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

Tim Challies

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August 05, 2007

I wrote about my site yesterday and I’m going to do so again today. Please forgive what must appear to be narcissism. I don’t plan on posting about it again for a while after today. But because I added several new features in yesterday’s redesign, I wanted to introduce them to you and show you how they can make your life easier and can make all of your wildest dreams come true. That may be overstating it. But there are some neat features that may help you use this site better and help you enjoy other blogs more as well.

I’ll start with the main page:

main.jpg

There are five things I’ve highlighted here:

  1. I know you already know about A La Carte, but I’ve now made it better, I think, by making the titles more descriptive. If you are a blogger, you’ll appreciate the value of having descriptive hyperlinks to your site. You can comment on A La Carte entries and in the very near future I’ll create a proper archive of all of the previous entries.
  2. I am going to tentatively add a little bit of advertising to the site. Just a little bit. What I’ve added here is just a link to a pay-per-click kind of program with Westminster Books. I don’t ever anticipate allowing the kind of overwhelmingly in-your-face advertising that a lot of blogs have! But this gives you a way you can support this site and support a good online retailer. And it’s as easy as a click.
  3. The Subscribe/Bookmarks/Tools area will let you subscribe to the site via RSS or email, add the site as a favorite at Technorati or Del.icio.us. And, of course, it the font is too small you can adjust it there. If you have never used Technorati, you may enjoy visiting it and perhaps making it a regular stop.
  4. The Recent Comments area will show you a list of the most recent comments, showing who made them and the topic of discussion.
  5. Finally, the Active Discussion area (which was at the top of the page in the old design) will show you a list of topics that have seen recent discussion. This tells you which topics are generating the most discussion.

Now we’ll turn to the interior pages.

interior.jpg

I’ve highlighted five things.

  1. These links are a simple way of navigating from one post to the next or previous one. Pretty simple, I admit, but handy if you want to read a few pages or want to catch up with discussion on multiple articles.
  2. One of the most interesting aspects of blogging is how one blog influences others and how bloggers interact with each other. This Technorati link is a simple way of seeing what other bloggers are saying about a particular story. If you are a blog reader, you can click this link to read other opinions on the article I’ve written. If you have a blog of your own and link to an article I’ve written, it should automagically appear here and allow people to navigate from my site to your own.
  3. I’m a latecomer to the tagging game, but have finally added them. Tags allow a simple method of marking the content of a post for later reference and of building relationships between various posts. Clicking on a tag will take you to a search function that will find a list of similarly-tagged stories. Because I’ve only just begun tagging it will take a bit of time for the full power of this feature to become obvious.
  4. The Related Entries area uses a database search to come up with stories that are somehow related to this one. It is a bit hit-and-miss at times, but typically does pretty well with coming up with related entries. So if the current article interests you, you can click on the tags or on the related entries to read more.
  5. If you are a user of social media, you can now link any article to just about any social media platform. Alternatively, if you want to subscribe to the RSS or email feed, you can do so here.

And one bonus feature: the “Submit” button should now be disabled as soon as you post a comment, meaning that we’ll see fewer double posts. The server is still a bit slow but at least we should no longer have multitudes of repeated comments!

So there are ten features, some new and some merely redesigned, that I hope will make browsing this site more enjoyable. Tomorrow we’ll return to more normal programming.

August 04, 2007

The site gets its annual design update.

The upgrade went fairly well, as these things go. If you are still seeing the old site or are seeing a messy hybrid, trying hitting “Refresh” in your browser a couple of times. That should clear things up.

Whenever I change the look of the site I am always asked why (and tend to receive plenty of negative feedback as well!). There are a few reasons for this upgrade. As I explained a little while ago, there are three main ones: a) I am easily bored with my designs, b) the sites serves, in part, as a gateway to my web design company and it is important to keep it looking fresh or c) the nature of the site changes a bit over time and there is something I wish to emphasize that cannot easily be done with the current design. All of these reasons have come together this time. Especially, though, I’ve had to prepare for the lead-up to the book, knowing that I’ll need to make the book available through the site and begin to “promote” it in some way. I think the new design lends itself to that task a little better. I am also considering integrating my company site with the blog.

