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Tim Challies

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July 04, 2005

My “to-read” shelf contains close to 50 books at this very moment. Now you know why I always have my nose stuck in a book - I’m just trying to keep up! A few minutes ago the FedEx guy showed up at my door with a little package (remember that I live in Canada so FedEx is working full-force today since we’re not exactly celebrating Independence Day). The package contained my review copy of Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him, which was written by Richard Abanes, who you may recognize as a prolific poster in the forums at this site.

I don’t have time to read the book this morning, much as I would like to, as I have several web sites that need my attention. But I did give the book the once-over I give all my books. I begin by reading the back cover to get an overview of what the publisher thinks this book is all about. Then I read the endorsements, which in this case didn’t take long as the book has only one (James K. Walker, President of Watchman Fellowship). Then I check what Bible translation the author defaults to (not sure why I do this - just habit I guess). This book uses the KJV by default and there is also a copyright notice for The Message which makes me assume Abanes will be addressing what appears to be one of Warren’s favored “translations.”

The next thing I do is to skim the chapter headings. It looks like the book kicks-off with some background about The Purpose Driven Life, turns to an interview with Warren, and then begins the apologetic work. I very quickly skimmed the interview with Warren and had to laugh at one question (sorry Richard, but it’s funny!). Abanes asked, “Do you advocate watering down the Gospel to cater to seekers?” I don’t think even Robert Schuller would answer that affirmatively! It’s a loaded question (“water down,” “cater”). I understand what Abanes was getting at, but it’s not the kind of question which is going to address the concerns of people like, well, myself.

The final part of skimming a book is to read through the endnotes and bibliography. Abanes references a wide variety of sources. Many of the people who have written a critique of Warren have received some attention: James Sundquist, Nathan Busenitz, John MacArthur, T.A. McMahon, Greg Koukl and even yours truly. So it seems Abanes was thorough.

Anyways, I have 50 pages of another book to get through and will then turn to Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him. I’m looking forward to it. After I have read and digested the book I will be conducting an interview with the author, so if you’ve got questions you’d like to address to Abanes, feel free to email me with them. As always, a review of the book will be forthcoming. The book weighs in at only 127 pages, so it should not take too long to read.

July 03, 2005

Live 8 only just barely registered on my radar screen. My apathy towards the event is, well, pretty well complete. But some people in the blogosphere have had good things to say.

Phil Johnson says, “Do sane people really think Western materialism, self-conceit, and celebrity-worship can be leveraged to solve the problem of African poverty?” Apparently they do. For one day overpaid, oversexed and overwhelmingly arrogant people get together to scold us for not doing all we can do to combat poverty. They snap their fingers every three seconds to remind us that a child in Africa dies of povery every three seconds. I didn’t realize anyone died of poverty, but apparently that’s what Will Smith would have us believe. Good-looking people go on camera to bemoan the fact that we do so little. Then they climb back into their private jets and go back their multi-million dollar homes, content in their love for humanity. It’s pathetic. And I’m still apathetic.

The guys over at Junkyard blog chime in as well.

It seems that I seldom agree with Bill Hybels. But in Courageous Leadership he talks about his growing conviction that “the church of Jesus Christ is the hope for the world.” Bingo. Not rockstars. Not rappers. Not extravagent concerts held every two decades. The hope for the world is in the power of God working through His people. Want to change the world? Good. Then go and be the church. Be the body of Christ and watch the world change.

June 25, 2005

From Phil Johnson’s blog (still flavor of the day (or month) in the blogosphere): “Another of those infamous BlogSpotting posts is on its way tomorrow. Could be the last one ever. Watch for details to come.” And there was great rejoicing.

Now if we can get James White to stop trolling Catholic forums and posting lengthy responses to every ignorant schmuck that chooses to digitally voice his uninformed opinion, the Internet will be a significantly better place. Maybe enough so that Bob Ross will stop complaining about it.

Nah. Not likely.

You know, for a guy who once told me that forums are the most useless form on communication in the world, White certainly does spend a lot of time reading them and responding to guys with names like John6jmj. Guys who are probably fourteen years old and post responses in the forums between deathmatches in Quake. Guys who simply don’t have the nerve to actually call him and say something worthwhile.

And in case it’s not obvious, I have nothing but the utmost respect for all of the above-mentioned gentlemen (though I know a lot less about Bob than the other two). And Phil’s BlogSpotting articles aren’t so bad - I just like ribbing him about them.

Mmm…ribs.

