Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

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8 years 4 months ago
Having read fifty or sixty nonfiction books already this year, I began to crave some lighter, easier reading. And, in a case of great timing, an Advance Reader Copy of Stephen Lawhead’s Hood arrived in the mail just a few days ago. Lawhead, known for writing fantasy and historical fiction, has set his sights on the greatest of the English heroes, Robin Hood. But rather than simply retelling the oft-told story, he has re imagined Robin Hood and has attempted to arrive at the source for this great story. This is a “completely re-imagined epic of the man known as Robin Hood—told in a far more earthy, eerie and elemental way than ever before.” In a lengthy appendix to the book, the author explains his belief that the story of Robin Hood may well have originated in Wales and provides ample proof that this just may be the case.

And so it is that the story of Hood is set not in Sherwood Forest, as we might expect, but in the dense, primeval forests of Wales. The son of a minor Welsh king, Bran ap Brychan finds his world torn apart when his father and his father’s army are massacred, leaving the young prince to ascend the throne. But, fearing for his life, Bran is forced to flee. He eventually wanders into the forest and establishes himself as king of those who have fled before him into the safety of the woods. He is a disturbed and flawed hero, but one who begins to grow into his legend as a hero who fought on behalf of the poor, displaced and persecuted. The usual cast of characters, Marian, Little John and Friar Tuck are all worked into the story, though once again, not in the way we’ve come to expect. The villains, also different from what we’ve seen in book and film, are well-crafted and not so evil that they are unbelievable.

This novel, which is due for publication in September of this year, is very well-written and tells a very intriguing story. It is difficult to do justice to as well-known and enjoyable story as Robin Hood, but Lawhead does so successfully. To tell the truth, I can’t think of the last time I enjoyed a novel as much as this one (though I’ll have to admit that this may speak more to the quality and quantity of fiction I read than the quality of this particular book!). Still, I found Hood to be a fun, exciting take on a great story. And what’s more, this is only the first novel in a series of three, so there will be much more to enjoy in the future.

While I am glad to recommend Hood I feel it necessary to point out that the book should probably be considered PG. There is a very small amount of rough language (words such as “bastard” and a handful of French equivalents), a few hints toward sexual activity, though certainly nothing graphic or voyeuristic, and a fair bit of violence, though nothing too graphic. And, of course, Robin Hood could not be told without at least a few people being impaled with arrows. Still, this is probably not a version of Robin Hood one would want to read with the family. But again, I enjoyed it tremendously and am already eagerly anticipating the sequels.

8 years 6 months ago
Perhaps no other character in history other than Jesus has been written about as much as Abraham Lincoln. There are literally hundreds of books that trace his life, from its humble beginnings in the backwoods of Kentucky to its conclusion at the hands of an assassin. Abraham Lincoln: The Man and His Faith does not attempt to provide an exhaustive biography of his life. Rather, it traces the growth of Lincoln as a Christian. It traces the roots of his faith in the teachings of his mother and shows how his faith was tested and sharpened through his life. It shows how the wisdom which made him famous was godly wisdom, learned through a lifetime of humility and submission to God.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Lincoln’s life is that while he lived a life of moral purity that would be the envy of man Christians, for the greater part of his life he was not a believer. It was only near the end, riding across the battlefield at Gettysburg to deliver his famous address, that he could say he fully dedicated himself to God. Though he was a good man and a moral man, he did not actually become a Christian until that time. Through his life prior to that time it was his mother’s faith and her teaching that had carried him through life’s trials and temptations.

The author’s extensive research has led him to pivotal moments in Lincoln’s faith. The most important influence was his mother, who raised Lincoln with awe for and respect of the Bible. His mother, who died when Lincoln was just a young boy, made him promise that he would live as she had taught him and to keep the Lord’s commandments. This promise shaped his life as many times in life he overcame temptation by thinking of his mother’s words. Other pivotal moments in his life were the death of his fiancee and the later death of his son. Both of these events shook him to the core of his being, but God sent people into his life to comfort him and minister to him during these times. In the end, we see, these events left him stronger and helped lead him to making a commitment to God.

