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Tim Challies

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September 20, 2008

It has taken years but I think I’ve finally managed to find a way of incorporating polls into blog posts. Those who visit the main page of the site will have already noticed a poll in the sidebar there. But I think I can now work it into a post as well. The most recent poll question asked simply “How many books do you anticipate reading in 2009?” The answer surprised me. Though I couldn’t quite arrive at an exact figure, it seems that, based on 600 votes, the average reader of this site will read (and presumably purchase) somewhere around twenty-five or thirty books in 2009. Though we sometimes hear of the decline of the printed word, that does not seem to be the case around these parts!

Today I would like to ask a follow-up question. And it is this: where do you buy your books? There was a time when I was a regular visitor at the local Christian bookstore. In fact, when I worked near to it, I would visit a couple of times a week to look at books and listen to the newest CDs. More recently, though, I’ve nearly stopped visiting altogether and now prefer to do my book and music shopping online. I doubt I visit the Christian bookstore more than twice a year. I’m wondering if my experience is common.

So there’s the question. Do note that if you are reading this via RSS, you’ll probably have to click through to the site to actually answer.

June 25, 2008

Since last week’s little contests went over well, I thought I’d try another one. The style is similar—here we have a list of 21 quotes. Each of these quotes are endorsements for a book and each is written by J.I. Packer (quite the prolific reader and endorser!). As I am flying to Vancouver for a meeting tomorrow, it seemed to me that Packer would be an appropriate subject.

Your task is to send me a list of the titles and author(s) for each of these books. Send your list (partial or full if you can figure out all of them). Whoever gets the most right will win a $50 gift certificate for Westminster Books. Should two or more correctly identify all of the books, I will randomly select a winner from among them. Where the book’s author or title is explicitly mentioned in the endorsement, I have replaced them with [Author] or [Title].

Now I know that you can probably Google most or all of these—and that is not against the rules. By why not at least think about them first and see if you can figure them out. There is no advantage to being the first to submit your answers, so don’t feel you need to hurry. Just get your answers in before 12 PM Eastern tomorrow and I will announce a winner as soon as I can get to a computer and tally it all up.

Submit your answers here.

  1. The healthy biblical realism of this study in Christian motivation comes as a breath of fresh air. Jonathan Edwards, whose ghost walks through most of [Author]’s pages, would be delighted with his disciple.”

  2. This extended declaration and defence of the penal substitutionary view of Christ’s atoning death responds to a plethora of current criticisms, many of them in-house, with a thoroughness and effectiveness that is without parallel anywhere. The book’s existence shows that a British evangelical theology which exegetically, systematically, apologetically and pastorally can take on the world is in process of coming to birth. I hail this treatise as an epoch-making tour de force, and hopefully a sign of many more good things to come.”

  3. [Author]’s insight into human nature, divine grace, and Christian life yields a better blueprint for marriage than the self-absorbed rule-ridden role-play with which too many stop short. This is a wise and liberating book for struggling couples—and many others, too.”

  4. In this crowded world of Bible versions [Author]’s blend of accurate scholarship and vivid idiom make this rendering both distinctive and distinguished. [Title] catches the logical flow, personal energy, and imaginative overtones of the original very well indeed.”

  5. It is a privilege to commend so sensible, clear and fruitful an overview of basic Christian belief.”

  6. [Author]’s disarming introduction to personal faith is a modern classic. Long life to it!”

  7. Following in the footsteps of the late great Francis Schaeffer, two leading scholars here give wide-ranging guidance on how today we may show we are Christians by our love.”

  8. Brilliant [Author] is one of God’s best gifts to our decaying Western church, and would-be learners and teachers of the faith will gain hugely from these fascinating pages.”

  9. Clear, well informed, up to date, and firmly anchored in the mainstream of Christian wisdom. Oriented to the church, the Holy Spirit, and the future in a biblically proper way, this work transcends the rationalism and individualism that mar some of its predecessors…An outstanding achievement.”