The new design offers some new features that were also integral to the decision to switch. For example, I’ve now added tags to posts and this should serve as a good way of tying posts together and of quickly categorizing them. I’ve also added more features for those of you who use various social media and who wish to interact with the content a little more. And I’ve transitioned to a better system of URLs (search engine friendly, for those who care). Finally, I’m preparing the site for the release of the new version of Movabletype, my blogging software, and think the new features and new design will work best with that new software.

Anyways, work continues. I’ll continue to find and weed out problems as they occur today. Please continue to be patient with me!

7:06 AM - Today is the day I’m going to be moving to a whole new design for this blog. So please bear with me as, for the next couple of hours at least, things could be a little flaky around here. Images may not work for a while, formatting will be strange, and so on. So hang tight and I’ll post when things are returning to normal.

July 20, 2007

Featuring…You?

Way back near the end of 2005 I began the feature I called “King for a Week,” where I highlight another person’s blog for a week or two (perhaps the name was not the best choice, but it’s too late to change it now). I’m glad I did this and, though I’ve pretty well exhausted my list of long-time regular reads, I plan to continue with it. But I realize that there are many readers who do not have blogs (or who have a life beyond their blogs) and I thought it would be fun to find a way of featuring some of your contributions to the kingdom. Thus I’m interested in connecting with people who are involved in some kind of creative endeavor—perhaps music, art, photography, short stories, poetry or the like. I think even of landscaping or fashion or any other pursuit that involves creating things for the glory of God. If you fit the bill (or know someone who does), why don’t you send me an email and we can talk about this feature. I’d love to have the opportunity to showcase your creations and the ways you serve the Lord with your talents.

A New Look

Every now and again, I guess it is about once per year on average, I update the look of this site. I do this for various reasons, but usually because a) I am easily bored with my designs, b) the sites serves, in part, as a gateway to my web design company and it is important to keep it looking fresh or c) the nature of the site changes a bit over time and there is something I wish to emphasize that cannot easily be done with the current design. I guess all of these reasons have come together this time. Especially, though, I’ve had to prepare for the lead-up to the book, knowing that I’ll need to make the book available through the site and begin to “promote” it in some way. I think the new design lends itself to that task a little better. I am also considering integrating my company site with the blog. Put all of that together, and it makes sense to move to a new design, I think.

I’ve been tossing around this new design for a while, bouncing it off Facebook friends and just about anyone else who cares to give it a look. On the whole it has been positively received and I hope to move to it about a week from now. Half of you will probably hate it (half always do when I change designs) but you’ll just have to trust it’s for a good cause! Even if you don’t like the look quite as much, I think you’ll agree that the functionality is improved.

Commenting

If you are one of the readers who comments on occasion you’ll know that the commenting system is running a bit slowly. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I think I may be maxing out the server the site is on, though I don’t really know how this could be. I can’t figure out why else things would be running slowly. A new version of Movabletype (my blogging software) is expected soon and I will upgrade and hope it helps solve the problems. If not I may consider changing hosts or potentially moving to Wordpress or something similar. Either way, I don’t like waiting 45 seconds for comments to appear any more than you do. And, while that is annoying, what is worse is when people figure nothing has happened and hit the button a couple more times! So I’ll see what I can do.

Less Fun

I think it is time to drop the “Putting the fun in fundamentalism” tag that has accompanied this site since its infancy. That tag actually followed me to the blog from an online community I used to be involved with. I took it on before I really understand the connotations of defining myself as a fundamentalist. It’s not that I’m scared or ashamed of the word, but I’m not sure that I want the book to be associated with it! So if you have alternate suggestions, feel free to send them along!