When we trace Lincoln’s life we can see how God was preparing him for the task He had appointed to him - the task of saving the nation. We see how the development of his character, his faith and his relationships all led to him becoming a great statesman. We see how these elements brought him through this time and how he stood firm in them until the time of his death. It was these elements that made him one of the most beloved men in the nation’s history.

Abraham Lincoln serves as an inspiration to me. I dream of being a man of Lincoln’s character and dream of being able to write and express myself as Lincoln did. I dream of having his simple, humble wisdom.

This book is well-written, well-researched and well-documented. I give it my highest recommendation. 

10 years 5 months ago

When you pray, petitioning God for something, do you really expect results? Do you pray as one who is already defeated, expecting before you even pray that God will not grant your prayer? Or do you pray with confidence that God hears and answers prayer?

Acts 12 contains a wonderful story that shows how even the giants of the faith and the pillars of the church had trouble putting their confidence in God through prayer. In that chapter we read about Peter’s arrest and imprisonment by King Herod. Having just had James the brother of John put to death, and seeing that this pleased the Jews, Herod sent his soldiers to arrest Peter and put him in prison, intending on having him killed after the Passover. We read in verse five “prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” Other translations choose to interpret fervent as earnest or constant. The point is clear: God’s people were praying with great zeal, great emotion and great sincerity, asking God to save the life of their beloved brother.

While the people were on the other side of town praying for Peter, God saw fit to rescue him. He sent an angel to Peter who led him from the prison and to the gate of the city. Peter seems to have believed this was a dream, for verse 11 says “When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’” He immediately went to the house of Mary, the mother of John, knowing that the church at Jerusalem would be gathered there. He no doubt realized that they would be gathered together to pray for him.

And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, “You are beside yourself!” Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, “It is his angel.”

Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. But motioning to them with his hand to keep silent, he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.” And he departed and went to another place.

Do you see what happened there? Believers who had been with Jesus and had learned from His disciples were gathered together to pray for Peter. These were people who should have had great faith, yet when they heard that their prayers had been answered they did not believe it. You can almost imagine them snarling to the poor servant girl “You’re crazy! It can’t be Peter! He’s in prison and we’re busy praying that God will save him!” The situation is almost comical, isn’t it?

You have to ask yourself, is there any purpose in praying if you do not really believe God is capable of answering prayer? Why pray if you do not believe that God is willing to hear your prayer? God is not only capable of answering prayer, but He is also willing to answer prayer.

Pray to God with your expectations set high. Exercise faith through prayer, trusting that God hears your petition. As a father loves to grant what his child requests, so our heavenly Father loves to answer sincere, godly prayer. God may not answer your request at the time you expect or in the way you expect, but trust that He will answer.

10 years 10 months ago

To study Abraham Lincoln is to study character. I would be hard-pressed to think of a person who lived since the time of Christ that so fully embodied the qualities and character of a Christian. He was a man who lived with humble faith and firm convictions and seemed always to direct himself by what was right.

Perhaps no other character in history other than Jesus has been written about as much as Abraham Lincoln. There are literally hundreds of books that trace his life, from its humble beginnings in the backwoods of Kentucky to its conclusion at the hands of an assassin. This book does not attempt to provide an exhaustive biography of his life. Rather, it traces the growth of Lincoln as a Christian. It traces the roots of his faith in the teachings of his mother and shows how his faith was tested and sharpened through his life. It shows how the wisdom which made him famous was godly wisdom, learned through a lifetime of humility and submission to God.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Lincoln’s life is that while he lived a life of moral purity that would be the envy of man Christians, for the greater part of his life he was not a believer. It was only near the end, riding across the battlefield at Gettysburg to deliver his famous address, that he could say he fully dedicated himself to God. Though he was a good man and a moral man, he did not actually become a Christian until that time. Through his life prior to that time it was his mother’s faith and her teaching that had carried him through life’s trials and temptations.

