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Tim Challies

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Christian Living

May 03, 2010

It may well be that when we read a history of our day, the beep will be declared the defining noise of a generation. The beep is a purely human sound, one without any equivalent in nature. No animal, no plant, makes a beep.

You know the sound well. The beep begins and ends with the twin plosives “b” and “p” and in between offers a eee that lasts as long as we care to make it. That beep can be a dot or a dash, a mere blip or a long and sustained beeeeeeep. It can make itself known just once or it can repeat endlessly. Beeps come in many different contexts: our phones beep, email beeps, trucks beep while they back up, washers beep when a load of clothes is clean. No matter the context, the message is always the same: “pay attention to me!” Beeps always demand a response, even if that response is only to turn it off. We may need to look up from what we are doing and press a button, we may need to sprint out of the way of a moving car, we may need to throw some clothes into the dryer, but in every case a beep calls us to action; it calls us from one thing and to another.

April 23, 2010

Yesterday morning I was in despair. In the morning paper I had read about a new health curriculum that was to be introduced to the public schools here in Ontario. Beginning next school year, students were to receive a thorough indoctrination in sex education. And as you probably know, my wife and I have chosen to enroll our kids in public schools. We were despairing, wondering how we would deal with this new reality. Would this be the last straw, the situation that would force us to consider alternatives? Would this be a one-day program for which we could easily withdraw our children from school? Or would it be something they would be taught over the course of the entire year? Questions abounded; answers were few.

The current health curriculum in Ontario was put into place twelve years ago, I believe, and to this point (my oldest child is in fourth grade) has proven entirely unremarkable. As Christian parents whose children are in public schools, this is the one area we watch out for more than any other—the one area where we feel most protective of our children. We want our children to know what is right and what is wrong when it comes to sexuality, but we want them to know at a proper time and in a proper way. Currently by fourth grade the most a child will have learned at school is very rudimentary knowledge of what constitutes sexual abuse and how to respond should he or she experience it (i.e. tell your mom and dad).

All that was to change with the new curriculum. Under this new agenda children in third grade were to learn about gender identity (your identity may be different than your physical gender, it seems) and they were to learn that criticizing homosexuality was no different than discriminating against those with physical disabilities. They were to learn that many children have two mommies or two daddies and that they should use inclusive language such as “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife” in order not to exclude anybody. By sixth grade children were to be taught that masturbation is normal and a good way of exploring the body. By seventh grade they would be taught that they need to talk to their sexual partners about good boundaries and they were to learn that abstinence may mean different things to different people—for some it may mean excluding all sexual activity while for others it might exclude vaginal intercourse but include anal intercourse. All this was to be taught to children in seventh grade and younger. As I said, I was in despair.

April 19, 2010

Is error in doctrine always sin? It’s a question I’ve reflected on in the past and one that I think is well worth considering, even if just for a few moments. While this may seem like a petty issue, a petty question, I believe it is an issue of some consequence since it will necessarily impact how I relate to fellow Christians who differ from me on secondary issues. If I feel that my friend is being sinful by teaching that we should baptize infants, I will want to go to great lengths to show him that he is sinning and to see him repent and correct his error. But if I believe that his belief in infant baptism is something less than sin, I can appreciate his conviction while not feeling the need to emphasize repentance and correction. Do you see the difference there? One understanding compels me to emphasize correction while the other allows me to find unity.

Now it is obvious that there are times when differences in doctrine reflect sin. A person who preaches that Jesus Christ is something other than divine is teaching an awful and divisive heresy and that error is sinful, pure and simple. A person who teaches that homosexuality is a legitimate lifestyle that the Bible condones is likewise teaching grievous error and error that can be easily proven so from the Bible. But what happens when the error deals with issues of lesser consequence? What happens when one teacher preaches a sermon defending the baptism of believers while another preaches a sermon defending the baptism of children? Obviously one of the two men must be wrong. But is one of them being sinful in teaching what is wrong? Or think of an issue like eschatology where two very fine and godly men may have completely different understandings of the end times. When they teach their differing conclusions, is one of them actually being sinful?

Here are three principles I’ve found useful and relevant while thinking about this issue.

First, it is clear to me that, regardless of whether or not error in doctrine is always sin, error in doctrine is always a consequence of sin. When the Lord returns and we join him in heaven, there will no longer be disagreements about doctrine. Disagreements about baptism, eschatology and other issues will be put away once and for all. And we all look forward to that day.

