Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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May 2010

May 31, 2010

Have you ever considered what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to walk and talk with God in the Garden of Eden? Have you thought of the things you might say to God if you were to hear his footsteps today? What Christian hasn’t experienced a pang of jealousy when he reads “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” And what Christian hasn’t experienced a little pang of remorse when he reads how Adam and Eve squandered that unique privilege. There was God, walking in the garden as he had done before. Adam and Eve recognized the sound of his footsteps, for they knew their God. But this time, instead of rushing to him and rejoicing in his presence, they fled and they hid themselves. They had sinned and they knew that there were consequences for such tyranny. For the first time they feared their Maker.

May 31, 2010

Interactive Bible Studies with Lydia Brownback - Here’s one for the ladies: “Join Crossway and Lydia Brownback for Tuesday Talk, a new interactive Bible Study on Facebook and at the Crossway Blog! Starting June 1st, Lydia will kick off the discussion based on her new book Purity: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. We will be pursuing purity and godly womanhood together for 42 days! Lydia will stop by every Tuesday to host a devotional time via video. Feel free to comment and ask questions throughout the week as well!”

Simplifying Life - I’m all about simplifying my life these days. And so is Dave Kraft, apparently. He offers seven good suggestions based on what he has done to simplify his life.

The 50 Worst Inventions - TIME has a round-up of the 50 worst inventions. Not surprisingly, the Segway is the first thing they highlight.

Vote for Ivy - A reader of this site is hoping his daughter will be on the cover of Parents magazine. You can help her get there by simply registering a quick vote.

Ikea’s PlayReport - WIRED shares a few results from a recent study from Ikea. Here’s a good conclusion: “Children overwhelmingly prefer playing with their friends and parents over watching TV. When children across the world were asked to choose between watching TV or playing with friends or parents, they overwhelmingly choose to play with friends (89%) and parents (73%) with TV a very poor substitute for social interaction at only 11%.”

Q&A with Paul Tripp - Desiring God recently had a two-hour question and answer session with Paul Tripp. You can watch the video of that at the link provided.

Think - And speaking of Desiring God, they’ve released an impressive video advertising their forthcoming conference on the life of the mind.

May 30, 2010

While skimming through some of those books that showed up last week (see yesterday’s post) I came across some great information about Robert Murray McCheyne. This is drawn from Mike Sarkissian’s book Before God and really challenged me as I prepared to preach today in Sarnia, Ontario. It shamed me with my own lack of preparation, my own (relative) prayerlessness in approaching the pulpit. I need to be more like McCheyne!

The time McCheyne spent before the Lord gave him a better perspective of the high calling God had placed upon him as a shepherd of God’s people. He was known for saying, “I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument.” Little did he know, McCheyne would be an instrument God would use for centuries to come. His time with God in prayer and meditation manifested itself in a passion for souls and effective preaching.

Dr. Estrada explained the depth of McCheyne’s personal holiness in relation to bringing forth the Word of God to his congregation:

His preaching and all other activities were preceded by long periods of prayer. He kept by this rule: ‘that he must first see the face of God before he could undertake any duty.’ ‘I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner.’ Both in his preaching and teaching he was very much concerned with feeding the congregation with the ‘whole counsel of God.’

McCheyne preached the Word of God with a certain gravity and solemnity. He sought after the unction of the Holy Spirit and spoke intently to his congregation. His pulpit was said to have been wet with his tears as he urged people to commit their lives to Christ. This seriousness to the calling of God would bring forth much fruit for the Kingdom.

May 29, 2010

As a book reviewer I am constantly receiving new books in the mail, the majority of which are unsolicited (which is to say that they just show up). Sometimes publishers send them, sometimes authors or publicists, sometimes just people who really want to see a review of a book they’ve enjoyed.

For sake of interest (and maybe in the hopes that you’ll be able to sympathize with my plight in choosing which to review) I thought I’d let you see the list of books that showed up this week and then do a little poll, letting you have your say. As you can well imagine, choosing which to review is quite difficult. Most of them look good, but I’ll only have time to read and review a couple before the next batch shows up. Over the past few weeks I’ve done two of these polls and have been glad to be able to start reading the books you want to see reviewed. Rather than make this post really long with descriptions of the books, I’ve just added links to Amazon if you want to read more about any of them.

