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Tim Challies

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March 06, 2010

Earlier this week I began introducing you to the people who will be involved behind-the-scenes in bringing you my book The Next Story. First I introduced you to Ryan the Editor who will (obviously) be responsible for editing the book. And today I’d like you to meet Chris Fann the Marketing Man. His job is to try to convince you that your life will be incomplete if you do not own at least one copy of this book (and, preferably, many more than that). His job will be complete and successful if and when every Christian in North America knows about the book’s existence. Here is Chris’ bio:

Chris will market and position Tim’s book in such a way so it will sell more copies than Harry Potter and Twilight while having the longevity of Homer and Plato. (Nothing like over-promising, right?)

The vast majority of his efforts go toward creating awareness of the books given to market. According to Warren Bird, author and Director of Research at Leadership Network, “The average book in America sells about 500 copies a year. Only 10-25 books sell more than a million copies in a year. Fewer than 500 sell more than 100,000. Nearly 200,000 new titles are published each year.” There are thousands of books published each month, and even more content than that put up on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. There is a great deal of noise in the world today, and Chris’ job is trying to find ways to speak uniquely, not louder.

March 04, 2010

Writing a book is a team effort. Of course I’m the one who has to spend endless hours hunched over an endless success of books, tapping away on a keyboard and staring pensively out the window. So let’s be honest—I do most of the work. But still, there are lots of other people involved. I figured it would be fun to introduce you to some of the people who will play a role in getting my next book into your hands.

First up, I’d like to introduce you to Ryan Pazdur, a.k.a. Ryan the Editor. An Acquisitions Editor by trade, he has already helped convince the good people at Zondervan to take a chance on my next two books. And as we put together The Next Story, it will be his job to make sure that the book I write is worth the $12 or $15 I’m hoping you will spend on it. To him will fall the inevitable but thankless task of reminding me of a little thing called deadlines (I’m going to be late for everything, Ryan. Deal with it!). He will also be reading what I write and telling me what’s good, what’s bad and what’s just plain awful. He’ll work with me on content, on tone, on voice, on all of those things that make a book what it is. If the book stinks, you’ll blame me, but his boss will blame him.

So world, meet Ryan the Editor:

What does an editor really do? Sitting around reading books all day may sound to some people like the best job in the world. And certainly, that’s an important part of an editor’s work. An acquisitions editor (AE) spends quite a bit of time reading book proposals, attending conferences, and looking for worthwhile books to publish [in Canada we know this as schmoozing]. As the primary contact with an author, AEs typically work with authors to help them refine their proposal, structure their book, advise throughout the writing process, and make revisions to the manuscript. They serve as an advocate for the author and communicate the expectations of the publisher back to the author. From the proposal stage to the completion of a revised manuscript with solid content, AEs work back and forth with authors, clarifying ideas, altering the tone of the writing, and strengthening the content of the book. It’s a pretty amazing process, filled with lots of prayer, conflict resolution, and creative thinking. There is nothing quite as satisfying as holding a printed book in your hand after months of editing and revisions.

March 02, 2010

Canada’s Bank of Nova Scotia must be one of the few banks in the world that allows you to order gold bullion online. Visit their web site, punch in your order along with your credit card information, and a couple days later FedEx will deliver your gold to the door, all sealed up in a plain and boring little envelope.

The gold comes in bars, though not those massive gold bars you see in the movies. For somewhere around $1200 you could purchase a 1 ounce gold bar and have it delivered to your home. It would be 22mm wide, 38mm high and 2.3mm thick. You’d soon find that your dollar does not go far when you are using it to buy precious metals. What you would do with it once you buy it is a bit trickier—maybe you’d put it in a safe deposit box or maybe you’d just bury it out in the backyard. You probably wouldn’t want to carry it around in your pocket.

March 01, 2010

So the Olympics are over. While I remain somewhat uncomfortable with the games in general, wondering if we could possibly convince the impartial outside observer that they are anything other than religion, I cannot deny that they pull together the nation in a completely unique way. Already I can see that the Olympics were good for Canada.

