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Posted 10/29/14 at 9:30 AM | Tim Challies

The Most Underwhelmingly Astounding Fact

For millennia, human beings have looked to the night skies and grappled with their own insignificance. It is difficult to feel big and important when looking at thousands and millions of stars stretching far beyond our gaze and far beyond our comprehension. King David’s experience is one most of us have shared.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
(Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

The Bible tells us that the splendor and magnitude of the universe is meant to force us to acknowledge the existence of a Creator and to force us to acknowledge his infinite power. We, too, are meant to echo David: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Famous astrophysicist Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has dedicated much of his life to looking to the skies, but has found a way to feel big. He was once asked by a reader of TIME magazine, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” Here is his answer: FULL POST

Posted 10/28/14 at 9:02 AM | Tim Challies

How to Get Things Done: Information Management

Today I am continuing my series on productivity, and I am going to start with a short recap. I began the series by explaining what productivity is and why it matters [Part 1], then had you look at your life from a high-level perspective so you could divide it into areas of responsibility [Part 2]. Once you defined those areas of responsibility, you listed specific roles and projects within each of them, and worked on some brief mission statements [Part 3]. Then it was time to look at tools [Part 4], and to understand organization and systems [Part 5]. In the last article I provided some basic guidance on configuring task management software [Part 6]. Today I want to advance just one short step to information management. FULL POST

Posted 10/27/14 at 1:16 PM | Tim Challies

Why My Family Doesn't Do Sleepovers

James Dobson believes that children should not participate in sleepovers. The world has changed, he says, and has become too dangerous to allow your children out of your sight for so long. In his book Bringing Up Girls, he says:

Sadly, the world has changed in the last few decades, and it is no longer a safe place for children. Pedophiles and child molesters are more pervasive than ever. That is why parents must be diligent to protect their kids every hour of the day and night. …

Until you have dealt with little victims as I have and seen the pain in their eyes, you might not fully appreciate the devastation inflicted by molestation. It casts a long shadow on everything that follows, including future marital relationships. Therefore, parents have to think the unthinkable in every situation. The threat can come from anywhere—including neighbors, uncles, stepfathers, grandfathers, Sunday school teachers, coaches, music instructors, Scout leaders, and babysitters. Even public bathrooms can be dangerous today… FULL POST

Posted 10/27/14 at 10:03 AM | Tim Challies

Lord, Help Me to Pray

Sometimes it is good to have a bit of assistance in praying. Prone to Wander is a wonderful new collection of prayers inspired by The Valley of Vision. One of those prayers is about praying—seeking God’s forgiveness for praying poorly, and seeking God’s help to pray more powerfully and skillfully. Here it is:

Heavenly Father,

Teach us to love prayer. Help us to live our lives before you, in public and in private, at church and at home, each prayer and each moment perfumed with the incense of Christ’s atoning blood. We are invited by your promises to come to you with all our burdens and desires. Draw us by the power of your Spirit, or our hearts and minds will wander carelessly from thought to thought, and our anxieties will rule over us. FULL POST

Posted 10/24/14 at 9:30 AM | Tim Challies

When Jesus Says Stay

Photo: Pixabay - Public Domain
Sitting cat

He wanted to follow Jesus. He wanted to be close to Jesus. He wanted to live a life of radical obedience. But Jesus told him to stay, not to go. Do not follow me.

The man had been oppressed by demons, driven out of his mind and driven out of polite society. He had lived in the tombs, living with the dead, crying out, cutting himself, bleeding, naked, insane.

Then Jesus had come, and with a word released him. He was free.

“As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him…” (Mark 5:18-19a).

The man’s desire was pure. Please, Lord, let me go with you. Let me learn from you. Let me stay near you.

But Jesus had a better plan. Stay. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you (19b).” You may not come. You must stay. FULL POST

Posted 10/23/14 at 11:20 AM | Tim Challies

A Deeper and Wider Obedience

It is an experience every Christian knows. You become aware of a sin and come to fear and hate it. You focus all kinds of attention on that sin and on putting it to death. You ask friends to pray for you, and you cry out to God for deliverence. Well and good, right? Well, not necessarily. John Owen has something to say to you: You will not be delivered from this sin until you pursue a much deeper and wider obedience.

