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Tim Challies

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June 14, 2010

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, hooray for our side
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
- From “For What It’s Worth” by Stephen Stills

Every so often I’ve contemplated what a Saturday Night Live type of variety program might look like if the topic was “Christendom.” There’s definitely enough material. One of the recurring skits would involve some Christians from the 1400’s about to be burned at the stake. They would be visited by contemporary Christians who would thank them for their sacrifice and tell them how such a great sacrifice gained later Christians ________. You could fill in the blank with all sorts of things. “Your sacrifice has helped give us a world in which our children can learn theology from talking vegetables. Your suffering will all seem worth it when a handsome Texan with a great smile can renovate a sports stadium and broadcast feel-good, gospel-free theology to all the world. Thank you for your noble sacrifice, brother.” Tyndale might have been willing to face the stake for the sake of the Bible, but would he have faced it for a Bible-zine for girls that looks and reads like Cosmo?

I’m a writer, not a comedian, so perhaps it’s not that funny. But the point is that real people died real deaths to pass to us a heritage of the gospel. They were serious, dead serious, and weren’t in the business of printing silly bumper stickers. We evangelicals have long done a remarkable job of trivializing that heritage. Maybe this is what happens when the danger of persecution passes and we enjoy a time of safety, a time of freedom. Or maybe this is what happens when we lose sight of the seriousness of the gospel and the countless sacrifices that made it available to us, when we begin to replace theology with something else, something less.

June 01, 2010

Every now and again I like to give you a snippet of Canadiana in a series I call “It’s a Fact, eh?” Let me do so again today.

Yesterday I had to drive down to Buffalo to pick up my sister and my niece who are up here for a short visit. I pulled onto the highway and, as I did so, noticed that parked on the overpass was a pair of firetrucks and a few police cars. Lining the bridge facing east was a crowd of people, holding flags and standing solemnly. As I joined traffic I noticed that on the bridge ahead of me was another crowd, much the same as the last one—firefighters, police officers, citizens, flags. I remembered then that somewhere behind me, driving out of Toronto and toward Brantford, was a convoy carrying one of Canada’s fallen soldiers. Trooper Larry Rudd Rudd was based with the Royal Canadian Dragoons and was recently killed by an explosion, becoming the 146th member of the Canadian military to die in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. And yesterday morning he was driven back to his hometown.

May 12, 2010

Yesterday audio and today video. No one is more surprised than I am to see me branching out into media other than the written word!

Since the launch of the iPad, and the Kindle before it, I’ve received a lot of questions about how the devices work and, of course, which one is the better option for reading e-books. After a while I decided it would most helpful to shoot a video showing how the devices work and offering comparisons and contrasts. My neighbor Martin was kind enough to come by and help me out (by which I mean I did the talking and he did everything else). So in this video you’ll see me compare the Kindle and iPad and, when discussing the iPad, compare the iBooks app with the Kindle app. I hope you find it useful!

Can’t see the video? Click here: Kindle vs iPad

May 10, 2010

Last week I found myself thinking about how and why and where we all buy our Christian books. I started with the question, “Why do people shop at one e-commerce store and not another.” And from there I just found more and more questions that were begging for answers. Before I long I had put together a survey and asked if you, the readers of this site, would like to fill it out. In the end I got 2,222 responses (how’s that for a cool number?). And I thought it would be fun to share the results since, well, they are really your results.

The majority of those who filled out the survey were male (about 70%) and just over 80% were American. I asked those questions simply for sake of context.

I also asked whether respondents consider themselves Calvinist or Reformed. A couple of people criticized that question so let me explain myself briefly. I asked it simply because I wanted to know specifically where this “Young, Restless, Reformed” crowd is doing their shopping. We all know that the new Calvinism is both generating and consuming vast amounts of books and I was interested in knowing which stores were the beneficiaries. 89% of those who responded defined themselves as Reformed and 83% as baptistic.

In a question I asked kind of on a whim (since it’s not entirely relevant to the topic at-hand), I found that 64% use the ESV as their preferred Bible translation. I suppose this solidifies my assumption that the ESV is the Bible translation of choice for all of these new Calvinists.

