Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

Music & Movies

January 16, 2014

A few months ago a filmmaker sent me a copy of a documentary he had completed a short time before. Light In the Darkness tells about just a small part of the work Christians are doing in India. The film came to me shortly after I had visited Northern India and seen the smallest glimpse of that work myself. I found it deeply encouraging and now, for a short time, he is letting me share the film with you—right here, for free.

The filmmakers say, “We made this documentary with the intention of giving Christians a chance to realize that no matter how dark your surroundings, you can shine brightly for Christ. No one person can light up the entire world, but we can all light up our corner of it. Together, average individuals like you and I can make a difference—here, and throughout the world.” Set aside a half hour to watch it, and I am convinced you will be both encouraged and challenged.

(Note: Once you begin the movie, you can click the icon in the lower-right to make it full-screen.)

To learn more about the film, or to screen it in your church, visit ProChurch.

November 05, 2013

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are a few new and noteworthy albums you may want to take a look at.

Water and BloodThe Water & The Blood by Dustin Kensrue - I wasn’t ever a fan of Thrice (a band whose style was, apparently, post-hardcore/experimental rock, whatever that means) so did not know what to expect from the new solo effort from Thrice’s frontman Dustin Kensrue. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I think is a fantastic, genre-bending album. It has been very well reviewed in both Christian and mainstream publications and for good reason. Be sure to listen to “Grace Alone” (which we often sing at church now) and “It Is Finished.” I’ve had this album on repeat for a couple of weeks now and haven’t grown weary of it yet! (Amazon or iTunes)

Instruments of MercyInstruments of Mercy by Beautiful Eulogy. I have found my enthusiasm for Christian rap waning a little bit over the past few months. However, the new album by Beautiful Eulogy deserves mention. This 5-star review captures the way people are raving about it: “It is hard not to marvel at the sheer talent of these three individuals, whether it is in the crisp vocals, wonderful production, or the dense and theologically provoking lyrics. It is also hard not to marvel on the fact that Beautiful Eulogy managed to improve on a project as good as Satellite Kite.” Even if you aren’t a fan of rap, you may still find yourself enjoying it. (Amazon or iTunes)

October 16, 2012

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are a few new and noteworthy albums you may want to take a look at.

Hymns for the Christian LifeHymns for the Christian Life - It’s always noteworthy when Keith and Kristyn Getty release a new album. Keith Getty is one of today’s foremost Christian hymnwriters who, along with Stuart Townend, has sparked a resurgence in hymnody with such songs as “In Christ Alone” and “How Deep the Father’s Love.” This new album “comes from the challenge to consider not just what we sing on those occasions when we’re all together but how the shared lyrics of our faith speak into all the moments in between. Musically, Hymns for the Christian Life reflects both the Celtic and American folk traditions, old and new world brought together, just as we lean on the rich legacy of Church music we already have with songs written for the life of the Church today.” It is available at Amazon or iTunes.

Hymns MillerHymns - Hymns is a new album from Stephen Miller who leads worship at the Journey Church in St. Louis (where he ministers with Darrin Patrick). The album consists of eleven traditional and contemporary hymns set to new arrangements of the traditional melodies. In other words, it’s quite a straightforward album that revisits a collection of everyone’s favorite hymns. The album is available at Amazon or iTunes.

Under the New SunUnder the New Sun - Smalltown Poets were one of my favorite bands back in the day (by which I mean the 90’s). Their first two albums would still rank on my list of all-time favorites. Now, all these years later, they’ve released a new EP titled Under the New Sun. They say they’ve “gotten back to our beginnings by crafting lyric-intensive songs from the ground up, doing our best to turn a few phrases, sneak in a few puns, and challenge our listeners to dive in and bring their own imaginations.” It’s a fun album that is very consistent with the good old days of Smalltown Poets and Listen Closely. You can check it out at smalltownpoets.tv.

July 24, 2012

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are four recent releases I’ve been enjoying—two albums of acoustic traditional and modern hymns and two albums of Christian rap music.

