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Posted 12/17/14 at 10:09 AM | Tim Challies

George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, You, and Me

Photo: Flickr/Courtney - Creative Commons

George Clooney loses sleep over bad reviews of his movies. Angelina Jolie is a “minimally talented spoiled brat.” Tom Hanks checks into hotels as Johnny Madrid. You know by now, I’m sure, that a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace hacked Sony’s computers, obtained a massive amount of private and internal data, and released it to the public. The media has had a field day sorting through it, digging up the dirt, and sending it out to an eager public.

The majority of this information is mundane, of course. But then there are the few pieces that are downright incendiary. I guess it is somehow entertaining to read about the foibles of the big stars and satisfying to see a massive corporation take a hit. But this hack should cause us all to pause and consider.

Sony’s nightmare proves one thing beyond any doubt: There is an imbalance between our ability to create digital information and our ability to protect it. We create digital data all day and every day. Every email, every Facebook update, every Tweet, every photo, every Google doc—it’s all out there, and it all remains out there. But there’s far more than that. Every Google search, every phone call, every Facebook profile search, every place you take your mobile phone, every purchase you make, every scan of your loyalty card—every bit of it is collected and stored somewhere. We trust that it is all stored safely. But what happens when it’s not? FULL POST

Posted 12/16/14 at 11:26 AM | Tim Challies

Moroni From the Realms of Glory

Photo: Pixabay - Public Domain

You’ve got to be careful what you share online. Over the weekend Facebook and Twitter were suddenly inundated with links to a new recording of the Christmas hymn “Angels From the Realms of Glory” mashed up with “Angels We Have Heard on High.” It was recorded by The Piano Guys and features David Archuleta, a one-time runner up on American Idol. It is a creative recording that intersperses shots of the musicians with video taken to record the world’s largest nativity scene. The song is beautifully sung and the music is rich; it is no surprise that it quickly gained over one million views. Well and good, right? Well, except for one thing: Its purpose is to separate you from Jesus Christ. FULL POST

Posted 12/15/14 at 8:52 AM | Tim Challies

If You Will Not Eat the Apples that Grow on Trees ...

Photo: Flickr/Darius Saulenas - Creative Commons

Whatever else we know about Charles Spurgeon, and whatever else we honor and respect in him, what always stands out to me is his unshakable confidence in the Bible. I recently came across two short quotes, both of which stand as eloquent proof of his love of God’s Word, and both of which stand as a challenge to me to imitate him in this regard.

There are some people who seem as if they would not be converted unless they can see some eminent minister. Even that will not suit some of them—they need a special revelation from Heaven. They will not take a text from the Bible—though I cannot conceive of anything better than that—but they think that if they could dream something, or if they could hear words spoken in the cool of the evening by some strange voice in the sky, then they might be converted. Well, Brothers and Sisters, if you will not eat the apples that grow on trees, you must not expect angels to come and bring them to you! FULL POST

Posted 12/11/14 at 8:55 AM | Tim Challies

When God Doesn't Zap Away Our Sin

Photo: Pixabay - Public Domain

God promises grace to battle sin and to overcome sin. We believe that God gives that kind of grace to his people. This is not something we deserve; it is not something he owes us, but he gives it anyway. It is undeserved, the overflow of his love for us.

And we long for that grace—the grace to put sin to death, the grace to bring righteousness to life, the grace to be who and what God calls us to be.

God gives that grace, but for some reason—his good reasons—it rarely comes in the form we would prefer. God gives it not in the form we want but in the form we need. We want God to zap away our sin, to instantly and permanently remove it. Those desires, those addictions, those idolatries—we want them to be lifted and to be gone that very moment.

God could do this. He has the strength and the power. And occasionally he does do this, he removes the sin and the temptation to sin in an instant, and it never comes back with the same strength and the same force. FULL POST

Posted 12/10/14 at 9:42 AM | Tim Challies

The Tragic Prevalence of Sexual Assault

Sexual asssault is all over the news today. Headlines in the United States tell of a long list of woman who have accused Bill Cosby of assault, and tell of college campuses where rape is shockingly common. Headlines in Canada tell of reporter Jiam Gomeshi and his ugly history of sexual violence. It is my sincere hope that these stories spark new and better discussions about the prevalence of sexual assault, how we can prevent it, and how we can respond to it.

Though the incidence of sexual assault is high, the rate of conviction is low. The majority of sexual assault goes unreported and the majority of those who commit sexual assault go unpunished. While the law needs to protect those who are unjustly accused, in cases of sexual assault it seems like the process of law can actually re-victimize the victims. And this helps explain why victims can be so hesitant to report the crime, and why accustations can take many years to come to light. The sin is awful and the aftermath can be excruciating. FULL POST

Posted 12/9/14 at 9:59 AM | Tim Challies

Book Review: Look and Live

I get a little nervous when I see an artist jump mediums. Not all artists make that transition from one medium to another—good authors have written awful songs and great songwriters have written really bad books. But Matt Papa has made it work. He has recorded some excellent songs (e.g. Come Behold The Wondrous Mystery) and has now also written a fantastic book. In Look and Live he wants you to behold the soul-thrilling, sin-destroying glory of Christ. Even better, he will help you do it.

