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Tim Challies

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December 02, 2015

We recently received an email from one of Nick’s tenth-grade [public school] teachers, sent to all the parents: “I would like to invite parents to come to our class to speak about the career they chose. I want to expose the student to a variety of careers and experiences. Would you like to come and speak to us?” My very first thought was for Aileen: “I think you should go as a stay-at-home mom.”

When I met Aileen, she was a seventeen-year-old high school student who was earning good grades and active with teams and organizations; when I began dating her, she was a first-year university student who was preparing for a career of helping others through social work; when I married her, she had completed her undergraduate work and was about to pursue a Master’s degree. But then we settled into life together and she soon admitted that her real dream and desire was to be a stay-at-home wife and mother. She had always wanted this. It is what her mother had chosen and what she wanted as well. And she did. She withdrew from her program, settled into her new vocation, and was soon joined by one, then two, then three children.

Aileen had options before her and made her choice. She chose the thing she wanted to do and the thing she felt called to do. She believed that this was the way she could best serve her family. Yet when I told her, “I think you should speak to Nick’s class,” she scoffed. Maybe she thought I was teasing or mocking her. But I wasn’t. I think it would be wonderful for her to represent something very few children in that school have ever seen.

We live in a neighborhood of baby boom bungalows and 70’s-era townhouses. It is a neighborhood people go to in order to buy their first home (before they get enough equity to upgrade) or where they return to buy their final home (when they downgrade to get equity back out). While our neighborhood is perfectly respectful, it is known as “the ghetto” of our town simply beside of what has sprung up all around it.

The local high school is up the road, past the shopping center, in a different voting ward, in a neighborhood of enormous new homes. We once calculated that with what it costs to buy one home there, you could buy seven of ours. Without exaggeration, they have more square footage in their basements than we do in our entire house. The school board reports that the average annual family income for students in that school is climbing toward $200,000. Suffice it to say, there are not a lot of single-income families there. There can’t be when you need to qualify for and pay down a million-dollar mortgage. There are plenty of nannies and babysitters, but not a lot of stay-at-home mothers.

I am not passing judgment on those families. Not in the least. I am merely making the observation that my wife chose a rare and counter-cultural vocation. She chose a vocation that was once very respectful but is now viewed with some shame. I would love for her to explain why she chose this vocation even with other options available to her, what opportunities it has given her, whether she would do it like this if she had to do it all again. I would like her to explain to the tenth-grade students that this, too, is a choice available to them, and a choice worth considering.

She won’t, and I respect her decision. She is a reluctant public speaker at the best of times, and a high school careers class would push her too far from her comfort zone. I understand that. But at the very least I want to express my love and respect for her and for the path she chose. Though she followed her desire and her conscience, it has not always been easy. Even while she has always been personally confident of her choice, she has faced outside criticism. She has felt out-of-place. She has felt judged. But I, her husband, and we, her children, honor and love her. To echo Lemuel, “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’” (Proverbs 31:28-29).

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Do More Better
December 01, 2015

Do More BetterToday is the day! My new book Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity is now available. This is a unique book on productivity and one that I believe will prove helpful to anyone who reads it. In fact, the book begins with these words: “I believe this book can improve your life.” And, let’s be honest, it would not have been worth my time writing it (or your time reading it) if I didn’t believe that. I believe it can and will. I can say this because of the nature of productivity.

I define productivity as effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God. That is a universal call. Whether you are a student or a professional, a work-from-home dad or a stay-at-home mom, you are responsible before God for emphasizing this kind of productivity. So productivity is not about doing more stuff or taking on more projects or crossing more tasks off your to-do list. It’s about doing more good, more of what matters most.

Do More Better teaches both why and how you need to do good—good works that benefit others and glorify God. It teaches the great purpose behind our productivity, it tells about common obstacles and how to overcome them, it provides specific guidance on using 3 essential tools for getting things done, it helps you develop daily and weekly routines, and it offers much more besides.

The book is short (just over 100 pages), fast-paced, and very practical. I wrote it to be applicable to every Christian, not only the highly-paid businessman or the too-busy-to-breathe pastor. Because productivity is for all of us, I wrote a book for all of us. I hope you’ll consider reading it, and I trust you’ll benefit from it.

