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January 28, 2010

Yesterday I sat and watched liveblog coverage of the long-awaited announcement from Apple. To no one’s great surprise, they unveiled their newest device, the iPad. While everyone knew this tablet device was coming, everyone had wondered exactly what it would be. Apple has high standards when it comes to devices like this one and I, for one, was prepared to be amazed. Alas, I was disappointed. iDisappointed, even. I’m ready to declare that the iPad is the greatest disappointment in all of human history (at least since The Phantom Menace).

January 27, 2010

Yesterday I was in Orlando, today I’m in Savannah. Throughout this year I will be consulting with Ligonier Ministries, working with them on developing content for their web sites and other digital platforms. We had planned this two-day series of meetings and they needed to include two groups of people. The halfway point between these groups was Savannah, Georgia. And it just so happens that someone in Savannah loaned us a beautiful beach house to meet in. So here we are, overlooking the water and enjoying the beauty of it all. But mostly we’re having day-long meetings.

Here’s the view from my room just after sunrise.

Savannah

January 26, 2010

Let me give you a brief update as to what I’ve been up to the past couple of days.

On Sunday night I hopped aboard a plane and jetted down to Orlando, Florida for some meetings with the good folks at Ligonier Ministries.

Flying from Toronto to Orlando is, obviously, an international flight and, hence, all kinds of draconian new TSA-mandated rules apply to it. It used to be that a flight from Canada was little different than a domestic flight but for having to pre-clear US Customs—something that took only a few brief minutes. But over the past month things have changed.

I have to assume that the heads of the TSA sat down one day and said, “Flying is miserable, but not quite miserable enough. Let’s talk about things we can do to make it even worse.” And then they mandated those rules to countries like Canada who fly to the US. On Sunday night my time in the airport involved standing sequentially in eight(!) different lineups and having my passport and boarding pass checked eight different times (not necessarily corresponding to each of the lineups). The entire process took fully two hours, even though there were less than half a dozen flights to be screened, and left me sprinting down the concourse in a full-out run to make my plane (which, thankfully, I did).

I know that the security people are tasked with the rather thankless job of keeping us safe in the air and I am truly grateful for what they do. In fact, I always stop to thank at least one of them for keeping us safe up there. But anyone can see that the current system is woefully inefficient and unsustainable. If Sunday night, a slow time for travel, is so problematic, I cannot imagine what things must have looked like on Monday morning. This is going to make people just give up travel, figuring that it is just not worth the frustration. They are going to have to fix the system.

Once we left the ground we immediately hit pretty significant turbulence which meant that they were not able to serve drinks, though the flight attendants did walk up and down the aisle to hand out extra air sickness bags. All these factors led to two different medical emergencies with passengers lying passed out in the aisles, a call for doctors to identify themselves, and so on. It was truly a bizarre experience.

For all that it was still a good enough flight (better than I deserve, right?) that allowed me a few hours of reading, disturbed only by the giggling of the guy in the next seat who was very much enjoying some Sandra Bullock movie. We arrived in Orlando safe and sound and only thirty minutes behind schedule.

Yesterday I met up with the people of Ligonier Ministries and spent the day with them. Highlights of the day included a tour of the new St. Andrew’s Chapel which really is stunning (as I know you can tell from this grainy iPhone picture of it). They have done an amazing job of constructing a new church that maintains a classical feel. In a day when so many new churches are constructed with a utilitarian feel it was nice to see one that has been constructed with an eye to beauty.

St Andrews

Though the same property will soon house the offices for Ligonier Ministries and the Ligonier Academy, those buildings are still being renovated. So we headed over to the current offices just in time to see Dr. Sproul tape an interview with Dr. Stephen Myer, one of the founders of the Intelligent Design movement. It was fascinating to watch the exchange between the two of them; it was the kind of discussion that left the rest of us feeling a little bit dumb, I think. I’ll let you know when it airs on Renewing Your Mind. Here’s an ultra-grainy shot which brings my horrible photography skills into full collision with the iPhone’s low-light limitations.