  10. [Author] rises grandly to the challenge of the greatest of all themes. All the qualities that we expect of him—biblical precision, thoughtfulness and thoroughness, order and method, moral alertness and the measured tread, balanced judgment and practical passion—are here in fullest evidence. This, more than any book he has written, is his masterpiece.”

  11. [Author]’s offensive against Arminian-type views of election among evangelicals is a very solid piece of work. The thoroughness of its arguments gives it conclusive force.”

  12. Here is a modern reader’s edition of a classic Puritan work by a classic Puritan author. It is a powerful Trinitarian profiling from Scripture of the truth that fellowship with God is and must ever be the inside story of the real Christian’s life. The editing is excellent, and the twenty-seven-page introduction and the thirty-page analytical outline make the treatise accessible, even inviting, to any who, with Richard Baxter, see “heart-work” as the essence of Christianity. [Author] is a profound teacher on all aspects of spiritual life, and it is a joy to welcome this reappearance of one of his finest achievements.”

  13. Careful, thorough, wise, and to my mind, convincing.”

  14. Here is the quintessence of the gospel, the new wine of God’s kingdom at its purest for us today! Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest [title].”

  15. Thought is packed tight in this masterful survey of the covenantal frame of God’s self-disclosure in Scripture, and for serious students it is a winner.”

  16. This 25-year-old classic still makes one think, pray, get real with God, repent, and find joy in wise obedience more effectively than any other book I know. I cannot recommend it too highly.”

  17. [A] sober, encouraging book…The two sides of the author, the biblical scholar who reads, thinks, and misses no detail and the pastoral teacher who understands people, feels with them, and cares for them, combine here to give us a treatment of suffering under God’s sovereignty which is outstandingly accurate, wise, and helpful. All who follow the author’s fast-flowing argument will find their heads cleared and their hearts strengthened.”

  18. Honest historian [Author] informs us straightaway that he views the Christian story through the lenses of Protestant, Reformed, evangelical, baptistic, free-church spectacles. His telling of the tale, journalistic in style while scholarly in substance, then proves his point. You will find this book clarifying and invigorating.”

  19. [Author]’s exciting study…is a major step forward in the reappraisal of Puritanism…no student in the Puritan field can excuse themselves from reckoning with this important contribution.”

  20. I commend this eager and warm-hearted tour guide to the Book of Common Prayer with much enthusiasm …”

  21. This racy little book open up a far-reaching theme. With entertaining insight [Author] looks into the attitudes, alliances, and strategies that today’s state of affairs requires of believers. Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox alike need to ponder [Author]’s vision of things—preferably, in discussion together. What if he is right?”

June 19, 2008

Two days, two contests. Both were a lot of fun, I think, and I hope to do a few more in the same vein. I started doing a bit of research yesterday on one that I’m sure is going to be unique and hopefully a little more difficult than the last ones.

Book Cover Contest

I thought I was being tricky yesterday with the “Book Cover” contest, but it seems that many people had little difficulty correctly identifying each of the book covers. Fully 54 people submitted a correct list. Those who got tripped up, tended to miss #2 or #19. Of those who got them all correct, I randomly selected Brett Maragni as the winner of the gift certificate.

Here are the answers:

  1. Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
  2. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
  3. Truth War by John MacArthur
  4. The Gagging of God by DA Carson
  5. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem
  6. George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore
  7. Reason for God by Tim Keller
  8. Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris
  9. Radical Reformission by Mark Driscoll
  10. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
  11. Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen
  12. The Shack by William P. Young
  13. Do Hard Things by Alex Harris, Bret Harris and Chuck Norris
  14. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
  15. The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Clairborne
  16. The Cross-Centered Life by CJ Mahaney
  17. Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden
  18. The Sacred Romance by John Eldredge
  19. Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren
  20. Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur

Bonus 1. Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris
Bonus 2. God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
Bonus 3. The God Delusion by Richard Hawkins

First Three Lines

Here are the answers for the “First Three Lines” contest in case you didn’t notice that I posted them in a comment. Derek Brown was selected as the winner, one of 34 people who answered all of them correctly.

