Tim Challies

Free Stuff Fridays (Moody Publishers)

This giveaway is sponsored by Moody Publishers.
Attention all Bible scholars, believers in the power of faith, and lovers of the Word! Learn about God’s divine mercy and compassion with our exclusive Bible Study Giveaway. Win the ultimate bible study library including Overflowing Mercies by author and Bible teacher Craig Allen Cooper. This giveaway also includes books that are sure to encourage and challenge you like:  The Kindness of God, Loneliness, Known for Love, and the bestselling Illustrated Little Pilgrims Progress. You’ll also win Bible study resources like the One Volume Seminary and the Moody Bible Commentary. There will only be one winner, sign-up before June 30th!  

We Need Qualified Leadership

A few days ago I happened upon the page of an especially mega-sized megachurch. The church is about to undergo a leadership transition from an older man to a younger one and a page on the site lays out the process through which this new pastor was chosen. I read with a morbid kind of fascination as it told about personality testing, leadership evaluations, compatibility assessments, and much else. But I couldn’t help but notice that it said not a word about doctrine, beliefs, or the ability to understand and teach the Word of God. It may as well have been a corporation hiring a CEO. In fact, I rather suspect that’s essentially the long and short of it.

Biblical Eldership

There are few responsibilities more necessary and more sobering than the responsibility of choosing elders (or pastors—for our purposes, let’s understand the terms to be synonymous). Yet there are few responsibilities Christians seem more likely to mishandle. Where the Bible makes clear what a man ought to be if he is to serve as an elder, we like to do it our own way, to assess him by our own criteria. And the cost is immeasurable. The church of our day is plagued by unqualified leaders.
Many years ago, Alexander Strauch released a groundbreaking book on the topic: Biblical Eldership. This year he has released a substantial revision that both updates and expands it. Importantly, it now considers recent scholarship and addresses contemporary concerns. In my view, it has made the best book on the subject still better.
Strauch is nothing if not methodical. He moves slowly and deliberately, beginning with the importance of restoring eldership as it was understood and described in the New Testament. He is a staunch advocate of plural eldership—of a group of men who lead the church as equals. After the opening section, he begins an in-depth examination of the biblical data related to eldership. Twelve chapters in he turns to an extended look at the qualifications of character that must be present in those who would serve as elders, whether vocationally or non-vocationally. Because his specific concern is qualified leadership, this section consumes the majority of the book. Toward the end, he turns to the responsibilities of a congregation to love, honor, and obey the elders God has raised up to lead them.
Though I had read the book in the past, I was both blessed and challenged to read it again in its new edition. And I think I did it in the best way by reading it alongside some other men and having regular Zoom calls to discuss, analyze, and apply it. It helped me now as it did in the past. I recommend Biblical Eldership: Restoring the Eldership to Its Rightful Place in the Local Church as near-essential reading for any man who is already an elder or who aspires to be one in the future.

A La Carte (June 21)

Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley have just released the fourth and final volume of their mammoth Reformed Systematic Theology—”a comprehensive yet accessible systematic theology of the Reformed Christian faith that ministers to the whole person―head, heart, and hands.” Westminster Books is offering the whole set at a 50% discount—literally half of Amazon’s price.
Logos is having a Blue Friday sale that begins at noon EST. It includes flash sales, doorbusters, and so on. Check the link at noon!
I added some Kindle deals yesterday that included Paul Tripp’s Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. I’ll check again this morning!

“If I may say this bluntly: too often, those willing to venture to far-off, difficult lands do not want to ‘settle’ for supporting roles. Their decision to go to a ‘dangerous’ location hasn’t been made lightly, so they want their work to count. After all, they’re willing to suffer for the name of Christ! This is commendable. But it’s also commendable to go to such a place and hold up the hands of those serving on the front-lines, even when their hands are shaking and knees are knocking.”

Joe Carter covers the concerning outcome of a case in Italy (of a church I know and appreciate a great deal). He insists that the church in the U.S. needs to learn from it. In short, “the Italian Supreme Court’s harassment of an evangelical church serves as a stark reminder that the ongoing threats to religious liberty often come from those who identify as Christians.”

Kyle Grant: “Responsible people are busy. People with families are busy. Families who are involved in church and the lives of others are busy. But just how busy should we be? If you haven’t wrestled with this question, you should. I hope here to provide some healthy conditioning as we all wrestle with this question.”

Susan Tyner recently sat with her father as he passed away and offers a moving reflection on it. “As I think back on that bedside death scene, I realize how much it was not a death, but a birth. A backwards birth into heaven.”