I love to get little behind-the-scenes glimpses at different ministries and it was a real joy to meet many of the godly men and women who serve at Ligonier. I’m looking forward to spending another day with them today.

Here’s one last thing I just had to grab a shot of. As we were driving from one place to another we went pass a bear-crossing sign. I had no idea that bears were a problem in Florida. So here is evidence of that fact. Sadly, there were no bears crossing yesterday.

For those wondering, A La Carte may make an appearance this week. But when I travel I find it very difficult to spend the time necessary to collect and assess the links. So I’ll do what I can, but make no promises.

January 01, 2010

I am feeling unusually pensive this morning. Sometimes a new year dawns with barely a whisper. Sometimes it arrives with a shout. This year I sit here on January 1 with more than a little apprehension, feeling like the new year is screaming at me. There is little doubt that this is going to be a busy year. That’s the way I like it, really, as I am easily bored, so I am not complaining. When I’ve contemplated taking something major off my schedule Aileen has always counseled me, “You need to do a lot or you will get bored.” She is probably right. Yet as I look at 2010 I see all sorts of tasks—each of which I am both looking forward to and intimidated by—staring back at me.

I have a book manuscript due in six months and at this point I have barely begun (more than preliminary research, that is). I have taken on a project to read all of the New York Times non-fiction bestsellers for a year and, while I am very much looking forward to doing all that reading, I do worry occasionally that it will prove burdensome. I want to continue reviewing a Christian book per week and also want to dedicate some time to reading substantial theological volumes. And of course I do not want to neglect or de-emphasize those things that are central to my life—time with my children, time with my wife, investing in my church family, producing good work for my clients, spending time reading the Bible and praying, and so on. I want to be busy enough to keep me interested and motivated but not so busy that I burn out. I so badly want to use this year in such a way that I use every moment, bringing glory to God in each day given to me.

To that end, here is a prayer I am praying today. It is drawn from The Valley of Vision.

O Lord,
Length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service, to Thy glory.
Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides,
sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire
to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
advance Thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.
Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.
May Thy fear by my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

And having prayed that prayer, I will also be turning to Don Whitney’s Ten Questions for the New Year to attempt to give me some context for what I do and attempt to do this year.

I believe 2010 is going to be an amazing year and I’m eager (and a little scared) to get it started.

And to you, on this day, I wish a safe and happy new year. May you know God’s richest blessings in 2010.

December 30, 2009

If you’ve read this blog for a while, I guess you know that I’m a fan of The Lord of the Rings. I’m not one of those Tolkien fanboys who is going to react with offense when you get a fact wrong. Rather, I’m a fan of a good story and it’s beyond dispute, I think, that in The Lord of the Rings Tolkien has crafted an epic story. I mentioned recently that I’ve been reading the book with my family and that as I’ve been doing so, certain components of the story have been jumping out at me. Today I want to point to one more of these.

One thing that sets The Lord of the Rings apart from just about every other fantasy series I’ve ever tried reading is that it does not confuse good with evil. It never glamorizes evil. Tolkien carefully separates the good from the evil and avoids blurring distinctions between the two. It is always fascinating to keep an eye on Tolkien’s portrayal of these the two opposing forces.

One aspect of this that has stood out to me recently is the inability of evil to understand good and, conversely, good’s ability to understand evil. Here Tolkien has tapped into a crucial reality about good and evil.

As I’m sure you know, the whole book is based on a long and dangerous quest to destroy the Ring of Power. Many years before the commencement of the story, Sauron had created a ring and into this ring he had invested much of his strength and will. This ring was his greatest strength and potentially his greatest weakness. With it he was nearly unapproachable in his power; without it he was weakened; if it were to be destroyed, he too would be destroyed. Through a series of unlikely events the ring has ended up in the hands of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit, who has now been given the task of venturing to Mount Doom to destroy this ring. All the forces of evil are arrayed against him as he does this. And yet, somehow, he succeeds (sorry to give away the ending, but I’m sure you already know all of this). How then does Frodo succeed in so unlikely a quest?