June 24, 2005

To answer that rhetorical question, my friend Francis and his soon-to-be-wife do. We will be heading off shortly to witness it. Francis is a good friend whom I have known since I was just a young lad. He and my brother have long been good friends as well. And as if getting married wasn’t good enough, he also recently graduated from Westminster Seminary and will soon be seeking a call in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

It occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve ever met his fiancee.

The wedding is sure to bring me face-fo-face with people I have not met for many years, so that is always fun. It will also mark the first time in well over a year that I will have to wear a tie. That is not so much fun.

I should also run into a few of the readers of this site. Regular reader and occasional forum poster drareg (Gerard) is in the wedding party. And I’m quite sure there will be a few others. After the wedding I’ll be hanging out with my friend Chad VanDixhoorn whom I have not seen in far too long. Chad has been overseas earning his doctorate in England. He is also heading up the Westminster Assembly Project. Those of you who were at the PCA General Assembly last week heard him talking about this project.

Anyways, that is my afternoon all planned out. For those who don’t drop by the site over the weekend, I wish you a blessed weekend and a relaxing Lord’s Day. As for the rest of you, who are obviously gluttons for punishment, I’m planning to post some book and DVD reviews over the weekend.

June 23, 2005

I would like you to help me out. I don’t ask for much from the people who read this site, but you can help me out now by replying to this thread. If you think about the subject matter for a bit before replying it would be even more helpful!

As you may know from previous threads, I am working on a new site, tentatively (though this is less-tentative than before) called Christian Media Review. This site will feature reviews of just about everything with a Jesus label on it: books (fiction, nonfiction, children’s, teen’s), DVDs, music, software, t-shirts, etc. Just kidding about the t-shirts. In case you’re wondering, I will probably not be doing the bulk of the reviewing for this site, but will be asking others to do this.

As you ponder a site that contains reviews of products you might just want to buy (since we all buy Christian books or music at least occasionally) what would be helpful to you as the discerning Christian consumer? What features of review sites do you absolutely need to have? What features do you despise?

I will kickstart the discussion with a list of popular features that may or may not be included:

Ratings - Do you like a numerical or star rating of products (where the reviewer indicates that this is a 5-star book, but that is only a 3-star) or do you prefer just to read a well-formed review and draw your own conclusions?

Reader Reviews - Do you like to read reader reviews (like at Amazon)? Do you like the ability to express your opinion of a product by clicking a simple star rating?

Forums - Do you like to discuss the products in forums right on the site?

Multiple Buying Options - Do you like to have the ability to compare prices directly from the site?

That gives you a few to work with. Now let’s talk about this. Help me build a site that will be most useful to you, the reader.

June 22, 2005

I am considering writing a series of articles that will discuss some of the challenges facing the church in the 21st century. While I have written about many of these issues in past articles, I thought it might be interesting to address them in a more organized, coherent format. Generally I’d like to use a format similar to:

Challenge - Overview of the challenge to the church.
Proponents - Where relevant, this would list the people who champion a doctrine that presents a challenge to the church.
Challengers - People who have challenged the proponents.
At Stake - Discussion of what is at stake.
Solution - Proposed solutions.
Resources - Recommended resources for learning more.

I will list a few obvious challenges and hope that readers will be able to propose some more:

Open Theism
New Perspective on Paul
Postmodernism
Biblical Sufficiency
Biblical Inerrancy

I am not sure how many articles I would like to write, but by drawing up an exhaustive list I can sort through and choose the ones that seem to pose the greatest challenge.

Your turn!

June 22, 2005

Last week I told you about my neighbour, who came to our door asking me to take him to the hospital, before collapsing and falling unconscious. Through the last week we have received occasional updates from his daughter. This morning there was a knock at the door and he stood there with a card and a box of chocolates. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged, and then he retreated indoors to spend time on the couch. He was just released this morning, and while he is still weak, he is feeling quite good. It has been seven days since the incident.

It turns out that he had a severe allergic reaction to latex balloons within their house. Had he not been able to stumble down the stairs and make his way to our front door, he would have died, alone in that house.

I’d ask for your continued prayers as we look for opportunities to be good neighbors, and ultimately to present to him the Good News.

June 19, 2005

I had intended to post links to all of the great Father’s Day posts in the blogosphere. Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be as many as I had expected. So instead I want to post links leading to a few different articles.

UPDATE - JD Wetterling was kind enough to send me the link to his Father’s Day tribute to his dad. It’s just a wonderful piece of prose and pays homage to a man of God. Give it a read! You won’t be sorry.

First up, everybody’s favorite humble blogger has some exciting news to share. I give her 8/10 for originality in presenting it too. She probably gets the award for the best Father’s Day gift for her husband.