We speak a lot about the presence and dangers of idolatry, but perhaps don’t always consider the degree to which we worship ourselves. Le Ann Trees writes about five of them here.

Simonetta Carr tells of a Puritan woman who went through a kind of “deconstruction” process with her faith. She also tells how that woman emerged with her faith not ruined, but intact and strengthened.

Even though their homes are tiny and unadorned, and even though they wear no crowns and own no robes, they are most truly princes and princesses who simply await their full inheritance.

As we sow we reap. Let us expect our children to know the Lord. Let us from the beginning mingle the name of Jesus with their ABC.
—Charles Spurgeon

A La Carte (June 20)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 
I continue to add Kindle deals most days. We are spoiled to have access to so many good books at so low a cost! Be sure to consider David Gibson’s Living Life Backward.
(Yesterday on the blog: Do You Envy the Wicked?)

Simonetta Carr offers some helpful words on supporting the caregivers in your church. “Mine is just one of many stories of caregivers looking for support in their churches. Their needs are as varied as their circumstances, but they all long for lasting encouragement and true understanding.”

Justin Taylor doesn’t update his blog all that often, but when he does he always has something good to say. In this article, he introduces the man who was responsible for introducing American Evangelicals to C.S. Lewis.

Jesus tells his followers to take up their cross and follow him. Randy Alcorn says, “This is arguably the single greatest—and hardest—passage on self-denial in all of Scripture. Jesus tells us to lose our lives for His sake. He commands us to deny ourselves.”

“There might be days when you feel that you are so close to Jesus. You cannot help but sing as you walk along, and you love to pray and read the Bible. Yet there are other days that this is not the case. It feels like your prayers are bouncing back off the ceiling and you lose the motivation to serve that you had at previous times.”

Chris writes about the power and the danger of habit. “Have you noticed this? It’s so much easier to build a bad habit than a good one, and so much easier to break a good habit than a bad one. Why is it easier to pick up bad words than to delete them from your vocabulary? Why is it easier to become a pessimist than an optimist? Why is it so easy to break your habit of daily Bible reading but so hard to put down your phone?”

If you’re interested in doing some slightly more academic reading, you may want to consider the new issue of CBMW’s journal Eikon. It offers a wide variety of articles, reviews, and other material.

What should you do when you begin feeling discontent at your church? … I’d like to offer just a few suggestions that I hope you’ll consider and put into practice.

We are saved by the gospel of God to worship the God of the gospel.
—Fred Sanders

Do You Envy the Wicked?

It takes a long time for sinful instincts to become pure, for tendencies toward what is evil to be transformed into tendencies toward what is good, lovely, and pleasing to God. The man who quits drugs will still react when he catches a whiff and the woman who gave up alcoholism will still struggle when she takes a sip. You can be a Christian for many years and still find your heart instinctually swayed toward what you once loved and what once drew your heart.
This is why, I’m sure, the Bible often offers warnings like, “Do not envy the wicked” (Proverbs 24:1). The Bible would not bother to warn us of something that was not an actual temptation. Hence, we can be certain that we need this warning—we need to be warned that, unless we guard our hearts, we will be envious of others—even those who hate God. And not only that, we will be envious of them for the things that are permitted to them but withheld from us.
A man I once met along the way told me that he sometimes wishes he had sowed his wild oats while he was young. He had lived out his young adult years with a good measure of self-control, then settled into married life. He loves his wife and loves his family. But sometimes an inner voice whispers that he might be more fulfilled now if he had experimented more then—if he had dated more girls, slept with a few of them, and had a greater number of sexual experiences. It’s not that he wants to do any of that now, but that he feels a sense of envy that he will go to the grave without experiencing what so many others have. He looks toward the wicked with a sense of envy.
I have never been drunk but sometimes wonder what it’s like. After all, it certainly seems to be an enjoyable experience, at least until the next morning. Though I know the Bible says it’s wrong, I do sometimes wonder why they get to experience it and I don’t. I have never done drugs but have occasionally wished I could try it just once to experience what seems to be a rush that is not otherwise available. I have never played the lottery, but sometimes look wistfully at the photos of the winners with their oversized checks for countless millions of dollars. I know in theory that ill-gotten gains do not profit, but I still sometimes feel a sense of envy toward those who get to enjoy them.
Like that man I met along the way, like the young man to whom Proverbs is addressed, and like you (I presume), I am prone to envy the wicked. And to envy the wicked is to resent God—to fall into the age-old trap of believing that God is withholding something good from me, that I would be happier if he would allow me to enjoy what he forbids, to indulge in what he says is dangerous. My discontented heart is so easily swayed, so easily drawn from the right to the wrong. My heart so naturally believes that God is a foe rather than a friend, one who keeps me from joy instead of leading me toward it.
Yet in my better moments I am not resentful but thankful, for I know that God’s boundaries are good. I know that he permits me everything that will actually benefit me and denies me only what will actually harm me. I know that he withholds no good thing from those that he loves, but withholds only what would harm my body, scar my soul, undermine my relationships, and bring reproach upon his name. In my better moments I look toward the wicked with pity rather than envy, for I know there are always consequences to their indulgence and impending judgment for their wicked ways. “Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes,” said the Sage. “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9). It is such a sobering thought, that.
I know that if I have missed out on a particular sin, I have not missed out on anything good, anything valuable, anything worthwhile.Share
And so I know that if I have missed out on a particular sin, I have not missed out on anything good, anything valuable, anything worthwhile. I have certainly not missed out on anything that would satisfy me for longer than a moment or that would make me a better man, a better husband, a better father. And I am fully confident that from the vantage point of heaven I will never look back with the least regret, but instead with the greatest gratitude, thanking God that his boundaries were drawn in such pleasant places, that he made known to me the path of life, and that by his grace he kept me on it, even when my heart was so prone to wander, so prone to leave the God I love.

