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Tim Challies

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September 2011

September 30, 2011

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by Family Christian Stores. This week they’re giving away quite a cool prize—a series of DVDs and books called The Nature of God (click for details). There will be 5 winners and each winner will receive a copy of each of the DVDs and each of the books, which makes each prize valued at around $200.

Nature of GodAll around us God has placed amazing creatures and habitats for us to explore, enjoy and care for. Join Peter Schriemer, host and creator of Smithsonian HD Channel’s Critter Quest!, as he takes your family on an interactive adventure to discover amazing animals and their natural environments.

Having created, written and produced many of his own projects as well as having worked on national video projects, Peter Schriemer is an award winning filmmaker who has received more than fifteen prestigious industry awards. Being America’s hands-on naturalist, Peter enjoys exploring outside, assisting field biologists with research projects, and teaching children about God’s wondrous creation. Peter received his B.A. in Film and Video Studies from the University of Michigan in 2005 and now resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Here is a trailer:

Also, here are a few sales you may like to take advantage of.

Use the online promo code 126382835 (30% off Any One Regularly-Priced Item) or take a look at these books (all 40% off):

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.

September 30, 2011

Elephant RoomThere has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about James MacDonald inviting T.D. Jakes to round 2 of The Elephant Room, to be held on January 25, 2012. Controversy has centered around the widespread belief that Jakes does not hold to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. Rather, some claim, he is a modalist, a person who believes that Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not refer to distinct persons, but to different modes of existence of the same person. This is no minor point of theology. These minor distinctions in trinitarian theology, a word here, a letter there, represent colossal differences, eternal differences—the difference between heaven and hell (and I say this without a bit of hyperbole). To say it as plainly as I know how, modalism is a damnable heresy; if you believe it in place of the biblical understanding of the Trinity, you are not a Christian. Period.

Hence all of the talk. By way of context, we need to remember that The Elephant Room is a meeting by Christians and for Christians, and even more, by Christian leaders and for Christian leaders. Inherent in inviting T.D. Jakes is the understanding that he is a Christian. Which presents a problem because inherent in modalism is the understanding that such a person is not a Christian.

What all this means is that the controversy largely depends on whether or not Jakes is a modalist. Is he?

I do not know, exactly. What is clear is that whatever Jakes believes about the Trinity, he has shown a continual reluctance to affirm a standard, time-proven creedal statement of trinitarian orthodoxy and that he has often used the language of modalism. This gives us valid cause for concern. This has not happened just once, but repeatedly and over many years. He has been given many opportunities to subscribe to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and to this point he has not done so. He has not been asked to subscribe to a passing statement created by modern-day theologians, but a statement that Christians have held to for over 1,600 years. Nathan Busentiz documents some of the history of Jakes’ refusal to do so in this blog post (scroll down to point #3). He clearly offers enough evidence that we do well to question what Jakes truly believes and to be suspicious that he willfully holds to heretical theology.

It is important to note that MacDonald has come out and said that he does not believe that Jakes is a modalist. I am not going to comment on his statement except to say that I agree with Carl Trueman’s critiques (even keeping in mind MacDonald’s subsequent clarifications).

September 30, 2011

A Night of Twists and Collapses - “In a spellbinding frenzy of baseball at its unpredictable, unforgiving best, a labyrinth of twists took place across 4 hours 55 minutes at ballparks in Atlanta, Baltimore, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Houston. Only one game was tidy — the St. Louis Cardinals’ 8-0 victory over the Houston Astros. In each of the other games, a team lost the lead with two outs in the ninth inning, and never got it back.”

$5 Friday - Ligonier has a couple of good deals in this week’s $5 Friday, including books by Steven Lawson and Thomas Foxcroft.

Nothing Like the Church - I really enjoyed this article from the October issue of Tabletalk. “We must remember that there is but one institution in this world that will also exist in the world to come. It is not one’s country; it is not even one’s family. It is the church of God.”

Innocent Blood - Aaron Armstrong reviews John Ensor’s new book Innocent Blood, concluding “Innocent Blood is perhaps the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year—so much so that I’m still wrestling with what needs to change, of what I need to repent and how to move forward. You will not enjoy reading this book, but you would do well to do so.”

