Tim Challies

A La Carte (June 29)

Looking for some good reading? Westminster Books is offering great deals on sets of commentaries and reference works.

Whose Choice?
“In 1973 I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college when the Supreme Court decided the Roe vs Wade case and legalized abortion. Honestly, however, I never expected the Court’s landmark decision to affect me personally.” And yet…
4 Thoughts on Spiritual Fatherhood
Jared Wilson: “As I get older, I think more and more about this claim from Paul — and the concept of ‘spiritual fatherhood’ generally — and it seems a pressing issue to me, not just ‘culturally,’ but personally.” He offers some thoughts on what the practice looks like.
OK, so there was Glastonbury
Matthew Hosier reflects on the recent Glastonbury festival.
It’s a Mistake to Take Online Populist Movements Very Seriously
Samuel James: “‘I’m now at a point where the first thing I wonder about a job applicant is, ‘How likely is this person to blow up my organization from the inside?’’ The emerging generation of activists are arriving at these organizations with two things: incredible amounts of leverage over their employers (thanks to the Internet), and incredibly low amounts of personal investment in groups or networks outside themselves.”
Did God Really Say … ?
“When my kids were little, one of our homeschool lessons was on ‘red flags.’ We talked about what things others might say to get you to do something your parents have told you not to do.”
On Keeping Your Greek and Hebrew in Ministry
“To those who have spent hours in seminary parsing Hebrew verbs and diagramming Greek sentences, I have two main contentions: First, I believe that the single most important thing you can do to keep your Greek and Hebrew skills alive in ministry is to do the hard and time-consuming work of preparing sermons out of the Greek and Hebrew text of Scripture. Second, the single greatest challenge to keeping your Greek and Hebrew alive in ministry is the sustained conviction that it matters.”
Flashback: A Soul Physician
I have often observed that some people demand unquestioning obedience of those who follow them, while they themselves dispute every decision of those who lead them…The fact is, we train our followers by the way we follow.

God uses waiting. Immediate success doesn’t build character, integrity, or depth in a human being because patiently waiting on the Lord does. —Shelby Abbott

A La Carte (June 28)

My church is once again offering an internship program for those who have completed seminary training or are near completion with the intention to pursue full-time pastoral ministry. Details are at the link.

(Yesterday on the blog: The Beauty of Duty)
Finding Family
“God’s family is a precious thing, bound by wine and bread instead of blood and resemblance. Its members don’t dress alike, share a uniform culture or a common language. But whether it be in a building or a living room, whether through candles and liturgy or guitars and blue jeans, whenever believers gather, we belong to each other. And wherever two or more of us come together, Jesus is there.”
What to Do with Regret
We all go through life carrying some regrets. Barbara offers some counsel on what to do with them.
What happens to God’s people after they die? (Video)
This is a question we have all wondered, isn’t it?
Speeding in Opposite Directions: ‘Lightyear’ and ‘Maverick’
I appreciate Brett McCracken’s two-for-one review of new films. “Where the original Toy Story was a wide-eyed marvel of artistry and enchanting storytelling, Lightyear is overstuffed and uninspired. And where Toy Story celebrated childhood as childhood, even leading adult viewers to feel like kids again, Lightyear does the opposite—pushing childhood into adulthood in inappropriate ways.”
Is Sermon Application Even Necessary?
Is sermon application necessary or optional? This article suggest it’s a necessary part of preaching.
“Let the Little Children Come To Me”
Kevin DeYoung says that the real monstrosity of Roe was not legal but moral.
Flashback: When God Seems Deaf To Our Cries
When Joseph was in the pit he must have cried out for God to deliver him then and there, to return him to his father that very day. But if God had answered that prayer, he would have preserved Joseph’s life only for it to end in starvation.

Making disciples is an act that calls for embodied presence. It requires sharing our lives. It demands we dive into the deep end – even if we’re not convinced we know how to swim. —Drew Hill

The Beauty of Duty

In former days Christians spoke often of duty. Though they most certainly delighted in God and were eager to foster and increase that delight, they tended to do so by way of duty. They examined their lives to determine what duties God was calling them to and audited their lives to determine if they were fulfilling them. They longed to be dutiful in devotion, dutiful in obedience, dutiful in every responsibility and every role. They believed that from their duty would grow a deepening delight.