  1. The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott
  2. Knowing God, J. I. Packer
  3. Desiring God, John Piper
  4. The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges
  5. Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
  6. Wild At Heart, John Eldredge
  7. True Spirituality, Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer
  8. Ashamed of the Gospel, John MacArthur
  9. Humility: True Greatness, C. J. Mahaney
  10. I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris
  11. Heaven, Randy Alcorn
  12. 90 Minutes in Heaven, Don Piper
  13. Chosen By God, R. C. Sproul
  14. Decision Making and the Will of God, Garry Friesen
  15. Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, Rob Bell
June 19, 2008

We have come to the final chapter of the The Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross, the third classic we’ve read together here. It has gone very quickly! If you have not been reading along with us it is obviously too late to start now, but stayed tuned for the next book we’ll read together (I will announce it here in a couple of weeks).


The seventh chapter looks at the final words Jesus spoke while on the cross. Having spoken words of forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering and victory, he cries forth one final time, this time with words of contentment. Luke 23:46 describes this. “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!’ And having said this he breathed his last.”

The chapter follows this outline:

  1. Here we see the Saviour back again in communion with the Father.
  2. Here we see a designed contrast.
  3. Here we see Christ’s perfect yieldedness to God.
  4. Here we see the absolute uniqueness of the Saviour.
  5. Here we see the place of eternal security.
  6. Here we see the blessedness of communion with God.
  7. Here we see the heart’s true haven.


As usual, I’d like to focus on just a couple of the points in this chapter that stood out to me. As with many of these sayings on the cross, I’ve spent a good deal of time in the past thinking and writing about this one. I’ve thought deeply about what it means that Jesus commended His spirit to the Father and what it means that He “dismissed His spirit” as another of the gospel writers terms it. But I learned more in reading this chapter. I enjoyed Pink’s section detailing how this saying points to the uniqueness of Jesus. Jesus’ life was not in the end taken from Him; instead, Jesus laid it down. Jesus had the power to lay down His life and, as we saw three days later, He had the power to take it again. Pink did a great job of tying together the different expressions of this in the gospels, showing how this was a word of power, of authority and of contentment. Jesus willingly gave His life for the Father’s glory and in the end, it was Jesus who surrendered His spirit when His work was done.

And how could the Christian’s heart not be uplifted by section showing how these words show the blessedness of communion with God. Here was Christ, on the cross, in utter agony, in the worst physical trial imaginable, and yet He still enjoyed communion with the Father.

This is one of the sweetest truths brought out by our text. It is our privilege to enjoy communion with God at all times, irrespective of outward circumstances or conditions. Communion with God is by faith, and faith is not affected by the things of sight. No matter how unpleasant your outward lot may be, my reader, it is your unspeakable privilege to enjoy communion with God. Just as the three Hebrews enjoyed fellowship with the Lord in the midst of the fiery furnace, as Daniel did in the lion’s den, as Paul and Silas did in the Philippian jail, as the Saviour did on the cross, so may you wherever you are! Christ’s head rested on a crown of thorns, but beneath were the Father’s hands!

And what a beautiful truth this is. Even (or perhaps especially) in life’s greatest trials, in its most terrifying and terrible moments, we can be assured of our fellowship with the Creator. Nothing can separate us from that sweet communion.

And finally, I’ll make brief mention of the final section which discusses the heart’s true haven. I don’t think I could do better than to quote Pink’s words:

These words then may be taken to express the believer’s care for his soul, that it may be safe, what ever becomes of the body. God’s saint who has come nigh to death exercises few thoughts about his body, where it shall be laid, or how it shall be disposed of; he trusts that into the hands of his friends. But as his care all along has been his soul, so he thinks of it now, and with his last breath commits it to the custody of God. It is not, “Lord Jesus receive my body, take care of my dust;” but “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” - Lord, secure the jewel when the casket is broken.

The spirit is the treasure. May we all follow the Saviour’s example and commend our souls to the care of the Father.

Next Time

There is no next time, at least with this book. In the next week or two I’ll announce the next book we will read together. As always, you can feel free to leave a comment with any suggestions for future reading. I think we’ll probably go back in time and try to read an older classic for our next round. I’d really like to find a manageable portion of Edwards or Calvin that we could do—but obviously many of their works are just too long for this format.

