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Tim Challies

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June 10, 2004

I have promised never to do a “ramblings” entry more than once per week on this blog. I usually reserve it for Sunday, but after a very hectic day today, I have decided to post ramblings on Thursday. They require at least 20% less brainpower than a well-thought-out article, and I need to reserve brainpower.

I am supposed to be at evangelism training classes tonight. Our church is asking all members to attend a four week class (one meeting per week) to break down some of the barriers we allow to come between us and our God-given duty to evangelize. Unfortunately, and to my shame, I completely forgot about the class until now. Hopefully I can make up the class next week! I have no idea what the structure of the classes are, but I believe they are teaching three different methods - the “half hour” the “fifteen minute” and the “two minute” or something like that. It should be interesting…

I kind of got my Flash problems sorted out. Sort of. It basically required me to start over, but things always go faster the second time around. I’m excited about this site and think it’s going to be a really good one when all is said and done. It’s only my second-ever all-Flash site so I am doing a lot of learning!

Matt Hall posted a link to this article at Christianity Today. All those who feel they need more purpose in their marriages (actually, I think that should read Purpose®) will want to read Rick Warren’s article about making your marriage driven by Purpose! I’m not being sarcastic. Honest! (Or am I…?)

Mel Gibson’s company, Icon Production, has decided they didn’t make enough money from The Passion of the Christ so are suing for a larger cut of the box office receipts. Strangely, this event has not gotten much mention in the Christian press.

It seems the aptly-named Liberal Party in Canada is getting a bit worried about the upcoming election. Yesterday they released some awful television ads criticizing the Conservative Party. They misquoted Stephen Harper and did all sorts of mud-slinging. Harper commented “To treat the electorate as if they’re imbeciles is a strategy that will backfire and that’s what the Liberal party has done from the beginning of this election campaign. I will let the Liberals descend into the gutter. They will be punished accordingly.” I hope you’re right, Stephen. While I have little faith in any of the parties, I’m sick as can be of the Liberals, so you’ve got my vote!

Derek Webb released a new album on Tuesday that features almost equal parts teaching and music. The music is played in intimate settings, usually in front of no more than 50 people. Though a tough concept to pull-off, reviewers seem to be saying that Webb has succeeded. I’ll be picking up the album tomorrow and will let you know what I think of it.

91 days until Football season kicks off. I can’t wait.

5 days until Matt Redman releases a new album. If you want to know what we’ll all be singing in church six months from now, you can pick up the album on Tuesday. Interestingly, I have a rather extensive music collection, yet do not have a single, solitary Redman album. I have no idea why that is.

June 09, 2004

Flash (that’s Macromedia Flash, for the not-quite-so-computer-literate) saw fit to corrupt one of my files today. Naturally it was one I had spent the whole day working on. Not only did the program crash 7 or 8 times during the course of the day, but it also refused, time and again. to play the movies I had made. The only good that came of all this crashing is that I backed up my files fairly frequently. It seems the last good backup I’ve got is from about 1 PM this afternoon. So, it turns out I could have spent the afternoon going on a nice walk or learning to crochet or something since all the work I did is down the drain…

You know, I am using the 30 day evaluation version of the software and I have to say, it’s not looking good for them if they expect me to shell out $650 of my hard-earned dollars to buy their rather pathetic product (actually, all you get if you purchase it is an activation code - I already have the full-featured product…it’s just going to expire in 21 days).


June 09, 2004

I took an hour out of my evening to watch the proceedings surrounding Ronald Reagan. This evening he was brought to the Capitol Building where he will lie in state until the funeral on Friday. The historian in me is always interested in the traditions, the pomp and circumstance that are found at such occassions. So many of them stem from historical roots and have been honored for decades or even centuries. Here are a few I noticed this evening:

  • Backwards boots in the stirups of a riderless horse
  • Coffin being placed on a caisson
  • Riders on only three of the six horses drawing the caisson, and only on the horses on the left side
  • A flyover by military jets
  • One jet leaving the formation
  • Twenty-one gun salute
  • Hands over the heart when the casket passes by

Of course these are just a few of the many, many traditions. It seems the more famous the man, the more traditions that attend the funeral.

