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Posted 7/28/14 at 9:22 AM | Tim Challies

When God Loves Me Too Much

card says love
Photo: Flickr/Jennifer Donley - Creative Commons

I saw it the other day. I saw that thing I want, that thing I am sure I need, that thing that holds the key to my happiness. With it I will be complete. Without it I will always be lacking.

And there it was, right before me. I saw it. I longed for it. I felt that longing, that desire, in my chest, or was it my stomach? Did my heart really skip a beat? There it was, so close, but it wasn’t mine. It was there, yet just out of reach.

In that very moment the thought flashed through my mind: If God really loved me, he would give it to me. God doesn’t love me enough to let me have it. And in the wake of the thought, a question: What can I do to make him love me enough? What can I do to make him love me enough to give it to me?

The insanity lasted all of a minute. Probably not even a minute. And then I knew. It’s not that God loves me too little to give it to me. He loves me too much. He loves me too much to give me that thing I am convinced I need. He loves me too much to give me something that will compete with him. He loves me too much to give me anything I may love more than I love him. FULL POST

Posted 7/27/14 at 9:45 AM | Tim Challies

Time Is Running Out

clock time
Photo: Flickr/kanonn - Creative Commons

Today I have the privilege of preaching, and preaching to many who do not yet know God. These words from Philip Ryken (drawn from his excellent commentary on Luke) have added urgency and motivation. Here he explains Luke 13:22-30, where Jesus explains that many will seek to enter and will not be able.

What terrible suffering there will be for everyone who gets shut out from God’s kingdom. To make sure we know what is at stake, Jesus speaks with perfect clarity: “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourself cast out” (Luke 13:28). Jesus was speaking plainly about the pains of hell. FULL POST

Posted 7/25/14 at 9:03 AM | Tim Challies

New & Notable Books (Late July)

Book cover for Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve received boxes of them and, in sorting through the pile, some have risen to the top.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Second Edition) by Donald Whitney. Whitney’s book was the first I read on the spiritual disciplines and one that was very helpful in my life. I’m very glad to see it (finally!) in a second edition. The publisher says, “Drawn from a rich heritage, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will guide you through a carefully selected array of disciplines. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to become more like Christ and grow in character and maturity. Now updated and revised to equip a new generation of readers, this anniversary edition features in-depth discussions on each of the key disciplines.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon) FULL POST

Posted 7/24/14 at 10:07 AM | Tim Challies

No Wonder We Hate to Buy Cars

Photo: Flickr/Automotive Social - Creative Commons

A recent headline proclaimed that buying a car ranks among most people’s least favorite activity. Many would rather suffer pain or be deprived of a favorite pleasure than to have to endure the car lot and the car salesman. Recently, inevitably, it was my turn to face the pain. With our old minivan ailing and a long roadtrip looming, I had little choice in the matter. I had procrastinated as long as I could.

Now there are various strategies involved in buying cars. Some people only buy really, really used cars and drive them until they can wring out the last little vestige of value. Then they rub out the VIN, drive it into a lake, and start over. Not surprisingly, these people tend to be pretty handy, and comfortable under a hood. Other people buy only new cars, drive them until the new car smell has faded, and then swap them for something newer. As you would expect, these people tend to be pretty comfortable with their checkbook. FULL POST

Posted 7/23/14 at 9:34 AM | Tim Challies

Jesus Repulses, Jesus Draws

Photo: Flickr/Sam Michel - Creative Commons
"Jesus sends that horde of demons into a herd of pigs which immediately rushes into the sea and drowns."

I think we all love the story of the Garasene Demonaic, don’t we? It is the story of a poor, pathetic, hopeless, demon-oppressed man and his life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. And there is something in the story I find particularly fascinating.

Though at one time in his life this man had been a normal person with a normal life, at some point demons had begun to oppress him. Maybe he was a young man still living in his parents’ home when something about him began to change. Over time his parents and family saw him start to exhibit erratic and downright scary behavior. Or maybe he was a married man and it was his wife who first began to notice that strange behavior. He began to act in ways that were out of character. He began to cry out in weird ways. Though he used to love his kids and cuddle them and tell them stories and play with them, over time he became distant, then even dangerous. Soon she had to protect the kids from their own father. FULL POST

Posted 7/22/14 at 9:29 AM | Tim Challies

Books I Loved Reading on Vacation

After almost two weeks of vacation, I am back in my own home in my own town. We had a great time and, as usual, some of my favorite times were spent reading. When I go on vacation, I tend to focus on light reading and books a little bit outside my normal reading diet. Here are the ones I liked best:

Book cover of On Writing Well

On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Considering the amount of my time I spend writing, I have invested far too little time in reading books on the craft of writing. Zinsser’s is brilliant, though you will have to be willing to overlook his left-leaning ideologies (It’s time to get over George W. Bush!). Now in it’s 30th anniversary edition, On Writing Well contains hundreds of helpful lessons on being a better writer. I plan to return to it regularly.

