This week’s Free Stuff Friday is sponsored by Ligonier Ministries, who also sponsored the blog this week.
The Protestant Reformers boldly declared that salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Together, these “alone” statements are called the five solas of the Reformation. Ligonier Ministries is offering a free new ebook from Gabe Fluhrer: The Beauty of Divine Grace. This introduction to the five solas is available for all Challies readers to download for free, and ten Free Friday winners will receive the hardcover edition.
Learn more about the book here.
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By Tim Challies — 4 weeks ago
As another week drew to a close, I found myself pondering beauty and wanting to reflect on some of the beautiful things I had encountered in the previous 7 days. Here are the ones that came to mind.
1. “Still” by Steven Curtis Chapman. I have been impacted by Steven Curtis Chapman’s music at different points in life, and most recently by his new song “Still.”
You led me high up the mountain to showed me the viewAnd said “Wherever this journey takes youJust trust me, I’m already there”I had no way of knowin’ thenJust how hard the rain would fall and how fierce would be the windIt’s been beautiful and terrible, more painful, more wonderfulThan I ever could have known, but even soStill, I’m gonna singAbout the One who’s given life to me…
2. This shirt from Westminster Books:
3. Basics Conference. People often ask me what one conference I would most recommend. For pastors, at least, I would almost always say Basics (which is hosted by Alistair Begg at Parkside Church in Chagrin Falls, Ohio). It is a great mix of plenary teaching, breakouts, and meals, all at a relatively relaxed pace. They cap attendance so it also has a smaller feel than some of the events that are otherwise similar. Registration has just opened and will almost certainly sell out.
4. Handel’s Messiah. I used to make an annual pilgrimage to Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall to take in a performance of Handel’s Messiah. A couple of years ago, during the pandemic, they chose to create and perform a new and updated version that featured transgender soloists, a gay male baritone (who performed in stilettos while standing on a rainbow) and updated lyrics such as “She was a woman of sorrows, acquainted with grief.” It was horrific (and, thankfully, only shown online). Since then I have been gun-shy and haven’t returned. But I do still listen to many of the best performances through Apple Music and watch them through YouTube, especially this time of year. Messiah gets more wondrous and more beautiful with every passing year.
5. Love. As we passed the second anniversary of Nick’s death, we found the day easier than we may have expected. As we talked about it later we concluded that it may have been because we felt so well-loved. So many people reached out to express their love and care for us and that was a tremendous encouragement to us. I’m so thankful for love—love expressed from family members, friends, and even strangers. It’s a beautiful thing to be loved.
6. iPad Pro. I try to stick with a three-year plan in which I update my phone and iPad (which is all I take when I travel—I don’t use a laptop) every three years. This was my year to swap out my old iPad for a new one. Doing this every three years (which is relatively seldom by today’s standards) means that every new device is a big leap over the last one. And that was true this year. Even after all these years, I’ve never lost the wonder of the power of these devices we tend to take for granted.
7. Fall colors. I know I mentioned this last time, but the colors were particularly beautiful this year and lasted an unusually long time. Or maybe it just chose to notice them this year—we can be like that, can’t we? Along the way Michaela’s photography class had a little contest to see who could take the best fall photo. She snapped a neat little photo that was eventually selected as the winner. Here it is:
By Tim Challies — 5 months ago
We have a natural tendency to attempt to understand what we don’t know by extrapolating from what we do. This works well in much of life, but not so much when it comes to theology, for God comes before comparisons and supersedes them all. When it comes to Christ, he is more unlike than like what we know. This quote from the old preacher De Witt Talmage celebrates how Christ was “the great unlike.”
All good men have for centuries been trying to tell whom this Substitute was like, but every comparison, inspired and uninspired, evangelistic, prophetic, apostolic, and human falls short, for Christ was the Great Unlike.
