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

Tim Challies

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July 2010

July 27, 2010

Why Does Randy Alcorn Make Minimum Wage? - Watch this interview in which Mark Driscoll talks to Randy Alcorn.

Jesse Bryan - Speaking of Mark Driscoll, you may be interested in this interview with the Jesse Bryan, Creative Director at Mars Hill Church.

Culture Shock - This is an interesting look at American culture through the eyes of missionaries who have just returned to the country after a long time in the field.

The Edwards Collection - Westminster Books has put the Edwards Collection of books on sale at half off. This is the best price you’ll find for it, I think.

Our Aging World - Your infographic du jour.

July 26, 2010

Centuries ago the Puritan preacher Richard Baxter penned some wisdom on the subject of reading. His concern was for people to become better, more discerning readers. His advice seems as timely today as it must have been for the men and women of the seventeenth century. It may be it is even more important today since we have access to far more books and writing (and blogs and web sites and Twitter feeds and e-books and…) than the Puritans could ever have imagined.

I’ve taken the liberty of adding annotations to his words of wisdom.

Make careful choice of the books which you read: let the holy scriptures ever have the pre-eminence, and, next to them, those solid, lively, heavenly treatises which best expound and apply the scriptures, and next, credible histories, especially of the Church … but take heed of false teachers who would corrupt your understandings.

Devotion to reading must never take pre-eminence over the study of Scripture. If we spend many hours every day reading but only a brief period of time studying the Scriptures, we would do well to examine our priorities. This is not to say there has to be a certain ratio (if I spend one hour reading the Bible I earn one hour of reading other material). Rather, it simply means that in our hearts, in our affections, the Bible must remain supreme. It is not a sign of spiritual health if we wake up eager to read a book but dreading time in the Bible. We should also take care if we find that we enjoy reading about the Bible more than we enjoy reading the Bible itself.

When we do read, we need to give priority to good books that increase our knowledge of and love for the Scriptures. Beyond them, it is wise to study the history of the church so we can never lose sight of our roots and seek to avoid the sins of our fathers. And finally, we should read with discernment and avoid submitting ourselves to the writings of false teachers who will corrupt our understanding of the truths of Scripture.

1. As there is a more excellent appearance of the Spirit of God in the holy scripture, than in any other book whatever, so it has more power and fitness to convey the Spirit, and make us spiritual, by imprinting itself upon our hearts. As there is more of God in it, so it will acquaint us more with God, and bring us nearer Him, and make the reader more reverent, serious and divine. Let scripture be first and most in your hearts and hands and other books be used as subservient to it. The endeavours of the devil and papists to keep it from you, doth shew that it is most necessary and desirable to you.

Baxer reiterates that the Bible must be pre-eminent. The Bible alone is God’s full, inerrant, infallible, authoritative revelation to us and we must treat it accordingly; it must be first and most. All other books must take a subservient and complementary role to Scripture.

July 26, 2010

The Trellis and the Vine - The paperback edition of The Trellis and the Vine is now out and Westminster Books has it for sale at half price. It is an excellent book and as close to a must-read as they get. Buy one for yourself and one for your pastor!

The Good Christian Girl - I like the beginning and middle of this article more than the end, but either way it still has some good and interesting things to say about loading young women with expectations. “Once there was a good Christian girl who dreamed of growing up, getting married, and having children. She read all the right books and did all the right things. She read about how she was a princess in God’s sight and how he wanted the very best for her. She committed herself to sexual purity, to high standards, and to waiting for the good Christian man that God was going to bring her.”

Humbled(?) Haggard - You knew this was going to happen sooner rather than later. “The Rev. Ted Haggard stood at a pulpit made from stacked buckets one recent Sunday and announced his resurrection.” Notable bits from the story: “He acknowledged grave lapses of judgment in the episode he refers to as ‘my crisis.’ But Mr. Haggard also said that in his sorrow and shame, he accepted too much guilt after the scandal broke. ‘I over-repented,’ he said.” And “Mr. Haggard, who said he draws a weekly salary of $300 from St. James, said he founded the church as an act of humble repentance, because it forces him continually to confront his sin.”

A One-Pixel Sun - This graphic (which takes a while to load) starts with the sun being a single pixel and shows the relative size of some of the other stars in the universe.

