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Tim Challies

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July 2011

July 27, 2011

Endlesss Choice
Simplicity is a trending topic in our culture and our day; there is good reason for this. We are drowning in stuff and drowning in options. Somewhere along the way, many of us find it all overwhelming and overbearing. Somewhere along the way, all of these choices are making us miserable.

In the past couple of weeks I have been in the market for a new car. Having just accepted a full-time position as Associate Pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, I found that in order for me to do ministry well, and in order for Aileen to be able to keep things running around the home, a second car would be very, very useful. I went out shopping and within hours my head was spinning. My main requirements were reliability and fuel efficiency while also keeping a close eye on price. This led me to the compact market—cars like the Honda Civic, Ford Fiesta (or Focus), Hyundai Elantra, Volkswagen Jetta and on and on and on. Within a fifteen minute radius of my home there are probably 30 or 40 different cars that would fit the bill. But not only that, there are 5 or 6 models of each of those cars—DX, LX, EX, entry model, mid-range, high-end. The choices were bewildering. Oh, but there’s more. Even once you choose your model there are colors to go through, typically 6 or 8 per car. And then there are the accessories to choose from—from better tires to rear spoilers to $50 cup holders and upgraded stereos. And those $2000 navigation systems that don’t do anything a $100 TomTom can’t do.

I eventually settled on a Honda Civic, pretty much ending where I had begun. But even then the choices were not finished. No sooner had I said, “Sold!” than they started telling me what a horrible decision I had made and how badly I was going to need 1 of the 8 extended warranty plans they make available. Suddenly my Honda Civic, historically the most reliable compact car on the market, had become a Lada. In what may not have been my finest moment, I reached over and closed the brochure the guy was leading me through and said, “You sold me this car on its reliability. There is no way I’m going to sit here and listen to you tell me what a piece of junk I’ve bought. So we’re just going to put this away and I don’t want to hear another word about the extended warranty unless you’re going to give it to me for free.”

July 27, 2011

The New Asceticism - I think Byron Yawn has a good word of warning to offer in this article. He looks at today’s many calls for radical living and points out where, if we are not careful, we could lose sight of the gospel. Remember that it tends to be good things that take our eyes off the gospel more than bad things!

What [What Not] to Say - Crossway has a helpful little excerpt from Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book on sexual assault. It simply shares some wisdom on what to say and what not to say to someone who reveals that they’ve been a victim of sexual assault.

A Conversation - Jesse Gardner recently did an interview with me about the books I’ve written, blogging, and so on. It’s in transcript form if you’re interested.

Here Is Our God - In 2012 The Gospel Coalition will have a conference for women. All the details are available at their site.

Porn Addiction - Michelle VanLoon talks about her father’s porn addiction and shows that such addiction goes far beyond the individual and effects the entire family. “When we consider relationships negatively impacted by a pornography addiction, most of us first consider the addict’s spouse or girl/boyfriend. It is not just the adult partner who is affected by a porn habit. Even if the addict believes he or she has the habit under wraps, porn’s toxicity leaks into other relationships in an addict’s life.”

A Different God? - David Murray answers this question: Why does God seem so different in the Old Testament than He does in the New Testament?

Nothing gives believers more joy than to see God glorified. —R.C. Sproul

July 26, 2011

Licensed to KillThis may be the season for breezy beach reading (I’ve done a little bit of that myself), but that hasn’t stopped people from saying very nice things about a hard-hitting new book by Brian Hedges—a book that deals with sanctification.

The July book from Cruciform Press (a company I’ve co-founded), Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin, has been endorsed by Tullian Tchividjian, Joe Thorn, Bob Lepine at FamilyLife Today, and Wes Ward at Revive our Hearts. In his review, Terry Delaney at Christian Book Notes called it “an excellent and much needed resource today in the church” and added “I recommend it to every believer.”

So far, though, I’m most excited about the review at the blog, Before Dawn with the Son. Here are some of my favorite parts.

There have not been many modern books that have kept me riveted as PM rolled into AM, but this little book by Hedges definitely did the trick….as you fly through this book you will be consistently struck with Gospel-drenched, sin-hating truth that confronts, convicts, and encourages you to make a more concerted and genuine effort to fill your life with the “holy violence” of slaughtering your indwelling, God-hating sin.

A highlight of this text is the immensely practical nature of the whole book…I do not know if it is Hedges’ writing style or the subject manner or a combination of both, but this text spent a good amount of time in practical issues and I enjoyed it immensely.

I do not believe it would be an overstatement (or a slight) to call this John Owen-light….For 117 pages you cannot really ask for more!

The best place to learn more, read samples, or pick up a copy is at the Cruciform Press site, where you can get Licensed to Kill for as little as $3.99.

July 26, 2011

John MacArthur is in the midst of penning a series of articles that will address (and encourage and scold) the Young, Restless, Reformed movement—this thing they call the New Calvinism. I have one great concern about this. I will tell you what it is, but only after I give a brief overview of what MacArthur has said so far.

