Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 23 min ago

How to Get Children Interested in Reading Scripture

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 1:30am

Here’s a podcast interview I did with Heirloom Audio, producers of Audio Adventures, about how to get your kids into reading Scripture.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (for men)

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (for women)

Check out

Tue, 11/28/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution?
News of an important new book critiquing theistic evolution: “In Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, two dozen highly credentialed scientists, philosophers, and theologians from Europe and North America have joined forces to contest this proposal.”

When Part of the Brain Goes Dark
The first brain-imaging research in trauma cases dealt with the way the traumatized brain reacted to memories of trauma.

In each case, the survivor’s right side of the brain kicked into overdrive. The emotional, visual, and spatial areas lit up. In contrast, the left side of the brain, the area responsible for logic and language went dark. This finding explained why the traumatized struggle with putting words on their experiences. Often, it is not that they don’t want to talk about their experiences. But, most times, they physically can’t because their brains are not functioning in that area.

When Your Partner Is Down and Can’t Get Up
“My wife has written, bravely and beautifully, of her struggles with mental health. I’m often asked what has helped me as her husband. I offer these 10 thoughts with her blessing and with the caveat that they may not translate into your situation. But here is what has sustained me.”

Worried? Let God Change Your Mind
Here’s a great example of how God can use CBT to heal and help his people:

My story is one of many success stories demonstrating the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral therapy. According to the National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, “Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviors, not external things. The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think to feel/act better even if the situation does not change.” Rather than live at the mercy of outside forces, we have a choice. And the most effective way to change our habitual behaviors and emotional patterns is to let God change the way we think.

The Makings of a Miserable Millennial
And how the Gospel is good tidings of great joy.

What If God Takes It All Away? Trusting Him Through Financial Struggles
“Recently we drove past our old house for the first time since downsizing. Immediately, our four children began rehearsing memories, noting every part of the house that they missed. Once again, they struggled to understand why we had to give it all up. As hard as I tried to respond with confidence that it was the right thing for our family to follow God’s leading — even at the cost of financial comfort and a home we loved — deep down, I wrestled with my own nostalgia and questions.”

Kindle Books

The First Days of Jesus: The Story of the Incarnation by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Alexander Stewart $4.99.

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp $3.99.

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin $2.99.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (for men)

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (for women)

Top 10 Books on Christ in the Old Testament (Updated)

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 2:00am

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. You can access all my other Top Ten Lists here.

Today I’m listing my updated top ten books on Christ in the Old Testament—the ones marked with an asterisk are more suitable for pastors and seminary students. If you know any other books that should be on this list, please leave a comment and I’ll add it to the “Reader Suggestions” section.

*For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping*

Also, here’s my catalog of Best Online Articles on Christ in the Old Testament (which will be updated further by tomorrow).

1. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright.

One of the most eye-opening and thought provoking books I’ve ever read. Guaranteed to make you love Jesus more.

2. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus.*

Classic seminary textbook. Historical survey of the subject followed by most helpful step-by-step guide to preaching Christ from Old Testament texts.

3. Beginning at Moses by Michael Barrett.

Shorter and more readable than Greidanus but covers a wider range of OT genres.

4. Preaching Christ in All of Scripture by Ed Clowney.

The first two chapters will transform the way you read and teach the Bible. Clowney sets forth the principles and practice of finding Christ in Scripture and then putting together a Christ-centered sermon. This is followed by a number of wonderful sermons that demonstrate the “how.”

5. The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses by Vern Poythress.*

Especially helpful on typology, not just laying the foundational principles but also explaining numerous examples. Also wonderful insights on the Christ-centered nature of Old Testament law.

6. The Christ of the Covenants by O P Robertson.*

It was the second or third time reading this book before the covenants all fell into place for me. Transformed the Bible and my ministry.

7. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy.

First part provides the lenses with which to read the Old Testament, followed by many examples of how to preach Christian sermons from different genres of biblical literature. More thematic than exegetical.

8. The Unfolding Mystery by Ed Clowney.

More sample sermons demonstrating how #4 Preaching Christ in All of Scripture is put into practice.

9.  Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures by Dennis E. Johnson.

Good on theory and good on practice.

10. Jesus On Every Page by David Murray.

Couldn’t bring myself to make this # 1.

Honorable mentions

If I’d had a Top Twenty the following books would also have been included.

Close Encounters with the Son of God by Jonathan Stephen. If this was still easily available it would have been near the top of the Top Ten List. It deals with the Old Testament Christophanies.

Christ in the Old Testament by Robert Gordon. Again, this four-volume set of sermons would have easily made the Top Ten if it was easier to get.

According to Plan by Graeme Goldsworthy. A simplified version of Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture.

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture by Peter A. Lillback and others

Christ-centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chappell. Not specifically about preaching Christ from the Old Testament but much of the material will help with that.

A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards. Covers more than the Old Testament but the Old Testament section, especially the early part, is pure gold.

