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Tim Challies

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October 28, 2013

Apart from getting my teeth bashed in by a hockey stick and that wet-to-the-skin oh-why-did-I-wear-jeans hiking trip through Gatineau Park, it is one of my few vivid memories from eighth grade: Jeremy was, like me, a new student at the school that year. Jeremy, like all boys our age, was curious about female anatomy. So Jeremy did the one thing he knew he could get away with: Giggling all the while, he went to where the Webster’s Dictionary was stationed at the back of the room, looked up the word vagina, and finally solved one of those mysteries that had been perplexing him. In retrospect, I guess he didn’t really solve it, because the dictionary definition was undoubtedly rather drab and technical for a thirteen-year-old mind. It was correct and official but probably rather unsatisfying. Still, it sated him for a time.

Maybe his parents had never had the talk with him. That talk with him. Jeremy’s parents were not alone in skipping it. Some parents could never bear to do it. Some relied on guidance counselors or middle school health teachers. Some, red-faced, handed their kids a book and said, “If you’ve got any questions, just ask.” Jeremy’s natural curiosity led him to do a little research and the resource readily available to him was the dictionary. No harm done. His innocent question was met with an innocent answer.

Times have changed, and yet at the same time, very little has changed. Our children are still curious. Our children still have questions they are uncomfortable asking their parents. But today our children have a whole new way of finding answers.

Today we train our children from a young age that Google is the place to go for answers. Whose is the fourth face on Mount Rushmore? Google it! What kind of reviews is that new movie getting? Google it! When is the next iPod going to be released? Google it! Should I be concerned about that mole on my back? Google it!

One of the facts I’ve learned since writing a book on pornography, and since having the opportunity to write articles for various sites and publications, is that children today are taking their innocent questions to Google and, all too often, receiving decidedly non-innocent answers.

October 27, 2013

William ColgateOur next Christian philanthropist, William Colgate, founded a company that has placed a well-known product in many of our homes even today—Colgate toothpaste. Born in Kent, England in 1783 to Robert and Sarah, Colgate migrated with his family to Maryland in 1798 because of his father’s political sympathy for the American War of Independence and the French Revolution.

While in Maryland, Colgate helped his father manufacture soap and candles, but it was after he moved to New York City in 1804 that he became an apprentice to a soap-maker and in this position learned the manufacturing business. In 1806 he founded his own starch, soap and candle business on Dutch Street in New York City, and this small shop eventually grew into a massive and thriving corporation. A skilled and principled businessman, Colgate would in due time become one of the wealthiest and most generous men in New York City. 

His Conversion

In his early days Colgate attended a Presbyterian church pastored by Rev. Dr. Mason, one of the most prominent preachers in New York. In conjunction with his business success, Colgate was highly esteemed amongst the church members and he played an active part in the church. However, after corresponding with his Baptist father, Colgate came to reject infant baptism and, having done so, joined First Baptist Church of New York where Rev. William Parkinson baptized him in 1808. He remained an active, generous churchman throughout his life. He served as a deacon (he was affectionately known as Deacon Colgate) and became known not only for financial generosity, but also for faithfully serving the people of his church.

In 1811, Colgate married Mary Gilbert and together they had three sons, Robert, James and Samuel. Colgate eventually served on the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society (ABS) as its treasurer. Later, after dealing with controversial matters within the ABS, Colgate helped organize the American Bible Union in 1850, and again he served as the treasurer of that society until his death.

October 23, 2013

Like most parents, I have those moments where guilt and regret comes over me like a wave. I consider then how much of my parenting time has already passed by and how little remains. My oldest child, my son, is thirteen. He is already a teenager, just one year away from high school, just eight years from the age I was when I left home to get married. My girls are following close behind him. When that wave rises up, when I feel like I could drown beneath all that regret, I sometimes consider those things I will never regret.

Here are 18 things I know I will not regret doing with my kids.

