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 3/23/15 at 2:45 PM | Tim Challies
Christians put on a good face, don’t we? Each of us shows up on Sunday morning looking like we are doing just fine, like our lives are on cruise control, like we have had the best week ever. But ask a couple of leading questions, and probe just beneath the surface, and it soon falls apart. Each of us comes to church feeling the weight and the difficulty of this life. God has something he wants us to do in these situations. There is something he calls us to—something beautifully surprising and uncomfortable. Track with me for a couple of minutes here, and I’ll show you what it is.
One of my favorite passages in the whole Bible is Psalm 103. I pray it often, and focus on these words: “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” These words tell us that even while we pray to the all-knowing and all-powerful God, we do so as created beings who were formed out of the dust of the ground. If we learn anything from our dusty origins, we learn that God did not intend for us to be superhuman and he did not intend for us to be God-like. He made us dust, not divine, and this was his good will. He made us weak. FULL POST
Posted 3/18/15 at 1:12 PM | Tim Challies
I read a lot of books. I read a lot of books because I just plain love to read, and a read a lot of books because, as a reviewer, I receive a lot of them and am always trying to keep ahead of the growing piles. But the more I read, the harder I can find it to answer this question: What is a good book? What are the marks of an especially good book?
I was recently reading Iain Murray’s short biography of Amy Carmichael and in there he quotes A.W. Tozer who once said, “The work of a good book is to incite the reader to moral action, to turn his eyes toward God and to urge him forward.” And yes, this a good criteria; a good book will urge its reader to do something, to become something, to make some significant and lasting change to life. Murray goes on to say, “Amy Carmichael’s writings belong to that category. Numbers who took her books up only out of interest, put them down to pray.” Prayer: That may be the best moral action of all because it ought to come before anything else we do, any other changes we make, any other plans we form. FULL POST
Posted 3/16/15 at 11:48 AM | Tim Challies
You are obviously going to snap a picture of yourself when you’re pregnant—or of your wife when she’s pregnant—and share it with the world through Facebook or Instagram or your network of choice. You know the picture: standing in profile with the shirt pulled tight so we can see the bulge of the belly and reply, “So excited! Can’t wait to meet the baby!” It’s a new tradition, and a good one I think. We get to rejoice with those who rejoice.
And then you’ll have to snap a picture of mom in the hospital with the newborn baby nestled on her shoulder. And one of the proud dad. And one of the baby in her car seat as she prepares to come home for the first time. The first time eating solid food. The first time trying to take a few steps. The obligatory bath picture with the new brother or sister. The first day of school. These are all moments to share with your friends and followers so they can celebrate with you. It’s one of the great joys of life here and now. FULL POST
Posted 3/13/15 at 1:09 PM | Tim Challies
Even at the best of times there is nothing simple about raising children. But throw in a million new technologies—new devices and social networks and apps—and things get far more complicated still. This is every parent’s challenge today. Yesterday I offered a few tips on living well in a digital world and today I want to offer some tips on parentingwell. I will use the same format: 3 things you need to put off or reject, and 3 things you need to put on or embrace.
You need to put off ignorance and in its place put on knowledge. Whenever a new technology invades society, we see a consistent pattern: the older people tend to reject it while the younger people embrace it. The older people are perfectly content with the technologies they have always known, while the younger people are excited to try something new. The younger generation surges forward and the older is left behind. FULL POST
Posted 3/12/15 at 11:44 AM | Tim Challies
The world has changed, hasn’t it? The world we live in today is not the world as it was a few years ago. In just the past few decades we have entered into a digital world, and you and I are the ones who are learning how to live in it, and how to live in it with virtue. We are the trailblazers here, learning how to use these incredible, world-changing technologies to carry out the commission God has given us. These new technologies can be used to do so much good, but they can also be used to do such evil.
When the Bible tells us how to live as Christians, it so often tells us that we need to put on and put off. It tells us that there are habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to stop, and new habits, patterns, and behaviors we need to begin. Today I want to look at 3 things we need to put off and put on as individuals, and tomorrow I will look at 3 things that we need to put off and put on as families.
(Note: Just yesterday Zondervan released a second edition of my book The Next Story and it comes complete with a few updates, an added chapter, and a new subtitle: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World. It covers some of this material, plus a whole lot more.) FULL POST
Posted 2/17/15 at 10:51 AM | Tim Challies
Have you ever dreamed of being rich? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know that money poses no barrier between you and your dreams? I think we all have at one time or another, haven’t we? And most of us are convinced that we would use our wealth for good, to serve others rather than ourselves. We imagine handing over the keys to a new home, or donating the full-ride scholarship to that person who could never afford it. We dream of using extravagant wealth to do extravagant good.