March 29, 2010

My memory isn’t what it used to be. Or maybe I’m kidding myself and my memory has always been awful. Out of necessity I allow Aileen to be my memory and she’s always saying things like, “Do you remember when we had to rush Abby to the hospital for that operation and I ended up staying there with her all night?” And I search my memory banks and find absolutely no recollection of such an event. It’s pathetic, really. It won’t be long, I’m sure, before she’s pinning my name to my shirt to help me remember who I am.

But of course there are some memories that are forever clear and that, I trust, will always remain that way. I will never forget standing at the front of St. John’s Anglican Church in Ancaster on an already-hot morning in August of 1998, as I waited for my bride-to-be to walk down the aisle. From the moment I saw her, I was completely undone, unable and unwilling to hold back the emotion. There she was, walking toward me, about to become my wife. It was a moment I had been anticipating for so long and here it was at last. It was almost surreal, like a dream—a dream come true. I cried like a baby.

Yesterday at church we wrapped up a beautiful day of worship by singing “The Sands of Time Are Sinking.” This is one of my favorite hymns. It was written by Anne Cousin back in the mid 1800’s and before it was a hymn it was a poem inspired by the letters and the last words of Samuel Rutherford. Only later was it set to music. The best verse of all is this one:

The bride eyes not her garment,
But her dear Bridegroom’s face;
I will not gaze at glory
But on my King of grace.
Not at the crown He giveth
But on His pierced hand;
The Lamb is all the glory
Of Emmanuel’s land.

March 27, 2010

My friend Tim Kerr, pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Toronto has given me permission to post the manual for prayer he has titled Take Words With You. It is a small book that contains 1600+ scripture promises & prayers to help God’s people pray more effectively. The promises are arranged around the cross—it’s purposes & rewards.

It is ideal for printing and using during times of private or corporate prayer. In fact, you’ll see that you can easily print it in 8.5” x 6.5” format and spiral bind it if you so desire. Here is how Tim introduces this little book:

Many years ago I discovered a precious truth regarding prayer: God loves to hear his own words prayed back to him! When a small child crawls up on the lap of their father and says, “Daddy when are you going to take us to the zoo like you promised?” the father smiles and assures his child he has not forgotten and is very much looking forward to doing what he promised (when the time is right). In the same way, our heavenly Father delights to hear us remind him of his promises to us. The Bible is in fact a great big prayer manual that should fill and guide our prayers each and every day.

It is hoped that the many promises of God written here will be prayed back to God in prayer as we seek to enter into God’s purposes accomplished for us through Christ’s cross. Sometimes we remember the gist of a promise but cannot remember what was said or where it is found in Scripture. This manual has been written to make that process easier by organizing the promises of God by categories and themes.

Click below if you’d like to download it for your own use. Feel free to pass it around or print it as you see fit.

March 24, 2010

This Sunday evening I will be driving out to Heritage College and Seminary in Cambridge and will be talking to a group of young men. I’ve been asked to share with them some of what I discussed in my book Sexual Detox (which will eventually be available as a printed book, honest). Yesterday I began to think about what I would tell them, what I would challenge them with.

When discussing sexuality with young men, I feel a real burden to share with them the consequences of sexual sin and to compare that to the joy and freedom of obedience. And this, I think, is what I need to tell them on Sunday. Though their hearts and bodies are crying out for some kind of sexual fulfillment, some kind of false intimacy, they will ultimately find freedom in obedience to God.

This is a difficult concept to get our minds around. All around us we hear messages that we will find the greatest freedom in pursuing our deepest desires, whatever those desires may be. Recently I read the bestselling book Anticancer, written by David Servan-Schreiber. In this book he talks about the importance of a healthy immune system for battling against disease. He lists several factors that may cause an immune system to decrease rather than strengthen. And one of those factors is denying or ignoring one’s natural homosexuality. If you are homosexual, the best thing for your body and soul is to pursue your homosexuality. True freedom, he implies, freedom of both body and spirit, will be found in pursuing homosexuality; captivity will come by ignoring what he believes to be natural and good.

