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Tim Challies

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August 2012

August 28, 2012

I have been on yet another biography kick in the past few months. Just in the last couple of weeks I’ve digested two fantastic biographies of characters who are at once very different and yet in at least one way not entirely dissimilar—Queen Elizabeth II and Abraham Lincoln. As I read these two books I came to see that each pointed me to the same question. I had not set out asking this question, rather, it naturally arose from the story of a life. It is this: Has this person placed his faith in Jesus Christ?

Abraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln has long fascinated me and I have read several of the most notable accounts of his life. What has always perplexed me is the question of whether or not Lincoln was a Christian—a true Christian who truly believed in Christ as Savior. While it is obvious that Lincoln believed in a higher power and that he knew and treasured the Bible, the nature of his religious beliefs has long been in dispute. Ronald C. White’s A. Lincoln: A Biography is a brilliant account of Lincoln’s life and brings a measure of clarity to my thinking.

I am increasingly convinced that Lincoln truly did come to understand the gospel at some point in life, though seemingly not until near the end. White shows that Lincoln’s understanding of God, gospel and providence were shaped at least in part by Phineas Densmore Gurley, the pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Gurley’s chief mentor was the great theologian Charles Hodge. Thus there was much of Hodge—much of Presbyterian Calvinism—in Lincoln. As he wrestled with understanding the presence of God in the Civil War, as he sought to understand the purpose of this conflict, he drew from this theological stream and found great comfort in the God who is sovereign.

There is much we can learn from the life of Lincoln, many lessons that can be applied. He is endlessly fascinating. But when I look at Lincoln, I am more and more comfortable in seeing a man who at some point grew from understanding God as an impersonal force to a man who encountered a living, active God whose hand was visible even, or perhaps especially, in the nation’s darkest hour.

Rather on a whim I also picked up a copy of Sally Bedell Smith’s new biography of Queen Elizabeth II: Elizabeth the Queen. While I have no great love for the monarchy as an institution, I’ve long respected the Queen. She is in a near-impossible position, reigning as a monarch in a country and a world that has moved away from monarchial forms of government. Yet she understands that it is her role to serve her country and her commonwealth and she has done so very well over the years.

August 28, 2012

School of Theology - Derek Thomas has begun a two-year school of theology and each one of the sessions is being recorded and shared online. He is only one week in, so you can listen to that message and you’re already all caught up.

A Soldier and a Son - Greg Lucas writes of his son: “Noah has always been a warrior with a tender warrior spirit—which is the best kind of soldier as far as I am concerned. He cares deeply, serves obediently, loves Jesus and is very familiar with adversity. These are the traits of most true heros.”

Friends of the Blog - Friends of the Blog will find a couple of new items at the Friends site, including a gift from Eternal Perspectives Ministries. And there is more to come!

Life Is Cheap in Norway - John Piper: “Anders Breivik’s sentence for killing 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011 is outrageous. He was deemed sane and sentenced to serve 21 years in prison ‘in a three-cell suite of rooms equipped with exercise equipment, a television and a laptop.’ That’s 100 days of posh prison time for each person he murdered, with a legal release possible at age 53. Life is cheap in Norway.”

5 Reasons to Read Leviticus - Here are five good reasons to read the book of Leviticus. The first reason is especially relevant today: “It’s the Enemy’s Favorite Book to Tear Apart (Think Shellfish, Polyester, Tattoos, and Homosexuality).”

Providence is much more about God’s glory than our happiness. —Geoffrey Grogan

August 27, 2012

The word “adoption” (Greek huiothesias) occurs only a few times in the New Testament, and each time it refers to God choosing a people for himself. Though there are not a lot of references to this word, there is a good deal we learn from them about the doctrine of adoption.

1) God adopts those whom he loves and has predestined to be his children

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

2) It is through Jesus Christ that God’s children are adopted

“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

3) God adopts his children so that he might display the glory of his grace

August 27, 2012

All through history there have been the few who have benefitted at the expense of the many and the rich who have benefitted at the expense of the poor. Sometimes the progressive have benefitted at the expense of those who are falling behind. Many cities have produced endless amounts of waste and have flushed it into rivers that have delivered that waste, and all the death and disease that attends it, to people who live far downstream. 

I thought of this as I read an article Al Mohler wrote for The Atlantic (he wrote the article, they chose the photo, unfortunately). Helen Gurley Brown died two weeks ago and Mohler wrote about her life and legacy as one of the most important and most underestimated agents of the sexual revolution. “Since 1960 we have experienced a moral revolution that has transformed every dimension of American life, and the death of Helen Gurley Brown is a reminder that the sexual revolution did not happen by accident. Like all revolutions, this one required moral revolutionaries.”

Her contribution was in creating the cultural category of the “single girl” and in convincing that single girl to liberate herself from all the traditional sexual mores. The single girl could and, indeed, should, have sex freely and with as many partners as she desired.

When Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl hit the bookstores in 1962, it lit a firestorm of controversy. A former advertising writer, then recently married to a leading Hollywood producer, Helen Gurley Brown dared to scandalize the nation, virtually inventing the “single girl” as a cultural category. Brown urged young women to see themselves as empowered by sex, money, and men—but without any need for the traditional commitment to marriage.

Her argument was so scandalous at the time that no major publisher would touch the book. The bookstores were filled with books offering advice to young wives and mothers, but Helen Gurley Brown was openly inventing a new cultural category, the sexually liberated single girl.

The single girl “is engaging because she lives by her wits,” declared Brown, who pointed to her younger self as a prime example of the empowered single girl she now celebrated.