He succeeds because Sauron, powerful though he may be, never understands what Frodo plans to do. Sauron sees good through the lens of evil. He cannot conceive of anyone actually destroying something as powerful as his ring. He assumes that everyone would do what he would do—use the ring to rule over others. Had he understood good, he would have known that the forces of good would destroy the ring and, in so doing, destroy him. He could simply then have surrounded Mount Doom with his armies and intercepted anyone who approached. But instead he projected his evil thoughts onto the forces of good and determined that they must be doing what he would do—using the ring as a means of power. And thus his actions, his attempts to find and retrieve the ring, were all wrong. In his evil he completely misunderstood good. And really, this is the way it had to be. How can evil understand good?

Here Tolkien has displayed in fictional form an important reality. Evil cannot understand good. When I communicate with an unbeliever, as I’ve been doing in my letters to Luke (another of which is coming soon) I can have confidence that I understand him better than he understands me. Why? Because I have been brought from darkness into light, from evil into good. I’ve known evil and now know good. Through the Bible I am given God’s eyes to see evil as he sees it and to understand it as he understands it. This gives me a whole new clarity. But one who has never turned to Christ has known only evil. He can see what is good but can understand it only through that lens of evil. I know what it is to be lost in a way that he cannot know what it is to be saved. Tolkien got this one right.

December 29, 2009

Do you remember learning to do long division back when you were in grade school? It was probably fourth or fifth grade when we learned to do it. It was a long and laborious process and one that, even in my day, seemed irrelevant. After all, we all had calculators and we knew that they could do it quickly and easily. With the tapping of a few buttons we could get our solution and it would be correct every time. Kids today can probably make an even better argument that division is best handled by computers or calculators. I’ve little doubt that once most of them are out of school they never do long division again.

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s a good step-by-step example of long division in operation (drawn from Wikipedia).

950 divided by 4:

1. The dividend and divisor are written in the long division tableau:

Now instead of dividing the whole dividend (950) by the divisor (4) we will simply divide each digit of the dividend by the divisor, one at a time, starting from the most significant (leftmost) digit:

2.The first number to be divided by the divisor (4) is the leftmost digit (9) of the dividend. Ignoring any remainder, we write the integer part of the result (2) above the division bar over the leftmost digit of the dividend.

Since we ignored the remainder, though, we have not accounted for the leftmost place entirely. That is to say: 4 × 2 is merely 8, and the relevant digit of the dividend was 9. Thus we subtract 8 from 9, yielding the remainder 1, to tell us how much of the leftmost place remains unaccounted for.

3. We “bring down” this unaccounted-for remainder from the leftmost place (1) then bring down the next digit of the dividend (5) and place it to the right of the remainder to create a new bottom number (15).

4. Next we repeat steps 2 and 3, using the newly created bottom number (15) as the active part of the dividend, dividing it by the divisor (4) and writing the results as before above and under the next digit of the dividend.

5. We repeat step 4 until there are no digits remaining in the dividend. The number written above the bar (237) is the quotient, and the result of the last subtraction is the remainder for the entire problem (2).

The answer to the above example is expressed as 237 with remainder 2. Alternatively, one can continue the above procedure to produce a decimal answer. We continue the process by adding a decimal and zeroes as necessary to the right of the dividend, treating each zero as another digit of the dividend. Thus the next step in such a calculation would give the following:

I’m sure you remember this kind of problem and solution. You probably remember hating having to go through all the bother. You probably remember, as I do, trying to get out of it. The argument my teachers made, and the argument I’m sure teachers continue to make today, is that doing the onerous task of long division not only teaches us how to do it on our own for those rare occasions that a computer or calculator or cell phone isn’t handy, but it also teaches how division works. By going through each step we see how it works—we learn not only the solution, but we also learn the process of solving it. It isn’t fun, but neither is it meant to be. It’s an educational process.

