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Tim Challies

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April 24, 2006

Some of the people who read this site love the book reviews. Other people hate them. Those poor souls must be frustrated as I have posted an awful lot of reviews over the past few days. I can’t bring myself to apologize for this. I have had a long and strange week and somehow found myself reading even more than usual. That has resulted in a large number of book reviews (including a few that have not yet been posted). I will try to find something else to post for tomorrow and then, beginning Wednesday, I hope to begin live-blogging the Together for the Gospel Conference (featuring John Piper, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, etc).

Speaking of which, I’d like to thank all of those who have been praying for my wife. I was quite successful in keeping her offer her feet last week. Over the past seven days I have made 28 breakfasts (7 breakfasts for 4 people), 28 lunches, 28 dinners and 28 after-dinner snacks. I’ve done the shopping, washing, cleaning, walking, bathing, banking and a whole lot of little-kid-bum-wiping. I’ve also managed to work a 40-hour week up in my office. I have seen clear evidence of God’s grace in my life in that I have not resented this work, have not complained about it, and have not been seeking validation in Aileen’s expressions of gratitude. It has been a blessing to be able to serve and I’ve enjoyed taking care of her. I can’t help but think that this would not have been the case a year or two ago. Humble service has always come hard to me, but it seems that God has been working on this with me.

Tomorrow at noon she has another midwife appointment and we’ll get the final word on her blood pressure. If it is above a certain threshold, she will have to consult some experts and they will take over that area of her care. Depending on the obstetritian they consult, this could require Aileen just going home and continuing on as-is or being immediately induced. It is that subjective. So we’re just hoping (Aileen even more than me) that she’ll check out just fine, she’ll be able to return home and wait another few weeks for the baby to come, and I’ll be able to head to Kentucky for the two-day conference. My sister will be arriving tomorrow to spend the week with Aileen.

So please continue to pray. There is no great likelihood of harm to mother or baby, but depending on the circumstances, it could prove to be a very difficult, inconvenient three weeks before that due date rolls around.

In other news, I am going to make a major announcement tomorrow about a project I have been working on for a long, long time. Be sure to check in and see what all the fuss is about.

And now, it is just after 5:00 PM and I have got work to do. Dinner has to be made, dishes have to be washed and the cupboards need to be restocked…

March 22, 2006

There are a few topics I have collected over the past week that do not merit an article of their own. So I thought I would compile a few of those into a single article today.

Blue Like Jazz: Matt Redmond sent me an email letting me know that he had reviewed Blue Like Jazz. One particular thing caught my eye in his review. He asked, “Since when is autobiography an acceptable genre for Christian Spirituality? This may be the most distrurbing and dengerous part of the book. It only makes sense that a book on Christian Spirituality would look closely at the best resource for such a subject…the Bible. Whip me, beat me and call me a fundamentalist but I am stickler for looking to the Bible for help in these matters. Anecdotes of a personal nature might be helpful but they are shifting sand. Perhaps it would be easier to understand this book as one Christian’s Spirituality instead of Christian Spirtuality.”

I think that is a good point, though one that merits further reflection. I know that biographies can be presented as Christian Spirituality and I have greatly benefitted in my Christian walk by reading about the lives of other great believers. But it seems that perhaps autobiography is not the best genre for this type of writing. What say you?

ASSIST News on Brian McLaren: I posted in A La Carte this morning about an article dealing with Brian McLaren that was published by ASSIST News Service. McLaren made some comments about Christians who disagree with the Emerging movement:

It’s true there has been a lot of criticism. And, of course, when a group like this is raising very deep questions, such as do we have the Gospel right? - and you don’t get much deeper than that – people who feel we do have it right already have to criticise what we’re doing.

And we have to listen, because maybe they’re right. So for people who feel, for example, that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology the kind of conversation we’re having is a waste of time.

But for people who feel that the Westminster Confession arose at a certain time, addressed certain concerns of that time, then we have to be as faithful to our time as the framers of the confession were to their time.

In the US you see a very strong polarisation, where the religious right has had a strong monologue, and it’s been a kind of retreat, a feeling that the good old days are back in the 1940s or 50s or 70s.

