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Tim Challies

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Ramblings

June 29, 2007

School is out! Yesterday my son finished up his last day of grade one and my daughter had her last day of junior kindergarten on Wednesday, so today marks the official beginning of summer vacation. School ends about a month later in Canada than in the U.S. but also begins a month later (the Tuesday after Labour Day).

This is a long weekend in Canada as July 1 happens to be Canada Day. Since that day falls on a Sunday this year, Monday will serve as the day that all the businesses are closed. We don’t have any big plans this year, but will probably just spend the day as a family. And that sounds good to me.

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Speaking of hosting, I’ve been noticing that things are beginning to slow down a little it around here. When you post a comment now it often takes 30 or 60 seconds for the page to rebuild. I expect this is an indication that I am stretching my server a little bit. Movabletype, the software I’m using, tends to be a little resource-intensive at times. So it may be that I’ll need to move to a new server (again) before long. The problem is that I’m kind of on the edge of the budget hosting and if I move I fear it’s going to dramatically increase hosting costs. But I’ll worry about that when it becomes absolutely necessary.

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Sorry to keep shilling Discerning Reader, but I recently added a preview of a feature that may be of interest to some people here: Mini-Reviews. These will be very short book reviews that will be suitable for including in church bulletins or for archiving in a church library. They will give an at-a-glance look at a particular book, giving people a very brief overview of the book’s content and an idea of what audience is most likely to enjoy it. We expect churches will want to use them either to showcase books that are currently available to borrow in the church library or to showcase books the members of the congregation may wish to purchase. If you make your way over, you can download some samples. Do let me know if you find them useful and if this is something you’d be willing to use in your church.

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Now that Sicko, Michael Moore’s latest film has been released, Americans are bound to hear a lot about the wonders of the Canadian health care system. As I understand it, Moore’s ultimate proposed solution to the American health care conundrum is to adopt a socialized system similar to what we enjoy in Canada. The truth is, though, that the Canadian system simply isn’t all that and a bag of chips. The system works, but it comes with a cost that most Americans would be unwilling to pay: a heavy tax burden.

This article, which a friend sent to me, does a good job of explaining a few of the system’s shortcomings. Despite what Moore says in his film, we do have long waits in the emergency rooms of our hospitals. It is not unusual to wait five or six hours (or more) for basic emergency care. Waiting times for some procedures such as MRIs or mammograms can be so long that people end up driving across the border into the U.S. where it can be done the same day and for a reasonable cost. Some American clinics even advertise to Canadians, letting them know about this alternative. Elderly people also find that they tend to be deprioritized in the system as there are more patients than doctors, more surgeries needed than slots to do them. Many of our best and brightest doctors head to the States where they can begin a private practice and make more money than they could dream of making here. While it is unconstitutional for the rich to receive better care than the poor, the rich can afford to go to the U.S. and have their needs met there. And this is exactly what they do.

I seem to recall Michael Moore visiting Canada during the filming of Bowling for Columbine and declaring that most Canadians don’t lock their doors. This is, of course, a preposterous lie. We lock our doors good and tight, just the same as our American neighbors. Moore is lying again in Sicko. Our health care system is good, but it has some serious problems. It is certainly not the ultimate solution, and especially so if you dislike 45% tax brackets. And I don’t know too many who do.

June 09, 2007

For the first time in recent memory, I am at home alone. A couple of the neighborhood children have a birthday party today and my two older children were invited. It is apparently a Taekwondo birthday party. I didn’t know such things existed, to tell the truth. I’m not so crazy about the martial arts, but I guess there can’t be too much harm in letting the kids hang around, kick each other, and eat some pizza for a couple of hours. My wife decided to wait at the party since she is friends with just about all of the parents who will be there. And that left me home alone. And, literally, this is the first time in months.

