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Tim Challies

Tim Challies is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Aileen and a father to three young children. He worships and serves as a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, edits Discerning Reader and is a co-founder of Cruciform Press. He has written The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, Sexual Detox and The Next Story.

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

Posted 7/13/14 at 8:30 AM | Tim Challies

Who Is the Most Important Person in Your Church?

Photo: Flickr/Hector Alejandro - Creative Commons

Who is the most important person in your church? On one level it’s kind of a silly question to ask. Yet in his book Healed at Last, Scott Blackwell provides an answer that is both sweet and encouraging. He tells about his friend Steve who has been profoundly disabled since birth.

He has been forever wheelchair-bound, and his arm and head movements are often uncontrolled or controlled with difficulty—especially when he gets excited. His speech is difficult to understand, and his vocabulary is limited. Because he was born in the 1950s, those who cared for him made certain assumptions about his ability to learn, respond and understand. He was institutionalized and given minimal stimulation and therapy—such was the state of rehabilitation for the profoundly disabled back then. It was assumed he would never be able to read, so he was never taught. Now, in his fifties, Steve is thoroughly dependent on the aid of others. He requires assistance to eat, drink, bathe, dress, toilet, and so on. Steve also constantly battles the kind of respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders that life lived full-time in a wheelchair bring. All this is so much more difficult to witness knowing that trapped within Steve’s dysfunctional body is a sharp and inquiring mind that was left untended and ignored for years. FULL POST

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

Envy Always Wins

Photo: Flickr/Roland Tanglao - Creative Commons
"Envy divides people who ought to be allies. Envy drives people apart who ought to be able to work closely together."

I have written about envy before and have referred to it as “the lost sin.” Envy is a sin I am prone to, though I feel like it is one of those sins I have battled hard against and, as I’ve battled, experienced a lot of God’s grace. It is not nearly as prevalent in my life as it once was. Recently, though, I felt it threatening to rear its ugly head again and spent a bit of time reflecting on it. Here are three brief observations about envy.

Envy is Competitive

I am a competitive person and I believe it is this competitive streak that allows envy to make its presence felt in my life. Envy is a sin that makes me feel resentment or anger or sadness because another person has something or another person is something that I want for myself. Envy makes me aware that another person has some advantage, some good thing, that I want for myself. And there’s more: Envy makes me want that other person not to have it. This means that there are at least three evil components to envy: the deep discontent that comes when I see that another person has what I want; the desire to have it for myself; and the desire for it to be taken from him. FULL POST

Posted 7/8/14 at 10:34 AM | Tim Challies

Growing Up in a World Like This

A short time ago I shared some resources meant to help parents as they prepare to have “The Talk” with their children. But even after looking at those resources I had some questions I wanted to ask, so I spoke to Dr. Chris Richards, who together with Liz Jones has authored Growing Up God’s Way, a book with editions for both boys and girls, that helps prepare young people and their parents for adolescence and adulthood. Dr Chris Richards is a Consultant Paediatrician in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is the Director of Lovewise, which produces material for teaching about marriage and relationships from a Christian perspective in schools and church groups. He is married and has four children. He is a deacon at Gateshead Presbyterian Church. Here is what he had to say about preparing children to grow up in a world like this.

As a parent it feels like we are facing unique challenges in what seems to be an increasingly sexualized culture. Are our challenges today substantially different from the ones people faced in the past? What makes today different from days gone by? FULL POST

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

6 Reflections on Sleepovers

number 6
Photo: Steve Snodgrass - Creative Commons

I didn’t see this one coming. After over ten years of daily blogging, I tend to have a pretty good sense of which articles have the potential to cause a reaction and which articles have the potential to fizzle. I might have guessed that an article on why my family doesn’t do sleepovers would have attracted a few more readers than usual, but I wouldn’t have believed that in its first week it would be read by nearly 750,000 people. But it was, and I found myself wondering why.

I’ve spent some time reading through comments and responses to try to understand why so many people were interested in reading about sleepovers. Here are a few personal takeaways from the discussion.

1. Validation

I was surprised to realize how many parents are concerned about sleepovers and how many do not allow them. I think one of the reasons the article spread is that it validated a lot of people who had assumed they were on their own. That “Me too!” factor was important as parents realized they are not the only ones who have made the decision not to allow their kids to participate in sleepovers. On a very practical note, the sleepover discussion is binary—either you do or do not allow them, and that allows everyone to take a side. Taking sides generates controversy and controversy generates shares and clicks. Takeaway: There are a surprising number of people who do not appreciate or allow sleepovers. FULL POST

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