A Thousand AmensA Thousand Amens - This may well be the only Anglican modern worship album on the market. It’s a good one. The Falls Church Anglican is one of those faithful congregations that refused to compromise the gospel and was forced out of its building. This album was recorded before they had to vacate their property. They sing a variety of songs, including several Sovereign Grace tunes, some hymns, and a few originals. I have especially enjoyed their cover of “Behold Our God” along with “Praise My Soul the King of Heaven” (and the amazing transition between the two).

Weight and GloryWeight & Glory - Weight & Glory is the debut album from Reach Records’ Kevin Burgess who goes by KB. “We have developed a pattern, a lifestyle that begins with a beautiful conversion and snowballs into a cyclical and sickening pattern. A complacent, idolatrous, lukewarm faith is more common than a radical, love-drunk soldier that has been set on fire. We fear the judgment of men. We lack the boldness to expose heresy. We are quick to lose hope. We are easily distracted.” The album is a call to be fixed on the weight of God’s glory and, with that in our minds and hearts, to battle hard for holiness. It is about as strong a debut album as you could hope for and it’s quickly become one of my favorite Christian hip hop albums. You can buy it at Amazon.

St Andrews HymnsSafely Home - Safely Home is a creation of a band called St. Andrews Hymns. The album has twelve tracks and all but a couple of them are hymns, some set to traditional melodies and some with original melodies. About half of the hymns are well-known with the rest coming from a little bit off the beaten path—a good thing! My favorites are “Down at the Cross” and “O Father You Are Sovereign.” It is available at Amazon.

The RestorationThe Restoration - Whether or not you enjoy rap music, you’ve got to appreciate an album with a title like this: The Restoration: The All-Sufficiency of Christ in the Gospel of Grace to Restore Ruined Sinners to Himself for their Joy and His Glory. I can’t sum it up any better than the official description: “With a title like that and Brindle’s history of being thorough on albums, one should expect a lengthy album on how God used the Gospel to restore Timothy in all areas of life. Moving from that, Timothy explains how the Gospel is the means that God uses to restore all of His people back to Himself, as well as all of creation. It is safe to assume that while this album is personal to Timothy, it is universal enough for all to enjoy.” Find it at Amazon.

May 24, 2012

While most of what finds its way into my mailbox is books, I also receive a surprising amount of music. This works out well since I happen to love listening to music while going about my daily work. Here are a few of my favorite recent albums.

Jesus In My PlaceJesus in My Place by The Summit Church. This is an album of modern worship that focuses on the good news of the gospel. The artists say, “Our prayer is that these songs deepen your personal worship of Jesus. The Christian life is ultimately a life of worship, and nothing fuels worship like dwelling on the glorious gospel of Christ. Wherever you are and wherever you go, these songs will help you rehearse the truths of the gospel, allowing the Holy Spirit to stir your affections for Jesus.” You can find lyrics and chords at the church’s web site. Musically, you will find that it is similar to Sovereign Grace Music, Chris Tomlin, and the like.

The Grand NarrativeThe Grand Narrative by Heath Hollensbe - Heath is a Christian musician who has worked and traveled with some of the biggest acts in Christian music. The Grand Narrative is a “6 song concept record that encompasses the history of the universe through the future that is in store for Christians. Each song is titled by a word that describes the steps in the movement (Hovering, Creation, Failure, Atonement, Covenant, Re-Creation).” If you are into music that is experimental in the vein of Keane or Sufjan Stevens, you may want to give this one a try. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

Rain for RootsBig Stories for Little Ones by Rain for Roots - Here’s one for the kids. “Rain For Roots is a collective of songwriters, young mothers and friends who came together around a single vision to make new scripture songs for children. Inspired by traditional folk melodies, this band of four set out to make new, timeless songs about the old gospel Story.” These songs are based on the poems of children’s author Sally Lloyd-Jones and appear to be targeted primarily at young children.

Church ClothesChurch Clothes by Lecrae - Lecrae is the most popular of all the Christian hip-hop artists and Church Clothes is a new mixtape (which means that it is free). The album has 18 songs that feature Lecrae with other popular Christian rappers. You can read a lengthy and interesting article he wrote in response to the album’s unexpected popularity right here.

