Tim Challies

A La Carte (September 29)

May the Lord bless and keep you today.

This week at Westminster Books you’ll find a sale on “memorable stories, delightful characters, gospel help” for kids.
I Searched for the Key to Discipleship
“Discipleship isn’t nice, crisp books or carefully planned mission trips. It’s something altogether more intimate, more demanding, and more sacrificial. And once I realized that the people around me were showing me how discipleship works, I started to see it everywhere.”
What Does it Mean to Pray ‘Your Will Be Done’?
Colin Smith: “If you are confused about the will of God you are not alone. One reason for the confusion is that we speak of God’s will in three different ways. Distinguishing between them will help to clear the confusion and enable us to pray ‘Your will be done,’ with greater meaning and understanding.”
Things Revealed
In a somewhat similar vein: “A lot of us spend our time trying to read that book called ‘The Secret Things’ while all the time the book called ‘The Things Revealed’ is sitting right in front of us. God has given it to us and it belongs to us and to our children so we won’t just read it but also obey it.”
River Cliffs and Reformed Theology
I enjoyed reading this tale of river cliffs and Reformed theology. “The two of us walked, single file, through the coffee gardens. We were seventeen years old, barefoot, wearing swim trunks, and with inflated tire inner-tubes slung over our shoulders. The coffee cherries were ripening and we occasionally reached out, plucked one, and popped it in our mouths. The clear jelly between the red skin and the green coffee bean itself was deliciously sweet. Then the slippery bean itself could be pinched between forefinger and thumb, and launched at distant targets with surprising accuracy.”
5 Biblical Principles for Social Media
Rob Brockman: “Did you realize that you are responsible for your online behaviour as much as you are responsible for your in-person behaviour? There is no distinction between the character of your online avatar and your in-person character. If this is the case, then what can we glean from the scriptures on how we are to behave in the online public square?”
Missionaries, We Are Not Professionals
Dave Hare offers “three warning signs that a missionary might be falling into the trap of professionalism.”
How Changing Your View of Heaven Transforms the Way You Live Today
John Beeson asks, “What are the consequences of getting our view of heaven wrong? Especially when we can’t possibly know who is correct. But what if there are consequences to the way we perceive the afterlife? What would those be?”
Flashback: What’s the Purpose of … the Church?
The local church exists to glorify God through worshipping him, edifying his people, and evangelizing the world.

…the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me. —Robert Murray M’Cheyne

A La Carte (September 28)

May the God of love and peace be with you today.

There is a short list of Kindle deals today.
(Yesterday on the blog: Thank You, God, That I Am Not Like Other Men)
If There’s One Thing We Can Offer, It’s Authenticity
“As I’m writing this, I have just seen one of those promo videos from a larger church talking about all the great stuff people can plug into. It was full of youngish, cool people (I assume) talking about how great the church is and all the cool stuff you can do with them. There were special training routes, lots on with a big emphasis on the friendships you can make with loads of other people at a similar age and stage.” We’ve probably all seen videos like that and been tempted to compare…
Hair Pressing Time
I always enjoy Darla McDavid’s stories from a childhood that was very different from my own.
What’s Allowed in Married Sex?
Here’s Ray Ortlund on an important question. “Let’s rethink our married sexuality. Let’s throw off the complications that are claiming too much of us. Let’s go back to what our Lord would be glad to bless in our married sexual experience.” (See also John Piper: Should Couples Use Role-Play in the Bedroom?)
How Do I Grow in the Fear of God and Decrease in the Fear of Man? (Video)
“The more our minds are consumed by the majestic holiness of God, the less we will be intimidated by mere men. From our 2021 National Conference, Steven Lawson and Derek Thomas consider the importance of cultivating the fear of the Lord.”
For the Church that is For the World
“Biblically understood, there is a lot more involved in ‘going to church’ than simply attending a worship service. The gospel is designed to remake our entire souls, reorienting us away from ourselves and instead around God and others.” Jared Wilson explains.
Sustained Creativity By the Power of the Spirit
“I love creativity, whether I see it in a sunset, a painting, a novel, or a piece of music. Something deeply spiritual occurs in me when I behold the creative work of another or set about the task of creating something myself. I’m merely hypothesizing here, but I think creativity is both enhanced and sustained by the Holy Spirit, even into old age, when we surrender to Christ and live for God’s glory.” Maybe or maybe not. But it’s still an interesting thing to ponder.
Flashback: No One Believes in Social Injustice
…“it’s no good having the same vocabulary if we’re using different dictionaries.” And when it comes to social justice, that’s exactly what’s happening—we are drawing definitions from different dictionaries.

