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Tim Challies

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August 2012

August 31, 2012

Free Stuff Fridays
This week’s Free Stuff Friday is a little bit different than the standard Friday fare. This week’s sponsor is Edgar’s, a shop at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “Edgar’s, Southern Seminary’s retailer of all things class, is located in the Honeycutt Campus Center, across from Founders’ Café. Edgar’s, the namesake of Southern Seminary founder E.Y. Mullins, carries suits and blazers, silk ties, dress shirts, and Fossil bags and accessories, watches, fine writing instruments, notebooks and stationery, and other accessories.”

Safari PenSpeaking of fine writing instruments and notebooks, that is exactly what they are giving away. There will be five winners this week and each will win:

  • A beautiful Lamy safari fountain pen (along with an extra pack of five ink cartridges).
  • A large Leuchtturm notebook which is designed to be fountain pen friendly.

“The world famous Safari writing instruments are popular for their modern style and dependability. Their weight and contoured gripping section allow you to use them for hours and hours, and you will!” As for the notebook, “The Leuchtturm1917 journal has all of the great features found in your Moleskine and a whole lot more. Not only does the Leuchtturm journal have the classic good looks and standard features of the Moleskine notebook, it also has numbered pages, an index and labels for the front and spine of the journal. The last 8 sheets are perforated for easy removal and fit nicely into the folder on the inside of the back cover.”

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.

A Living Example
August 31, 2012

I have been reading (or, more accurately, listening to) the book Columbine by Dave Cullen. Written ten years after the 1999 school shootings in Littleton, Colorado, it seeks to be the definitive account of an event that left an indelible mark on America and the world. As I listened yesterday on my way home from the office, there was a short section that leapt out at me. It takes place in the immediate aftermath, just hours after the shootings erupted. The last survivors have been brought to their parents and a few families remain, grappling with the reality that their children will never return.  

At Leawood, even the resilient families were faltering. Nothing had changed: no buses, no word, for hours on end. District Attorney Dave Thomas tried to comfort the families. He knew which ones would need it. He had thirteen names in his breast pocket. Ten students had been identified in the library, and two more outside, based on their clothing and appearance. One teacher lay in Science Room 3. All deceased. It was a solid list, but not definitive. Thomas kept it to himself. He told the parents not to worry.

At eight o’clock, they were moved to another room. Sheriff Stone introduced the coroner. She handed out forms asking for descriptions of their kids’ clothing and other physical details. That’s when John Tomlin realized the truth. The coroner asked them to retrieve their kids’ dental records. That went over unevenly. Many took it gravely; others perked up. They had a task, finally, and hope for resolution.

A women leapt up. “Where is that other bus!” she demanded.

There was no bus. “There was never another bus,” Doreen Tomlin said later. “It was like a false hope they gave you.” Many parents felt betrayed. Brian Rohrbough later accused the school officials of lying; Misty Bernall also felt deceived. “Not intentionally, perhaps, but deceived nonetheless,” she wrote. “And so bitterly that it almost choked me.”

Sheriff Stone told them that most of the dead kids had been in the library. “John always went to the library,” Doreen said. “I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt sick.”

She felt sadness but not surprise. Doreen was an Evangelical Christian, and believed the Lord had been preparing her for the news all afternoon. Most of the Evangelicals reacted differently than the other parents. The press had been cleared from the area, but Lynn Duff was assisting the families as a Red Cross volunteer. A liberal Jew from San Francisco, she was taken aback by what she saw.

“The way that those families reacted was markedly different,” she said. “It was like a hundred and eighty degrees from where everybody else was. They were singing; they were praying; they were comforting the other parents, especially the parents of Isaiah Shoels [the only African American killed]. They were thinking a lot about the other parents, the other families, and responding a lot to other people’s needs. They were definitely in pain, and you could see the pain in their eyes, but they were very confident of where their kids were. They were at peace with it. It was like they were a living example of their faith.”

I think every parent wonders how they would react in the face of tragedy, and especially a tragedy as painful as the loss of a child. Here at Columbine we see Christians being Christians even at that darkest hour. Here we see the reality that God really does give grace when grace is needed.

August 31, 2012

When To Be Suspicious - There is some wise counsel in this article. “Once in a while you will stumble across a sentence that goes something like ‘theology says…’, ‘philosophy says..’, or ‘economics says..’. That is, I would argue, is the time to be suspicious.”

Public Worship Is Better than Private Worship - David Murray goes to the old preacher David Clarkson and offers twelve reasons why public worship is better than private worship.

Pornography Robs a Man - Ed Welch discusses why pornography robs a man of his humanness.