One of the effects of this emerging church conversation is a sense of hope and enthusiasm about the future and the need to engage, and less of a feeling of defeatism and retreat and nostalgia.

I don’t know of anyone, Presbyterian or otherwise, who believes that the Westminster Confession perfectly contains Christian theology. I do know of many who feel that it is a sound, Scriptural understanding of particular points of Christian theology, but none who believe it is inerrant. McLaren often engages in this type of senseless attack, throwing out barbs of this nature. It goes without saying that a person who believes Christian theology has been perfectly encapsulated by the Westminster Confession would reject the Emerging movement. But since nobody actually does, this is little more than a red herring. People who love and respect the Confession reject the Emerging movement because it tampers with the very gospel, which is contained not in the Confession but in the Scriptures.

Allah Junk: It seems that Christians do not have the market cornered on ridiculous products designed to somehow enhance our spirituality. A company in Italy has now designed a pair of jeans created specifically for Muslims.

I am AL QUDS jeans, the jeans of choice for Islam as the inspiration comes from here and it is to this world that they refer.

The precious stimuli and suggestions that come from the sacred Arab World and from ordinary, every day life are captured and brought to fruition in AL QUDS jeans satisfying the needs of a couture fashion line which arises from the most “cultural” gesture of the street: jeans made to pray in, jeans for those who choose a different path. It is a wider concept because it is a step made for the World, seductive original and distinguished.

This line is therefore serious, looked for with discretion, natural elegant and not ostentatious. This is reflected in the care and attention to detail, from the denim material to the design which offers the comfort necessary for everyday wear.

A new expression for an old tradition; a way to express your origins and show them.

I wonder if they make them for women…

Jesus Junk: And while we are on the topic of junk, Slice of Laodicea points to a new product by Zondervan. WorldNetDaily describes True Images Bible, a Bible created specifically for teenage girls. It includes “profiles of fictional teenagers discussing oral sex, lesbianism and ‘dream’ guys. The publisher insists that the Bible merely deals with issues that teens face on a near-daily basis. Those who disagree with the product feel that it introduces topics that are unsuitable for young girls. It seems to me that many girls do face these issues, and parents do need to deal with them, but that a Bible is not the appropriate way of doing so. Unlike what the article suggests, though, homeschooling is not the final solution for dealing with this kind of issue. We can and should have this type of discussion and deal with how we will equip teens to deal with issues they will face at some point in life. Not every child can or will be schooled at home.

December 22, 2005

I am now officially on vacation. Every time I take time off I wonder in advance if I will spend more or less time researching and writing articles, reading good books and the like. I always have great ambitions but usually end up spending lots of time just being lazy. And isn’t that what a good vacation is all about? So for the next week the posts around here may be the result of lots of hours spent reading and researching or they may be the product of hours spent snoozing on the couch and visiting local tourist attractions. Either way I assume the majority of the readers of this site will also be taking time off so it’s unlikely very many people will even notice! Late-December traffic on the Internet is rarely worth writing home about.

I listened to the first couple of messages in what promises to be an excellent audio series produced by Sovereign Grace Ministries. Entitled In the World But Not of the World, the series examines worldliness and warns against allowing it to infiltrate our lives. C.J. Mahaney opens the series with some initial thoughts about worldliness and then hands the reins to Josh Harris who preaches two messages on the impact of media in the lives of believers. He relates one humorous story in which he went to Blockbuster to rent a DVD and, as he was walking towards the counter, thought to himself, “I sure hope no one from the church sees me.” That’s never a good sign, is it? As Josh says, this is usually a good indication that you should just put that movie right back on the shelf. I think we can probably all relate.

In our local video store, Rogers Video, the kids at the counter recite aloud the movies you are renting. “Madagascar is due on Friday and To End All Wars is due on Saturday.” I have found that a useful guard against renting movies that have no business being in my house. It also guards against me renting chick flicks. I would be far too embarrassed to stand in line and hear a teenager chant, “Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” is due back tomorrow…”

Harris also relates a story of a young man who went to see a popular movie. After he saw it another man asked him how much bad language there was in the film. The young guy said, “there were five.” So the man took his children to see the movie and found that there were actually closer to eighty. Later he called the young man to task. The young guy, in his defense, said, “There were only five, but they were each said several times.” Harris then asked who is the greater fool - the young man, who feels the movie is acceptable because there are only five bad words (though each is repeated many times), or the father who feels that five bad words are acceptable for his children but eighty are not. Food for thought.