Paul Proctor, one of my favorite curmudgeons, has a thought-provoking article about hating church. “So, what’s next? Well, let’s see; we already have a preacher for people who hate preachers; that would be Rick Warren, of course. How about a Bible for people who hate the Bible? Oh yeah, Eugene Peterson already thought of that. OK – How about a Jesus for people who hate Jesus? Oh, that’s right – Opie Taylor is bringing us The Da Vinci Code movie next year, isn’t he? I wonder if any of these former “churches” will host a special “Heresy Sunday” and show it on their big screens to help those addicted to false teaching?” Uh oh.

I’m going to wrap up with an article I found in my inbox yesterday. It was written by Bob Ross and addresses some of my frustrations with the U.S. Open - a great Father’s Day tradition. Within seconds of hitting the “Post” button I’ll be taking in the last couple of hours of the tournament. A Diet Coke, a book, and the U.S. Open: The makings of a great Father’s Day.

It’s that time of summer again. A time for my yearly “tribute” to the USGA. If you have no interest in professional golf, then don’t waste your time reading any further.

The only week of the year which is more harassing to the normal emotional life of a golf fan than the week of April 15 is the week of the U. S. Open Golf Championship.

In June each year, the “United States Golf Association,” which is the “ruling body” under the operation of amateur hackers, stages its Annual Ritual called the “U. S. Open.” This event primarily serves to demonstrate to the world how no one actually plays golf, yet the tourney still manages to have the distinction in the World of Sports of being a “Major tournament.” That must be some kind of Magic.

How they manage to work such Magic, no one has yet discerned. How the Magic all began, no one has yet revealed.

Would you believe that prior to 1965 the wiseacres of the “ruling body” of golfdom actually required 36 holes to be played on the very same hot summer day to come up with a winner? The primary “test” was one of endurance. Yet somehow it still managed to be called a “Major.”

After abandoning this 36-hole method which tested “endurance,” the USGA adopted other methods, such as hard-as-rock greens, fast-fast-fast putting surfaces, deep-deep-deep rough, extending the distances, narrowing the fairways, and other contrivances to abuse the normal conditions of the great courses on which the Open was staged. Yet it was still called a “Major” in contrast to what some thought of it as being, namely, an “Oddity.”

The Annual Ritual somehow still manages to come up with some very rare incidents, scores, and other surprising doozies. For example, today a Swede, who has had only one professional win on the European Tour, shot the lowest round ever in a U. S. Open at Pinehurst — a 4-under par 66. On the very same day, former Masters champion Phil Mickelson, a multi-tournament winner on the PGA Tour and ranked one of the best players in the world, could only manage a 7-over par 77. This contrast qualifies as a “doozie.”

Perhaps the most impressive doozie which I personally ever witnessed was the missed putt by the late and lamented Payne Stewart in 1998 at The Olympic Club, San Francisco. His slow-rolling putt only missed the hole by a hair and would have normally stopped no further than an inch or two from the hole. But this was the magical U. S. Open, where nothing ever seems to be normal. Stewart’s ball took a left turn and slowly, slowly, slowly tumbled downhill before finally, finally, finally halting several yards away from the hole. The frustrated Stewart, obviously weary from waiting for the ball to come to rest, proceeded to miss the next putt, bogeying the hole, and eventually losing the tourney by a stroke to Lee Janzen. It cost Stewart $220,000 to finish second.

The apparent intent of the USGA each year is to create a classic four days of DULL AND BORING “golf.”

The Ritual cannot seem to bear to have its Dull & Boring expectations disappointed by, say, the type of exciting golf which characterizes the Masters every year. Birdies at the Open are at a minimum and eagles are almost a veritable taboo. Par 5 holes reachable in two shots are few and far between, even with some players hitting tee shots 300 yards plus.

The Open is so Dull & Boring that there is more excitement in watching a Public TV fundraiser Intermission.

The Open is so Dull & Boring that the Shopping Channel has more potential for holding your attention.

The Open is so Dull & Boring that watching it is more likely to cause you go to sleep than the TV Guide Channel.

In my past yearly articles about the Open, I have usually tried to find some “redeeming element” of some description related to the tournament. For example, in 1992, I awarded the honor to BRUCE LIETZKE, a rare pro, who had the good sense, personal integrity, and respect for the true game of Golf to refuse to play in the tournament. Bruce refused to dignify the event by allowing it to delight itself in inflicting its travesties in the name of “Golf.”

