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

Tim Challies

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May 2012

May 31, 2012

The Friends of the Blog program is well underway. Already many of you have chosen to join and to take advantage of the deals. Friends of the Blog is a subscription program that allows readers to help offset the costs associated with this site while gaining some great benefits. Among the items available through the course of the year are:

  • A $15 gift certificate for Westminster Books
  • A $15 gift certificate for The Good Book Company
  • A $15 gift certificate for ChristianAudio
  • Discount and free shipping codes for Christian Book Distributors
  • A couple of free books and/or ebooks
  • Free music
  • A free video teaching series from R.C. Sproul
  • Deals, specials, coupons, etc
  • Other things to be announced over the course of the year

In recent days I have added a new, downloadable teaching series from R.C. Sproul. Chosen by God is one of his classic series (that later became one of his most widely-read books). Here is a brief description:

Many people reject Reformed theology or Calvinism because they believe it teaches that God drags people kicking and screaming into the church against their will. This, however, is a gross distortion of the biblical doctrine of election, which is grounded in God’s love for His people. In this classic teaching series, Dr. Sproul carefully explains the meaning of God’s sovereignty in the work of redemption and shows how it relates to the will of man.

If you are a Friend of the Blog and would like to download it, simply visit http://friends.challies.com/ and log in using your user name and password. If you are not yet a Friend of the Blog, you can join now and take advantage of all the benefits!

May 31, 2012

Reading Classics Together
Today we begin reading a new Christian classic together—David McIntyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer. If you would like to read along with us, consult this post where you’ll find instructions on downloading the free audio book or the $0.99 Kindle book and find some places where you can purchase the printed book.

As is my habit, I will begin with a couple of brief thoughts on this week’s reading (chapter 1) and then keep comments open so anyone else who has read along can tell us what value or questions or concerns or applications they found.

Discussion

The Hidden Life of Prayer is a book of short chapters, which I believe is ideal for our purposes. The short chapters mean we can read them early in the week and then work on application. I doubt there is any area of the Christian life which requires as much practice as prayer; neither is there any area of the Christian life in which we are prone to give up so easily.

I found several challenges and encouragements in the first chapter and the foremost was this: prayer is hard work. There is something so liberating about that. I find prayer a difficult, difficult task. Not only are there always hundreds of other things competing for my time and attention—things that either keep me from even attempting to pray or things that attempt to distract me while I pray—but even the act of communicating with God can be very difficult. It is often hard to believe that prayer matters or that my prayers matter. Many days it feels like they must be rising no higher than the ceiling. Other days it feels like I have nothing to say to God and there is nothing God would want to hear from me.

To all of this McIntyre says, “Prayer is hard work.”

Prayer is the most sublime energy of which the spirit of man is capable. It is in one aspect glory and blessedness; in another, it is toil and travail, battle and agony. Uplifted hands grow tremulous long before the field is won; straining sinews and panting breath proclaim the exhaustion of the “heavenly footman.” The weight that falls upon an aching heart fills the brow with anguish, even when the midnight air is chill.

May 31, 2012

Challies, Voskamp, and All Us Girls - There have been a lot of reactions to my review of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gift, ranging from the outrageous to the encouraging. I found this one from The Christian Pundit particularly helpful.

7 Evils of a Grumbling Spirit - BJ Stockman goes to Jeremiah Burroughs and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment to find the seven evils of a grumbling spirit. (HT)

Dear Digital Son - A father writes a clever letter to his graduating son. “As you prepare to graduate, I hope you’ll remember there’s more to life than the Kardashians, 46-pound cats and texting in incomplete sentences.”

Fifty Shades of Grey - “Undoubtedly, the series portrays BDSM in the context of an engaging, passionate, tender, romantic relationship that culminates in the characters falling in love, and the conflicted girl assuaging the billionaire’s troubled soul. But it doesn’t matter to me how the author sweetens it up. The tasty red Kool-Aid doesn’t offset the bitter poison. Smut is still smut.”

Works and Words - This article explains why you can’t preach the gospel with deeds. “When it comes to the enduring question of word versus deed in the Christian’s calling, the issue is always one of balance. How are Christians to think about the relative roles of words (proclaiming the gospel) and deeds (loving action) in what Christ has called his people to be and do? We need to set our scales to a balance that matches Scripture.”

There are no non-religious activities; only religious and irreligious. —C.S. Lewis

May 30, 2012

I know, I know—there’s a certain level of irony when you provide “bullet points” on death. Nevertheless, here are five important things that the Bible tells us about death.

1. Death is the result of sin

Genesis 2:17 — “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Romans 6:23a — ‘For the wages of sin is death”

2. Death is an evil intruder into the world

1 Corinthians 15:26 —”The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”

3. Death is followed by judgment

Hebrews 9:27 — “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”

Revelation 20:12 — “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”

4. Death for unbelievers is the entrance into eternal and terrible punishment

Matthew 25:41, 46 — “Then [the Son of Man] will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. … And these will go away into eternal punishment …”

Luke 13:28 — “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out.”

5. Death for believers is the doorway to eternal life and joy with God

1 Corinthians 15:52, 54-55 — “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. … then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

Revelation 21:4 — “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Philippians 1:21, 23 — “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. … My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”

May 30, 2012

UnplannedWhen Abby Johnson quit her job in 2009, it became national news. Johnson was director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas and did not merely quit her job, but also changed sides in the abortion battle. Formerly an employee of the organization that performs more abortions than any other, she had come to believe that abortion was morally offensive. What was it that caused her to change sides? She witnessed an abortion. On the screen of an ultrasound machine, she witnessed human life being dismembered and destroyed, and in an instant she saw what she had denied for so long—what was being aborted was a baby, not just a potential baby or a blob of tissue. She had been an eyewitness to murder and not only that, but she had been complicit in countless other murders.