The Ancient Love Song by Charles Drew. One of the most accessible and readable of books on Christ in the Old Testament.

Messiah in the Old Testament by Walter Kaiser.

Preaching Christ from Genesis by Sidney Greidanus.

Preaching Christ from Daniel by Sydney Greidanus.

Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes by Sidney Greidanus.

Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament Hardcover by Greg Beale and Don Carson.

How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments by Edmund P. Clowney

The Christ of Wisdom: A Redemptive-Historical Exploration of the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament by O. Palmer Robertson.

The Christ of the Prophets by O. Palmer Robertson.

Is Jesus in the Old Testament? by Iain M. Duguid.

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael Williams.

Singing the Songs of Jesus by Michael Lefebvre.

The Prophets Speak of Him: Encountering Jesus in the Minor Prophets by Anthony T. Selvaggio.

The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis by Nancy Guthrie. Excellent Bible study series with a good mix of teaching, questions, and discussion starters. See also follow-up Bible studies on various other parts of the Old Testament. See also follow-up Bible studies on various other parts of the Old Testament: The Lamb of GodThe Wisdom of GodThe Son of David, and The Word of the Lord.

Reader Suggestions

101 Portraits of Jesus on the Old Testament by Bob Beasley.

The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament by Don Carson, Tim Keller, and others.

Look To The Rock by Alec Motyer.

The Messianic Hope by Michael Rydelnik.

Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament by Gerard Van Gronigen.

On The Trinity by Hilary of Poitiers.

Clavis Cantici by James Durham.

The Prophets Speak of Him by Anthony Salvaggio.

The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made by Mark Dever.

Help Your Kids Read the Bible

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 1:30am

Bible Gateway recently interviewed me on helping kids to read the Bible for themselves. Here are the questions they asked me. Click through for the answers.

Is it correct to assume that parents don’t read the Bible to their children as often as they should?

Why is it important for parents to read the Bible to their kids and to model the reading of the Bible for their kids?

The Bible includes stories of sin, sex, and violence. How should parents handle that when recommending the Bible to their children?

How can parents establish a routine of Bible reading?

What should parents do when their children ask them questions about the Bible that may be difficult to answer?

What should the goal be for parents who want their children to establish themselves in the Bible?

How does your book help 6-12-year-olds get into the Bible?

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

At the end of the interview I was asked “Is there anything else you’d like to say?” here’s my answer

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the famous London preacher, once advised Sunday school teachers that whatever else they taught their students, they had to communicate joy and excitement in their lessons. He said that the children may not remember all the details of what they taught, but if they consistently conveyed their own delight in and enthusiasm for the Bible, the children would be “infected” by that and pursue Bible study themselves.

As we read the Bible with our kids and encourage them to read it themselves, let’s make sure that whatever else they remember, they remember our joy. Bible reading is not a “should-do” but a “get-to-do.” We get to hear God’s voice speaking into our lives for our good and the good of others.

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (for men)

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (for women)

Check out

Mon, 11/27/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

28 Non-Numerical Signs Of A Healthy Church
“Numbers are not the only way to determine church health. In many situations, they’re not even the best way.”

A Historian’s 5 Tips on Writing
“At his Twitter account, @KevinMKruse, Professor Kruse did a series of tweets on writing advice. With his permission, they are reprinted here in a more permanent format.”

A Revival Of The Public Reading of Scripture
I’ve noticed Scripture readings are getting shorter and shorter.

Study says screen time may increase teen depression, thoughts of suicide
Along similar lines, here’s the New York Times’ on How Evil Is Tech? which highlights three main critiques of big tech. The first is that it is destroying the young.  And another: The number of teens who are depressed is soaring. In that article, Jean Twenge says that the problem is “not necessarily the screen time but the time that’s lost to smartphones that could be spent on more meaningful activities, like face-to-face interaction.”

Download the ‘Westminster Shorter Catechism’ by Sinclair Ferguson
You said you would listen to him reading the telephone directory. Here’s something even better.

Why You Should Live in the Psalms
Scott Slayton: “The Psalms provide a welcome antidote to our craving for shallowness. The Psalms, which seem so easy to understand on the surface, invite us to deep study and contemplation. They show the blessing of cultivating a deep and abiding trust in the Lord and beckon us to leave behind our life of distraction so we can know and love God more deeply.”

Autism Speaks: Q&A
Super-helpful Q&A with two autistic young adults.

Kindle Books

Some great deals on Kindle devices today.

Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World by Josh McDowell $3.99.

Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization by Os Guinness $4.99.

Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness $3.99.

Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation by Joel R. Beeke  and‎ William Boekestein $2.99.