A La Carte (June 19)

Good morning. The Lord be with you and bless you today.
Westminster Books has cut the price on a neat new resource: the ESV Spiral-Bound Journaling Bible. It is also worth taking a look at their large selection of Clearance Titles.

It can be hard to know if, when, and how to have those hard conversations with others. Casey McCall offers some wise counsel here. “I’m sure we’ve all seen the harm in overzealousness in this area. Some folks seem too eager to obey such commands and look for the tiniest cracks in someone else’s character. However, far more common is hesitancy to speak at all. It’s not really our business, we reason. Who wants to risk making someone angry at us?”

“It can be all too easy to ignore beauty, treating it as frivolous. Isn’t character what matters most? Doesn’t God judge based on what’s inside rather than appearances?” Even if this is true, we should still value beauty, as Andrew Noble explains.

This is an interesting video in which Gavin Ortlund looks to the early church to find guidance for our entertainment. There’s lots to learn.

“As you pray for the Lord to remove the trial because you do not see how it could be doing you any good, remember he may not stop that wheel because doing so would stop the blessing of countless other believers. If he answers your prayer and ends your trial, he has already accomplished his purpose and set the needed wheels in motion. If he does not, he still has more wheels to spin.”

Is prayer useless? Of course not. But it can sometimes feel that way. “Why do this hard work? Especially when it doesn’t seem useful? Because God is bigger than us. When we pray, we’re not in the realm of results and statistics, ‘trade-offs’ and ‘metrics’ and ‘measures.’ We’re not in a world of success and failure. Prayer is training us to look up to the God whose first and greatest commandment is to love him with our whole heart, mind, and soul. You cannot measure or quantify that goal. You can only give yourself over to that desire and direction.”

“The Christian life and ministry have something in common. Both are impossible, hard, and easy at the same time.” Darryl Dash explains what he means by this.

They knew their salvation was complete because here, in this new land, the waves could not reach them and the storm could not threaten them. They had reached a haven. They were safe. They were saved.

There are few places where many words are more unfit, than in the presence of grief. A warm pressure of the hand, a word or two of strong sympathy, and a quiet heart’s prayer to God for help, will give the truest comfort.
—J.R. Miller