So what did I do with my newfound freedom? I did my taxes. As a self-employed Canadian I have the privilege of being able to procrastinate until June 15. And, for the first time ever, I’m quite sure, I have turned them in sooner than the day before or the day of. It is great to have that thankless, tedious task off my back. Of course the drawback to being self-employed is that there is generally no such thing as a tax rebate. Instead I have to write a painfully large cheque to the government. I guess someone has to pay for all the “free” health care we enjoy up here. Yet I’m glad to be Canadian and am grateful to live here, even on the day I see my marginal tax rate nicely graphed out for me.

In other news, I still haven’t completed (or started, for that) the Study Guide for my book. I have a better idea of the book’s schedule now and it seems I’ve got until later this summer to finish it off. So that is going to be my summer project. Should be a fun one! And, on the subject of the book, I received the first endorsement for it just last week. It is from what is probably the highest-profile person who agreed to read the manuscript and the endorsement was very encouraging. There are at least six other people who agreed to read it and I’m hoping they’ll pull through as well.

And that’s all you’re going to get out of me today. It’s a beautiful, sunny day; I’m home alone; I’ve got a good book and a can of Coke awaiting my attention. I’m out of here.

May 19, 2007

Here’s a topic appropriate to a warm Saturday afternoon during a sunny, spring long weekend (or it’s a long weekend up here in Canada, at any rate. Victoria Day, don’t you know…). You have probably found, as I have, that as people get older it becomes more and more difficult to buy them good birthday presents. After all, when you are a child you have no means of getting the things you so desperately want. But as an adult you can usually just buy the things you want and need. Every year when my wife’s birthday rolls around I try to find something to buy her that will surprise her and be at least somewhat exciting. This year I found the perfect gift. Or that’s how she described it. So I post this for the benefit of other men who may be scrambling to find a good gift.

Aileen has a soft spot for soft serve. When she was pregnant it was not at all uncommon for me to head out late at night on a run to McDonald’s to buy her a hot fudge sundae (with extra peanuts). Though no longer pregnant, the ice cream cravings continue to show up quite regularly. Without a baby in her belly she hasn’t had the leverage to get me to do quite as many late night jaunts to the store. But knowing of her love of ice cream I came up with a great gift idea. Since her birthday a couple of weeks ago she has often said that this is the best gift I’ve ever gotten her. I choose to believe that this means that this gift is exceptionally good rather than that the rest have been exceptionally bad.

ice-cream.jpgThe Cuisinart Ice-45 Mix It In Soft Serve Ice Cream Maker is a marvel. In about 20 minutes it takes 1.5 quarts of sugar, cream and milk and turns it into really good ice cream. It has the unique ability to mix things like M&M’s, peanuts and sprinkles right into the ice cream as it dispenses it. With the purchase of a bottle of chocolate fudge, we can now make the equivalent of a McDonald’s sundae in twenty minutes without having to go out of the house. The other night we tried frozen yogurt (raspberry) and found that really delicious as well. And it made enough for four adults, two children, and a baby.

You can see this little machine at Amazon by clicking here. If you do end up getting ahold of one, here’s an important tip: make sure the freezer bowl is really, really cold. That means you’ll probably need to put it in a chest freezer or turn your refrigerator’s freezer down a few degrees. Since we did that we’ve had no trouble and it makes perfect ice cream every time. And now the ball is in my wife’s court to blow me away when my birthday comes in December!

May 10, 2007

I returned safely home from the Cleveland area yesterday evening. It is quite a long drive but one that is still faster, I would imagine, than flying since it allows me to avoid waiting in airports, the inevitable airline delays, and all the other trappings of air travel. As always, it is very good to be home. I’ll be here for another two weeks and will then head for Louisville for the New Attitude conference, though this one will be unique in that Aileen and Michaela will be traveling with me. That will mark the end of a busy spring conference schedule!

Because I have a billion emails to catch up with and many clients waiting for my attention, I can do little more than ramble today. So please bear with me. If you are one of the many people who sent me an email about homeschooling, do know that I am making my way through, attempting to read each one and to reply to it thoughtfully.

