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Tim Challies

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Quotes

October 19, 2014

There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes. In her book Parenting Against the Tide, Ann Benton lists five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Excuse Them

This is the voice of therapy culture. Sometimes we make excuses for our child’s misbehavior. We say, “he’s tired, she’s had a hard day, he’s disappointed, she’s traumatised, he’s got low self-esteem …” Now all of these things may be true. But that is not the point. The point is this: are we going to allow our children to take responsibility for their own behavior/misbehavior or not? Or is it always going to be the fault of someone else or of the circumstances? I am not saying we cannot be understanding or sympathetic. But if we are going to praise our children when they do well, surely it is logical to chastise them when they do badly. They make choices, which are moral choices, all day long. If we commend them for the good we cannot merely excuse them for the bad. That is very poor training because it teaches them to blame-shift.

Ignore Them

This is the voice of liberalism, which would be inclined to allow the children as far as possible to do as they like. When called upon to intervene, liberalism refuses to recognise an absolute moral worldview, whereby some things are definitely wrong and some things are definitely right. This is a failure in discipline because we need to instruct our children’s sense of right and wrong and that this is quite outside of how they fell about it. It might feel great to pull someone’s hair but it is wrong. Children have a moral sense, they have a conscience and this conscience is your friend when you discipline. Bring in right and wrong as absolutes. And be clear that the fundamental right course of action for a child is obedience to you.

Organise Them

[This is] the voice of strategic management. Some parents work really hard to avoid the occasion for misbehavior by organizing their children’s life and surroundings. You tie up the cupboards; you take the plug off the computer; you run a tight schedule. You make prevention of confrontation your responsibility. If your child misbehaves it is your fault for not organizing the circumstances so that it was impossible for them to misbehave. By taking this approach you are denying your child the freedom to fail. But you are forgetting that in general in this life we learn more by getting things wrong than by getting things right. It is one of the great routes to wisdom: learn by your mistakes. A child has to have some independence in order to learn to take responsibility. They need to be let off the leash so that they will understand the need for self-discipline. Otherwise you are deceiving yourself. So back off occasionally and see what he/she does.

Consult Them

This is where you always ask the child what he or she would like. There is a place for that of course, say, in a restaurant. But in many parents’ vocabularies, the language of choice has replaced the language of command. They say, “Would you like to wash your hands and come to the table?” Do they really mean that doing those things is optional and that the child can legitimately say “no?” It is an habitual turn of phrase but it also carries a message. And it can turn into parental wheedling and coaxing a child when in fact perhaps she could have just kindly but firmly instructed. It sometimes seems that parents are afraid to tell their children what to do. I want to suggest that it is fine to just say what you want to happen and insist that it does. Parenting is not a consultation exercise. You are the adult and you are there to take the long view and decide what is best. You don’t have to shout and rant, you can just say, “This is what is happening now.” Be in charge.

Bribe Them

It seems such a great idea and in the short-term can be extremely effective. And I am well aware that it is highly recommended in some circles. But it is a poor choice. Firstly because it does not change anything inside — being extrinsic, it only changes outward behavior and that only just enough to hit off the reward. After that, normal misbehavior can be and often is resumed. But worse than that, bribery takes behavior out of the moral framework and makes obedience to you optional. Can that be right? What if the child turns down your proffered sweets or sticker and decides being disobedient is more fun? Do you enter into negotiations and up the ante? You are teaching the children that the only reason to comply is if there is something (material) in it for him. But remember what the Bible says, “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Certainly the next verse talks about the promise attached to a long life in the land. But that is only saying what I often told my children: “Good boys are happy boys; good girls are happy girls.” As a Christian parent you will want your children ultimately to choose good behavior for its own sake. If you habitually bribe them you are effectively denying the child the opportunity for finding out that good behavior is its own reward.

October 12, 2014

For just a few minutes today, I’d like you to think about the things that matter most to you (which, I trust, are your relationships). And then let Michael Horton guide you via his new book Ordinary.

