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December 13, 2009

You know that every now and again I like to post a prayer here. Sometimes it is a prayer from long ago, sometimes it is a prayer that is much more recent. This week I was looking at pastor Scotty Smith’s blog and came across a great prayer—one I could fully identify with and one I so badly needed to pray, too. Smith based it on this passage: “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:16-19).

Here is his prayer:

*****

Dear Lord Jesus, I’m very much convicted by and drawn to Mary’s response, early in her journey of nursing you and knowing you—the very God who created all things, sustains all things and makes all things new. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

“Hurrying off” like a shepherd to tell others about you has always been easier for me than sitting still… and letting you tell me about yourself.

It’s always been easier for me to talk than to listen, to stay busy than to relax, to be “productive” than to be meditative… I confess this as sin, Lord Jesus. This isn’t okay. It can be explained, but not justified. For knowing about you is not the same thing as knowing you. An informed mind is not the same thing as an enflamed heart.

To know you IS eternal life, and I DO want to know you, Lord Jesus, so much better than I already do. Lead me in the way of treasuring you in my heart and pondering who you are… and pondering everything you’ve already accomplished through your life, death and resurrection… and everything you’re presently doing as the King of kings and Lord of lords… and everything you’ll be about forever in the new heaven and new earth, as the Bridegroom of your beloved Bride. There’s so much to treasure and so much to ponder…

It’s not as though I’m a stranger to treasuring and pondering, for I treasure and ponder a whole lot of things, Lord Jesus—things, however, that lead to a bankrupt spirit and an impoverished heart.

May the gospel slow me, settle me and center me that I might be able to say with the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And being with you, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).” So very Amen, I pray, in Jesus’ name.

November 01, 2009

It was November 1, 2003 when I decided I’d commit to blogging every day for a full year. I was getting lazy with blogging and had given it little effort in the weeks leading up to that day. I figured I should either commit to doing it on a very regular basis or give it up altogether. A year later I had managed to blog every day and thought it would be good to renew the commitment. I’ve done that every year and here we are, six years later. I suppose the 2193 days in the counter down at the bottom of the site must reflect those six years plus the couple of leap years that have gone by in the meantime.

Though this site dates back to September of 2002, I pretty much think of November 1, 2003 as the day it really began. It was the day that I really fell in love with writing and the day I realized that blogging would be the primary way I’d express myself in writing. I continue to blog daily simply because it is my way of carrying on the commitment. I have always thought that if I start taking the occasional day off, I’ll soon taking off far more than the occasional day. On those days when I’m feeling dry and tired and beat up, it is only my commitment to blog on a daily basis that motivates me to sit down and write. It has been an amazing discipline in this way. I’ve stuck with blogging much longer and with much greater commitment than any previous hobby. And I don’t intend to give it up anytime soon.

It seems appropriate today to thank you, the readers, who continue to visit the site. I am exceedingly grateful, humbled and surprised that you continue to do so. Some of you have been dropping by since before November 1, 2003 and I’m glad to count many of you as friends. I’ve been honored to meet so many of you at churches and conferences and all sorts of other places.

Today seemed like a good time to mention that, as of tomorrow, I will be launching a second blog. I expect that things here at Challies.com will remain pretty much the same. But as of tomorrow I will launch a new site in a new location based around a whole new idea. It will not be a daily site, like this one, but may turn out to be near-daily. Check in tomorrow and I’ll give you about 10 million reasons that you might want to check out that site as well.

Until then, enjoy the rest of your Lord’s Day!

September 20, 2009

It must be a year or two now since I first began running a bit of advertising on my web site. Initially I did so because the costs of running the site were increasing and advertising offered a means of offsetting those costs. As time has gone on, it has continued to cover the infrastructure costs and has also been able to go toward some of the books I buy to review and, when it exceeds that, to support my family. It has proven a real blessing to us in many ways. And, I hope, it has allowed you, the readers, to get your eyes on some worthwhile products. I’ve always sought to be careful with whom I allow to advertise, only allowing those whose products I find biblical. To be honest, I’ve always hoped that somehow along the way I’ll find a model that will allow me to dedicate much more time to writing in general (and the blog in particular) and while advertising has certainly not approached this level, it’s shown me that at some point it may be a far-off possibility.