September 10, 2006

You may recall that last year I did several interviews and posted them to this site. I interviewed, among others, Sam Waldron, Wayne Grudem and Derek Webb. I would like to put together another series of interviews to be posted sometime this fall and winter. I am thinking of turning them into podcasts, posting audio of the interviews this year rather than transcribing them as I have done in the past. I’ll decide that later. In the meantime, I am interested in gathering suggestions for people I may like to interview. I am not likely to have access to many of the top-tier Christian personalities (this blog may be reasonably popular but it is still, after all, only a blog) but am certainly not afraid to seek out interviews with anyone. The worst they can say, after all, is “No!” I suppose they could laugh at me too, and that would hurt my feelings. But either way, I’m not afraid to do the legwork and to request interviews.

I do not think I’ll have a topical focus this year from interview to interview. Rather, I’ll approach each differently based on the person I am interviewing. I would prefer to interview people with interesting stories than people who are simply the most popular. So feel free to send along your suggestions, either in the comments or by email. They can be Calvinist or Arminian, Christian or non, male or female, theologians or musicians…

September 05, 2006

I am moving the site to a new server this evening. It is entirely possible that things will be a little erratic for the next day or two. Please bear with me. If you have something really important to say via email, but sure to request a reply. If you do not get that reply within a couple of days, send the email again as this may mean that I did not receive it.

Thanks for your patience.

[Update - If you are seeing this now, it means you’ve found your way to the new server]

Final Update (Hopefully) - I apologize for the downtime this morning. There were some complications with moving the site to the new server, but I think at this point they have been resolved. Or that’s what the technical support folks tell me, in any case.

September 01, 2006

Several months ago I sat with my wife, discussing future goals and plans. I told her something she already knew: that I wanted someday to begin writing books. Writing runs in my blood and there are few things I enjoy more (though reading would have to come close). As evidenced by this blog, I have a great deal to say, even if I do not always say it particularly well. It made sense to me that I would target three or four years as a likely time to begin this type of formal writing. By then the children would be a little bit older and I would be, I trust, a little more disciplined and sanctified. I thought life would probably have settled down a bit.

Things change. A few months ago a couple of Christian friends, whose wisdom and godliness far exceed my own, suggested that I should think about writing now, for God had seen fit to give me an interest in a particular topic. As I began to research this topic, I found that there were no current books dealing with it. And yet there seems to be a good deal of interest in it. Sadly, many of those who seem to be accepted as experts in the field show great misunderstandings of the heart of the issue.

And so it was that I decided to submit a book proposal to a publishing company for whom I have a great deal of respect. I learned just a few days ago that my proposal has been accepted. The paperwork has been completed and all that now remains is for me to write the book. Tentatively titled The Discipline of Discernment, it will be published by Crossway, likely sometime in late 2007 or early 2008. It will be written for the “thoughtful general reader” (i.e. people like you and me) and will lead Christians with what I hope and trust will be helpful, biblical teaching about spiritual discernment.

You may recall that a few months ago I posted an article summarizing an interview I conducted with an expert in the field of counterfeit currency. In the hour or two we spent together, the point that struck me most was when she asked me if I am careful to always inspect the money I am given. I was surprised by this question and told her I did not realize that there was such an expectation. I simply did not know that the government expects that each of us will inspect money before accepting it. But as she patiently explained, once money has been accepted, it will not be replaced if it is found to be counterfeit. Once I accept it, I become responsible for it. In my mind, this stood as a metaphor for the church today. So few people are discerning because so few even realize it is a God-given expectation. It is my hope, my prayer, that I can encourage Christians to begin the discipline of discernment.

The reason I post this information is not to ask for congratulations or pats on the back for managing to secure a book deal. Rather, I post it to request your prayers. This is a major undertaking for me and I am both thrilled and terrified as I look at the 10 or 15 pages I’ve written and the 150 blank ones that still need to be filled. I know that this project will depend on prayer, without which I will get nowhere and accomplish nothing. And so I ask if you would consider praying for me over the next several months as I study Scripture and attempt to draw out biblical principles related to discernment. I ask you, because without you reading this site, there would have been no book to begin with. Your support, through visiting this site, has allowed this book to happen. And so I humbly ask you to pray that God would give me clarity of thought and the ability to communicate effectively. Pray most of all that He will glorified in all I do and all I write. Without His blessing this undertaking means nothing.

