to us are his table) and are free from lusts, for us to be finding fault and to be discontented is a great aggravation of our sin.”

V. For men and women to murmur and be discontented and impatient, when they have the things for the want of which they were discontented before. Isn’t this the way it is with children? They cry for something and, when they are finally given it, they toss it away and cry for something else. How much greater the sin with adults?

VI. For those men and women to be discontented and murmur whom God has raised from mean and low estates and positions. “If God by his providence does raise you, you are still as greedy of more as you were before, and as much discontented as you were before. … If you have taken a poor beggar boy, who lay begging at your door, into your house, and set him at your own table, could you bear that he should complain that some dish is not well dressed, or the like?” So it is so often with us and God.

VII. For those to be discontented who have been very great sinners and ungodly in their former life. “Consider, we who are such great sinners, guilty of such notorious sins that it is a wonder that we are out of Hell at the present, yet for us to be discontented and murmur, how exceedingly this increases our sin.”

VIII. For men who are of little use in the world to be discontented. If we do little work for God, why would we expect or demand that he come to us in some greatly encouraging way?

IX. For us to be discontented at a time when God is about to humble us. In the midst of adversity we should be asking ourselves how God is about to use a situation to humble us. And if that is his purpose in this time, how can we murmur against him for it? “Now I am discontented and murmuring, because I am afflicted; but that is why you are afflicted, because God would humble you. The great design God has in afflicting you, is to break and humble your heart; and will you maintain a spirit quite opposite to the work of God?”

X. The more palpable and remarkable the hand of God appears to bring about an affliction, the greater is the sin of murmuring and discontent under an affliction. When God is performing a work of extraordinary providence, it is an especially grievous sin to grumble. “When I see the Lord working in some remarkable way about an affliction beyond what anyone could have thought of, shall I resist such a remarkable hand of God? Shall I stand out against God, when I see he expresses his will in such a remarkable manner beyond what is ordinary?”

XI. To be discontented though God has been exercising us for a long time under afflictions, yet to still remain discontented. If many aggravations are given us to draw us closer to Christ, we sin to remain unchanged under his chastening hand. Ongoing discontent is an ongoing sin.

I was always taught that, when writing, the first point is to be the strongest, the final point the second strongest, and then the remaining points go strongest to weakest beginning with number two. In this chapter I thought many of the strongest points were in the middle and were ones which did not receive a lot of attention. Still, there was something to gain in each of the eleven. Burroughs sets out to show how murmuring against God is a terrible sin. And he proves it well.

Next Week

Next week we’ll read chapter eleven (as you’d expect).

Your Turn

The purpose of this program is to read these classics together. So if there is something you’d like to share about what you read, please feel free to do so. You can leave a comment or a link to your blog and we’ll make this a collaborative effort.
August 27, 2009
The Kindle Can’t Scare Me
A small publisher of a very niche kind of book has some interesting things to say about Amazon’s Kindle. What it does well, what it does poorly and what it will do in the future.
Do We Have Free Will?
Andy Naselli answers this one over at Reformation21. It’s not one you can just skim, so bookmark it and read it when you’ve got a few minutes!
Quote from Dave Ramsey
Z shares a fantastic quote from Dave Ramsey: “As long as Americans are comfortable with debt, we will elect officials/politicians who are too.” That’s worth thinking about.
Piper, Tornadoes and Godwin’s Law
John Dyer applies Godwin’s law (As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.) to John Piper’s recent comments about the Minneapolis tornado and all of the comments ensued.