April 26, 2012

I don’t just read, you know. I also listen to music and always love it when a new CD shows up in my post office box or, more commonly, when a new set of MP3s arrives in my inbox. Here are just a few of the albums I have been enjoying in recent days.

Open  Your DoorsOpen Your Doors by Jenny & Tyler - I had several people email me to say that I needed to give this one a listen. I’m glad I did and, in fact, I’ve been listening to it a lot. It is very stripped-down, melodic music that focuses on praise. I only wish I had the lyrics somewhere so I could follow along. Favorite tracks include “Little Balloon” and “See the Conquerer.”

The Good LifeThe Good Life by Trip Lee - I recently interviewed Trip Lee about this album but thought I’d mention it again. The Good Life is an album I’ve listened to again and again in the weeks I’ve owned it and I don’t think I’m done with it yet. Trip focuses on lies about what the good life is and celebrates a life of humble obedience. My favorite tracks include “Robot” and “War.” My kids love “One Sixteen.”

From Age to AgeFrom Age to Age by Sovereign Grace Music - “Inspired and influenced by hymn writers of the past like Martin Luther, Augustus Toplady, and Charles Wesley, From Age to Age contains 14 new hymns that combine rich, theologically driven lyrics with singable melodies for the glory of the Savior whose praises know no end.” The songs are uniform in their sound theology and vary a little bit in their suitability for congregational worship.

The Last MissionaryThe Last Missionary by Stephen the Levite - For those not familiar with the artist, Stephen the Levite is a rapper who, like many others in Christian rap, infuses the genre with sound theology. Here’s a description of the album: “God is quite clear on how His mission is to be carried out. Burdened by this, and with great affection for Christ’s glory, Stephen the Levite, has drafted up and presented his latest musical offering featuring: Timothy Brindle, Hazakim, Leah Smith, muzeONE, and more! Join us on the journey to explore and answer the question at hand, ‘Who is the Last Missionary?’”

December 22, 2011

I was at a wedding recently and was introduced to this hymn (which also works well as a poem) written by John Berridge. Berridge was a preacher, a revivalist and a hymnwriter who wrote several hundred songs. Indelible Grace has a helpful biography of the man. I quite enjoyed his hymn “Since Jesus Freely Did Appear” and thought I’d share it with you.

Since Jesus freely did appear
To grace a marriage feast,
O Lord, we ask thy presence here
To make a wedding guest.

Upon the bridal pair look down,
Who now have plighted hands,
Their union with thy favor crown,
And bless the nuptial bands.

With gifts of grace their hearts endow,
Of all rich dowries best!
Their substance bless, and peace bestow,
To sweeten all the rest.

In purest love their souls unite,
That they with christian care,
May make domestic burdens light,
But taking each their share.

True helpers may they prove indeed,
In pray’r, and faith, and hope;
And see with joy a Godly seed
To build their household up.

An Isaac and Rebecca, give
A pattern chaste and kind;
So may this married couple live
And die in friendship joined.

On every soul assembled here,
O make thy face to shine,
Thy goodness more our hearts can cheer,
Than richest food or wine.

August 03, 2011

There are two albums that have been receiving a lot of my attention lately, both of which were released on August 2: Matt Papa’s This Changes Everything and Mat Kearney’s Young Love. Let me give you a brief overview of each of them.

This Changes Everything

This Changes EverythingThis Changes Everything is a full-on worship album and one that focuses on big themes of sin and sovereignty and salvation. It has as much theological depth as any album I’ve heard recently and combines this depth with calls to action and Christian living. Musically it ranges from rock to ballads with even a little bit of rap and a little bit of Piper added for good measure. Here are some sample lyrics:

From “Our Sovereign God:”

Our Sovereign God
The King of all
Clothed in Power
And crowned forevermore

Idols will fall
He stands alone
Reigning ever on His throne
Dwelling in Glory and Awe
Our Sovereign God

July 20, 2011

Divided the MovieYour church is heavily influenced by evolutionary thinking. It is founded on principles created by pagans and for pagans. You have succumbed to hellish thinking and imposed it upon your church. At least this is the case if your church has a nursery or a Sunday school or any other kind of program that involves dividing people by age. That is the rather audacious claim of Divided, a documentary that is being heavily promoted by the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (NCFIC). Divided is a film about youth ministry. Kind of. At its heart it is a movie that promotes Family Integrated Church (FIC).