Our Salvation Through Christ

This week the blog is sponsored by Moody Publishers and this post is adapted from The Kindness of God by Nate Pickowicz (© 2024). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.
Just like the Old Testament, the New Testament teaches that this wonderful salvation is extended to us as a kindness. Paul opens his letter to the Ephesians by talking about God’s gracious work of salvation toward His people. In saving His people, God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself ” (Eph. 1:4–5a). What is the basis of God’s saving work? We read that it is “according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5; cf. Eph. 1:9, emphasis added). We are saved because God extends His own lovingkindness to us.
Furthermore, despite being “dead in [our] trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), God “made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (v. 5). Why? It is “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7, emphasis added). Through His own act of salvation, God puts His loving character on display, and we are presented as trophies of His divine grace.
It is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross that makes the forgiveness of sin possible for us. Nate PickowiczShare
Similarly, in Paul’s letter to Titus, we see another expression of God’s kindness in salvation. We read, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us . . .” (Titus 3:4–5a). In this verse, we essentially see Jesus Christ as God’s kindness personified. One could almost picture God’s own love and kindness wrapped in the person of Jesus who comes and redeems us.  What a glorious picture!
The Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Him-self God in human flesh (John 1:1–3, 14), came to earth and lived in perfect obedience to every law of God, thus perfectly fulfilling the divine standard. Jesus lived sinlessly (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22), and thereby gave Himself up to be killed as an atoning sacrifice—a propitiation—for sin (1 John 2:2). Being the only acceptable sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners as a substitute (1 Peter 2:24), paying a ransom to the Father; redeeming us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).
Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, we can have our sins forgiven by God (Col. 2:13), and we are justified—declared righteous and pardoned by God, even though we’re guilty and unrighteous (Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16). It is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross that makes the forgiveness of sin possible for us. And not only forgiveness, but reconciliation to God—the restoration of relationship. More than this, God actually adopts us as His own (Rom. 8:12–17; Gal. 4:4–7). Now, we who were formerly His enemies have now become God’s children.
It is only by the death of Christ that we will find any hope of forgiveness for sin. All other attempts to “get right with God” are doomed to fail. Why? Because, by nature, we are sinful creatures, and when we try to accomplish anything of redeeming value, God turns up His nose and is repulsed by the gesture (Isa. 64:6–7). Any attempt we make to justify ourselves before Him is insulting and futile. Only the perfect work of Jesus Christ on our behalf is pleasing to the Father. All in all, we see that God’s offer of salvation to sinners is a glorious demonstration of His goodness and kindness. 

A La Carte (June 18)

If you’re a Logos user, be sure to take a look at this month’s free and almost free books. Also, lots of great resources from Zondervan are on sale (which includes the excellent Zondervan Exegetical Commentary Collection). It’s also worth taking a look at the monthly sales page.
(Yesterday on the blog: Let’s Hear It For the Second Parents)

Andrew Wilson writes about the many different forms of happiness. “The question of which kind of happiness we’re looking for comes to us all the time: in the daily trade-offs between time and money; in the soul-searching of a bored married man whose younger coworker is showing an interest in him; in the ordinary budgeting issues of spending and saving, buying now and paying later; in the choice between taking a more stimulating job or having more time with the children; in the amount of time we spend on a screen.”

Mitch Chase warns against the folly of choosing elders hastily. “A patient and thorough examination of elder candidates will mean that certain people (whom you initially thought would qualify) will be excluded, while others (whom you might not have considered at first) will be an excellent fit.”

You will enjoy this celebration of God’s evangelistic revelation in nature.

Randy Alcorn: “Isn’t there room in life for movies and TV and kicking back and enjoying a lightweight novel? Sure, I enjoy these things myself … But I believe in an era dominated by superficial popular culture, there’s real value in expanding our thinking to God’s glory, and not just going broad but going deep.”

This article reminds us of God’s counter-intuitive ways of thinking about weakness and strength.

Ashley Anthony shares a sweet tribute to the faith of her father. These words stand out: “When I was young, I was convinced he lacked fear. Now I know it’s that he possessed courage about all the right things.”

We will experience sweet providence and bitter providence, yet it is all providence, it all flows in some way from the God whose mind is vast, whose heart is kind, whose arm is strong, whose love is true, and whose purpose is good.