1. Praying with them for them. It baffles me that one of the things that most intimidates me is praying with my kids. I don’t mean praying with the whole family before or after a meal, but praying with my daughter for my daughter or with my son for my son. Yet this kind of prayer lets them see that I am concerned for what concerns them and it lets us join in prayer together for those very things. I know I need to prioritize this because I will never regret praying with them for them.

2. Reading books to them. As summer turns to fall, as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, we spend many of our evenings together in the living room as I read books aloud. We’ve read our way across this world and across many others; we’ve read forward in history and we’ve read about days long past; we’ve met heroes and villains; and we have experienced it all together as a family. I will never regret reading books to my children.

3. Kissing them goodnight. The days get long and I get so weary. By the time the children head to bed I am sometimes so worn down that the very last thing I want to do is see the kids to bed and to kiss them goodnight. But I am always glad I did and often find these the times where the children are most tender, most eager to speak, and most eager to listen. I know I will never regret all those goodnight kisses.

4. Taking them to church. There is such joy in sitting in church together as a family, worshipping the Lord together and hearing from him in his Word together. I do not take my children to church so they can learn good manners or be better people; I take them to church so they can learn who they are, so they can learn who God is, and so they can encounter and experience Grace. I will never regret prioritizing church.

5. Taking them out for breakfast. One much-loved tradition in our family is taking my children out for breakfast on Saturday mornings—one of them each week. It’s a tradition I have lost and revived and lost again and revived again. It is a tradition worth maintaining. The $10 or $20 expense and the time it takes pales in comparison to the investment in their lives. I will never regret our breakfast daddy dates.

October 22, 2013

Of all the words coined in response to the realities of this digital world, of all the words recently added to the dictionary, humblebrag must be among the best. According to the Macmillan dictionary, a humblebrag is “a statement in which you pretend to be modest but which you are really using as a way of telling people about your success or achievements.” It is bragging in the guise of humility, putting a thin veneer of humble over a clear expression of proud. And it seems to be an integral part of an effective social media presence.

Have you managed to get thousands of people to follow you on Twitter or friend you on Facebook? Do you need to keep reminding them why you are worthy of their attention? Let me offer you some ways you can grow in the art and science of the humblebrag.

A Humblebrag How-To

Tell others what you own. The humblebrag is a great way to subtly tell other people about your cherished possession while at the same time dropping hints about your excellent financial situation. “When I bought this Ferrari no one warned me I’d get pulled over all the time.”

Brag about your opportunities. As your fame increases, you will inevitably be given more and better opportunities. Each of these opportunities offers the possibility of a humblebrag if you know what to do. “My fingers are aching from typing my memoir all day…”

Make sure they know who you know. Fame is contagious, you know. You can always elevate yourself in the eyes of others by cashing in on friendship or even just relationships with people more famous than yourself. Make sure the people who follow you know about every famous person you meet. “Bumped into my dear friend Tom Hanks at the Academy Awards tonight. He’s awesome.”

October 21, 2013

When I began blogging through last week’s Strange Fire conference, I had no idea how big an impact the event would have. Even while attempting to transcribe John MacArthur’s opening address, I was not convinced I wanted to dedicate three days and eight or ten articles to it. But once I began to see and hear the reaction, I determined there would be benefit to listening in, writing it down, and in opening it up for conversation.

I attempted to make my summaries as objective as possible—simply sharing what each speaker had said without offering my own opinions. Today I want to circle back one more time to share a few final reflections on the event. Here is what I am thinking several days later.

A Worldwide Issue

This is a worldwide issue and I need to ensure I see it that way. We need to ensure we see it that way. Those who listened to the conference heard again and again just how many charismatics there are in the world—somewhere around 500 million. Conrad Mbewe made it clear that in many places in the world, and especially in the developing world, to be a Christian does not mean that you trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, but that you believe in and practice something akin to the miraculous gifts. Charismatic theology is a North American export that is making a massive impact elsewhere in the world.

There is a challenge here for myself as a Reformed, North American believer: I have a very narrow view of the Christian world—a too-narrow view. MacArthur made it clear that he did not host this conference in order to critique the Wayne Grudems and John Pipers of the world; if these men were representative charismatics, Strange Fire would have been a non-event or, at the least, a very different event. He hosted the event because there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who make the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts the heart of their expression of the Christian faith.