To endeavor to lift our own souls by our own strength is as absurd as to attempt to lift our bodies by grasping hold of our own clothes. —Theodore Cuyler

What If We Lost Every Copy of the New Testament?—An Invitation to Consider the Evidence…

This week the blog is sponsored by Zondervan Reflective, and in the post, J. Warner Wallace is inviting you to consider the evidence.

Can the truth about Jesus be uncovered—even without a body or a crime scene?
Tammy Hayes’s disappearance was what we call a no-body homicide case—where a homicide is assumed to have occurred but a body is never found. These cases are incredibly difficult to investigate and prosecute. Few are ever filed with the district attorney because prosecutors must (1) prove the victim was murdered (and isn’t simply missing) and (2) prove that the defendant committed the crime.
The Hayes case had been set aside for nearly a decade before I reopened it. In this case, no scene was ever photographed or recorded in any way. Not a single piece of physical evidence existed. And to make matters worse, we didn’t even have Tammy’s body. Yet five years later, we successfully prosecuted Steve for his wife’s murder. It wasn’t easy, but I took a unique approach tailored to cases that lack a body and a crime scene.
“What explosive event split world history in two? The stunning conclusion of this master cold-case homicide detective’s meticulous research, analysis, and deliberation will leave Christians delighted and skeptics devastated.”
—Gregory Koukl, president of Stand to Reason (str.org), author of Tactics and The Story of Reality
The case for Jesus can be investigated in a similar way. As in the Hayes case, we don’t have Jesus’s body, and we don’t have a “crime scene” to provide us with physical evidence. Despite these limitations, we can still make a case for the historicity and deity of Jesus. We can do it without a body—and without any evidence from the New Testament.
You read that correctly.
If Jesus was truly the smartest, most interesting, and most transformative man who ever lived—if he was truly God—we ought to be able to make a case for his existence and impact, even without any evidence from the New Testament. You’ll learn how to make that case in my new book and video study, Person of Interest.
I’d like to invite you to use the book, and I pray that it helps you make the case to yourself, or to others, for how Jesus changed the world.
Watch the first session for free:
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Learn more and read a sample at:
PersonOfInterestBook.com
Buy the book at:
Amazon
Audible
Barnes & Noble
Christianbook.com
ChurchSource.com
Buy the video at:
Vimeo
Endorsements
“J. Warner’s writing style pulls you into the narrative; you can’t help but join his exploration as a detective. And J. Warner also provides a fresh angle. With its panoramic perspective, this book offers a fascinating journey into some lines of evidence most of us hadn’t even considered!”
—Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, author of The Historical Jesus of the Gospels
“Either the foundational details of Jesus life, death, and resurrection happened within history and must be reckoned with, or they did not happen, and Christianity falls apart. J. Warner Wallace demonstrates, by using standard and reliable methods of investigation, that Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be.”
—John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center, host of BreakPoint
 “In Person of Interest, J. Warner does something new and remarkable. He shows why history was divided into two eras by the person of Jesus. This book is comprehensive, the argumentation is convincing, and the delivery compelling. If a skeptic wants to know whether the story of Jesus makes sense, give them this book and they’ll discover that Jesus makes sense of history itself.”
—Justin Brierley, host of the Unbelievable? radio show and podcast, author of Unbelievable?
“Several years ago Jim Wallace burst onto the scene and applied his years of highly successful police detective work, using these techniques to inquire about the truth of Christianity. Add to this that Jim previously had been a card-carrying atheist well into his adult life, and what emerged was a new angle that has excited the world of apologetics ever since. I am more than pleased to endorse fully the excellent research that has resulted, including Person of Interest. What a boost to the field of Christian evidences!”
—Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor at Liberty University, author of The Historical Jesus