I really enjoyed The Basics Conference and would definitely recommend it to any pastor. It was another one of those conferences that just seeks to bless and serve and spoil pastors. It seemed that not a detail was overlooked. I enjoyed the fact that it featured lower-profile speakers. This may not seem like a benefit but in a sense it is. When one or more of the really big-name speakers is at a conference (guys like John Piper or John MacArthur) the atmosphere somehow changes. Or that’s how it seems to me. Baucham and Lobb and Thomas are all good speakers and gave good and challenging messages.

There is one aspect of these conferences that I find so moving. At the conference we met a couple who had volunteered to serve doing whatever needed to be done—serving coffee, serving food, cleaning tables, and so on. The husband is a lawyer who represents very high-profile clients and is surely a wealthy and important guy. And yet here he was, traveling across the continent to wait tables and to serve pastors. Where but in the church does one see this? Who but God can help a person like this seek after heavenly treasure when he could so easily be enamored with his earthly treasure. And I see this at almost every conference I attend. I always find it moving.

Changing topics, you may have noticed that I have not yet commented on the Francis Beckwith situation. This is primarily because I have little to say. To be honest, the fact that Beckwith has crossed the Tiber, so to speak, means very little to you or to me or to most Protestants. Sure he was the President of the Evangelical Theological Society, but most of us never even encounter ETS and it never intersects with our lives. So it seems to me that his return to Catholicism has been given a lot of airtime but really has very little significance to the average Christian. There is just one thing I’ll say about it. It seems to me that it is never the simple Bible teachers who convert to Catholicism. People who simply study the Bible and teach it as the Word of God very rarely find Rome attractive. But those who dive into philosophy seem to be more likely to feel themselves drawn to the intellectualism of Rome. They lose sight of the beautiful simplicity of free grace and are drawn to the “grace” of Catholicism, which is really no grace at all. This is not to say that Protestantism is inherently anti-intellectual, but that we depend on Scripture rather than the philosophical constructs of man. It is sad that Beckwith felt the call to return to Rome. I hope he is granted grace to see the error of his ways.

Finally, I am going to re-post a book review in a few moments (I first posted the review some 13 months ago). Don Piper’s 90 Minutes in Heaven continues to appear on the New York Times list of bestsellers and I’d like to post the review again, hoping to intercept Christians who are thinking of reading it. It’s a book that is clearly very popular, but one that offers a view of heaven that is seriously unbiblical.

That’s it for me today. I’ve got work to do and emails to write. I’ll try to have something more interesting to say tomorrow.

March 23, 2007

Based on many trips over the U.S.-Canada border in the past weeks and months, I’d like to suggest the top ten things not to say to a U.S. Customs agent (or border guard):

10. “Want to bet that I make more than you do?”

9. “So an Iranian, a Cuban and a North Korean walk into a bar…”

8. “Does this look infected?”

7. “Where am I going? To heaven. In fact, the Bible says…”

6. “I’ll take a large fry, a Coke and some chicken nuggets.”

5. “That gun belt sure makes your hips look big.”

4. “This job must be da bomb, man! Da bomb!”

3. “So I guess you couldn’t make it as a cop, huh?”

2. “Do you pronounce it new-clear or new-cu-ler?”

1. “I’ll tell you where I’m from if you tell me where you’re from!”

Okay, so that wasn’t as funny as I had hoped. But here is something that really is funny. At the Ligonier Conference, during a question and answer session, R.C. Sproul told a variation of the following joke:

After getting nailed by a Daisy Cutter, Osama made his way to the pearly gates. There, he is greeted by George Washington. “How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!” yells Mr. Washington, slapping Osama in the face.

Patrick Henry comes up from behind. “You wanted to end the Americans’ liberty, so they gave you death!” Henry punches Osama on the nose.

James Madison comes up next and says, “This is why I allowed the Federal government to provide for the common defense!” He delivers a kick to Osama’s knee.

The punishment continues as person after person beats on Osama. As he writhes on the ground, Thomas Jefferson picks him up and hurls him back toward the gate where he is to be judged. As Osama awaits his journey to his final destination, he screams, “This is not what I was promised! Where are my 70 virgins?”

“Ooohhhhhh!” replies St. Peter. “You got that all wrong! It’s 70 Virginians!”