In the subsequent messages Bob Kauflin will discuss music in two sermons before Mahaney returns with a final message dealing with modesty. It promises to be a very good series.

Has anyone else noticed that there is now a Victoria’s Secret commerical that has Switchfoot music playing in the background with little more than a scantily-clad female in the foreground? I suppose this highlights the danger of “selling” your songs to a record label. I am guessing that the band would not have agreed to this. And no, there is nothing wrong with lingerie (I hope) but I do object to nearly naked women strutting their stuff on my television screen.

Speaking of which, Aileen and I have tentatively agreed on a plan of action to get rid of our cable. We’ll keep the television and focus instead on renting and buying good DVDs that are appropriate for the whole family. It’s not the shows on TV that drove us to this. It’s the commercials. We can control what we watch and what the children watch but it is much more difficult to control the television commercials that play six times every hour. So to cable I say, “Goodbye and good riddance. I wash my hands of you!”

I had a lot of time to reflect yesterday and am wondering if I should not have posted the link to the article about Victoria Osteen and her ejection from an airplane. On one hand it may serve to highlight the apparent diva-like nature of the wife of one of America’s foremost pastors. Victoria is also actively involved in Lakewood Church and I do believe that she preaches at some times and so it is appropriate to hold her to a high standard. On the other hand I know that anyone can have a bad day and that we are all sinners desperately in need of grace. Had it been the wife of a pastor I respect who had done something like this I would, I think, have given her the benefit of the doubt and would not have posted the link. Of course I’d say the likelihood of this type of incident happening with the wife of those pastors I much admire is far lower. Still, I am not sure if this is the type of story that is more based on gossip than a story that is important to highlight. What do you think?

December 17, 2005

It is 2:30 on Saturday afternoon and I have accomplished very little today. I guess that’s not entirely true. It’s just that I have accomplished very little of any great significance. I usually try to make Saturdays a profitable time where I spend a good bit of the day reading, writing and putting in some quality time with the family.

For a couple of months now Aileen and I have been batting around the idea of getting a laptop. Aileen’s eBay business continues to increase and the tired old computer she has been working with has begun to wear her down. At the same time I’ve been given opportunities to live-blog some conferences and have not had a laptop to take with me. So this morning I decided we would just bite the bullet and go mobile. I dragged out all of this week’s flyers (Future Shop, Best Buy, Staples, etc) and did a bit of comparison work. Eventually I found what I was looking for at The Source (aka Circuit City and formerly known as Radio Shack). I decided to try my hand at haggling and managed to talk them down a significant amount. So here I am, posting my first entry from my new laptop. Life is good. Having a good computer almost makes it worth blowing most of the day!

Note to self: shopping on a Saturday morning in late-December is a bad idea. Staples wasn’t in terrible shape. The Source wasn’t even all that bad. But Future Shop and Best Buy? Oh my. There were just wall-to-wall people.

While we are on the subject of Aileen’s eBay business, her endeavours have given me opportunity to think about a modern day phenomenon dealing with online communication. She had a client who purchased an item and he felt it did not arrive at his home soon enough (even though Aileen’s terms clearly spell out how long items take to arrive). He sent her an absolutely awful email. He was angry, offensive and just plain mean. Only a few minutes after sending the email he called her and was perfectly nice and respectul (though not at all apologetic about the tone of his email). That emphasized to me the dangers inherent in non-personal communication such as we find on the Internet. It encouraged me take a look at myself to ensure that I am being consistently respectful and Christ-like in my communication, whether I am speaking face-to-face or firing off a quick email. I intend to write about this in greater detail at a later date.

Anyways, I am going to sign off and spend a little bit more time setting up this computer. And then I hope to find some time to write a couple of book reviews and to write the Challies family annual newsletter. It’s going to be a busy afternoon!