I had no real love for Reagan. He was never my President and I was quite young while he was in power. Sure I remember certain events, but at the time I was far more concerned with growing up. I found myself watching in fascination tonight, seeing the love people had for this man - this man that very few of the people there had ever met. It made me realize that I really had lost faith in the office of President. President Clinton made such a farce of the office - I mean, are we truly supposed to believe, some day, that Hillary will be weeping for her husband when his time comes? I guess there are some men who have managed to maintain and even enhance the dignity of the office. Truly Reagan must have been one of those men.

June 07, 2004

I sometimes wonder how many people really “get it.” How many people who profess Christ really, truly understand what the Christian life is all about. We love to use little catch-phrases like “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” but what does that really mean to us? How many people had personal relationships with Jesus while He walked this earth, yet never came to believe in Him? Perhaps that choice of words detracts from the real thing.

I am generally unimpressed when I hear people say they have a relationship with Jesus. What really does impress me is when people exhibit faith and repentance in their lives.

And so I ask, how many people who claim to be Christians really exhibit the qualities of a Christian in their lives? Do we see them repenting of their past behaviour and growing in grace? Do we see them seeking to learn more about their Saviour and striving to be more like Him?

I think we set our standards low. We have learned to expect so little of ourselves and so little of others and have taken Christ’s words that we are not to judge others to allow us to display such ignorance. We have allowed a mere profession to determine in our minds who is a believer and who isn’t, despite mountains of evidence that might contradict this profession. I think of Alice Cooper - a man who professes Christ, yet continues in the behaviour that earned him such notoriety in decades past. Sure he seems like a nice guy, but so much of his behaviour is not just unscriptural but anti-scriptural! Does his life show evidence of Christ? I saw an interview with him a few days ago where he mentioned that he became a Christian over 20 years ago. That means for the past twenty years he has been deliberately acting like an unbeliever while professing Christ. What gives?

Ultimately salvation is between an individual and God. We can never be absolutely certain about another person’s eternal destiny. Yet I believe we are free to assume based on the evidence we see. Where the evidence continually contradicts the profession, why should I force myself to believe that the person is a believer?

June 06, 2004

My pastor preached an excellent message this morning. Fortunately for me (and for you) he forgot to include a copyright statement on the message outline, so I thought I would share that content with you! No copyright means it is public domain, right? The message was entitled “How To Recognize God’s Voice” and dealt with those times when you feel a “spiritual impression” and are seeking to know what you should do.

He began by saying that there are three sources of spiritual guidance. God is not the only one who provides spiritual impressions. Three questions we need to ask are:

  1. Is the voice I am hearing Satan’s – “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)
  2. Is the voice I am hearing my own? – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (Prov 14:12)
  3. Is the voice I am hearing God’s – “But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.” (Job 33:14)

He then turned to seven questions we need to ask to test a spiritual impression:

  1. Does it agree with the Bible? - “Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33)
  2. Does it make me more Christ-like? – “Your attitude should be the same that Jesus Christ had…” (Phil 2:5)
  3. Does my church family confirm it? – “The wisdom of the righteous can save you.” (Prov 11:9)
  4. Is it consistent with how God has shaped me? – “God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well…” (Romans 12:6)
  5. Does it concern my responsibility? “We will all be judged one day, not by each other’s standards, or even our own, but by the judgment of God…it is to God alone that we shall have to answer for our actions.” (Rom 14:10,13)
  6. Is it convicting rather than condemning? – “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.” (1 John 1:9)
  7. Do I sense God’s peace about it? – “God is not the author of confusion.” (1 Cor 14:33)

It was a message that provided practical guidance in an area I have often struggled with. I am sure I will often return to these seven questions as I continue to seek God’s will for my life.

June 05, 2004

Someone posted some fascinating comment here earlier today. It contained all sorts of information about the 2004 National Pastors Convention which took place in two locations earlier this year. The convention is “designed to offer church pastors, their spouses and staffs the opportunity to find personal renewal and refreshment along with professional enrichment. The EC is an opportunity for those interested in the emerging church discussion the chance to connect with one another while exploring how the Church can best respond to a postmodern culture.”

Speakers at the convention included Rick Warren, Brennan Manning, Brian McLaren and other well-known Christian authors and pastors. You can view a schedule for the event here. Note that every day begins with Labyrinth. You can read about this ancient but dangerous mystical nonsense here.

Labyrinth is an interactive installation for spiritual journeys. It’s for anyone who wants a break from surfing the surface of culture to contemplate the deeper things of life.