March 22, 2010

You know the words of Genesis 2:18. There God, having completed his work of Creation, having declared the excellence of all that he has made, says “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” It is useful to consider the context of the creation of Adam’s helper. God declared that it was not good for the man to be alone and that he had need of a helper. And yet he did not, at that moment, create such a helper and neither, as far as we know, did he say anything about this to Adam. Instead, he commanded Adam to name the animals. And he was obviously not just to name them, but to consider and evaluate each one. And as he did so, he must have realized that none of them were like him—none bore the image of God. An ache of loneliness must have developed within as he studied and pondered and realized that he was so much different from each of them. And there, in that context, God caused Adam to fall asleep and from his own body created a woman. And when Adam opened his eyes it is no wonder that he burst into praise. He looked upon this woman and saw at last his companion, his helper, and he cried out

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

It was after coming to an understanding of his loneliness, his incompleteness, that Adam was able to offer God heartfelt praise for such great provision. Having experienced loneliness even in perfection, he knew the greatness of his gift.

March 18, 2010

Yesterday I received an email from a reader of this site and today I’d like to answer it (with the permission of the person who sent it). Here is what he wrote:

Thank you so much for your booklet, “Sexual Detox.” I have read it over and over, and am still very much challenged by it. I was recently married and was under the illusion that marriage would solve all of my lust problems… Even though I had been told numerous times that it would not. Now I feel that everything has come to head, I know what I must do, and I want so very badly to do it, but I feel that the devil knows this is THE deciding point in my life on this issue, and he is working hard against me. I feel more captivated and strangled by my sin than ever before, and I need you to pray for me. If you have any advice or encouragement to offer, please tell me.

Thanks for sending this note. It sounds to me like you are absolutely right when say that this is a deciding point in your life on the issue of lust and the acting out of that lust. Satan will be working hard against you and, in many ways, you will be working hard against yourself. You gave yourself over to your sin and no doubt you’ve become captivated by it. As sin always seeks to do, it has ensnared you. But take heart. There is hope.

To reiterate what I wrote in Sexual Detox, the fact that you feel sexual desire is a good and noble thing. God has given you that desire so you will pursue your bride. But, like all good gifts, the gift of sex is one that we are prone to pervert, turning it into a means of selfish self-fulfillment. God wants you to pursue your wife, to win her heart not just once but day-by-day; and he wants you to enjoy sex with her. But, of course, you have grown used to indulging the flesh, to giving it its desires, those desires that are perversions of the true gift. And sin rarely just goes away; it is usually a long and difficult process to put it to death.

March 15, 2010

We don’t fully understand the Lord’s Supper. Yes, there is a lot we do know and understand about it; we know that it is a means of grace by which we are drawn closer together as a body of believers and, more importantly, drawn closer to the Savior whose death is signified in it. We know that the breaking of bread symbolizes the breaking of Christ’s body and the pouring of the wine symbolizes his blood being poured out for us; we know that through the act Christ symbolizes his love for us and the blessings he pours out upon us. And we know that our partaking of the Lord’s Supper is a proclamation of our dependence upon Christ, admitting as we take and eat that we need his blood and righteousness. It is clearly far more than the sum of its parts.

And yet what we don’t understand so well is how Christ nourishes us through Lord’s Supper. When Christ instituted it he said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

Christ says that just as eating ordinary food nourishes and strengthens our body, so feeding upon Christ, in a figurative sense, will feed our souls. In this act we both symbolize our dependence upon this food and we experience that nourishment. Though we do not quite know how this happens, we know that we receive spiritual strength through it. And certainly just about any Christian can testify to the joy and strength and spiritual refreshment he has received through the Lord’s Supper. We cannot quantify it and yet neither can we (or would we want to) deny it.

March 11, 2010

I woke up this morning feeling just a bit discouraged. I guess there’s a fair bit of uncertainty in certain parts of life right now, the kind of uncertainty that tends to be on my mind late at night or early in the morning (or, worst of all, smack dab between the two). I’m facing a day in which I need to be sharp and creative; a day in which I’ve got to make some good progress on my book. That deadline is creeping closer and closer and I can’t afford to be complacent. And yet few things are more difficult than a day of concentration and creativity when faced by that discouragement. For some reason the thought of even trying to settle down to write today it is both terrifying and paralyzing.

When I got out of bed I found myself doing what I often do when discouraged—tidying the house. I don’t know why, but for some odd reason I find this therapeutic. So I prayed while I went, putting away the dishes in the rack, tidying up the kids’ toys in the basement, putting away the winter boots piled near the front door that, hopefully, we will not need again this year. I got breakfast ready for the kids, woke them up, got ready for the day and ushered them out the door to the school bus. I came up to my office and wrote a pretty good blog post which, with one errant touch on the wrong button, promptly disappeared, just like that. It’s been a long time since I made such a rookie mistake. This was probably not the best day for it.

Along the way, somewhere between tidying the house and making breakfast, I turned to the Bible, asking to find in it words of life.

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