(NOTE: Click on any chart to see a larger version of it)


April 26, 2010

Back in January when Steve Jobs took the wraps off the iPad, I declared it The Greatest Disappointment in Human History. Obviously I did so tongue-in-cheek but really I wanted to make a point—that the device was clearly not what it could have been and clearly not what it will be in a generation or two. Never has it been easier to see the road map for a new device before it has been released (Gee, you think there will be a camera in generation two?).

Nevertheless, my work responsibilities dictated that I had to spend a good bit of time with this device, learning what it is and what it isn’t and learning how people will and will not use it. I have spent a couple of weeks using the iPad now. As part of my research I bought almost all of the bestselling apps through the App Store and tried to use each of them for a good bit of time. This, now, is my review of the iPad. But do note that it’s a two-week or ten-day review. A year from now I will undoubtedly have more to say and perhaps different things to say. Still, I think this kind of perspective is valuable. After all, movie reviews are written after seeing a movie just once or twice; book reviews are written after a single read. There is something useful about the urgency and about those early impressions.

In general, the iPad is an interesting mix of good and bad, of innovation and frustrating lack of innovation. Where it is at its best is in those ways in which it is obviously more than just a big iPhone or an oversized iPad Touch.

April 06, 2010

Last week I encouraged you to Read More and Read Better. Then I got both busy and distracted and didn’t give you the second part. So let me do that today. Let me tell you how I read a book.


Before I do anything else, I want to get an overview of the book. Very rarely will I read a book without really knowing what it is about. Here I learn about the reason it exists, whether it is attempting to make its mark in the world of ideas or the world of entertainment. Here I learn about its significance. And, most importantly, here I learn about its purpose. From the back cover, from the Foreword and Preface, I can learn what the book is trying to do, to teach. I may also turn to a review or two, though generally I prefer not to since I prefer to form my own opinion of it. (The less familiar I am with the topic, the more likely I am to read some reviews.) I also tend to read the Acknowledgements since this tends to help me understand the author a bit more.

April 05, 2010

So John Piper has asked Rick Warren to speak at this year’s Desiring God National Conference, Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God. You may have heard about this, either through buzz in the blogosphere or even from Piper himself in his recent Ask Pastor John session. I have known this for some time now as Warren told me himself when I visited Saddleback last September. So I have had a long time to reflect on it. And having done so, I am persuaded that it is not a good idea.

Before I explain myself, let me provide a bit of background on my relationship with Rick Warren and John Piper. I think people who read this site sometimes imagine that I am more connected with the big-name preachers or authors than is really the case. It’s only fair to point out that I do not have much of a personal relationship with either man. I have met both of them but have spent meaningful time with each of them just once, which means I know them best through their public ministries. I have read three books by Warren and perhaps a dozen by Piper. I have seen both of them preach and have met some of the people who minister alongside them. Perhaps mostly significantly, I have been a member of churches heavily influenced by each of them; the last church I attended was very much built around the Saddleback model while Grace Fellowship Church is very much in debt to Piper. Thus I have seen their churches, their ministries and the effects of their ministries on others.

April 04, 2010

Every Easter Saturday, that day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, I find myself pondering what it must have been like for Jesus’ followers on that day. What did they do? What were they thinking? How did they spend their day? What thoughts were running through their heads? Their leader was dead; their Messiah had been arrested, beaten, crucified, killed, buried. Miracles had attended his suffering—darkness and earthquake—and yet still he was dead. Confusion must have reigned. Bewilderment.

It’s no wonder that Christians worship on Sunday. Muslims worship on Friday, Jews worship on Saturday, but Christians worship on Sunday because that is the day when Christ proved that he had conquered death. This is why we are Sunday Christians. We are not Friday Christians who serve a dead Savior, not Saturday Christians still waiting and wondering, but Sunday Christians who serve a living, breathing Savior—one who is alive and one who reigns. He died because he had to die. Our sin demanded blood and death. And yet he rose because he had to rise. He was the Son of God; how could death hold him? How could the Creator of all that exists be held down by death? It cannot happen and it did not happen. Christ is risen.

And for 2,000 years Christians have been celebrating Jesus’ conquest. I could turn to hundreds of books and songs and poems today. But allow me to turn to one of my all-time favorites, a poem that gives just a glimpse of the hope Christ offers through his resurrection. This is John Donne’s “Death, Be Not Proud.”

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

He is risen!