Labyrinth reshapes a 12th-century ritual for the 21st century. Its maze-like path takes you on a symbolic journey, creates space to unwind and think - in particular about our relationships with ourselves, one another, our planet and God.

Designed for young and old alike, it provides a mixture of rituals and visuals, of contemplative words and contemporary ambient music, of symbols and media to help guide the spiritual traveller.

Labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals - one of the best remaining examples is found in Chartres Cathedral in northern France. Unlike a maze they have only one path - there are no dead ends. People walk the labyrinth slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise, or as a form of pilgrimage.

This contemporary version includes music, meditations, art, media and symbolic activities at intervals along the path. Participants walk the Labyrinth with a CD player and headphones, in their own relaxing soundworld, at their own pace. Each track on the CD contains meditations, instructions and music relating to a part of the labyrinth.

I read with great interest Dan Kimball’s experience in The Labyrinth.

Coming in from the brilliant San Diego sunshine, my wife and I entered a darkened hall lit only by candles and a dimmed chandelier. The room was silent. As our eyes adjusted, we saw several people kneeled in prayer. The setting, spirit, and solemn stillness of the hall told us that we had found something meditative there, something spiritual.

Today’s evangelicals are accustomed to well-choreographed worship services with every minute carefully filled with music, video, and preaching. Postmodern generations are hungering for something more—an unhurried, mystery-filled, meditative experience that doesn’t have to fit into a preplanned time schedule. The prayer labyrinth offers a feast to fill that hunger.

Meeting God in the middle The labyrinth is a maze-like path similar to those designed into the floors of European cathedrals during the Middle Ages. Christians of that time would walk the labyrinth to aid their contemplative prayer and reflection. The labyrinths fell into disuse, and most were eventually forgotten or destroyed.

At the National Pastors Conference in San Diego, however, we found the labyrinth was back and given an update. The path was formed by black lines on a 35-foot square piece of canvas laid on the floor. We each were given a CD player with headphones to guide our journey through the 11 stations on the path. As we began the inward journey—toward the center of the canvas—a gentle female voice with a British accent read a portion of John 1. She told us not to rush through the labyrinth, but to slow down, breathe deeply, and fully focus on God.

At the first stop, we looked at a television screen covered with complex, moving electronic wave forms. We were instructed to pray about and eliminate the noise within that interferes with God’s voice. At another station we dropped small stones into water, each stone representing a worry we were giving over to God. Later we drew on paper symbols of our hurts, prayed about each of them, and put them in a trash can.

After thirty minutes we found ourselves at the labyrinth’s center, where, seated on cushions, we were offered the elements of Communion. The narrator read more Scripture and reminded us how near Jesus Christ is to us. There was a Bible if we desired to linger, reading and praying.

The journey outward focused on how we can be used by God in other people’s lives. At one station we made impressions of our hands and feet in a box of sand, reminding us that we leave impressions on the people we touch. My wife and I spent an hour in the labyrinth and found ourselves calmed and refreshed, our perspective uniquely restored.

We made our own prayer path After the convention we knew we couldn’t keep this experience to ourselves. A few months later we featured a labyrinth as part of Graceland’s annual art event at Santa Cruz Bible Church.

Graceland artists recreated the labyrinth with a kit we purchased (The Prayer Path, Group Publishing), transforming one of the church’s multipurpose rooms into a medieval prayer sanctuary. The team hung art on the walls, draped fabric, and lit candles all around the room to create a visual sense of sacred space. Over two nights we saw more than 100 people go through the labyrinth. It was a joy to see so many people on their knees communing with God through the experiential prayer elements.

Meditative prayer like that we experienced in the labyrinth resonates with hearts of emerging generations. If we had the room, we would set up a permanent labyrinth to promote deeper prayer. Until then, however, Graceland will continue to incorporate experiential prayer and encourage our people to stop, quiet themselves, and pray.

Dan Kimball pastors Graceland, the ministry and worship services for the emerging culture at Santa Cruz Bible Church in Santa Cruz, California. Copyright © 2001 by the author or Christianity Today, Inc./Leadership journal.. Fall 2001, Vol. 23, No. 4, Page 38

“The team hung art on the walls, draped fabric, and lit candles all around the room to create a visual sense of sacred space.” What!? Where does the Bible say that a space surrounded by fabric and candles is the way to create a sacred space? They are merely pandering to the medieval false notions of what constituted a holy space! This are the very things the Reformation freed us from!