November 25, 2005

Yesterday I indicated that I am a little bit envious of American Thanksgiving. We Canadians are impassioned about almost nothing (except our lack of passion and our distaste towards most things American) and make far less fuss about Thanksgiving than our friends across the border. I don’t think that is a good thing, but I also kind of like America and Americans. That is probably grounds for treason up here. While I often spend Christmas in the US of A, I have never spent a Thankgiving down there. Perhaps I’ll have to do that sometime soon.

While I am somewhat envious of American Thanksgiving I am in no way envious of Black Friday. In fact, one could make the argument that the entire long weekend is a celebration not of thanksgiving, but of excess and gluttony. On Thursday people eat far too much and follow that on Friday by spending far too much. Excess: it’s the American way! Wouldn’t it make for a nicer weekend if, instead of shopping, people went out and shared what they had rather than spend it?

Now that I have offended what is probably 80% of my readership, I will turn to other topics.

This just in: sending out an email announcing the conclusion of this month’s giveaway on a day when everyone is out of the office is just a bad idea. My inbox is being flooded with Out of Office notifications. Lesson learned.

A couple of weeks ago I received an odd review request. The producers of the film The God Who Wasn’t There asked if I would watch and review the production. It is an anti-God documentary that seeks to prove that Jesus never existed. What Bowling For Columbine did to gun culture and what Supersize Me did for fast food, this is supposed to do with religion. I’m not entirely sure what Bowling For Columbine did to gun culture, but if this production is a parallel, then I’d say “not much.” It is poorly made, terribly documented and the only shocking thing about it is that anyone could think it is shocking. I find it amusing that part of their marketing program is sending it to people like myself and Joe Carter, who didn’t like it anymore than I did. However, it does provide an opportunity to answer some of the common claims made against Jesus’ existence so I am hoping to examine some of the film’s claims next week. I will feed their marketing claim, but only with well-reasoned, rational, documented evidence to disprove their nonsensical claims. Here are a few of the claims made in the film:

  • Jesus Christ is a fictional character.
  • Jesus bears a striking resemblence to “other” ancient heroes and legends.
  • Contemporary Christians are largely ignorant of the origins of their religion.
  • Christianity is obsessed with blood.
  • The Bible is, and was only intended to be, symbolic literature.
  • There is no empirical data to support God’s existence.

And so on. As I said, there is really nothing new here, except perhaps a very poor interpretation of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Earlier this week I received an advance copy of a forthcoming book dealing with the Purpose Driven movement and Rick Warren. I have read most of it and am happy to say that it explains the movement in a very thorough, yet even-handed way. There is nothing alarmist in the book and it avoids sounding like a rant. It is well-argued, well-researched and will surely help a lot of people unravel the Purpose Driven movement. I hope to bring a preview before long.

I have a couple of things I am hoping to begin writing this weekend with a view to posting them here next week. I trust that, upon the conclusion of this long weekend, there will actually be some people around to read them!

May God bless and keep you this weekend as you seek to honor Him in all you do.

November 18, 2005

A Critical, Judgmental Deconstruction of Derek Webb’s Life, Faith and Ministry

It seems that some people are expecting me to deconstruct the interview with Derek Webb. I am not going to do that. I am not going to write about what my conversation with him did to my opinion of his life, faith or ministry. There would be no value in that. However, I do have a few observations that I would like to make.

Webb is a personable guy and was very easy to talk to. We probably could have talked quite happily for a good, long time. He is obviously an intelligent guy and one who has thought deeply about the issues that are important to him. Furthermore, he is a passionate guy and approaches his music through the issues that he is passionate about. Now I certainly do not agree with everything he believes in and may not place the same emphases on certain things. However, I do believe in the gist of what he was saying. Clearly the church has fallen short in following the second greatest commandment. He seems to have realized the strange dichotomy that exists where the people who outwardly do best with the greatest commandment don’t fare so well with the second. This disturbs him and ought to disturb all of us. However, I am not convinced that the answers lie with the Jim Wallis’ and Don Millers of the world. I am not so sure that they are the people who should be leading the church towards this goal of re-emphasizing the second greatest commandment.

There are many questions I would have liked to have been able to ask. However, I did not want to keep him tied up for too long (on a day off, no less). Perhaps in the future I’ll have another opportunity to interview him and we can discuss some of these other issues.

Is G-Rated Entertainment Going Too Far?