I say all this because I want to alert you to something new. I am going to run a trial of a slightly different approach to advertising. To this point advertising has consisted of the banner ads in the right sidebar and the banner at the bottom of the RSS feed. I’ve often had several advertisers posting ads at the same time. And it has generally worked out quite well. But I am always trying to look ahead a little bit, to find other models that may work. In the coming weeks a couple of advertisers will begin a trial program in which they will be the exclusive sponsor of the site for a week at a time. There will be just one banner ad in the site’s sidebar in a given week, but a larger one that we’re accustomed to. There will be one banner ad in the RSS feed. And here’s what’s new: the advertiser will also provide a single “sponsored post” over the course of the week. In other words, at some point during the week there will be an article on the site that will be written by the advertiser and directed to you, the reader. It will be clearly marked as a sponsored post so there is no concern, I hope, that it will seem under-handed. This program will only be offered to advertisers who are interested in letting you know about products that are good—biblically sound and appealing to the kind of person who reads this blog.

The purpose of these sponsored posts is to alert you of interesting products but also, hopefully, to build a bit of a bridge between the companies or ministries and the readers. As I’ve traveled around over the past few years, and as I’ve gotten to know the men and women behind the scenes at ministries and conferences and publishers and so on, I’ve so often been impressed by their desire to serve God in the vocation he has given them. And I think through these posts we can probably do a bit to put a human face on the books, the conferences, and any other product.

Or perhaps not. I am always concerned that advertising will somehow cheapen the rest of what I do on this site. But we’re going to give it a shot regardless. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks and we’ll learn as we go. Feel free to offer feedback if and when you think it would be useful to me.

August 02, 2009

This is one of my favorites from The Valley of Vision as much for the concept of the prayer as its actual words. This is a prayer meant to follow prayer. Read it and I’m sure you’ll see, as I do, just how weak and listless my prayers actually are and how much even my best efforts in prayer and praise and petition are in need of God’s grace. Bewail your prayers and thank God that he hears them and answers them nonetheless.

*****

O God of grace,
I bewail my cold, listless, heartless prayers;
their poverty adds sin to my sin.
If my hope were in them I should be undone,
But the worth of Jesus perfumes my feeble breathings, and wins their acceptance.
Deepen my contrition of heart,
Confirm my faith in the blood that washes from all sin.
May I walk lovingly with my great Redeemer.
Flood my soul with true repentance that my heart may be broken for sin and unto sin.
Let me be as slow to forgive myself as thou art ready to forgive me.
Gazing on the glories of thy grace may I be cast into the lowest depths of shame.
and walk with downcast head now thou art pacified towards me.
O my great High Priest,
pour down upon me streams of needful grace,
bless me in all my undertakings,
in every thought of my mind,
every word of my lips,
every step of my feet,
every deed of my hands.
Thou didst live to bless,
die to bless,
rise to bless,
ascend to bless,
take thy throne to bless,
and now thou dost reign to bless.
O give sincerity to my desires,
earnestness to my supplications,
fervour to my love.

November 12, 2008

I spent some time this morning writing an article for a magazine. They had requested a 600-word article on “What is the greatest hindrance to the gospel today?” I’ve found that articles like this pose a special kind of challenge to me. While I take time to write every day, far more often than not I am writing about what I want to write about. I set my own topics and write about whatever interests me that day. Writing for magazines, on the other hand, forces me to be a little bit more disciplined and forces me to think in whole different ways. It is a good discipline, I think, and a good challenge.

It occurred to me this morning that it might be fun to solicit article ideas from the people who read this site. I do receive occasional suggestions from readers who find their way to the contact form, but never have I actually asked for you to send me potential topics. So here I go, trying something new. If you can think of something that I could or should write about (an article, a series, etc), if you have a question you feel I could answer, simply fill out this form (RSS readers may need to actually visit the site) and send your suggestion(s) my way. Obviously I cannot promise to respond to all of them, but I will attempt to write articles or responses to at least some of them. Note that the email and “how many words” fields are entirely optional.