I hope to dedicate Fridays predominantly to writing (beginning today!) and wonder if you would consider marking Friday as a day you pray specifically for this book. I truly believe that Christians need some good teaching on this topic. I have nothing to offer but what Scripture says. I want to saying nothing other than what God says. If you would help me in this by holding me up before the throne, I’d be forever grateful.

August 11, 2006

This evening’s session, the fifth general session of the conference, was primarily a time of singing and worship. I have attempted to capture an account of the evening’s events that those who have never attended a Sovereign Grace event may be able to understand how they worship.

The evening began with “Come Now Almighty King” and soon transitioned to a Valley of Vision video featuring the prayer “Spiritus Sanctus.”

Awe in God’s Presence:

We sang “Holy, Holy, Holy” a cappella and then listened to the reading of Isaiah 6:1-8 as a prelude to a time of repentance.

Acknowledge that Sin Cannot Exist in God’s Presence:

This was a time of repentance and confession, both corporate and personal. There was a time of silence where we searched our own hearts and asked God to reveal our sin to us. We then sang “The Precious Blood” and were led in prayer by Craig Cabaniss who thanked God for His mercy in Christ.

Gratefulness for Jesus, Our Access Into God’s Presence:

The vocalists read Hebrews 4:14-16, Ephesians 2:13-18 and Hebrews 10:19-22 which reminded us that we have access into God’s presence only through Jesus Christ. We followed these Scriptures with “I Come By The Blood” and “Jesus Thank You.” There was then a time of spontaneous group singing where Bob encouraged each person to sing his own song to the Lord. While I love to hear 1000 voices sing a single song to the Lord, it was equally stirring to hear 1000 voices sing 1000 songs to Him.

Prayer for God’s Active Presence in My Life:

Bob began this section by stating he had been led to sing a prophetic song for the women in the audience named Katie. He asked all the Katies presence to come to the front and he sang a song for them, the theme of which was to encourage them and to direct them to the Word as the source of God’s voice.

Shannon Harris sang a new song, “Who Made Me To Know You” and Scripture verses were read between each of the verses. There was then a time of individual prayer where we were to ask God’s Spirit to be working in and through our lives. Bob asked us to consider where we desire God to be more active in our lives: “Holiness? Purity? Boldness? Resisting temptation? Faithfulness? Prayer? Hearing and responding to His voice?” Again, there was a time of spontaneous worship based around a chorus which said, “Come Holy Spirit, glorify Jesus in me.” A few people delivered words from the Lord centered around images they felt He impressed on their minds. Bob and another gentlemen felt that God wanted to heal those with migraines, arthritis and lower-body pain. People with such infirmities raised their hands and were soon surrounded by those sitting closeby who laid hands on them and prayed that God would heal them. After “There is a Redeemer,” we broke into groups of just three or four people, each of which prayed for the local churches represented by the men and women in that group. We were to pray for them to actively pursue the presence of God in their midst.

Prayer for God’s Active Presence in my Local Church and the World:

The final portion of this evening’s service began with a time of spontaneous prayer for the church. It was then time to pray for the worldwide church and people from six nations read the first three verses of Psalm 67 in their native languages. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!” It was read by natives of Ethiopia, Kenya, Guatemala, Japan, Korea and Australia (What happened to Canada!?). How good it was to hear God’s name praised in five different languages! When they had prayed, we recited the Lord’s Prayer in unison and closed a wonderful evening of worship with “Let Your Kingdom Come,” a new song written by Bob Kauflin.

And now we look forward to an hour-long concert by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and the church’s band.