Buy It (Please!)

Do More Better is currently available at Amazon and Cruciform Press.

How I Love Your Law
November 25, 2015

I have been around Christians all my life, and I don’t know that I’ve heard too many of them exclaim, “Oh how I love your law!” Yet in Psalm 119 we find David saying that very thing, expressing his love for God’s law. In the very first Psalm we find him declaring the man blessed who finds God’s law a source of great delight. It sounds a bit strange to our ears, doesn’t it? Aren’t we people of grace? Aren’t we free from the law?

Not in this case. When David expressed his love of God’s law he was expressing his love of God’s revealed truth, all the knowledge and instruction he has given to humanity in his Word. David had less of it than we do—he had only the first few books of what would later be the 66-book Bible. But he read these few books, he pondered them, and he diligently applied their wisdom to his life. The more he did this, the more his affection grew.

What was it about the law that swelled David’s affections? Was he just a rigid kind of character who liked to do what was right and was afraid of doing what was wrong? Did he have a very structured, legal mind? No, he loved this: God’s law is a reflection of God’s character. When David looked at the law of God he saw the person of God, the character of God, the heart of God. As he read God’s Word he came face-to-face with the God he loved. He saw in the law an accurate portrait, an accurate reflection of the character of God. And he loved it because he loved him.

The law of God is God’s character externalized. It comes to us from the very heart and mind of God. Its purpose is not first to tell us what we must be and what we must do. Not first. Its purpose is to tell us first who God is and what he is like. And right here the Bible confronts you and me. If we don’t love the law and don’t want to do the law, we don’t love the God who gave the law. Do we love the law of God like David did? Do we treasure it as he treasured it? Do we meditate upon it and internalize it and live in light of it as he did? David loved the law of God because he loved the God of the law. Do we?

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Transformation
November 23, 2015

As a young man, I often spent time around older men so I could receive their wisdom and counsel. I wanted to hear about their experience of living as Christians, and especially their experience of growing in holiness. I wanted their assurance that they had seen significant success in the battle against sin—not just that they had made hesitant little tip-toes toward holiness, but that they had become far more holy than they ever would have thought possible.

Sadly, few things were as alarming and discouraging as hearing older men talk about their sin. This was especially true of sexual sin. Not once did I hear men testify to pronounced, significant success in this area. Rather, I heard them speak of it as a constant trial and as an area of very little progress. Most often it was said not with brokenness but with a kind of wink-wink nudge-nudge. “I’m only human, you know.” “I may be fifty, but I’m still a man.” These men had given up the most blatant outward expressions of sexual immorality, but still had eyes that wandered and they still lived with fantasies playing in their minds.

What I kept hearing was, “Give it your best shot. Get rid of the most blatant sins. Don’t look at porn or commit adultery, but be realistic as well.” It’s like these men had reached a grudging, reluctant point of obedience that had smoothed out the roughest edges. And then they had determined that this was far enough. They thought it was unrealistic to expect much more of themselves. I was devastated when I heard an older friend I admired more than just about anyone else say, “I don’t think it matters where I get my appetite, as long as I eat at home.” Was that really the best I could hope for, that I’d be outwardly faithful to a wife but inwardly I would wander? Could I expect that I’d never really progress much beyond where I was as a young man? Did I have to resign myself to living forever with a mind that wandered and dreamed of all I didn’t have?

All the while I was reading the Bible and heard God say “[Treat] older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all [or absolute] purity” (1 Timothy 5:2) and “but among you, as is proper among the saints, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity” (Ephesians 5:3). I read about Job and the covenant he made that he would never look with lust upon a young woman. What I longed to hear from an exemplary older man was, “Yes, you can be far holier than you ever thought possible. I know, because I am far holier than I ever would have thought possible.”

It took many years and a lot of pondering God’s Word before I realized that God really can make his people far holier than they thought possible. The change began with a simple but life-changing realization: God would not tell me to do something I could not actually do. I read, “[Treat] older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:2) and understood that God was saying, “You actually can treat older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity. You actually can be far purer than you ever thought possible.” I read, “there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity” and understood God was saying, “You actually can live without the constant sin and guilt of wandering eyes and a daydreaming mind. You can when you’re walking with me.”