I’m still laughing at that one.

Moving on to more serious matters, I am going to have to sign off quickly today as my book deadline is looming, now just a week away. I have had several friends send me their feedback and critiques on the book and this has been both educational and humbling. One thing it has made clear to me is just how important it is to be encouraging even during times of critique (and even when a person has specifically requested critique). Page after page of critique can begin to crush the spirit, but it takes only a few encouragements of “Good!” or “Excellent point!” or “Well done!” to restore hope. Without these, the editorial process would seem hopeless. This is something for me to remember in my relationships with others, in the times that I am asked to critique another person’s work, and so on.

I’d ask your continued prayers through this week as I finalize the manuscript and prepare it for the publisher.

March 19, 2007

I’m finally back in my office. It was just about two weeks ago that I set out for the Shepherds’ Conference and since then I’ve been on the road pretty well the whole time (I did spend one night here after returning from the conference and before heading out to Atlanta, but my actual time at home was only a few hours). It is good to be home. The house is absolutely freezing since we turned the heat off before we left, but I assume it will warm up sooner or later. As it stands now my hands are so cold I can barely type! I’ve spent the morning answering emails and opening the many (many!) packages of books that arrived in my absence. I have got some serious reading to do.

Of course I also have lots of serious writing to do. As you know by now, my book is due at the publisher by April 1, so I’ve got less than two weeks to turn it in. Things are progressing pretty well, as far as I can tell. I really don’t have much to go on since I have never written a book before, but I am fairly comfortable with where things stand right now. My main task is to finish the final chapter…and then to finish it again. I am planning on writing two versions of the final chapter for reasons you’ll understand when or if you actually read the book. After that, there is some editing that remains to be done, but nothing too significant. I have sent the book to a list of friends and acquaintances for their comments and have been encouraged by what I’ve heard back from them. As much as I am enjoying the writing process, I’ll be grateful when it is complete.

My next conference is Twin Lakes and it is coming up in three weeks. A question I continue to face as I meet people at these conferences is “So is this what you do? You go from conference to conference?” My answer is “Only for this year.” I am really enjoying these live-blogging opportunities and see it as the chance to meet a lot of people and to see many different ministries in action. Since I had so many opportunities this year I thought I would accept as many as was feasible…but only for this year. As of next year I think I will accept fewer. As much as I enjoy them, I find it difficult to be on the road so much and to be away from my family and my job. I hope to have a lot to reflect on by the end of the conference season. I’m sure I will live-blog more conferences next year, but will try to accept fewer of the opportunities.

And that’s it for me. I have got lots to do to get back into “real life.” I will resume “normal” posting here as of tomorrow. Thanks for your patience!

March 03, 2007

I spent pretty well the entire week reading my book out loud to myself. You can’t even begin to imagine how sick I am of reading (and hearing) parts of that book. For six months I have read portions of myself time and time again. And again. And again. But with 28 days until my deadline, I was able to send nine of its ten chapters to a few friends for their feedback. Chapter ten is still in the works, but I’m looking forward to having friends, family and acquaintances hack apart what I’ve sent through to them so far. It looks like the book will top out at around 60,000 words or so. We’re still on track for a January ‘08 publication date.

Before I get back to the book, I wanted to point out a couple of interesting items.

In-Vitro Fertilization - Pulpit Magazine, The Online Magazine of the Shepherds’ Fellowship just published an interesting article dealing with in-vitro fertilization. They rely on Dr. Michael Frields, who serves as the chairman of gynecology at Glendale Adventist Hospital and is a member of Grace Community Church and proceed from several assumptions:

  • God opens and closes the womb according to His sovereign will (Gen. 29:31; 30:22; Ps. 127:3; 1 Sam. 1:5-6).
  • It is acceptable for Christians to take advantage of extant medical technology as long as the specific methods do not violate the clear teaching of Scripture or the believer’s conscience (cf. Rom. 14).
  • Life begins at conception (Ps. 51:5; 139:13-16).
  • No human life should be destroyed (Gen. 9:6; Ex. 20:13).
  • Physical intimacy between a husband and a wife is the means God designed to produce offspring (Gen. 2:24; Prov. 5:16-17).