We attach great significance to great deeds, don’t we? And we attach little significance to little deeds. And yet so few of us ever have the chance to do those exceptional things. But what if we are measuring it all wrong? John Stott says it so well as he comments on Galatians 6:2: “To love one another as Christ loved us may lead us not to some heroic, spectacular deed of self-sacrifice, but to the much more mundane and unspectacular ministry of burden-bearing.” FULL POST
Posted 2/2/15 at 10:53 AM | Tim Challies
Last week GLH Publishing released a new Kindle edition of Thoughts on Religious Experience by Archibald Alexander. I barely got a page or two into the book before I came across such a helpful section that describes the connection between knowledge and piety—between what we know and how we practice our Christian faith. Here is what Alexander wants you to know.
If genuine religious experience is nothing but the impression of divine truth on the mind by the energy of the Holy Spirit, then it is evident that a knowledge of the truth is essential to genuine piety. Error never can, under any circumstances, produce the effects of truth.
This is now generally acknowledged; but it is not so clearly understood by all that any defect in our knowledge of the truth must, just so far as the error extends, mar the symmetry of the impression produced. The error, in this case, is of course not supposed to relate to fundamental truths, for then there can be no genuine piety; but where a true impression is made, it may be rendered very defective for want a complete knowledge of the whole system of revealed truth, or its beauty marred by the existence of some errors mingled with the truth, which may be well illustrated by returning again to the seal. FULL POST
Posted 1/30/15 at 9:23 AM | Tim Challies
Are some sins actually worse than others? If so, why? Sure, you can make the case that because God is infinitely holy, even the smallest sin is an abomination to him, and that’s true. But what about the impact of various types of sin in our own lives? From that perspective, some sins are clearly more harmful, and in that sense worse.
This is where the idea of the “seven deadly sins” came from to begin with. The phrase may sound like a medieval holdover, or suspiciously Catholic. But the fact is that down through the history of the church these were the sins that came to be recognized as especially dangerous: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust. What makes them so deadly? For one thing, these particular sins have a way of embedding themselves deeply into our hearts. When that happens, they become more than mere habits. They actually change us, altering aspects of our character in ways that are not easy to reverse.
Think about it. From time to time we can all be tempted, for example, by greed or sloth. But this is a very different matter from living as someone who is truly greedy or truly slothful. The same is true for pride, envy, wrath, gluttony, and lust. And if the habit-forming, character-altering ability of these seven sins isn’t bad enough, they have also proven themselves to be gateway sins—not merely corrupting vices in themselves but sins that, once welcomed into your heart, open the door to countless other sins. The big seven have had two thousand years to earn their infamy, and they deserve it. FULL POST
Posted 1/29/15 at 12:25 PM | Tim Challies
About once a year I go through a phase—a deliberate phase—in which I evaluate our family finances to see where we’re doing well and where we aren’t doing so well. I especially look for places we are spending money we don’t need to spend—bills that are too high, subscriptions we no longer need, and all of those little money-wasters that eventually add up. And over the years, I’ve collected quite a list of ways that we, and perhaps you, waste money. Here are some of them:
I read quite a few books on personal finance and there is a trend I have noticed in recent years: Every book now uses Starbucks as the negative example of financial management. The math really is that simple: $5 per day for that latte, multiplied by 365 days in the year, adds up to an extra mortgage payment or two. And if both of you go every day, the damage is doubled. Consider brewing at home, or at least sticking with the brewed instead of specialty coffees. FULL POST
Posted 1/29/15 at 10:04 AM | Tim Challies
There are few things I pray for with greater frequency or intensity than the salvation of my children. I long for them to be saved, and long to be able to be able to call them not only my son and daughters, but my brother and sisters. I long for them to profess faith, and for those professions to be proven true.
I don’t only pray it and long for it. I believe it. I believe God will save them. I believe he will save them because that is what he does—he saves. I believe he will save them because that is who he is—he loves to save. I believe he will save them because from their infancy they have been exposed again and again to the powerful gospel of grace, and that gospel is too good and too powerful to do nothing.
I believe it, but sometimes find myself trying to hedge my bets just a little bit. Sometimes I edge away from the gospel of God’s free grace and begin to trust in works—not their works, but mine. Sometimes I try to bring my works before the Lord, adding a little of my merit to their account. FULL POST