Beginning at Moses: A Guide to Finding Christ in the Old Testament by Michael P. V. Barrett $0.99

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids
Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (for men)
Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (for women)

The Scientific Connection Between Gratitude and Happiness

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 2:00am

Studies have shown that gratitude is a powerful force for creating positive changes in individuals, families, and organizations. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a research professor of psychology, “The expression of gratitude is a kind of metastrategy for achieving happiness.” Here are some of the research findings, published in books such as The Happiness Advantage, Flourish, and Optimal Functioning.

  • Grateful people have more energy, happiness, and friends and also enjoy better sleep and overall health.
  • Writing down what made people happy, lowered stress levels and increased a sense of calm.
  • Counting acts of kindness done and received increases levels of positivity.
  • A study of resilience and emotions following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States found that gratitude helps people cope with painful and stressful life events.
  • Grateful people are more helpful people because they remember how thankful they feel when helped.
  • Gratitude reduces negative comparisons with others.
  • When we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.
  • Gratitude reduces negative emotions like anger, envy, greed, and anxiety.

Thanksgiving is much more than saying “Thank you” for a present or benefit we’ve received. The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, said it is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

We can boost gratitude in our lives by intensifying the feeling of it for each positive event, by increasing the frequency of it throughout the day, by expanding the number of things we’re grateful for, and by expressing gratitude to more people. But the most effective multiplier of gratitude, said Emmons, is humility: “At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit. The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.”

Again, don’t we Christians start with such an advantage here, given that our whole faith is based on grace, the sense of a completely undeserved salvation that has been freely given us by a gracious God?

Check out

Tue, 11/21/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

5 Negative Influences on Pastors Who Leave Pastoring
“According to the research, if you want to feel isolated, misled, ill prepared, overwhelmed, and financially unstable—sign up to pastor. While these are not the only reasons these pastors left the pastorate, they surely impacted the decision to step away from their roles. What should be done? Well these five points have simple (not easy, not easy at all) responses:”

Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness
“Three resources related to the subject of mental health and illness. A podcast of the plenary presentation “Towards a Christian Perspective on Mental Illness” An article that served as the outline for this presentation but contains additional information. A podcast of the panel discussion where this presentations was critiqued and expanded.”

The Problem of Suicide: How is the Church Caring for those Impacted?
“I don’t know about you, but I would much rather counsel someone in pain instead of waiting to counsel their family members after a life has been lost. To accomplish this, church leaders need to offer more small groups and counseling opportunities for those struggling with mental health and suicidal thoughts. Serving these members of our community—beloved children of God—and entering into their stories really is an enormous privilege.”

Instilling Gratitude in Your Family – Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation
“Discontent and entitlement are strong pressures, but there are still ways to cultivate gratitude in your home. The more I teach my children to love God, enjoy each other, and to serve others, the more they come to realize that it is better to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). Here are some simple, but practical, ways to facilitate this in your family.”

Fair-Minded Criticism Is an Acquired Taste that Can Become One of Life’s Best Pleasures
“If I only listen to my allies, or to yes-men, clones, devotees, and fellow factionaries, then I might as well inject narcotics into my veins. The people of God are a large work in progress. To engage and to interact with critics is to further the process—in both of our lives. We ought to offer to others the kind of criticism that is such a pleasure to receive.”

Kindle Books

The Grand Weaver: How God Shapes Us Through the Events of Our Lives by Ravi Zacharias $1.99.

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Bruce A. Ware

What’s the best way to learn counseling?

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 2:00am

Here are the next two videos from my course on Biblical counseling. You can find the previous videos here.

What’s the best way to learn counseling?

How do you counsel yourself?

Check out

Mon, 11/20/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

The Heart of John Owen’s Hedonism
John Piper makes the case for John Owen being a Christian Hedonist.

Don’t Be Dumb with Your Smartphone
Meet the iPhone’s nemesis, Tony Reinke.

Eight Dangers of Pursuing Applause
“As I read Brown’s counsel I not only try to apply it to my life as a pastor but also as a pastor who uses social media. A lust for platform—whether it’s being able to brag about baptism numbers or Twitter followers—will always take you further than you wanted to go. You might even succeed in gaining that platform but these vices will follow you to the top. It’s no wonder we see so many men climb to the top and then experience a mighty fall; these vices followed them.”

4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Exercise
“Unfortunately, full-time pastoring can be physically taxing. Long hours sitting at a desk and attendance at prayer breakfasts tends to work against us. From the deep recesses of our studies we cry, “I’m called to the ministry of the Word and to prayer! Both are sedentary. Being out of shape is just an occupational hazard.”"

The Double Groan of the Gospel
Not all groaning is bad.

Kindle Books

George Muller of Bristol by Arthur T. Pierson $3.14.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray $2.09.

Check out

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Free Online Courses from TGC
This new web resource is really well designed:

One of the core ways The Gospel Coalition serves the church is by providing biblically faithful web-based content for personal and group use. So, today, we are excited to introduce you to a brand-new and totally free online learning platform.