There were lots of great stories coming out of the Olympics. We saw Joannie Rochette win a bronze medal in an event held just days after the sudden death of her mother. We saw Clara Hughes win a bronze medal in long track speed skating, putting an exclamation mark and the end of her career as the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in both the summer and winter games. Last night we witnessed the men’s hockey team win a medal that will be talked about in Canada for years and years to come—an overtime goal that claimed for our country a gold medal in Canada’s own game. Overall we saw Canada win the greatest number of gold medals any nation has claimed at a Winter Olympics.

February 08, 2010

I graduated from college in 1997 (Or so. To be honest, I don’t even remember exactly what year it was and didn’t bother attending the graduation ceremony or picking up my diploma which undoubtedly recorded the date). My history degree did not open up the world of possibilities I had obviously thought it might when I first chose history as my major three years before. With few options available to me, and suffering from a lack of motivation, I decided I had better find some kind of employment, even if it did not incorporate my training. I learned that a new Starbucks was opening nearby and quickly made my way through the interview process. The day the store opened I was there, and I stayed at that job, putting in my forty hours a week, for what must have been a year—possibly more.

I’m not sure if this is still the case, but back then every store was required to select one “Coffee Expert,” the one person on staff who would receive a bit of extra training in the world of coffee and who was required to know more about the various flavors of coffee than anyone else. This person had to be able to identify the differences between the types and to teach others how to do the same. He was responsible for brewing different kinds of coffees in order to educate both the employees and the customers. Through some strange twist of fate I was appointed to this position by the manager.

There was just one small problem. I hated coffee. I still do. I am convinced that it is a vile, evil concoction and one that has cruelly enslaved much of the human race. I despise the stuff, even in what I am assured is its finest form by the hoards of brainwashed Starbucks robots. I can barely stand even the smallest taste of it. It curdles my tongue, makes my eyes water, and leaves me gagging. I find it utterly revolting.

And yet I was the coffee expert. When customers wanted to know about the different kinds of coffee we offered, it was my job to lead them through the various options available to them and to help them select the coffee that was suited to their tastes. A customer would choose a package from the counter and I would say, “Oh, now that’s a great choice. It’s a delicious, full-bodied roast that you can taste all over your tongue. Look for the flavors of oak and a subtle hint of the spring flowers that grow in the mountains of Peru.” I had the routine down pat and helped sell a lot of coffee—more than anyone else in the store, I’m sure. The facts were all true; it’s not like I was some kind of used car dealer covering up a vehicle’s flaws and hoping to make a sell to some poor sap who would be stuck with a useless hulk. I simply relayed information I knew was true. But I hated the product. Had I been entirely forthcoming I would have said this: “It mostly tastes like cigarettes. When I drink it I detect mostly the flavor of charcoal mixed with dirt—and not the nice dirt I used to eat as a kid, either. It tastes like burned, charred, nasty, ugly hot dirt. It’s loaded with caffeine and I’m sure it’s going to shorten your life. If you enjoy the smell or taste of manure, I’m sure you’ll love it. Would you like me to grind it for you?” It always struck me as just a little bit odd that I would champion something I disliked so much.

Since I wrote my first book I had quite a few people ask when I would begin a second one. My response was that I’d write another book when I had lived another book. When it comes to writing it is always a temptation to relay information I know is true, even if I have not incorporated it into my life. I’ve had to confess that I’ve done this in the past right here on this blog. I can sometimes content myself with knowing that something I am writing is true and biblical, even if it has little resonance in my life.

When I worked at Starbucks I had absolutely no passion for coffee. Though I could talk a good line, I always felt a bit like I was lying. Customers would ask, “What’s your favorite?” and I would just blurt out a flavor based on my favorite packaging. I had no favorite coffee anymore than I had a favorite flavor of cough syrup or a favorite kind of kick in the teeth. I don’t want my life to be like this. I want what I say and what I write to be a reflection of who I really am—or who I really want to be through the power of the Spirit.

I want to be a Christian who doesn’t just do a smooth job of selling the Christian life. I could probably sit down and write a book that would say all the right things and make me feel very happy when I had typed out the last word. But it wouldn’t satisfy because it wouldn’t be genuine.