Since the release of my book I’ve done all kinds of written and radio interviews and I’ve spoken to many people about the book face-to-face. A question that gets asked often is what I hope people will take from the book—what are one or two things that I really want people to learn. And this is where the parallel to long division comes in. If there is just one thing I want people to take away from the book it’s the categories of discernment. If Christians can read the book and begin to think in the black and white terms of discernment, I’ll be well pleased. Just knowing that discernment is an expectation for all of us is valuable knowledge and something many Christians really do not understand.

And second to that, I want people to realize that discernment is something we are responsible for as individuals. We cannot simply leave discernment to the experts. Rather, we each need to learn to discern and we each need to grow in the skill of discernment. Like using a calculator for division, we can rely on others to give us the bottom line. But like doing long division, it is far better to do the work ourselves and to ensure we understand how to discern. The theological equivalent of using a calculator may be just Googling what John Piper or John MacArthur says about a certain topic and taking that word as law. It may be asking a parent or pastor and accepting what they say without further thought. We are all prone to want to get to the final tally without going through the intervening steps.

But like the kid who cheats by using a calculator, we cheat ourselves if we do not do the difficult work of discernment. As we discern what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, we train ourselves to think as Christians and we train ourselves to really understand what discernment is. We make sure that we understand the difficult business of discernment—not only the end result but the process of getting there.

December 27, 2009

A little while ago I participated in one of those silly memes that made its way around the Net, filling out a list of really boring things about myself. My mom enjoyed it but figured she could do better. Today she and Aileen got a couple of my sisters together (since we’re all together for Christmas) and came up with a list of things they knew would embarrass me. They told me I had to post it on my site. So here goes. Ten things about me (or memories from my family members) you probably didn’t know…

Tim is eight. His brother is twelve. They have been left to co-babysit their three little sisters. When we come home, Tim produces a pan of strawberry tarts he has baked from a recipe taken from his sister’s “Anne of Green Gables” cookbook.

Tim has discovered business principles—specifically profit. He sneaks off school property, buys penny candy, then retails it at school for much more than he paid. We only find out about this many years later.

Tim and his family are in the heart of London, England. His middle sister has gone missing, lost in the crowds. The kids are commanded to “Sit! Stay!” while we split up to go and look for her. And off we go. We come back minutes later without her—but there she is. Tim has disobeyed orders, found her, and brought her safely back.

A stove element has started a grease fire. Mom and sisters run out of the house. Tim, eight, runs in and puts out the fire. Nothing a little soda won’t fix.

Tim is five years old and has just returned from his first day in school. He sees a little neighbour boy, four years old, waiting to greet him. “Hi, kid” he says, and ruffles his hair. He’s a big kid now.

Tim is now a teenager and has a new hobby—breeding and raising love birds. The stench! Threats and revilings from mother! Eventually mom ends up cleaning the cages at five dollars per cage. Tim considers it a good deal. Sigh.

Tim has a temper and once, blam, his fist goes through the basement wall. All his parents know is that he has become a convinced non-smoker. Why else would that non-smoking sign appear, so strategically placed in his room? Dad finds and patches it after Tim gets married and moves out.

Nothing is too good for Tim’s girlfriend, Aileen. As a matter of fact, he wants to marry her. But the expense of Ancaster’s finest restaurant is prohibitive to his twenty year-old budget. Hold on! His sister has won a $100 gift card to that restaurant as a prize for her long-distance running. And somehow that card wends its way into Tim’s wallet.

Tim and his friend Brian are racing on their bikes to Tim’s house, where they will share a bag of chips—Brian’s treat. All of a sudden Tim goes over his handlebars and into the ditch. Brian rides up, looks down at the twisted mess of boy and bike and with anguish on his face cries, “My chips!” And somehow they are still friends.

