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Quotes

April 24, 2011

I had something queued up to post this afternoon. But then I read some blogs and found “A Prayer of Great Joy for Easter Sunday” by Scotty Smith. I took the liberty of copying and pasting it. It is a prayer of celebration, on this, the day we remember and celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.

Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).
 
Most exalted and loving Jesus, I offer a three-fold “Indeed!” and a three-fold “Hallelujah!” early this morning. You have been raised from the dead! Preaching the gospel is not useless, it’s essential. Faith in you is not futile, but fertile. We’re no longer encased in our sins, we’re fully wrapped in your righteousness. Those who have “gone to sleep” in you are not slumbering in the void, they are celebrating your glory. We have hope in this life and for the life to come!

Because you are alive, we are less to be pitied than anybody and more to be grateful than everybody. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19). Because you have been raised from the dead, everything changes, Jesus. You are the firstfruits and guarantee of a whole new order—the “new creation” dominion of redemption and restoration. The decay in our earthly bodies will give way to the delights of our resurrection bodies.

The kingdom of this world has become, and will be fully manifest, as the kingdom of our God and of his Christ, you! (Rev. 11:15) You are already reigning, and you will reign forever and ever. All evil dominions, wicked authorities and malevolent powers have already been defeated by your cross and, one Day they will be completely eradicated at your return.

Jesus, your death is the death of death, and your resurrection is the resurrection of all things. O the wonder, the glory, the grace of it all! By your compelling love, free us from the emptiness of living for ourselves. Bring your resurrection power to bear in our homes, churches and communities. Capture our children early and re-capture our hearts when they drift. May the rest of our days be spent for your glory and financed by your gospel. (2 Cor. 5:14-15). So very Amen, we pray, shout and dance, in your most glorious and worthy name!

April 23, 2011

I have been reading Russell Moore’s new book Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ and came across a quote—a question—that had the rough spiritual effect of cracking me over the head with a 2 x 4. As you no doubt gleaned from the title, this is a book about temptation, the forms it may take in our life, and Christ’s triumph over it.

In the second chapter Moore writes about demonic powers and says that as far as temptation goes, you are being watched—you are always being watched. The spiritual powers out there have long experience observing humans and are very proficient at customizing a temptation plan that perfectly fits the way your desires work—your particular desires. You will be tempted in a different way than I will; I will be tempted in a different way than my wife will; She will be tempted in a different way than Jesus was.

So how do we know how we are being tempted? Here is one good way:

Imagine you could do anything, you could make it happen exactly as you wish, and could then go back and reverse time so that it had never happened—no consequences for your life, your work, your family, or Judgment Day. What would it be? Whatever comes to mind might be a pretty good insight into where it is your desires are being farmed.

And that is worth thinking about today (and every day). What would you do if you knew it could be entirely consequence-free? What sin would you commit? This may be where Satan and his host are trying to draw you even now.

April 22, 2011

Resisting Consumeristic Temptations: How’s that for a snooty title for an article? But the article itself is not so snooty. I’ve been reading John Temple’s little book Family Money Matters and found a handy list of ways to resist the temptations of living in our high-pressure world of advertising and consumerism. It seemed worth sharing. Here is what he suggests.

  • Do not read the glossy “good-life” magazines. These are filled with temptations to buy or consume what may not be remotely necessary. I have stopped even opening the airline magazines, which depict a way of life which is presented as normal but is not even close.
  • Do not watch the “lifestyle” TV programs that extol glamorous or extravagant living.
  • Hit the mute button when the commercials appear on TV and try to ignore what they are showing.
  • Avoid impulse buying. When you go shopping, draw up a list of what you need to buy and wear blinders for everything else. Never buy anything from the displays at the checkouts.
  • Don’t buy anything that is a bargain if you do not need it. It is no bargain if you can do without it.
  • Politely decline any salesperson who comes to your door. He or she is almost always selling something that you do not need.
  • Do not be tempted to have the latest in anything. This includes fashions, electronic gadgets, computers and cars. The list is endless. Keep your old one until it makes economic sense to replace it. I still wear suits that are twenty years old. They have been in and out of fashion a few times, so I am not always out of date! While ladies may be more tempted in the clothing arena, men will be subject to more pressure with gadgets and cars. Watch yourself.
  • Do not spend ostentatiously. I recall a pastor’s wife noting that many people who have money often live frugal lives and shop carefully, whereas some people tend to spend freely even if they should be more careful. The writer of Proverbs knew this long ago! “One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (Prov. 13:7).

Temple also offers up this challenge (or rebuke): “Women tend to control daily needs such as food and children’s clothing. I have noticed that they are generally very good at saving on these items. However, I have also noticed that men are very good at spending all their wives’ hard-fought savings! An entire year’s discounts, grocery coupons and special offers go on a single new digital camera, mobile phone, TV set or computer. Men ought to be examples to their families, leading in frugality and not succumbing to the temptations of the materialistic market.”