MacArthur’s series will extend to four parts (after which there will be a couple of follow-ups by other writers). In the first article, which serves as an introduction, MacArthur showed the direction he intends to take the series: He will tell this Young, Restless, Reformed movement (YRR) to “Grow Up. Settle Down. Keep Reforming.” After showing that the allure of postmodernism, best exemplified by the Emerging Church, has largely proven futile, Dr. MacArthur says:

But young, restless, Reformed students (YRRs) still seem to be multiplying and gaining influence. I’m very glad for most of what this movement represents. It seems to be a more biblically-oriented, gospel-centered, theologically-grounded approach to Christian discipleship than this generation’s parents typically favored—and that is most certainly to be applauded.

YRRs have by and large eschewed the selfishness and shallowness (though not all the pragmatism) of seeker-sensitive religion. They are generally aware of the dangers posed by postmodernity, political correctness, and moral relativism (even if they don’t always approach such dangers with sufficient caution). And while they sometimes seem to struggle to show discernment, they do seem to understand that truth is different from falsehood; sound doctrine is opposed to heresy; and true faith distinct from mere religious pretense.

But it isn’t all good. MacArthur has some concerns.

July 26, 2011

One thing I love about John Piper is the passion he brings to, well, pretty much everything he does. A couple of years ago he and I went out for a quick bite to eat after a conference and he asked a bunch of questions about Twitter; he was considering getting an account (or, actually, making public his existing account) and was wondering how Twitter could be used for ministry. He brought passion to Twitter and, not surprisingly, his feed has become a must-follow. In this blog post he offers some explanation of what Twitter has meant to him.

Oslo Killer’s Religious Views - Michael Horton: “At least 76 people are dead after Anders Behring Breivik massacred campers on an island off the coast of Oslo, Norway. Finally, the media has a face and a name for making its heretofor unjustified claim of moral equivalency between conservative Christianity and Islam. Religion may be fine as long as it’s private, and you don’t really believe the key teachings of any one in particular.”

Listen to Them or Lose Them - My mother has written an article over at the True Woman blog. If you’ve got daughters, you should definitely give it a read. “Daughters. How we long for them and love them. But what exhausting little creatures they are! Ask almost any parent and I think you will hear the same thing. They love to talk … and talk … and talk.”

Heaven Is For Real - This book continues to sell in the millions. It has even hit the top of the charts here in Canada.

Polygamy - Further proof that the same kind of logic that allows marriage to extend to homosexuals must also work itself out in polygamy. 

Prayer Transforms Sermon Prep - One for the preachers: “I know you pray for your sermon at least once a week. As you’re walking toward the front on Sunday morning, prayers are flying thick and fast: Help! You know people need to hear something more than an inspiring thought or tip. They need to hear from God. And if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen through you. So you pray! But beyond that moment of truth each week, and beyond asking God to give you understanding and a heart for your people, does prayer play a role in your sermon preparation?”

Romantic Pornography - This is an issue a lot of people are discussing today. It’s a good one to talk through. “As a Christian mom to four school-age children, I find myself often challenging the culture. Many times this means helping my children learn to engage wisely with it. As a single mom, helping my kids to think rightly about the God-given, necessary, and wonderful differences between the genders is a subject matter I pay special attention to. So maybe it’s for my children’s sake most of all I use the term ‘romantic pornography’ to describe most romantic comedies.”

Salsa and Submission - Thabiti (and Mrs. Thabiti) find lessons in an unexpected place.

The nature and end of judgment must be corrective, not vindictive; for healing, not destruction. —John Owen

July 25, 2011

Norway has experienced a nightmare—3 hours of abject terror. On Friday afternoon, right around 3:30, thirty-two year-old Anders Behring Breivik ignited a bomb outside government offices in Oslo, killing at least 7. As the bomb exploded, he was on his way to Utoya Island, about 20 miles from Oslo, the location of a youth camp run by a political party. Dressed in a police uniform, he asked to address the group (there were some 700 people at the camp) before opening fire on them. He killed at least 86, gunning them down in cold blood. By 6:30 PM Breivik was in police custody, having taken almost 100 lives in 3 short hours. In the meantime, the eyes of the whole world had shifted to Norway and millions were wondering just who would do something like this, and why.

Within hours of the event, news headlines were proclaiming that this was the work of a Christian fundamentalist or extremist. The Atlantic splashed this headline on their site: “The Christian Extremist Suspect in Norway’s Massacre.” The Washington Post said, “‘What we know is that he is right wing and he is Christian fundamentalist,’ deputy police chief Roger Andresen said Saturday morning at a televised news conference. ‘We have not been able to link him up to an anti-Islamic group.’ He said that the suspect had not been arrested before, and that police were unsure if he had acted alone.”