The Time is Ripe - Randy Alcorn says that the time is ripe for Courageous, which opens today at theatres everywhere.

Digital Dead Sea Scrolls - Just like the title says, you can view digitized versions of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The New World Trade Center - “Piranha was commissioned by Silverstein Properties to create a short film depicting the completion of The New World Trade Center site.”

This life was not intended to be the place of our perfection but the preparation for it. —Richard Baxter

September 29, 2011

The dogLast night I returned safe and sound from all of my travels. I thoroughly enjoyed the speaking trip, but as always, it was wonderful to return home. I came home not only to my family, but to that new dog I surprised my kids with (am 8-week old Chocolate Lab). I figured I should include a fun photo of myself with the dog, but the silly thing fell asleep as soon as I picked her up. Nevertheless, here she is. She doesn’t have a name yet, but I assume we’ll figure that out soon enough. The kids are lobbying for “Brownie” or “Sienna.” I’m not a big fan of either, but I’m not sure that I actually get a vote.

Also, I mentioned earlier in the week that I had been out on a photo shoot for a magazine story that is coming up early next year. My friend Lukas Van Dyke decided to get all whimsical and hauled a desk and chair into the hills of California. Here is what that part of the photo shoot looked like from a little ways up the hill (my friend Steve took photos of the photos). I’m looking forward to seeing what Lukas puts together.

Photo Shoot

Now that I’m home, I’m gearing up to officiate a wedding on Saturday and then to begin a 3-part sermon series on Jonah the week after. There is always lots going on around here!

September 29, 2011

Reading Classics Together
Today we continue our project of reading through John Stott’s classic work The Cross of Christ. We’ve now moved onto Part III which discusses “The Achievement of the Cross.” Here Stott begins to move from the event itself to the consequences, “from what happened on the cross to what was achieved by it.” The Bible sums this up in three words: salvation, revelation and conquest. First up is chapter 8, “The Salvation of Sinners.” The chapters that follow will discuss revelation and conquest.

The Salvation of Sinners

Here is how Stott introduces the ideas he wants to discuss in this chapter.

It would be hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the changes that have taken place as a result of the cross, both in God and in us, especially in God’s dealings with us and in our relations with him. Truly, when Christ died and was raised from death, a new day dawned, a new age began.

This new day is “the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2), and the blessings of “such a great salvation” (Heb 2:3) are so richly diverse that they cannot be neatly defined. Several pictures are needed to portray them. Just as the church of Christ is presented in Scripture as his bride and his body, the sheep of God’s flock and the branches of his vine, his new humanity, his household or family, the temple of the Holy Spirit and the pillar and buttress of the truth, so the salvation of Christ is illustrated by the vivid imagery of terms like propitiation, redemption, justification and reconciliation, which form the theme of this chapter.

Those four terms form the theme and the structure, allowing Stott to progressively reveal the salvation accomplished at the cross. “They are not alternative explanations of the cross, providing us with a range to choose from, but complementary to one another, each contributing a vital part to the whole. As for the imagery, propitiation introduces us to rituals at a shrine, redemption to transactions in a marketplace, justification to proceedings in a court of law, and reconciliation to experiences in a home or family.” Substitution is not a theory of the atonement but the foundation of all of these words and concepts.

And so Stott turns to each of them. Let me share just three great quotes.

The reason why a propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of God. This does not mean (as animists fear) that he is likely to fly off the handle at the most trivial provocation, still less that he loses his temper for no apparent reason at all. For there is nothing capricious or arbitrary about the holy God. Nor is he ever irascible, malicious, spiteful or vindictive. His anger is neither mysterious nor irrational. It is never unpredictable, but always predictable, because it is provoked by evil and evil alone. The wrath of God … is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations. In short, God’s anger is poles apart from ours. What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes his; what provokes his anger (evil) seldom provokes ours.

September 29, 2011

In case you missed it, Amazon announced yesterday that they will be going head-to-head with Apple in the tablet market. That kind of competition can only be good for us, the consumers. Amazon will be releasing new Kindles (as low as $79) and a new tablet in November. If you’re at all interested, you’d do well to order now to preserve your place in line. Demand will be through the roof. Click here to order or learn more.