Bad History - “Earlier this month, George Mason University’s History News Network asked readers to vote for the least credible history book in print. The top pick was David Barton’s right-wing reimagining of our third president, Jefferson’s Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson. But just nine votes behind was the late Howard Zinn’s left-wing epic, A People’s History of the United States. Bad history, it turns out, transcends political divides.” It’s an article worth reading, no matter what you think of the two books in question.

The Allure of Child Preachers - The BBC writes about the curious allure of child preachers. “An 11-year-old boy in the US has been ordained as a minister in his family’s church, and also preaches at a number of local churches. He is the latest in a long history of American child preachers - so what is the appeal?”

God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine. —David Nicholas

August 30, 2012

I have read Jerry Bridges’ books all out of order, undoubtedly not the best way to read an author’s works. However, doing this has shown me something I find interesting: Throughout his writing career, he has remained on a single trajectory and has emphasized and re-emphasized only a few themes. In reading The Discipline of Grace I see the seeds of what would become his later books. What he writes about here in just a few words or a few pages, he would later develop into entire books.

But I digress. This morning I want to share just a couple of thoughts about chapter four of The Discipline of Grace, a chapter that deals with the tricky subject of how the Christian has died to sin.

Before we can talk about dying to sin, we must understand how we came to be sinners. Bridges offers a helpful illustration of the biblical concept of federal headship.

Federal headship or representative capacity is somewhat illustrated by the concept of power of attorney. A friend of mine wanted to refinance the mortgage on his house to take advantage of lower interest rates. When the date for the closing was finally set, he realized that he and his wife would be out of the country at that time. He asked if I would represent them at the closing, and I agreed, so he and his wife executed a power of attorney authorizing me to act on their behalf.

I went to the closing and, as my friends’ legal representative, signed all kinds of papers. When I signed those documents it was just as if they had signed them. When I signed the promissory note to pay a certain amount each month, that act was as legally binding on them as if they had signed the note, because I was acting as their legal representative. In like manner, Adam was our legal representative in the garden, and when he sinned, his action was as binding on us as if we had sinned personally.

We may object that we did not appoint Adam as our representative in the garden. To do so is futile, however, for in our objection we are actually complaining against God. It should be enough for us to know that God, the Sovereign Creator of the universe and the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being, appointed him.

Of course the ultimately good news about federal headship is that Adam is not the only federal representative; God has appointed that Jesus Christ would be the second one and that just as Adam’s sin would bring condemnation to his race, Christ’s atonement would bring reconciliation to all who would trust in him.

August 30, 2012

The Porn Gateways - Here’s a helpful word for those who struggle with pornography: “While taking a deeper look into the heart of the sin, I noticed that people were battling their sins (of pornography and lust) at a shallow surface level, and deep at the root of the problem were ‘innocent’ gateways sins that were feeding into their daily struggles.”

The Rise of New Calvinism - I responded to Justin Taylor’s article on the rise of New Calvinism and now he has responded to mine. I think it has been a useful back-and-forth.

Better Members’ Meetings - 9Marks has a short article that includes nine ideas for having better members’ meetings.

Authentic or Artificial Community? - I appreciated this blogger’s reflections on the nature of community and how we [she writes to women but it is equally applicable to men] too often forsake authentic community in favor of something artificial.

The World’s Lowest Voice - Here’s an interesting article on the man with the world’s lowest voice and widest vocal range. Be sure to listen to his rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Rescuing Daniel - George Lawson rescues Daniel from all the children’s books. Because the main point of Daniel 6 is not Daniel’s example, Daniel’s faith, or Daniel’s courage.

No creature that deserved redemption would need to be redeemed. —C.S. Lewis

August 29, 2012

Has anyone ever seen God? This is a question that arises naturally when reading through Scripture. You’re making your way through Exodus and then you read in 24:9-10,

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.

And then just a few chapters later, you read God’s response to Moses’ request to see his glory:

And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’ … 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:19-20)

In the first passage, Scripture says that Moses saw God, but in the second, God tells Moses that he cannot see his face, because no one can see him and live. How do we make sense of these two statements? Did Moses and the other elders really see the God of Israel on the mountain? If so, why does God tell Moses in 33:20 that he cannot see him?

Old Testament professor Walt Kaiser, commenting on 24:9-10, provides an answer:

That Moses and his company see “the God of Israel” at first appears to contradict 33:20; John 1:18; and 1 Timothy 6:16; but what they see is a “form [‘similitude’] of the Lord” (Nu 12:8), just as Ezekiel (Eze 1:26) and Isaiah (Isa 6:1) saw an approximation, a faint resemblance and a sensible adumbration of the incarnate Christ who was to come. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 508)

In other words, when we come across passages in which God is said to be seen, whether by Abraham, Moses, or one of the prophets, we are to understand that these men did indeed see the Lord, but that they did not see him in his full glory. This is what Moses asked to see in 33:20 and this is what God denied him.