April 03, 2011

A couple of years ago I read Warren Wiersbe’s book 50 People Every Christian Should Know and marked a couple of paragraphs that I thought would prove worth sharing. These words come from a chapter devoted to Alexander Whyte. Here they are:

The sales manager of a successful Christian publishing house tells me that pastors are not buying books. “Most of the books sold in Christian bookstores are sold to and read by women,” he said. If our pastors are not using their valuable time for study, what are they using it for? Perhaps Whyte had the answer: “We shroud our indolence under the pretext of a difficulty. The truth is, it is lack of real love for our work.”

Alexander Whyte loved books, and he read them to his dying day. The Puritans in general and Thomas Goodwin in particular were his main diet. But he also thrived on the mystics and the princes of the Scottish church, such as Samuel Rutherford. Whyte constantly ordered books for himself and his friends in the ministry. However, he cautioned young pastors against becoming book-buyers instead of book-readers. “Don’t hunger for books,” he wrote a minister friend. “Get a few of the very best, such as you already have, and read them and your own heart continually.” Whyte often contrasted two kinds of reading—“reading on a sofa and reading with a pencil in hand.” He urged students to keep notebooks and to make entries in an interleaved Bible for future reference. “No day without its line” was his motto. He wrote to Hubert Simpson: “for more than forty years, I think I can say, never a week, scarcely a day, has passed, that I have not entered some note or notes into my Bible: and, then, I never read a book without taking notes for preservation one way or another.”

March 27, 2011

I’ve felt myself drawn to this prayer written by Scotty Smith, a prayer that asks God to help our friends finish well in the gospel—to help us all remain faithful until Today becomes the Day. It begins with this passage of Scripture:

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. Hebrews 3:12-14

Dear Jesus, this portion of your Word is both sobering and encouraging. It leads me to think about friendship this morning and the gospel-posse you’ve given me. I’m so very grateful for the friends you’ve woven into my life. Being an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long term relationships has required, and still requires the work of the gospel in my heart—a grace work you’ve been faithful to provide.

I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets and they’ll do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together in the gospel. What does look like and what will it require, Jesus?

My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks—I just enjoy these relationships without much thought or effort. It’s a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other’s sentences, endure one another’s jokes, appreciate each other’s quirks and accept one another’s weaknesses. Surely, this is a gospel-gift.

Yet, Jesus, we’re still foolish men—capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. Sin is exceedingly deceitful. With all of my heart, I believe in the “final perseverance of the saints,” but I equally believe that it’s the saints who will finally persevere. Your Word is very clear—continuance in the gospel is a sign of being rooted in the gospel. That doesn’t scare me, but it does humble me.

Help us know how to hold each other accountable for believing the gospel. Help us to take each other’s heart-struggles seriously. Don’t let us confuse flattery with encouragement. Help us never to minimize nor marginalize the hardening power of sin. Help us know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily and to each all the time, until Today gives way to the Day. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious name.

March 20, 2011

If God be our Father, let us imitate him. The child not only bears his father’s image, but imitates him in his speech, gesture and behaviour. If God be our Father, let us imitate him. ‘Be ye followers of God, as dear children.’ Eph 5: 1.

Imitate God in forgiving injuries. ‘I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions.’ Isa 44: 22. As the sun scatters not only thin mists, but thick clouds, so God pardons great offences. Imitate him in this. ‘Forgiving one another.’ Eph 4: 32. Cranmer was a man of a forgiving spirit: he buried injuries and requited good for evil. He who has God for his Father, will have him for his pattern.

Imitate God in works of mercy. ‘The Lord looseth the prisoners.’ Psa 146: 7. He opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. Psa 145: 16. He drops his sweet dew upon the thistle as well as the rose. Imitate God in works of mercy; relieve the wants of others; be rich in good works. ‘Be merciful, as your Father also is merciful.’ Luke 6: 36. Be not so hard hearted as to shut out the poor from all communication. Dives denied Lazarus a crumb of bread, and Dives was denied a drop of water.

Thomas Watson, The Lord’s Prayer (Kindle Edition, Location 547) (HT)

March 13, 2011

Here’s a prayer from Scotty Smith, one that really helped me this morning. In it Scotty looks at Psalm 42, where a deer pants for water, and asks God to help us long for him the way David did. As he says, “Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.”


As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-2

Loving Jesus, there’s no craving more demanding than thirst. It’s neither patient nor polite. When we get thirsty, we’re usually quick to slake its unrelenting demand, one way or another. Thirst will not be denied. We’ll do almost anything to satisfy our thirst.

Because this is true, we join the Psalmist in crying out, “Jesus, intensify our thirst for you. Keep us panting like the deer which pants after streams of water—the unpolluted, undistilled, never-ending brooks of your bounty.

