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

Tim Challies

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May 2012

May 29, 2012

Why We Lie - This is a thoroughly secular, but still interesting take on why it is that human beings lie. “We like to believe that a few bad apples spoil the virtuous bunch. But research shows that everyone cheats a little—right up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity.”

Colosse - It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with just a couple of minutes of music and animation.

What Mentors Should Model - “Dave Kraft writes about his early mentor Warren Myers, what he learned from this man who had a significant impact on his life, and the value of having strong Christian mentors.”

Am I Called to Preach? - This is a helpful framework to help answer that question.

Is the Bible Reliable? - Here is some helpful counsel on how to answer when someone says that the Bible is not reliable.

Porn and Marriage - Dr. Mohler is writing a two-part series on the seduction of pornography and the integrity of Christian marriage.

History is silent about revivals that did not begin with prayer. —J. Edwin Orr

May 28, 2012

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books and I like to provide regular roundups of some of the best and brightest of the bunch. Here are some of the notable books that I’ve received in the past week or two.

Lifted by Sam Allberry – “The resurrection is far more than a mere event. It isn’t just for Easter; it has overwhelmingly implications for our lives every day. The resurrection gives us real assurance of forgiveness and salvation, power to live new and transformed lives, and hope for life after death.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Christ-Centered Biblical Theology by Graeme Goldsworthy – “For fifty years Graeme Goldsworthy has been refining his understanding of biblical theology through his experiences as a student, pastor and teacher. In this valuable complement to his Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Goldsworthy defends and refines the rationale for his approach, drawing especially on the work of Australian biblical scholar Donald Robinson.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

True Woman 101 by Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss – “Bible teachers Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss share the key fundamentals of biblical womanhood in this eight week study. Each week includes five daily individual lessons leading to a group time of sharing and digging deeper into God’s Word…. Visit TrueWoman101.com to view the videos and download additional study resources.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon)

Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman – “Here is a contemporary and concise how-to guide that provides a theological framework for understanding and implementing disciplinary measures in the local church, along with several examples of real-life situations. Drawing on both Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5, this brief hardback helps leaders face the endless variety of circumstances and sins for which no exact scriptural case study exists, sins which don’t show up on any list and need a healthy framework to be corrected appropriately in love.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

RetroChristianity by Michael Svigel – “RetroChristianity challenges us to think critically and constructively about those who have come before us and how that informs our current beliefs, values, and practices. This book will adjust our attitudes about evangelicalism, and will lead us along a time-tested path toward a brighter future.”(Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch – “We know what shame feels like. The way out, however, is harder to find. Time doesn’t help, neither does confession, because shame is just as often from what others do to you as it is from what you have done. But the Bible is about shame from start to finish, and, if we are willing, God’s beautiful words break through.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

If God Then What by Andrew Wilson – “People encounter truth by sharing stories and asking questions. Andrew Wilson asks nine big questions about truth, origins and redemption, and wonders aloud about the possible answers, representing a new fresh way of communicating the gospel.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon)

Warfield on the Christian Life by Fred Zaspel, et al. – “B. B. Warfield is well-known as one of America’s leading theologians, perhaps second only to Jonathan Edwards. But until now the character of his own Christian experience and his understanding of the Christian life have remained unexplored. Fred Zaspel unpacks these for us here, and what we find is that Warfield’s profound theological mind is matched only by his passionate heart for Christ. From Warfield we learn truly what it is to live in light of the gospel.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

May 28, 2012

Ann Voskamp sent me an email the other day. She invited me to bring my family to the Voskamp farm for a meal—they live just a couple of hours from us—to put people to the pixels, so to speak. It was a kind invitation and well-received. I am hoping that my family and hers can coordinate our calendars and make it happen.

Voskamp’s invitation came just a day after I reviewed her book One Thousand Gifts. I have a long history of reviewing books at this site. I didn’t set out to be a book reviewer—it just kind of happened. I love to read and I love to analyze what I’ve read. From there it is just a short step to put those thoughts into pixels and to post them for the world to see. I’ve done this five or six hundred times over the years, reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly of Christian publishing.

While I wouldn’t classify One Thousand Gifts as one of those books that inhabits the full-out ugly side of Christian publishing, neither did I find that I was able to recommend it. In fact, in my review I went so far as to say that it could well prove to be dangerous to some readers. The thread of mysticism influenced by the likes of Nouwen and Manning and Willard, the language of sexuality and ecstasy—these are genuinely troubling and I stand by the concerns I raised. If Ann and I manage to get together, I hope we can discuss these things as I will gladly share my concerns in far more words than I could use in my review. From the little I know of her, I believe she will be eager to hear and engage.

It bears saying as well that I feel no moral quandary about reviewing her book or any other and even warning of potential weaknesses. Any author who releases a book acknowledges that it is entering into the public sphere and may receive both praise and criticism. This is an inevitable component of making writing available to the public and it is one that authors welcome; it is an honor that other people consider your ideas worth discussing.