Think of the things that matter most to you. How do you measure your relationships? How do you “measure” your marriage, for example? When my wife and I talk about our relationship, we often have different takes on how things are going. Looking back over the course of our married years, we have seen many ways in which the Lord has bonded us together since our first year together. We can see steady growth and identify ways in which we’ve deepened in our relationship. But when we shift our focus to the short-term, the week-to-week, it becomes harder for us to get an accurate gauge on how we are doing. The extraordinary weekend retreat was memorable, but it’s those ordinary moments filled with seemingly insignificant decisions, conversations, and touches that matter most. This is where most of life is lived. The richest things in life are made up of more than Kodak moments.

Is it any different when you are raising children? The mantra among many parents today, especially dads, is “Quality Time.” But is that true? Think about all that happens in those mundane moments that are unplanned, unprogrammed, unscheduled, and unplugged. Nearly everything! Nicknames are invented, identities and relationships are formed. On the drive home from church, your child asks a question about the sermon that puts one more piece of the puzzle into place for an enduring faith. Everyone in the car benefits from the exchange.

I’ve used the “quality time” line before too, but it’s just an excuse. Can we really compensate for extended absence (even if we are physically present), missing the ordinary details of life, with a dream getaway or by laying out a thousand dollars to take the kids to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter? Any long-term relationship that wants to grow and be healthy needs those ordinary minutes, hours, days, months, and years. This is more than just enduring those moments passively. It requires engaging in intentional thought and effort as well as enjoyment.

Horton goes on to draw a comparison to the local church and the very ordinary Christian life, but I will have more to say about that in the near future.

October 05, 2014

This week I stumbled across one parent’s attempt to bring reason and discipline to her children’s use of digital media. To help them learn how to use their devices well, Susan Maushart has instituted “The Ten Commandments For Using Modern Media.” Here they are:

  • Thou shalt not fear boredom
  • Thou shalt not “multitask” (not until thy kingdom come, thy homework be done)
  • Thou shalt not WILF (WILF describes the “What Was I Looking For” phenomenon of using Google to look for one thing, and then burning two hours hunting down random and unimportant facts)
  • Thou shalt not text and drive (or talk, or sleep)
  • Thou shalt keep the Sabbath a screen-free day
  • Thou shalt keep thy bedroom a media-free zone
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s upgrade
  • Thou shalt set thy accounts to “Private”
  • Thou shalt bring no media to thy dinner
  • Thou shalt bring no dinner to thy media.

I’ve got to say: Those aren’t too bad…

September 28, 2014

This week I dug up an interesting quote from Charles Spurgeon. He was thinking about the easy-believism of his day. A vast quantity of people professed faith in Christ, but so few showed compelling evidence of genuine salvation. Spurgeon reflected on this and on those parts of the Bible claiming that Christians will necessarily suffer. And then he said this:

I am glad that there is some trouble in being a Christian, for it has become a very common thing to profess to be one. If I am right, it is going to become a much less common thing for a person to say “I am a Christian.” There will come times when sharp lines will be drawn. Some of us will help draw them if we can. The problem is that people bear the Christian name but act like worldlings and love the amusements and follies of the world. It is time for a division in the house of the Lord in which those for Christ go into one camp and those against Christ go into the other camp. We have been mixed together too long.

And I guess he was wrong, at least to some degree. Because today there are still so many—too many—who call themselves Christians even though they display so little evidence to back their profession. Those sharp lines remain to be drawn.

September 21, 2014

I have found myself intrigued by a new book by Chris Bruno and Matt Dirks titled Churches Partnering Together. I guess the title says it all—it is about developing bonds between churches so different congregations, and their leaders, can be on mission together. In one chapter the authors discuss the inevitability of confrontation and I appreciate their counsel on positive confrontation. They begin with Galatians 6:1-2: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” And then they provide seven conditions for confrontation which apply not only to conflicts between church leaders, but between all Christians:

  1. It should be done between “brothers.” This sets the tone for the conversation. You’re family, which implies that you have an unbreakable bond with each other. No matter what happens in the conversation, your commitment to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ will remain.
  2. The other person must be “caught in transgression.” The sin must be clear and present, not just assumed and implied. This is particularly true when confronting someone’s underlying motivations, which are extremely hard to discern.
  3. It should be done by “spiritual” people. This means you need to be operating in the Spirit’s power, not out of anger and frustration.
  4. The goal should be to “restore” the other person to a healthy relationship with God and to restore unity to the partnership. If your primary goal is to get the other person to stop aggravating you or to get him to conform to your personal preferences, you’re not ready to do this. Go back to condition 2.
  5. It should be done in a “spirit of gentleness.” A harsh rebuke almost never brings someone closer to Jesus. It only erects walls between his people.
  6. You must “keep watch on yourself” during the whole process. When the other person reacts defensively and questions your judgment, morality, and right to question him (as he might), you’ll be tempted to respond in pride and arrogance. You’ll want to start using all the ammunition you’ve been storing up in your mind over the years, reminding the other person about all the ways he’s offended you, failed you, and disappointed you. Did you notice all those “you’s”? They have nothing to do with restoring the other person, and therefore no place in your conversation.
  7. Be ready to “bear one another’s burdens” over the long haul. The process of restoration probably won’t happen overnight. Offer your ongoing love, support, and gentle accountability to your partner. Help him take concrete steps to overcome the sin through God’s Spirit-empowered grace, which is the “law of Christ.”

They close the section with this: “The further you get into kingdom partnership, the harder it will be to avoid differences and even conflict. But if, by the Spirit, you come out on the other side with your partnership intact, then you will probably start seeing God work in ways that you never thought possible. Remember the need and opportunity that brought you together, and work hard to see the gospel advance because of your shared commitment to the mission God called you to pursue.”

August 10, 2014

There are few areas of the Christian life where there is a wider gap between what Christians want to do and what Christians actually do than in this area: memorizing Scripture. We all know that we should, we all have some appreciation of the benefits, and we would all love to be released from the guilt of doing it so little. Here, courtesy of Donald Whitney and his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (now in a brand new edition), are 5 great reasons to memorize Scripture today.

Memorization Supplies Spiritual Power. “When Scripture is stored in your mind, it is available for the Holy Spirit to bring to your attention when you need it most.” No wonder, then, that David write, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” “A pertinent scriptural truth, brought to your awareness by the Holy Spirit at just the right moment, can be the weapon that makes the difference in a spiritual battle.”

Memorization Strengthens Your Faith. “Memorization strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it again.” But it can only reinforce truth that you have already committed to memory.

Memorization Prepares Us for Witnessing and Counseling. “Recently, while I was talking to a man about Jesus, he said something that brought to mind a verse I had memorized. I quoted that verse, and it was the turning point in a conversation that resulted in him professing faith in Christ. I often experience something similar in counseling conversations. But until the verses are hidden in the heart, they aren’t available to use with the mouth.

Memorization Provides a Means of God’s Guidance. David wrote, “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” “Just as the Holy Spirit retrieves scriptural truth from our memory banks for use in counseling others, so also will He bring it to our minds in providing timely guidance for ourselves.”

Memorization Stimulates Meditation. “One of the most amazing benefits of memorizing Scripture is that it provides fuel for meditation. When you have memorized a verse of Scripture, you can meditate on it anywhere at any time during the day or night.” Then you can be like David who exclaimed, “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day.”

Here is a final call to action:

The Word of the Word is the “sword of the Spirit,” but if there is no Bible physically accessible to you, then the weapon of the Word must be present in the armory of your mind in order for the Spirit to wield it. Imagine yourself in the midst of a decision and needing guidance, or struggling with a difficult temptation and needing victory. The Holy Spirit enters your mental arsenal and looks around for available weapons, but all He finds is a John 3:16, and Genesis 1:1, and a Great Commission. Those are great swords, but they’re not made for every battle.

The only solution is to commit to memorizing the Word of God. For God’s sake, as an expression of your desire to be used by him, fill up that arsenal.

August 03, 2014

Earlier this week I found myself combing through some favorite John Owen quotes. Owen is easily one of the most quotable Puritans (not to mention one of the most prolific with the pen!). Here are a few great quotes:

Let no man think to kill sin with few, easy, or gentle strokes. He who hath once smitten a serpent, if he follow not on his blow until it be slain, may repent that ever he began the quarrel. And so he who undertakes to deal with sin, and pursues it not constantly to the death.