Quickly drain the broken-cisterns of our own making. Don’t let us be even momentarily satisfied with any other beverage than the draft you draw, the potion you pour, the life-giving libation you alone can give.  

If we take up King David’s lament, “When can I go and meet with God?”,  you answer back, without delay, “Right now, my beloved, do not wait. If you’re thirsty, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38)

If we should say, “But Jesus, where can we find you?” You answer back even quicker, “Not in the Law; not in your strivings; not in your labors; not in your earnestness; not in your self-loathing’s; not in your vain promises, but only in the gospel. Come and fall into the rivers of my love. Stand under the cascading waterfalls of my grace. Open your heart wide to my supply and I will over-fill you with everything you need and more than you want.”

Even so and evermore, Jesus, school us well in pant-theology. Fill us afresh than we might be a people to the praise of your glory and grace. So very Amen, we pray, in your all glorious and all generous name.

March 06, 2011

Here is a new/old hymn that you may not be familiar with. It was recently introduced at church and has quickly become one of my favorites. Written by Horatius Bonar, it was recorded last year by Sandra McCracken on her album In Feast or Fallow.

God forbid that I should glory,
Save in the Redeemer’s cross.
Counting shame for Him but honor,
Counting earthly gain but loss.
All the love of God is here,
A love that casteth out all fear.

God forbid that I should glory,
Save in Christ my Lord alone.
Him I lean on; Him I follow,
Him, before the world, I own.
All the love of God is here,
A love that casteth out all fear

God forbid that I should glory,
Save in Christ the Son of God.
Him who sought me Him who bought me,
Him who washed me in his blood.
All the love of God is here
A love that casteth out all fear.

Here is what Sandra says about the hymn:

The text was passed along to me for this project by my friend Kevin Twit (who has a collection of rare hymnals) from a volume of Horatius Bonar’s posthumous hymns.  I love it for it’s fierce statement of love that casts out all fear.  It fit the record themes perfectly.  The stanzas have such a natural lilt that helped the melody to come more easily.  We recorded the guitar vocal first, as a simple, strummy version.  After that, Derek muted the guitar altogether and created a modern, evocative sonic atmosphere for the vocal to live in.

February 27, 2011

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I have the privilege of preaching at Grace Fellowship Church this morning. I awoke feeling tired and worn, believing that fatigue is God’s means of rebuking me, of calling me to depend on him instead of myself. So I turned to the Valley of Vision, looking for a prayer that I could make my own. Here is how that book ministered to me today.

My Master God,
I am desired to preach today,
but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony might be borne for thee;
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertaining to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
Help me to offer a testimony for thyself,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people,
and set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached.
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments
drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings,
that men might be made holy.
I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of thy grace,
and be able to do something for thee;
Give me then refreshment among thy people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a redeemer,
or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, its design and end,
from lack of warmth and fervency.
And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.

January 30, 2011

Because of all I’ve written about pornography over the past few years, I was interested to see a recent prayer that Scotty Smith posted at his blog. He titled it “A Prayer for Friends Struggling with Pornography.” Here it is:

Jesus, my heart goes out today for friends and their spouses whose lives are being assaulted by the ravaging and enslaving grip of pornography.  I know of no other power sufficient for the task but the gospel. This is why I run to you today with grave concern, but also with great hope.

O Lord of resurrection and redemption, bring your mercy and might to bear in stunning fashion. Things impossible for us are more than possible for you. You have come to set captives free and to heal the brokenhearted. Pornography is creating an over abundance of both.

Jesus, for friends somewhere in the pornography continuum of titillation to addiction, we ask you to reveal yourself in the deepest place of their hearts. We ask for the holy gift of godly sorrow, not the short-lived remorse of worldly sorrow. For your non-condemning love has great power to deliver those who cry, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body which is subject to death?”

Lead them to that cry, Jesus. They need a lot more than embarrassment and fear, they need contrition and hope. Where pornography has desensitized our friends, re-sensitize them so they can see and feel the horror of their entrapment, and more so… much more so, the wonder of your deliverance.

For our friends who are married to someone in the talons of pornography, dear Jesus, theirs may be the greater pain and struggle. No one but you can help them with the anger, the disgust, the wound, the shame, and the mistrust that goes with this story. Help us walk with our friends who are right in the middle of this dark vortex. Show us how to validate their feelings without confirming hurt-driven conclusions. Bring patience and perspective, forbearance and faith.

Only you can rebuild the trust. Only you, Jesus, can bring a willingness to hope again. Only you can heal the places in our hearts which have suffered the greatest violation and harm. Absolutely no one understands all this like you, Jesus, and absolutely no one redeem these messes but you. So very Amen, we pray, in your great and glorious name.

Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 7:21-8:2

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