Even CNN thinks it might be. In a recent article they cite Chicken Little, Toy Story and Shrek as examples of movies that push the boundaries of humor in films intended primarily for children. “As pop culture mimics today’s permissive social values, violence and veiled sexual references have crept into the seemingly innocent cartoon landscape, giving parents new reason to do research beyond the ratings.” There have been a few occasions where Aileen and I have been left shocked at what our children see in movies intended for young kids. The first film that really made me take notice was Shrek which was positively laden with sexual and pseudo-sexual references. From veiled comments about the size of a person’s genitalia, to scenes where a person is clearly engaging in some type of auto-erotic activity, we found the movie completely inappropriate for children. We turned it off and have no allowed them to watch it since.

“Everybody is trying to reach out to as wide an audience as possible,” said Disney spokesman Dennis Rice. “It may have some adult humor that goes over the heads of other audiences, but it’s never so colorful that it would affect the MPAA and how they rate the movie.” It used to be that children’s movies were intended to be for children. There was nothing in Cinderella that would endear it to adults. Yet in recent times, filmmakers have attempted to write movies that will appear to a dual audience. More often than not, I believe, they have succeeded in doing so. While children may not always understand the references to sexual innuendo, I don’t feel that this justifies allowing them to see and hear it. Children are more clever than we sometimes give them credit for.

A pediatrician interviewed for the article says that “ ‘Being there to discuss things that might be disturbing, upsetting or funny is probably the most important thing parents can do,’ he said. They should research the movies their children plan to see and learn about any questionable content in advance, he said, then be prepared to discuss it afterward.” Or even better, they can research movies and not allow children to see movies that would disturb them. I realize that this is not always cut-and-dried. Many of the old movies are disturbing on some level. Many children remember Bambi as being particularly disturbing or upsetting. Yet it seems to me that there is a great distance between witnessing the death of Bambi’s mother and witnessing characters laugh about the size of genitalia.

Expletive Diluted

The San Diego Union-Tribute recently featured an article showing that the daily lexicon [of kids], whether on television, stored in kids’ iPods or packed in your soccer car pool, brims with borderline expletives – words some parents find inoffensive and permissible, though others deem crass, rude and unacceptable.” While many children still shy away from the f-bomb and other overtly offensive words, they may well engage in “cussing lite,” which the article says has “all the flavor of full-bodied swearing with half the societal rebukes.” We have come a long way from the days when words like “pregnant” and images like a toilet could not even be shown on television!

Among the words that are popular among kids and adults that would have been considered unacceptable, even a short time ago, are “suck,” “crap,” “frickin,” “freakin,” “bites” and expressions such as “holy crap.” “Vulgarity – like other things labeled out of bounds – has long held a coolness factor for kids and cultures. But when the real word is too much, the watered-down one still carries enough panache for the tween and under-10 set.”

Absolutely Useless

Here is something from the “absolutely useless” files. Some enterprising person has gone through all the bother of making a Google map that will show the homes of a wide variety of celebrities. If you have ever dreamed of stalking Garth Brooks or Sandra Bullock, here is your chance. Visit Celebrity Maps (or don’t, I guarantee there will be no benefit in visiting).

October 26, 2005

I left the house this morning at 9:20 to attend to two small jobs. Neither was supposed to take more than a few minutes. Yet somehow it is now four hours later and I have just gotten home. The work took a little bit longer than expected and I got called into various meetings. So here it is at 1:30 which is far too late in the day for me to write anything encouraging or even interesting. Instead I thought I would relay a discussion I had this morning.

I just lied. I am going to relay a discussion I had this morning and seamlessly blend it with a discussion I had with the same person just a few days ago. I consider this artistic license and since prose is a form of art I am entitled to use it. The story requires less explanation this way. So just bear with me.

Just around the corner from us is a gas station, that until a few weeks ago was staffed entirely by twenty-something caucasian men and women who must have spent most of the money they earned from tending the till on tattoos. Their dress, demeanour and topics of conversation seemed to show that they had little ambition and certainly little concern for customer service. They seemed to believe that weekend antics, party behavior and, well, just about everything else, was appropriate for discussion while in the presence of customers. Then, quite suddenly, the entire staff was replaced with middle-aged East Indians whom I assume, judging by their accents and grasp of the English language, are probably recent immigrants (as indeed are 50% of the people who live in the Toronto area). I am guessing that the franchise for this particular gas station was sold and the new owner elected to bring in his own staff. I am quite certain that is in violation of Canadian labor laws.