Evernote Essentials by Brett Kelly & Master Evernote by S.J. Scott. I am a committed Evernote user and use it with near-religious fervor to organize and archive much of the information I encounter and wish to retain. To improve my use of Evernote I read two books and found them both helpful. Master Evernote is well worth the $2.99 investment; Evernote Essentials is a bit more of a stretch at $12.99 but still reasonable value. The books are helpfully contradictory at certain points (e.g. Tag everything and don’t rely on notebooks versus rely on notebooks and don’t tag everything) which shows the freedom each of us has to make Evernote conform to our preferences. Both books conclude with helpful tips and suggestions on how to use Evernote well. FULL POST

Posted 7/21/14 at 9:36 AM | Tim Challies

7 Different Ways to Read a Book

love of reading
Photo: Kate Ter Haar - Creative Commons

Reading is kind of like repairing a bicycle. Kind of. For too long now my bike has been semi-operational. It has one brake that just doesn’t want to behave and all my attempts to fix it have failed. Why? Well it turns out that I haven’t been using the right tool. To get the bike working I need to use the right tool. And when it comes to reading, well, you’ve got to use the right tool—you’ve got to know what kind of reading to do. Here are seven different kinds of reading.

Studying. Studying is reading at its best, I think, but reading that can and should be done with only the choicest books. Life is too short and there are simply too many books to invest a great deal of time in every one of them. And this is where so many readers go wrong—they spend too much time and invest too much effort in books that simply don’t deserve it. When you study a book, you labor over it, you read it with highlighter in hand, you flip back and forth, you try to learn absolutely everything the book offers. Only the smallest percentage of books are worthy of this level of investment, so choose carefully which books you study. (Suggestions: Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen or The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul) FULL POST

Posted 7/20/14 at 11:36 AM | Tim Challies |

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The Glory of Christ

Book cover for The Glory of Christ

In R.C. Sproul’s book The Glory of Christ, he focuses on the moments of great glory in the life of Christ—a life marked by so much that was inglorious and not at all befitting the King of Glory.

A crucial aspect of Jesus’ humiliation was the hiddenness of His glory. His identity was often concealed. We hear the protests from the wounded egos of famous people when they are not recognized. They complain, “Don’t you know who I am?” It is humiliating to them to go unrecognized. Because people do not recognize them, they feel treated beneath their dignity. If any human being was ever subjected to such repeated indignities during His life, it was Jesus. During His earthly ministry the ones who most often and most clearly recognized Him were the demons from hell.

Some time ago I read the book and wanted to share some of my favorite quotes:

Every human being longs for a savior of some type. We look for someone or something that will solve our problems, ease our pain, or grant the most elusive goal of all, happiness. From the pursuit of success in business to the discovery of a perfect mate or friend, we make our search. FULL POST

Posted 7/17/14 at 9:44 AM | Tim Challies

Behavior Both Odd and Ugly

All sinners welcome
Photo: Abecedarian Gallery - Creative Commons

I am a sinner. And as a sinner I exhibit all kinds of behaviors both odd and ugly. The more I come to know myself, the more I see the ways in which I am a product of my sin, in which I view the world through the lens of my sin. When I look outward, and when I look at others, I see them through sinful eyes and interpret them through a sinful mind. As I do that, I fall into the trap of sin projection.

Sin projection is when I project my sin upon others, assuming that they are prone to the very same sin and, therefore, falling into it as much as I am. I am not the only one who does this, either.

The adulterous husband wonders if his wife is committing adultery. The lying child assumes that he has been lied to by his teacher. The angry mother is quick to accuse her children of being angry toward her. The power-obsessed pastor believes the associate pastor is maneuvering to displace him. The young man with the lustful eye has trouble trusting that his girlfriend’s eyes are not equally prone to wander. The thief can’t trust others because he assumes they will steal from him just as he will steal from them. The envious musician assumes that others are being competitive toward him. FULL POST

Posted 7/15/14 at 9:57 AM | Tim Challies

Samson and the Pirate Monks

book cover of Samson and the pirate monks

It starts like this: “My name is Nate, but you can call me Samson. That’s the code name my friends have given me, and for reasons you’ll eventually understand, I’ve given the same symbolic name to each of them. We are the Samson Society.” It’s an intriguing start to the book Samson and the Pirate Monks and I, for one, wanted to know more.

Nate Larkin is founder of the Samson Society, a group for men who are looking for male friendship, (dare I say it?) accountability, and authentic brotherhood. It is a group for men who have tried to do the Christian life on their own and have found it impossible. It is a group that anyone can begin, without cost, without contracts, without hassle.

I have long observed that men tend to do pretty poorly with friendship. I don’t know if we are really bad at friendship or if most of us have just never given it a fair try. In either case, I think it’s clear that too few men have genuinely significant friendships. FULL POST

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