Bell Creek Community Church

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

You are here:

Head Heart Hand

Subscribe to Head Heart Hand feed
David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 26 min ago

Check out

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Sola Scriptura Then and Now
Don Carson’s extended article is the read of the day. It helps to put the following articles in historical and theological perspective.

What is Sola Scriptura Protecting Us Against? More Than You Think
“Contrary to popular misunderstandings, it is not the belief that the Scriptures are the only authority.  Christians have other legitimate authorities in their life (their elders, classical creeds, etc.), but only Scripture is an infallible authority…Sola Scriptura is designed simply to prevent these other authorities from ruling the Christian and to keep God’s Word rightly as our ultimate guide.  Here are three examples of such authorities.”

Why Special Revelation Trumps General Revelation
“Both the general revelation of God (creation) and the special revelation of God (Scripture) are gifts for which we should be very thankful. However, because of the effects of sin on the mind of man (theologians call this the noetic effect of sin) and the rest of creation, we need special revelation to govern our interpretation of general revelation. Let me explain.”

14 Women of the Reformation That You Probably Never Knew About
“All too often, the textbooks focus solely on the men of the Reformation—Luther, Calvin, Cranmer, and others—and fail to take notice of the faithful women who served among, beside, and with the Reformers. These women were dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ, some to the point of martyrdom. Many of these women were well-educated, especially by the standard of their time. They read theology books, especially the Bible, and anything they could get their hands on from the reformers. Their inner circles of friends were part of long and frequent Bible studies. Most were wives and mothers. Some were also authors, apologists, ex-nuns, and queens. All were faithful servants of Jesus.”

Conversations through 95 Theses – Does Sufficiency Necessitate Competency?
“As a biblical counselor, I have no problem saying that Diane Langberg is more competent in counseling sexual abuse than I am, even though she is not a biblical counselor. As a movement, I believe we should be less averse (a.k.a. more humble) to making these kinds of acknowledgements.”

Fifteen Unusual Hospital Visits Experienced by Pastors
If that was all a bit heavy, have a laugh at these unusual visits pastors experienced.

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.”

God’s Alarm
My Dad narrates his lifelong battle with his alarm clock and points us to a spiritual lesson.

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.

Preaching Christ in All of Scripture by Ed Clowney $2.99. You will love this wonderful book.

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson $0.99.

The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times $3.99.

How to write a book with your wife

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 2:00am

My wife’s first (and she says “only”) book, Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demandsis officially released today.

I say it’s Shona’s book because although it’s also got my name on the cover, it really is her story. We are co-authors but not co-equal authors. So how did that joint authorship work and how does the content of Reset for men relate to Refresh for women. What bits did I write, what bits did Shona write, what bits did we write together, and how can you tell the difference?

Having looked at various jointly authored books, we decided against writing Refresh as “we,” because it’s for women and, well, I’m not not a woman! We also didn’t like the idea of switching from “I (Shona)” to “I (David)” whenever we used material from Reset. That just seemed awkward. Therefore, although we wrote it together, “I” (Shona) is used throughout. So what are the differences and overlaps between the two books? Here’s how Shona puts it in her book.

Similar Structure
First, the overall structure of the two books, the chapter headings and most of the subjects covered, are the same in both books. As David explained in his book, so much of the wisdom we have gained has come through many years of us living this together, suffering together, studying together, and counseling people together, so that our thoughts are almost identical. This similarity in structure and subjects should help husbands and wives who want to work through the books together to be on the same page, as it were, and yet also be able to identify important differences in the male and female experiences of stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression.

Substitute Story
Second, in Refresh my story is substituted for David’s story. In Reset David told of how burnout just about killed him—twice. Throughout Refresh I replace that with my own painful story of how I slipped into a deep hole of depression and anxiety and how God is graciously delivering me.

Feminization
Third, I feminized the manly parts. Although we initially thought that we could write a book for women with just a few tweaks of the man’s book, we soon realized that for all the significant similarities, there are multiple important differences in the female experience of burnout. That resulted in much more work than either of us expected, but we both agreed that it was important to make it as feminine as possible for maximum usefulness. The feminization also involved the addition of some sections that have no counterpart in Reset.

