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Quotes

February 21, 2009

As I read John Piper’s book Finally Alive I came across a lot of godly wisdom. But there was one quote that, more than the others, jumped out at me. I thought I’d share it with you today…

*****

This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:11-14)

Now this specific form of love in verse 12 may seem to you to be totally unneeded. “Don’t be like Cain who murdered his brother.” Am I really concerned that there will be a spate of murders among Christians? No. And I don’t think John feared that either, though it does happen. He doesn’t focus on the murder. He asks in verse 12, “And why did he murder him?” That’s John’s concern. There is something about Cain’s motive that he thinks will be relevant to the way believers love each other.

He answers at the end of verse 12: “Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” What John is saying here is not merely that love doesn’t kill a brother, but that love doesn’t feel resentful when a brother is superior in some spiritual or moral way. Cain didn’t kill Abel simply because Cain was evil. He killed him because the contrast between Abel’s goodness and Cain’s evil made Cain angry. It made him feel guilty. Abel didn’t have to say anything; Abel’s goodness was a constant reminder to Cain that he was evil. And instead of dealing with his own evil by repentance and change, he got rid of Abel. If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, shoot the mirror.

So what would it be like for any of us to be like Cain? It would mean that anytime some weakness or bad habit in our lives is exposed by contrast to someone else’s goodness, instead of dealing with the weakness or the bad habit, we keep away from those whose lives make us feel defective. We don’t kill them. We avoid them. Or worse, we find ways to criticize them so as to neutralize the part of their lives that was making us feel convicted. We feel like the best way to nullify someone’s good point is to draw attention to their bad point. And so we protect ourselves from whatever good they might be or us.

But John’s point is: Love doesn’t act like that. Love is glad when our brothers and sisters are making progress in good habits or good attitudes or good behavior. Love rejoices in this growth. And if it happens to be faster than our own growth, then love is humble and rejoices with those who rejoice.

So the lesson for us is: Everywhere you see some growth, some virtue, some, spiritual discipline, some good habit, or good attitude, rejoice in it. Give thanks for it. Compliment it. Don’t resent it. Don’t be like Cain. Respond the opposite from Cain. Be inspired by other people’s goodness.

Love is humble. Love delights in other people’s good. Love doesn’t protect its own flaws. Love takes steps to change them. What a beautiful fellowship where everyone is rejoicing in each other’s strengths, not resenting them! This is what the love of God looks like when the new birth gives it life in the people of God.

February 14, 2009

In John Stott’s little book Your Mind Matters I found this quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was commenting on Matthew 6:30 in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount and offered a great critique to those who feel that faith and thinking are opposites; that a person who has faith is a person who refuses to use his mind. Instead, says Lloyd-Jones, a person who exercises faith must use his mind.

Faith according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. … We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them. … Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. … That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think.
February 07, 2009

I really enjoying reading David Wells’ books (the theologian, that is, not the pitcher). His four (or five) volume series that began with No Place for Truth and ended with Above All Earthly Pow’rs (or The Courage To Be Protestant) is a modern day classic. There is lots of great content to mine from them.

Here is something he wrote in Above All Earthly Pow’rs. He reflected on the events of September 11 and the church’s apparent inability to respond in a way that was adequate. These are words worth pondering. I find that I return to them often.

This moment of tragedy and evil shone its own light on the Church and what we came to see was not a happy sight. For what has become conspicuous by its scarcity, and not least in the evangelical corner of it, is a spiritual gravitas, one which could match the depth of horrendous evil and address issues of such seriousness. Evangelicalism, now much absorbed by the arts and tricks of marketing, is simply not very serious anymore.

No sooner did I post this than I thought of another quote that is equally good (and very closely associated). This one is from The Courage To Be Protestant.

This co-opting of showbiz, this transformation of Christianity into entertainment, is rapidly becoming the norm today, not the exception. Pastor are straining to outdo each other in becoming as chic and slick as any show in Las Vegas.