Do note that Doctrine by Driscoll and Breshears and Humanitarian Jesus by Buckley and Dobson are already on my reading list based on previous polls. Both should get a review in the next couple of weeks. For that reason I’ve left them off of the poll.

So here are the books that showed up this week:

Beyond all the books, I also received a CD, My Cry Ascends: New Parish Psalms by Gregory Wilbur (produced by Ligonier Ministries) and two DVDs, Speaking the Truth in Love to Muslims from Vision Video and then the DVD version of Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad. And finally, I received Soul, which I understand to be a young adult adaptation of Christianity Explored. It is a DVD and comes with a leader’s guide and a study guide.

Vote For a Review

  • “Mere Churchianity” by Michael Spencer
  • “Before God” by Mike Sarkissian
  • “What Is Vocation?” by Stephen Nichols
  • “The Prism and the Rainbow” by Joel Martin
  • “Spiritual Parenting” by Michelle Anthony
  • “The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr
  • “What Is the Gospel?” by Greg Gilbert
  • “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Tripp
  • “It Is Well” by Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence
  • “God’s Lyrics” by Douglas O’Donnell
  • “Tributes to John Calvin” by David Hall
  • “Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church” by Michael Lawrence
  • “Burning Down The Shack” by James DeYoung
  • “The Sword” by Bryan Litfin

May 28, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Baker, a publisher I’m sure you are familiar with. According to their web site, “Baker Books has a vision for building up the body of Christ through books that are relevant, intelligent, and engaging. We publish titles for lay Christians on topics such as discipleship, spirituality, encouragement, relationships, marriage, parenting, and the intersection of Christianity and culture. We also publish books and ministry resources for pastors and church leaders, concentrating on topics such as preaching, worship, pastoral ministries, counseling, and leadership.”

Baker is offering 5 prize packages, each of which contains three great products:

  • To the Glory of God by James Montgomery Boice which is a 40-day devotional on the book of Romans.
  • Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper (3rd Edition)
  • Let the Nations be Glad DVD by John Piper

Baker Free Stuff

John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad!, now in its third edition provides readers with a sound theological foundation for missions. Now this companion DVD offers a series of six thirty-minute sermons by Piper preaching on the topics found in his bestselling book. Topics include defining missions and defining peoples, the urgency of missions, the goal and the fuel of missions, prayer, and suffering. The DVD makes the book’s content available to a wider audience through its dynamic presentations.

And here is a description of Boice’s book: Romans has been a book to which believers have looked for both doctrine and encouragement. Many Christian readers have long trusted James Montgomery Boice to guide them through the Scriptures through his preaching ministry and his writings.Now these two much-loved sources of wisdom come together in To the Glory of God, an inspiring devotional drawn from Boice’s classic commentary on the book of Romans. Offering rich reflections on Romans, this meditative book contains forty days of selections, daily devotional challenges, and the complete text of the book of Romans. To the Glory of God is your forty-day journey toward strengthened faith and a greater encounter with the power of God’s Word.

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.


May 28, 2010

In my recent review of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy I mentioned that it might just make it onto my top ten list of favorite biographies. A couple of people subsequently asked if I’d write out such a list. It took some thinking and some rummaging around my bookcases, but eventually I got one together. Now I can’t remember every biography I’ve ever read, but I rummaged through my mind to recall as many as possible, put together a list of favorites and then winnowed that down to ten. And so here you have them in no particular order—ten favorite biographies.

John Adams by David McCullough. Probably the most important work by a highly-regarded historian and biographer, this is about as much of a must-read as you will come across. If you’ve watched the PBS series you have the basics, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the book. As with all good biographies, try to get a copy of the hardcover rather than the more recent paperback. (my review)

Calvin by Bruce Gordon. One of several biographies of Calvin to be released by publishers this year, this one is, I think, the best of the bunch. Gordon does an especially good job of setting Calvin within his historical context, showing how Calvin was a product of his time, his nation, his church. (my review)

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. One of two excellent biographies by Metaxas to make it to the list, Bonhoeffer is hot off the press. A lengthy but still not exhaustive (or exhausting) account of his life, this is a fascinating account of a fascinating life. (my review)