From these forebears you and I should learn the importance of living with care, living with consideration for every moment, every day, every season—with prayerful attentiveness to every duty. Therefore…
… Take care before you waste a moment, for every moment is sacred, given to you by God to be used for his purposes. Moments have often been sanctified to accomplish great things. It was in a moment that Rahab offered sanctuary to the Jewish spies, in a moment that Jesus gave sight to a man born blind, in a moment that Peter made the decision to visit Cornelius—and through him to take the gospel to all the Gentiles.
… Take care before you waste a day, for every day is sacred, given as a gift to be used to do good to others and bring glory to God. God sanctified days when he carried out his work of creation in six of them, when he set aside one of them to rest, when Jesus committed 40 of them to praying and fasting in the wilderness. Little do we know the value of a day and all that can be accomplished in it.
… Take care before you waste a season, for every season of life is sacred, a precious gift from God. Jesus sanctified seasons, for it was in the season of youthfulness that he diligently grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man and in the season of his public ministry that he fulfilled the law and was obedient unto death. It was in the season of his captivity that Paul penned his greatest epistles and in the season of his exile that John gave us his great revelation of Jesus Christ.
If you wish to live according to their example, you must be dutiful—dutiful in the small things as much as the big. Never leave undone for a moment the duty of that moment. Never leave undone for a day the duty of that day, or for a season the duty of that season. To do so is to risk wasting your entire life, for a lifetime is made up of seasons and seasons of days and days of moments. They ebb away like the tide that flows back from the beach, like the sun that sinks beyond the horizon until its last rays fade from the sky and all goes dark.
It is wise and good each morning to ask “What is my God-given duty in this day?” It is wise and good at each juncture to pray “God, help me to be dutiful in all that you call me to.” The one who thinks in this way, the one who prays in this way, the one who lives in this way, will live a life of duty, a life of significance, a life of great delight. The one who lives according to duty will most certainly hear the master’s commendation of “Well done, good and faithful—good and dutiful—servant.”

A La Carte (June 27)

Good morning! Grace and peace to you.

Today’s Kindle deals include a nice little collection from Crossway.
(Yesterday on the blog: Tell God the Unvarnished Story)
Four Compelling Reasons I Am Pro-Life
“While much more could be said, these four reasons I am pro-life are reasons that I want to be on the tip of my tongue and that I hope will be on yours, also.”
Let the Little Children Come
This one from Madelyn is one the same theme of abortion.
How can I grow in my experiential knowledge of God?
How can we grow in our experiential knowledge of God? Here’s an answer from several theologians.
Josef Tson: What His Suffering for Christ in Communist Romania Taught Him, and Can Teach Us
Randy Alcorn: “God convicted Josef. As a pastor he refused to glorify communist leaders and started to speak out boldly for Christ. Interrogators threatened him with death every day for six months. Finally he told them, ‘Your supreme weapon is killing. My supreme weapon is dying. My preaching will speak ten times louder after you kill me.’”
How to Patiently Prepare for Missionary Work Among the Unreached and Unengaged
How can someone prepare to serve among the unreached and unengaged? This article offers some wisdom.
The Case for (Slightly) Shorter Sermons
I don’t agree with everything here, but I do think he’s on to something when he points out that it’s much easier to write a long, bad sermon than a short, good one. Concision has a way of keeping us honest.
Flashback: Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers
As I got older I learned of several people I knew who had been taken advantage of during sleepovers, and it wasn’t a perverse father in most cases, but a predatory older brother or sister or cousin. Sometimes it was even the friend himself.

The only fortune worth anything that you can give your child is the fortune you put in his head and heart. —DeWitt Talmage

Tell God the Unvarnished Story

Though we profess that God is all-seeing and all-knowing, that he understands not merely the actions of our hands and the thoughts of our minds but even the intentions of our hearts, still we sometimes feel as if we need to hold back from telling him all that we have thought, all that we have done, all that we have desired. Yet if we are to confess our sins before him, we need to confess them all, for he knows them anyway. These words from F.B. Meyer encourage you to tell him the truth—the unvarnished truth.