My name is:
My email address is:
I think you should write about…
It should be about this many words long…
October 24, 2008

October 31, one week from today, will mark the 491st anniversary of the day that Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenburg. In so doing he struck a match, beginning a fire that quickly spread throughout Europe and throughout the world. Having become increasingly disillusioned with the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and in particular the sale of indulgences, Luther wrote his Theses to try to begin the process of reform. While he was unable to bring reform to the church, he did trigger the Protestant Reformation by rediscovering the Gospel—the good news of salvation by grace through faith. The Reformation had profound influence in politics, art, literature and theology—while it was at its heart a Christian movement, it impacted all areas of society. That seemingly insignificant act is, in reality, one of the defining points of history. It is a shame that the day has largely been forgotten in favor of what is now the year’s most popular day, Halloween (Halloween is, after all, one of the few holidays that our society can celebrate without shame and without feeling politically incorrect).

For the past two years, on October 31, I have hosted a “Reformation Day Symposium” and invited bloggers to write articles dealing with the Reformation. A whole crowd of bloggers have participated and it has been a joy to read all of the articles written to celebrate such a monumental occasion in the history of the church.

Due to the success of this event, it seemed worthwhile to me to revisit the idea and make something of a tradition out of it. So once again I’m asking you to consider blogging about the Reformation to celebrate Reformation Day. As I’ve done in years past, I’ll link to all of the posts from this site. And as I’ve done before, I’ll award prizes to the “best” entries (as judged by myself and likely a couple of other judges, and based on whatever subjective criteria we come up with).

You may want to reflect on a person, an event, or a particular point of theology. The topic is wide open, so long as it somehow ties in to Reformation Day. And remember, you do not need to be Reformed to appreciate the Reformation and all it stood for. If you do not have a blog of your own, but would still like to participate, why not ask another blogger if you can “guest” on his site that day.

So start thinking, start writing, and prepare to post your articles on October 31. When you have prepared an article and posted it (please hold off posting until October 31), include a URL to my blog (so I can find all of the posts using Technorati and Google Blog Search) and send me an email to make sure that your article has been included.

August 31, 2008

In the past months the server that hosts this site has been dragging a little bit. It has gone down a few times and has begin consuming too many resources. And so I’ve decided to move to a new server with a host that is dedicated to supporting Movabletype, the software that runs behind the scenes here. While I was going through all the trouble of moving to the new server, I decided to rebuild the site’s templates from the ground-up (or nearly so) and to tinker just a little bit with the site’s features and design. I also upgraded to the latest version of the software.

And so by this morning most of you should be seeing the site on its new server. I, on the other hand, am still waiting for the changes to “take” and continue to see the old site.

There are a few new features on this site you may like to know about:

At long last I changed around the top banner. Gone is the lonely winter tree. As much as I love the image, I think a year was long enough for it to be there. In its place is a chair. Yup, a chair. This will, of course, be utterly irrelevant to those of you who read via RSS!

You can now create an account on the site. This will be useful to those of you who comment regularly. The account will mean you can sign in and not have to continually enter your username, email address, and so on. It also gives you the ability to track your old comments, to track other people’s comments, etc. The page where you do all of this is still be perfected, so you’ll have to give me some time in that regard.

The front page has been simplified a little bit (since it was getting a bit cluttered). I removed much of what was there and replaced it with a poll/survey and ActionStream (which tracks what I do in other places on the web—Digg, Twitter, and so on). I removed A La Carte from the sidebar and it is now in the same time line as the other posts.

There are quite a few other changes that are sufficiently insignificant that they are probably not worth mentioning.

Beyond these changes, I expect things to continue here pretty much as they have for the past six years.

November 17, 2007

Last year around this time I began what I suppose is about to become a tradition—I made up a book guide to help people choose books to buy others for Christmas (or, of course, just to buy for themselves). As you know, I read and review a lot of books, usually around 100 per year. I have been pleased to find that others are able to benefit from my love of reading through these reviews. It has always been my purpose to help put good books in the hands of believers while helping them avoid ones that just aren’t worth reading. On occasion I’ve been told that people have difficulty navigating the large number of reviews on my blog. To alleviate that problem, I have created a mini-site in which I will list only books I recommend (I will not list books I do not recommend). I have shared my recommendations in a variety of categories. I hope and trust you will find this beneficial.

Click Here For The 2007 Book Guide

If you are after even more reviews, you could always visit my other site, Discerning Reader. Their you’ll find these reviews as well as ones written by some other talented reviewers.

October 03, 2007

As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, I’ve begun to do a bit of advertising through this site. I have added spots for three 125 x 125 banner ads in the right sidebar and have also opened up a bit of space for some text ads. Though I’m somewhat leery of doing this, I explained last week that the time has come, I think, to attempt to monetize the blog just a little bit. I think it offers a good platform for a variety of advertisers and hope to provide advertisements that will serve the readers.

