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Tim Challies

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September 2012

September 26, 2012

The month is coming to an end which means a lot of Kindle book deals will soon be expiring. Here’s a round-up of current deals you may want to consider: How to Read the Bible in Changing Times by Mark Strauss ($4.39), Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey ($3.99), Church Planter by Darrin Patrick ($3.99), God, Marriage and Family by Andreas Kostenberger ($3.99), The 7 Hardest Things God Asks a Woman to Do by Kathie Reimer and Lisa Whittle, and Leading One Another by Bobby Jamieson.

Real Life - I enjoyed this mom’s thoughts on real life. She says that “a less than perfect home can be more comfortable than a perfect one. … Our homes should reflect our lives and the people that live in them.”

Presumptuous or Optimistic Parenting - David covers an important topic here: the difference between presumptuous and optimistic parenting. He looks at the high cost of presumptuous parenting and offers something far better.

Your Stories Killed My Soul - This is an interesting article from the Plugged In blog. They look at an actor whose work on a violent television show was destructive to his soul. Watching the show can’t be much more edifying than working on it!

Bearing One Another’s Burdens - Paul Tautges looks at the biblical command to “bear one another’s burdens,” showing that this doesn’t quite mean what many people take it to mean. “As believers committed to each other’s spiritual well-being, we must recognize that we are not the only ones fighting the daily battle against sin, but our brothers and sisters are too, though some of them may be losing the war and need extra help in gaining the victory.”

Weeping With Us - Just the title of this article is encouraging: “Jesus’ Sovereignty Does Not Keep Him From Weeping With Us.” Read the whole thing and you’ll be even more encouraged.

Worry, like a rocking chair, will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere. —Vance Havner

September 25, 2012

It was ten years ago today that I began this web site and I think the occasion must call for some kind of a celebration (click here for some reflections on the past ten years). The way I tend to celebrate around here is with a giveaway. So here goes! There are going to be three winners in this giveaway and each of them can choose one of three prizes. Here’s what I’ve got for you:

Each of the winners will be able to choose which of these they would like to receive.

Gathering entries for a giveaway like this is actually a little bit more difficult than you might think, so I’m going to use a program developed for just that purpose. It allows you to simply sign up by inputting your name and email address (all your information will remain confidential) and, if you like, to earn a couple of extra entries by sharing news of the giveaway.

(If you are reading this on the main page of my site, just click “Keep Reading” to enter.)

September 25, 2012

It’s funny how life works, isn’t it? It is so often the little decisions—the decisions that at the time seem so inconsequential—that have such far-reaching impact. Exactly ten years ago today, rather on a whim, I paid a few dollars to register the domain www.challies.com. A few hours and a few clicks later I had launched a new web site. It was just one of many things I did that day I’m sure, but it was one that, in time, changed my life.

I can barely remember who and what I was ten years ago. Using a bit of math I can reliably say that I was twenty-five years old, I had been married for four years, I was the father of a two-year-old son and I had a daughter due in just a few weeks. I lived in a rented a stone’s throw from where I live now, had just been laid off from my position as a senior network administrator at a high-tech firm, and had recently founded my own web design business. I was a member of a nearby church founded upon the principles of church growth, and, to my recollection, owned exactly one Christian book (It was R.C. Sproul’s Following Christ, a gift from my parents that I hadn’t ever gotten around to reading). Only once or twice since escaping college had I written anything more than a birthday card. I was very, very shy and in front of a crowd could do little more than blush and sweat and stammer.

I had no great plans for the domain and I intended only to use it as a place to share family news. My parents and siblings had all moved down to the United States just a couple of years before. The reason I registered Challies.com is that this was to be the place where the Challies family would exchange news and photographs; it would be a site by and for Challies’.

Within days of beginning the site I had uploaded several sets of photographs, mostly of the children. Then it happened: Sitting in church a week or two later I heard the pastor praise Mother Teresa as the very paragon of Christian virtue. I went home and researched what I knew and what I suspected of Mother Teresa and wrote an article titled “The Myth of Mother Teresa.” It was an inauspicious beginning to what would soon become an extensive list of articles.

