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Tim Challies

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May 22, 2012

One Thousand GiftsI guess I’m a little late to the party. Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts was released almost eighteen months ago and since then has been a consistent bestseller. If anecdotal evidence can be trusted, its appeal has been almost entirely to women. Not surprisingly, I’ve received many questions about the book and most of them have come from women—women who have been given the book or who have been told to read it. So at long last I had the book sent to my Kindle and I gave it a read.

The book’s appeal seems to come on at least two levels. In the first place, it features a uniquely poetic form of writing. Voskamp has a style all her own; it appeals to some and is exasperating to others. Just to give you a taste, here is an excerpt from the first page:

A glowing sun-orb fills an August sky the day this story begins, the day I am born, the day I begin to live.

And I fill my mother’s tearing ring of fire with my body emerging, virgin lungs searing with air of this earth and I enter the world like every person born enters the world: with clenched fists.

From the diameter of her fullness, I empty her out—and she bleeds. Vernix-creased and squalling, I am held to the light.

Voskamp likes to use language in unexpected ways, moving around the order of words, blurring the lines between prose and poetry so that a gift isn’t “tied with ribbon,” but is “ribbon bound.” Sentence fragments are acceptable, rules malleable. There is clearly a kind of appeal to it so that those who don’t hate it, love it.

The second level of the book’s appeal involves the topic so that what she writes about resounds with many of her readers.

Voskamp’s story begins with the twin themes of suffering and ingratitude. She recounts the heartbreaking story of the death of her sister and shows how this, along with other great sorrows and disappointments, drove gratitude far away. One Thousand Gifts is a biographical account of first seeing her need for gratitude and then learning to express it not just in spite of life’s trials, but even through them. She refers to this as eucharisteo, a Greek word for thanksgiving.

June 07, 2011

In a recent sermon I found that I had to touch upon one what I consider of the trickiest passages in the Bible: 1 Timothy 2:15. Here is what this verse says: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” Taken on its own, this is a remarkably sexist statement. But I’m convinced there is truth and freedom here if we are willing to go looking for it. Let me take a shot at explaining that passage or at least to show you how I went about trying to figure it out.

In this part of his letter to Timothy, Paul is writing about the local church and about how things are to be ordered there. He explains that the public gatherings of the church are to show some kind of order. He speaks of the way men and women are to worship and focuses specifically on the character of a godly woman and then on the conduct of a godly woman. A woman is to respectful and respectable, not showing off her wealth and not seeking to draw attention to herself. And she is to understand that the Lord has not called her to leadership within the church—this is a part of God’s created order. Paul explains this by referring to the order in which God created man and women. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” He goes on to show that humanity’s problems began when this order was reversed—“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” It was when Eve usurped Adam’s leadership (and when Adam abdicated leadership) that all of these problems began.

And now we get to that tricky statement, “Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.” If we want to understand that statement, we need to look at two things: what it means that the woman will be saved and what it means that they will be saved by childbearing.


First, then, what does it mean that she will be saved?

May 26, 2011

Beauty?A short time ago blogger and author Rachel Held Evans wrote an article she titled “Thou Shalt Not Let Thyself Go?” She began it this way: “In my quest for biblical womanhood, I’ve found that sometimes there’s as much to learn from what the Bible doesn’t say as there is to learn from what it does say.” Her article, she suggested, reflected something the Bible doesn’t say. She looked to Mark Driscoll, Dorothy Patterson and Martha Peace and pointed out how each one of them has at one time suggested that a woman has to be careful that she does not “let herself go” after having children or after being married for some time.

“The message is as clear as it is ominous,” she concludes. “Stay beautiful or your husband might leave you. And if he does, it’s partially your fault.” She spent a month “studying everything the Bible says about women and beauty.” She “turned the Bible inside out, combed through dozens of commentaries, conducted word searches and topic studies and extensive research” and at the end of it all “found nothing in the Bible to suggest that God requires women to be beautiful.”

It is an interesting question: Does God want a woman to seek to remain attractive to her husband even while she grows older? Is there any significance to her doing this, or not doing this? Evans believes that emphasizing physical beauty, even as a woman ages (or perhaps especially as a woman ages) points to a new kind of misogyny. But after long reflection, I am not convinced. Hear me out here.