Unplanned tells Johnson’s story, from being recruited by Planned Parenthood while she was a college student, to rising through the ranks and eventually becoming the director of a clinic. She also tells of her own history of abortion and how she found forgiveness for the sins of her youth.

This book has several strengths to commend it—several reasons you may want to read it.

First, it comes from an insider’s perspective, clearly describing the arguments, verbiage and subtleties used by Planned Parenthood and similiar organizations as they promote their pro-choice agenda. They weigh every word and their every action represents a careful strategy. Johnson proves what pro-life advocates have been saying all along, that although Planned Parenthood does provide some valid and valuable services for women, it is at heart an abortion provider.

May 30, 2012

Indelible Grace - “Indelible Grace is making a new CD this summer!  We are going into the studio this summer to make Indelible Grace VI, a new collection of old hymn texts set to new music.” They have a kickstarter campaign underway to fund the album

Planned Parenthood - “A hidden camera disclosed a PP worker counseling a patient about sex selective abortion. The patient claimed that she only wanted a boy and that she intended to kill the unborn child if an ultrasound indicated it was a girl. The worker showed the patient exactly how to get this done.” Denny Burk discusses the problem and response.

Going to Church - Christine Jensen writes down some of her top tips on going to church as a family.

Defending Polygamy - People have long said that once homsexual marriage has been accepted (thus unmooring it from its biblical foundation) polygamous marriage cannot be far behind. Here’s an article that suggests this very thing.

The Journal of Biblical Counseling - A new edition of The Journal of Biblical Counseling is available for (free) download or reading in your browser. It’s always worth a read.

If a man tells me that he is humble, I know him to be profoundly proud. —C.H. Spurgeon

May 29, 2012

RC SproulIn a couple of weeks I am going to have an opportunity to interview R.C. Sproul. This isn’t something that comes along every day! I thought it would be interesting to have an open mic, so to speak, allowing those of you who read this site to suggest questions I may like to ask him.

So here is your chance to ask Dr. Sproul anything at all (anything at all within reason, of course). Let’s try to focus the questions on Sproul, his books, his ministry and perhaps some contemporary events. I don’t see this as an opportunity to ask him the general theological questions that have been bothering you. Let’s talk about him, his years of ministry, the books he has written, and maybe especially his most recent book, The Work of Christ, which I reviewed this morning. So go ahead and leave a comment with your question. To make things just a bit more interesting, I’ll try to find some copies of The Work of Christ for some of you whose questions end up being chosen.

Suggest a Question

May 29, 2012

The Work of ChristAs Christians we make a big deal of the death of Jesus and rightly so because it is only through his death that we can be saved from our sin. But if all Jesus needed to accomplish before God was his death on the cross, he could have come to earth as an adult on the evening of Good Friday, he could have died, and still be the one to save us from our sin. But had he done all of this, we would still have a problem. There is a reason that before Christ died he had to truly live. This is the subject of R.C. Sproul’s new book The Work of Christ.

Sproul says: “In order for [Jesus] to qualify as our Redeemer, it was not enough for Him simply to go to the cross and be crucified. If Jesus had only paid for our sins, He would have succeeded only in taking us back to square one. We would no longer be guilty, but we still would have absolutely no righteousness to bring before God.” We would be free of guilt before God, but we would have no righteousness. This is what Christ merited for us in his life.

Our Redeemer needed not only to die, but also to live a life of perfect obedience. The righteousness that He manifested could then be transferred to all who put their trust in Him. Just as my sin is transferred to Him on the cross when I trust in Him, His righteousness is transferred to my account in the sight of God. So, when I stand before God on the judgment day, God is going to see Jesus and His righeousness, which will be my cover.

The purpose of this book is to give a brief overview of the time Christ spent in this world to show that he was here to fulfill a mission. Sproul looks at the incarnation, the infancy hymns, Jesus in the temple, baptism, and so on, in each case showing that all along the way Jesus was executing a mission. This book bears all the marks of R.C. Sproul, from careful teaching to wise application to theological nuance to a remark or two on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Though Sproul has elsewhere written extensively about the life and death of Jesus Christ, this book focuses narrowly on this one area of the theological implications of Christ’s life.

Let me say a word about the book’s format. The Work of Christ is the first of several books that will be released in a new partnership between Sproul, Ligonier Ministries and David C. Cook Publishers and this partnership has resulted in a unique format. Each of the book’s eleven chapters is about ten pages or so and then followed by an extensive study guide. The study guide for each chapter contains an introduction, learning objectives, quotations, a thorough outline of the chapter’s contents, Bible study questions, a discussion guide, a couple of points of application, and some suggested reading for further study. All told, the study guides are just about the same length as the chapters. This brings a lot of value to those who appreciate assistance in understanding and applying a book; this kind of a thorough companion to a book usually comes with an extra cost. Those who do not enjoy study guides will want to be aware that only about half of this book’s pages are actual content.

The Work of Christ is a powerful book that can serve as an ideal companion to The Truth of the Cross—one book to focus on Christ’s active obedience in living a sinless life, and one book to focus on Christ’s passive obedience in facing the Father’s wrath on the cross. I highly recommend it.

It is available from Westminster Books ($13.11), Amazon ($13.04) and Ligonier Ministries ($12.80).