The convention also offered yoga on a daily basis as part of their Sustainable Life Forum. I don’t think that I even need to comment on that!

What can I say? These are the leaders of the Evangelical world and yet they are involved in what is little more than the mysticism I thought we had left behind. As the French say “Plus ca change, plus ce la meme chose.” (The more things change, the more they stay the same).

June 04, 2004

I had a long-overdue creative explosion today, managing to create three completely different but good-in-their-own-way site designs. I have been absolutely swamped with work recently which has, unfortunately, impacted my blogging time (not to mention the time I like to dedicate to reading other blogs). Heck, I haven’t even read Foxtrot (the comic) in a few days!

I am currently:

  • Making a site for a Baptist Church out in Calgary - due ASAP.
  • Making a site for a youth camp - due ASAP. Registration ends July 5 so I’m going to have to hurry with that one! I only just received the information, though, so the blame is all theirs!
  • Redoing my church’s Web site. It’s a big site so that’s a big project. It’s due when I finish it so no huge hurry.
  • Creating a whole new site for a large client of mine. The project has to be completed June 22 so that is a bit one with a strict deadline. There is LOTS of Flash work involved which always takes hours and hours.
  • Updating and enhancing my friend Jason’s site - needs to be done in the next week or two.
  • Creating a site for our church’s outreach to Baghdad (will be www.hopeforbaghdad.com).
  • Creating a site for my favorite rock star ever. Yup, I’m redoing the personal Web site for my favorite Christian musician ever. I’m very excited about this one. It’s due when it’s finished, so no great hurry. His current design has been around since the mid 90’s I think…
  • And so on…there are a few other projects I am chipping away at. So the long and short of it is I have a whole lot to do! I guess that is a good thing!
June 03, 2004

A few months ago I mentioned on this site that I was reading John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart and intended to write a review of it. After reading the book I elected not to write a review at that time. The book was so full of error and absolutely ridiculous nonsense that I just didn’t have the heart to document it all. Honestly, I was frustrated and discouraged to see that a book like Wild at Heart could make it to the top of the Christian best-seller’s lists.

Garry Gilley of Southern View Chapel and Think on These Things Ministries has released a two-part review of it and does an excellent job of writing about the multitude of errors. Looking back on the copious notes I took during my reading I am glad to say that he and I picked up on many of the same things. I am going to discuss some of the more glaring errors in the book.

Some of the greatest concerns are:

  • Open Theism - Though Eldredge denies he is an open theist, the evidence does not support his claim. Time and time again he speaks of God in ways that can only be explained if you hold such views. “God is a person who takes immense risks� (p. 30). �It�s not the nature of God to limit His risks and cover His bases� (p.31). �As with every relationship, there�s a certain amount of unpredictability�. God�s willingness to risk is just astounding�. There is definitely something wild in the heart of God� (p. 32).
  • View of Satan - Eldredge views Satan as the one who is to blame when we sin. He seems to believe that we are little more than victims rather than being fully, 100% responsible for our own sins.
  • View of Jesus - According to Eldredge Jesus failed at something he attempted. When He encounters the guy who lives out in the Gerasenes tombs, tormented by a legion of spirits, the first rebuke by Jesus doesn�t work. He had to get more information to really take them on� (Luke 8:26-33) (p. 166). This, of course, is a complete misrepresentation of what happens in that passage.
  • Use of Scripture - Eldredge does what is becoming all too common in the evangelical world these days. He uses verses and passages from the Bible without giving any context simply to make it sound like this is a Biblically-based book. Time and time and time again he assigns meanings to passages that are completely foreign to their true sense. At one point Garry Gilley says about the particularly ridiculous interpretation of the book of Ruth, “after all, no one else, to my knowledge, in the history of conservative biblical exegesis has ever come up with it before.” Eldredge seems to make up meanings as he goes along.
  • Revelation - Eldredge says that God talks to him directly. He also speaks to him through movies, books and so on.

I could go on, but really, what’s the point? This book only resembles a Christian book in the most vague sense. Yes, Eldredge attempts to hold everything together with some smatterings of Scripture, but when you evaluate this book honestly you have to see that this is mere humanism and psychology wrapped in a thin veil of Christianity. It speaks volumes about the Protestant world that this book has been so widely embraced.

I highly recommend you read Garry Gilley’s reviews. Part one is here and part two is here. I also highly recommend you avoid the book!