Was this the work of a Christian? Was this terror consistent with a man who claims to be a follower of Christ? Many believe that it is.

The declaration that Breivik is a Christian seems to have come largely from his Facebook profile where he assigned himself the labels “Christian” and “Conservative.” That was enough for many people, and especially for those with an anti-Christian agenda. Frank Schaeffer immediately jumped online and said, “I told you so!”, writing on his blog, “In my new book ‘Sex, Mom and God’ I predicted just such an action. I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them.” Carl Trueman gets it right when he says

If a man doesn’t hesitate to use his parents’ sex lives to get a cheap laugh and sell a few books, one should not be surprised if he sees yesterday’s events in Norway as a great opportunity for puffing his own prophetic insights, trying to flog a few more copies of his own recent book and demonstrating that the Left too can have as tenuous a grip on logic, evidence and argument as Glenn Beck (who would ever have thought there was link between Tim Keller, Bill Edgar and religious terrorism?). Yes, you guessed it, Frank Schaeffer has done it again. Just goes to show that every cloud has a silver lining — if you are sufficiently self-absorbed, that is.

How are we, as Christians, to understand this event? How are we to think about the media declaring that this is the work of a Christian?

Before we do anything, we ought to be in prayer for those who have been so deeply affected by Breivik’s acts of terror. A whole nation has been left reeling; tens of thousands are in mourning, having had a friend or family member gunned down. As Christians we know where hope lies and we know that only the Lord can bring true, lasting hope and healing. And so we weep with those who weep, praying for the people of Norway, asking that the Lord would bring comfort.

In what remains of this article I simply want to trace my own thinking on this man and on these events. Here is how I have thought it through.

July 25, 2011

There are lots of good deals on Kindle books these days. Here are a few of them: My book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is available for $2.99. Lots of others are available for around the same price: A Place of Healing by Joni Eareckson Tada, The Jesus Storybook Bible, Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, Jerry Bridges’ must-read The Pursuit of Holiness, Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like and Ravi Zacharias’ Has Jesus Failed You?. You’ll also want to check out Randy Alcorn’s Managing God’s Money, Nancy Pearcey’s Saving Leonardo and The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens.

Amazon - Speaking of Kindle, here are some interesting, random facts about Amazon.

A Soldier’s Letter - You have probably read this letter before, but it’s definitely worth reading again. “It shows a man highly devoted to his different and sometimes conflicting vocations as husband, father, soldier, citizen, and Christian.”

Too Young to Wed - National Geographic writes about child brides. “Because the wedding was illegal and a secret, except to the invited guests, and because marriage rites in Rajasthan are often conducted late at night, it was well into the afternoon before the three girl brides in this dry farm settlement in the north of India began to prepare themselves for their sacred vows.”

A Historic Moment - Here is video of John MacArthur finishing up preaching the entire New Testament. The clapping is a little bit awkward, but how else do you express joy and gratitude at such an occasion? It is quite an accomplishment.

Letters to the Suffering - “Pastors, Here’s a Scenario. You’re a pastor and ‘the call’ comes. One of your families have welcomed a child into the world – and that child is significantly disabled. They are crushed. What do you do?”

Clarence’s Speech - Impressionist Jim Meskimen does Clarence’s speech from Richard III. Shakespeare in Arnold’s voice is too good to be true.

We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God. —William Gurnall

July 24, 2011

This is quite a powerful little quote from a book titled Men of The Word which is edited by Nathan Busenitz and which includes contributions from a long list of writers. This excerpt is from a chapter titled “Real Men Flee Temptation” and is written by Andrew Gutierrez.

In the first century AD, crowns were awarded to victorious military leaders, champion athletes, and dignitaries. In Paul’s farewell to his beloved disciple he wrote of receiving such a reward from Jesus Christ. Think of the impact that thought must have had on Timothy. How encouraging would it be for him to hear his mentor’s final words to him, which conveyed confidence and joy in Jesus Christ? Paul’s hope, as expressed in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, reminded his protege of the reason that he was fighting as a soldier and striving as an athlete. In spite of being in prision about to die, the apostle exulted, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” No matter what the struggles looked like for Timothy, he could overcome temptation because of the hope he had in Christ.

History tells us that Timothy died while trying to stop people from engaging in idolatry at a pagan feast. As he proclaimed the true gospel, he was severely beaten by the angry crowd and died two days later. Timothy gave up his life so that Christ would be glorified. He exhibited faithfulness and courage to the end.

As we flee from sin and pursue holiness in our own lives, let’s follow the example of Timothy. By relying on God’s strength, reminding ourselves of the gospel, and running away from sin and toward righteousness, we too can experience a life of spiritual victory. The road will not always be easy, but our faithfulness will be well-rewarded. One day, we will stand before Christ. Then sin and temptation will be no more. As we look forward to that day, we can rejoice with Paul in knowing that “the Lord will rescue [us] from every evil deed, and will bring [us] safely into His heavely kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).