Recently I read through a part of Michael Emlet’s book Cross Talk and came across these words. Though targeted specifically at ministers, I think they are applicable to any of us.

A temptation in ministry is to think that just because we prepared a Bible study, a sermon, or a discipleship appointment (or wrote a book like this!), we are deeply engaging with the God of the universe. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s easy in ministry to live more as a ‘pipe’ than a ‘reservoir.’ That is, it’s easy to live merely as a conduit to others of the transforming truths of God’s Word, rather than as a changed and transformed reservoir who overflows with lived-out gospel truth. You wouldn’t imagine cooking meal after meal for your family without sitting down to enjoy that nourishment, would you? To paraphrase James 1:22, let’s not merely be hearers or speakers or counselors of the Word, but doers, first and foremost.

I know that in writing a book I could easily be a hearer and speaker but not a doer. But that isn’t who and what I want to be. As you know, I’ve begun work on The Next Story. And already I’m seeing how I have to make changes to my life based on what I am learning. Some of these will be experimental, trying to live out different ideas on a trial basis. Though totally unrelated to the book, I did this with vegetarianism recently, going two weeks without meat just to try it out and to see what life is like with a whole new set of tastes and flavors. There are things I will try out just for the sake of the book, with no intention of maintaining them long-term. But other changes are going to be permanent, coming on the heels of necessity or conviction. I will introduce you to a couple of these in the days to come. (Hint: you may have noticed I didn’t post an A La Carte today…)

February 05, 2010

Recently a reader of this wrote me to ask if I had ever written anything dealing with believers and the final judgment. I quickly realized that I had not and thought that today would be a good opportunity to remedy that. So here is a brief look at what believers can expect in the final judgment.

There are several principles we need to keep in mind as we begin.

There will be a final judgment - At the end of days there will be a final judgment. We can offer no greater evidence than the words of Revelation 20:11-15 which vividly portrays this event.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

In some final day, firmly set in the mind of God but hidden from us, there will be a great event of judgment in which those who are living and those who are dead will be brought before the throne of judgment where they will be examined and judged.

Christ will be the judge - Christ will serve as judge. We know this from passages such as 2 Timothy 4:1 where Paul writes of “Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead” and 4:8 where he refers to “the Lord, the righteous judge.” John also writes of Christ as judge saying in John 5:26-27, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”

All men are to be judged - All men, both Christians and unbelievers, will stand before God in judgment. Revelation 20, quoted above, makes it clear that none are excluded from appearing before God’s throne. Similarly Matthew 25 speaks of the final judgment. While Jesus does differentiate between the sheep and the goats, he indicates that both will appear before his throne to be separated, the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

The ground of the judgment will be men’s deeds - Men will be judged according to what they have done, what they have thought, what they have said. Even the secrets of the heart will be brought to light in that day. The true character of each man will be exposed in the sight of God, in the sight of that person and in the sight of all.

Men will be judged according to God’s revelation - Christ will judge people on this basis of God’s revelation of himself. Therefore there will be a greater degree of reward or punishment to those who have had access to a greater measure of God’s revelation. To whom much is given, much shall be required.

With these principles in mind, we can now ask how believers will be judged.

In Romans 14 Paul says “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” and “each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Writing to the believers in Corinth he says, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” It seems clear, then, that believers will need to appear before the Judge.

But this final judgment for believers will not be a judgment of life or death. There is no reason to think that as we approach God’s throne we will have pounding hearts, hoping that we will pass the test and be put at his right hand (and similarly there is little reason to think that unbelievers will approach the throne wondering if they are saved; they will know that they approach the throne to hear of their punishment). It is not that kind of a judgment, for all who have put their faith in Christ have already been justified and declared righteous. Christ has already been judged on their behalf. Instead, this final judgment will be a time of the bestowing of reward. Here Christ will evaluate all we have done according to the light given us and bestow rewards accordingly.