10 Reasons Pastors Should Study the Bible in Its Original Languages
“Every pastor who can should study the Bible in its original languages. That does not mean every pastor should become a language expert or feel guilty about one more thing in an already punishing schedule. What I mean is that, within the time and opportunities available, pastors should study the text of the Bible in its original languages. Here’s why:”

More than inspirational
“Joni Eareckson Tada’s half-century as a quadriplegic and a disabilities advocate is far more than a story of human endurance. It’s a Christ-exalting example of a courageous truth Christians don’t always embrace: ‘When I am weak, then I am strong’”

The Whole Christ: A New Teaching Series from Sinclair Ferguson
“In this new video teaching series, The Whole Christ, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson expands on his book and illustrates the biblical relationship between God’s grace and our work. Dr. Ferguson makes it clear that the solution to both legalism and lawlessness is the same—a right understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Hollywood and the Human Heart
“We ought to welcome an exposure of sexual sin in a culture that has celebrated, embraced and fought for every other conceivable form of sexual sin. However, only highlighting one or two specific forms of sexual depravity will have the inevitable and undesired result of fueling self-righteousness among those outraged by it. When the media singles out one particular sexual sin, while approving almost all other forms, one who hasn’t fallen into a socially unacceptable form of sexual sin begins to go on a self-righteous rampage about the sin of others while refusing to acknowledge his or her own depravity. ”

Running from “the Black Dog”
Scott Slayton proposes three strategies will help you fight for joy when depression rears its ugly head. “God works through his people, his world, and his word. We would do well to utilize them in our war against the black dog.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Rediscovering the Holy Spirit: God’s Perfecting Presence in Creation, Redemption, and Everyday Life by Michael Horton $4.99.

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth by Christopher J. H. Wright $4.99.

Check out

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 7:41am

It’s been a bit quiet on the blog front the past few days because Shona and I have been speaking at a conference at Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, where Tom Ascol and Jared Longshore are the pastors. We tagged on three days vacation with a few of our kids at the end of it. Normal service will be resumed in a couple of days.

Many thanks to Tom, Jared, and the congregation for their warm fellowship and generous hospitality over the past weekend. It was all the more memorable for us because it was the first conference Shona had spoken at, and she did so in connection with her book, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

Hannah Asco, Donna Ascol, Tom Ascol, David Murray, Shona Murray, Amy Murray, Joni Murray, Scot Murray

Here are some of the articles I’ve been reading the past few days.

Do You Sleep Less Than Jesus?
“The Word became flesh and slept among us. God himself in full humanity — body, heart, mind, and will — closed his eyes and went to sleep. And not once or twice, but every day.”

How the Church Helps Trauma Survivors
The second article in Todd Hardin’s series on PTSD. I love Todd’s holistic approach to biblical counseling.

When Combat Trauma Tests a Marriage
“Treatment of PTSD requires the expertise of mental health professionals. However, the need for a professional counselor never negates the need for a loving church family. The church is uniquely positioned to wrap around both veterans and their families: loving them, supporting them, and praying for them. A strong support system—like what a church family can offer—is crucial for healing.

Frustrated with a Friend
What do you do when a scholar you admire writes a disappointing chapter that undermines the Messianic Psalms?

How to Be Busy but in Balance
Written by one of the busiest men still alive:

“Perhaps the first step is to stop working, spend some time with God, and seek understanding as to what he is saying about your work. After all, he is our model; he is the one who calls us to work hard and to enjoy rest.

Facebook founding president sounds alarm
The founding President of Facebook takes us behind the curtain.

“The thought process that went into building these applications, Facebook being the first of them, was all about: ‘How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?’” “That means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you… more likes and comments.”

Kindle Books

Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion by Os Guinness $5.99.

The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief  by James Spiegel $2.51.

Saturate: Being Disciples of Jesus in the Everyday Stuff of Life by Jeff Vanderstelt $4.99.

Gospel-Centered Discipleship by Jonathan K. Dodson  $4.99.

Biblical Counseling Videos

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 6:11am

I’m in the process of putting my two Biblical Counseling courses online in the form of multiple short videos. Here are the first three. Many thanks to Darryl Bradford, our video producer/editor at PRTS.

1. Why do we need counseling?

2. What is Biblical Counseling?

3. Why is defining biblical counseling so important?

Check out

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 5:44am
Blogs

We start with few articles for churches in the aftermath of Sutherland Springs. I predict that a church’s security policy is going to become a major factor in choosing where to attend church. First of all here’s the federal government’s most recent advice and resources page for protecting houses of worship.

7 Ways to Prepare Your Church Against Violence
“How then can we prepare for the range of potential violence we may encounter on Sunday mornings? While there are excellent resources and organizations that can help you develop formal and specific plans, here are seven general actions to prepare your church.”

How Your Church Should Prepare for an Active Shooter
Active shooters are a harsh reality of church life today. We can be prayerful. And we can be prepared.