Your Turn

I am eager to know what you gained from this chapter. Feel free to post comments below or to write about this on your own blog (and then post a comment linking us to your thoughts). Do not feel that you can only say anything if you are going to say something that will wow us all. Just add a comment with some of the things you gained from the this week’s reading. Also feel free to share your reflections about the book as a whole.

June 18, 2008

Yesterday we had some fun with the First Three Lines contest. I had anticipated low participation and low accuracy. It turns out that a whole lot of people sent in their answers and fully 34 of them got all of the answers correct. Most of these confessed to having harnessed the power of Google to do so. I knew that Google would come into play but hadn’t thought that all fifteen quotes were available out there. Lesson learned! However, since I did not forbid Google use, it was all above board. From the 34 winners I used a random integer generator to choose the sixth one I received—and that belonged to Derek Brown. He wins the $50 gift certificate to Westminster Books. If you’d like to check your answers, I’ve posted them in a comment in that article.

Today I will try to even the field a little bit. This contest is a little more Google-proof. You may use Google, but I think you’ll find it more difficult to do so successfully.

Here we have a selection of book covers—not full covers, but merely a piece from each of them. There are twenty covers and three bonuses at the end. Your task is to identify the title of each of the books and to send me an email with your answers (please do not post answers in the comments). Please give the email a subject of “Book Cover Contest.” Once again, the person who correctly identifies the greatest number will win (and, if there are multiple winners, one will be chosen randomly). I do not think we’ll have so many people correctly identify all of them, so send along even a partial list if that’s the best you can do!

The prize is a $50 gift certificate for Westminster Books and the contest will close tomorrow at 9 AM. Have fun!

And, just for kicks, here are three bonus books. These are general market titles rather than Christian titles.

June 17, 2008

Yesterday, rather on a whim, I went through a few of the books on my shelves and jotted down the first three lines from each of them. Well, in most cases it was the first three lines—in a few I did more or less. And then it occurred to me that it might be fun to make a contest out of this. Most of these books are either classics or bestsellers. Most are the kind of books I love to read, though a couple are not. The majority of these books will be familiar to you either because they are on your bookshelves or because you’ve seen them just after walking in to your local Christian bookstore.

So here’s the contest. Send me an email with the book and the author for each of the following selections (and, if you could, make the title of the email “The First Three Lines.” The person who gets the most right will win a $50 gift certificate for Westminster Books. If there is a tie, I’ll just randomly choose one to be the winner. Get to it!

  1. Do you know the painting by Holman Hunt, the leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, titled The Shadow of Death? It depicts the inside of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. Stripped to the waist, Jesus stands by a wooden trestle on which he has put down his saw.”

  2. As clowns yearn to play Hamlet, so I have wanted to write a treatise on God. This book, however, is not it. Its length might suggest that it is trying to be, but anyone who takes it that way will be disappointed.”

  3. This is a serious book about being happy in God. It’s about happiness because that is what our Creator commands: ‘Delight yourself in the LORD!’ (Psalm 37:4). And it is serious because, as Jeremy Taylor said, ‘God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.’”

  4. A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates—all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seek to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God.”

  5. I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze. I am early in my story, but I believe I will stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days when it seemed God was down a dirt road, walking toward me. Years ago He was a swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing.”

  6. I know. I almost want to apologize. Dear Lord—do we really need another book for men? Nope. We need soemthing else. We need permission.”

  7. The question before us is what the Christian life, true spirituality, really is, and how it may be lived in a twentieth-century setting.”

  8. If you’re familiar with the life of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, you have probably heard of ‘the Down-Grade Controversy.’ Spurgeon spent the final four years of his life at war against the trends of early modernism, which he rightly saw as a threat to biblical Christianity.”

  9. In a culture that so often rewards the proud—a world quick to admire and applaud the prideful, a world eager to bestow the label ‘great’ on these same individuals—humility occasionally attracts some surprising attention.”

  10. Thanks for picking up this book. Some people never get past the title. ‘My friends won’t touch it,’ one girl told me.”