Then, a list of seven things that Christ is:

  1. He is the Way; men without him are Cains, wanderers, vagabonds:—
  2. He is the Truth; men without him are liars, like the devil, who was so of old:—
  3. He is the Life; without him men are dead, dead in trespasses and sins :—
  4. He is the Light; without him men are in darkness, and go they know not whither:—
  5. He is the Vine; those that are not grafted in him are withered branches, prepared for the fire:—
  6. He is the Rock; men not built on him are carried away with a flood:—
  7. He is Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the author and the ender, the founder and the finisher of our salvation. (HT)

And a few others:

Without absolutes revealed from without by God Himself, we are left rudderless in a sea of conflicting ideas about manners, justice and right and wrong, issuing from a multitude of self-opinionated thinkers.

How can we possibly believe the promises concerning Heaven, immortality, and glory, when we do not believe the promises concerning our present life? And how can we be trusted when we say we believe these promises but make no effort to experience them ourselves? It is just here that men deceive themselves. It is not that they do not want the Gospel privileges of joy, peace and assurance, but they are not prepared to repent of their evil attitudes and careless life-styles. Some have even attempted to reconcile these things and ruined their souls. But without the diligent exercise of the grace of obedience, we shall never enjoy the graces of joy, peace and assurance.

A minister may fill his pews, his communion roll, the mouths of the public, but what that minister is on his knees in secret before God Almighty, that he is and no more.

July 27, 2014

Today I have the privilege of preaching, and preaching to many who do not yet know God. These words from Philip Ryken (drawn from his excellent commentary on Luke) have added urgency and motivation. Here he explains Luke 13:22-30, where Jesus explains that many will seek to enter and will not be able.

What terrible suffering there will be for everyone who gets shut out from God’s kingdom. To make sure we know what is at stake, Jesus speaks with perfect clarity: “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourself cast out” (Luke 13:28). Jesus was speaking plainly about the pains of hell.

Hell will be a place of anguish and affliction. It will be a place of remorse, as people cry bitter tears of grief for all that they have lost. It will be a place of rage, as they gnash their teeth in angry defiance of God. It will be a place of regret, as people mourn the folly of their unbelief. Apparently they will have some awareness of what they are missing. Jesus describes them standing outside his kingdom and looking in to see the prophets and patriarchs. They watch the guests arrive to feast in the house of God.

How galling it will be for them to know that they themselves were once on the guest list, but that they declined the free invitation of Jesus Christ. They had once been close to eternal life, yet now they will end up so far away from God! “To have been so near to Christ on earth,” writes David Gooding, “without receiving him and without coming to know him personally, and therefore to be shut out for ever from the glorious company of the saints, while others from distant times and cultures have found the way in—who shall measure the disappointment and frustration of it?”

As much as anything else, hell will be a place of lost opportunity. This conversation started with a question about how many people would be saved. Rather than talking about numbers, Jesus confronted the crowd with their own need to find the one narrow door to salvation. What he especially emphasized was the need to find that door before it is too late. People wanted to know how many (how many people would get in), but Jesus wanted them to think about how soon (how soon the door would close for all eternity).

Time is running out. There is a time limit on the free offer of salvation.

July 20, 2014

In R.C. Sproul’s book The Glory of Christ, he focuses on the moments of great glory in the life of Christ—a life marked by so much that was inglorious and not at all befitting the King of Glory.

A crucial aspect of Jesus’ humiliation was the hiddenness of His glory. His identity was often concealed. We hear the protests from the wounded egos of famous people when they are not recognized. They complain, “Don’t you know who I am?” It is humiliating to them to go unrecognized. Because people do not recognize them, they feel treated beneath their dignity. If any human being was ever subjected to such repeated indignities during His life, it was Jesus. During His earthly ministry the ones who most often and most clearly recognized Him were the demons from hell.

