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September 26, 2006

Tuesday September 26, 2006

Courses: Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary is offering several courses free online. There are a couple by David Wells that are sure to be especially good.

People: Phil Johnson has begun a new series on TeamPyro and begins with an interesting “word of personal testimony” that describes how he was saved.

Music: I am a few days behind the times here (how am I supposed to know Bob has posted on his site when his RSS feed has stopped working!) but Bob Kauflin has posted some information about the upcoming Christmas album from Sovereign Grace Ministries, including the lyrics to a new song by Mark Altrogge.

Debate: Audio of the “debate” on Calvinism between Al Mohler and Paige Patterson has been posted online.

September 11, 2006

Monday September 11, 2006

Church: A new article in “Time” asks “Does God want you to be rich?” Alex Chediak summarizes the article and provides some quotes.

Education: Dr. Mohler writes about Gerry Garibaldi. He “was in the movie business for 25 years, then he decided to become a teacher. That was a brave enough move in itself, but he has now written a courageous essay arguing that the schools seriously shortchange boys in the classroom. It is an essay that demands close attention.”

Emergent: “The Washington Post” has an article lauding Brian McLaren for his non-traditional ministry. A compliment by the Post is a slap in the face to most Christians!

Conference: Carla Rolfe is putting a call out for Toronto-area bloggers who would like to get together on September 23.

September 17, 2005

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition (2002) defines the proverb “every dog has his day” as meaning, “Even the lowest of us enjoys a moment of glory.” In our culture we often hear about people enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame. What few people realize is that it was none other than Andy Warhol who coined this phrase (or the basis for this phrase) when he said in 1968, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Later, in 1979 he declared that his prediction had come true: “…my prediction from the sixties finally came true: ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’”

Wikipedia defines “fifteen minutes of fame” as follows: “In popular culture, 15 minutes of fame refers to a sudden state of celebrity that is believed unlikely to continue long enough to affect the new celebrity’s life for the better.” Reality television provides bountiful opportunities for fifteen minutes of fame. People are raised to the status of instant celebrity, but after they show wraps up, and after their brief appearance on Letterman, they go back to stock shelves in the local grocery store. Fame is fleeting.

“Get to the point!” I can already hear you screaming. I’ll do that. My fifteen minutes of fame have arrived. I harbor no illusions that this will effect my life for the better. However, I do consider this a great honor. The following is taken from the introduction to the upcoming Total Truth: Study Guide Edition, the second edition of Nancy Pearcey’s book Total Truth.

My Fifteen Minutes

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank the little people…

But seriously, I have had the manuscript sitting on my shelf for several weeks now and noticed that introduction when someone pointed it out to me. It is amusing to note that in the version I have, which I believe is older than the one I posted here, my name is listed before Al Mohler. But placing Mohler first is definitely the more natural order of things!

September 14, 2005

They say bad news comes in three’s. I don’t quite know who the “they” are that keep spreading such words of “wisdom,” but I’ve often heard people express this type of superstition. I don’t believe it. Yet it seems to me that good news often arrives in bunches. Today I am going to share with you two pieces of good great news. For your reading pleasure I present this news in a handy, tabular format.





Together For The Gospel - I can think of few conferences I would would be more eager to attend than Together for the Gospel. It runs from April 26-28, 2006 and is hosted by Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C.J. Mahaney and Albert Mohler. Special guests for this conference include John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. This is a who’s who of pastors and theologians I greatly admire. I have read books and articles written by each of these men, and many of them have been foundational in forming my theology.

And guess what? The organizers of this conference would like me to live-blog it. It is an incredible honor to be considered for this.

Number Three - Throwing up in the mornings? Check. Hardening of the belly? Check. Feeling different? Check. Blood tests? Check. Well what do you know? God has seen fit to bless us once more with a child. We discovered only a few days ago that Aileen is expecting. The children are over the moon and are eager to tell everyone they come across that, “Mommy has a baby in her tummy.” Aileen and I are just as exicted as we were the first two times around and are looking forward to meeting “number three.”

We are thankful to God for this blessing, which we expect to arrive sometime around the 14th of May.