Surprising Experience
Although we were both a bit nervous about how to navigate a joint project such as this, as usual God surprised us and used the experience to draw us closer together and give us an ever-deeper appreciation for the beautiful complementarity of husband and wife in God’s plan for marriage. Near the end of writing it, we celebrated twenty-five years of marriage and found that writing Refresh had been a wonderful reminder of God’s goodness and mercy following us all the days of our lives. We hope and pray that you will benefit from the wisdom God has been pleased to teach us through the years and that what we have learned will refresh you, lead you into a grace-paced life in a world of overwhelming demands, and help you experience the healthy balance of grace motivation and grace moderation as exemplified by the apostle:

Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1, 2)

Using Psychology to Unmask the Abuser

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 8:05am

“He’s abusing me.”

“I love her and wouldn’t think of harming her.”

This is a marital scenario that pastors and elders face from time to time. Where do we go from here?

The Bible tells us that it is a sin to abuse anyone and to “pass by on the other side” when we hear a cry for help.

The Bible also tells us that it’s a sin to falsely accuse and to find someone guilty who is innocent.

How do we establish the truth here, minister to these two professing believers, and fulfill our obligations to honor and please God?

We question each individual and ask for their side of the story. But we basically end up back with the first two sentences of this post. What now? Where do we get wisdom for obeying God in this scenario?

Obviously the Bible condemns abuse in all its forms, but it does not give us any detail about how to recognize the signs, what are the usual patterns of denial, what steps should be taken for a victim’s short-term and long-term safety, how to respond to the PTSD that sometimes results, and so on.

So what do we do?

Do the pastor and elder just try to guess the right things to do even though they may never have faced this situation before? They might consult other pastors and elders, but they will probably find most of them either haven’t faced this before, or else they’ve made an absolute mess of it when they did and don’t want to get involved again.

What’s next? We’re praying for wisdom and insight but the Bible and the Christian community do not seem to have the wisdom we need. But did God not promise to provide wisdom if we lacked it and asked for it (James 1:5)? Yes, he did. And he does. But sometimes he provides the needed wisdom for obedience to him from outside the Scriptures and from outside the Christian community. He gives wisdom generously to all. (e.g. here, and here).

There are men and women—psychologists, counselors, social workers, etc.,—who have dedicated their whole lives to helping the victims of marital abuse. Some of them have handled many hundreds of different cases. Unlike pastors and elders who may get a case like this once a decade, it’s all they do, all day, every day. Most of them are not Christians and therefore cannot fix the heart of the abuser or fully comfort the heart of the victim, but their compassion and their wisdom in these situations put many of us to shame.

They have studied hundreds of abusers and victims. They know how abusers operate. They know their strategies and tactics. They know their defenses, denials, and doublespeak. They know how they make their victims feel guilty. They know which buttons they press when they talk to pastors, elders, and other authorities. They know the multi-layered damage victims suffer (even when there has been no physical contact). They know how to extract victims from danger and when. They know how to defend and protect victims and their children. They know the PTSD that often follows and the steps to take to rebuild identity and confidence. They know the signs of false repentance in an abuser. In sum, they know how to separate truth from lies, and they know how to distinguish what helps from what harms.

Do Christians and churches not need that so-called “secular wisdom” (which is actually the gift of a generous God) if we are to obey God fully in this situation? This wisdom is more than filling in details. It is fundamental and foundational to any effective counseling in this situation. This wisdom is more than “helpful.” It is necessary. It is vital. It is imperative. It is heaven’s answer to the prayer of James 1:5. We should be thankful that God is continuing to  impart such gifts of wisdom to the human race for the good of his people. I know many victims of abuse are.

Do we accept it wholesale? Of course not. Evolutionary, feminist, and humanist theory can be found throughout this field of knowledge. But the Bible is 100% sufficient to screen and filter this knowledge so that we only let in what is in accordance with God’s truth.