I pity satirists who might be tempted to try to tweak these segments of the evangelical world. Theirs is a mission impossible. It can no longer be done. No matter how indelicately they might exaggerate, no matter how much they might embellish to make a point, no matter how many descriptions they might offer of the tasteless things that are happening, it will most likely be met with only a yawn and a bored question: “So … ” Nothing seems improbable. None of it, in fact, ever seems exaggerated and none of it seems improper. It has now become impossible to insult some evangelicals. How the Wittenburg Door stays in business, I do not know.


February 06, 2009

I’ve been reading through Gregory Koukl’s new book Tactics (check back on Tuesday for a review) and came to a brief section dealing with theistic evolution. Theistic evolution is all the rage within Christian circles today and I thought it may be worth discussing the logic he uses to refute it. I’d be interested in your thoughts on it. Here’s Koukl:

*****

Some people suggest that God used evolution to design the world. They are motivated, I think, by two impulses. The first is a desire to affirm the Bible. The second is a suspicion Darwinism may have merit. Thus, they declare both true.

These two notions, however, seem incompatible to me. It may sound reasonable for God to “use” evolution, but if you look closer I think you will see the problem.

Suppose I wanted a straight flush for a hand of poker. I could either pull the cards out of the deck individually and “design” the hand, or I could shuffle the cards randomly and see if the flush is dealt to me. It would not make any sense, though, to “design” the hand by shuffling the deck and dealing. There’s no way to ensure the results. (I guess if I were really clever I could make it look like I was shuffling the deck when in reality I was stacking it, but that would be a deceitful kind of design called “cheating.”).

In the same way, either God designs the details of the biological world, or nature shuffles the deck and natural selection chooses the winning hand. The mechanism is either conscious and intentional (design), or unconscious and unintentional (natural selection). Creation has a purpose, a goal. Evolution is accidental, like a straight flush dealt to a poker rookie.

The idea that something is designed by chance is contradictory. Like trying to put a square peg in a round hole, this just doesn’t fit.

*****

So, is Koukl on to something here? Does theistic evolution contradict itself? Does it make God into a cheater? Has God “made it look like he was shuffling the deck when in reality he was stacking it?” Or perhaps neither…

February 01, 2009

This morning I stumbled across the first few pages of Alexander Strauch’s Leading with Love. He begins this book by telling a story from the life of Dwight L. Moody. He tells of a time that the evangelist Henry Moorhouse was asked to preach at Moody’s church every night for a week. To everyone’s surprise, Moorhouse preached seven consecutive sermons on John 3:16, preaching on God’s love from Genesis to Revelation. Moody’s son recorded the impact of this preaching in the life of his father:

January 31, 2009

Aileen is away for the day and I’m at home with some sick children. So we’re sprawled out on the couch and instead of doing my usual reading, I’m kicking back with an old favorite, With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge. Sledge’s memoir is probably the best Second World War memoir I’ve ever read (and I’ve read a few). I first encountered it studying military history in university and have read it a few times since then. Once relatively unknown, Sledge’s name recently came up in Ken Burns’ excellent documentary about World War II and rumor has it that Sledge will also be a character in the sequel to the Band of Brother series. What I love about Sledge’s book is that it gives such a realistic and unglamorized perspective on the war in the Pacific. Sledge was not a hero (at least, not any more than any of the men who fought in the War) and came home with no medals for valor. Were it not for this memoir, it’s unlikely that anyone would remember his name. Yet because of it, his name is almost synonymous with the battle for the little island of Peleliu. His account is fascinating, not just for the history of the battles but for the account of what it is like to be a soldier under fire.

Here are just a couple of excerpts from his book to give you a bit of its flavor.

*****

We waited a seeming eternity for the signal to start toward the beach. The suspense was almost more than I could bear. Waiting is a major part of war, but I never experienced any more supremely agonizing suspense than the excruciating torture of those moments before we received the signal to begin the assault on Peleliu. I broke out in a cold sweat as the tension mounted with the intensity of the bombardment. My stomach was tied in knots. I had a lump in my throat and swallowed only with great difficulty. My knees nearly buckled, so I clung weakly to the side of the tractor. I felt nauseated and feared that my bladder would surely empty itself and reveal me to be the coward I was. But the men around me looked just about the way I felt. Finally, with a sense of fatalistic relief mixed with a flash of anger at the navy officer who was our wave commander, I saw him wave his flag toward the beach. Our driver revved the engine. The treads churned up the water, and we started in—the second wave ashore.