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas. Metaxas’ second biography, which was actually written first, this one deals with the life of social reformer William Wilberforce. I have heard it has close competition with Kevin Belmonte’s William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity. But since I haven’t read that one, all I can say is that Metaxas’ book is well worth the read. (my review)

Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore. Dallimore also gets two books on the list. Spurgeon was the first of all the books on this list that I read but it is one I remember having a profound impact on me. I find it quite surprising that there is not a longer, more recent go-to biography of Spurgeon. I doubt, though, that any could be significantly better than this one. (my review)

Jack by George Sayer. This is a life of C.S. Lewis written by a friend and contemporary. He tells the life of Lewis very well and at a very human, personal level. (my review)

George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore. Where Dallimore’s biography of Spurgeon is quite short, this biography of Whitefield is a massive two-volume set that tells the life of one of God’s more unusual servants. This may be one of the most impactful biographies you’ll ever read. (my review)

Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden. Marsden brings to life the great preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards. I haven’t yet read Iain Murray’s biography of Edwards, so cannot compare the two. I’ve heard great things about it but have a tough time believing it could be better than this one! This would be very near to the top of my list, were I to put them in order. (my review)

The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate. Henry Ward Beecher was everything Edwards and Whitefield were not. A fake, philanderer and apostate, he still remained one of America’s most celebrated preachers in his day. This biography is worth reading to see how men, both good and evil, may rise to prominence even within the church. (my review)

Fearless Pilgrim by Faith Cook. Faith Cook is one of my favorite biographers and in this book she tells the life of John Bunyan. Well-written and nicely paced, this is one of the better biographies of Bunyan and certainly the best from recent years. (my review)

And here are a few biographies I’ve heard are really good, which I’ve got on my to-read shelf, but which I haven’t actually gotten to yet:

D. Martyn Lloyd Jones by Iain Murray.

American Lion by Jon Meacham (a biography of Andrew Jackson).

Truman by David McCullough.

Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson.

Churchill by Martin Gilbert.

May 28, 2010

It’s a Cruel, Cruel World - Newsweek says that Simon Cowell is to blame for a whole culture of nastiness that has cropped up since he began judging on American Idol. “None of his nasty critiques seem so shocking now, of course. We are a culture that thrives on meanness—mean blogs, mean political campaigns, mean girls. We are so accustomed to mean outbursts, we barely blink when a congressman yells ‘You lie!’ at the president during a speech. Cowell helped take us there.”

The End of an Era in Publishing - We’ve seen no shortage of articles along these lines in recent years, but they continue to interest me. Here is yet another one predicting the end of publishing as we know it.

Less Is More - This article contains a few good ideas about getting more productivity out of your day. It’s something I realized just a few weeks back. I do more when I work less. When I focus on shorter spurts of work (2-3 hours at a time, max) I am able to concentrate better and get a lot more done in that amount of time.

The Origins of Ten Nicknames - For interest’s sake only, here are the origins of ten nicknames. (HT:Abraham)

Officer Frees Dog, Dog Surprises Officer. I got a laugh out of this video. You probably will too.

May 27, 2010

Craig Venter has recently claimed to have created artificial life. His name showed up in a book I read and reviewd not so long ago and I have received permission to post an excerpt from that book—Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews (read my review or read my interview with the author).

This excerpt begins on page 194 if you’re looking for it in your copy of his book.

Life in a cake mixer

We shall spend this chapter in pursuit of the jellypod. That’s my pet name for Haldane’s ‘minimal organism’ — the simplest entity that could be called ‘living’ and which we discussed briefly at the start of chapter 12. No disrespect is intended; jellypod is just more memorable than ‘minimal organism’.

In chapter 12, having pointed out the enormous complexity of even the simplest life-form known to us today, we put the jellypod on one side to seek out the essence of physical life. This turned out to be organised information — something, moreover, that cannot be stored, transmitted or put to work without the use of communication or ‘language’. This is just what we would expect on the biblical hypothesis of God, since the Bible attributes both the origin and maintenance of the natural world to God’s ‘spoken word’ — a metaphor that embraces the twin ideas of command and communication. It is no surprise, therefore, that the molecular foundations of life are stacked full of information and bear all the marks of advanced language.