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

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter


July 18, 2010

Though I’ve read it often, I never tire of reading Charles Spurgeon’s account of his conversion. Spurgeon had been raised in a Christian home, had heard so much of God’s truth and had even begun to live in a moral and upright way. And yet he knew that he was not saved and, though he sought and sought, he could not find. Here is how God eventually found him.


I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now, had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Church. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people’s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved….

July 04, 2010

Yesterday I gave you an early listen to Matthew Smith’s new song Goodnight. That song was drawn from the old hymn book titled Hymns from the Land of Luther which features German hymns translated to English by Jane Borthwick.

After I listened to Matthew’s hymn I immediately went looking for a copy of Hymns from the Land of Luther and found it on Google Books. I’d love to find a printed copy, but for now have been contenting myself with the PDF version. I was surprised to see how many of these hymns deal with death. There is even a hymn titled “To a Dying Child” (Depart, my child! the Lord thy spirit calls / To leave a world of woe. / Sad on my heart the heaveny summons falls; / Yet since He wills it so / I calm the rising agitation / And say, with humble resignation / Depart, my child!).

July 03, 2010

Earlier this week I was chatting with Matthew Smith, he of Indelible Grace fame. Matthew has just finished recording a new record (a personal album, not an Indelible Grace album) and he allowed me to listen to it. There was one song in particular that gripped me. The words come from an old German hymn of unknown authorship which was later translated by Jane Borthwick. It was printed in Hymns from the Land of Luther under the title “The Long Good-night” (originally “Ich fahr dahin mit Freuden”).

Matthew has adapted this into a beautiful song titled “Goodnight.” It is a song about the sadness of death but also the hope of resurrection and reunion. Here are the words and the embedded audio so you can listen in and read along. If you really like it, you can go here to buy it for just $0.99.

<a href="http://matthewsmith.bandcamp.com/album/goodnight" _cke_saved_href="http://matthewsmith.bandcamp.com/album/goodnight">Goodnight by Matthew Smith</a>

I journey forth rejoicing
From this dark vale of tears,
To heavenly joy and freedom,
From earthly bonds and fears;
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

Why thus so sadly weeping,
Beloved ones of my heart?
The Lord is good and gracious,
Though now He bids us part.
Oft have we met in gladness.
And we shall meet again,
All sorrow left behind us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I go to see His glory,
Whom we have loved below:
I go, the blessed angels,
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed,
I go to find again,
And wait for you to join us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

I hear the Saviour calling,
The joyful hour has come:
The angel guards are ready
To guide me to our home,
Where Christ our Lord shall gather
All His redeemed again,
His kingdom to inherit.
Goodnight, goodnight till then!

Here also is a brief video of Matthew talking about the song:

Matthew Smith talks about the song “Goodnight” from Matthew Smith on Vimeo.

June 27, 2010

Here is a prayer for the sick or for the spiritually-distressed. It is drawn from the Canadian and American Reformed Church web site. This is a prayer that comes from the perspective of the one so-afflicted and I don’t think it is necessarily meant as a pastoral prayer. It is worth changing the first person plural (we) to the first person singular (I) since in that way it seems to be a little bit more pointed, a little more personal. What I particularly like about it is that it allows the possibility (though it does not demand it) that suffering is a form of chastisement from God. It celebrates God’s sovereignty and his goodness even through suffering.

June 13, 2010

Last Sunday I posted a great Evening Prayer. This week I want to post an accompanying Morning Prayer. As with last week’s, this one comes from the Canadian and American Reformed Churches web site. I suppose at some point I should write about the value in praying written prayers. But for now, consider making this your prayer this morning:

Merciful Father, we thank You that in Your great faithfulness You kept watch over us during this past night. Strengthen and guide us by Your Holy Spirit, that we may use this new day and all the days of our life in holiness and righteousness. Grant that we in all our undertakings may always have Your glory foremost in our minds. May we always work in such a manner that we expect all results and fruits of our work from Your generous hand alone.

We ask that You will graciously forgive all our sins according to Your promise, for the sake of the passion and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Your grace we are heartily sorry for all our transgressions. Illumine our hearts, that we may lay aside all works of darkness and as children of light may walk in the light and live a new life in all godliness.

Bless the proclamation of Your divine Word here and in the mission fields. Strengthen all faithful labourers in Your vineyard.

We pray for those whom You have set over us, that as servants of You, the King of kings and Lord of lords, they may rule according to the calling You give them. Give endurance to all who are persecuted because of their faith and deliver them from their enemies. Destroy all the works of the devil. Comfort the distressed. Show Your mercy and help to all who call upon Your holy Name in sickness and other trials of life. Deal with us and with all Your people according to Your grace in Christ Jesus our Lord, who assured us that You will do whatever we ask in His Name. Amen.

June 12, 2010

Earlier today I was looking through some notes I took on David McCullough’s great biography of John Adams. I found there a few quotes from Adams about his love of reading. He was an avid reader who had a very substantial library—far more the exception than the rule in his day. Here is how he spoke of how reading ranked in his life in terms of priority.

I want to see my children every day. I want to see my grass and blossoms and corn … But above all, except the wife and children, I want to see my books.

As with Adams, my books are among my greatest pleasure and when I find I do not have time to read, I miss it a lot. There is pleasure to be found both in the books and in the experience of reading them. A day without a book is just not quite the same as a day with at least an hour or two spent reading.

Adams also said this about the way he did his best thinking:

The only way to compose myself and collect my thoughts is to set down at my table, place my diary before me, and take my pen into my hand. This apparatus takes off my attention from other objects. Pen, ink, and paper and a sitting posture are great helps to attention and thinking.