Uh oh

Uh oh? Hey, I’m not complaining! Trust me, I’m thrilled. But do you notice a potential conflict here? There are a mere two weeks between the conference (which will be held about 8 hours due south of my home) and the expected due date. Now experience shows that Aileen tends to deliver late. In fact, both of our children were born more than a week late. There is another complication in that Aileen’s blood pressure tends to climb a little bit towards the very end (though last time this did not happen until after the due date).

Clearly I do not want to miss the birth of my child or be absent if my wife encounters medical complications. And clearly I know where my priorities lie. So this is going to require some thought and potentially some planning!

I am tentatively planning on attending and live-blogging the conference, but we are going to have to wait to give final confirmation until a little bit later, once we know how this pregnancy is shaping up.

In the meantime, we’re rejoicing in God’s goodness and looking forward to the end of morning sickness, and eventually, to the day we get to meet the child God has seen fit to lend to us.

September 12, 2005

Humility True GreatnessI’ve often wondered how I missed out on C.J. Mahaney’s books for so long. While I’ve now read several of them, I did not read the first until earlier this year. And now I’m hooked. I love Mahaney’s style of writing in which he blends sound, biblical teaching with humility and just the right amount of humor. I’ve found his books to be practical, yet not legislative, as if we needed him to dictate every aspect of the reader’s life. I was excited, then, to be given a sneak-peek at his upcoming title, Humility: True Greatness. What follows is a short preview of this book, due for release next month.

Preview

There is a certain irony in the pursuit of humility. We see a glimpse of that in the title of this book, Humility: True Greatness. Humility is true greatness. The pursuit of humility and the pursuit of greatness are one and the same, provided that we seek greatness as defined by the Creator. I have never met C.J. Mahaney (though hope to some day), but from all accounts he is well-qualified to write a book on such a difficult subject. And this is a difficult topic. After all, how can a person write a book on humility without sounding like he feels he is most qualified? The truth is he can, provided he uses the Scripture as the foundation for his teaching. And that is exactly what Mahaney does.

The book is divided into three sections. Part one deals with the battle of humility versus pride, part two with our Savior and the secret of true greatness and part three with the practice of true humility.

In the first part, Mahaney defines humility and shows how true humility is nothing less than a battle against the pride that lives deep within every heart. “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in the light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” These two realities must be the foundation of any definition of humility: our sinfulness and God’s holiness. This is precisely why true greatness can only be achieved by followers of Jesus Christ, for only they have had their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to see the depth of their own depravity and the overwhelming holiness of God.

Mahaney teaches, rightly I believe, that God hates the sin of pride above all other sin. This is a sin that plagues all humans, though it manifests itself in different ways. So the issue facing the believer is he examines his life is not if pride is present, but where it is present. For most of us it is deeply ingrained in our lives and only a great amount of Spirit-guided self-examination can draw it to the surface.

In the second part, Mahaney defines greatness as Jesus did, showing that being great means being a servant to everyone. Just as Jesus came to serve, so must we serve with our lives. Christ lived as the perfect example of humble service. As in all his books, Mahaney leads the reader to the cross, stating that apart from Christ’s sacrifice, there is no serving. We can only attain true greatness by emulating Christ’s example - the example that led him to the cross where He made the greatest sacrifice.

In the third and final part of the book Mahaney builds on the foundation he has built through Scripture to provide advice on the practice of humility. This is far more than a bullet list of do’s and don’ts. It is far more than a false, monastic humility that is really no humility at all. Instead, he examines several different areas of life and shows how humility can be applied to all of them. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep (and even while we are asleep) we can practice humility. Whether we experience joy or pain, whether we are correcting or being corrected, we all have opportunities to practice humility every day.

Humility: True Greatness is a truly great book. I do not know of a person who shows no pride in his life, and thus I do not know of a person who would not benefit from reading it. I highly and unreservedly recommend this book. I pray that it will be widely-read, that humility may be widely-practiced.

What Others Are Saying

Here are some endorsements written by men who are far more discerning (and, in all likelihood, far more humble) than I am.