There are many books and papers written by psychologists and others who have devoted their lives to serving the victims of domestic abuse. If you want the quickest sample of this presented at a popular level, watch this TED talk, Unmasking the Abuser, by social psychologist Dina McMillan. Her understanding of the deceitful and desperately wicked twists and turns of human motivation, personality, evasion, and manipulation, provide one of the best “commentaries” on Jeremiah 17:9 that I’ve come across.

To the person who still insists that this is merely helpful wisdom, but it’s not necessary, I would ask: “At what point does something helpful become a moral obligation to pursue and provide?” I’ll unpack that question further in a future article.

And if you want a conservative Christian defense of this approach to the sufficiency of Scripture, and especially how to reconcile the spiritual antithesis with common grace, read Westminster Seminary professor Dennis Johnson’s excellent article, Spiritual Antithesis: Common Grace, and Practical Theology.

Check out

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, and Mental Illness
Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about Luther!

Counseling and Controversy
Dr. Heath Lambert is addressing recent controversy in the biblical counseling world in a Facebook Live session tonight at 8pm ET.

The Pastoral Duty of Letting People Down
“When a pastor chooses to thoroughly ignore the buzzing in his pocket and instead remain present at dinner with his wife and kids, he confesses his non-omnipresence. When he says, “I don’t know” to the person asking the question that outstrips his knowledge, he confesses his non-omniscience. When he closes his books at the end of the day and goes home to eat and rest, he confesses his non-omnipotence. He confesses his earthiness, his dust-origins, his weak frame—all the things, in other words, that God will clothe with power from on high (2 Cor. 12:9).”

Four Stupid Things Pastors Do That Ruin Their Ministry
The four dangers are: (1) Flirting dangerously with sexual boundaries; (2) Plagiarism; (3) Financial stupidity; (4) Social media madness.

Everyone needs a little Grace in their lives: Clinging to the Crutch
“Sixteen years ago, I went through a season of Anxiety.  And I say it with a capital A, because there’s no other good word to describe it.  You can say, I’m anxious about that interview.  I’m anxious about the bills.  But that’s nothing compared to Anxiety.  It’s like equating “feeling down” with Depression.  You just can’t compare the two.  Anxiety is all-encompassing, life-consuming, soul-sucking. That was sixteen years ago, and after two years I had victory.  Then it entered my life again a few months ago, and has sought to control me these last weeks. ”

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch
Another positive review of an excellent book on how to manage your family’s use of digital technology.

Four Suggestions for Reading the Minor Prophets
“The next time your Bible reading plan takes you to the Minor Prophets, apply these four suggestions.”

Kindle Books

Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg $1.99.

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp $3.59.

Jonah: Navigating a God-centered Life by Colin S. Smith.

Two Good Men Talk about Good Books

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 8:00am

This video is so inspiring. Two faithful soldiers of Christ passing on their wisdom to the next generation.

Why do I critique biblical counseling?

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 4:36am

I am a biblical counselor.

I love biblical counseling.

I teach biblical counseling at two seminaries.

I recommend biblical counseling blogs and books (95% of my class reading lists are by biblical counseling authors and 95% of the counseling blogs I recommend are biblical counseling blogs).

I want to see biblical counseling practiced in every local church and taught in every seminary.

I’ve seen biblical counseling transform multitudes of lives.

I have the highest hopes for the future of biblical counseling.

So why do I, from time to time, critique biblical counseling?

I do so out of a desire for accuracy, clarity, and consistency in its statements about the sufficiency of Scripture.

That’s not just an academic point. The lack of this has damaged biblical counseling, its practice, its reputation, its effectiveness, its appeal, and its wider adoption. This is tragic and not only prevents needy people accessing what the best biblical counseling can offer, but has also damaged people in the hands of some practitioners.

Whenever I offer my critiques, the two most common responses I get from biblical counselors (apart from welcome private messages of agreement and support from other biblical counselors) is:

1. This is personal. You’re motivated by personal animosity.

2. This is ridiculous. You know we don’t believe that. How can you possibly think that? Here’s evidence of what we really believe.

There’s nothing I can do about the first one apart from keep a clear conscience before God and refuse to allow such false accusations prevent me from critiquing when it’s needed.

