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 11/28/14 at 10:59 AM | Tim Challies
We all long for peace. We all want to be at peace with God and men. The problem is that we usually want that peace to be on our terms. So we strive against men and battle against God until we feel that we have achieved what feels to us like peace.
John Owen knows this temptation and in his great book Overcoming Sin and Temptation he includes an entire chapter on the theme. He gives his reader this charge: “Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks it, but hearken to what God says to your soul.” For many pages and through many chapters he has been instructing the reader on battling against sin. He has given specific instructions on how to put sin to death. And he concludes with care: Expect to hear God speak peace to your soul, but be very careful you do not speak that peace to yourself until he does.
Here is the slow march of his argument:
We are so eager for peace that we will make only slight attempts at overcoming sin, and then try to convince ourselves we have done what honors God. We will turn from a sin for a time but without actually hating it and without actually intending to put it to death forever, and then tell our souls to be at peace. We will turn from one sin but continue to love and coddle another serious sin, and through it all insist that we are now at peace with God. FULL POST
Posted 11/24/14 at 9:32 AM | Tim Challies
I have been enjoying Tim Keller’s new book on prayer (Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God). There are many of prayer’s mysteries he handles with exellence and perhaps none more so than what Paul means when, in Romans 8, he writes these words: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” What are these groanings or sighs? Here is Keller’s answer.
There has been some debate over the meaning of “the Spirit’s groans.” Some believe that this is the spirit helping us when we are desperate and groaning, but it is unlikely that this is describing only times of depression. Rather, the “weakness” referred to in verse 26 is the weakness described in the preceding verses, which refer not just to times of despondancy but to our entire human situation of frustrated longings as we await the future glory (vv. 18-25, especially v.23). We know that God is working out all things for our good according to his will (v.28), but seldom can we discern what that good actually is. In other words, most of the time, we don’t know exactly what outcome we should pray for. The Spirit, however, makes our groaning his groaning, putting his prayers to the Father inside our prayers. He does so by placing within us a deep, inexpressible longing to do God’s will and see his glory. This aspiration—this “groaning” desire to please him—comes through in our petitions to God. In every specific request, then, the Father hears us praying for what is both truly best for us and pleasing to him, “and the intercession of the Spirit is answered as God works all things for our good.” The Spirit enables us to long for the future glory of God and his will, even though we don’t know the specific things we should pray for here and now. FULL POST
Posted 11/21/14 at 11:29 AM | Tim Challies
You are not “running late.” You are rude. You are inconsiderate. You need to change. Greg Savage’s frustration with other people’s tardiness boiled over into an amusing rant that he posted online, and that was subsequently read by hundreds of thousands.
10 people kept waiting in a meeting for 20 minutes, while some selfish pratt who idles his way via the coffee shop, is actually 20 minutes times 10, which is 200 minutes wasted – while you keep us waiting because you did not catch the earlier bus. That is over 3 hours wasted. By you! How much has that cost the business? Shall I send you an invoice?
And an arrangement to meet someone for a business meeting at a coffee shop at 3 pm, more often than not means at 3.10 you get a text saying ‘I am five minutes away’ which inevitably means 10 minutes, and so you wait for 15 or 20 minutes, kicking your heels in frustration. FULL POST
Posted 11/20/14 at 8:48 AM | Tim Challies
I would pay good money to watch a debate between John Owen and Joel Osteen. Wouldn’t you? I have read John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation many times now, and have benefited with every reading. It just never gets old and it just never stops sounding so counter-cultural, countering both the wider culture and even the going Christian culture.
This week I read a chapter that teaches the value of self-examination and self-abasement. I was immediately struck by the difference between the heart of Owen’s understanding of the Christian life and what passes for Christian living today. I don’t mean to pick on an easy target, but it makes a fascinating contrast to compare Owen’s books with, say, Joel Osteen’s. I am not exaggerating when I say that they really are polar opposites in just about every way. Though both pass as Christian books, they could hardly be more different.
Where Joel Osteen writes about how we are to accept the unfortunate reality that we have made mistakes, his solution is that we should just press on and determine that we will not do bad things again. Owen, though, calls our mistakes “sin” and assures us that this sin has eternally distanced us from God. He allows sin no quarter and would never stoop to calling it a mere mistake. Where Osteen teaches that we are fundamentally good and that we should think highly of ourselves, Owen teaches that we are fundamentally sinners and need to fill our minds with self-abasement and thoughts of our own vileness. FULL POST
Posted 11/19/14 at 12:01 PM | Tim Challies
This series on productivity is beginning to reach its end. But before it winds down, I have just a couple more topics to cover, and one of them is the all-important weekly review. I have written at length about the value of a system. Systems are wonderful and powerful, but require some maintenance in order to continue functioning smoothly. The weekly review is one of the primarily means through which you can maintain your system. Today I will tell you about my weekly review, and also tell you about some of the unique features of my system.