Amazon Takes on Apple - On that note, “Let’s start with the bottom line: Amazon’s announcements this morning were the most important in the gadget world since Apple announced the iPad on January 27, 2010. With the announcement of a $79 regular Kindle, $99 touch-enabled Kindle, and $199 Kindle Fire tablet, Amazon set itself up for a Christmas clash with Apple’s iOS juggernaut. While many tablet contenders have come at Apple, few can throw as many punches as Amazon.”

Nicene Christianity - Carl Trueman looks at James MacDonald’s claim that T.D. Jakes’ trinitarian theology is essentially orthodox.

Preaching Notes - Josh Harris is doing another round of preaching notes blog posts (in which he shares the preaching notes of various pastors). Up first is Steven Lawson.

Too Much - A photo gallery from The Big Picture. “Water is essential to life but in such places as India, Pakistan, China, and Thailand deluges have once again caused misery. Typhoon Nesat hit the Philippines earlier this week on its way to south China. In Pakistan, more than 5 million people have been affected by recent flooding, according to the aid agency Oxfam. Pakistan is still struggling to recover from the devastating monsoon rains in 2010.”

Consuming Technology - I’ve seen this too: “I was at a conference recently where often, when there was a break, the participants tended not to get up, stretch, get a cup of coffee, chat with those nearby or even go to the bathroom. Instead they sat there. They were not mesmerized by the presentation they had just heard. They were mesmerized by their screens—handheld or laptop—checking email, tweets, Facebook, news feeds and more.”

Knowledge without humility is vanity. —A.W. Tozer

September 28, 2011

It was a busy day, yesterday, my last full day down here in California. Or out here in California. Or whatever the proper terminology is. I spent most of the morning preparing my chapel talk for today, eventually settling on a message about distraction in the digital age. I was asked to speak as much as possible about technology and Christian living, so thought this would address a genuine concern most students have—or at least a genuine problem they are dealing with. I’ll be preaching that message in just a few minutes. It’s not expositional, but draws on Scripture throughout.

After preparing that message (and finally taking care of my In-N-Out fix), I headed for The Master’s College. But back to In-N-Out for a moment. In-N-Out is a great California burger chain. I went through the drive-through and they asked me, “Will you be eating in the car.” Because I replied “yes,” they gave me a place mat to put over my knees and then put the food in a kind of tray; the burger was wrapped in such a way that it could be eaten with one hand. I was duly impressed. And kind of surprised. And kind of grossed out. What does it say about us as a society that restaurants are serving food in packaging specifically to be eaten in the car? Nevertheless, I went ahead and ate it, and enjoyed every bite.

Back to The Master’s College. I was given a tour around the grounds and told all about the philosophy behind the school. What a great college. It has 1010 students and is at maximum capacity until they build some new dorms. The student-to-teacher ratio is ultra-low which means academic levels are ultra-high. I was duly impressed and kind of felt a bit envious that I never got to experience this kind of a school. I’d be thrilled if my kids wanted to come out here some day.

September 28, 2011

The ‘Religious People’ Boogeyman - This is a fantastic response to some of the discussion surrounding Perry Noble. “ ‘Pharisee,’ ‘legalist,’ ‘religious person’ is the church version of racist or Nazi. It is the rhetorical nuclear option specifically designed to shut up anyone with questions and paint them among their brothers and sisters as graceless jerks. But I think it actually works the other way around…”

Multi-Site Is from Satan - Thabiti Anyabwile offers a tongue-in-cheek title but a serious article about some of the drawbacks to the multi-site model of doing church.

Iranian Pastor May Be Executed - “This seems a huge story to me, but has been ignored by all but conservative media outlets. Apparently, an Iranian pastor may soon be executed for apostasy because he refuses to recant his Christian faith.”

The Perseus Collection - Logos has announced that they are giving away 1,500 free books to whoever cares to download them. “The Perseus Collections are focused primarily on Greek and Latin classics, like Aristotle and Plato. They also cover the history, literature, philosophy, and culture of the Greco-Roman world—important contextual sources for biblical scholars.”

Why Can’t I Own Canadians? - Michael Horton writes a response to an open letter written to Dr. Laura Schlesinger. Long story. Just read it.

Lost - John Piper speaks.

The godly have some good in them, therefore the devil afflicts them; and some evil in them, therefore God afflicts them. —Thomas Watson