I mentioned yesterday that I’d make my recent “Getting the Most Out of Logos” webinar available for those who were not able to attend on Tuesday evening. We fixed up that portion where my screen went blurry, then uploaded it to Logos. It’s now there for you to view. On that same page, you can find the discount codes for both new purchases and upgrades. Those codes are valid until 11:59 PM on November 14.
I updated the ChristianBook.com deals page. There are lots of Bibles and books currently on sale.
(Yesterday on the blog: How To Draw Near To The Throne of Grace)
This is a lengthy and urgent article about what the authors see as a “rapid, cross-denominational apostasy” that has recently swept over the church.
This much shorter article considers that turning from God never leads to a better society. “Living according to the rules set by some god seems oppressive. It would be far better to live however we wanted, to worship (or not) as we felt like, and to just do what seemed best to us. Even for those who have grown up in the church, we can feel like those outside the church have a freer, easier life.”
“The local church paints a picture of a greater reality: God takes broken people and makes them whole through the family of God. He has sent his son Jesus Christ to redeem a people—his people—to himself that they might enjoy him forever. This is an eternal and unfading family, but it’s also a family for the not-yet season that we live in.”
Sylvia writes about a topic I have been considering as well: the way we see other people. “I often see people with labels attached, and those tags may either dismiss or enlarge who they are in my esteem.”
“Attending a conference, denominational synod, or church planting seminar, you do not have to wait long before you are discussing numbers and attendance. It’s not even that people specifically ask how big your church is. It is more that the question, ‘How’s it going?’ either has the implied meaning of ‘how many people are attending your church?’ or we instinctively answer with metrics.”
9Marks has released a new issue of their journal, this one dealing with church planting. There are many articles to read, all for free.
In their troubles they fled to Jesus. In their uncertainty they cried out to their master. But they came to him in fear and doubt, not in faith.
When in doubt, do nothing, but continue to wait on God. When action is needed, light will come. —J.I. Packer
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By Tim Challies — 8 months ago
Good morning from northern Cambodia. However you plan to spend your Good Friday, may it be a day of many blessings.
I’m doing my best to keep up with Kindle deals even on an internet connection that’s substantially slower than I am accustomed to!
The Crucifixion Stories Are Embarrassing, and That’s a Good Thing
This explains why the embarrassing nature of some of the stories around Jesus’ crucifixion are actually a good thing for Christianity.
Is It Worth It?
“Here’s a question that’s important for us Christians to answer regularly: Is it worth fighting a battle that you’re not winning and may not win? Let’s imagine the different arcs of life where this question may apply.”
What Are Legalism and Antinomianism?
These terms are used a lot and it’s important to know what they actually mean (and don’t mean).
What Does It Really Mean to Be Like Jesus?
Chris Hutchison: “Christians know that being like Jesus is a good idea. We’ve probably all heard someone express a desire, or encourage others, to ‘be Christ-like.’ But what do we mean by that?”
So That They May Be Saved
”If your neighbor ends up going to heaven, what will be the cause?” It is good to think about this from time to time.
Speaking Truth to Fear from Covenant Presbyterian in Nashville
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra reports from Nashville in the aftermath of the great tragedy there.
Flashback: The Best Tool for the Job
He could plow the field himself, or he could use a donkey—both of these would be economical options. But by investing in the ox, he will soon see abundance. Why? Because the ox is the best tool for the job. The ox is the wisest investment.
The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like Jesus’ teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead. —Tim Keller
By Tim Challies — 9 months ago
A couple of weeks ago I read a story about Tesla. The reporter had written a long piece about the company’s declining share prices and what it might mean for its future. He had written about its eccentric founder and some of his perplexing public comments. At the end of the article he included a little note explaining that, though he had reached out to the company to request a comment, he had received none. He had received none because Tesla has no public relations or media relations department. There was no comment because there was no one to provide one. I thought this made a funny little ending to an otherwise serious story.
I have spent a good bit of time over the past few years thinking and writing about grief and that has led to me read and converse a lot about the subject. And one theme I have come across time and again is Christians who are committed to doing a bit of PR work on behalf of the Lord. Though God has no media relations department, these people feel inclined to volunteer for the position and to explain—or explain away—some of what God says or does. Like any PR representative, they stand between the “boss” and the world to explain what he really meant, what he really intended to communicate in his Word.
Most often they intend to remove any connection between the suffering or death of a human being and the sovereignty of God. “God did not wish for this to happen,” they might say. “This could never be God’s will.” Maybe they’ll even say something like, “Satan won this round.” They want to protect God from his own sovereignty, as if it does not extend to matters as consequential as sorrow, suffering, and death.
Yet the consistent testimony of the Bible and the consistent testimony of the historic Christian faith is that God is, indeed, sovereign over all things. He is sovereign over birth, he is sovereign over death, and he is sovereign over everything in between. This means he is sovereign over the means of death and even over any suffering that accompanies death. Yet, of course, never in such a way as to sin or to be morally responsible for sin.
This relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is difficult to understand. In fact, it may well be impossible to fully understand, at least on this side of eternity. And so we take it by faith as the clear testimony of God’s Word.
And as we take it by faith, it brings meaning and purpose to our times of difficulty, for how could meaning and purpose fail to follow when we submit ourselves to the providence of God? He stands behind our sorrows, not as the one who is necessarily morally responsible for their causes—he compels no man to fire a gun and no woman to drive in a drunken state—but as the one who ultimately has power over all the circumstances of life and death.
There are many places you can go to see how this can be proven in the Bible (see here for example) but my interest today is in showing how other Christians have understood and explained the extent of God’s sovereignty. I do this because I have often felt the need to verify my understanding of Scripture and what I take to be its expansive explanation of God’s sovereignty against better theologians than myself. And, as I have consulted them, here is what I have found.
Heidelberg Catechism: “God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.” (Note: all creatures … all things.)
Westminster Shorter Catechism: “God’s works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.” (Note: all his creatures and all their actions.)
John Piper. “God, in his absolute ownership and sovereignty over all life, appoints the time and the kind of every death of every person on this planet.” (Note: God appoints the time and he appoints the kind.)
Erwin Lutzer. “Our death is just as meticulously planned as the death of Christ. There is no combination of evil men, disease, or accident that can kill us as long as God still has work for us to do. To those who walk with faith in God’s providence, they die according to God’s timetable… The immediate cause of death might be any number of things, but the ultimate cause is God.” (Note: distinction between immediate cause and ultimate cause.)
Loraine Boettner: “Nations, as well as individuals, are thus in the hands of God, who appoints the bounds of their habitation, and controls their destiny. He controls them as absolutely as a man controls a rod or a staff. They are in His hands, and He employs them to accomplish His purposes. He breaks them in pieces as a potter’s vessel, or He exalts them to greatness, according to His good pleasure. He gives peace and fruitful seasons, property and happiness, or He sends the desolations of war, famine, drought and pestilence. All of these things are of His disposing, and are designed for intelligent ends under His universal providence. God is no mere spectator of the universe He has made, but is everywhere present and active, the all-sustaining ground, and all-governing power of all that is.” (Note: the full expanse of God’s sovereignty.)
William Mason. “Christian! Death cannot hurt you! Death is your best friend – who is commissioned by Christ to summon you from the world of vanity and woe, and from a body of sin and death – to the blissful regions of glory and immortality, to meet your Lord, and to be forever with Him.” (Note: death is commissioned by God and summoned by God.)
Randy Alcorn. “Our sovereign God weaves millions of details into our lives. He may have one big reason, or a thousand little ones, for bringing a certain person or success or failure or disease or accident into our lives. His reasons often fall outside our present lines of sight. If God uses cancer or a car accident to conform us to Himself, then regardless of the human, demonic, or natural forces involved, He will be glorified.” (Note: Even difficult and grievous circumstances are used by God to do his will.)
A.W. Pink. “The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. His government is exercised over inanimate matter, over the brute beasts, over the children of men, over angels good and evil, and over Satan Himself. No revolving of a world, no shining of a star, no storm, no movement of a creature, no actions of men, no errands of angels, no deeds of the Devil—nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass otherwise than God has eternally purposed. Here is a foundation for faith. Here is a resting place for the intellect. Here is an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast. It is not blind fate, unbridled evil, man or Devil, but the Lord Almighty who is ruling the world, ruling it according to His own good pleasure and for His own eternal glory.” (Note: the totality of God’s sovereignty.)
John Owen. “We cannot enjoy peace in this world unless we are ready to yield to the will of God in respect of death. Our times are in His hand, at His sovereign disposal. We must accept that as best.” (Note: peace is related to accepting God’s sovereignty.)
J.I. Packer. “To know that nothing happens in God’s world apart from God’s will may frighten the godless, but it stabilizes the saints.” (Note: God’s sovereignty over all things, including sorrow, suffering, and death is meant to give us confidence and stability.)
And so, as far as I am concerned, the truth is as clear as clear can be.
By Tim Challies — 2 years ago
Yesterday we celebrated Abby and Nathan’s wedding—the first of a whole new generation for the Challies side of the family (though certainly not the last since Abby is one of 16 children/nieces/nephews). The day was every bit as beautiful as we had hoped. I’ll try to share a few pictures in the near future, but in the meantime thought I’d share the speech Aileen and I delivered together.
Tim: This is a day of great joy. It’s a day of great joy and we are so thankful to each of you that you’ve chosen to share it with us. Thanks to those of you who drove from the Deep South, to those of you who drove from the Great White North, and to those of you who came from somewhere in between. Welcome to all the Elfarrahs and their friends; welcome to all the Challies and our friends; and welcome, of course, to the many friends of the couple. We consider it a tremendous honor that you would spend this day and this evening celebrating with us.
