Tim Challies – The Duty of Devotion

B.B. Warfield has gone down in history as one of America’s great theologians, and for good reason. He was a bulwark of orthodoxy against the rising tide of liberalism. Even a century after his death, many of his works are as powerful and relevant as the day they were written. Yet while he is known for his keen intellect and profound theological insights, he was also a man of tender affection.

Soon after his marriage to Annie, the young couple journeyed to Europe together. During this trip, Annie underwent a terrifying experience that resulted in a kind of nervous trauma she was never able to overcome. She returned home an invalid whose condition continued to deteriorate for the rest of her life. Warfield responded to these tragic events by diligently committing himself to her care. For the duration of their marriage, he rarely left her side for more than a couple of hours at a time, and never for longer than necessary. A friend recalls, “I used to see them walking together and the gentleness of his manner was striking proof of the loving care with which he surrounded her. … During the years spent at Princeton, he rarely if ever was absent for any length of time.” Warfield was not only a great theologian but also a great husband.

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Tim Challies – What’s the Purpose of…Marriage?

Today I am kicking off a new series of articles that is going to ask the simplest of questions: “What’s the purpose of…?” Though the question is simple, the answers can be difficult and even controversial. We’ll begin with the home: What’s the purpose of marriage? What’s the purpose of sex? What’s the purpose of children? Then we’ll turn to the church: What’s the purpose of the church and its pastors? What’s the purpose of the Lord’s Day and the Lord’s Supper? What’s the purpose of worship and baptism? These are questions that perplex many of those outside the church and just as many within. We will tackle these questions week by week, attempting to put to rest any lies and misconceptions and to bring to the light the divine truth. We begin with marriage.

What’s the Purpose of Marriage?

What’s the purpose of marriage? A brief search turns up a host of answers representing a multitude of worldviews. These answers reveal no end of confusion, but most perspectives can be summarized under two headings.

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Tim Challies – Nurture Your Children

There are few roles in which we feel deeper inadequacy than our role as fathers. What suits us to the task of raising little people? What assurance can we have that we are doing it well? What will our children someday say of us? These are big and perplexing questions, so it is little wonder that church bulletin boards are covered with posters for parenting seminars and library shelves are groaning under the weight of parenting books. One study found that in the past 10 years alone, publishers have released more than 75 thousand books on the subject. Parenting is tough, and none of us is fully up to the challenge.

Considering the importance and difficulty of the task, we may find it surprising how little direct guidance the New Testament offers us. Its clearest instruction is found in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The parallel passage in Colossians 3:21 adds just one minor detail: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” While we’re grateful for this divine guidance, we are probably left wishing there was more of it. Couldn’t God have answered a few more of our questions? What about spanking versus timeouts? What about homeschooling versus Christian or public schooling? What about the age to buy a child her first iPhone or the right way to oversee her selection of a spouse? Couldn’t we have just a little bit more detail?

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Tim Challies – When It’s Time To Remember All the Stupid Things You’ve Said

We don’t want to live in the past or dwell on former sins. On the whole, not much good comes of thinking back to the unwise things we’ve said or the depraved things we’ve done. We trust that God has fully and finally forgiven our sins, and we do well to leave the past in the past.

But the Bible does make at least one exception. There is at least one time we may benefit from dwelling on our shameful history. Solomon explains in Ecclesiastes 7:21: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

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Tim Challies – When You Pray With Your Children, You Are Teaching Your Children to Pray

Every night my girls want me to pray with them and for them. If I do not tuck them in at night, or if I forget to pray when I do tuck them in, I can be sure that sooner or later I will hear feet coming down the stairs and then the question: “Daddy, will you pray with us?” Sometimes I think they are expressing a good and heartfelt desire and other times I think they are merely being superstitious, as if bad dreams will plague them and every shadow will frighten them if I do not pray. Either way, I never refuse them.

The other night I neglected to pray with them. It was at the end of a long day, I had fulfilled my parenting duties, I had gone off the clock, I wanted some “me time.” And then I heard the footsteps on the stairs. I groaned inwardly. “Daddy, you didn’t pray with us!”

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Tim Challies – Angered At and Angry With

It’s the time of year when my Bible-reading plan takes me through the book of Proverbs. There’s something almost absurd about reading this book at a pace of three chapters per day. That’s like quickly crunching through a whole bag of peppermints rather than slowly savoring each one. Yet reading the proverbs in great swaths does make it easier to identify its themes. Just as we can miss the forest for the trees, we can miss the themes for the maxims. But what might be difficult to see at a meditative pace has a way of standing out when read quickly.