If you are interested in doing some online advertising through this site, I’d be glad to send you the appropriate information. Simply contact me and I’ll send you a rate sheet and other information.

September 25, 2007

This blog passes a milestone…

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the day I began this web site. In September of 2002, the first month this site was in operation—just a little blog dedicated to sharing pictures of my children with family members who had moved far away—it had two visitors, my mother and my wife. And I thought that was just fine. Just five years later, in September of 2007, the pictures of my family are long gone from the site and I expect nearly 200,000 people to take in at least one of its articles. And that’s fine too. I had no expectations for the site when I first registered the domain challies.com, but had I taken the time to dream a little I’m confident I could never have imagined so many people would make it a part of their lives. I find it profoundly humbling. I did not set out to create a blog that anyone beyond my family would care to read. Having said that, I am grateful that God has seen fit to so bless the site and I now seek to be a faithful steward of the responsibility with which He has entrusted me. It’s been quite the ride. And I suspect it’s only just begun.

When I look back to the history of my blog I can see that the site began to gain a bit of momentum and became much more valuable to me—much more of a pleasure to me—just at the time God graciously taught me that the site is not primarily a forum for me to voice my opinion, as if that is worth anything, but rather that it represents an opportunity to serve the church. It was then that I began to focus attention on directing people to resources beyond the site—to other blogs, to other ministries, and to books, resources and services that can benefit the church. It was then that I began to turn the focus from myself and turned it instead to the church. Long-time readers may note that it was about this time that I turned away from “watch-blogging” and moved instead towards what I hope is a more biblical form of discernment. It has been this desire, the desire to serve God by serving the church, that has led me to invest so much time and effort in this blog.

It’s that desire that keeps me going. And I do intend to keep going. I love blogging and intend to keep it up for the long haul. I love writing. These words, drawn from the Acknowledgments section of the book Women’s Ministry in the Local Church continue to inspire and motivate me. “Writing … is sweet fellowship with the Lord. He instructs me as I write. If no one ever reads it, His purpose has been accomplished in my own soul. I am satisfied. If He is pleased to use it in the lives of others, may He be glorified.”

At least one thing is going to change around here. As traffic to the blog has increased and as my responsibilities to it have grown accordingly (to say nothing of Discerning Reader!), I’ve become increasingly aware of my inability to provide the quality (and to some degree, the quantity) of content I would like to be able to create. At the same time I’ve begun to realize the potential difficulties I face in attempting to balance writing with providing an income to care for my family through my full-time occupation as a self-employed web designer. There are so many things I would like to be able to do, but so little time as I have to dedicate myself primarily to web design.

I feel that God has entrusted me with a unique ministry through my blog (and through Discerning Reader) but increasingly feel unable to give it my very best. There are hundreds of articles I would like to write for the blog and so many ways in which I’d like to support ministries and to support other bloggers, but time fails me to even attempt many of the things I’d so like to do. I receive many important and thoughtful emails, but am often unable to dedicate the time to crafting similarly thoughtful replies. As the release of my book draws near I am receiving increased invitations to speak, to participate in conferences and radio programs and to write for other publications.

So I’ve made the decision that I am going to begin running a few advertisements on the blog. I have been very hesitant to do so in the past, but can see that circumstances are now making it a near-necessity. So in the coming weeks you’ll start to see some ads show up. I hate to do this in some ways, but just feel the time has come. I hope you’ll keep an eye on the ads, clicking them and making this experiment a success!

It is my hope and prayer that this will allow me to dedicate more time and attention to writing content that will serve the church, thus serving the Lord of the church. I’m going to keep writing, praying that God will continue to work in me as I do so. And I hope that He grants grace that I can study His Word and share with you some of what He has been teaching me. So stick around; I think we’re only just getting warmed up around here.

As I wrap up for the day, I know I would be remiss to neglect thanking you, the reader of this site. Your prayers and support and gifts and encouragement have blessed me immeasurably over the years. I’m grateful to count many of you as friends and eagerly anticipate getting to know more of you as time goes on. You are a blessing to me.

SDG.

P.S.- Here’s a picture my friend Peter sent me this morning. He’s obviously getting an early start on celebrating the site’s birthday…

Peter

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