“This is the right book from the right man at the right time. More than any other man I have known, C. J. Mahaney has taught me what humility really is. This is a man whose humility is a gift to the entire church. He knows that humility is strength, and that God uses the humble in a powerful way. He understands the danger of pride, and calls us all to aspire to a legacy of greatness-a greatness that shows the entire world the glory of God. He points us to a cross-centered worldview that will transform every dimension of life.”
-R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

“God hates it. The Bible is pretty clear on that fact. Yet, our culture exalts it. For many people, if not most, pride is seen as a virtue. We are expected to be proud of ourselves, our accomplishments, our looks, our possessions, our family, our friends. We are to call attention to whom we know, what we’ve done, where we’ve been. We are to promote ourselves and anything associated with us. We’re even encouraged to apply bumper stickers that proclaim the superiority of our child over the less gifted children at school.

Perhaps the most prideful are those who express a supposed humility, and yet take pride in their excellent character. An even more subtle example is the individual who is devastated by the reality of personal failure (this is actually self-love…he is simply shocked at seeing himself as he really is).

It’s all pride. And God’s hatred of it, whether subtle or overt, will never change.

We need to be reminded daily that God is opposed to the proud. We need to be told once again what greatness is in the eyes of God. This is important for God’s leaders in the church, for His leaders in families, and for anyone who desires to live a life of excellence that is pleasing to Him.

I am grateful for C.J. Mahaney’s honest and accurate treatment of this ‘accepted’ sin. Let the truth that is explained in this book break you of pride and reap within you the pleasing aroma of humility. God not only is opposed to the proud, but He exalts the humble.”
-John MacArthur

“My friend C.J. Mahaney tackles a subject of immense importance. Since God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble, what could be more important than understanding and developing true humility, as a lightning rod for grace? C. J.’s book is biblical, honest and full of helpful insights. We need less egomania and more humility and servanthood in our churches today. May God use this book to remind us that ‘only the humble are sane.’”
-Randy Alcorn

“This is a wonderful, sobering, humbling, God-centered, Bible-based book on humility by an author who truly exemplifies it in his own life. I especially appreciated Mahaney’s suggestions for practical disciplines to help us cultivate humility before God. This book’s message will tend to keep us and our churches from self-destruction due to pride, will make us thankful for little blessings in everyday life, and will bring us closer to God.”
-Wayne Grudem

“Humility is seldom thought about in our Christian community. In his masterful way, C.J. Mahaney gives us a much-needed wake-up call on this important subject. I highly recommend this book.”
-Jerry Bridges

Content

Foreword by Joshua Harris
 Introduction

PART I
OUR GREATEST FRIEND, OUR GREATEST ENEMY
The Battle of Humility Versus Pride

CHAPTER 1
The Promise of Humility

CHAPTER 2
The Perils of Pride

PART II
THE GREAT REVERSAL
Our Savior and the Secret of True Greatness

CHAPTER 3
Greatness Redefined

CHAPTER 4
Greatness Demonstrated

PART III
OUR GREAT PURSUIT
The Practice of True Humility

CHAPTER 5
As Each Day Begins

CHAPTER 6
As Each Day Ends

CHAPTER 7
For Special Focus

CHAPTER 8
Identifying Evidences of Grace

CHAPTER 9
Encouraging Others

CHAPTER 10
Inviting and Pursuing Correction

CHAPTER 11
Responding Humbly to Trials

CHAPTER 12
A Legacy of Greatness

A Final Word

How to Weaken Pride and Cultivate Humility:
A List of Suggestions

Conclusion

Humility: True Greatness is a wonderful book and one I highly recommend. In fact, it is one of the best, most practical books I have read all year long and my favorite of Mahaney’s books. I cannot think of a person who would not benefit from it.

Availability

The book is being published by Multnomah Publishers and is set to be released on October 23. It is currently available for pre-order from Amazon (and it’s only $10, too!).

August 22, 2005

The Deliberate Church
One of the books I have most been looking forward to this year is The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. Dever is author of the excellent 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and is known for his godly, biblical perspectives on church health and growth. I have been given the opportunity to read The Deliberate Church several weeks before it is widely available and thought I would provide a preview of what you can expect from this book.

Notes

I take extensive notes when I read books and will share with you just a few of the notes I’ve written about this title. You will have to excuse their randomness as I’ve attempted to provide a sampling taken from different areas of the book.

“This book does not seek to debunk Church Growth Methods or any other methodology. There is very little focus on the negative. Instead, the book is primarily positive and instructive, doing little more than providing biblical teaching on various aspects of the church’s mission and function.”

