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Tim Challies

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January 2012

January 27, 2012

I love writing book reviews and I love reading them. Since I cannot possibly read and review all of the interesting books out there, I’ve decided to put together some occasional round-ups of reviews written by other writers. Here are a few notable links I’ve collected over the past few weeks.

The Biblical Counseling Movement After Adams by Heath Lambert – review by Bob Kellemen. “While not everyone will agree with all of Lambert’s contrasts and comparisons, especially those most loyal to Jay Adams and his nouthetic counseling model, the book successfully breaks down many still–existing stereotypes about the modern biblical counseling movement. More importantly, it articulates a robust, relational approach to one–another ministry while teaching about the history of the movement.”

Education or ImitationEducation or Imitation?: Bible Interpretation for Dummies Like You and Me by Curtis Allen – review by Aaron Armstrong. “I believe Education or Imitation will be a great benefit to anyone who reads it—especially those who think they’re not ‘smart’ enough to understand the Bible. ‘If you are a Christian, there is nothing standing in your way’ of interpreting and applying the Scriptures. Rejoice and be encouraged!”

Gospel Powered Humility by William P. Farley – review by Aimee Byrd. “After serving up a convicting gut check on intellectual pride, spiritual pride, selfish ambition, and pride in your giftedness, Farley offers up the most powerful part of his book: hope for proud Christians.” (I wrote an endorsement for this book some time ago and found it worth the recommendation.)

Gospel WakefulnessGospel Wakefulness by Jared Wilson – review by Matthew Kresge. “Overall, I highly recommend this book. I would encourage you to sit under Wilson’s passion and learn from a humble man who dwells in the Gospel. It will stir your affections and drive you to worship our King Jesus. I plan on reading it again in 2012.” He gives it 5 out of 5 stars.

January 27, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by CBD Reformed. As always they’ve got a great prize package for you—or five of them, as it happens. 

  • Saved From WhatCrazy Love by Francis Chan - Retail price $14.99
  • Radical by David Platt - Retail Price $14.99
  • Saved From What? by R.C. Sproul – Retail Price $16.99

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (January 27 – January 30) on the following three products:

This 4-day sale is open to anyone (not just people who win the giveaway).

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, you’ll need to click through to see the form.

January 27, 2012

Post-Prayer Whispers - David Murray lists some of the little whispers you can hear after you pray. “Anyone else get that? It’s so discouraging, isn’t it. I mean, why pray if all you get at the end of it is an even heavier feeling of guilt and failure? Prayer should be a delight not a dread.”

Black and White - Thabiti Anyabwile asks an interesting question: where does blackness and whiteness come from?

Too Good to Be True - Do you remember the story of the flight attendant who survived a 33,000 foot fall (I remember reading about her years and years ago in The Guinness Book of World Records)? Apparently what actually happened that day is now being called into question. 

Judge Judy’s Legal Authority - File this in the “I’ve always wondered” category: Mental Floss answers, “Judge Judy reportedly makes $45 million a year. What kind of legal power comes with it?”

The State of the Union/Pulpit - “All the news attention yesterday and throughout today has been on the President’s State of the Union address. This happens every year in January and it serves to be a good reminder of the President’s accountability to the other branches of government. This occasion provides more than a civics lesson. It also helps the church think about preaching.”

The iPad’s Human Cost - This article from the NY Times is long, interesting and tragic. “The workers assembling iPhones, iPads and other devices often labor in harsh conditions, according to employees inside those plants, worker advocates and documents published by companies themselves. Problems are as varied as onerous work environments and serious — sometimes deadly — safety problems.”

God is more willing to give revival than we are to receive it. —Erlo Stegan

January 26, 2012

WordsmithyLove him or hate him, and there are some on either extreme, Douglas Wilson can flat-out write. He has put this talent to use in writing over thirty books and countless articles, blog posts and the like. In his newest book, Wordsmithy, he offers up a series of hot tips for the writing life, a collection of lessons that he has learned along the way.

I probably need to stop right here to say that I don’t want you to take this little review as a blanket endorsement of Wilson or his previous books or his theological emphases. There is a long list of issues on which he and I would not see eye-to-eye. But what is true is that he thinks deeply and expresses himself with both tremendous wit and clarity.

