Posted 5/17/13 at 10:08 AM | Tim Challies |
Last night my wife and I sat and did a rough tally of the number of couples we have known as they have gone through dating and engagement. It's a pretty good number of friends, family, and fellow church members. Then we thought about how many of them maintained healthy and God-glorifying physical boundaries and how many had confessed that they had not. The numbers were suddenly not looking nearly so good. This is one of those areas where contemporary Christians so often do very poorly and this is exactly why there have been so many recent books on dating, courtship, purity and all the rest. Christians are failing and desperately looking for a better way.
It has been some time since I have read a book on dating and relationships, probably because it has been some time since the subject has seemed urgent to me. But recently a local pastor told me that as he pastors young adults toward marriage, he has been helped by Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas. I decided to check it out and I am glad I did so. FULL POST
Posted 5/16/13 at 10:26 AM | Tim Challies |
Everyone has had to ask or answer the question at one time or another: When it comes to the physical component of a dating relationship, how far is too far? Can we hold hands? Can we kiss? Can we do a little bit more than kiss? Should we even explore the physical relationship a little bit to ensure we are compatible?
I am accustomed to giving the easy answer: "It's not about how far can we go, but how holy we can be. You are asking all the wrong questions!" That may make me feel smart and a little bit godly, but it's not exactly a satisfying or helpful answer.
In their book Sex, Dating, and Relationships: A Fresh Approach, Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas offer an answer. They are aware of the long history of legalistic answers and the many slippery slope or fear-based approaches that have more to do with avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies than pursuing holiness. They do not want to create a new law, but draw out an implication of the deepest meaning of marriage. They are convinced that the Bible offers us exactly the answer we are looking for. How far is too far? "Contrary to popular opinion, the Bible does speak with clarity--objective clarity--about what is physically appropriate between an unmarried man and woman in a pre-marriage relationship." FULL POST
Posted 5/15/13 at 11:35 AM | Tim Challies
God spoke to me on Sunday morning. It was clear. It was undeniable. God spoke to me in a moment of need, he brought me a word of comfort, and gave me exactly the message I needed to hear.
Preaching a sermon is one of the most difficult things I do. It is a good kind of difficult, the kind that pushes me into areas I would otherwise avoid. There is even a part of me that loves to preach and I am so grateful that my church allows and even asks me to do it. But even while I believe in preaching and while I believe that I am called to do it on occasion, it doesn’t get a whole lot easier with time.
The process of preparing a sermon is right in my wheelhouse; I love to sit at a desk with an open Bible, with reference books, and with an open word processor. I love the process of studying, understanding, interpreting, writing, editing, sharpening, applying, illustrating and everything else that goes into preparing a sermon. This fits who I am--just one man alone with his books. It is not always a simple or straightforward process, but it is very comfortable.
But delivering a sermon, preaching it, is everything I'm not. The preacher is the guy who stands front and center; my natural tendency is to be in the back corner. The preacher proclaims with a loud voice; I prefer a quieter tone. The preacher has every eye upon him; I am glad to have every eye turned away. Whoever I am at my most comfortable is everything preaching takes away. Preaching is me contorted out of my natural posture, stretched to my most unnatural state. FULL POST
Posted 5/15/13 at 11:17 AM | Tim Challies
I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books and I like to provide regular roundups of some of the best and brightest of the bunch. Of all the books I have received recently, here are the ones that appear most noteworthy.
Glimpses of Grace by Gloria Furman. I count Gloria as a friend, having invited myself to take advantage of her (and her husband's) hospitality when I was in Dubai last year. I am really excited to see her first book in print. "Sometimes life feels a lot like a burden--day-in and day-out it's the same chores and tasks, challenges and discouragements, anxieties and responsibilities. Dust bunnies show up on the stairwell, social commitments clutter the calendar, and our families demand daily attention and care. At times, just catching our breath seems like an impossible feat. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a working woman splitting time between the office and home, Gloria Furman--writer, pastor's wife, cross-cultural worker, and mom--encourages us to see the reality of God's grace in all of life, especially those areas that often appear to be boring and unimportant. Using personal examples and insightful stories, her richly theological reflections help us experience the gospel's extraordinary power to transform our ordinary lives." Aileen and I read this book in pre-publication and were glad to write an endorsement for it. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books). FULL POST
Posted 5/14/13 at 11:12 AM | Tim Challies
There are some books on preaching that are meant for preachers. These are books that teach the nuts and bolts of preaching, that are full of practical tips and illustration. There is a place for such works. There are other books on preaching that are meant for all Christians. These are books that describe the power and priority of preaching in the Christian church and in the Christian life. Steven Lawson's The Kind of Preaching God Blesses falls squarely in the second category. This is a book for all of us whether we preach weekly, preach occasionally or never preach at all.
The book has an interesting story behind it. In May of 2011, Lawson was to speak at the annual Pastors' Conference at Moody Bible Institute. He decided to do an exposition of 1 Corinthians 2:1-9 and titled it "The Kind of Preaching God Blesses." That message resounded with the men who attended the conference and Lawson himself experienced an unusually tangible sense of the Lord's assistance and pleasure in preaching it. He carried that message with him to Russia, to California and Orlando, and when he preached it, the Lord stirred his people. After all, every Christian knows, or ought to know, that "as the pulpit goes, so goes the church. Never has this been more true than it is in this present hour. The fact remains, no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. The spiritual life of any congregation and its growth in grace will never exceed the high-water mark set by its pulpit." That message is at the very heart of this book. FULL POST
Posted 5/14/13 at 9:38 AM | Tim Challies
Series Introduction: I live in a small house. I work in a small office in a small church. For those reasons and others I will never have a huge library. When I add a book I almost always remove a book, a practice that allows me to focus on quality over quantity. Over the past couple of years I have focused on building a collection of commentaries that will include only the best volumes on each book of the Bible. I know when I'm in way over my head, so before I began I collected every good resource I could find that rated and reviewed commentaries. I studied them and then began my collection on the basis of what the experts told me. Since I did all of that work, and since I continue to keep up with the project, I thought it might be helpful to share the recommendations.