Here is how Owen describes it in chapter eight of his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation:

A man finds any lust to bring him into the condition formerly described; it is powerful, strong, tumultuating, leads captive, vexes, disquiets, takes away peace; he is not able to bear it; wherefore he sets himself against it, prays against it, groans under it, sighs to be delivered, but in the meantime, perhaps, in other duties—in constant communion with God—in reading, prayer, and meditation—in other ways that are not of the same kind with the lust wherewith he is troubled—he is loose and negligent. Let not that man think that ever he shall arrive to the mortification of the lust he is perplexed with. This is a condition that not seldom befalls men in their pilgrimage. FULL POST

Posted 10/22/14 at 9:12 AM | Tim Challies

October's New & Notable Books

I am in the enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books. It has been too long since I’ve sorted through the piles and to tell you which of them have risen to the top. Here are some of the new and notable books I’ve received in the past month or so.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical World by Michael Horton. This was the book I wanted to write; Horton beat me to the punch. “Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a ‘next-best-thing,’ if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be ‘ordinary.’ Yet pastor and author Michael Horton believes that our attempts to measure our spiritual growth by our experiences, constantly seeking after the next big breakthrough, have left many Christians disillusioned and disappointed. There’s nothing wrong with an energetic faith; the danger is that we can burn ourselves out on restless anxieties and unrealistic expectations. What’s needed is not another program or a fresh approach to spiritual growth; it’s a renewed appreciation for the commonplace.” (Amazon, Westminster Books) FULL POST

Posted 10/21/14 at 9:40 AM | Tim Challies

5 Bad Substitutes for Discipline

number five
Photo: Flickr/andrechinn/cropped - Creative Commons

There is nothing easy about parenting, and nothing easy about the responsibility of training our children in obedience through discipline. Because discipline is unpopular and unpleasant, parents often find themselves looking for substitutes. In her book Parenting Against the Tide, Ann Benton lists five poor substitutes for disciplining our children—five poor substitutes that fail to address the heart.

Excuse Them

This is the voice of therapy culture. Sometimes we make excuses for our child’s misbehavior. We say, “he’s tired, she’s had a hard day, he’s disappointed, she’s traumatised, he’s got low self-esteem …” Now all of these things may be true. But that is not the point. The point is this: are we going to allow our children to take responsibility for their own behavior/misbehavior or not? Or is it always going to be the fault of someone else or of the circumstances? I am not saying we cannot be understanding or sympathetic. But if we are going to praise our children when they do well, surely it is logical to chastise them when they do badly. They make choices, which are moral choices, all day long. If we commend them for the good we cannot merely excuse them for the bad. That is very poor training because it teaches them to blame-shift. FULL POST

Posted 10/20/14 at 11:43 AM | Tim Challies

Why You May Be Tempted to Neglect Your Church

Every pastor encounters people who have given up, or are tempted to give up, meeting together with God’s people. At any given time just about every church has some people who are in danger of drifting away, and no longer participating in the life of the church. To do so is to directly disobey Hebrews 10:24-25 which says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This passage warns us not to neglect local church fellowship and participation, and also hints at the reasons we may do so.

Here are two reasons you may be tempted to neglect meeting together with God’s people.

You Forget What You Bring

Hebrews 10:25 warns Christians against leaving local church fellowship, and the verse immediately prior gives the reason. As Christians, we all equally bear the responsibility to stir up one another to love and good works. We are to provoke one another to act in love and we are to provoke one another to promote good works. And the simple fact is that we cannot do these things if we are not together. FULL POST

Posted 10/16/14 at 8:42 AM | Tim Challies

Don't Expect Unbelievers to Act Like Believers

Book cover for Overcoming Sin and Temptation

It is something I see again and again, and something that baffles me every time: People who expect unbelievers to act like believers. So often I see Christians acting surprised that their non-Christian friends or family members are acting like non-Christians. John Owen addresses this in his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation. The book deals with the subject of mortification, of putting sin to death, and Owen dedicates one chapter to explaining why only Christians can behave like Christians.

He begins by insisting that only Christians have the ability to put sin to death. Unbelievers may suppress sin, but they cannot kill it. “Unless a man be a believer—that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ—he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so. … There is no death of sin without the death of Christ.” FULL POST

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