You have lost the light of God’s face, not because He has arbitrarily withdrawn it, but because your iniquities have come between you and your God; and your sins, like a cloud before the sun, have hid His face from you.
Do not spend time by looking at them as a whole. Deal with them one by one. The Boer is a formidable foe to the British soldier because he is trained from boyhood to take a definite aim and bring down his mark, whilst our soldiers fire in volleys. In dealing with sin, we should imitate him in the definiteness and accuracy of his aim.
Ask God to search you and show you what wicked way is in you. Marshal all your life before Him, as Joshua marshalled Israel, sift it through, tribe by tribe, family by family, household by household, man by man, until at last you find the Achan who has robbed you of the blessed smile of God.
Do not say: “Lord, I am a great sinner, I have done what I ought not, I have not done what I ought;” but say, “Lord, I have sinned in this, and this, and that, and the other.” Call up each rebel sin, by its right name, to receive sentence of death. Your heart is choked with sins; empty it out, as you would empty a box, by handing out first the articles that lie on the surface.
When you have removed them, you will see more underneath; hand them out also. When these are removed, you will probably see some more. Never rest till all are gone.
Confession is just this process of telling God the unvarnished story—the sad, sad story—of each accursed sin; how it began: how you sinfully permitted it to grow: how you have loved and followed it to your bitter cost.

Weekend A La Carte (June 25)

I hope and pray you have a wonderful, restful, worshipful weekend.

There are some new Kindle deals today.
(Yesterday on the blog: On Worship)
There are, of course, lots of articles about the big news from the Supreme Court yesterday. Here are a few recommendations:

Joe Carter’s FAQ explains what happened and what happens now.
Al Mohler rejoices.
Jake Meador’s The Land Is Bright celebrates a victory while also reminding Christians that the work is not nearly done.
Bethel McGrew explains why non-Americans may not be able to understand why this is such a big deal.
Winfree Brisley’s Remember Who Overturned Roe makes sure we remember who’s really responsible for this good news. (Hint: It’s neither a former President nor a current Supreme Court Justice.)

A Conflict of Visions: Comparing Rick Warren’s SBC Speech and Juan Sanchez’s Convention Sermon
“Every once in a while, you witness something that captures in a single snapshot an entire way of thinking. In just a few brief moments, a whole world of assumptions and beliefs is laid bare. The curtain is pulled back, and the heart of a matter is exposed.” This is so true.
Bootstrapping is Folly
Glenna Marshall writes about the common misunderstanding that sanctification is a matter of pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.
FAQ: Has Jesus Taken Away Satan’s Power—or Not?
“The Bible says that Satan is ‘bound,’ but it also says he’s ‘a roaring lion’ who wants to destroy people. Can both be true? How should we understand Satan’s power in the world today?” That’s a good question, isn’t it?
The Binding of Satan
In a somewhat similar and slightly more scholarly vein, here is Kim Riddelbarger on the binding of Satan. “The binding of Satan as depicted in this passage raises several obvious questions, especially in light of the on-going debate between amillennarians and premillennarians about the timing and character of the millennial age.”
Is this world a sinking ship, or is there still hope for its future?
What will happen to this sinful, corrupted world when Jesus Christ returns? Will He come to bring destruction or renewal? From a Ligonier event, Michael Reeves brings clarity on the new heavens and new earth.
Flashback: The Coming Millennial Midlife Crisis
We are forced to look at our paltry list of accomplishments, to concede our lack of skills, to admit our increasing weariness, to acknowledge our decreasing strength, and to face the fact that we won’t do nearly what we thought we would do.

God has put us into the fire of affliction to refine us, and make us a vessel fit for His use. —Edmund Calamy

Love is Not Heavy-Handed

When Jesus tells how to restore relationships, he has laid a table of tenderness. He has established a context of gentleness. He has told of the necessity of a kind of healthy-self doubt that acknowledges how blind we can be to our own faults. He will soon go on to tell that we must be willing to forgive others not once or twice, but an infinite number of times. The process in its context looks very different from the process torn from context.