Tim is a middle-schooler aiming at being the best “mediocre” he can be. “Mrs. Challies,” says his teacher, “Tim is a very average boy.” To which the principal later responds, “Mrs. Challies, Mr. ________ is a very average teacher…”

December 25, 2009

Our Christmas morning began at a reasonable hour here in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past couple of days we’ve been staying with my sister’s family and we enjoyed watching our kids and their kids open their presents. In just a few minutes we’ll be heading to Chattanooga, Tennessee (about two hours away) to meet up with the rest of my family. We’ll all be together for the second time in a calendar year (a record, I think). That means there will be 21 of us, by my count, all celebrating Christmas together (that’s 2 Challies parents, 5 Challies kids, 4 Challies spouses and 10 Challies grandkids).

Before we hit the road, I thought I’d send along this special message from my children…

Kids

Have a Merry Christmas!

December 14, 2009

Shortly after Aileen and I were married we moved to the small town of Dundas, Ontario. A historic and picturesque town, Dundas has made its way into a few movies. When we lived there, a movie called Haven (starring Natasha Richardson) was shot in its streets. We lived just half a block from the action so would sometimes wander on over in the evenings to watch what was happening.

One thing that fascinated and impressed me was how the filmmakers transformed the town to fit the setting of the film. The movie was set in the Second World War so for the sake of historical accuracy the town had to look like it had during the 1940’s. All the parking meters had to be pulled up and all the traffic lights had to be pulled down. The streets were suddenly filled with beautiful old antique cars. Many of the storefronts were little changed since the 40’s but of course there were some that had been built since and could not possibly pass the historic test. It was amazing to see what happened to these ones. In a matter of a couple of days the props people constructed false fronts for all of these stores. An ugly stucco building that was clearly a product of the 70’s or 80’s was transformed into a brick-built small-town general store from the 40’s. Nothing had changed inside, but the outside was given a fresh and entirely deceptive new face.

One of the climactic scenes of the movie has the lead character marching a large number of Jewish refugees through the town. They shot this scene and a few others and then, nearly overnight, the town was restored. The parking meters were put back into place, the traffic lights were strung back up, the old cars were hauled away and all those false fronts were torn down. The ugly buildings were exposed again, as ugly as ever. The movie, anti-American propaganda as it turns out, was awful. But that’s beside the point.

I was thinking about Tiger Woods this weekend and thought about the town of Dundas and all of those false fronts. I’ve hesitated to write about Tiger. First of all, his travails are reaching the point of media saturation, I think. His story has been glamorized and made into a sick form of entertainment. Of course it’s exactly the kind of entertainment our culture loves. We love reality shows which, by and large, are only pseudo-reality. We get to watch families fall apart on television and consider it entertaining. But even then the situations are only half real at best. But here we get to see a real family crumble. Their pain is our delight as we watch things turn from bad to worse. Yet here we are all seeing the ugly effects of sin and maybe it is a good opportunity to reflect for just a few moments on the nature of sin and the cost it demands from us. It proved an opportunity for me to think about Tiger’s situation and draw lessons from it.

Here are three lessons I have learned from Tiger Woods.

False Fronts Will Crumble
There is always this temptation to construct false fronts, to add a layer of respectability between yourself and the way you want others to perceive you. Tiger Woods wanted to be known as the all-American family man, a loving husband and doting father. His sponsors, the companies for whom he was a spokesman, needed him to be this kind of figure. And so he said all the right words and put on this veneer of respectability. In front of the cameras he played the role that was demanded and expected of him. And yet behind it all he was the opposite of so much that he claimed to be. Eventually and inevitably the false front collapsed and the truth was laid bare.

Imagine what would have happened in Dundas if the filmmakers had disappeared without tearing down those false fronts. Sure they would have stood for a month or two; maybe even a year or two. But before long they would have crumbled and fallen down. They were not build of sound materials and were not built on a solid foundation. They were made only to look the part, only to disguise the ugly and unfitting reality. All false fronts will eventually crumble and fall.