Some time ago I read the book and wanted to share some of my favorite quotes:

Every human being longs for a savior of some type. We look for someone or something that will solve our problems, ease our pain, or grant the most elusive goal of all, happiness. From the pursuit of success in business to the discovery of a perfect mate or friend, we make our search.

We are not merely redeemed by the death of Christ; we are also redeemed by the life of Christ. His death on the cross reveals the nadir of His humiliation as He bears the curse for us. But that is only part of His redemptive achievement. It is not enough for us merely to have our sins atoned for. To receive the blessings of the covenant we must possess real righteousness. We need what we cannot supply for ourselves. This merit of righteousness is earned for us by Jesus’ life of perfect obedience.

Some argue that the purpose of miracles is to demonstrate the existence of God. But this reverses the role miracles play in the Bible. Before a miracle can be perceived as a miracle, the existence of God must be established first. It is the existence of God that makes miracles possible in the first place.

God is so holy that He cannot gaze upon sin. It is repugnant to His eyes. Before Jesus ascends to the cross He is altogether lovely in the sight of the Father. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of His person. As such Christ is, in the eyes of the Father, a thing of unspeakable beauty. He is the Father’s beloved. 

On the cross Jesus becomes in the sight of God the most grotesque display of ugliness imaginable. He is now polluted with the cumulative filth of the sin He bears for His sheep. Now the Father breaks fellowship with Him; He averts His divine glance; Jesus as the very incarnation of sin is consigned to the outer darkness.

July 13, 2014

Who is the most important person in your church? On one level it’s kind of a silly question to ask. Yet in his book Healed at Last, Scott Blackwell provides an answer that is both sweet and encouraging. He tells about his friend Steve who has been profoundly disabled since birth.

He has been forever wheelchair-bound, and his arm and head movements are often uncontrolled or controlled with difficulty—especially when he gets excited. His speech is difficult to understand, and his vocabulary is limited. Because he was born in the 1950s, those who cared for him made certain assumptions about his ability to learn, respond and understand. He was institutionalized and given minimal stimulation and therapy—such was the state of rehabilitation for the profoundly disabled back then. It was assumed he would never be able to read, so he was never taught. Now, in his fifties, Steve is thoroughly dependent on the aid of others. He requires assistance to eat, drink, bathe, dress, toilet, and so on. Steve also constantly battles the kind of respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders that life lived full-time in a wheelchair bring. All this is so much more difficult to witness knowing that trapped within Steve’s dysfunctional body is a sharp and inquiring mind that was left untended and ignored for years.

Yet, as Blackwell points out, Steve finds joy despite such severe challenges.

Steve is the most joy-filled and enthusiastic believer in Jesus I think I’ve ever met. He’s bright, intelligent, witty, stubborn, passionate and compassionate. He holds down a job and, every time I talk with him, he insists that he is far too busy. His grin and his “G’day” is one hundred percent genuine for every person he meets. He insists on having his Bible open at the right passage with the rest of us, even though he cannot read it. The phenomenal thing about Steve is that somehow he manages to view every day of struggle as another day of triumph, and this he does, by his own testimony, through his faith in Christ. Hope and trust in God’s promises burn brighter in Steve than in anyone else I’ve ever met. In our church it’s impossible to preach about the return of Jesus, or the great resurrection day, or even death, without being interrupted by the man in the front who is madly flailing his arms around and shouting with excitement, “No more chair!”

After telling more about Steve’s deep faith and his sure hope that one day he will stand on his feet before his Savior, Blackwell says this:

Personally, I think it is possible that this makes Steve the most important person in our church. Once, during a rare moment of melancholy, he asked me why I thought God had caused him to live out his life in a chair. I thought for a long time before I said I didn’t know for certain, but that maybe his disability and his chair were meant for our teaching, blessing and benefit. I suggested that, possibly, it was God’s intention that through Steve our church might learn great lessons about patience, love, endurance, joy, compassion, hope and faith. I said to him (and I believe it is true) that he is perhaps our most dynamic and effective evangelist and pastoral worker. His look of surprise and shock actually made me laugh out loud. It had never occurred to him that this was what he was for us. He was just Steve.

Through my friend Steve, God has worked wonderful deeds of spiritual growth and maturity in our church.

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