Whatever else we learn about church life, we learn quickly that it will at times come with conflict. We are, after all, sinful people attempting to share community with other sinners. It’s inevitable that problems will arise, inevitable that there will be angry words, unfortunate misunderstandings, unintentional insults. While there will be many great blessings that come through the local church, there will also be real sorrows.
Thankfully, God has not left us unequipped when it comes to dealing with those conflicts in a healthy and healing way. Solomon says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense,” while Peter echoes, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (Proverbs 19:11; 1 Peter 4:8). The great majority of offenses are to be overlooked, covered in love and forgotten. But sometimes the offense is serious and the harm grave, and in these times we are to follow the instructions of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20.
This text establishes the God-ordained process through which a person who has been sinned against can identify that sin to the offender and see a strained, separated, or full-out shattered relationship restored. It’s a simple process. First approach the person alone, describe the offense, and give him or her the opportunity to express remorse and seek forgiveness. Failing that, bring it to the attention of two or three witnesses, and then to the whole church. If even then the person does not repent, the lack of remorse should stand as proof that he or she is not a Christian and should be removed from the membership of the local church. Christians, after all, are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Those who refuse to seek forgiveness from others prove that they have not experienced forgiveness from God.
This process should be familiar to any member of any local church. When a pastor is approached by church members who have been aggrieved in one way or another, his first response should be to direct them to this text, trusting that it is God’s means to achieve relational reconciliation. And most often it does just that.
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On Worship

Though we are 2,000 years past the founding of the New Testament church, we are seemingly still confused about how we ought to worship God. There are many competing philosophies of worship, many disagreements about everything from its purpose to its God-ordained elements and methods. We know we must worship, but we so often don’t know how.

It is for this reason that we continue to see so many new books on the subject and for this reason that we need to. This includes, most recently, H.B. Charles Jr.’s On Worship: A Short Guide to Understanding, Participating in, and Leading Corporate Worship. He confesses that, though he has previously written on preaching and pastoring, he found it surprisingly difficult to write on worship. “I believe I have a biblical philosophy of these [other] ministry subjects. After more than thirty years of experience in pastoring a church and preaching each week, I feel comfortable writing about those subjects. Who, truly, is competent to write about worship? And if writers feel confident that worship is a subject they have thoroughly mastered, should we be reading what they think?”
Though he does not claim to have thoroughly mastered the subject of worship, he has made a long and careful study of the matter and over many years of leading a church has attempted to refine his convictions along Reformed, Protestant lines. The result is On Worship which “is not a theological treatise, biblical study, or comprehensive handbook on worship.” Neither is it meant to be. It is instead “more like a compass than a road map” that “seeks to point you in the right direction.”
The book is comprised of thirty chapters that fall into three parts. The chapters are deliberately short and are not always entirely thematically sequential—perhaps a bit more like essays or blog posts that could be read in any order rather than having to be read one after the other.
The first section is dedicated to understanding worship not just as a brief time on Sunday mornings but as a whole-life pursuit that is meant to be the priority of every Christian. Worship that honors God depends upon worshipping in the ways he instructs us to, acknowledging his supremacy, depending upon his Word, and being filled with his Spirit. It requires us to be bound to the local church, to faithfully steward our entire lives, and to live with joy and generosity.
The second section is for those who participate in worship (which is to say, for every Christian). All Christians are to be committed to participating in public, corporate worship and all Christians are to carefully prepare themselves for such worship. The gathered church is to read the Word and pray together, to sing and to “amen,” to exercise their gifts and so build up and encourage one another and in that way to carry out the work of the ministry.
The third section is for those who are involved in leading worship. Here Charles writes about specific elements of a service like a call to worship and leading singing. He discusses the importance of racial diversity in the church and the ways churches can honor and integrate young people. He points out that in a society in which biblical knowledge is waning, we must explain everything and take for granted nothing.
In the end, the three sections and thirty chapters lead to a well-rounded and biblically-faithful understanding of why and how God calls us to worship him. It leaves room for different Christians to worship in ways consistent with their traditions and culture, yet also calls us to ensure that, no matter what, our worship is “shaped and governed by the Word of God. Sacred Scripture should be foundational to all that happens in our public and corporate worship assemblies. Beyond the foundation, however, God’s Word should explicitly structure our worship lives—privately and publicly.”
As is the case with all of Charles’ books, On Worship is filled with instructive quotes and punchy one-liners. It leans upon other useful worship resources and amplifies the voices of other helpful authors. His hope, he says, is to lift the reader’s gaze “beyond mundane, secondary, and worldly thoughts to the ultimate goals of true worship.” And that is a hope he realizes well. This is a book that will benefit every Christian, for whether or not we have been called to take a leadership role in worship, it most certainly falls to each one of us to understand it and participate in it.