I came to understand that God’s commands are not suggestions. They are not vague notions of propriety. They are not tasks or to-dos. Not to the Christian, that is. To the Christian, God’s commands are promises. They are promises that you really can be this, you really can have this, you really can do this if you take hold of what he offers. God does not merely give the command and then leave you to your own devices. That would be impossible. No, God gives the command and offers the means to obey and fulfill the command. He gives you the desire to put that sin to death, he gives you the desire to come alive to righteousness, and he gives you the Holy Spirit to make it all possible. When he gives you all this, there is nothing more to need! God commands so you can take hold of his promise and see him prove himself faithful. You actually can obey him all the way. You actually can be free from the sin, and not just in its broadest, most blatant forms.

To young men I want to say this (and young women and older men and older women): You can be far holier, far purer than you ever thought possible. You really can. You may not see your sin so completely and utterly vanquished that it never raises its ugly head again. But you can see massive, unbelievable success against that sin. You can, because God gives you a command. And where he gives a command, he also gives the means to obey.

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Letters to the Editor
November 22, 2015

Blogs were never meant to be one-way communication. Because of the increasing difficulty in maintaining a helpful commenting section, I have recently added a Letters to the Editor feature. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received recently. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.

Comments on Comments

I know others are disappointed with the demise of the comment section but I wanted to let you know how much more I enjoy the letters to the editor feature. While it wasn’t a huge problem with this blog, comments sections too often become a place for disrespect, argument, and unrelated rabbit trails and can be frustrating to wade through (not to mention the occasional raising of my ire!). With the letters feature, I just get the highlights (and a few lowlights) that are relevant to the topic at hand. Keep up the good work!
—Rick E, Hillsboro, OR

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I miss the comments section. I miss the encouragement of people who agree and the thought provoked by those who don’t… Or those who wish to add something. I’m not a commenter, but I’m a reader. Thanks!
—Jenny S, Mankato, MN

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Tim-I sure appreciate your Best Commentaries recommendations. What I REALLY miss is the comment section where many other Bible students and seasoned expositors added their recommendations to your list of helpful commentaries. The collected experience and wisdom was much more than comments- but help for us other expositors always seeking the best tools. Please bring these back. Thanks!
—Dave S, Dover, PA

Tim: To this point I have not found a way to maintain the old commenting threads without also opening up new ones. For now it looks like the section is either on or off. I’m working on it.

Comments on Jesus Calling and last week’s Letters to the Editor

I assume that I will not be the only one to comment on the Letters to the Editor #5. I want to commend you for posting the article that you did regarding Jesus Calling. You asked to become very unpopular; it shows that you’re not about blogging in order to gain the affirmation of the populace. Thank you for writing articles that are concerned with the approbation of God. Let me make three observations about the responses to your article. 1) All of the responses that you posted were written by women. Was that purposeful? Would you say that most of the responses you received were from women? I just want to point out that the demographic that love Jesus Calling the most seems to be middle aged women (like Sarah Young). Funny how Jesus sounds like a middle aged women in SY’s writings. 2) Many of the objectors to your article used their own experience as an argument for the validity of the book. The readers are so quick to justify their use of the devotional by the fact that THEY, and those dear to them, use it. Hmmm. Since when have our experiences fully vindicated us with respect to our opinions? 3) Why are we glossing over the fact that our hero (SY) has claimed, via her preface, that she wanted something more than Scripture? That claim alone should set off red flags. She has just claimed that God’s voice in Scripture is not, and was not, enough for her; there are no two ways about it. You can’t get around that. Sarah Young’s claims are alarming.
—Caleb H, Cambridge, ON

Tim: You were not the only one to comment on the fact that all the letters to the editor related to Jesus Calling were written by women. That is because all (or nearly all) the letters I received about Jesus Calling were by women. In my view this simply shows the core demographic that is purchasing, reading, and sharing the book.