The early days of the site reflected several realities in my life at the time: I was a father of young children who was eager to share news and information about them (and who lived in a pre-Facebook world); I was an entrepreneur who was working long hours to put food on the table; and I was a Christian who had left behind the Reformed tradition but who was now forced to face my roots in the unexpected context of a church founded upon all the pragmatic principles of church growth. I had been content to leave behind the Reformed theology I had learned as a child, but in the context of this professedly non-Reformed church I found that my conscience screaming at me to examine what I really believed. I was beginning to see, even if in a very hazy way, that good theology really does matter and that a faulty root system will produce faulty fruit.

This church was blown by every wind of Christian marketing: The Purpose Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose and The Passion of the Christ and everything else that promised great results and was endorsed by Rick Warren or Bill Hybels. Almost without my knowing it, my web site evolved into a place where I wrestled with these things, not in the abstract, but in the context of my own life. As the church led us through The Purpose Driven Life, I wrote a reflection every day, becoming increasingly concerned and perturbed, primarily by the misuse of Scripture. When the church leaders determined that The Passion of the Christ was, to use Rick Warren’s endorsement, “the best outreach opportunity in 2,000 years,” they dug deep and spent tens of thousands of dollars on tickets that they distributed through the community. I made my way to the theater on opening day and wrote a long review.

In these early days I wrestled through the five points of Calvinism, through what it means to evangelize, and through so much of what was popular in Evangelicalism simply because that was what was popular in my church. When I go back and read these early articles I can sense authenticity and urgency. While I had a measure of loyalty for that church, while I wanted to write off Reformed theology as old-fashioned and unnecessary, I was coming to see that the foundation was awfully shaky.

What I could only see later on, once my perspective had widened, is that the very same questions I was asking were the ones so many others were asking. Maybe you were asking them. As my church embraced The Purpose Driven Life, so did hundreds or thousands of others; as The Passion of the Christ became all the rage with Christians in Oakville, it became equally popular all across the world. Christians everywhere were asking very similar questions and growing in very similar directions. Many others were discovering or perhaps rediscovering Reformed Theology in this movement that would soon be labeled “New Calvinism.” This new medium of the blogosphere allowed me to ask and to attempt to answer these questions out loud and in public. It allowed others to follow along.

It was ten years ago that this all began. I never could have guessed at the time that I would follow “The Myth of Mother Teresa” with more than six thousand other articles and that the blog would some day see over ten million visits a year. I certainly never could have guessed that it would be such a formative influence in my own life, the place where I would work through so many issues, where I would rediscover Reformed theology, and where I would find that I just plain love to write. It would disrupt my plans to grow my business from a one-man operation to a full design studio. Instead it would open up opportunities to attend conferences and to write books and even to discover that I am capable of public speaking. Best of all, it would introduce me to Grace Fellowship Church where I would first meet the pastors, then become a member, then, several years later, be called to the ministry.

Registering a domain name, such a simple and insignificant thing, was one of those little acts that set my life on an entirely unexpected trajectory. I wouldn’t know how to think about this, how to interpret it, if I didn’t believe in the quiet hand of Providence that continually directs events, that knows the end (and the middle) long before the beginning. I look back on these ten years with quiet wonder and profound gratitude. At times I wish I could project what the next ten years might hold, but if I’ve learned anything, it is that I ought to know better than to make predictions.

I felt like this deserved a celebration of some sort, so I’ve gone ahead and put together a giveaway. Check in a bit later today and it should be ready to go. There will be some fun prizes to win.

September 25, 2012

Delighting in the Trinity - A few weeks back I reviewed Michael Reeves’ Delighting in the Trinity, easily one of my favorite books of the year (here’s the review). At that time it was not available in Kindle and ebook formats. The Kindle edition has just been added to Amazon, so for those who were waiting, you can now have at it.

Catching Sin Like a Cold - I’ve often told my children that worldiness doesn’t come from the outside but the inside. Barnabas Piper says something similar here: You can’t catch sin like you catch a cold. Yet “so many Christians live in cultural quarantine, shutting themselves off from what they see as sinful influences.”