Wordsmithy is comprised of seven chapters, each of which holds seven tips (I’ll let you work out the math to see just how many tips that is). Here is a brief description of each of those seven chapters:

Know something about the world. You need to know something about the world outside of books. If you don’t learn about what exists outside libraries and bookstores, you will not have any material to work with.

Read. A writer needs to be a constant reader, reading the kind of thing he wishes he could write and the occasional thing that he wouldn’t ever want to write.

January 26, 2012

9Marks Books on Sale - Westminster Books has all of the 9Marks books on sale. This is a great time to stock up on some really good books, including a brand new one from Thabiti Anyabwile.

Teens and Porn - Courtesy of Covenant Eyes, here’s an infographic with 10 stats you need to know when it comes to teens and pornography. For example, only 3% of teenaged boys and 17% of girls have not seen Internet porn. In a somewhat similar vein, here’s an infographic about the Millennial generation.

An Announcement about Mahaney - Dave Harvey: “In July 2011, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) installed an interim Board of Directors. Our primary task was to determine C.J. Mahaney’s fitness to serve SGM as President in light of accusations made against him by a former SGM leader. … After examining the reports of these three review panels, we find nothing in them that would disqualify C.J. from his role as President, nor do they in any way call into question his fitness for gospel ministry. Therefore the Board has decided unanimously to return C.J. to the office of President, effective immediately.”

The Worst Sin? - I appreciate the tone of this article. The author asks, “Is homosexuality the worst sin of all?”

Postpone College? - Forbes asks if all those high-schoolers out there waiting for acceptance letters should first consider taking time to do something else. “To that end, I propose a theoretical pre-college regimen called ‘grownup training.’ Specifically: six months spent working in a factory, six in a restaurant, six on a farm and six in the military or performing another public service such as building houses, teaching algebra or changing bedpans.”

Sleight-of-Hand - This guy is phenomenal.

He who tells little lies, will soon think nothing of great ones, for the principle is the same. —C.H. Spurgeon

January 25, 2012

Stemming from the controversy over Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage—especially the chapter about what Christians are allowed to do sexually—Doug Wilson has written a few posts on what nature teaches us about sex. I wanted to attempt to distill these right down to their essence because I think he has given a very important response to issues raised by that book.

Wilson sees warrant in at least two passages of Scripture for looking to the outside world (which, he clarifies, includes human culture as well as the natural order) in order to discern what sexual behaviors are pleasing to God. This means that even if an particular act is not strictly forbidden in Scripture, nature may still teach us that it is displeasing to him.

In his post “Dinner for Two at Angelo’s” (Be warned: In this article Wilson speaks frankly about certain sexual acts) he looks at Paul’s indictment of homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26-27. There Paul calls such behavior an exchange of “natural relations for those that are contrary to nature,” and Wilson spells out the application:

Paul is saying in Romans 1 that we learn certain things from nature, and that some men in the grip of lust revolt against that lesson. One of the things that we learn from nature is what goes where.

If a man is going to have sex with another man, he is going to have to alter the game plan. Altering the game plan when you don’t have to [i. e. a husband and wife engaging in sodomy] is not an equal sin (because God has expressly abominated homosex), but it is an equal failure to learn the what-goes-where part of nature’s lesson.

In another post, titled “Sexual Obedience Outside Scripture,” Wilson considers Hebrews 5:14, where the author speaks of training your powers of discernment through constant practice to distinguish good from evil. He says that this idea of “constant practice” is the Scripture’s way of leading us to develop our discernment through going beyond Scripture and actually applying it to our culture.

He gives the example of how a woman must apply the command in 1 Timothy 2:9 to dress modestly:

Women, dress yourselves modestly (1 Tim. 2:9). But how? We see that obedience to Scripture requires careful thought while shopping, while applying make-up, and while buying jewelry. A woman has to make decisions about modesty while sorting through a rack of dresses at Macy’s, and we may be confident that the apostle Paul never saw any one of those dresses in all his born days, or in any of his dreams, and would not know what to make of them if he did. The Bible tells women to dress a certain way, in order to achieve a certain effect, and tells them to do this without giving them a dress code. This means that obedience requires women to make decisions about their sexual attractiveness in their culture. Here is the principle — certain kinds of obedience cannot happen unless we learn how to go beyond Scripture. Women need to learn how to be attractive without attracting all and sundry, and they must do this without specific warrant from the Scriptures for any one of their particular decisions.