My focus is on newer commentaries (at least in part because most of the classics are now freely or cheaply available) and I am offering approximately 5 recommendations for each book of the Bible, alternating between the Old Testament and the New. Today I have turned to the experts to find what they say about 1 Corinthians.
Anthony Thiselton - The First Epistle to the Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary). The clear consensus for the top commentary on 1 Corinthians is Anthony Thiselton’s volume in the NIGTC. This is a series for academics, so it will prove difficult for the casual reader. Carson says it is “well written, accessible (for readers of this sort of series!), and penetrating” and praises it for both detailed exegesis and for tracing lines of interpretation from the Church Fathers to the present. (Amazon, Westminster Books) FULL POST
Posted 5/13/13 at 11:05 AM | Tim Challies |
I have said it often and said it recently, that prayer has always been a struggle for me. It's not that I don't pray--I do!--but that I find it a battle to put my theology into action day-by-day and to live out my deepest convictions about prayer by actually praying. I experience little of the joy and sense of fulfillment that so many of the great pray-ers speak of. As often as not, I have to rely on the objective facts of what I believe about prayer more than any subjective feeling or sense of satisfaction.
Last week I received a jolt when I read H.B. Charles Jr.'s It Happens After Prayer. If I can read a whole book and hang on to one big application or one big challenge, I consider it a book that has been well worth the time I've invested in it. There were several helpful takeaways from Charles' book, but the one I expect to stick with me is this: "The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own." On one level it's an obvious insight, but then again, the best insights usually are. I should have known it, and, in fact, I think I did know it. But I needed it clearly spelled out to me at this time in my life. FULL POST
Posted 5/13/13 at 10:30 AM | Tim Challies
Just As I Am” is one of the few hymns for which we know not only the author’s story but also the exact circumstances in which it was written. Charlotte Elliott of Brighton, England (1789-1871) was either born, or in early life had become, an invalid. Her life was a testimony to patient endurance in suffering, not only physical, but also emotional and spiritual. This was the context in which she wrote the hymn, as her nephew the Rev. Handley C. G. Moule recounted it in 1897:
But ill health still beset her … it often caused her the peculiar pain of a seeming uselessness in her life while the circle around her was full of unresting service-ableness for God. Such a time of trial marked the year 1834, when she was forty-five years old, and living in Westfield Lodge, Brighton… .
Her brother, the Rev. H. V. Elliott, had not long before conceived the plan of St. Mary’s Hall, at Brighton -- a school designed to give, at nominal cost, a high education to the daughters of clergymen… . In aid of St. Mary’s Hall there was to be held a bazaar … Westfield Lodge was all astir; every member of the large circle was occupied morning and night in the preparations, with the one exception of the ailing sister Charlotte -- as full of eager interest as any of them, but physically fit for nothing. FULL POST
Posted 5/10/13 at 11:38 AM | Tim Challies |
Not every idea becomes a book. Not even every good idea becomes a book. Between the author and the bookstore stand agents, editors and publication committees tasked with deciding on the few books worthy of time, effort, advances and marketing dollars. I have had far more ideas rejected than accepted. Books on simplicity, the environment, evangelism, pornography and probably many more besides have received the trademark “Thanks, but no thanks.” There is one that haunts me: Ordinary: Christian Living for the Rest of Us.
Yesterday I did some maintenance in Evernote, an application I use to store ideas. I came across the files for Ordinary and my finger hovered over the “delete” button for a moment. It was tempting, but something compelled me instead to open my word processor and begin to write. I couldn’t kill the idea because it is just too near to me. It has been on my mind for three years, at least, and in the back of my mind for far longer than that.
I believe there is an intangible kind of value in living a book before writing a book. The best books are the ones that flow not out of theory but out of experience. Better still are the ones that combine proven theory with actual experience, the ones the author writes in that sweet spot, that point of overlap between the two. Theory is easy to come by; experience is hard won. Theory comes quickly—you need only read a book or two; experience comes only with the slow march of the time that challenges and so often obliterates the theory. I can almost always tell a book that is all theory and no experience. It is a book of head instead of heart, law instead of grace, impossibility instead of practicality. FULL POST
Posted 5/9/13 at 10:23 AM | Tim Challies |
The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin contains a copy of what many people consider the most valuable book in the world. The Gutenberg Bible is not only the oldest surviving book to be printed using moveable type, but also the first complete book to be produced with that technology. The volume in the University of Texas is one of only 20 complete copies to survive. Though its value is merely speculative as it has been almost 40 years since a copy was last sold, there is no doubt that if it were put on the market today, it would shatter all existing records. (The edition at the Harry Ransom Center was purchased in 1978 for $2,400,000.) As we survey the history of Christianity in 25 historical objects, Gutenberg’s Bible represents his great contribution to history in the movable type printing press.
Johannes Gutenberg is one of those rare individuals whose invention literally changed the world. When A&E closed out the second millennium with their list of the 100 most influential people of the millennium, few were surprised to see Gutenberg's name at the very top, above Newton, Darwin, Columbus, Marx and so many other notables. FULL POST