Deranged, Depraved, or Dejected?
A Christian psychiatrist urges us not to add people with mental illness to the “victims” of mass shootings:

In the wake of yet another tragic mass shooting, this time affecting another church, we’re called to reflect again about how to process these events. Many writers have discussed how to grieve, heal, and avoid living in fear following heartbreaking tragedies. Today I want to advocate for a marginalized group often indirectly hurt by the public response to these events: those who struggle with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, and other emotional difficulties.

Stressed to the Max: How Does God Want Us to Deal With Stress?
“It is possible to be supremely busy without the stress overwhelming us and without getting cranky and Irritable? Can we manage stress biblically? Are Christians even supposed to get stressed? Is it sinful? ”

Why Do You Have a Phone?
“Have you ever thought about giving your phone a mission statement?”

Kindle Books

A Cross-Shaped Gospel: Reconciling Heaven and Earth by Bryan Loritts $2.99.

Better Love Now: Making Your Marriage a Lifelong Love Affair by Tommy Nelson $0.99.

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ by John F. MacArthur $2.99.

Inspiring Transgender Testimony

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 8:28am

Denny Burk recently posted a link to Laura Perry’s incredible testimony. Laura was born a woman but lived as a transgender male for ten years before God brought her to himself. It’s one of the most amazing testimonies I’ve ever heard. The first half is an interview with Laura, with her godly parents joining her for the second half. What a Gospel we have! What a Savior we have!

Don’t make the mistake that I did of listening to this in the car—unless you’ve got some great windscreen wipers.

Check out

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 8:15am
Blogs

God’s Ministry of Disappointment
“Our journey to one day having children has not been blissful, innocent, joyous, or as easy as I expected it to be. It has been a journey of loss, heartbreak, delay, doctor appointments, test results, delays, stress, frustration, more appointments, more delays. Hope seems to be a liability too expensive to carry in the face of so much disappointment.”

Hobbies of Highly Effective People
“Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is one of the most relentlessly competitive leaders you’ll ever encounter. That doesn’t mean he’s burning the midnight oil (even if some of his employees are). “Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority. For me, that’s the needed amount to feel energized and excited,” he told Thrive Global.”

How a Genealogy Changed My Life
“Constantly worried about what people thought of me, and living a selfish life thinking I was the center of the universe. I loved myself so much and expected everyone else to love me as much as I loved myself, but, sadly, they were too busy loving themselves.”

3 Tips for Coping with Today’s Biggest Threat to Mental Health
“Research also shows that loneliness and social isolation are major contributors to addiction and other psychiatric disorders, recovery from which, we now know, largely entails supportive relationships of love and connection.”

Preaching the Psalms to Ourselves
“Preach the Psalms to yourself. As you do, your confidence in the Lord will soar. The result? Your knowledge of Him will grow and you will respond in worship and right living before the Lord. Open your Bible to the Psalms and begin today, preaching the Psalms to yourselves.”

Guns & the Future of Ministry
I own guns and have a CPL, but this is a thought-provoking reflection on the impact guns are having on ministry. Lots of questions but no easy answers.

“”Over the last 10 years,” he said, “the number of guns in our community has exploded. We’re a rural town. People have always had hunting rifles and shotguns, but now everyone has handguns and they carry them everywhere. Even to church.” He warned me before speaking that at least 80 percent of the congregation would be “packing” during my sermon.”

Why We Can Rejoice that Marriage Will End
I find this harder to imagine than my wife does.

“When marriage someday ends, we will agree that God has not subtracted anything, but only added. He has not divided, but united us in an even deeper way. Marriage is a wonderful gift and today we thank God for it. But in that day we will praise him for bringing it to an end so we can experience something even better, the very thing it has been pointing us toward all along. Until then, the joys of marriage direct our eyes to the joys to come.”

Kindle Books

Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds by Chris Brauns $3.99. First class book that may change your life.

The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi $2.99.

Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well by Randy Newman $3.99.

Check out

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Something to Hate
“While hate is a strong word, it is a necessary word. It is necessary to speak the truth about what is evil. We need to use it to think about, talk about, and act against sin. In doing so, it will help us see sin for what it is: an affront against a holy, perfect, and righteous God. Hating sin helps us take it seriously. It helps us put it in its proper place. When we hate sin, it moves us fight against it, to be alert for its work in our lives, and to put it to death. The opposite of hate is love and if we don’t hate sin and treat it as evil, we will grow to love it.”

The Research Proves The No. 1 Social Justice Imperative Is Marriage
“A consistent and irrefutable mountain of research has shown, reaching back to the 1970s and beyond, that marriage strongly boosts every important measure of well-being for children, women, and men. Pick any measure you can imagine: overall physical and mental health, income, savings, employment, educational success, general life contentment and happiness, sexual satisfaction, even recovery from serious disease, healthy diet and exercise. Married people rate markedly and consistently better in each of these, and so many more, compared to their single, divorced, and cohabiting peers. Thus, marriage is an essential active ingredient in improving one’s overall life prospects, regardless of class, race, or educational status.”