On another occasion, I gave the “Trophy” to JOHN DALY, as Big John really gave the Open what it richly deserves. I always thought that Big John had more sense than his public image portends, and his withdrawal from the tournament demonstrated it. After surveying the first nine holes of the perverted yards of turf, he realized he was not on a playing-field commensurate to the word “Golf,” and John did the only thing that a wise and decent pro should do: he shook the weedy sprouts out of his cuffs (similar to the Biblical directive), and refused to cast his pearls into the trough of the swine (see Bible, Matthew 10:14; 7:6).

This year, perhaps I will find another worthy honoree who will give the Open its due. — Bob L. Ross

June 16, 2005

I am plotting out a new web site that will deal with reviews of all types of Christian material - books (fiction and non-fiction, kids and adults), music, DVDs and just about anything else the Christian companies push out these days. It will be a little bit like the Diet of Bookworms but each product will have only one review instead of multiple reviews. I will be seeking out people to write reviews for it. I guess it will be a bit like a magazine or other publication in that regard.

Anyways, I am looking for a name for this site. I’d like to poll the public (that’s you) for a name. If you have any suggestions, please check with Whois to see if they are already registered. If not, go ahead and post them. If I choose your name I may reach into my grab-bag of wild and cool books and send you something.

The name either has to be “cool” or somehow relate to the subject matter. It cannot say “book” or “DVD” since the site will service a wide variety of media. Remember: Amazon, Yahoo, Google - they are all wildly successful even though their names have nothing to do with what they offer or sell. Visted search.com recently? Didn’t think so. Books.com? Me neither. So feel free to think outside the box!

June 15, 2005

An hour ago, just seconds after posting the article called “Arrows in the Hand of God” I heard the dog begin a frenzy of barking, which usually means there is someone at the door (the doorbell rings upstairs, I work downstairs and can’t hear it). I assumed it was the FedEx guy bringing me the package I missed out on yesterday when I nipped out of the house at an inopportune moment. Opening the door I found my next-door neighbour standing there - an elderly man who lives with his daughter but is home alone during the day. He was clutching a couple of bottles of medication and holding a cloth over his mouth. He croaked in a voice that was only barely audible, “Take me…to…hospital.” I called Aileen and turned to grab my wallet and keys. He began to sway on his feet and I could hear him wheezing and coughing. Aileen took one look at him and ran upstairs to call 911.

I helped him into the house and had him sit him down in my office, assuring him that an ambulance was coming. I had barely sat him down when his head fell back and his eyes rolled back. The wheezing stopped, which we knew was not good, as it showed that he was probably not breathing at all. Pressing firmly on his chest I could feel that his heart was still beating softly. We held his head upright and he began to wheeze just a little bit again. As I stood there holding his head I realized that I was praying for him.

Five minutes after Aileen had placed the call to 911, a truckload of firefighters pulled up in front of the house. It was followed about two minutes later by an ambulance. The FedEx truck was right behind them, but presumably when he saw where the emergency workers were heading and correlated that with the address on the package, he drove off in a hurry.

My daughter was screaming in fear, having no idea of what was going on, so my wife took the children upstairs and prayed with them.

I was hit with a barrage of questions.

“What’s his name?”

“I don’t know!”

“How old is he?”

“I don’t know!”

We have lived here for four years, but know him only as “The Mystery” - a name my son gave him shortly after we moved to the neighbourhood. We have no idea why he called him that, but the name stuck. He tried telling us his real name once, but between his accent and the fact that his name is, well, certainly not Anglo and exceedingly difficult to pronounce, we eventually gave up. Whenever we take the children out to play, he comes and stands on his step, and often gives them candy, stickers or balloons. They adore him.

The paramedics found that his heart was only barely beating and his breathing was nearly non-existant. They put him on oxygen and after mixing in some medication his breathing increased noticably and he regained some color. After a few minutes of working on him they lifted him onto a stretcher, still unconscious, wheeled him out and drove away. As they walked out one of the firemen said, “He’s lucky you were home. It would have been a lot different if you hadn’t been.”

We were now faced with the prospect of trying to tell his family what had happened. We found that while he had locked the front door on his way out, he had neglected to close the back door. The screen was locked, but screens are easily cut. My wife did so, popped the lock, and searched around until she found a phone number for his daughter. His daughter is on the way to the hospital to be with her father as I write this.

As the firefighters got into their truck, one of them, looked back at me and said, “Well that’s enough excitement for today, I guess.” And he’s right - that’s plenty for me.

Oh, and just as I was about to hit the “Post” button, the FedEx guy came back and dropped off a package containing (you guessed it) books.

I thank God that we live in a country with such rapidly-available medical care (which we complain about far too often). I’d ask for your prayers for The Mystery, that God would restore his health and use this to bring us opportunities to share His love with that family, whom I believe are practicing Hindus.

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