July 15, 2006

It has been one of those long days. But it’s been a good day. We are still in the midst of a heat-wave here in Toronto. While the temperatures are not all that high, the humidity is through the roof leaving us with some hot, sticky, nasty weather. But it gave us an opportunity to take the children to the local splash pad and to let them have fun there. And we’ve spent much of the rest of the day busy with various projects around the house.

One project I finally got around to was a new design for this site. As you have no doubt noticed if you are one of those people who visit the site (rather than one who simply checks in via RSS), things look a little different around here. A lot different, actually.

Unfortunately, because of the busyness of the day, I’ve been unable to transition all of the pages. Those that I do not get to today I’ll be sure to update tomorrow. But for now the main page and all of the article pages should have the new look. Along with the new look are a couple of new features, not the least of which is real, printable pages. Do note, though, that this won’t be implemented until tomorrow (once again because I’ve just been too busy). But as of tomorrow you’ll be able to click the print button and get a printable version of each page that will not print any of the associated graphics. It’s a good thing.

Anyways, I’ll be interested in hearing some feedback. Whenever I change the look I have people who seem glad to tell me how much they hate it. Hopefully there won’t be too many of those this time around.

January 13, 2006

A couple of years ago I made a web site for Ron Cowle who happens to be both an exceptionally gifted artist and my uncle. The design for his site was really quite unique because he sat with me at my desk while I created it. My job as the designer was to translate his vision for the site from his sketchbook onto the computer screen. So really the design was more his than it was mine. We both ended up being very happy with the final result.

Ron lives in Lanark County, a beatiful area of the province that is near Ottawa, and he works with both painting and sculpture. I have long been taken with Ron’s art and thought it would make a nice addition to this site. And so, for the next little while, you will be able to view samples of his work in the banner above. You can click on any of the slides to view the full painting at Ron’s site. Be sure to also browse through his incredible sculptures, especially the whale and the highlander.

And hey, if your house is suffering from bare walls and you’d like to liven them up, why not get in touch with Ron and remedy the situation?

For more about Ron you can read a recent blog entry written by my brother-in-law Rick. Rick writes, “His faith is knowledgeable and inquisitive as well. Over the table there was a conversation about Biblical prophecy, and what perhaps happened to the lost tribes of Israel. By the fire in the living room was a conversation about creation, truth, and how we need to honest answers for people. He needs to have honest and intelligent answers, he explained, for his sons who are out facing the pressures of a propaganda laden education system. He needs to have answers because he talks to people and because they need answers…All in all, anyone who can paint like Ron Cowle: they are doing well. Anyone who has a faith like Ron Cowle, they are doing very well. “

If you are an artist or photographer and would like to showcase your work in the banner (or if you know someone who might), please feel free to contact me.

September 11, 2005

This was a particularly busy week for me. I had several hard deadlines I had to meet and only just managed to get the work done. I find that the busier the week, the more I appreciate my day of rest. As I reflected on this, I remembered a hymn written by John Newton. So as I rest, I leave you to ponder “Safely Through Another Week.” It is a song of thanks for another week of safety and a song of petition, that we may feel God’s presence near to us during the upcoming week.

Safely through another week God has brought us on our way;
Let us now a blessing seek, on th’approaching Sabbath day;
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest,
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest.

Mercies multiplied each hour through the week our praise demand;
Guarded by almighty power, fed and guided by His hand;
Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin,
Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin.

While we pray for pardoning grace, through the dear Redeemer’s Name,
Show Thy reconciled face, shine away our sin and shame;
From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee,
From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee.

Here we come Thy Name to praise, let us feel Thy presence near,
May Thy glory meet our eyes, while we in Thy house appear:
Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

When the morn shall bid us rise, may we feel Thy presence near:
May Thy glory meet our eyes, when we in Thy house appear:
There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

May Thy Gospel’s joyful sound conquer sinners, comfort saints;
May the fruits of grace abound, bring relief for all complaints;
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above,
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above!

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