Just Disconnect - Though I’ve linked to several other articles in the same vein, I really enjoyed Carl Trueman’s take on disconnecting from the digital buzz.

Marching for Allah - This looks like a promising beginning to a series on Islam. “Whatever method they advocate to do it, something every Muslim will hold dear is that Allah, Muhammad and the Islamic religion be seen to be honoured. Islam is an inherently honour based religion. Allah must be seen to win.”

Preaching for the Home Run - Mike McKinley answers a question about preaching: “How does a pastor handle the pressure of preaching every week? If I’m being honest, I feel that I have to hit a home run or I have wasted everyone’s time that week. Does the pastor prepare his sermon so that it’s a base hit or do you swing for the fences every week?”

Preach the Word - Here’s another good preaching article. This one helpfully breaks down the command to “preach the Word” in this way: Preach the content of the word, preach the meaning of the word, preach the focus of the word.

A Wedding - I thought long and hard about whether or not I should post this. I don’t want this to become a gossip blog, but this seems to merit a mention because it involves Brian McLaren who is positioning himself as one of the “Christian” thinkers advocating the acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual marriage. McLaren recently led a commitment ceremony following his son’s gay marriage.

Next to the wonder of seeing my Savior will be, I think, the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer. —D.L. Moody

September 24, 2012

Todd BentleyA couple of weeks ago I invested an hour and a half in watching Lakeland: The Movie, a documentary about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland “Revival.” You may remember that in April of 2008, a preacher and revivalist named Todd Bentley was invited to Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida. The plan was to have Bentley there for five days of revival services. In the end he stayed for four months. What was meant to be a small, local event soon saw hundreds of thousands of people from 65 countries travel to Florida. Millions more participated through the Internet. Night after night Bentley would hold wild services full of singing, preaching, speaking in tongues, prayer for healing and miracles and, of course, the inevitable collection of money.

The revival was marked by what were said to be great manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit—speaking in tongues, ecstatic prophecies, miraculous healings and even the claim that somewhere around thirty people had been raised from the dead. Just about every major media outlet covered it at one time or another. Most of them went looking for evidence that miracles had actually happened; not surprisingly, not a single miracle was ever verified.

By August the revival was beginning to slow down a little bit and Bentley decided to leave Lakeland and to take the revival on the road. Teaching that the Holy Spirit could be passed from him to others by the laying on of hands, he would tour the country and take this outpouring of the Spirit with him. But no sooner did he leave Lakeland than the media exploded with reports that Bentley and his wife would be separating. Apparently he had been carrying on an inappropriate relationship with one of the women connected to his ministry. He and his wife soon divorced and shortly afterward he had married this other woman. The revivals and his ministry came to a screeching halt, at least for a time.

This documentary made me both angry and sad. I was outraged to see Bentley’s complete disregard for Scripture, his disregard for what the Bible tells us about the miraculous gifts, about maintaining good order in services, about so much else. What made me sad were the many looks at the people who had followed Bentley. There were many people, well-intentioned, I am sure, who gave up everything they had to follow him. They sold their houses, they walked away from their normal lives, and drove down to Florida where for a time many of them even lived together in a tent city. They looked to Bentley as their leader, the one who would be ushering in an age of revival, of constant miracles and supernatural deeds. They were enraptured by him, entranced by him, as they lived in a charismatic glow of constant prayer, prophecy, speaking in tongues and unusual manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

But then Bentley committed adultery and divorced his wife and walked away from his family. And then what? What about those people who gave up everything to follow him? What were they to do? What did they have left? He left them with nothing. He had called on them to follow him. He had gained their trust and their allegiance and their finances. And then he indulged in his sin and walked away. Like so many religious leaders before and after, he promised so much: He promised new life and new prosperity and new depths of religious experience. But in the end he abandoned those who followed him. The ones he hurt the worst were the ones who had trusted him most. The ones he hurt the worst were the ones who had given up the most to follow him.