Throughout Scripture God makes his presence known to his people in different forms (such as passing visitors to Abraham and Lot, a burning bush to Moses, a pillar of fire and cloud to the people of Israel, etc.). But his pure essence no man is able to see, due to his radiant holiness (1 Timothy 6:16). It’s like trying to stare at the sun—it cannot be done without destroying your eyes.

Even Christ himself, who is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), relinquished his heavenly glory when he came to earth. We saw him, but he “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Yet when John sees him in Revelation, his appearance is unbearable, his face “like the sun shining in full strength” (1:16).

The sure hope of heaven is that we will one day be able to experience the full glory of our God. Our blood-bought, resurrected bodies will be equipped with new, indestructible eyes, we will see his face, and we will bask in the light of his glory forever (Revelation 22:4-5).

August 29, 2012

Justin Taylor recently revived Mark Dever’s 2007 series of articles titled “Where’d All These New Calvinists Come From?” This was a ten-part series that looked to the rise of New Calvinism and sought to discover the sources of a theological resurgence. Dever said,

Of course, theologically, the answer is “because of the sovereignty of God.”  But I’ve never been convinced by hyper-Calvinism’s argument that because God has determined the ends, the means don’t matter.  Means do matter.  And as a Christian, as an historian who had lived through the very change I was considering, I wondered what factors had been used by God.

Dever originally offered ten of these factors:

  1. Charles H. Spurgeon
  2. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  3. The Banner of Truth Trust
  4. Evangelism Explosion
  5. The inerrancy controversy
  6. Presbyterian Church in America (PCA)
  7. J. I. Packer
  8. John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul
  9. John Piper
  10. The rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism

With the benefit of another five years of data-gathering, Taylor offers several more:

  • The publication and explosive success of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology
  • The Passion conferences
  • September 11, 2001
  • The role of Christian publishing (Eerdmans, P&R, Baker, and now Crossway and a number of smaller publishers)
  • The steady growth of seminaries (e.g., Westminster Theological Seminary, Westminster Seminary California, Covenant Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, etc.)
  • The rise of organizations devoted to developing and networking around a God-centered, gospel-driven vision. Dever mentions MacArthur, Sproul, and Piper—associated with Grace to You, Ligonier, and Desiring God. To that list could be added the Gospel Coalition, Redeemer City to City, Together for the Gospel, Acts29, 9Marks, Sovereign Grace Ministries, etc.

There is one factor that neither Dever nor Taylor has listed and one I consider absolutely critical to the growth of the movement: the Internet.

The Internet has allowed people to find community based on common interest—a new kind of community that transcends any geographic boundary. It used to be that people of common interest could only find others who shared their interests within a limited geographic area. The Internet has forever changed this and this is true in any field, whether it pertains to vocation, hobby, sports, religion or anything else. As web sites began to spring up, and then individual blogs and then group blogs and then YouTube channels and Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, people began to discover that there were others like them, people who believed roughly the same things or who had roughly the same interests. Where there may have been only a small number of enthusiasts in a single town or city, the Internet brought together enthusiasts from hundreds and thousands of cities and towns. These people could now congregate online with those who shared their interests.

The New Calvinism is no exception. While the theological seeds had been planted in previous years and decades, the movement was awaiting a catalyst that would allow the isolated individuals to coalesce into a movement. The catalyst in this case was the Internet and social media.

August 29, 2012

Solid Joys - Solid Joys is a new, free application available from Desiring God for iPhone and iPad which provides a short daily devotional excerpt from the ministry of John Piper.

A Stark Contrast - I enjoyed reading this blogger’s experience of inadvertently witnessing an adoption. 

Angry Christians - Here is D.A. Carson talking about angry Christians and the devil’s tactics. “I think one of the devil’s tactics with respect to the church on the Right today is to make them so hate everybody else that at the end of the day they can’t be believed anywhere, not even the proclamation of the gospel.”

Worshiping at the Altar of Family - I appreciate much of what Ted Kluck says in this article posted at The Gospel Coalition.

US Presidential Elections - This infographic looks at money and presidential elections. “In America, winning the Presidency has proven to be a question of how much money you’re willing to spend. The trend constantly shows that, he who spends the most money on elections, usually wins. “

8 Tips for a Great Story - Here’s one for pastors or anyone else who occasionally needs to tell a good story in order to illustrate a point.

Nobody can do as much damage to the church of God as the man who is within its walls, but not within its life. —C.H. Spurgeon