Thank You, God, That I Am Not Like Other Men

Comparison comes as naturally to us as eating, breathing, laughing, weeping. From our youngest days we begin to compare ourselves to others and quickly find the old adage to be true: Comparison is the enemy of joy. Though we so readily compare ourselves with others, we discover that this fosters a deep unhappiness. What promises joy actually delivers misery.

The reason is that comparison is intrinsically competitive, so that we don’t really want to be merely pretty, but prettier than the other person; we don’t really want to be merely wealthy, but wealthier than he is; we don’t really want to be merely successful, but more successful than the other person. No follower count is high enough until it is higher than hers, no church big enough until it is bigger than his. If we fail to get the things our hearts desire we grow in envy, but if we do get them we grow in pride. Our comparison is never rewarded with contentment.
Even in our Christian lives we can be prone to comparison. We can judge ourselves righteous by comparing ourselves to others’ depravity, we can judge ourselves faithful by comparing ourselves to others’ sinfulness, we can judge ourselves committed by comparing ourselves to others’ apathy. We can become like the Pharisee Jesus introduced in a parable—the one who went to the temple to pray and said, “I thank you, God, that I am not like other men”—especially like that traitorous tax collector who stood nearby. With such an attitude it is little wonder that Jesus “told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”
Yet if comparison is most naturally the enemy of joy, it can supernaturally become its ally. However, comparison can only become an ally when we use it to compare ourselves to the right standard and if we do so for the right reason. It can only become an ally when we compare ourselves to Jesus out of a longing to be more like him. The way to grow in holiness is not to compare ourselves to other people, but to compare ourselves to the Savior.
If you are at a theme park and want to ride the rollercoasters, you need to be a certain height. It doesn’t matter if you’re taller than anyone else—all that matters is if your head comes up to the top of their measuring tape. The Pharisee fell into the universal temptation of judging himself a good man by comparing himself to people he considered worse. But that’s like trying to ride the coasters by saying “I’m taller than this other person!” That doesn’t matter because that’s not the right measure. What matters is if you come up to the mark.
Similarly, we love to compare ourselves to other people because it’s a comparison we can easily win. We only need to look around long enough to find someone who is worse, and that’s never hard to do. But it doesn’t matter if we are holier than the person who is next to us or the person who is on the TV screen. What matters is if we are as holy as Jesus, for he is the one who perfectly demonstrated how to live an unblemished life, how to love the Lord with his whole heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love his neighbor as himself. When we compare ourselves to him we will always be confronted and challenged—we will see our shortcomings, we will repent of them, and we will take up the challenge to be more and more conformed to his image. It’s a comparison we will always lose, yet instead of growing in envy and pride, we will only ever grow in humility and the godliness that it fosters.

A La Carte (September 27)

Good morning, my friends. Grace and peace be with you today.