The lesson is, do not mask your sin behind a false front. Do not construct elaborate falsehoods to mask your sin and your shame. These false fronts cannot stand forever. And the shame and pain of the ruin of a life lived out behind false pretenses will be far worse than the shame and pain of just dealing with sin immediately and properly. The temptation to mask your sin is nearly as strong as the temptation to sin in the first place. But to mask it is just to compound sin upon sin. It is merely to delay the inevitable.

You Cannot Hide Your Sin Indefinitely
Sooner or later your sin will find you out. Just weeks before all of his sins were revealed and his life was laid bear, Tiger conducted an interview in which he insisted that family comes first in his life. “Family first and golf second. Always be like that?” asked the interviewer. “Always,” replied Woods. Yet even then he was in the midst of affairs. Even then he was telling bare-faced lies, thinking that he could get away with them.

The lesson is, you cannot hide your sin forever. Your sin is going to find you out. Your sin wants to find you out. I love how J.R.R. Tolkien displays this in The Lord of the Rings, how the ring puts the ringbearer under its spell but at the same time it wants nothing more than to captivate and expose and destroy him. Its beauty and desire is really a means to enslave and expose. And all sin is like this. It promises what it can never truly deliver. It offers the desires of the heart but delivers the most tragic and unexpected results.

Do not give yourself over to sin. Sin is a cruel, cruel master. Like that ring it will draw you in and like that ring it will chew you up and spit you out. And isn’t this what Satan loves? Wouldn’t he love to draw you into sin and then enjoy watching you suffer the downfall of that sin? Do not give yourself over to sin; inevitably you will find that it is impossible to hide it forever.

The Stage Will Be Bigger
Tiger Woods committed sins against God and sins against his wife and did so in a closed and private setting. Very few people knew about his sin and very few were there to witness it. The actual sins were committed in private on a small, intimate stage. But the stage for his fall is international. Where only the smallest handful of people knew about his sin while it was happening, today countless millions know about it. The other day in the grocery store I spotted his face on eight of the ten magazines by the checkout. People are calling this the sports story of the decade. It will follow him for the rest of his life. His family will never be the same. Surely he did not anticipate all of this when he indulged his sin.

The lesson here is that the stage for the fall is usually infinitely larger than the stage that was used to act out the sin. Private sins are so often publicly exposed. Think of people you know, perhaps in a church context, who have sinned against their families. So often they sinned in private but were exposed in public. So often their disgrace was so much wider than their initial pleasure. And again, this is exactly what we should expect of sin and of Satan. Sin’s pleasure is fleeting, its pain eternal.

Tiger’s sin teaches me that the Bible does not lie when it describes the cause of sin, the effect of sin and the inevitability of its exposure. Had Tiger just read the first nine chapters of Proverbs and applied those ancient but timeless lessons to his life, he would have known all he needed to know to understand where his sin would lead him. How much better would it have been for Tiger to be mastered by God instead of being mastered by sin.

December 09, 2009

Today I want to share the long-awaited news about my next book. I write what I do here because I really want this process to be as transparent as possible. I would not be writing books if it were not for you—the visitor to this web site. I feel that I owe it to you to share with you what I’m up to.

It has been almost two years since the release of my first book The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Writing the book was an unforgettable experience and it was very encouraging and gratifying to see that it was generally well-received. I’m often asked how well it has sold. To be honest, I don’t know. Twice a year I receive statements that include sales figures. The trouble is that I’m not so good with numbers and I really don’t know how to read the reports. I do know that the book has gone through several printings. Beyond that, I’m pretty much clueless. But I have received a great deal of encouraging feedback and am pleased with both the book and the way it was received. I am thankful for Crossway’s partnership as its publisher.