Based on this, they arrive at ten conclusions. Numbers 8 and 10 seemed most significant to me.

8 - “Scripture does not specifically address in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy per se. However, as stated at the outset, physical intimacy between a husband and a wife is the means God designed to produce offspring. For this reason, we believe that Christians should not use methods that employ donated eggs or sperm from a third party. Nor should they use methods that utilize a third party as the carrier of a baby resulting from the implantation of a husband’s sperm and his wife’s egg (such as surrogacy). The disastrous ramifications of Abraham and Sarai’s attempt to use Hagar as a third party in order to continue Abraham’s line in Genesis 16—particularly the tension that resulted between the two women—may serve as a warning for those intending to pursue methods involving a third party.” In other words, there is nothing inherently wrong with in-vitro fertilization. Other points provide important caveats.

10 - “Along with various medical options, Christian couples should seriously consider adoption, which is both a viable and God-honoring option (cf. Jam. 1:27).”

It is quite a good article and well worth reading. I haven’t looked much into this topic, but this seems quite a rational presentation of the Christian perspective on it.

Phunnies - Phillip Way wrote a funny article about Canada and Canadians. He also claims to have found my long-lost twin—one I was apparently separated from at birth.

Enjoy your weekend! I have to go to the Passport office on Monday to get a passport for Michaela so may be a little bit late posting. Tuesday I’ll be heading back to California to bring liveblogging of the Shepherd’s Conference. It’s going to be a busy week!

February 16, 2007

My day began at 5 A.M. today. I have an early morning flight to Los Angeles that should get me to the smoggy city just in time for lunch at the In and Out burger closest to L.A.X.. I’m already looking forward to it. I’ll be in L.A. until Monday evening so I can bring blog coverage of the Resolved Conference. Some 3,000 college students (and one thirty year old guy) will be gathering to worship God, to ponder Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions (I assume), and to listen to teaching from the likes of Rick Holland, C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur and John Piper. It promises to be a wonderful event and I am looking forward to it. A conference dealing primarily with that younger age group will be a new experience for me and I anticipate that I’ll enjoy it. I look forward to being encouraged by, and hopefully attempting to encourage, these young Christians.

The conference wraps up just after lunch on the Monday and my flight doesn’t leave until near midnight (As with the Shepherd’s Conference last year, I’ve opted to catch the red-eye flight home.). I am hoping to find something more fun to do that last year when I spent 6 hours in the airport terminal reading. It was edifying but not awfully exciting. I’ll be traveling with someone this year and I’m sure we’ll find something fun to do.

Changing topics, I found this article interesting. I have often pondered the connection between global warming and evolution. This columnist has done the same, but has brought the ideas together enough to actually write about it. Of course I disagree with the kind of evolution he believes in, but it does seem that people who hold to the idea that we are facing an imminent global warming crisis are being somewhat inconsistent with their evolutionary beliefs. I am still searching for a firm position on global warming. So much of the information dealing with the issue is politically charged and politically motivated that I find it very difficult to believe it. So I continue to explore and to find measured, deliberate defenses of both sides. I don’t want hysteria and I don’t want politics. I just want the facts.

I have not had time to put together an A La Carte for today, but did want to add a link to and article written by a friend of mine who pastors a church in a state I’ve never been to. He discusses potential problems in regarding church buildings as casually as many people do today.

And that is it for me. I have a bus/taxi/airport transportation vehicle to catch and a plane to catch after that. Tune in late tonight for the first post from the far corner of the continent. As always, your prayers for traveling mercies and your prayers for the safety and well-being of my family are much appreciated.

February 11, 2007

I had a very long and busy day of work yesterday, so found myself fighting to form coherent thoughts today. So rather than attempt to write something riveting, I thought I’d share a few quotes I’ve pulled from books I’ve read lately.

While reading Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail I found a quote by Christopher Hitchens that tickled my funny bone.