He then gives an instance of how this principle of “cultural awareness” applies to making decisions about your sex life in areas where there are no particular prohibitions in the Bible:

All these same realities apply to the marriage bed. For example, the apostle Paul says nothing about video-recording a marital sex act on your cell phone. This is because he wrote to the Ephesians, to the Galatians, and not to the Idiots. If he were writing to the Idiots, he might have felt constrained to mention it. Oh, no, you might reply, feeling a little stung by my insensitive use of the word Idiot with an upper case I, you and your wife are being “very careful.” Very careful. I see. So careful that when you both die in a car wreck nobody is going to go through your effects?

Wilson finishes at Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 4:4-5, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” (KJV).

In order to able to obey this, in order to make love not like they do, it is required that we be able to read what they are doing. And when we read what they are doing, and why, we are not reading it in the pages of the Bible. But we are doing something better — we are obeying the pages of the Bible.

January 25, 2012

Over the past two days I have been writing about Ephesians 5 and the great mystery of marriage—that in some way marriage is a portrait, a reflection, of the relationship of Christ to his church. In the first article I introduced this metaphor and in the second I spoke about how the wife completes her part of the picture.

Paul now speaks to husbands and here is what he says (in Ephesians 5:25:32): Husbands, you make your marriage an accurate portrait of the real marriage when you give up your life to your wife. You have the unique task of displaying the gospel in your willing, joyful, loving leadership of your wife. In this relationship that is meant to be a portrait of the relationship of Christ to the church, the husband is called to be an accurate portrait of Christ. Husbands, you are to be toward your wife as Christ is toward his church. That is a little bit abstract so let’s see how it takes shape by asking three questions: What, how and why?

What?

What is a husband to do to? Husband, love your wife and give yourself up for her. Notice that Paul does not exactly parallel what he has said to wives. He does not immediately command you to be the head of your wife. He has told your wife to submit to your leadership, but he doesn’t begin by saying, “Husbands, lead!” Instead, he tells you to be filled with love for your wife. You are to lead in love, to give yourself up. This is not love as we may think of it in our culture—love as an emotion or love as something that is purely physical. True love is an act of will. It requires action. You are not commanded to be romantically warm and fuzzy with your wife, though hopefully you have that too, but you are told to act in love toward her. 

The model for your love is Christ’s love for his people. How did Christ love his people? How much did he love his bride? He loved in action, not just in words or feelings. He gave himself up for her. He gave up his life. Christ gave himself up, he did not get given up. He was active and deliberate. Christ may still have shown love for us if he went to the cross kicking and screaming and protesting his innocence and begging to be let go. But how much more is his love displayed in his willing sacrifice, in going to the cross of his own volition. You display your love for your wife when you willingly, joyfully give yourself up for her.

January 25, 2012

Nagging in Marriage - From the WSJ: “It’s more common than adultery and potentially as toxic, so why is it so hard to stop nagging?” I’m always fascinated by articles like this that diagnose and attempt to cure sin but without reference to anything spiritual.

Tainted Saint - “The death of journalist and polemicist Christopher Hitchens last month gave those familiar with his work a chance to revisit one of his more controversial subjects: the Albanian nun Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, better known to the world as Mother Teresa.” This article explains how her path to sainthood has run into the Roman Catholic sex scandals.

Hymn to God the Father - Denny Burk shares a musical adaptation of a favorite poem by John Donne.

James MacDonald and TGC - James MacDonald explains why he has resigned from The Gospel Coalition.

60 Hours Per Minute - YouTube has just released this amazing statistic: Every second its users upload one hour of video. 60 hours per minute. That is just astounding.

United Bases of America - Here’s an infographic that displays American military presence across the world.

8 Profitable Ways to Read the Bible - Here is some old but timeless wisdom from J.C. Ryle on reading the Bible.

And finally, a quote that could almost (almost!) be from the book of Proverbs:

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. —Winston Churchill