New Calvinism - R.C. Sproul was recently featured in the Orlando Sentinel. “At 71, Sproul is one of the old guard in what’s known as the ‘New Calvinism’ movement, which Time magazine identified in 2009 as one of the ‘10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now.’ Sproul has influenced a generation of younger conservative evangelists and this month announced the creation of a Bible college on his Sanford compound that could extend his influence for generations.”

Sketchy Characters - How accurate are police sketches? Here’s a round-up. The results are, well, not so good.

Information Overload - Here’s an old video where Ted Koppel discusses an issue that is still relevant.

July 25, 2010

During my recent vacation I came face-to-face with my own prayerlessness and, just as discouragingly, the realization that in many ways I don’t even know how to pray. One aspect of training myself to pray more and to pray better is to write out some of my prayers in a journal. It’s a tough discipline, that. Prayer is intimate, it is private, and here I am writing it out on paper. It seems so very foreign. To make it less strange and to help me learn how to do it, I’ve been reading other people’s written prayers.

This week I was drawn to this one from Scotty Smith, whose entire blog is written prayers. He titles this “A Prayer About Being Oblivious to the Obvious.” What i like about Scotty’s prayers is the lack of pretension. They are not full of fancy words or unnecessarily formal language. He prays to God as a son petitions his father. And I think there is a lesson for me there.

Dear Lord Jesus, every time I read this story about two of your apostles and their mom asking for a position of privilege and power in your kingdom, I find my incredulity meter going berserk. How in the world could James and John possibly think such a request would ever be at all appropriate, given the three years of mentoring and modeling you gave them? Everything you taught and the way you lived your entire incarnate life absolutely contradicted such a notion and request. How dare they, how could they be so oblivious to the obvious? What’s with these power-hungry ingrates?

But just as I climb onto my hobby-horse of disgust and judgmentalism, the gospel of grace dismounts me, and I find the freedom to ask myself these questions: How am I just like James and John? When do my words, attitudes and choices contradict the very gospel that I love and defend? Whose incredulity meter am I forcing into overdrive? Those who live with me… those who work with me? Those who taste my impatience when I’m behind a steering wheel? Those who overhear my idle chatter and self-indulgent banter in any of a number of settings? Those most exposed to my unbelief, my fears, my rudeness, my driven-ness, my insincerity, my irritability?

Lord Jesus, that I’m even in your kingdom is a testimony to greatness of your mercy and the riches of your grace. The heck with sitting on your right or left, I’m just humbled and grateful to be in your hand… in your heart… in you. I could never drink the cup you alone drank for me on the cross.

The cup I now drink and the bread I now eat, remind me of your death… unite me to your life… call me to your likeness. Lord Jesus, I don’t want to be incredulous over anyone’s sin but my own. And, through the gospel, please make me less and less oblivious to my patently obvious need for more of your transforming grace.

Jesus, you came to serve not to be served, and to give your life as a ransom for many. May your servant’s heart be cultivated in me and demonstrated through me. So very Amen, I pray, in your patient and forbearing name.

July 24, 2010

While I was on vacation I did a lot of reading about Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a man I’ve long admired but one I had barely gotten to know. Having returned home, I turned to a biography of his contemporary, Robert E. Lee.

In the foreword to this particular biography, author Emory Thomas has some very useful things to say about writing biography. Though it applies to Lee in particular, I think we can extend it to any historical figure. He warns against the tendency to deify subjects and shows, rightly I think, that heroism tells as much about the society that admires as it tells about the figure himself.

Here is what Thomas says:

Lee, the enigma, seldom if ever revealed himself while he lived. To understand him, it is necessary to look beyond his words and see, for example, the true nature of the lighthouse keeper Lee encountered during his surveying mission in 1835. It is also important to peer beyond Lee’s words and recall what he did as well as what he said. Sometimes the existential Lee contradicted the verbal Lee.

There is a third caveat to understanding Lee. In addition to looking behind and beyond his words, it is well to remember that Lee was once possessed of flesh and blood. This is important because so many have made so much of Lee during the years since he lived that legend, image and myth have supplanted reality. Lee has become a hero essentially smaller than life.

People usually venerate as a hero someone who exemplifies (or who they think exemplifies) virtues which they admire or to which they aspire. Heroism thus reveals more about the society that admires than about the hero. Lee has been several sorts of American hero, and within the American South he has attained the status of demigod. Over time Lee has been a Christ figure, a symbol of national reconciliation, an exalted expression of bourgeois values, and much, much more. In life Lee was both more and less than his legend.