The author’s extensive research has led him to pivotal moments in Lincoln’s faith. The most important influence was his mother, who raised Lincoln with awe for and respect of the Bible. His mother, who died when Lincoln was just a young boy, made him promise that he would live as she had taught him and to keep the Lord’s commandments. This promise shaped his life as many times in life he overcame temptation by thinking of his mother’s words. Other pivotal moments in his life were the death of his fiancée and the later death of his son. Both of these events shook him to the core of his being, but God sent people into his life to comfort him and minister to him during these times. In the end, we see, these events left him stronger and helped lead him to making a commitment to God.

When we trace Lincoln’s life we can see how God was preparing him for the task He had appointed to him – the task of saving the nation. We see how the development of his character, his faith and his relationships all led to him becoming a great statesman. We see how these elements brought him through this time and how he stood firm in them until the time of his death. It was these elements that made him one of the most beloved men in the nation’s history.

Abraham Lincoln serves as an inspiration to me. I dream of being a man of Lincoln’s character and dream of being able to write and express myself as Lincoln did. I dream of having his simple, humble wisdom.

This book is well-written, well-researched and well-documented. I give it my highest recommendation.

Title: Abraham Lincoln: The Man And His Faith
Author: G. Frederick Owen
Published: 1976

10 years 10 months ago

Christian Handbook is subtitled “A straightforward guide to the Bible, church history and Christian doctrine.” Written by Peter Jeffrey (a pastor in the United Kingdom) the book presents a wonderful introduction to the foundations and teachings of Reformed Christianity.

The book begins with an examination of the Bible. It first examines how the Bible was written and compiled and then moves to a short overview of each of the Testaments with their settings and teachings. Almost every page contains a quote by a great Christian teacher of the past.

The second section of the book examines the church, dedicating a chapter to the first 450 years, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the Eighteenth-century revivals and finally the nineteenth and twentieth-century revivals.

The bulk of the book is contained in the third section which examines the Christian faith. It is a layman’s introduction to systematic theology, beginning with who God is and ending with the end times. There is a Reformed flavor throughout and the author quotes heavily from many Reformed pastors and theologians.

Weighing in at under 200 pages and being written in laymen’s terms, this book is an easy read and serves as an excellent introduction to Christianity. I rely on it continually as a reference book.

Title: Christian Handbook
Author: Peter Jeffrey
Published: 1988

11 years 1 month ago

 

In writing Robert E. Lee: The Christian, William J. Johnson sifted through hundreds of letters written to and from Lee as well as accounts written of him, seeking to find evidence of this Civil War general’s faith. Having found ample evidence, the author concludes that Lee’s correspondance “reveals him as a man who lived in the presence of God; who looked to God continually for guidance and strength; whose mind and heart were saturated with faith and trust in God.” The nearly 300 pages of this book are dedicated to showing example after example of Lee’s obvious love for and trust in his Creator.

This book is not a biography. Rather, it is a collection of hundreds of quotes taken from Lee’s letters, mostly those written to his family, but also ones he wrote to his superiors, subordinates and friends. Lee’s words outnumber the author’s by a large margin, likely four to one or even higher. Johnson provides hundreds of examples of Lee’s trust in God, his Christian character and his love for the Lord. He was a true spiritual giant, one of many to emerge from the Civil War (I think also of Abraham Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, and others).

A little dry, but well worth reading for Civil War enthusiasts, this book proves that Robert E. Lee should be an inspiration for all believers.

Title: Robert E. Lee: The Christian
Author: William J. Johnson
Published: Unknown

Key Words:

 

  • Robert E. Lee
  • Robert E. Lee Christian
  • Civil War

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