Some Christians believe that in the judgment all of our evil deeds will be exposed—that before we receive our reward we will first have all we’ve said and done brought into the light (see 1 Corinthians 4:5). However, this must be balanced with passages such as Psalm 103:12 (“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us”) and Micah 7:19 (“You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”). It is my understanding, then, that our sins will not be exposed before others and that Christ will not speak of them in that day, for those sins have already been dealt with and have already been removed. Though Christ will dispense reward or withhold reward on the basis of what we’ve done or haven’t done, he will not bring those sinful deeds before all the world.

We may now ask the question if there will be discontent in heaven that some have received greater reward than others. So accustomed are we to finding joy and meaning in what we possess, and so accustomed are we to feeling that equality in possessions or wealth is a key to true happiness, that we have difficulty understanding how there can be inequality, and perhaps even radical inequality, even in perfect bliss. But if we understand that our true happiness is found not in what we own but in our delight in God, we must then see that all of us will be entirely, perfectly content after the judgment. Furthermore, we will know that God has judged rightly and given to each of us no more and no less than what we deserve. There will be no court of appeals for no one will want or need to appeal his reward.

How then do we live in light of this doctrine? We live righteous lives, storing up treasures in heaven. Somehow in my mind this seems like an ignoble motive—to obey God and to do good things as a means of storing up eternal reward. Yet Christ himself indicated that it is a good motive saying, “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.” And so we can live here and now free from the need to find reward and satisfaction in this life, knowing that in eternity our reward shall be given in full.

If you would like to study this subject more, the best resources I was able to find were systematic theologies (Grudem, Culver and Hodge all proved helpful).

February 01, 2010

This morning my devotions took me to the final chapters of John (which, to those who know the reading plan I’m using this year, is an admission that I’m a few days behind). We find such poignant little stories in these chapters, stories like Peter and John running to the empty tomb, Thomas falling on his face before the risen Lord, Jesus restoring Peter after his three denials. There is one story among them, though, that I love most of all.

Mary Magdalene has come to Jesus’ tomb and is distressed to see that his body is gone, the stone rolled away. Convinced that someone has taken away his body, she stands outside the tomb weeping. Two angels appear within and ask simply “Woman, why are you weeping?” She replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” The words carry with them the pain of her loss. Not only has she lost her Lord, but even his body has been taken away. She is lost and alone.

Then she turns and sees someone else. She does not recognize Him, though it is the very one she seeks. Somehow her eyes are closed so she cannot see who it is. This man says “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She supposes he must be the gardener and says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She wants the body back, needs the body back, and begs that this man might return it to her.

But then, in an instant, her eyes are opened. Jesus, as he had called Lazarus out from the tomb, calls to her. He says but one word. “Mary.” It’s one of the best sentences in all of the Bible. At at that very instant she knows. At that very instant she sees and knows and understands that the One she seeks is standing right there behind her. He is alive! He has risen! She turns and cries out “Rabboni!” (which means teacher). I wonder, does she scream this word, run to him, and throw her arms around his neck? Perhaps she can do little more than call out in a whisper as she falls at his feet. We don’t know. But we do know that she clings to Jesus, overwhelmed with his presence, overwhelmed to know that he is alive. She sees and hears and believes. She knows now that Jesus is alive.

As I read these words, I think of the way Jesus called me and the way he has called countless numbers of men and women to himself. Like Mary I was once unable to see Jesus for who he is. I saw a man who may as well have been a gardener. He was a good man, a moral man, and maybe even a great man. But he was just a man. Only when Jesus called me by name was I able to see that him as the God-man. Only then was I able to see him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only then did I really and truly know him. And only then were my eyes opened so I could see and my ears unstopped so I could hear and my heart renewed so I could believe. Like Mary, he called me by name.

January 28, 2010

Yesterday I sat and watched liveblog coverage of the long-awaited announcement from Apple. To no one’s great surprise, they unveiled their newest device, the iPad. While everyone knew this tablet device was coming, everyone had wondered exactly what it would be. Apple has high standards when it comes to devices like this one and I, for one, was prepared to be amazed. Alas, I was disappointed. iDisappointed, even. I’m ready to declare that the iPad is the greatest disappointment in all of human history (at least since The Phantom Menace).