September 24, 2012

Ten Myths About Premarital Sex - Sean McDowell read Premarital Sex in America by Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker and was pleasantly surprised at some of the insights. In this article he distills the book’s last chapters and the ten myths it debunks there.

The Gen Y Nightmare - Frederic Filloux is a very, very good thinker about technology. In this week’s column he says that Gen Y will — paradoxically — pay a high price for giving up its privacy to Facebook. He looks to a future where companies are constantly data mining everything you’ve ever done and said on Facebook. It’s fascinating and probably not entirely unlikely. (Also, if you’re of a technical mind and thinking about Apple’s iOS 6 and its map problem, read this article).

Has Chick-Fil-A Made Concessions? - This strange Chick-Fil-A situation has seemingly taken on a lot of significance in the ongoing look at what tolerance will be willing to tolerate. Some are saying that Chick-Fil-A has now changed their stance; Joe Carter asks if that is true.

The Boundary Between Work and Home - This I like to hear: “A growing number of companies are telling employees to stop using electronics to work even when you are home.”

Sons of God and Daughters of Men - R.C. Sproul Jr. answers this question: Who are the sons of God and daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-5? “There are several competing theories on this admittedly peculiar text, a few of them fantastic, at least one of them rather pedestrian, ordinary. Some suggest, for instance, that what is happening here is that angels, typically fallen angels or demons, are intermarrying with human women. My position is the far more pedestrian one, but one that carries with it an important lesson.”

Two Black Churches - Thabiti Anyabwile has a thoughtful article on two black churches, one true and one not.

When the heart full of God’s love can draw on the mind full of God’s word, timely blessings flow from the mouth. —John Piper

September 23, 2012

This is the tenth installment in a series on theological terms. See previous posts on the terms theology, Trinity, creation, man, Fall, common grace, sin, righteousness, and faith.

Pride is the chief of all sins, as well as the chief cause of all sin. We learn from the prophet Ezekiel that this was the most essential problem with Sodom (16:49-50), and Paul teaches us that this is the sin that brought condemnation on the devil himself (1 Timothy 3:6).

C. S. Lewis identifies the unique place of pride among sins in chapter 8 of Mere Christianity::

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

As Lewis describes it, pride is an “anti-God” state of mind. It is a state of mind or, more essentially, a condition of the heart in which a person has supplanted the rule of God over their lives with the rule of their own will. Instead of depending entirely on God, as was God’s design, a proud heart now looks to itself to decide what is good and evil (see Genesis 3:4-6).

Most essentially, pride is an attitude of independence from God. It is synonymous in Scripture with being haughty, scoffing, arrogant, foolish, evil, and wicked (Psalm 10:4; Proverbs 8:13; Isaiah 2:11, etc.). It is directly opposed to the humble, God-fearing, meek, lowly, trusting, faith-filled disposition that is pleasing to God; its end is destruction.

For the LORD of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
… the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
(Isaiah 2:12, 17)

September 22, 2012

Destruction from the Almighty - Mike Leake looks at that amazing volcano video and reflects on it a little bit. “The Hebrew word for destruction is shadad whereas the Hebrew word for the Almighty is El Shaddai. When Shaddai become bent on shadad what will happen? How destructive can El Shaddai be?”

Life’s Too Short - Life is too short for all of that email.

Wisdom and Sabbath Rest - There are some good ideas about rest in this article (though the formatting gets a little bit messed up as you make your way down). I appreciate what he says about using a day of rest as a means of declaring to the world, and to yourself, that the world will get along just fine without you.

Staying in His Lane - Dr. Mohler looks at the latest major media interview of Joel Osteen. He sat there next to Deepak Chopra and found that their “theology” is really pretty much the same.

Talk With Your Heart Full - Now that’s a catchy phrase and one that really grabs me: Talk with your heart full.

The Last Meal - What do death row inmates want to eat for their final meal? Here’s a study that tells you. Not suprisingly, most go all-out.

Repentance is the tear of love, dropping from the eye of faith, when it fixes on Christ crucified. —Gorham Abbott