(Yesterday on the blog: The Blessings Lent Us for a Day…)
Three Questions for Evangelism
“There are times when as churches and pastors we make things more complicated than they need to be. I sometimes fear that evangelism is made out to be something that you need to learn, that there’s a magic course or a seminar out there that will unlock the hidden evangelist in you.” But it’s not nearly so complicated.
Why the NLT is Good, Actually
“It’s common in certain circles to hate on the New Living Translation. That hate is undeserved.” Tommy Keene explains why the NLT isn’t nearly as bad as some make it out to be.
Is There Such a Thing as Righteous Anger?
“Technically, of course, there is such a thing as an empty gun. But if you think it’s empty and you’re wrong, the consequences can be so tragic it’s better to just pretend that no gun is ever empty, except in very specific situations like cleaning or repairing it. I’m beginning to think we should have a similar attitude towards so-called ‘righteous anger.’”
Should You Watch The Chosen?
This is worth considering: “Ask yourself this question, and answer it honestly: if you were able to view actual recordings of the events in the Bible, would you still need the Bible, or because you could watch and listen to the events themselves, would you have a better revelation of God than the Scriptures?”
God is Frustrating
“God is governing, providing, preserving, pardoning, and saving. He is sustaining and guiding. And He is frustrating.” He is, indeed, as long as you’re thinking of the correct use of the word.
Peanut Butter & the Marriage Supper of the Lamb
“In a span of minutes, from when we gave our baby a taste of what we were sure would be his new favorite food to when his body rebelled, we were living in a different world. A more hostile world. Someone described the mental shift to me as though the color orange could send your child to the hospital: suddenly you notice it everywhere.”
Flashback: It’s All About the Conscience
Harold Senkbeil’s The Care of Souls is a book that has made a deep and immediate impact on me. I hope you’ll indulge me in another brief excerpt from it that I found particularly meaningful.

Where we always look for and request deliverance from suffering, the testimony of Scripture is mostly about what God wants to do for us in our suffering. —Jared C. Wilson

The Blessings Lent Us for a Day…

I have often remarked that past generations of Christians relied on poetry far more than we do today. As I read authors from previous centuries, perhaps especially the nineteenth, I see how often they weave poetry into their prose. Sometimes the verses are quoted from the poets of the day and, just as often, freshly-written. I found this little example, clearly inspired by the book of Job, in a work titled “Brief Notice of a Short Life.”

What’er we fondly call our ownBelongs to heaven’s great Lord;The blessings lent us for a dayAre soon to be restored.
‘Tis God that lifts our comforts high,Or sinks them in the grave;He gives; and when He takes away,He takes but what He gave.
Then, ever blessed be His name!His goodness swell’d our store;His justice but resumes its own;‘Tis our still to adore.

Weekend A La Carte (September 25)

May the Lord bless and keep you this weekend.

My gratitude goes to RHB for sponsoring the blog this week with news of books that point children to Christ.
Today’s Kindle deals include some newer and some older titles.
(Yesterday on the blog: The Ones Who Sow and the Ones Who Reap)
Sin Is Death?
“While sin isn’t a substance in itself, that doesn’t make it any less lethal. Sin isn’t just a series or errors or poor judgments with momentary consequences. Sin is taking you somewhere. It’s leading you down a path of decay, a path that ends in spiritual death.”
What If God Doesn’t Speak to Me?
Lara d’Entremont: “I wanted to lie. I would strain and listen as hard as I could, but I never heard God speak to me. I never felt any nudges. I never experienced a fresh out-pouring of his Spirit. I never felt ‘peace’ about a decision like others described. He just doesn’t love me like he loves them.”
What Does It Mean That We Are “Justified by Faith, Not Because of Faith”?
This is no small distinction.
Not One Square Inch
“We tend to focus on the second verse in Matthew 28:18-19, where Jesus tells us to make disciples of the nations. But do we ever pay attention to the first verse? ‘All authority,’ Jesus says, ‘in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (v. 18). Not some authority. Not half authority. Not even most authority. But all authority. Jesus is the authority.”
The Hidden Harm of Gender Transition
For the sake of the young people who face such harm, we need to share articles like this. “Grace is one of many who have been fast-tracked down a pathway of ‘treatments’ for gender dysphoria, while underlying mental health issues have remained undiagnosed and unaddressed. They are victims of the false claims of gender ideology. According to this ideology, all people have a gender identity—the gender they feel they are—that may have no relation to their biological sex.”
Don’t Go To Egypt
Craig Thompson asks, “Have you ever been so sure of God’s will in your life that you made plans for your next step while you waited for him to give you direction? Have you ever been wrong?”
Flashback: The Duties Required by the Ninth Commandment in a Social Media World
Think not only of what you say, but also what you read or listen to; the ninth commandment is not just meant to govern your mouth, but also your eyes, your ears, your heart, and your mind.

