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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

March 2011

March 28, 2011

Heaven Is For RealEmbarking on a short tour of the afterlife is all the rage, it seems. Don Piper got it started with 90 Minutes in Heaven, a really bad book that sold millions of copies. Then there was 23 Minutes in Hell, another bestseller and another awful book. And now hot on their heels comes Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back. It’s currently sitting atop the New York Times list of bestsellers and has over a half million copies in print. I wonder if I’m the only one who finds it a mite suspicious that now that these books are selling like proverbial hotcakes, more and more people find that God wants them to tell their stories of heaven and hell. Probably not.

Heaven Is For Real is written by pastor Todd Burpo and it tells the story of his son Colton who, at age 4, visited heaven. His visit came while he was on the operating table after suffering a burst appendix. He told his parents his story several months later and his parents then waited 6 or 7 years to record it in a book. That book has shot to the top of the charts, resulting in many of you sending me emails to ask, “Have you read it?” So I went ahead and read it. Because that’s the kind of guy I am.

You will probably not be surprised to learn that this is not a good book. What I want to do here is offer a very brief review and then I want to tell you why you can legitimately dismiss this book and all the others like it, because I think that’s where many of us feel the tension—what gives me the right to dismiss another person’s experience?

I’ve already given you the broad outline. Colton dies (or something close to it) and visits heaven for an unknown period of time. He returns to his body and over the months and years that follow tells his parents about his time in heaven. He tells about spending time with Jesus, about meeting the sister he never knew he had, about fluttering around with wings, about the pearly gates, and on and on. Along the way you’ll get descriptions of Todd’s various afflictions and you’ll read the fine details of Colton’s battles with constipation and the great relief he experienced passing gas. Riveting stuff, this.

Every one of Colton’s experiences, or very nearly every one, follows a pattern. He tells his father some little detail. His father experiences a gasp or feels his heart skip a beat. “I could hardly breathe. My mind was reeling. My head was spinning.” A Scripture verse comes to dad’s mind that validates the experience. Colton gets bored and runs off. Repeat.

March 28, 2011

This is the week I will have to choose the topic of my next book. Odd, isn’t it? One book releases (this Friday!) and at the same time I need to figure out what the next one will be about. The funny thing is that I really have very few ideas at the moment. So if you know the book I need to write next, do tell me!

A War By Any Name - An interesting column from the New York Times. “But by any name or euphemism, the United States has gone to war, and there are questions that the president must answer. Here are the four biggest one…”

What Is Heresy - Heresy is often used but seldom defined. Here Ian Clary provides some of Michael Haykin’s thoughts on the word and its right definition.

Preaching Hangover - Here’s one for preachers. “You may call it something different, but every pastor knows about it.  It is the mental, emotional, and spiritual crash that takes place the next day (Monday) as a result of pouring your heart and soul out in the proclamation of God’s Word to God’s people the day before. Personally, it has affectionately become known as, ‘The Preaching Hangover.’ There is no easy remedy, medication, or quick fix that can prevent it.  There are, however, several practical efforts I make every Monday that are tremendously helpful to fight through the fog.”

The Hobbit Begins - Finally.

RIM - This article gets progressively less interesting, but the early parts are quite useful as the writer discusses why RIM is losing market share against Apple in the smartphone wars.

Blogging Theologically - I’m a relative newcomer to Aaron Armstrong’s blog “Blogging Theologically.” I want to commend it to you. It’s not often that I find a guy willing to put in as much effort as Aaron…or a guy who has so many interesting things to say.

My grand point in preaching is to break the hard heart, and to heal the broken one. —John Newton

March 27, 2011

I’ve felt myself drawn to this prayer written by Scotty Smith, a prayer that asks God to help our friends finish well in the gospel—to help us all remain faithful until Today becomes the Day. It begins with this passage of Scripture:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. Hebrews 3:12-14

Dear Jesus, this portion of your Word is both sobering and encouraging. It leads me to think about friendship this morning and the gospel-posse you’ve given me. I’m so very grateful for the friends you’ve woven into my life. Being an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long term relationships has required, and still requires the work of the gospel in my heart—a grace work you’ve been faithful to provide.

I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets and they’ll do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together in the gospel. What does look like and what will it require, Jesus?

My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks—I just enjoy these relationships without much thought or effort. It’s a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other’s sentences, endure one another’s jokes, appreciate each other’s quirks and accept one another’s weaknesses. Surely, this is a gospel-gift.

Yet, Jesus, we’re still foolish men—capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. Sin is exceedingly deceitful. With all of my heart, I believe in the “final perseverance of the saints,” but I equally believe that it’s the saints who will finally persevere. Your Word is very clear—continuance in the gospel is a sign of being rooted in the gospel. That doesn’t scare me, but it does humble me.

Help us know how to hold each other accountable for believing the gospel. Help us to take each other’s heart-struggles seriously. Don’t let us confuse flattery with encouragement. Help us never to minimize nor marginalize the hardening power of sin. Help us know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily and to each all the time, until Today gives way to the Day. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious name.

