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Posted 8/29/14 at 9:41 AM | Tim Challies |

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The Lost Virtue of Self-Control

Good habits or bad habits
Photo: Flickr/The People Speak! - Creative Commons

There are two different lives I lead. Two different kinds of life. There is the life I love, but that is so difficult to maintain, and there is the life I hate, but am so often tempted toward. The first is a life of discipline and self-control, while the second is a life of disorganization and instability. I love the first life, but am constantly sliding toward the second.

The Bible commends self-control and discipline. We are told that self-control is fruit of the Spirit, an imprint of God’s presence in our lives. We are told to discipline and train ourselves to godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), to labor for habits and patterns that will drive us toward holy thoughts, holy desires, and holy lives.

I consider self-control a lost virtue, a quality we too easily ignore. I think we can be uncomfortable with the very idea of self-control because we love to emphasize grace. Somehow grace seems to equate with freedom from structure, with freedom from rigidity. We revel in the freedom of the gospel, not realizing that the gospel doesn’t free us from self-control, but to self-control. Because we are no longer counting on our habits and patterns to discipline us toward salvation, we can joyfully mobilize them to discipline us toward sanctification. FULL POST

Posted 8/28/14 at 8:57 AM | Tim Challies |

1 comment

Let's Learn to Overcome Sin and Temptation

I hate sin. Sin is destructive. Sin is insane. Sin is maddening. Sin is just plain stupid. Yet sin is also so alluring, so tempting, and always so close at hand. Even while we fight sin, sin fights us.

There are many strategies to identify and destroy sin, and one of the best is to read great books on the subject. There is no better book than John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin (or Overcoming Sin and Temptation). I plan to begin reading it next week and would love you to read it with me—and hundreds of other people—in a program I call “Reading Classics Together.”

Will you read it with me?

Here is how the program works: Each week we will read one chapter. Then, on Thursdays (beginning next week—September 4), visit my site and I will have an article on that chapter along with a place for you to add your comments or a place for you to link to your own blog (or Facebook or any other place you have been discussing it). The idea is to read the book together, so we can benefit from one another’s insights and have mutual accountability as we press on in our reading.

How do you participate? Simply by getting a copy of the book and reading along. You don’t need to register, you don’t need to comment, you don’t need to do anything other than read one chapter per week. FULL POST

Posted 8/27/14 at 11:38 AM | Tim Challies

Kindle + Evernote = ♥

As time goes on, I find myself doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, and taking advantage of its super-simple ability to make notes and highlights. At the same time, I find myself relying on Evernote to help me retain and organize information. Books hold the information I want to know while Evernote holds the information I want to retain. When I put the two of them together, I get a powerful system to record and remember what I have read. Let me share a simple technique to quickly and easily get every one of your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote.

Install Evernote Web Clipper

Before you do anything else, visit Evernote and install their Web Clipper browser extension, available for all major browsers.

Visit kindle.amazon.com

Once you have installed the Web Clipper, you are ready to track down your notes and highlights. Visit http://kindle.amazon.com and sign in using your Amazon username and password: FULL POST

Posted 8/26/14 at 9:15 AM | Tim Challies

The Power of Habit

Book cover of The Power of Habit

Habits are tricky things. We are more than our habits, but certainly not less. We live so much of our lives according to our habits, but still remain responsible for what we do and what we do not do. Some habits emerge without any thought and through mindless, repetitive actions, while others are formed only through deliberate effort. As Christians we work to build godly habits and put aside ungodly habits, but learn not to depend on habits for our salvation or lean too heavily upon them for sanctification.

Habits are the subject of the bestselling The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. It is a fascinating book, and especially so when it focuses in on the habits that make our lives what they are.

We are creatures of habit, and I have to assume that God designed us this way. He designed us so we form neurological pathways that condition us to do certain things in a kind of routine. “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.” FULL POST

Posted 8/25/14 at 9:35 AM | Tim Challies |

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The 10 Greatest Hymns of All-Time

Photo: Flickr/khrawlings/cropped - Creative Commons

As English-speaking Christians, we have a vast array of hymns available to us, and we each have our list of favorites. In my assessment, the best hymns are those that are universal and timeless, speaking to all Christians in all times, places, and situations. They are firmly grounded in Scripture and drawn out of, or toward, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And they are inevitably coupled to a great melody.