The book begins with the assumption—the biblically safe assumption—that we are worshippers. The question is not if, but what we will worship. If it is really true that it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become an expert on anything, well, we all become expert worshippers at fourteen months of age. We were created to worship and we will worship. “As human beings we are plagued with inordinate affections. We love green pieces of paper more than God. We love balls made out of pigskin more than God. We’ve shown we even love apples more than God. We, like Esau, have traded our birthright—the dignity of our shameless, joy-filled, glory-beholding, glory-reflecting existence—for a bowl of beans.” FULL POST

Posted 12/8/14 at 9:31 AM | Tim Challies

We Rarely Spend Time Delighting In You

Photo: Pixabay - Public Domain

I continue to enjoy and benefit from Prone to Wander, a new book of prayers that was inspired by The Valley of Vision. This week I found a prayer meant to stir up delight in God, and to seek forgiveness for when we did not delight in him. Here it is.

Almighty Lord,

We find great delight in your creation and the good things you have given us to enjoy, but we rarely spend time delighting in you. We tend to enjoy you when you give us what we want, but we become anxious, fretful, and angry when life is hard and you seem unwilling to rescue us from uncomfortable or painful circumstances. We spend many days haunted by guilty fears over the sins that we have committed, forgetting the wounds that will forever scar the hands of your Son, and that plead forgiveness for us every moment of every day. We fail to bear grief and shame patiently, because we forget that you alone are our stronghold in times of trouble, and you are working all things together for our good. Father, forgive us. FULL POST

Posted 12/5/14 at 1:30 PM | Tim Challies

4 Questions To Ask Your Money

There are some subjects in the Christian world we probably talk about too much and some we may talk about too little. Over time, I think we swing back and forth, often overcorrecting. In my experience money has been one of those subjects we sometimes over-emphasize and at other times almost forget altogether.

I have benefited tremendously from frank, Bible-based discussions on how Christians are to use their money. I have modeled my use of money after people who spoke to me, or who wrote candidly, about their own use of money. As far as I can discern they did not do this in order to boast, but in order to lead and disciple. Their practical counsel has shaped my understanding of the right use of money at least as much as any sermons I’ve heard.

Someone once drew my attention to four questions to ask when I am about to make a purchase—any purchase. Looking back, I can see how much better I am at managing money when I keep questions like these in mind (which, I believe, were first posed by John Wesley). FULL POST

Posted 12/4/14 at 11:46 AM | Tim Challies

No, I Won’t Pray For You

It’s the easiest thing in the world to say: “Yes, I’ll pray about that.” And it’s the easiest thing to neglect. The list of all the things I’ve said I’d pray for but then forgotten about would stretch from here to next year. So I’ve started to say, “No, I won’t pray for you.” I am still not entirely comfortable with it, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

We recently had someone—a stranger—call the church to ask for prayer. She called out of the blue one morning, from a phone number far away. She said she was feeling sick and needed people to pray for her. Every day for the next six months. “Can I count on you to pray for me?”

For one of the first times in my life I felt total freedom. I said, “I am going to pray for you once, but I will not pray for you every day. I will not pray for you for six months.” I explained that I have my own church to care for, and that I need to pray for those people. I asked about her church and she told me where she attends. I recognized it as a good church, full of people who pray, and pastors who care. I explained that God expects her church to care for her, and her church to pray for her, and that calling all the churches in Toronto and asking them to heap up prayers for someone they don’t know may be little more than superstition. FULL POST

Posted 12/2/14 at 12:05 PM | Tim Challies

When Was the Last Time You Just Enjoyed Your Money?

I overheard an interesting discussion the other day. I was out-and-about and caught just a fragment of a discussion about money and the sheer joy of having it. I couldn’t eavesdrop for more than a few words, but that was enough to get my mind working. I thought about the way I use my money, and the way we, as Christians, use our money. And I want to ask you the question: When was the last time you just enjoyed your money?

It’s okay, you know. You are allowed to enjoy your money. Let’s think it through.

I firmly believe that every thing we have is actually God’s. We are not the owners of our money, but the stewards of God’s money. Most of us believe this and we try to live it. And there are many, many ways to faithfully steward God’s money.

We serve as faithful stewards when we live within our means. We serve as faithful stewards when we save for the days to come. We serve as faithful stewards when we focus on paying down debt. We serve as faithful stewards when we pay our bills and when we expend effort in attempting to reduce our bills. We serve as faithful stewards when we avoid all those deep-debt, high-interest, I-need-more-stuff ways to live. We serve as faithful stewards when we give generously to the Lord’s work, or help a friend in need. Ultimately, we serve as faithful stewards when we live with an awareness that money is a terrible god but a beautiful means of serving God. FULL POST

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