As for the second, I’ve been challenged in recent days to provide evidence for what I am critiquing. I’ve been surprised at this because the same critique has been made of biblical counseling since its inception by many others. I don’t think we’re all stupid or malicious.

No one is saying that biblical counselors don’t ever state their position accurately and clearly. Many examples of that can be provided. But there are still too many examples of influential statements that contradict or confuse what is said elsewhere.

When we feel we are being widely misunderstood, at some point we have to ask if perhaps we are contributing to the misunderstanding. The verbal fix is so easy that I can’t understand why it’s so resisted.

I’d much rather that the defenses come down and the courageous step up to admit: “We have a problem. How can we fix this? How can we put this in such a way that it’s impossible to misunderstand us?”

But, in the absence of that, I have reluctantly agreed to provide the evidence on my blog in the coming days.

Just for starters, here’s a link to some previous articles I’ve written on the subject.

In the meantime, I continue to long and pray for the re-formation of biblical counseling in this one vital area of how it states its position on the sufficiency of Scripture. Accuracy, clarity, and consistency here will, in the long run, draw many more to and into biblical counseling.

A Friendly Dialogue on the Sufficiency of Scripture

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 2:00am

Sean Perron is a biblical counselor who specializes in marriage and child counseling. He and I have been having a friendly online dialogue about the sufficiency of scripture and biblical counseling. With his permission I am posting the dialogue as a blog post as I think it helps clarify and advance the conversation. The conversation began when Sean responded to my article Do we need more than the Bible for Biblical Counseling? My responses to Sean are in bold.

David,

I am always grateful to see conversations about the importance and relevance of the Bible in preaching and counseling. I have personally enjoyed your book “Jesus on Every Page” and I’m grateful for the help it offers to preachers and counselors.

I was at a regional ACBC conference talking about the sufficiency of Scripture and was asked by a man “If the Bible is sufficient for counseling, why do you have extra-biblical counseling resources in your bookstore?”

The answer is that although the Bible is sufficient, it does not mean that we are sufficient to understand everything about it. The Bible has everything we need for life and godliness, but it often takes work to see the gold it contains. A miner may use a pick axe to uncover gold, but that doesn’t mean the gold was never in the mine.

I actually think your blog post here is an argument that the Bible is the only sufficient source of wisdom for counseling and preaching. Your analogy underscores the importance of knowing the Bible and studying it carefully. Every biblical counselor committed to the sufficiency of Scripture (who believes that the wisdom of psychology is not necessary) would beg people and counselees to study the Bible as much as possible and use every available resource.

I say bring me every book I can read and find about the Bible. I have been helped by reading about how I can find Jesus on every page. This is why the Bible endorses teachers and gives the spiritual gift of teaching and preaching – to help us understand the Scripture.

If your blog post is implying that because a person uses a commentary to help with sermon prep, the wisdom of psychology is therefore necessary for biblical counseling, this is a category mistake.

Preachers and counselors use commentaries to study the Bible because they know the Bible contains the wisdom they need. Your blog post underscores that the Bible is the book that matters. We should understand everything we can about it. We should not assume that we, with our limited understanding, can grasp all that’s here.

In conclusion, I don’t think people need to repent for using a commentary to study the Bible. But if someone asserts that we need to study Freud, or Maslow, or Carl Rogers because they have necessary counseling wisdom that the Bible doesn’t contain, then I think repentance honors Christ.

Thanks for writing and I look forward to discussing more.

Sean Perron

Hi Sean, thanks for your contribution to this discussion. I’m keen to learn from others on this and hopefully we can all make some progress in our understanding of one another and of how to understand the sufficiency of Scripture. So, let me ask you a question for the sake of clarification: Are you saying that as long as another source of truth outside the Bible helps us understand the Bible more, it’s OK to use. Or are you saying that it’s only commentaries on the Bible that are OK? I’m hoping to write a few more articles, so stay tuned.

David

Thanks David. To help clarify, I’m for any resource that helps us understand the Bible more. Including, but not limited to, lexicons, grammars, etc. In the words of 2 Timothy 4:13, bring me the scrolls, especially the parchments.