The time has come—indeed, the time is long overdue—to review and rethink Lee alive. History needs Robert E. Lee whole.

Reading these few paragraphs gave me a lot to chew on (to the point that I put the book down for a day and just thought about it). I think Thomas is essentially correct. Looking at this from the perspective of a Christian, I can see that at any time Christians have certain character traits, certain virtues that they value above all. What we tend to do, I think, is to find heroes who displayed these characteristics, and we then describe our heroes as if they were only these characteristics. When we do this, we make our heroes both more and less than what they truly were—we make much of those few strengths and ignore other strengths and inevitable weaknesses. And in this way we miss out on many of the lessons we ought to learn from them. Along the way, we tell a lot about ourselves but not nearly so much about these old heroes.

What do you think? Is Thomas on to something here? Do we, as Christians, tend to fall into this trap, where we create and even desire one-dimension heroes?

July 23, 2010

Free Stuff Fridays

Due to a vaction that extended from one Friday to the next, it has been two weeks since the last edition of Free Stuff Fridays. I know that this must have been a sore trial for those of you who visit only on Fridays hoping to win some free books! Nevertheless, I’m sure you survived. Today we’re finally back with a new giveaway.

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is once again sponsored by the new CBDReformed.com. You know who they are by now, I’m sure, since they’ve become a regular sponsor of this giveaway.

CBDReformed Giveaway

CBDReformed is offering five prize packages, each of which will contain the following three books:

  • Grounded in the Gospel by J.I. Packer
  • What Is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert
  • You Can Change by Tim Chester

In addition, CBDReformed is offering a 3 day sale (July 23-25) on the following two products. These deals are available immediately and for anyone who cares to take advantage of them.

Giveaway 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.

July 23, 2010

Friday morning seems like a good time to give you a couple of personal updates and to ask you a question about this web site. But make sure that you don’t miss today’s A La Carte and Free Stuff Fridays.

Quality

I have been thinking a little bit lately about the quality of the content of this site. A few times I’ve run back through the articles I’ve written in recent weeks and have thought to myself that the quality of the posts is suffering a little bit. As I look to what I was writing a year ago, or even six months ago, and compare it to what I’ve been doing over the past two months or so, I can’t help but feel that the level of quality has dropped off. And I’m sorry about this. I’m quite frustrated by it.

I think this drop in quality is directly related to the book I’m writing. I’m into crunch time with the book and it is sapping the vast majority of my creative energy (and just about every other kind of energy I can create or can pour into my body through caffeinated beverages). This is inevitable, I think, and yet it is still frustrating. I am trying to adapt a little bit, mostly by readjusting my daily blogging routine. But I think the problem remains.

So what I want to do today is to ask you to bear with me. The book is due on September 1 and I think that as soon as it is complete and submitted to the publisher I will suddenly find myself with a lot more energy and a lot more creativity. There are several blog series I’ve been wanting to write, but I just haven’t been able to find time and attention to research and to write them.

July 23, 2010

BP’s Photoshopping - BP has been photoshopping images of their work in the Gulf. And, not surprisingly, people have noticed and called them out on it. You can see their really bad Photoshop work at the link.

Facebook’s 500 Million - Facebook recently welcomed its 500 millionth user (! - that deserves an exclamation mark). Here is an infographic telling a little bit about who those 500 million people are, where they come from, and so on.

Seven Lines a Day - “Take 74-year-old John Basinger. When he was 58, he decided on a lark to see if he could memorize Milton’s Paradise Lost. The whole thing. All 60,000-plus words. It took him nine years, but he pulled it off and has even recited it in public. That takes three days. It’s a long poem.”

$5 Friday - Ligonier has a few good items for sale in their $5 Friday sale. Both A Taste of Heaven and The Reformation are well worth that price.

Rick Warren - Rick Warren writes about an incident that happened to him this week. “Monday morning (my day off) I was cutting back a huge African Fire Stick plant in my yard (a smaller version is pictured below.) Even though I was wearing gloves, I somehow later accidentally got some of the toxic sap on my hands and then in my eyes. The resin is quite corrosive and burned both of my eyes. In excruciating pain, Kay called 911 paramedics who rushed me to a hospital.”

Undercover Planned Parenthood Video - Here is another hidden video taken at a Planned Parenthood consultation. This time the young girl is told that abortion is safer than carrying a baby to full term. (HT:Z)