Adam a type of Christ, because he came directly from God;
Noah a type of Christ, because he delivered his own family from the deluge;
Melchizedek a type of Christ, because he had no predecessor or successor;
Joseph a type of Christ, because he was cast out by his brethren;
Moses a type of Christ, because he was a deliverer from bondage;
Joshua a type of Christ, because he was a conqueror;
Samson a type of Christ, because of his strength to slay the lions and carry off the iron gates of impossibility;
Solomon a type of Christ, in the affluence of his dominion;
Jonah a type of Christ, because of the stormy sea in which he threw himself for the rescue of others.
But put together Adam and Noah and Melchizedek and Joseph and Moses and Joshua and Samson and Solomon and Jonah, and they would not make a fragment of a Christ, a quarter of a Christ, the half of a Christ, or the millionth part of a Christ.
He forsook a throne and sat down on His own footstool. He came from the top of glory to the bottom of humiliation, and exchanged a circumference seraphic, for a circumference diabolic. Once waited on by angels, now hissed at by brigands.
From afar and high up He came down; a-past meteors, swifter than they; by starry thrones, Himself more lustrous; past larger worlds to smaller worlds; downstairs of firmaments, and from cloud to cloud, and through the treetops and into the camel’s stall, to thrust His shoulder under our burdens and take the lances of pain through His vitals, and to wrap Himself in all the agonies which we deserve for our misdoings, and stood on the splitting decks of a foundering vessel, amid the drenching surf of the sea, and passed midnights on the mountains amid wild beasts of prey, and stood at the point where all earthly and infernal hostilities charged on Him at once with their keen sabres—our Substitute!
By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
If you could go back in time and insert yourself into any point in history, even if only to be a proverbial fly on the wall, what would you choose? What moment would you wish to observe, or what event would you wish to witness? Would you want to watch God create the world? Would you want to see Elijah perform miracles, David compose psalms, shepherds hear tidings of great joy? As for me, I would have to think long and hard, but in the end I might just choose to observe Jesus and his disciples in the upper room.
It was in the upper room that Jesus celebrated his final Passover, that he washed the feet of his disciples, that he predicted his betrayal, that he gave his new commandment, that he foretold Peter’s denial, that he declared himself the way, the truth, and the life, that he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, that he prayed a long intercessory prayer for his disciples and for his followers through the ages. Each of these was a sacred moment, each packed with the utmost significance. And each took place in one little room and in one short period of time.
Jesus’ time in the upper room has become known as his Farewell Discourse and it is the subject of Sinclair Ferguson’s new book Lessons from the Upper Room. The book’s subtitle, “The Heart of the Savior,” is significant, for it is in this address that Jesus so wonderfully and clearly reveals his heart. He reveals himself as having a heart that longs to obey his Father and a heart that longs to serve the ones who are loved by his Father. He reveals himself as a Savior who is humble and kind, submitted and steadfast.
While Lessons from the Upper Room is an exposition of John 13-17, it is by no means a dry or academic work. To the contrary, it is devotional and applicable. It did, after all, begin as a series of lessons for laypersons—a teaching series distributed through Ligonier Ministries. Ferguson says he intends it to function somewhat like the “audio description” function on a television—a function that provides a running commentary on what is happening on the screen for the benefit of those who are visually impaired. “I hope there will be moments in reading these pages when readers will feel—as I have in writing them—that they are ‘there’ in the upper room itself, meeting with Christ, watching Him, and listening to Him teach and pray.”
And, indeed, this is exactly the case. Ferguson is a skilled expositor and one who is clearly captivated with his subject matter. He loves the Farewell Discourse and the Savior it so wonderfully reveals. He draws the reader into the events unfolding and the words being spoken, and is always careful not to leap too quickly from the upper room into our own living rooms, from past events to present application. That application comes, but always on the basis of sound interpretation. It’s a powerful package.
Ferguson uses the metaphor of a television’s “audio description” function to describe his book, but I might use the metaphor of a tour guide. Over the course of my life and through my many travels, I have taken a host of tours of locations of special interest and special importance. In Lessons from the Upper Room, he serves as a kind of tour guide who describes what has happened in this room, what it meant at the time, and what it continues to mean today. He offers a guided tour of one of the most significant evenings in human history and tells how and why it matters to you and to me and to the course of events in this world. It’s my strong recommendation that you take the tour.
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