If the daily review [part 6] is tactical, the weekly review is more strategic. The purpose of this review is to set new plans into motion, to restart projects that have stalled, and to course-correct plans that are drifting. Where the daily coram deo takes only a couple of minutes, the weekly review requires a little bit more time—I find that I need to block off around 30 minutes for it. I schedule it for each Friday afternoon so that when a new week begins on Sunday, the week is already set and organized. FULL POST
Posted 11/18/14 at 11:57 AM | Tim Challies
As a pastor, I regularly meet with people who are intent on overcoming a serious sin in their lives. Yet, as you well know, those serious sins rarely yield easily. Far more often than not they demand a long and intense battle.
To help in this battle I have put together what I call Battle Plan. Battle Plan is a worksheet that is primarily meant to be used with the assistance of a mentor or pastor (though it can be used individually as well). It is heavily dependent upon John Owen and his instructions on overcoming sin. It begins by identifying and understanding a sin and its consequences, and then progresses to a plan to overcome that sin. There is also a weekly sheet that is used to track progress.
I suggest spending a significant amount of time on Part 1: Assessment. Here you will do what John Owen refers to as “loading your conscience with the guilt of the sin.” You will understand the sin, the ways it behaves, and the effects it has had in your life and faith. Then progress to Part 2: Action, which will guide you as you put off old patterns, attitudes, behaviors, and habits and put on new patterns, attitudes, behaviors, and habits. You will also consider what actions are appropriate as you battle against the sin. Finally, use the tracking sheet with a mentor or accountability partner to track the sin’s ebb and flow in your life and to measure your progress. FULL POST
Posted 11/17/14 at 11:25 AM | Tim Challies
Like so many other people, I have a love-hate relationship with money. I love what money can do and accomplish, and I hate how money is so fleeting. It seems like every dollar is hard-earned and easily-spent. Every dollar can be used in a million different ways and so much of life’s anxiety comes from determining how to use too little money to address too many possibilities.
When Aileen and I got married we were just twenty-one (me) and twenty-two (she) years old and earning less than $30,000 between the two of us—and this in one of the most expensive cities in North America. Since then, like most families, we have seen slow but steady increases to our income. Of course, our expenses have increased at just about the same pace as we have gone from renting a home to buying, from driving compact sedans to minivans, and from having no kids to three kids. As I look back on my life and financial history, I see a long list of mistakes Aileen and I made and a list of mistakes we managed to avoid. Here are a few of each. FULL POST
Posted 11/13/14 at 12:13 PM | Tim Challies
It’s a battle we all must fight. It’s a battle we all must fight from this moment until the moment we die. It’s a battle fraught with discouragement and setbacks, yet a battle we all can and must win. It’s the battle against sin.
All throughout the New Testament we are told to put our sin to death. For example, in Colossians 3 Paul says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” How do you do that? How do you stop a sin, and how do you stop an especially stubborn and deep-rooted sin? Is there any hope? I want to track with John Owen here (via his great work Overcoming Sin and Temptation) and give a list of 9 things you need to do to overcome sin. Consider that sin that is prevalent in your life and then consider each of these 9 steps. FULL POST
Posted 11/12/14 at 3:33 PM | Tim Challies
Today I am continuing this series on Christians and productivity. I have said that productivity is effectively stewarding your gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God, and to this point I have suggested many different ways of doing that (You can see a series round-up at the bottom of this article). Our topic for this article is taming the email beast.
I think we all have a love-hate relationship with email. On the one hand email brings many good things—it delivers exciting news, encouragement from friends, and fun little notes from family members. It also has immense practical value—it delivers confirmation that the ticket order went through, or that the book we want is on sale. But, of course, there is a dark side as well—the endless spam, the email discussions that go on for far too long, the newsletters we didn’t sign up for, the chain letters promising bad luck if we don’t forward it to twenty more people. Email has become a mess of function and dysfunction. We need it, and yet we hate it. FULL POST
Posted 11/10/14 at 11:28 AM | Tim Challies
A couple of times now I have shared prayers from a new book I am really enjoying. Prone to Wander is a wonderful new collection of prayers inspired by The Valley of Vision. I probably can’t share too many more of them lest I run afoul of copyright laws, but I did want to share this amazing and convicting one. Let this be your prayer of confession to God:
King of heaven,
We confess before you the pride, fear, and selfishness that closes our eyes to hurting people around us. Though we share their flesh and blood, we are quick to look away when their suffering and brokenness make us uncomfortable. Instead of looking at them and seeing their great need, we quickly walk away, and turned toward people who make us feel good. Forgive us for the help that we should have offered this week that we did not. Forgive us for the help that we offered for sinful reasons: to feel proud and superior, to purchase friendship, or to put people in our debt. Forgive us for the times when our hearts have been full of resentment and bitterness toward hurting people for needing us, and toward you for asking us to help them. Lord, we cannot obey you with pure hearts and minds. Thank you that in your deep love for us you have not despised and abhorred us in our great affliction, but treasured us and sent your Son to rescue us. FULL POST