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Tim Challies

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March 2010

March 31, 2010

I have been waiting a long time for this book. Published last year by Intervarsity Press, The Unquenchable Flame was initially released only in Europe. It has taken until now for it to make its way to North America, courtesy of Broadman & Holman who secured the rights for this side of the ocean. The book is, quite simply, an introduction to the Reformation. That puts it in the company of plenty of similar titles, but this one is unique in its accessibility and its liveliness. Michael Reeves tells the story of the Reformation and he does so in a way that is really and truly enjoyable.

So what is there to say about the book’s content? It is, after all, a 180-page account of a well-known period of history. There are no great surprises here—no new theories, no new facts that have been recently uncovered. It is just a straightforward telling of the Reformation. Reeves begins by setting the stage in the medieval era, telling of the state of the medieval church and introducing the pre-Reformers Wycliffe and Hus. He also introduces Erasmus and discusses that man’s unique contribution to all that would follow.

March 31, 2010

iDolatry? - Dustin Neeley has three questions you should ask yourself before buying an iPad. I think gadgets like the iPad are very good at revealing idols of the heart, so it’s always worth asking questions like these ones. And speaking of the iPad, take a look at this article, Apple’s iPad: By the Numbers.

Simplify Your Workday - This article offers some good suggestions for simplifying (and maximizing) your workday.

Office Technology: Productivity Boost or Time Sink? - This article asks some good questions about the place of technology and gadgets in the workplace. “What the experts have figured out is how to track what office workers actually spend their time doing. The results indicate that — contrary to any assumptions about their usefulness — personal computers, smartphones, notebooks, netbooks and associated gadgets can be such massively beguiling, addictive time sinks that they materially damage the economy — draining it by one-sixteenth, according to one calculation.”

The Toll of Our Toiling - Collin Hansen writes about John Piper’s leave of absence. He says “Thousands of ministers who have learned from Piper through his books, sermons, and conference talks will now have opportunity to learn from his silence.”

Common Tax Return Mistakes - Here’s a timely article if you, like me, are a last-minute kind of filer. “Tax time is annoying and pressure-filled enough when your return is 100% accurate. Make a few mistakes, however, and April can quickly devolve into a nightmarish ordeal. What seems to you like little more than a trivial error can rapidly trigger suspicion (or even fines and audits) from your friends at the IRS. Many a taxpayer has found himself hunched over a desk — head in hands — for days or weeks on end fixing careless tax return errors. Billshrink wants nothing more than to spare our readers such agony, so we put together this list of 12 common tax return mistakes to avoid. So enjoy — but be sure to file with caution!”

Red Letter - A new (and free) album from Mars Hill Church.

March 30, 2010

More than any other question that comes in via email, I’m asked this one: “How do you read so much?” While granting that I do read a lot, I think it bears mention that there are lots of people who read as much as I do or a lot more. The difference is that I write about what I’m reading, so you’re more aware of it than you are with most of these voracious readers.

Every year or so I sit down to write out a few thoughts on reading. I’m doing so again today, offering a few thoughts on how you can read more and read better. This is adapted from a list I created a couple of years ago. Actually, what I’ll do is write today about how to read more and read more widely and then tomorrow we’ll work on reading better.

Read - Start with the obvious: you need to read. If you want to be a good painter, you’ve got to paint; if you want to be a good runner, you’ve got to run. So before anything else, you need to commit to the discipline. Unless reading is a genuine passion, you may need to be very deliberate about setting aside time to do it. You may need to force yourself into it. Set yourself some reasonable targets (“I’m going to read three books this year” or “I’m going to finish this book before the end of the month”) and work towards it. Set aside time every day or every week and make sure you pick up the book during those times. Start out by reading a book that deals with a subject of particular interest to you. You may even find it beneficial to find a book that looks interesting—a nice hardback volume with a beautiful, embossed cover, easy-to-read fonts and excellent typography. Reading is an experience and the experience begins with the look and feel of the book. So find a book that looks like one you’ll enjoy and commit to reading it. And when you’ve done that, find another one and do it again. And again.