Comments on A Call for Christian Extremists

Applause for your article, A Call for Christian Extremists. A couple of reflections: Among my like-minded heirs of the Reformation, the principled reaction to these thoughts are that Jesus saved us, He’s sanctifying us, that there’s nothing really to require that we get very extreme. This is the response of both orthodox and Arminian groups. My response to them in turn is that there are a lot of scriptures that hold out for us our high calling in Christ Jesus, and encourage us to press in. The other note is that from fellowship with Catholics I heard the idea, “The only tragedy is not to be a saint.” That came from some literary source. Being a saint is another name for Christian Extremist. It seems to me that there’s no room among the heirs of the Reformation for heroic holiness, especially as it resembles Catholicism.
—Bruce M, Arlington, MA

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Hi Tim, I want to agree completely with your article about Christian extremism - as I agree with nearly everything else you post. And yet, I don’t. Not quite. Here’s my quibble.

I think that the call to Christian extremism, to be zealots for a cause, finds expression only secondarily in good works. That’s hard to say, because I don’t for a moment want people to think they are unimportant. I agree they are essential. I am glad to have you calling us to be zealous for good works. Yet I believe they are still secondary. Because our true cause, the area where we truly need to focus our zeal and extremism, is the gospel of Christ. Like Paul, in the end we must be determined to know nothing except Christ crucified. That’s what it’s truly all about. That’s our cause. And the reason I think this is a point worth making, is because it’s this very distinction that differentiates Christians from the world. The world loves good works. The world hates Christ’s cross. Good works will earn us the world’s approval, but only the gospel of Christ crucified will change hearts. By all means let’s be extremists. But our cause is not good works. Our cause is Christ.
—Tim Z, Wangaratta, Victoria, Australia

Tim: I don’t disagree with you. However, a zealous love of the gospel will necessarily work itself out in good works. And these good works will be a distinctly Christian kind—done for the good of others and the glory of God. Anyone can do good works, but only Christians can perform the biblical definition of good works which are those done to God’s glory.

Comments on A Charle Brown Religion

I have always loved Peanuts and good old Charlie Brown. The Christmas special is much loved in my household and is watched numerous times each Christmas season. In fact I even trace my conversion to the special. When I was in my late teens, one viewing I was so overwhelmed by Linus reading from Luke, that after the show was over I had to leave the room and compose myself. It’s not cool or tough to see a 18-year-old weep. Raised in a non-Christian home with respect towards the Church, this special was all the Bible I would hear. Although I did have believing grandmothers, I was indifferent to religion. This began for me a serious look into Jesus and I began to read my Gideon New Testament. A few years later I was converted through a sermon that I was in Church for because of the young woman I was dating, whom I was trying to impress. She is now my wife of 28 years. But I look back at moment and it’s clear that God’s word—thanks to Sparky and through Linus—began something in me. So has been always a bit sad knowing Schulz drifted. But he stilled used Linus and the Bible throughout Peanuts. I will always enjoy Peanuts.
—Reg S, New Minas, NS

Comments about Protect Your Family With Circle

Thanks for reviewing Circle. I’ve look at the website and contacted the company and am very excited about this and how it will help families. It should be noted however, for your Canadian readers (I am one), Circle will be available for sale in Canada in 2016 according to the contact I’ve had with the company.
—Jon D, New Minas, NS

Tim: Wait, there are 2 comments in the same week from New Minas, NS? Wikipedia says the town has a population of 5,000. What are the chances?

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Hey Tim, would love to use this but when I went to order there was no option for Canada. How un-Canadian of you bro! Thanks for all you are doing for the kingdom. You and your family are in our prayers.
—Quentin W, Calgary, AB

Tim: This is correct. Circle plans to release the device beyond America in 2016. But, if you are like most Canadians, you ought to know how to work around such geographic limitations!

General Comments

I just had a brain spasm because my husband asked me if I knew that there was a new Indelible Grace album. Back in April, I pledged to support the IG VII on Kickstarter. I discussed this support at the time with my husband. Over the last several months, each time there was an update, I told him about it. On Sunday I got the download code for the new album and downloaded it, and have been listening since. This morning I put a link to the Bandcamp page on my facebook. So when my husband asked if I knew there was a new Indelible Grace CD, I looked at him like he was from another dimension. He explained that nothing is real to him until Challies links to it. Thought you’d want to know.
—Lindele E, Alexandria, VA

Tim: Now that’s just plain funny.