Let Me Show You What Postpartum Depression Really Feels Like
“Being a mom not suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) has been an illuminating experience. After suffering from it with my first two children, I am sure I technically have PPD with my third child, but I am on medication that controls my symptoms so well that I function as a healthy neurotypical person.”

Elijah’s Tree Ministry for Discouraged Ministers
“Elijah’s Tree exists to provide God-centered, Christ-magnifying, Scripture-saturated, confidential, and accessible shepherding and spiritual refreshment for discouraged, burned out, wounded and hurting pastors, pastoral couples, chaplains, and missionaries.”

Emotional Intelligence, a Critical Trait of a Church Replanter
The four characteristics of emotional intelligence that we cover in this episode are:

  1. Self-awareness: The ability to know yourself and your emotions, not as you wish they were, but as they really are.
  2. Self-regulation: The wisdom and ability to understand the impact you have when you take action or refrain from action.
  3. Social awareness: The ability to read other people and understand their emotions.
  4. Relationship management: The ability to incorporate the other 3 skills to navigate and build positive relationships with all types of people.

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, November 2017
“The November issue of Tabletalk considers the biblical teaching on leadership. Our nature as human beings is to seek out leaders to set a course for us and direct us in accomplishing things, and as Christians we are designed to seek leaders who will motivate us to do excellently for the sake of the kingdom of God. Yet in the workplace, the church, and the home, good leaders are often scarce. Further, we see leaders fail, and we often resist following our appointed leaders. These problems indicate that while we know we need leaders and that many of us should become leaders, we have a deficient understanding of what godly leadership actually is. This issue examines the biblical concept of leadership so as to help equip believers to be better leaders and followers in the various spheres of life.”

Whatever Is Lovely: How to Overcome Demanding Thoughts
“When we are struggling with distracting, demanding thoughts and emotions, God wants us to know that we are not victims who must simply endure the miserable ride on the train of our thoughts. He wants us to seize the controls he’s given us, switch tracks, and head in a faithful, joyful direction.”

Conversations through 95 Theses – Reflections on a Facebook Live Q&A
I’ve rarely seen such a sustained, charitable, and reasonable critique.

Kindle Books

Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts by Robert D. Jones $3.99.

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing by Andy Crouch $2.99.

The Life of God in the Soul of the Church: The Root and Fruit of Spiritual Fellowship by Thabiti Anyabwile $2.99.

How to Critique Secular Psychology

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 2:00am

I’ve been told a number of times now that if I really want to influence Biblical Counseling towards a more Reformed historical and confessional understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture that I have to prove my bona fides by critiquing secular models of psychology. So, at the risk of writing the least-read blog posts in history, in the coming weeks I plan to analyze the delights of Freudianism, behaviorism, Rogerian therapy, existential therapy, gestalt therapy, and so on. If anyone reads the whole series, let me know, and I’ll send you a voucher for the therapy of your choice. My students usually sleep through my lectures on this subject. Sometimes, I do too. Regular readers and normal people, don’t worry, I’ll only be doing this once a week.

Armed to the Teeth
Before we look at these secular systems, I want to explain my approach to this exercise. I’m assuming that no one is approaching any of these systems of counseling uncritically and unarmed. There is much in them that is hostile to the Christian faith and, therefore, if we enter this arena, we must do so armed with the Word of God and never put it down.

Search and Destroy
So, armed with full confidence in the Word of God and a critical mind towards secular thought, we want to do two things. First of all, we want to search and destroy. We want to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). Anything contrary to God’s Word must be grounded and pounded with the hammer of God’s Word. Although that’s where many people stop, we must then move on to phase two.

Find and Construct
We want to find and construct. We want to search through the rubble and find any truth that has survived. We shine the light of God’s Word into the wreckage and ask, is there anything in there worth salvaging? Is there anything that would help us understand God’s Word better? Is there anything that would correct our understanding of Scripture? Can we find anything that would supplement our understanding of Scripture while remaining consistent with Scripture (see the inclusion of the wisdom of Amenemope in Proverbs 22-24)? Anything that would help us understand people better and counsel people better? Anything that we could run through the filter of Scripture in order to bring us closer to God’s perfectly comprehensive knowledge of people?

Five Critical Areas
The five areas that we will be examining in each secular system are the five most critical areas in any counseling system:

  • Philosophy: What are the system’s basic philosophical presuppositions about truth, reality, etc?
  • Personality: What is the system’s theory of human personality, identity, motivation, etc?
  • Problem: What is wrong with people and the world and how did it come about?
  • Purpose: What is the ideal that we are aiming at? What does wellness or wholeness look like?
  • Prescription: How are we going to get from problem to purpose? What is the method of change?

My Wife’s Battle With Depression (Part 2)

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 2:00am

Thank you for your warm and encouraging response to Shona’s article yesterday in which she began to share her terrible experience with depression. Here’s the second part of her story.