We moved ahead, watching the frightful spectacle. Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs ahead of us as they approached the reef. The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss. For many it was to be oblivion.

The lieutenant braced himself and pulled out a half-pint whiskey bottle.

“This is it, boys,” he yelled.

Just like they do it in the movies! It seemed unreal.

*****

Later, reflecting on the campaign, Sledge writes this:

None of us would ever be the same after what we had endured. To some degree that is true, of course, of all human experience. But something in me died at Peleliu. Perhaps it was a childish innocence that accepted as faith the claim that man is basically good. Possibly I lost faith that politicians in high places who do not have to endure war’s savagery will ever stop blundering and sending others to endure it.

But I also learned important things on Peleliu. A man’s ability to depend on his comrades and immediate leadership is absolutely necessary. I’m convinced that our discipline, esprit de corps, and tough training were the ingredients that equipped me to survive the ordeal physically and mentally—given a lot of good luck, of course. I learned realism, too. To defeat an enemy as tough and dedicated as the Japanese, we had to be just as tough. We had to be just as dedicated to America as they were to their emperor. I think this was the essence of Marine Corps doctrine in World War II, and that history vindicates this doctrine.

January 25, 2009

Today is widely regarded as the best Sunday of the month at Grace Fellowship Church. We gather in the morning for our regular morning service but afterward, instead of going our separate ways, we enjoy a potluck fellowship lunch. Following that, we have a brief second service that culminates in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. I thought this was an appropriate prayer for any of us who are preparing to enjoy Lord’s Supper on this Lord’s Day. It is drawn from The Valley of Vision.

God of all good,
I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.
While I gaze upon the emblems of my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy divine justice.’

Oh may I rightly grasp the breadth and length of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment, joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption, life, glory.
As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.

January 18, 2009

Yesterday I was reading Michael Haykin’s new book The Christian Lover (review coming soon) which is a compilation of Christian love letters. Well, all but one. This is a remarkable letter sent from Adoniram Judson to John Hasseltine, the father of Ann, the woman he wished to marry. In this letter he asks John for Ann’s hand, but, as he intends to head to Burma to serve as a missionary, he is forthright in his request. It is a remarkable letter. Here is an excerpt:

… I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world? Whether you can consent to see her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? Whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

John consented even to this and Adoniram and Ann were soon married and lived out their days in Burma. Six years passed before they saw their first convert; by the time Adoniram died, there were 8,000 believers gathered in sixty-three churches.

January 10, 2009

I’m not sure exactly why it is, but this letter just tears me up. I’ve come across it a few times now, and every time I hear or read it, it affects me deeply. It’s a letter from Lt. Col. John Butler of the 5th Marine Division and was written to his son, John Jr.. It was one of many letters sent from father to son while dad was far away, fighting in a terrible war.

February 18, 1945

Dear Johnny Boy:

Tomorrow morning Dad is going to play war with all his strength, so that Mommy can sing you “A Wee Little Lad” and mean every word of it.

Red will be right along side Dad. You would laugh to see the way we are dressed. I am carrying so many guns, and they are sticking out on all sides.

As the man of the house, Dad is counting on you to continue in helping Mom in every way.

When I come home, I will have many stories to tell you about those ships and planes and jeeps and trucks.

Thanks for praying for Dad.

Your Proud Dad.*

The morning after sending this letter, John Butler hit the hard coral beaches of Iwo Jima. Just days later he was killed in the performance of his duties. This letter was the last one Johnny Boy ever received from his Proud Dad.

As quoted by Douglas Phillips in The Little Boy Down the Road.

December 31, 2008

Yet another year is giving us its last gasps. Tonight we’ll celebrate the passing of an old year and the dawning of a new one. It is a good occasion, a good opportunity, to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. To that end, here is a prayer drawn from The Valley of Vision. It shares hope and encouragement for the new year. It is a good one to include in your prayers as you look forward to 2009.

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 They 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.

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