I, too, find that I can get very little thinking done, and cannot hold my attention for long, if I do not do my thinking with the assistance of pen, ink and paper (or the digital equivalent—a word processor and a keyboard). I love reading, I love writing and, like Adams, I love words. So I suppose one of the reasons I enjoy reading about Adams is that I feel a real affinity with him on that level.

June 06, 2010

As you know, I enjoy looking for written prayers to pray as my own. I found this one at the web site for the Canadian and American Reformed Churches. It is a prayer meant to be prayed in the evening before retiring to bed. And it’s a good one, I think. It thanks God for the day, it seeks to add his blessing on all that has been done, it seeks his forgiveness for what has been sinful, and it asks for his continued blessing.

Merciful God, in whom is no darkness at all, we come before You at the end of this day. We thank You that You have given us strength for our daily work, and have guided us safely through this day. Bless what was good in our labour and conduct.

Since You ordained that man should labour during the day and rest at night, we pray You to give us peaceful and undisturbed rest so that we may be able to take up our daily task again. Command Your angels to guard us and cause Your face to shine upon us. We cast all our anxieties on You, for You take care of us.

June 05, 2010

Earlier this week I read the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr—the guy who wrote the infamous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” It’s a fantastic book and addresses many of the kinds of questions I’ve been asked and (hopefully) answering in my own book. Seriously, you should consider reading it.

Carr looks primarily to what the internet is doing to our brains, to the way we think and even to the way we perceive ourselves. And inevitably he spends quite a bit of time looking to the history of communication, including the book. And here are a few of his thoughts about what makes the book such an amazing invention, especially when compared to digital readers. In them he captures just a bit of my passion for books.

It’s not hard to see why books have been slow to make the leap into the digital age. There’s not a whole lot of difference between a computer monitor and a television screen, and the sounds coming from speakers hit your ears in pretty much the same way whether they’re being transmitted through a computer or a radio. But as a device for reading, the book retains some compelling advantages over the computer. You can take a book to the beach without worrying about sand getting in its works. You can take it to bed without being nervous about it falling to the floor should you nod off. You can spill coffee on it. You can sit on it. You can put it down on a table, open to the page you’re reading, and when you pick it up a few days later it will still be exactly as you left it. You never have to be concerned about plugging a book into an outlet or having its battery day.

The experience of reading tends to be better with a book too. Words stamped on a page in black ink are easier to read than words formed of pixels on a backlit screen. You can read a dozen or a hundred printed pages without suffering from the eye fatigue that often results from even a brief stretch of online reading. Navigating a book is simpler and, as software programmers say, more intuitive. You can flip through real pages much more quickly and flexibly than you can through virtual pages. And you can write notes in a book’s margins or highlight passages that move or inspire you. You can even get a book’s author to sign its title page. When you’re finished with a book, you can use it to fill an empty space on your bookshelf—or lend it to a friend.

May 30, 2010

While skimming through some of those books that showed up last week (see yesterday’s post) I came across some great information about Robert Murray McCheyne. This is drawn from Mike Sarkissian’s book Before God and really challenged me as I prepared to preach today in Sarnia, Ontario. It shamed me with my own lack of preparation, my own (relative) prayerlessness in approaching the pulpit. I need to be more like McCheyne!

The time McCheyne spent before the Lord gave him a better perspective of the high calling God had placed upon him as a shepherd of God’s people. He was known for saying, “I have no desire but the salvation of my people, by whatever instrument.” Little did he know, McCheyne would be an instrument God would use for centuries to come. His time with God in prayer and meditation manifested itself in a passion for souls and effective preaching.

Dr. Estrada explained the depth of McCheyne’s personal holiness in relation to bringing forth the Word of God to his congregation:

His preaching and all other activities were preceded by long periods of prayer. He kept by this rule: ‘that he must first see the face of God before he could undertake any duty.’ ‘I ought to spend the best hours of the day in communion with God. It is my noblest and most fruitful employment, and is not to be thrust into any corner.’ Both in his preaching and teaching he was very much concerned with feeding the congregation with the ‘whole counsel of God.’

McCheyne preached the Word of God with a certain gravity and solemnity. He sought after the unction of the Holy Spirit and spoke intently to his congregation. His pulpit was said to have been wet with his tears as he urged people to commit their lives to Christ. This seriousness to the calling of God would bring forth much fruit for the Kingdom.

May 27, 2010

Craig Venter has recently claimed to have created artificial life. His name showed up in a book I read and reviewd not so long ago and I have received permission to post an excerpt from that book—Who Made God? by Edgar Andrews (read my review or read my interview with the author).

This excerpt begins on page 194 if you’re looking for it in your copy of his book.

Life in a cake mixer

We shall spend this chapter in pursuit of the jellypod. That’s my pet name for Haldane’s ‘minimal organism’ — the simplest entity that could be called ‘living’ and which we discussed briefly at the start of chapter 12. No disrespect is intended; jellypod is just more memorable than ‘minimal organism’.

In chapter 12, having pointed out the enormous complexity of even the simplest life-form known to us today, we put the jellypod on one side to seek out the essence of physical life. This turned out to be organised information — something, moreover, that cannot be stored, transmitted or put to work without the use of communication or ‘language’. This is just what we would expect on the biblical hypothesis of God, since the Bible attributes both the origin and maintenance of the natural world to God’s ‘spoken word’ — a metaphor that embraces the twin ideas of command and communication. It is no surprise, therefore, that the molecular foundations of life are stacked full of information and bear all the marks of advanced language.