During this dark season I would sleep with exhaustion, but then awaken in an instant several minutes later, unable to stop the rage of mental torment. I concluded that the Lord had given me over to the Devil, that I could not be a Christian, and all that remained was for me to fall into hell. Long before my alarm clock went off each morning, I awoke suddenly like a startled bird. While the rest of the house slept, I had to get up, to get away from this pain. Waves of tormenting thoughts crashed on the shores of my heart: “What’s going to happen to my children on the way to eternity? Who will bring them up? What a tragedy of immeasurable consequences; a mother who lost her mind and her soul. They will have to live with that. What about David, my poor husband, who sees that something is terribly wrong with me but can’t fathom it? What will happen to the baby I am carrying, for whom I feel no emotional connection?”

Reality versus Unreality
I tried to focus on verses of comfort from my Bible, with a ferocious intensity, but in so doing I became more and more obsessional. I turned all the Bible’s encouragements against myself and applied all its condemnations to myself. Adding to my mental exhaustion, I scoured books that I thought might rescue me from these dark depths: books such as Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan; The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall; and Spiritual Depression by Martin Lloyd- Jones. I gleaned some truth from these books that kept some hope alive, but it was all too intense and exhausting.

There were glimpses of reality but only occasionally and momentarily. Surely the Lord said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). He stilled the storm for the disciples. He would never cast away any who truly seek him. What were the last twenty-five years of my Christian life all about? He never saves and then lets go. That was my daily debate. Yet just as soon as I grabbed reality, delusional thoughts, subjective feelings, and deceitful unreality would crush all hope.

The beautiful sunshine and the singing of the spring birds were an agony. The beauty of the night sky and the array of stars, which testified of a faithful Creator, only served to break my heart yet further. I thought back to my childhood, when I would often sit outside my home in the Scottish Highlands looking heavenward and singing the words of Psalm 8:3–4. But now, instead of that free and happy childhood, life was over. I had lost the Lord—if I ever had him. He was gone forever. All hope was gone.

Spiritual Problem?
As a family doctor, I had treated many people in similar situations, and if I had heard my story in the consulting room, I would have objectively diagnosed: “Mentally broken and severely depressed.” However, the subjective side of me—much more persuasive and persistent—convinced me that my problem was spiritual, a lack of spiritual will or trust. If only I could have greater faith in God, then everything would be okay. After all, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). But I was in the eye of the storm, weakened and disorientated, which is not the best place to make accurate assessments.

Eventually, when I finally crashed on the rocks in March 2003, David and I decided to call in my father, an experienced pastor of fifty years who would surely be able to find my spiritual problem. However, when he heard my story, he was convinced that it was not so much a spiritual problem as a mental and physical problem with spiritual consequences. He said that due to many factors, including burnout and long-term stress, my body was run down and my mind was broken. The normal physical and mental processes were disrupted, and, as a result, the most precious thing in my life was profoundly affected—my relationship with the Lord. That was a massive turning point for David and me, and it led to God opening the door to a wonderful recovery and a beautiful refreshing of my life that I want to share with you in my book Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

Spectrum of Suffering
Although your story may not be as serious or severe as mine, my subsequent experience of meeting and counseling other women has convinced me that many Christian women are trying to do what almost destroyed me; that is, run overwhelming lives at an unsustainable and miserable pace. Although not all of you will end up crumpled on the ground, feeling close to death like I did, many of you are suffering somewhere on the spectrum:

stressed —> anxious —> overwhelmed —> burned out —> sad —> depressed —> suicidal

By God’s grace my race did not end there, and yours need not either. In Refresh I’ll share with you how God taught me to embrace a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands.

Grace-Paced Life Links

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Stressed to the Max: How Do You Know if You’re Too Stressed?
Why did Sharon rejoice when she put her smartphone through the washing machine?

“It’s not the normal response to rejoice and thank God in these moments, but the gift of three weeks phoneless was such a blessing. Proper enforced rest. Until that moment I don’t think I truly realised just how tired and stressed I really was.”

Avoiding Burnout as a Biblical Counselor
“Almost everyone in the counseling profession experiences burnout. Even those of us outside the profession who take time to regularly have intentional conversations with others might experience burnout. We often find ourselves in these roles because the Lord has gifted us with concern for others and confident patience to see their long-term good. ”

What to Do When Work Stress (Literally) Makes You Sick
“Alyson was 35 when she had a stroke. The ambitious attorney awoke one morning unable to move, the left side of her body paralyzed. She was due in court later that day, so before calling for help, she reached for her phone and dialed her assistant. The stroke was the match in the powder barrel. For days, Alyson had ignored the warning signs, including ringing in her ears, visual impairments, and exhaustion. Her doctors had trouble pinpointing the source of her stroke — after all, the vast majority occur in those over 65 — but they all offered their best guess: stress.”

10 things to know about sleep
You probably don’t want to know this, but you should.