This is the time to address that issue. There is a call here for all of us to build on and even improve what MacArthur began and much of the onus here falls on charismatics to do this from the inside. As Clint Archer concludes, “All true believers are on the same team, and we’re all against the abuses and excesses of masquerading unbelievers. Conservative Continuationists need to start their own version of the conference to police the excesses as best they can, or they should muster a cheer while the Cessationists do it.”

A Polarizing Issue

The charismatic/cessationist issue is polarizing. Before Strange Fire I did not know just how polarizing it could be, though I suppose others did know, and this is why we have been loathe to address it. Based on the reaction to the event and the discussions back-and-forth, it seems clear that this is an issue many of us feel as much as it is an issue we believe by reasoning it out from Scripture. It is one of those issues where we see our own position with utter clarity and look to the opposite position with shock that they can believe something so absurd. Those tend to be the most dangerous issues of all because they can turn sour so quickly and easily. In the face of such a polarizing issue, I need to consider how I can maintain unity in the faith while still holding fast to what I believe the Bible teaches.

October 20, 2013

RG LeTourneauRobert Gilmour LeTourneau was an influential businessman and inventor of machinery that shook the world (since, after all, much of the earthmoving equipment used in World War II was made by LeTourneau’s factory). Born in Richford, Vermont in 1888, LeTourneau became a wealthy and generous Christian philanthropist who worked hard and shared freely.

With the reluctant support of his parents, LeTourneau dropped out of school in sixth grade to work in the mechanical field. In 1919, he married Evelyn Peterson whose father owned a company that built hay wagons. Throughout his lifetime, he lived in numerous places and practiced numerous vocations including cutting wood, mining, carpentry, farming, and, of course, mechanical work. Such a variety of experiences contributed to his impact and equipped him to leave a significant legacy.

His Conversion

God blessed LeTourneau with godly parents who shared the gospel with him from his birth. Although resistant for a season, he professed faith in Christ at the age of sixteen. Around the time he got married, LeTourneau told his pastor that he wanted to do more for God. Much to his surprise, his pastor told him, “God needs businessmen too.” At the time, he was $100,000 in debt because of a large-scale construction job that had gone poorly. But even though he was in the midst of such financial difficulties, he trusted God with his money, family, and life, knowing that God uses man’s weakness to showcase His strength.

LeTourneau became a leader in the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church through the numerous speaking opportunities he had in the US and overseas, and through his work as the president of both the Christian Business Men’s Committee (CBMC) and Gideons International (known for their vast Bible-distributing efforts). The fact that he had become such a renowned public speaker is a testimony to God’s enabling power in light of the fact that LeTourneau previously had a lifelong fear of speaking in front of others.

October 16, 2013

I never met my father’s father. He died several years before I was born and I knew him only as the mysterious “grandpa,” a tall and powerful figure in black and white photos and old newspaper clippings. But my mother’s father I knew well. He was “Bapa” to his grandchildren, a name bestowed upon him by my brother who, with his privileged position as the first grandchild, had his infantile attempts to say “grandpa” turned into a proper name.

Bapa died many years ago, and one of my final and fondest memories comes from when he lived with my family for a time. My grandmother had died and Bapa was descending into Alzheimer’s, but though his memory was fast fading, he would still engage in conversation and would sometimes take an interest in me. One evening I mentioned my interest in computers and his response made me smile then and now. He said, “Computers are amazing these years. They can add….and subtract…and…” And he could go no further. That was all he had.

He was amazed by computers and knew they had stupendous capabilities, but he had no real knowledge of what those capabilities were. He was familiar with only their most basic functions and knew there had to be much more beyond that.

For some reason I thought of that little episode last week when I was at Creation Museum. Of all the exhibits I saw there, the one I may have enjoyed most was the planetarium. The planetarium is a state-of-the-art theater that allows you to recline and gaze up into “space.” The presentation there is meant to display just some of the beauty and vastness of space and in it all to display the obvious hand of a designer who means to make a statement about himself (and, by comparison, to make a statement about us as well).