Buy from Amazon

A La Carte (June 24)

May the Lord be with you and bless you today.

If you’re still getting caught up on Christian classics, you may want to look at this sale.
Tom Hanks Gets Empathy Wrong
Carl Trueman: “Tom Hanks recently declared that if Philadelphia, the movie that earned him one of his Oscars, were made today, it would no longer be acceptable for him, as a straight man, to play the gay lead. This comment has provided low-hanging fruit for conservative critics. It is, after all, ridiculous that a profession predicated on its members earning their livings while pretending to be people they are not should become prissy about certain types of role-playing.”
The Purpose of Jesus’ Most Perplexing Miracle
What was the purpose behind Jesus’ most perplexing miracle? Here is an explanation.
The Tyranny of Perfectionism
Aubrynn’s blog is committed to sharing some of what it means to live as a Christian with OCD. I found her new piece on the tyranny of perfectionism quite illuminating in explaining a particular struggle.
Church Discipline: Guarding the Gospel
This article has a missions focus as it explains the purpose and importance of church discipline.
If You Believe the Bible
There will be consequences to believing the Bible and refusing to budge from its truths. Blake explains some of them here.
Does God Prohibit Polygamy? What About The Patriarchs?
Oyewole Akande considers a biblical perspective on polygamy. “Does the Bible prohibit polygamy? This question has recently become topical again in Africa. In Nigeria, a popular actor recently took a second wife and commentators jumped quickly to his defence, even offering biblical support. In April, a Congolese pastor married four wives on the same day! Not to be outdone, a Kenyan man recently shared his plans to tie the knot with identical triplet sisters.”
Flashback: No Greater Accolade (Christian Men and their Godly Moms)
What was it that suited Timothy for such a ministry?…The Bible highlights just one great privilege: The faith of his mother and grandmother. Timothy had the immense privilege of being raised in a Christian home.

He that will die in faith must first of all live by faith. —William Perkins

A La Carte (June 23)

There are a couple of new Kindle deals from yesterday and today.

(Yesterday on the blog: The Thing About Light and Momentary)
Questions Your Church Should Ask a Missionary Candidate
“For churches, selecting which missionaries to support can be difficult. Missions committees and elder boards are often overwhelmed with requests from prospective partners. How should they sift through these opportunities and decide which ministries to prioritize?” Here’s a list of good questions to ask.
5 Reasons Why We Should Not Stop Using Male Pronouns for God
“It is right to believe that God is transcendent: God is not a man. Even little children learn in the catechism that ‘God is a Spirit and has not a body like men.’ And certainly, in Scripture God’s character and actions are sometimes described using feminine imagery (cf. Isa 49:15). But none of that means we should abandon male pronouns for God.”
Q and A with Alistair Begg
If you enjoy Q&A sessions, you might like to watch this one with Alistair Begg from the recent Basics Conference.
3 Ways to Live Humbly Online
A little bit more humility wouldn’t hurt any of us, would it?
How to Make the Case against Abortion in Less Than a Minute
With abortion back on everyone’s mind, this would be a good time to refresh yourself on how to make the case against it.
The Ordinary Christian Life in Retirement
“What is an ‘ordinary Christian life’ for a retiree? Is living an ‘ordinary’ life a good thing? Doesn’t God want us to live extraordinary lives—with exceptional experiences and accomplishments? Isn’t that what most people retire for?” Chris Cagle thinks it through.
Flashback: Each Man Before the Mob
We should be happier if a man follows a different path than we do while heeding his conscience than if he imitates us while violating it. We should affirm him in making a decision that is different from our own, as long as that decision is consistent with his conscience.

Human love was never intended to be our living water. Instead, it can be an addictive drug that is never enough. True freedom comes when you love God more than all else. —Ed Welch

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