How To Fall Asleep And Why We Need More
“Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent gain,” Walker says. “Many people walk through their lives in an underslept state, not realizing it.”

Don’t be afraid of the big bad medication
“We need more women like Shona who will share these things with us. It helps to remove the stigma of this struggle. If we’re ashamed, we might not seek help, and that can’t be good for us or our families.”

How Leaders Accomplish More by Doing Less
“Leaders, do you ever feel like your workload is just too much? Is it difficult to know what to prioritize?  As a leader you’ve probably gathered great experience in a variety of work. You can probably generate a lot of activity and knock out a lot of tasks. But are you accomplishing the right things? Are you trying to do it all? In this updated article, Matt Perman shares ways that you can accomplish more for your organization by doing less.”

Infographic: Do Women Need to Slow Their Pace?

Video

Doc Parsley, an ex-Seal who is now a doctor to the Seals, specializes in sleep science and nutrition. The first 30 mins of this video on sleep are well worth listening to.

My wife’s life-or-death battle with depression

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 2:00am

I’m full of admiration for my wife Shona’s willingness to open up about her struggle with depression in her new book Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands. As you can imagine, it’s extremely difficult and nerve-wracking to be open and transparent about this when there is still so much stigma attached to mental illness in the church. But her hope is that her story will encourage other secret sufferers and those who minister to them, and also point them to God’s abundant provision of so many different means of healing for those with similar struggles. This is an extract from the first chapter of her book. If you’d like a copy of the book to review on Amazon, social media, or a periodical, please contact me.

I was a crumpled heap. The billows of mental pain buffeted me, leaving me barely able to breathe. I agonized over how a life that had been so full of happiness, so full of God’s blessing, could become so helpless and hopeless. For five months I had fought hard against the possibility of depression. After all, part of my job as a family doctor was to help patients recover from depression. Why was I now hearing my story in their stories? Why was I so afraid to see myself in their stories?

“Only the weak get overwhelmed and burn out. Only Christians who have bad genes or have experienced a real tragedy get depression. Ordinary Christians like me don’t. I must be an apostate who is depressed because God has left me. There’s no hope for me. No one and nothing can fix me. Even if they could, I don’t want to live without God. Yet I don’t know who he is anymore. I don’t know where he is. I don’t see him anywhere. Why did he leave me? Will he ever rescue me? Or will I die in despair?”

My mind spun like this, minute after minute, day after day, tortured by terrifying thoughts of God and my own tragic destiny. Until one day in March 2003 I spoke these words to my husband David through waves of tears: “I am a ship smashed against the rocks. My life is over!” Something gripped him at that moment that set us both on a course that would change our lives, a course that would eventually refresh my life and teach me how to embrace a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands.

Panic Attacks

In the months leading up to my shipwreck, I had become utterly exhausted and had completely lost my appetite. I simply had no desire to eat. One evening I tried to rest and read a book when suddenly, from nowhere, I felt a terror within, as if something awful was about to happen. My heart was pounding for no apparent reason, and I couldn’t make it calm down. Over subsequent weeks I had several of these fearful episodes.

I was very sad and would cry for no obvious reason. Loneliness enveloped me even when I was surrounded by those who loved me. I became obsessional in my thoughts, sometimes inexplicably mulling over sad events for hours. The terror episodes came closer together so that I was constantly terrified. My heart would pound away, sometimes for hours. Distraction seemed the best policy, so I just kept myself busy in an attempt to run away from these strange and terrible sensations, but also because there was so much to be done.

By now my enthusiasm had gone. Diaper changes, meals, groceries, mothering two lively little boys, caring for a busy toddler, and another baby on the way became scary prospects. I dreaded the mornings, and I wanted to hide under the covers; but a strong sense of the needs of others kept me going and going and going. Weeks went by when I could hardly sleep, and I cried a lot more. Nothing interested me. I felt I was a bad mother, a bad wife, a bad daughter, and a bad Christian. Guilt over a myriad of tasks not done—or poorly done by my standards—suffocated me. And despite running at top speed, the finish line was never in sight.

Despair Envelops

Concentrating on my devotions became increasingly difficult, and I felt that the Lord was far away. Mental exhaustion had me in its grip. One particular night as I tried to pray and kept losing track of what I was thinking or saying, I began to feel that I was falling off a cliff; I fell deeper and deeper, and there was no bottom. My whole emotional world fell apart. Through the night, I struggled between sleep and wakefulness. The most terrifying images and thoughts of God poured into my mind like an unstoppable fountain. I would respond with verses of well-known psalms, which I repeated over and over in a desperate attempt to hang on to God and his promises. I cried and cried to the Lord, but the darkness of despair descended. Like a tiny boat lost in a convulsing storm, having lost its rudder, my mind was broken, my emotions crippled, and the waves of despair plunged me down without mercy.

Read the rest of Shona’s story tomorrow.

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