Aileen: We wanted to start off telling you all a little bit about Abby. As a child Abby was always a bit of a force to be reckoned with. She has always been competent and capable and so very determined. At 9 months old Abby crawled for about two days, then decided that was enough of that and got up and walked. At 9 months. I have no pictures of her crawling because she didn’t crawl long enough for me to get them! At 15 months she decided she had had enough of diapers and potty-trained herself in one afternoon. And at 4 years old, after watching me struggle for a solid couple of months to teach her older brother how to ride a bike, announced she wanted to do away with her training wheels. I told her no—that I needed a break. My neighbor told me to let her try, and then watched open-mouthed as Abby jumped on the bike and rode around and around, no guidance, no help, and with a look of absolute triumph on her face. And that pretty much set a theme for her life. She showed the same determination with her schooling, ballet, working, and pretty much everything else. Abby has always been so very social and fiercely loyal, and anyone and everyone she met was an instant and life-long friend. We knew with how capable, competent and friendly she was, she would do well when she made the decision to move down to Louisville and attend Boyce College.
Tim: Before she left we bestowed some parental advice upon her:
Abby, we think it would be wise to not date in your freshman year. You have to remember that college courses will be difficult and demanding; you may need some time to adjust. We also think it would be really good for you to focus on developing some strong female friendships. And then you need to know that at Bible college the boys all seem to get into a kind of frenzied state when a fresh batch of girls shows up.
(As an aside: We felt we had to give her this advice this since Nick had come to us a few weeks before they set off for college to say he had just found out that there was a certain young man on campus who had spotted Abby on a preview day two years before and was waiting for her to show up. We thought that was a bit weird and we decided not to tell her about it since we didn’t want to freak her out too much.) Instead we said:
Abby, we aren’t telling you what to do; we’re just saying that we think it would be wise for you to hold off and just tell any boys, “I am very flattered, but I have decided not to date in my freshman year.”
Well, as it turns out, Abby began dating on her freshman day or in her freshman week, at least. Before school had even begun, while she was in the quarantine foreigners had to go through at that time, she and that certain young man had been communicating on Instagram and developing the beginning of a relationship. By the time she set foot on campus for the first time, they had pretty much already decided that they were meant to be.
Aileen: But it turns out that Abby knew better than her parents did. The “Mom, there is this boy” phone call came a little sooner than we expected, but she still managed to do it all. We watched from afar as Abby settled into college life, watched as she grew spiritually, watched as she made what we expect to be life-long girlfriends, watched as she made the Dean’s list and, yes, watched as she found a guy.
Tim: Nathan, you have wooed to yourself a wonderful young woman and we are thankful to you and thankful for you. We are thankful that in the Lord’s vast wisdom and kind providence he had been preparing your heart to join this family by already causing you to be loyal to the Bills and Blue Jays rather than, say, the Patriots or Yankees—loyalties that might have proven insurmountable. We sent Abby off practically still wearing her ballet shoes and she came back wearing sports jerseys and camo and wanting to settle in with me to watch Monday Night Football. That’s a remarkable change and one that made me very happy. But far more importantly, you have proven your character and godliness by being there through a very difficult couple of years, and we know that bonds forged in the fire are the strongest and most lasting of all. It’s a blessing to us to be able to express our love for you and our confidence in you; and to formally welcome you into this family.
And Abby, my precious Abby, we are so proud of you and so proud of the woman you’ve become. You’re competent; you’re capable; you’re loyal; you’re fun; you’re godly; you’re all a father and mother could ever hope for in a daughter. You’re our kid but you’re also our friend, a friend whose wisdom we value, a friend whose godliness we admire, a friend we just love to spend time with. We love you dearly and we love your husband and we are so thankful that the Lord has brought the two of you together. We know you’ll be very happy and will love serving the Lord side-by-side. We are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for the two of you.
Aileen: I think we are supposed to offer just a bit of advice to the new couple, so here goes: Your job in marriage isn’t to fix one another. So be patient with each other’s sins and weaknesses. Put your spouse before your own desires. And above all, be kind to one another. But, if God has not brought you together to fix each other, he has brought you together to support and strengthen one another. He has determined you are better together than apart.
Tim: As for me, I want to remind you that who you are at home is who you most truly are. Life doesn’t flow toward the home, but from it. If your home is marked by joy and love, your whole life will be full of joy and love. If your home is a place of worship, your whole life will be one of worship. If your home is a place of singing, your whole life will be a song. And so it’s my counsel that you work together to make the Elfarrah home one that’s marked by godliness, one where you display Christian character, one that is shaped and formed by the Word of God. If you honor the Lord at home, you’ll honor him everywhere you go and in everything you do.
And now in place of a toast I would like to offer you a blessing from the Word of God: “May the LORD our God be with you, as he was with our fathers (or in this case, as he has been with your parents). May he not leave you nor forsake you, but incline your heart to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments. May He maintain your cause, as each day requires, that everyone may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other. And may He keep your heart wholly true to Him today and every day. Amen.”