Allow me now to relate a conversation (or two) I had with one of the new staff members at this station. I had just walked into the little store at the gas station to pay for my gas and a bottle of Coke Zero (which is chemically delicious).

Attendant: What pump?

Me: Two. Twenty dollars.

Attendant (holding out a basket of miscellaneous snacks): You like one of these?

Me: No thanks.

Attendant: Free!

Me: Okay then. (Tim selects a package of Skittles from the basket)

Attendant: No, not those. Those not included.

Me: Alright, how about these? (Tim selects a small bag of candy from the basket)

Attendant: No. Not those. These. (Attendant digs under the Skittles and selects a bag of trail mix that looks like it might be left over from the Second World War)

Me: Oh, no thanks. I won’t eat that. (Attendant disregards my polite refusal and puts the bag beside the bottle of Coke. Tim resigns himself to accepting the snack)

Attendant: Lotto 6/49 ticket?

Me: No thanks.

Attendant: Prize is up to forty million dollars.

Me: No thanks. I’m really not interested.

Attendant: It just takes one to win! It’s only two dollars. Two dollars to win forty million.

Me: I don’t play the lottery.

Attendant: Forty million dollars!

Me: Listen, sir, I don’t play the lottery. The lottery is really nothing but a tax on stupidity and I don’t know about you but I already pay enough taxes!

Attendant: You can’t win if you don’t play!

Me: Tell you what. If I walk out of this building and get struck by lightning I will crawl back in here and buy a lottery ticket. Because my chances of getting hit by lightning today are far better than of winning forty million dollars.

Attendant: What’s this (gestures towards my debit card)

Me: That’s a debit card.

Attendant: Oh.

And finally he let me go. I got away without a lottery ticket. I sampled the trail mix just long enough to confirm that it was really quite disgusting.

Anyways, it is now almost 2 o’clock and I really need to get some work done!

October 22, 2005

Here is another one of these rambling articles that allows me to cover a wide range of territory in one fell swoop.

Incidentally, the phrase “one fell swoop” seems to have originated with Shakespeare in his play Macbeth. Macduff, having just heard of the murder of his family, says:

All my pretty ones?
Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
At one fell swoop?

The word “fell” refers to ferocity or evil. So in one evil swoop his family was wiped out as if a kite (a bird of prey) fell upon a group of chickens.

But I digress.

I have a bit of an odd question. I have been offered an interview with quite an interesting person and one whom I know a lot of people around here much admire. I am very eager to interview him, but there is one condition handed down from his agent: he can only do a phone interview which means I’d have to record it. I would then simply have to create a transcript of our conversation. While that is well and good, I have no way of recording such an interview. Can anyone tell me how I could go about recording a phone call?

Also, I am having computer issues and am looking at finally upgrading from my current system. If there is anyone out there who is more educated in these matters than I am, I’d appreciate the opportunity to discuss options with you. I used to be the hardware guy among my social group but having forsaken the hardware game in favor of web design I’ve soon fallen far behind. So I’d like a primer on current laptop technology versus desktop technology.

Turning to a new topic, yesterday I was at the doctor’s office complaining about an earache when a young girl, probably twenty or so, pushing a toddler emerged from one of the rooms. She talked to the nurse about how she needed to make her way across town but did not have money to pay for a cab. She did not look exceedingly poor (and frankly, there aren’t a lot of poor people in my part of the city) but she did not seem to have money for a cab. The nurse pointed her to a bus stop and told her that althought it would be a long trek, the bus would eventually get her home. I felt very guilty at this point, wondering if I should offer to drive her home. She would have had to wait until I saw the doctor (which took only a few minutes) but I would have been glad to then drive her home. But I didn’t. Images of lawsuits and upset spouses flashed through my mind. So tell me, did I do the right thing? What is the correct thing to do in such a situation?

That’s all you’re getting out of me today! My wife is off at a baby shower and the children and I will have to find something to do indoors since it is raining today. And I believe it is supposed to rain for the rest of the weekend…