In Letters to a Young Contrarion, Christopher Hitchens writes that he wakes up every morning and checks his vital signs by grabbing the front page of the New York Times: “ ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print,’ it says. It’s been saying that for decades, day in and day out. I imagine that most readers of the canonical sheet have long ceased to notice the bannered and flaunted symbol of its mental furniture. I myself check every day to make sure that it still irritates me. If I can still exclaim, under my breath, why do they insult me and what do they take me for and what the hell is it supposed to mean unless it’s as obviously complacent and conceited and censorious as it seems to be, then at least I know that I still have a pulse.”

Substitute CNN for the Times and remove the vulgar word and I think I pretty well agree with him. And this is unusual as there really isn’t a lot of common ground between myself and Hitchens (this book aside).

There was another quote that grabbed my attention as well. This one was from, somewhat ironically, a book review in the New York Times written by Richard Posner. He commented on the blogosphere:

What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the dust. Not only are there millions of blogs, and thousands of bloggers who specialize, but what is more, readers post comments that augment the blogs, and the information in those comments, as in the blog themselves, zips around blogland at the speed of electronic transmission.

The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media do; only they are different. … It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

And one final quote, this a nice short one courtesy of Thomas Jefferson. “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessing mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.” I thought of this quote in light of my relationship with other Christians and marveled at somehow Christians seem unwilling to really teach and train other, newer Christians lest these people eventually outshine their teachers. Keep them ignorant so they cannot challenge us to be more godly or to cast aside our sin. Don’t encourage godliness in them lest they make my godliness look dull in comparison. But I think Jefferson’s words are instructive here.

And finally, I read an interesting story today. You may have seen, as I have, the photos of the marriage of a young soldier who was terribly wounded while serving in Iraq. You can see photographs of the man and his wife here. But I also found the story behind the photographs and thought you might find it interesting as well. You can read it here.

January 27, 2007

Just for kicks, here is a list of things you never knew about me and never wanted to.

Since we got married, Aileen and I have lived in four different houses. Our current home is the only one we have owned as the previous ones were all rentals.

The first vehicle I ever owned was a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck. Since then I’ve owned two Toyota Corollas, one Ford Windstar and one Dodge Grand Caravan.

I was raised on a steady diet of the NIV. In grade school and high school we studied the RSV. The church I attended in college used the NKJV. I now use and prefer the ESV.

I have one older brother and three younger sisters.

I started at a new high school for twelfth grade. On my first day at this new school I met a young lady whose first words to me were “Shut up or I’ll kill you. I’m going to absolutely kill you.” She never did kill me and despite her threats I married her a few years later.

The taste of alcohol makes me feel sick to my stomach.

I have been in a wedding party twice, both times as a groomsman. At this point, with most of my friends being married, I don’t like my chances of being in too many more.

The first real job I ever had was pumping gas.

I drink two cans of Coke per day, one just before lunch and one in mid-afternoon. I used to drink two cans of Diet Coke but Aileen decided that Aspartame is evil and that sugar is better for me. I have the remarkable ability to make these two cans of Coke last for pretty well the entire day.

I am incapable of throwing a Coke can away until it has been thoroughly crushed.

My wife and I got married on August 8 of 1998. It was well over one hundred degrees that day and neither the church nor the reception hall had air conditioning. Bad move.

I have never eaten Chinese food or eaten at a Chinese restaurant. I don’t intend to do so anytime soon.

In high school I was sent to the office only once. My transgression was in secretly solidifying the teacher’s coffee. The principal burst out laughing when he heard what I did.

In the eighth grade I ran a smuggling operation where I would disappear from school property during lunch break and run to a local store. I would buy candy and sell them to other kids at marked up prices.

I don’t drink hot beverages.

The first book I ever remember reading is The Pilgrim’s Progress.

I likely only passed eleventh grade chemistry because during the exam I was sitting immediately behind a very clever girl who happened to be left-handed while I am right. I was able to see and copy her answers. Despite having repented of this, I still feel guilty about it.

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