March 26, 2011

Here are a few links for a Saturday morning. I’m enjoying the last day of the Ligonier Ministries National Conference and looking forward (mostly) to heading home this evening. But first we get a double-dose of John Piper. You can catch it online if you like.

Japan’s Disaster and Your Wallet - Obviously this is a small concern when looking to the disaster in Japan. CBS writes about some of the international financial impact of the disaster.

The Organized Heart - Becky Pliego has a review of Staci Eastin’s book The Organized Heart. “Be encouraged, my friends, to read this book before the other one that teaches you ‘how to organize your closet in 24 days and live happily ever after’.”

Jerusalem Bomb Victim - “Mary Gardner, the British woman killed in the Jerusalem bus bombing, was an evangelical Christian who had been living in Togo, west Africa, translating the New Testament into the local Ifé language.” The Guardian memorializes her.

New York Times - This article tells why the New York Times pay model is bound to fail. “The New York Times has shot itself in the foot with this paywall. It’s easy to defeat because frankly, that’s the way it was built. I want the Times to succeed. But if there is any chance of success, the company will have to drastically rethink its subscription service.”

5 Ways to Make Your Kids Hate Church - Here they are, courtesy of Thomas Weaver.

You can’t open your eyes in this universe without seeing a theater of divine revelation.R.C. Sproul

March 25, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays sponsor is a regular around here and one you know well by now—CBD Reformed. And as they always do, they are offering five prizes, each of which contains three great books.

Five people will each win these three books:

  • The Reason for GodThe Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne – Retail price $14.99
  • The Reason For God by Timothy Keller – Retail Price $16.00
  • Letters To A Young Calvinist by James K.A. Smith – retail $14.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (March 25 - 28) on the following three products. Anyone is free to take advantage of these deals:

Again, there are five prizes to win, so go ahead and enter below.

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.

Note: If you are reading via RSS or email, you may need to click through to see the form.

March 25, 2011

It’s looking like another great day in Orlando. It’s quite a conference Ligonier puts on and I’m enjoying it thoroughly. I’ve also enjoyed meeting quite a number of readers of this blog as well. And I suppose I’ll meet a few more when I do a book signing a bit later in the day. If you’re down here at the conference, drop by and say hi, won’t you?

Ligonier Conference - The Ligonier Ministries National Conference will be live streaming all day today. Speakers today include R.C. Sproul, Steve Lawson and John Piper. Tonight’s discussion between Piper and Sproul looks like it will be particularly interesting.

Must a Pastor Be Married? - The New York Times recently had an article accusting Christian churches of discriminating against non-married pastors. Here Al Mohler responds to the article and to his comments that were quoted in it.

Christian Book Awards - The ECPA has released its list of finalists for the 2011 Christian Book Awards.

Flash Mobs - Ed Stetzer’s blog has an interesting article about flash mobs (an Internet phenomenon).

Matrix - This is purely entertainment but is strangely intriguing.

A Surveillance Society - Computer World writes about all the data we leave behind us today and what companies are doing with it. “By looking at data over a period of years, corporations can know how you spend your time, where you work, and who you typically spend time with.” And that’s just the start.

We don’t really begin to love God until we love God for who he is.R.C. Sproul

March 24, 2011

I got to meet my book today. Zondervan rush-shipped a few boxes of the books straight from the printer to the Ligonier Ministries National Conference where I’m hanging out for the next few days. So as soon as I got here, I went over to the bookstore to check it out. Lukas and Susannah VanDyke happened to be there and just for kicks they snapped a couple of photos.

So here I am, meeting The Next Story.

Meeting the Book

March 24, 2011

God is good. Despite my trip to Orlando (for the Ligonier Ministries National Conference) coinciding with what is surely the worst late-March snowstorm we’ve seen for many years, Aileen and I made it safely and only a little bit late. The question now is whether we can adjust to an 80 or 90 degree temperature swing between there and here.

Here are a few links before we head to the conference.

Two Cents and Not a Penny More - Greg Gilbert waited a lot time to write about the Rob Bell situation, but his few comments are well worth the read. Meanwhile, Albert Mohler responds to an article in which Brian McLaren defends Bell and his book.

From Hymns to Hip Hop - Anthony Bradley: “If you are looking for theologically saturated Christian music that has the greatest potential for widespread appeal, your best option may be Christian hip-hop. Because of its form—a high volume of words with little repetition—hip-hop may provide one of the best modes of music to convey propositional truths and doctrinal content that at the same time connects to a younger generation.”

Nominal Christians - Gene Edward Veith writes about an interesting study regarding nominal Christians.

Christian Parallel Universe - “I think there are parallel universes.  At least, it seems that way to my eyes. What I mean is that Christians in the USA seem to have created a universe parallel to the secular one. There are more obvious versions of this — the Christian Yellow Pages being foremost in my mind — but there are subtle versions too.”

Talking Tech with Trevin - Trevin and I recently had a conversation about technology and about my new book. It may prove somewhat interesting to you.

Beautiful Minds - This is a fascinating video about a man with a disability and a gift.