Divided follows a young filmmaker named Philip Leclerc as he seeks to find answers to the tricky question of why young people are abandoning the Christian faith. This journey quickly leads him to the leaders of the FIC where he learns that age segregation is at the very heart of our problems while family integration is the key to rebuilding the church and recapturing the next generation. 

The film begins with a long list of scary statistics pointing to the sad reality that young people are increasingly abandoning their churches (a genuine concern that I wrote about recently). This introduces the tension the movie depends upon. How do we guard our children against becoming just another set of sad statistics? Leclerc begins his journey at a Christian music festival where we see young people head-banging to Christian rock and just plain having fun. He speaks to youth pastors who believe the key to reaching youth is to be cool and hip. He speaks to young people who believe in evolution or who don’t even know what they believe. He says about this festival that people were being taught that “the fun music of the world can bring you closer to God.” And in this way he paints an ugly picture of an entire generation.

Having done this, he finds the best and brightest of the FIC movement and allows them to interpret. This sets an intellectual like Voddie Baucham against a girl with a face full of piercings who partied so hard at the concert that her mohawk collapsed. It’s hardly a fair fight. What Leclerc does is what so many documentarians do: he chooses his representatives very, very carefully. He chooses the intellectuals of the FIC to represent his view and chooses the young and foolish to represent the other side. It’s hardly subtle and not at all fair. He builds his case on a cliche.

Once he has set the two sides in opposition, he allows proponents of FIC to pile on. One by one Scott Brown and Voddie Baucham and Doug Phillips and Paul Washer and many others talk about how youth ministry has ruined the church—and not just youth ministry, but any kind of ministry that divides people by age. These men make the claim that the first 1800 years of the church knew no age segregation whatsoever; it is only in the past 200 years or so that anyone considered dividing children by age. They claim that any kind of age segregation stems directly from evolution and has roots in paganism. Any kind of age segregation therefore sows pagan seeds of division.

These leaders claim that the Bible clearly teaches that we must not age segregate. Ever. The classroom is a pagan creation and so too is the Sunday school. Leclerc goes so far as to claim that the mass youth exodus may just be God’s hand of punishment upon the church for our active disobedience in ignoring what Scripture teaches.

The solution is to raise up a new generation of fathers who will take responsibility for their children and stop outsourcing the raising of their children to youth pastors. Fathers who truly love the Lord and who truly love their children will know better than to allow them to participate in youth ministry or Sunday school. These are the central claims of the film.

So what do we do with Divided?

May 27, 2011

Dispatches from the FrontThere are few things that thrill me more than learning what God is doing in other parts of the world. The Lord works in amazing ways and calls to himself people from every nation and tribe and tongue. Yet even in a world that is rapidly shrinking through the new media available to us, we hear far more than we see. Dispatches from the Front is a series of DVDs created by Frontline Missions that gives us a glimpse of what God is doing across the world.

There are currently 4 episodes available, each one about an hour long. I decided I would watch one of these DVDs each day until I had seen all 4. They were so good that I ended up watching all 4 back-to-back. Each one takes the viewer to a different part of the world—Southest Asia, Eastern Europe, West Africa and India. Each one shows Frontline’s director Tim Keesee traveling within a certain region, seeking to understand the intricacies of its culture and meeting with local Christians. As he does this he hears of miraculous conversions, of terrible persecution, of seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is compelling stuff, amazing stuff; it is nearly impossible to watch without emotion, without tears of joy and sorrow.

Keesee writes about all of these things in his journal; the format of the DVDs is to combine video footage with his journal entries. And it’s a powerful combination.

Here is the trailer for Episode 3 (which was probably my favorite):

Pages