  11. Bookstores overflow with accounts of near-death and after-death experiences, complete with angels giving guided tours of Heaven. A few of these books may have authentic components, but many are unbiblical and misleading. We Christians who believe God’s Word are partly to blame for this.”

  12. I died on January 18, 1989. Paramedics reached the scene of the accident within minutes. They found no pulse and declared me dead.”

  13. Baseball. Hot dogs. Apple Pie. Chevrolet. These are all things American.”

  14. Sacred cows make the best hamburger, but the meat can be hard to swallow. Christians cherish a mythology that, along with their theology, shapes and directs their lives. Perhaps no myth more strongly influences us than our understanding of how to know the will of God.”

  15. In my basement, behind some bikes and suitcases and boxes, sits a Velvet Elvis. A genuine, bought-by-the-side-of-the-road Velvet Elvis. And to say that this painting captures The King in all his glory would be an understatement.”

June 08, 2008

Today I wanted to draw your attention to a few notable books…but books I have not had opportunity to read or review in full.

Reformation Heroes

Reformation Heroes: A Simple, Illustrated Overview of People Who Assisted in the Great Work of the Reformation.

This is a beautiful, hardcover, coffee table book that provides an overview of many of the heroes of the Reformation. It is written by Joel Beeke and Diana Kleyn and targeted at older children and teenagers. The book has many illustrations, some of which are old drawings and etchings and many of which are originals created by Caffy Whitney. It is published by Reformation Heritage Books. It is probably just a little too advanced for my children right now, but I do look forward to reading it to them when they are old enough to understand and enjoy it. It’s well worth the purchase price of $18. You can find it at Reformation Heritage Books.

Pocket Puritans

Pocket Puritans is a new series of books published by Banner of Truth. They are small books (easily pocket-sized) and thin ones, with the largest weighing in at just 120 pages. Each deals with a particular topic by excerpting the writings of a particular Puritan. The first four in the series feature Jonathan Edwards on heaven, John Flavel on lust, Richard Baxter on anger management and Samuel Ward on faith. They are just $6 each and are ideal for quick reading, for an introduction to Puritan writing, or for placing on a resource table at the back of church. I understand that there are many more of them coming in the days ahead, so these four are only the beginning of the series. Check banneroftruth.org for details.

The Quotable Oswald Chambers

The Quotable Oswald Chambers is pretty well what you’d expect from the title—a collection of quotes from Chambers. The collection is compiled and collected by David McCasland who authored Abandoned to God, a biography of Chambers. As with any book of this type, the ability to find quotes is almost as important as the quotes themselves. In this case the quotes are arranged topically and there are both Scripture and subject indexes. Of course you can also flip to any page and, in all likelihood, find something of value. Case in point, I flipped to page 122 and found this, on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit: “Beware of the ‘show business’—‘I want to be baptized with the Holy Ghost so that I may do wonderful works.’ God never allows anyone to do wonderful works: He does them, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost prevents my seeing them in order to glory in them.” And on page 250, looking at solemnity, this: “Reverence and solemnity are not the same. Solemnity is often nothing more than a religious dress on a worldly spirit.”

As a bonus to those who use Logos on their computers, the book includes a CD-ROM containing the complete searchable text of the book in Libronix format.

Heirs with Christ

The Puritans have gotten bad press for their supposed lack of teaching on the doctrine of spiritual adoption. Affronted by the maligning of his Puritan heroes, Joel Beeke has set out to prove that they had much to say about this important doctrine. The result is the newly-published Heirs With Christ: The Puritans on Adoption. It is a 134-page hardcover that sets the record straight, giving not only examples of Puritans who did teach about adoption but sharing the substance of that teaching. It’s another one you can find at Reformation Heritage Books.

June 03, 2008

Crimson is a word, a color, that figures prominently in the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that each of us is born into this world encrimsoned, covered with the blood required of those who sin against God. And without further blood, further encrimsoning, there can be no remission of this sin. Blood cries for blood and that Scripture is clear that every person will die encrimsoned in either their own blood or the blood of a divine substitute.