October 13, 2013

John D RockefellerJohn Davison Rockefeller was a Christian, an industrialist and a great philanthropist who founded, among other institutions, the University of Chicago and The Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now known as Rockefeller University) in New York City.

Born in 1839 to William and Eliza Rockefeller, John was the second of their six children and their oldest son. In contrast to his father, who was known as an unproductive schemer, John gained a great reputation for being an honest, generous Christian.

From his work in the oil industry to his interest in education and science, Rockefeller had a significant, lasting impact on others. In fact, through the trusts and foundations he established, Rockefeller shaped modern philanthropy. Thus, he was the first American worth more than a billion dollars and, when accounting for inflation, many regard him as the richest person who has ever lived.

His Conversion

Though his father was known as a dishonest peddler, he did teach Rockefeller how to earn and keep money. However, it was his mother who taught him to make God central in his life, to pursue integrity, and to give to others. Thus, he once said, “From the beginning, I was trained to work, to save, and to give.

In 1864, Rockefeller married Laura Spelman and together they had five children. Laura was also a strong Christian and they always made a high priority of worshipping as a family at their local church. His wife was also a wise counselor to Rockefeller. He once commented, “Her judgment was always better than mine. Without her keen advice, I would be a poor man.”

October 11, 2013

I spent a couple of days this week speaking at a conference at the Creation Museum—my first time visting it. Before I arrived I decided to put a little bit of thought into why I am a six-day creationist. I wanted to affirm in my own mind that I was walking into the museum already convinced of a position.

I believe God created the world in six days—six literal twenty-four hour periods. I believe the earth is young—probably less than ten thousand years old. I have always believed this. But why? As I considered this position, I realized there are three main reasons I hold to it.

The Bible Teaches It

The first reason I am a six-day creationist is this: I believe it is what the Bible teaches. There have been endless debates about the meaning of the word we translate as “day” in Genesis 1 and so much of the debate stands or falls right here. There have been many attempts, some of them quite compelling and some bordering on the ridiculous, to make it express something other than “day.” But in the end, I believe a natural reading of Scripture, and a natural reading of the author’s intent in the passage, leads to the most natural and obvious conclusion: God created all that exists, from nothing, in six literal days. This is what the author said, because this is what the author meant to convey, because this is what the author believed, because this is exactly how God did it.

The Writers Believed It

The second reason I am a six-day creationist is that I believe this is what the other biblical writers believed. When the subject of creation arises elsewhere in the Bible, I see no evidence that the writers held to any position other than literal six-day creation. If we hold that Scripture interpets Scripture, I see the Bible confirming the simplicity of God creating all things in six literal days.

October 06, 2013

As we saw last week in the first article in this series on Christian Philanthropists, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, lived from 1707–1791. This week, we are considering the life and giving of one of her contemporaries, John Thornton, who lived from 1720–1790.

Thornton’s family was from Yorkshire, England. His father, Robert, directed the Bank of England which, along with Thornton’s own work as a merchant in the export trade, helps explain his great wealth. In 1753, he married Lucy Watson and together they had four children. The famous hymn writer Isaac Watts had a strong, godly impact on Lucy and, through her, on John as well.

His Conversion

Thornton trusted Christ under the ministry of Henry Venn in 1754 and became a convinced evangelical. Venn was one of the founders of the Clapham Sect, a noteworthy evangelical group in the Anglican Church. Because of his strong Christian beliefs, Thornton was ridiculed by his fellow merchants and even the laity of the church. In fact, according to the nurse that cared for him on his deathbed, Thornton’s faith was so strong that when his children asked him whether he was now happy he replied, “Yes, happy in Jesus; all things are as well as they can be!” The last words he was able to speak were, “Precious, precious.” I’d like to think he intended to tell of the preciousness of Jesus, but instead went to be with his Lord. Either way, there is no doubt that Thornton’s life displayed the beauty and supremacy of Christ.

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