And, most central to Brown’s vision, the single girl is having sex, a lot of sex, and enjoying romantic relations with men, lots of men.

Most scandalous of all was Helen Gurley Brown’s insistence that married men were not off limits for sexual affairs—not by a long shot. Married men, she advised, were among other things, “frequently marvelous in bed and careful not to get you pregnant.”

As I read about Brown’s life, I was deeply saddened and disturbed on at least a couple of different levels.

August 27, 2012

Capturing and Holding Attention - Sam Crabtree: “Capturing and holding attention is simultaneously an art and a science. To the degree that attention-grabbing is a science, is learnable, is transferrable—here are 24 suggestions that come to mind.”

Gospel Thunder - As Timmy Brister says, in this video you’ll see Jackie Hill bringing gospel thunder.

Pro-Lifer Stockholm Syndrome - “A ferocious riposte from pro-life activist Hilary White on the Akin controversy, how pro-abortionists are fallaciously and cynically exploiting the issue and how many pro-lifers are caving…”

Animals in the Womb - “Using revolutionary four-dimensional scanning technology, scientists have shed light on the world of animals inside the womb, including that of dolphins, sharks, dogs, penguins, and elephants. The images are from a National Geographic Documentary called Extraordinary Animals in the Womb.”

Life-Changing Preaching - Paul David Tripp’s shares some more great thoughts on preaching. “It is necessary for me to live with a passage, to carry it around with me, and to marinate my soul with its nourishing and thirst-quenching waters. I simply can’t do this in a couple hours. I need meditative time with the passage so the Spirit can work through it in me and through me to the people under my care.”

A Story of God’s Faithfulness - Here is a powerful story of God’s faithfulness through trial.

The fear of God is the death of every other fear; like a mighty lion, it chases all other fears before it. —C.H. Spurgeon

August 26, 2012

John and Betty Stam served with China Inland Missions in the 1930’s. In December of 1934 they fell into the hands of Communist insurgents and were soon executed, dying as missionary martyrs. Both had been raised in Christian homes and both had parents who supported their desire to be missionaries. A short time after they were put to death, John’s father wrote this beautiful letter in which he so powerful expressed both joy and grief, declaring that there is no sacrifice too great to make for the One who gave all he had for us.

Our dear children, John Stam and Elisabeth Scott Stam, have gone to be with the Lord. They loved him, they served him, and now they are with him. What could be more glorious? It is true, the manner in which they were sent out of this world was a shock to us all, but whatever of suffering they may have endured is now past, and they are both infinitely blessed with the joys of heaven.

As for those of us who have been left behind, we were once more reminded of our sacred vows by a telegram received from one of John’s schoolmates in the Midwest—”Remember, you gave John to God, not to China.” Our hearts, though bowed for a little while with sadness, answered “Amen!” It was our desire that he, as well as we, should serve the Lord, and if that could be better done by death than by life, we would have it so. The sacrifice may seem great now, but no sacrifice is too great to make for him who gave himself for us.

We are earnestly praying that it will all be for God’s glory and the salvation of souls. How glad we shall be if through this dreadful experience many souls shall be won for the Lord Jesus! How glad we shall be if many dear Christian young people shall be inspired to give themselves to the Lord as never before, for a life of sacrifice and service!

We were honored by having sons and daughters minister for our Lord among the heathen, but we are more signally honored that two of them have won the martyr’s crown. We are sure that our dear brother and sister, Dr. and Mrs. Charles Scott, both join us in saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

August 25, 2012


4 Responses - “We are facing a true moral inversion — a system of moral understandings turned upside down. Where homosexuality was even recently condemned by the society, now it is considered a sin to believe that homosexuality is wrong in any way.” Al Mohler suggests how Christians are to respond.

Joel Osteen and Family Feud - I enjoyed reading how this person responded to Joel Osteen coming to his hometown. “I had no desire to attend, but I did want to head downtown and do something outside the gathering as an act of quiet personal protest.”

Confused by Complementarianism? - I appreciated Carl Trueman’s thoughts on complementarianism here, and why it, of all issues, has been raised to the status of a “dividing issue.” To be clear, I am not necessarily saying I agree with him; rather, I appreciate the way he makes me think here.

Clouds - A gallery of clouds. Yes, clouds.

The Missing Ingredient - A good word for preachers: “Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.”

Sin is not so sweet in the committing as it is heavy and bitter in the reckoning. —Richard Sibbes.

August 24, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by P&R Publications. They are offering up five prize packages, each of which will contain 21 different titles—a brand new book and two series of booklets. Each of the five winners will receive:

Gospel TreasonResources for Biblical Living is a series of excellent 32-page booklets, the kind of booklets you want to read yourself and then keep on-hand to give away. They address issues such as grief, discontentment, fear, selfishness, and the like. Each issue is handled carefully, biblically and with a view to overcoming that issue through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The new Gospel for Real Life booklet series is meant for counseling. The initial six titles look to issues like cutting, borderline personality, anxiety, and so on. Counselors will find them invaluable resources.

Gospel Treason is perhaps best described in this endorsement: “Brad has thought a lot about the insidiousness of idolatry in today’s culture. He has done a thorough job of showing us how modern day idols are both offensive to God and grace robbing to the believer. This book will cause you to consider your own heart in terms of what you really want and live for. It will also help you to minister to others who are suffering or caught in sin that hinders them from the freedom we have in the gospel.”

Five winners will receive all of those titles…

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.