Reading gives us breadth, but study gives us depth.
—Jerry Bridges

Let’s Hear It For the Second Parents

You broaden your perspective on the Christian life when you diversify your reading—and perhaps especially when you read a healthy mix of older books to go along with newer ones. You come to realize that some topics and some themes remain constant while others rise for a time and then fade away.
In my reading of older books, I have come across a few family roles that were once lauded but are now seldom mentioned. One of them is the woman who would deliberately remain unmarried so she could care for her aging parents and other family members. In an era before retirement communities and nursing homes, this was regarded as a sacred calling, a life of sacrifice and service. When we hear an antiquated term like spinster we may think of someone who had the opportunity to get married pass her by, the reality may be that she chose a life of singleness so she could be the family carer. Though I have read celebrations of those women and their calling in historical writing, I am hard-pressed to think of an example in contemporary writing.
Another role that was once considered especially noble was the role of the step-parent. While today we tend to associate step-parents with divorce, in previous centuries they were almost exclusively associated with death and with either widow- or widowerhood. In an era in which lifespans were shorter and, therefore, a greater number of parents died while their children were still young, there was a distinct and honored role for these second or substitute parents. Economic and practical necessity often dictated that bereaved husbands and wives remarry very quickly after the death of a spouse. That new spouse would immediately become a substitute mother or father to children who had suffered a great loss.
Abraham Lincoln serves as a well-known example. His mother passed away when he was just 10 and his sister was only 12. The Lincoln home soon began to crumble without the care and influence of a woman. Their father Thomas was able to arrange a marriage of convenience with Sarah Bush Johnston who proved to be a kind and loving mother to her step-children. In so many ways, she shaped Lincoln into the man he would become, and he gladly honored her with the title “mother” and with words of praise and gratitude.
In my recent travels, I have had the privilege to meet several families that are of just this kind. A man or woman has suffered the heartbreaking loss of a spouse and has then rejoiced as God has provided a second husband, a second wife. In almost every case, this second spouse had previously been unmarried and had reluctantly accepted that, though they desired to marry, God had not provided a spouse. They had settled into a life of contented singleness, but then unexpectedly met this widow or widower and his or her family. And they had decided that this was God’s provision and God’s calling.
There are unique challenges that come to these people, to be certain. The woman who marries a man whose first wife has died marries someone who never fell out of love, who continues to love the wife who passed away. She marries someone who did not want to become unmarried, who, if he could have his way, would still be married to the wife of his youth. She marries someone knowing that he may need to be comforted on the day of his first wedding, of another woman’s birthday, of the anniversary of another woman’s death. Yet she refuses to succumb to jealousy or to see the first wife as a kind of threat. She accepts all this without offense and without resentment.
The man who marries a woman whose first husband has passed away marries someone who has children that are not his own, children who are of another father, children who, even if they come to love him and regard him as their dad, still love another man and wish they could know him, love him, and have him in their lives. He marries a woman who is grieving and his parenting begins with children who have had their hearts broken. But he accepts this with grace and understanding. He becomes a husband to the husbandless and a father to the fatherless.
I have had the joy of meeting so many who have joyfully accepted this role, who have embraced it, and who have sought to carry it out well.Share
The fact is, I don’t know of anyone who, as a young man or woman, dreamed of being a second husband or second wife or of anyone who dreamed of marrying into a family scarred by the death of a spouse and parent. Yet I have had the joy of meeting so many who have joyfully accepted this role, who have embraced it, and who have sought to carry it out well.
Hence, I thought it would be fitting today to draw attention to these second parents and second spouses, these God-given provisions for the needy and broken-hearted. I thought it would be fitting to commend them for joyfully identifying and accepting the role Providence offered to them. And I thought it would be fitting to raise up a cheer and a word of thanks in their honor.
(While the focus of this article was families that have suffered the loss of a spouse/parent, I gladly acknowledge that much of it applies equally to other situations, such as when a woman has been abandoned by her husband or a husband has been betrayed and divorced by his wife.)

A La Carte (June 17)

Good morning. Grace and peace to you.
Today’s Kindle deals include Paul Tripp’s Sunday Matters and David Mathis’ Habits of Grace—both excellent books.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Glorious End without the Difficult Means)

George Sinclair looks at an important biblical command and considers how it can apply to good fathers and bad fathers alike.

Also on the subject of dads, Greg Lucas tells about a time he was tempted to give up. “My tiny world as a father was about to grow much bigger than I could have ever imagined, and much deeper than I could have ever dreamed. Like a skilled surgeon, God slowly and mercifully cut away all my superficial expectations of earthly fatherhood and replaced them with images of an eternal heavenly Father. Those self-encouraging words ‘Don’t give up dad’ were replaced by His divine promise of, ‘I will never give you up.’”

Alan Shlemon: “June is when many companies celebrate ‘Pride Month.’ I’m often asked how I respond to stores that celebrate and/or promote homosexuality and transgenderism. Since I routinely navigate these situations, I’m happy to share my approach. Here’s what I do.”

Scott Klusendorf describes 5 myths about the pro-life movement.

Brad Hambrick is offering a free seminary that may appeal to those who have heard about the recent discussions/disagreements in the world of Christian counseling and are wondering what they are all about. “It is for the person who is confused or discouraged by why recent debates and controversies emerged; It is for the person who wants to understand the context for recent debates and controversies; It is for the person who got excited about utilizing the Bible to help and care for people in the church and now feel forced unnecessarily to ‘pick a team.’”

Andy Naselli answers a very common question about election.

When Jesus tells how to restore relationships, he has laid a table of tenderness. He has established a context of gentleness. 

“A sermon is not over when the minister says “Amen” Rather that is when the true sermon begins.”
—Joel Beeke

Scroll to top