Leaders who want to show sensitivity should listen often and long, and talk short and seldom. Many so-called leaders are too busy to listen. True leaders know that time spent listening is well invested. —Oswald Sanders

Free Stuff Fridays (RHB Publications)

This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by RHB Publications. Everyone who enters the prize draw will have the opportunity to be one of three people picked to receive a copy of all the following new titles from RHB:

The Puritan Path:
From the Reformation to the Modern Era: A Pictorial Witness by Joel R. Beeke & Stephen McCaskell
A pictorial history across two continents about the origins, growth, and influence of the Puritans. Includes additional essays on the Puritans and the filming of the documentary, Puritan.
The God and Me series
Joel and Mary Beeke
I Need to Trust in God
I Need to Hope in God
I Need to Love God
I Need to Love Other People
(For ages 4-7.) Based on scriptural verses on faith, hope, and love to God and neighbor, essential concepts are expressed in simple forms in conversation, prayer, actions, and thoughts.
Transformed:
How God Renews Your Mind to Make You More Like Jesus by Esther Engelsma
Are you being transformed into the image of Christ, or are you just frustrated? Transformed shows how the Holy Spirit helps us think in obedience so more Christlike behavior follows.
God with Us (2nd ed.):
Knowing the Mystery of Who Jesus Is by Danny Hyde
In God with Us, Daniel R. Hyde explores the historic, orthodox understanding of the person called Emmanuel—God with us. A clear and practical introduction to classical Christology.
A Practical Theology of Family Worship:
Richard Baxter’s Timeless Encouragement for Today’s Home by Jonathan Williams
Baxter’s belief in the importance of family worship meant every family in some Kidderminster streets upheld the practice. Williams examines Baxter’s methods and shows how they can work in churches today.
Bible Doctrine for Younger Children (2nd ed.)
James Beeke
Using over 150 stories and illustrations, educator James Beeke teaches children aged nine years and up how to live out the Christian faith. Suitable for homeschooling, church, or family use.
God’s Grace Shining through the Law
Joel R. Beeke (ed.)
Christians struggle to understand the relationship between God’s law and grace: neglecting law resulting in antinomianism or grace resulting in legalism. Instead, here’s how you can live in joyful obedience.
Rejuvenated Classics from RHB
Disease, Scarcity, and Famine:
A Reformation Perspective on God and Plagues by Ludwig Lavater (translated by Michael Hunter)
Outbreaks of disease and famine are nothing new. Ludwig Lavater, a leading pastor in sixteenth-century Zurich, explains the ultimate source of plagues and God’s purposes and promises during them.
The Shorter Writings of George Gillespie, volume 1
The first of a three-volume set that presents all Gillespie’s known shorter works, carefully edited from the most accurate texts – includes newly transcribed writings not included in 19th-century editions of his works.
The Pearl of Christian Comfort
Petrus Dathenus (Translated by Arie W. Blok)
Using a dialogue between a mature believer and a young Christian, Dathenus explains the relationship between faith and works in an experimental manner, typical of the early Dutch Further Reformation.
3 people will get a free set of all these books
Enter Here
Again, there are three sets to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below.
Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. When you enter, you opt-in to receive marketing emails from RHB. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes on Thursday 30th September 2021 at midnight.

The Ones Who Sow and the Ones Who Reap

Every Olympics provides us with a few special moments. While the great majority of the athletes and the great majority of their successes and failures quickly fade from our consciousness, a few special ones tend to stick around.