The Inner and the Outer

I agree that when the Bible speaks of beauty it largely downplays physical beauty in favor of inner beauty. According to the Bible, a beautiful woman is not one who is perfectly proportioned (by whatever society determines to be perfect) or one whose face is stunning. Rather, a beautiful woman is one who is genuinely godly, who reflects “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” The beauty the Bible commends is a beauty of character more than a beauty of appearance.

But. You knew there had to be a but. I think Evans may draw something of a false distinction between the inner and the outer as if these things are entirely disconnected. I would suggest that these two things are actually inexorably connected: the outer is a reflection of the inner. And this means that the outer person matters too. What a person wears has spiritual significance because what a person wears or how a person treats her body reflects her heart. This is contra the Gnostics who believe that what is spirit is inherently superior to what is physical. The Bible allows no such tension. Though only one is immortal, both were created by God and deemed very good. Our responsibility extends to both.

September 07, 2010

False MessagesLast year I wrote a series of articles I titled Sexual Detox (which was subsequently made available in e-book and then printed book format). It was a series that dealt with the effects of pornography and which encouraged men to go through a kind of detox that would rid their minds and hearts of all the junk left there by their exposure to pornography.

While I had expected a lot of feedback on a series that dealt with such a difficult topic, I had not anticipated how many comments and emails would come from women. I passed most of these to my wife who did her best to answer them, mostly by email. All of those emails and the questions they contained formed the starting point for a second series, one directed at women. And now I’m glad to be able to give that to you in e-book format.

False Messages is a book for women. It is written by my wife, Aileen, and seeks to help women, whether wives or wives-to-be, to understand the purpose and the power of sex and sexuality. It encourages them to put away the false messages they have believed about sex and to reorient themselves around the truth. Since God is the one who created sex, he is the one who must direct it.

False Messages is available as a 21-page e-book and is free to download. You are free to print it, email it and distribute it as you see fit.

Download False Messages

November 11, 2009

This is now the third (and final!) entry in this short series written by my wife, Aileen. In the last article she talked about rejection and how it effects both wives and husbands. The day before that she dealt with sexual desire, pointing out some of the differences between men and women. Today the series concludes.

One thing I want to say. In this series she has been dealing predominantly with “average” marriages. It is impossible to write about sex and marriage and speak to everyone equally; there are always exceptions, always special cases, always difficulties. But do realize that in these articles, and today especially, she is writing mostly for “normal” people in “normal” circumstances. If your husband has a serious addiction to pornography or if there are other exceptional circumstances in your marriage, some of this may not apply or may apply very differently.


by Aileen Challies

November 10, 2009

This short series, guest authored by my wife Aileen, began yesterday with False Messages I: What He Really Wants. Today Aileen picks up where she left off.


by Aileen Challies

When you thought about getting married and when you anticipated having sex with your husband, did you ever think about how often you’d be saying “no” to him? I know of a few women who decided before they married that they would never refuse their husbands and who have, admirably, stuck to their promise. For the rest of us, though, “no” is is a word we use far more than we ever would have thought possible (or desirable). Maybe we say “no” with our words, whether kind or gracious; maybe we say “no” with our attitudes or body language; maybe we say it with our wardrobe or simply by going to bed long before he is tired. We grow adept at finding new and creative ways of refusing sex.

November 09, 2009

For the next couple of days there will be a guest blogger on this site—none other than my wife, Aileen. She will be sharing a few articles directed specifically at women. Here is how this came about.

Two weeks ago (yes, it was really that long ago) I posted a series called Sexual Detox. One of the unexpected results of the series was a large number of emails from women who read this blog. I passed many of these emails to Aileen and she has engaged in correspondence with some of the women. This has led to some interesting conversation and, I think, an opportunity for her to both learn from and minister to some sisters in Christ. I’ll let her pick up the story from here…


by Aileen Challies

October 10, 2008

This morning, just for one session, I’m going to try something different. This is a piece of software called CoverItLive and its made specifically for live-blogging. I thought I’d give it a shot.