Having said all of that, something happened inside me when I saw Ann’s name in my inbox, and that’s what has compelled me to write this little article. Seeing her name brought a sudden and surprising realization and with it a twinge of guilt and remorse. It has happened to me before, this strange feeling that comes when I suddenly realize that the name on the front of the book—“Ann Voskamp” in this case—is not some cleverly programmed, unfeeling robot that spits out blog posts and magazine articles and books, but a person. A real person. That should have been no great revelation, yet there have been too many times over the years that I have had to remind myself of this simple fact. I try to remind myself before posting a review; sometimes it only comes later.

As I read back over my review of One Thousand Gifts I could see that I had neglected to remind myself while writing it that Voskamp is a real person and, not only that, but a sister in Christ. As a writer myself, I ought to remember that words are meaningful and revealing and in some way a part of the person who writes them. Every word comes from somewhere deep inside. Every word of One Thousand Gifts is a part of Voskamp just like every word I write is a part of me. There are no idle words in her book, no words that aren’t felt and meant. Yet in my review I had treated her as if her words mean less than mine, as if I was free to criticize her in a way I would not want to be criticized.

May 28, 2012

I trust that my American readers will enjoy their Memorial Day today (and presumably most of them will enjoy the day by not spending a lot of time online). For the rest of us, here are some links worth checking out:

Six Ways of Minimizing Sin - “I found these six ways of minimizing sin to be very instructive regarding gospel-centered sanctification/mortification of sin. Take a moment and examine your fight against sin, the ways you are prone to minimize sin, and develop an intentional strategy to renounce them.”

The Hidden Life of Prayer - Christian Focus’ edition of The Hidden Life of Prayer has been reduced to $2.99. Remember that I’ll be leading a reading group through this book beginning on Thursday!

Honoring a Sufi Saint - I looked at this photo gallery and realized that it shows why religious experience is not inherently trustworthy. Here are people having genuine religious experience, but in honor of a pagan.

Author vs Author Putdowns - “One man’s Shakespeare is another man’s trash fiction.” Here are some of the most scathing author vs author putdowns of all time. This makes an interesting study in envy…

The Best Funeral Sermon - Paul Levy says, “This sermon should be read by every preacher regardless of what you think of John Stott. Let me give you a quote and his concluding applications.”

In his natural state, every man born into the world is a rank idolater. —John Wesley

May 27, 2012

Have you ever noticed that when Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them, they reacted with sorrow, but then, when it actually happened, they reacted with joy? (Compare John 16:16-20 with Luke 24:50-53) What can account for this change? In his book The Work of Christ, R.C. Sproul provides a simple answer: the disciples had come to understand why and where Jesus was going. From here he shows four great results of Christ’s ascension.

#1. Glorification. “When Jesus departed this world on the shekinah cloud, He was going back to the realm of glory. He was going to receive the glory that He enjoyed with the Father from all eternity. So, the ascension was a glorious thing. That is why, after He ascended, the disciples went back into Jerusalem and praised God in the temple. They understood that their Master was getting His glory back. His humiliation was over, and His exaltation had begun.”

#2. Coronation. “In the ascension, Jesus went up to His coronation. He did not go up simply to enter into His rest. He went up for His investiture service. He ascended to the throne, to the right hand of God, where He was given dominion, power, and authority over the whole earth. The Lamb who was slain became the Lion of Judah, who now reigns over the earth.”

#3. The Gift of the Comforter. “One of the most important reasons for Jesus’ ascension was that Pentecost might take place, that the Father and the Son might pour out the Spirit on the church to strengthen it and empower it for its earthly mission. As we all know, to witness for Christ in a corrupt world requires strength greater than our own. John Calvin said that the most important task of the church is to be the visible witness of the invisible kingdom, and for that we need the Holy Spirit.”

#4. The Ministry of the High Priest. “We have a great High Priest who offered a sacrifice for us on the cross once and for all—His own blood. That portion of His priestly ministry is finished. But His priestly work for us goes on as He intercedes for us. … Today, Jesus is in heaven, interceding for you and me, if indeed we belong to Him, and His prayers for us are equally effective. We should rejoice that He has taken up this priestly ministry on our behalf in the heavenly tabernacle.”

May 26, 2012

As Good As It Gets - Phillip Jensen: “ ‘This is as good as it gets’ the man assured me. I was initially shocked, but then deeply saddened by his statement. It was an astonishing statement—but there was no doubting the sincerity with which he was speaking.” This is a great article.

The Man Who Took on Amazon - Here’s a story of a guy who took on Amazon and managed to win. “Certain business ideas seem doomed to fail. You can walk into a restaurant or retail chain and know instantly that its days are numbered. That’s the gut sense I had when I learned that someone new had bought the Harvard Book Store – a comforting oasis for bibliophiles and casual browsers – just a few blocks from my office in Cambridge.”