As I work my way through the proverbs, I see anger everywhere. I see the folly of anger, the danger of anger, the sinfulness of anger. I see that the godly learn to control their anger while the fools let it rage. The godly allow themselves to be offended while the fools demand satisfaction for every little slight. The godly draw people into close relationship while the fools destroy friendship. There’s a high cost to all this anger.

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Tim Challies – The Damning Devastation of a Single Coddled Sin

We can never be ambivalent. We who are Christians have no right to allow any sin to persist. We must go hard after every sin and to pursue each one until it has been completely crushed, for even one sin left alone is enough to do terrible damage to our souls. A recent study of one of my favorite old authors showed me the damning devastation of a single coddled sin. Here are nine things to consider in times you may feel ambivalent toward even a single sin.

Just a single sin left in your life is as dangerous as just a single rattlesnake left in your bed.

One treasured sin hands Satan just as much power over you as a hundred. As a fowler can hold a bird by one wing, Satan can hold you by just one sin. Just a single sin left in your life is as dangerous as just a single rattlesnake left in your bed.

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Tim Challies – How To Identify Your Pet Sin

Every Christian can think of a sin he has identified and attacked with all the brutality he can muster. One of the great joys of the Christian life is seeing God be true to his Word as he motivates and empowers us to wage war against indwelling sin. Yet every one of us probably also has a sin we rather enjoy, a sin we refuse to put to death. In fact, we may even protect and promote it. We might refer to it as a pet sin. Here are some tips on identifying your pet sin.

Your pet sin is the one you hate to have challenged. Herod refused to tolerate John the Baptist criticizing his incestuous relationship, and John’s rebuke cost him his head. You may be glad to hear the preacher rail against every other kind of sin, but react angrily when he rebukes just one particular sin. He has probably just identified your little pet sin. What sin do you hate to have challenged?

Your pet sin is the one your thoughts naturally run to. It is where your heart flees in trouble or your mind drifts in fantasy. Consider where your thoughts go when you fail to restrain them and consider what promises to soothe your heart when you are sorrowful. This may just lead you to your pet sin. What sin do your thoughts tend to drift to?

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Tim Challies – 10 Strengths (and 10 Dangers) of Systematic Theology

Systematic theology is the discipline of looking to the entire Bible to determine what God says about a given topic. It answers the question “What does the whole Bible say about __________ [fill in the blank]?” It is a logical, systematic way of organizing truth. To be skillful, accurate theologians, we need systematic theology, but we must also be aware that its strengths are closely related to its weaknesses. Fire is valuable for producing heat and energy, yet fire’s heat and energy is exactly what makes it dangerous. The problem is not fire, but allowing fire to get out of control. This is also the case with systematic theology.

In his book How to Understand and Apply the New Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology, Andy Naselli explains 10 strengths (and 10 corresponding dangers) of systematic theology. I’ve condensed and at times quoted it with his permission. I’ve also included a list of our personal recommendations for the best systematic theology books.

1. It can enrich your understanding of a text (but also distort it).

Carefully reading a text to analyze what its author intended to communicate tends to focus on the details while systematic theology tends to focus on the big picture. The first sees the trees while the second sees the forest. You are never a neutral, objective investigator of a text because when you read, study, and interpret it you already have a systematic, theological grid through which you see it. A good reason to study systematic theology is to improve the theological grid through which you see the text. If your systematic theology is sound, then it can enrich how you interpret a particular text. But if your systematic theology is too weak, too simple, or too speculative it can actually distort how you interpret a particular text.

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Tim Challies – 8 Sins You Commit Whenever You Look at Porn

We know that pornography is an ugly and harmful sin. We know that those who indulge in porn have committed the sin of lust, but there is so much more to it than that. When you open your browser and begin to look at those images and videos, you are sinning in ways that go far beyond lust. Here are 8 sins you commit when you look at porn.

You commit the sin of idolatry. All sin is idolatry, an attempt to find joy and satisfaction not in God himself but in what God forbids (Exodus 20:3-6). Matt Papa says it well: “An idol, simply put, is anything that is more important to you than God. It is anything that has outweighed God in your life—anything that you love, trust, or obey more than God—anything that has replaced God as essential to your happiness.” In the moment you begin to look at porn, you have allowed it to replace God as essential to your happiness. You’ve committed the sin of idolatry.

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