“The authors reveal that this book came around as the result of questions Mark Dever has answered. “Paul took things that I’ve taught and written, things he’s heard me say many times and questions he’s heard me answer from visiting pastors, and he added his gifts of time, organization, clear writing and thinking ability - along with some of his own ministry experience - and he produced the first draft of this book.” That flavor is evident throughout the book. Most of the chapters are quite short - often only a few pages. A pastor with questions about various aspects of ministry will be able to refer to this book to find short, helpful, biblical answers.”

“Dever’s sensitivity to difficult areas is especially evident in the section dealing with music. While he prefers a simple worship experience, opting to have only a single guitar and piano accompanying singing, he will not say that a large, loud band is wrong. Instead he argues that instrumental sparseness is a way of keeping methods basic so that the gospel remains clearly at the center of every part of the worship service.”

“This is not a book about method. There is no “ABC-123” system for churches to follow. Dever simply explains what has been effective in his ministry and provides a biblical basis as proof.”

What Others Are Saying

Don’t feel you need to take my word for it. Here is what has been said by men who are far more discerning than I am. These are among the endorsements that will appear in the book.

“Here is one of the most faithful and insightful pastors of our time, addressing the most crucial issues of church life. Mark Dever refuses to separate theology and congregational life, combining pastoral insight with clear biblical teaching. This book is a powerful antidote to the merely pragmatic approaches of our day—and a refutation to those who argue that theology just isn’t practical.”
—R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“This book is the perfect example of what a truly practical book on church health and growth should be—it gives concrete guidance for and examples of biblical principles being put into practice in the life and ministry of the local congregation.”
—J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi

“Rare indeed are books on the church that begin with the Gospel. Rarer still are books that derive methodology for building the church from the Gospel. This excellent book does both.”
C. J. Mahaney, Sovereign Grace Ministries

“The Deliberate Church shares many of the ministry lessons that Dr. Dever and his colleagues have learned from Scripture and sought to implement in the life of their church community. This book is for anyone who wants to get serious about following the biblical pattern for the church and is looking for down-to-earth practical help.”
—Philip Graham Ryken, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

“Here is a novel idea: use the Bible as a handbook to gather and guide the church! And The Deliberate Church is a novel volume indeed, standing amid the spate of ‘church-as-corporation, pastor-as-CEO’ manuals that glut church life. Here is a book that wafts a radical, refreshing breeze from the pages of Scripture that will breathe life into the church. A crucial read.”
—R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor, College Church in Wheaton (Illinois)

Content

You can read the introductions and various other parts of the book at Crossway’s site.

The book is structured very simply. The first two sections deal with the church: first the gathering of the church and then what to do when the body gathers. The final two sections deal with leadership: gathering a group of elders and then what to do when that body gathers together.

Section 1. Gathering the Church

1. The Four P’s
2. Beginning the Work
3. Doing Responsible Evangelism
4. Taking In New Members
5. Doing Church Discipline

Section 2. When the Church Gathers

6. Understanding the Regulative Principle
7. Applying the Regulative Principle
8. The Role of the Pastor
9. The Roles of the Different Gatherings
10. The Role of the Ordinances
11. Loving Each Other
12. Music

Section 3. Gathering Elders

13. The Importance of Elders
14. Looking for a Few Good Men
15. Assessment
16. Why Character Is Crucial
17. Getting Started
18. Staffing

Section 4. When the Elders Gather

19. The Word and Prayer
20. The Agenda: What to Talk About
21. Decision Making: How to Talk About It

Conclusion

A Godward-looking Church
An Outward-looking Church

Conclusion

The Deliberate Church is a book I have thoroughly enjoyed and will be recommending. While it is not exactly what I thought it would be, it nevertheless lives up to my high expectations! I will post a full review on or around the day it is available from the publisher.

Availability

The book is currently available for preorder at Amazon. It will ship on or around the 28th of September.