 

Satans Great Trick
November 18, 2015

One of Satan’s greatest tricks is to convince you that the sin you are being tempted with is a very small sin. “This is just a little one. It’s not like you’re going to kill anyone. It’s not like you’re committing adultery. You’ve done it before and God didn’t strike you down. The joy will by far outweigh the risk. We will keep this one between just you and me.” And too often you believe his lie. You indulge in what seems like just a little sin, a harmless peccadillo.

One of Satan’s greatest delights is to convince you that the sin you have just committed is a very big sin. That same sin that was so small in the future looms so large in the past. Now he whispers, “Oh, you have sinned so badly. You have sinned so big. How could you have done this? You’ve gone and done it this time—you’ve sinned beyond his grace.” And again, you believe the lie. You wallow in guilt and sink into despair.

Do you see the pattern? Do you see the cycle? Do you see the sheer evil of it? Satan’s great joy is to convince you that the sin you are about to commit is very small and the sin you have just committed is very large. He convinces you of this even when they are the very same sin. Don’t believe his lie! Don’t fall for his trick! But if and when you do, don’t give him his great delight.

There is hope, even when you fall for his trick for the thousandth time. The terrible reality is that there are no small sins, no minor offenses. There are always grave consequences for recklessly disobeying God’s commands. But your glorious confidence is that those consequences have already been faced and met and paid by God’s own Son. There are no sins so small that you can enjoy them with impunity, but no sins so big that they can take you beyond God’s saving grace.

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A Call for Christian Extremists
November 16, 2015

The effects of extremism have been on display all weekend. Even this morning they are splashed across every television screen, every news site, the front page of every newspaper. The attacks in Paris have shown us extremism at its most brutal and bloody, the kind that celebrates death, destruction, and mayhem.

But did you know that the Bible calls Christians to extremism as well? It calls Christians to be zealots in a cause, to go to great lengths to carry out extreme deeds in the name of Jesus. We see this in Paul’s little letter to Titus where we are reminded of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).

We, too, are to be extremists. We, too, are to go to extreme measures to serve our God. And here are our marching orders: Do good. We are to bring glory to God by doing good for others. Allah may be glorified in maimed bodies and blood-soaked city streets, but God is glorified in acts of love and deeds of kindness. He is glorified in deeds done not to earn favor with God, but deeds done as an expression of gratitude because we have already received the favor of God. God is glorified as we serve others in his name. God is honored in the costly sacrifice of love.

Jesus himself spoke of the primacy of good works: “Let your light shine before others,” he said, “so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His friend Peter said it as well: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [those who do not adhere to Christian teaching] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). The Apostle Paul would also echo the theme: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). The theme pervades and dominates the New Testament. Does it pervade and dominate your life?

We make God’s love and presence known in these good works, these deeds done for the glory of God and the good of other people. These deeds communicate something of the heart of God and his love for mankind. And so he calls us to take every possible opportunity to love others with the love of God. We are to be thoughtful and creative, to apply ingenuity in our attempts to shock others with our deeds of love and kindness. We are to give generously of our time, talents, money, and whatever else God has given us. We are to forget about ourselves in service to him, to be willing to face pain, harm, or even death as we do these deeds.

So Christian, with zealotry on every heart and in every mind today, perhaps this is a time to ask about your own level of extremism. Are you eager to do good for others? Is this what motivates you? Is this the natural expression of your faith in Jesus Christ? Could it be said that you are a good works zealot? God calls you to nothing less.

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Letters to the Editor
November 15, 2015

A couple of months ago I made the decision to remove the comment section on my blog. I did so largely because comments can only succeed where there is good moderation, and I was increasingly unable to provide that. In lieu of comments I have decided to accept (and encourage) letters to the editor. Today I share some of the letters to the editor that have come in this week—letters that are representative of the ones I received this week. I would invite those of you who read the blog regularly to consider reading these letters as a part of the back-and-forth between writer and readers.