Here are my picks for the ten greatest hymns of all-time. Apart from the first, they are in no particular order.

And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley. I begin with what I consider the greatest hymn by the greatest hymn-writer. Wesley’s “And Can It Be?” simply delights in the goodness of God while marveling and his saving grace. It captures every Christian’s experience of wandering, of beholding Christ, of rejoicing in his salvation, and of the great hope of entering his presence at last. “No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach th’eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ my own.” FULL POST

Posted 8/24/14 at 8:23 AM | Tim Challies

Faith Hacking: Individually Shepherding Your Children

Photo: Flickr/Savio Sebastian - Creative Commons
Bible open to Psalm 63

I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership and then a way to organize prayer. Today I am shifting to parenting.

I think every parent struggles with adequately shepherding his or her children, and especially shepherding them individually. It is easy enough to implement family worship, but what about each child’s specific concerns or needs? By the time we have taken care of every other responsibility in life, the hearts of our children can too easily become an afterthought. FULL POST

Posted 8/22/14 at 10:10 AM | Tim Challies

Faith Hacking: A Simple Method to Organize Your Prayers

I love to discover what I call “faith hacks”—practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways. I recently shared an ultra-practical way to display servant leadership. Today I am shifting to prayer.

The Bible tells us not only that we can pray, but that we should and must pray. Prayer is one of the great responsibilities and the great privileges of being a Christian. Yet prayer is also difficult. It is difficult to pray effectively and it is difficult to pray systematically.

Christians have created many patterns and systems to help them as they pray. One of my favorites is John Piper’s model of praying in concentric circles. In a January, 2000 sermon on Paul’s call to prayer in Colossians 4:2 he gave a description of how he organizes his prayers. FULL POST

Posted 8/21/14 at 9:11 AM | Tim Challies

A Resource for Discussing Abortion

A little while ago I shared an article titled Abortion: Making the Case. This was a simple way to structure a discussion on abortion while anticipating common responses and objections. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach on abortion and I prepared a slideshow to go with my presentation. I am sharing that slideshow today in case you can benefit from it. It works just fine as a standalone—you can simply click through the slides and read them in order. I have also included the file in Keynote, Powerpoint, and PDF formats if you would like to download it and use it in any other setting.

You are free to download and adapt them for your own purposes. Note: The slideshow uses the font Museo Slab. It is available as a free download.

Posted 8/20/14 at 9:09 AM | Tim Challies

My Favorite Blogs by and for Women

Photo: Pixabay - Public Domain

It is a question I have received a number of times lately: Can you suggest some blogs written specifically for women? As it happens, I follow quite a few blogs written by (and often for) women. I am going to share a list of them today, knowing that I have undoubtedly forgotten some very good ones and owe a few apologies! So please accept this as an incomplete list.

Aimee Byrd. Aimee goes by Housewife Theologian and writes both here and at Reformation21. I enjoy her writing for its depth and its emphasis on spiritual discernment.

Charlene Nelson. Charlene writes articles and poetry and often focuses on theological topics. FULL POST

Posted 8/19/14 at 9:37 AM | Tim Challies

The Last Lion

Book cover of The Last Lion

Well, at least I won’t go to the grave having accomplished nothing. After more than 130 hours of listening, I finally came to the end of William Manchester’s incredible three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (As you may know, Manchester grew ill and died before completing the third volume, leaving it in the capable hands of Paul Reid). It is a stunning achievement—over 3,000 pages of reading or 130 hours of audio, all focused on just one man. Few men merit such attention. Churchill practically demands it.

A couple of years ago I set out to read a biography of each one of the American presidents, a long-term reading project that is progressing quite well and will probably take ten or more years to complete. I found myself reading biographies of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Truman and realized that each of their lives intersected that of Winston Churchill; it seemed only right, then, that I would pause and cross the Atlantic for a time. I am so glad I did. (With my brain working the way it does, I paused after the second volume on Churchill to cross the channel and brush up on Hitler.) FULL POST

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