August 18, 2005

In what is destined to be a failed marketing tactic, the Toronto Sun, a Toronto newspaper (remember newspapers - those odd book-like objects we used to read before we had high-speed Internet access) has been dropping their Sunday edition on my doorstep. This is one of those tabloid-esque newspapers that culminates on the final page with a nearly-naked woman (The Sunshine Girl). The final interior page is always a picture of a bikini-clad woman along with a little bio to try to convince the reader that there is more to her than an airbrushed body. Based on childhood memories (when bikini-clad pictures in newsprint held far more allure than they do today) the average bio reads, “Sparky is a capricorn who enjoys hot coffee, cold ice cream and long walks along the beach. She is currently a bartender but hopes to someday be a marine biologist. She would never, ever, ever date someone like you, so don’t even bother.” Somewhere in the paper there is also a Sunshine Boy - perhaps stuck among the fifteen or twenty pages of “adult only” advertisements. He always looks like he was clipped from a WalMart catalog and is there only to ward off charges of sexism. At any rate, this paper is an absolute rag.

When I returned home from the cottage on the weekend, I found newspapers all over my front step. I had asked me neighbour to collect the mail, which he did, but for some reason he must have thought that our verbal contract did not include the collection of newspapers. Perhaps he is unionized. I took all the newspapers and tossed them into the recycling pile without giving them as much as a second glance. This morning I was taking out some really horrible-smelling trash (did you know that cucumbers can liquify if left in the fridge long enough?) a headline on the cover of the Sun caught my eye. The front page had a picture of two straight men with the caption “Straight to the Altar.” Below the picture it said, “Best pals Bryan Pinn, left, and Bill Dalryimple are definitely not gay, but they’re planning on getting married to take advantage of the tax benefits.”

Wow. I have to admit that when the Canadian government dismantled marriage I did not see it falling so far, so quickly. The story begins:

What’s love got to do with it?

Bill Dalrymple, 56, and best friend Bryan Pinn, 65, have decided to take the plunge and try out the new same-sex marriage legislation with a twist — they’re straight men.

“I think it’s a hoot,” Pinn said.

The proposal came last Monday on the patio of a Toronto bar amid shock and laughter from their friends. But the two — both of whom were previously married and both of whom are still looking for a good woman to love — insist that after the humour subsided, a real issue lies at the heart of it all.

“There are significant tax implications that we don’t think the government has thought through,” Pinn said.

Dalrymple has been to see a lawyer already and there are no laws in marriage that define sexual preference.

The great irony in this story is that Toronto lawyer Bruce Walker, a gay and lesbian rights activist, has issued a warning in defense of marriage. “Generally speaking,” he says, “marriage should be for love. People who don’t marry for love will find themselves in trouble.” The irony is palpable.

As a lawyer and activist Walker worked tirelessly to dismantle the God-given plan for marriage and replace it with a fraudulent shadow of what it ought to be. God, as Creator, defined marriage as the union between one man and one woman. End of story. We have no right to tamper with this God-given ordinance.

The term “homosexual marriage” is an oxymoron, and a tragic one at that. A heterosexual marriage of fiscal convenience is no better. In Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, Al Mohler writes, “The fact that homosexual marriage is even an issue for public debate demonstrates that we are a civilization in crisis, because a great many barriers must be breached in order to put this question on the cultural agenda. Firewalls, traditions, habits, and convictional practices must fall before marriage can be redefined and utterly transformed by the inclusion of same-sex relationships” (page 105). Mohler correctly states that at the very heart of this debate is an attitude of moral rebellion that seeks to bring confusion to the God-given order of nature and that seeks to redesign human sexuality.

And now that we have tampered with God’s design for marriage, confusion reigns. Marriage has been taken from a sacred institution and been made into a mockery.

Bruce Walker, always the postmodernist, concludes with that hallmark of postmodern thought - feigned tolerance. “Walker isn’t personally insulted by the planned Pinn-Dalrymple union because he believes in personal freedoms and rights.” But don’t forget his warning that marriage should be about love. Katie who blogs at Outside the Beltway writes, “Having convinced a majority of Canadian MP’s that the ‘ability to procreate’ isn’t a defining characteristic of ‘marriage’, tell me - -what’s so damned special about ‘love’?”

Postscript - Rumor has it that after the story was printed the men decided to call off their union. I do not know if they merely wanted their fifteen minutes of fame or if they truly were planning to get married. Perhaps they still are. Regardless, this story highlights what can and no doubt will happen now that we have redefined marriage.

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