The Appalachian Region - Here’s a fascinating photo essay. “Getty Images photographer, Mario Tama, spent time in and around Owsley County, Kentucky documenting the life and times of some of it’s 5,000 residents. The 2010 U.S. Census listed Owsley County as having the lowest median household income in the country outside of Puerto Rico, with 41.5% of residents living below the poverty line.”

The World’s Nicest Prison - “Founded in 1982, Bastoy Prison is located on a lush, 1-square-mile island of pine trees and rocky coasts, with views of the ocean that are postcard-worthy. It feels more like a resort than jail, and prisoners here enjoy freedoms that would be unthinkable elsewhere.”

My Wedding Day - “May 26, 2012. It was supposed to be a momentous occasion–the day I would walk down the aisle in my mother’s lace wedding gown, peonies in hand, best friend at my side, family and friends looking on with joy. It was supposed to be the day I started a new chapter, the day my dreams would be fulfilled. Little did I know, God had other plans.”

Fake Love, Fake War - Russell Moore on the porn and video gaming phenomenon that has overtaken a whole generation of young men.

It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but his hold of you!C.H. Spurgeon

May 25, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed and, as always, they’ve got some great prize packages for you. There will be five winners this week, and each of them will receive the following three books:

  • Gospel Story BibleThe Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski - Retail price $29.99
  • Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth Bailey - Retail Price $26.00
  • The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books by Nancy Guthrie - Retail Price $15.99

The Gospel Story Bible is a great new product for kids. Here’s what the publisher says about it: “It is easy to forget Jesus in the midst of frantic schedules, family squabbles, and conflicting priorities. But the truth is that he is the hero of every story, including these ordinary ones. This is why Marty Machowski puts God’s plan of salvation in Christ on continuous display in The Gospel Story Bible. The easy-to-read storybook introduces your family to many captivating people, places, and events from the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, showing how each one ultimately points to Jesus.”

In addition, CBDReformed is offering a 4-day sale (May 25 - 28) on the following products:

You are free to take advantage of those deals regardless of whether or not you are a winner!

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 may need to visit my blog to see the form.

May 25, 2012

Gospel-centeredness is all the rage today. We want the gospel at the center of our lives, our churches, our families. I love it. Gospel-centeredness is simply a new phrase that expresses the age-old practice of recounting the gospel and living all of life in light of what Christ has done. The fact is that the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection is relevant to every part of life. When we say that we are gospel-centered, this is all we mean—that we are committed to continually bringing the gospel to our minds, so it can be brought to our hearts, so it can be brought to our lives.

I awoke this morning pondering one component of the gospel: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In his death Christ atoned for my sin and after he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, he sent his Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to live within me. There is a powerful, life-altering consequence: I have been freed from the power of sin. It is stunning to consider that I never need to sin. I never have an excuse to sin. Now that I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, there is no power in all the universe so strong that it can force me to sin. Satan may parade temptation in front of me, people around me may demand that I sin, but none of them can compel me.

If I sin today—when I sin today—it is not because I had to or because anyone forced me to, but only because I chose to. The sins I commit between the moment I pen these words and the time I fall asleep will be nothing less than acts of willful rebellion against God. They are not mistakes, they are not blunders, they are not nothing; they are acts of rebellion against my Creator and King.

It is so helpful to know that, to admit that, to own that. When I own it, I can confess it. When I confess it, I can bring to mind the gospel, which brings to my heart the gospel, which transforms my life, which brings glory to God.

I’ve often returned to Jerry Bridge’s description of how he goes about the practice of preaching the gospel to himself. It is just one way of reminding himself of truth, of reminding himself of who he is in Christ. It never loses its power, because it is the power of God. Here is how he does this:

Since the gospel is only for sinners, I begin each day with the realization that despite my being a saint, I still sin every day in thought, word, deed, and motive. If I am aware of any subtle, or not so subtle, sins in my life, I acknowledge those to God. Even if my conscience is not indicting me for conscious sins, I still acknowledge to God that I have not even come close to loving Him with all my being or loving my neighbor as myself. I repent of those sins, and then I apply specific Scriptures that assure me of God’s forgiveness to those sins I have just confessed.

I then generalize the Scripture’s promises of God’s forgiveness to all my life and say to God words to the effect that my only hope of a right standing with Him that day is Jesus’ blood shed for my sins, and His righteous life lived on my behalf. This reliance on the twofold work of Christ for me is beautifully captured by Edward Mote in his hymn “The Solid Rock” with his words, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Almost every day, I find myself going to those words in addition to reflecting on the promises of forgiveness in the Bible.

What Scriptures do I use to preach the gospel to myself? Here are just a few I choose from each day:
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

“I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. (Romans 4:7-8)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

There are many others, including Psalm 130:3-4; Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12; and 10:17-18.

Whatever Scriptures we use to assure us of God’s forgiveness, we must realize that whether the passage explicitly states it or not, the only basis for God’s forgiveness is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for us. As the writer of Hebrews said, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22), and the context makes it clear that it is Christ’s blood that provides the objective basis on which God forgives our sins.