Read Widely - I’m convinced that one reason people do not read more is that they do not vary their reading enough. Any subject, no matter how much you are interested in it, can begin to feel dry if you focus all of your attention upon it. So be sure to read widely. Read fiction and non-fiction, theology and biography, current affairs and history. You will no doubt want to focus the majority of your reading in one broad area, and that is well and good. But be sure to vary your diet. I think it’s especially important to say to Christians that you are allowed to read mainstream books. Read a bit of Malcolm Gladwell or read Freakonomics or a title plucked from the bestseller’s list. Many of these books will enrich you in unexpected ways.

March 30, 2010

Calvinism Is Back - The once-daily format of A La Carte means that I’m sometimes late on the news. I’m betting this article has already been posted on 8,000 different blogs. Nevertheless, here it is again. This is from the Christian Science Monitor: “In America’s Christian faith, a surprising comeback of rock-ribbed Calvinism is challenging the Jesus-is-your-buddy gospel of modern evangelism.”

Buried for 27 Days - The Telegraph has an article on a man who survived being buried for 27 days after the earthquake in Haiti.

Christian Book Award Finalists - The ECPA has announced the list of this year’s Christian Book Award finalists. I don’t know how to react to the news that The American Patriot’s Bible has been nominated in the Bibles category.

March 29, 2010

My memory isn’t what it used to be. Or maybe I’m kidding myself and my memory has always been awful. Out of necessity I allow Aileen to be my memory and she’s always saying things like, “Do you remember when we had to rush Abby to the hospital for that operation and I ended up staying there with her all night?” And I search my memory banks and find absolutely no recollection of such an event. It’s pathetic, really. It won’t be long, I’m sure, before she’s pinning my name to my shirt to help me remember who I am.

But of course there are some memories that are forever clear and that, I trust, will always remain that way. I will never forget standing at the front of St. John’s Anglican Church in Ancaster on an already-hot morning in August of 1998, as I waited for my bride-to-be to walk down the aisle. From the moment I saw her, I was completely undone, unable and unwilling to hold back the emotion. There she was, walking toward me, about to become my wife. It was a moment I had been anticipating for so long and here it was at last. It was almost surreal, like a dream—a dream come true. I cried like a baby.

Yesterday at church we wrapped up a beautiful day of worship by singing “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” This is one of my favorite hymns. It was written by Anne Cousin back in the mid 1800’s and before it was a hymn it was a poem inspired by the letters and the last words of Samuel Rutherford. Only later was it set to music. The best verse of all is this one:

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

March 29, 2010

The Pastor’s Worst Enemy - Here’s a very good word from David Murray about the greatest enemy a pastor will face in his ministry.

John Piper’s Leave - John Piper just announced that he will be taking a lengthy leave of absence. “I asked the elders to consider this leave because of a growing sense that my soul, my marriage, my family, and my ministry-pattern need a reality check from the Holy Spirit. On the one hand, I love my Lord, my wife, my five children and their families first and foremost; and I love my work of preaching and writing and leading Bethlehem. I hope the Lord gives me at least five more years as the pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem.”

A Deal from Monergism Books - This week at Monergism Books, order Tim Keller’s new curriculum Gospel in Life (DVD) and Study Guide and get 10% off your entire order. Just use the coupon code gospelinlife at check out. Offer ends Tuesday March 30th at midnight.

What Is the Gospel? - Greg Gilbert, author of the newly released What is the Gospel?, provides a quick introduction to his book.

March 28, 2010

Here is a song we’ll be introducing at church just a little bit later today. Written by James Montgomery, it is titled “Go to Dark Gethsemane.”

What I love about this hymn is the progression from Gethsemane all the way to the resurrection, from watching Christ be tempted in the Garden all the way to watching him rise. In just four short verses, the hymnwriter has managed to capture the gospel. With Good Friday and Easter fast approaching, the words especially relevant.

Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter’s power;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

Calvary’s mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God’s own sacrifice complete.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.

Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

We’ll be singing it to the tune written by Indelible Grace’s Kevin Twit.

If you’re interested in giving it a listen, take a look at Wake Thy Slumbering Children:Indelible Grace V.