Since I wrote The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment I’ve often been asked the obvious question: what next? That’s a good question, of course. I have deliberately been biding my time. I’ve been in no real hurry to jump into my next project. A few ideas have come and gone, but none have been intriguing or original enough that I’ve wanted to dedicate a year of my life to them. The commitment to a certain topic is really a commitment to spend at least six months reading and writing about it and then a further six months (at minimum) doing interviews about it, speaking about it, preaching about it, and so on. The last thing I wanted to do was find a topic that would bore me and leave me dreading it.

Earlier last year I got myself an agent. I did so primarily because it makes me feel cool (you can command instant respect in any situation by having your phone ring and declaring to the room, “Sorry, I need to take this. It’s my agent.”). But also I knew that a good agent would be invaluable in helping me discover new ideas and in crafting those ideas into worthwhile books. I had several agents who had expressed interest in representing me but eventually settled on Andrew Wolgemuth (who from this point forward will be known as Agent Andrew). Andrew and I first connected during spring training and as long-suffering fans of bad teams (he’s a Royals fan and I’m a Jays fan) we shared an instant bond (which has since been strained by Zach Greinke winning the Cy Young). A few months ago Agent Andrew and I began crafting book proposals and, when we were happy with the results, he sent them off to a list of several publishers.

That led to five publishers sending offers to me. With Agent Andrew I drew up a list of criteria for evaluating them. There were many factors we could have considered: financial (what were they willing to pay and what royalty were they offering?), marketing (how much effort would they put into marketing the book? Did they have a plan for the marketing?), audience (who reads the books from this publisher?) and even physical (hardcover or paperback?). It was remarkably difficult to choose. It was a case of an abundance of riches—each of the proposals had real strengths and very few had glaring weaknesses. But in the end I had to make a decision. And I did. More on that in just one moment.

First, let me tell you about the book. The book’s working title is The Next Story. I’m really pleased with the title, but it does have a downside in that it is remarkably difficult to pronounce (try saying it out loud). It is a book about technology in general and digital technology in particular. Even the least technical among us are being pressed from all sides by technology. Like it or not, we rely upon it in unprecedented ways. Many people feel that they are analog creatures in a digital world. Christians are beginning to awaken to this reality and are trying to think critically and biblically about many new realities brought about by technological developments. Yet, there are few helpful and sympathetic voices for those who wish to do so but have no idea how. I’m hoping to fill this gap, creating a book that will help Christians think well about technology. I do not intend to discuss Facebook and Twitter and whatever will be big and popular next month. I want to discuss technology in the bigger picture so that the book will be applicable today, tomorrow and ten years from now.

If all goes well, the book will be published in hardcover in the spring of 2011. And it will be published by Zondervan. I’m guessing that this will be a surprise to a few people. Frankly, it is a bit of a surprise to me. But in the end it was clear that Zondervan had the best all-around offer, from the financial, to the marketing, to the audience. Zondervan will take the book to a whole new audience, I’m convinced, and will work hard to help me find interesting speaking opportunities. They put together a fantastic proposal and I had no hesitations in signing on with them.

I intend to begin the writing process very early in the new year. While I won’t quite be able to do so on a full-time basis, I do hope that I can spend most of my time on it for at least a couple of months. That should give me a very good start, at the very least. I hope to have the book completed within six months or so. It typically takes 9 months or so from a book to go from manuscript to print and that brings us to early 2011—the earliest date I’m likely to actually have a copy of the book in my hands.

I expect that I will be talking about the book a lot more in the months to come. I will occasionally ask you for help (mostly in your prayer support, I’m sure) and will let you know how things are progressing. I know there is a great deal of collective wisdom represented by the readers of this site and I hope to take full advantage. I also hope to do a few family and technology seminars next year—so let me know if your church or conference would be interested in hosting one. I have found the previous seminars I’ve led amazing opportunities to both teach and learn. Beginning next month I’ll be turning my attention to technology and theology and the convergence of the two. I can’t wait.

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