One moment from the 2020 Olympics that will remain in our minds, even if only because of the mountain of memes it generated, is an Australian swimming coach celebrating his athlete’s success. Ariarne Titmus has just narrowly edged out her American rival to claim a gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle. Her coach, Dean Boxall, is overwhelmed with the emotion of it. While Titmus celebrates in the pool, Boxall celebrates in the stands far above where he screams and pumps his fists. Oblivious to the cameras capturing every moment, he yells and gesticulates madly in joy and celebration. He is very nearly overcome.
And well he should be, for though he is not the one who swam the race or the one who will soon have a gold medal to hang around his neck, he still shares in the victory. And because he shares in the victory, he shares in its glory. His celebration displays his involvement, it exhibits the fact that Titmus would not have triumphed had it not been for the attention, commitment, and expertise of her coach. Though it will be her name that goes in the record books, the victory belongs to both of them.
And just so, God arranges life in this world so that rewards are dispensed not just to the conspicuous few, but to the unseen many. There may be one pastor in a church who will receive the Lord’s commendation for his many years of faithful service. But surely God will not overlook the deacons who served every bit as faithfully, albeit in different ways. Surely God will not forget their diligence in “serving tables” so that their pastor could be fully committed to his ministry of Word and prayer. Surely God will not overlook the pastor’s wife who so lovingly supported her husband with her prayers and blessings. Surely whatever reward he receives will be gladly and joyfully shared with the ones who enabled him to serve so well.
I think of an old author who labored for many years to provide the church with books that would provoke and challenge, that would teach precious, needed truths. Though he sat in solitude in his study day after day and year after year, he did not work alone, for he had a secretary who served as his right hand. Whatever results the Lord brought about through those books, surely she shared in them for the way she supported and enabled him. He could not have done it without her, so surely the results are hers as much as his.
I think of an old missionary who ventured to distant lands and founded a ministry that proved powerfully effective in reaching men and women for Christ. Yet the funds that supported him had come entirely from a small number of philanthropists. While this missionary has had his name recorded in the annals of history, and while he is the subject of many biographies, their names have long since been forgotten. But there is no doubt that as they stand together before the Throne, they share equally in the joy, in the triumph, in the victory of that ministry and all the good it brought about.
No great accomplishment, no great triumph, no great success in the history of the Christian church, or the history of your life or mine, can be attributed solely to the individual who receives the acclaim. Though some may go unrecognized here, they shall be commended by the one who sees and knows all things. The ones who sow shall rejoice as much as the ones who reap, the ones who supported as much as the ones who accomplished. Those who shared in the labor shall share in the results, and share in the reward.

A La Carte (September 24)

Good morning. May the Lord bless and keep you today.

Westminster Books has a couple of deals you should know about this week. The first is on the John Piper preaching bundle while the second is on a new children’s book.
There’s a nice collection of reference works in today’s list of Kindle deals.
Clinging to God and Grammar
Carl Trueman: “In times past, progressive politicians described those they despised as clinging to ‘God and guns.’ I suspect that we are not too far from a time when they will insult those they deplore for clinging to God and grammar. That might sound an odd claim, but the days are coming rapidly to an end when it was morally acceptable to think that language, among its many functions, had a positive relation to reality. Today, dictionaries and grammars look set to become relics of a bygone age of evil oppression.”
Ten Truths About a Liar
“Is Satan capable of inception? Does he whisper temptations in our ear? Is Satan’s authority, power, and relationship to unbelievers the same or different from Christians? These are all valid and, frankly, somewhat haunting questions. I am not left emotionally unmoved by the many destroyed marriages and ministries around me Satan has devoured. I trust your experience is comparable.”
The Influence Game
Janie B. Cheaney writes about some of the trappings of online fame.
What Lewis Had Wrong about Hell
Bob McKelvey writes about Lewis’ The Great Divorce and says that “What Lewis communicates about anthropology in these vignettes is unsurpassed. Sadly, what he conveys about theology proper is appalling.”
Smartphones and Fallen Natures
Doug Eaton: “There are so many benefits to today’s technology that it is hard to overestimate, but that does not mean there are no negative consequences involved, especially when we combine it with our sinful nature.”
Heart Medicine
Kristin shares another little anecdote from her childhood while drawing a lesson from it.
Flashback: How to Pray Like a Pastor
Personally, I pray for one of these traits each day, using the bullet points as a guide. Perhaps you will find it helpful to do something similar.

How sweet is rest, after fatigue! How sweet will Heaven be, when our toilsome journey is ended. —George Whitefield

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