But the issue at stake with the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling is what to do with wisdom from psychology. Biblical counselors say that we don’t need wisdom from psychologists.

I realize it isn’t popular right now to favorably quote Jay Adams, but in his book “What About Nouthetic Counseling?”Adams is fine with psychology as long as it remains in its proper area. Here is a lengthy quote, but one that I have found helpful (and for some reason most people haven’t read).

He answers the question: “Don’t you think that we can learn something from psychologists?” And he responds:

Yes, we can learn a lot; I certainly have. That answer surprised you, didn’t it? If it did, you have been led to believe, no doubt, that nouthetic counselors are obscurantists who see no good in psychology. Or perhaps you have been told that they are sadly self-deceived persons who, while decrying all psychology, take many of their ideas from psychologists without knowing it. Both charges are preposterous.

While I can understand how the idea that I am opposed to psychology and psychologists could have gotten abroad because of my strong statements about the failures of psychologists as counselors, a careful reading of my materials will make it clear that I do not object to psychology or to psychologists as such. My objections are directed solely to so-called clinical and counseling psychology in which most of what is done I consider not to be the work or province of psychology at all. That I deplore psychology’s venture into the realms of value, behavior and attitudinal change because it is an intrusion upon the work of the minister, in no way lessens my interest, support and encouragement of the legitimate work of psychology.

I have profited greatly, for instance, from the results of the work done at the Harvard sleep labs (and elsewhere). This sleep study I consider to be a valid and worthwhile enterprise for psychology. Indeed, I wish all psychologists would go back to such work.

But when psychologists attempt to change men, although they have no warrant from God to do so, no standard by which to determine what are proper or deviant attitudes or behavior, no concept of what man should look like, and no power by which to achieve the inner changes of the heart and though that are so necessary, I cannot help but be concerned.

I would not oppose psychiatrists either if they were doing the important medical work that it is necessary to do to help people whose behavior is adversely affected by organic causes.” (Page 31.)

While helpful information can be identified through experiments and observations, solutions for troubled souls are not possible through science. The Bible is the only resource for people to experience change that is true and eternal, and the only source of wisdom necessary to provide counseling solutions.

I’m afraid that many critiques of the use of Sola Scriptura in biblical counseling right now are not actually fair critiques. Instead, the arguments are built around straw men or an improper understanding of biblical counseling. I’m grateful for this conversation and opportunity to provide any small amount clarity.

I hope this helps. Thanks for taking the time to read such a long comment!!

Sean.

Thanks for sharing this, Sean. Yes, that’s very helpful, although difficult to square with what he says elsewhere and with statements from more recent spokesmen.

I noticed that you narrowed down the question about what sources we can use outside the Bible to this: “But the issue at stake with the sufficiency of Scripture in counseling is what to do with wisdom from psychology. Biblical counselors say that we don’t need wisdom from psychologists.”

That’s especially helpful to know as it helps to focus the discussion on psychology and limits the discussion about what is admissible in counseling to the area of psychology (all other fields of knowledge being admissible?)

David.

David, likewise about the interaction!

Research done by psychologists on sleep science, impact of digital technology, autism, etc. can certainly be incorporated into counseling. No objections at all.

All biblical counselors are happy to receive truth outside Scripture, but we need Scripture to help us know how to make sense of that information.

Most of the counseling I do personally is related to children, pre-marriage relationships, and marriage counseling.

I was talking with an engaged man yesterday about contraception and birth control. He was looking for counsel on if/when/what he and his wife should do in marriage. I am so grateful for all the science and research done on birth control and was able to discuss that with him. I needed that info in order to have the conversation, or else there wouldn’t even be a conversation to have. If he didn’t know that birth control existed, then he wouldn’t be looking for advice on the matter. That was data that needed to be gathered about life. I need to be slow to speak and quick to hear about the issues at hand.

But that scientific data wasn’t the source of wisdom or the guide for how I gave counsel on whether he and his wife should use the birth control Pill. The only source of wisdom we needed for “life and godliness” in this scenario was the Scripture. I used a lot of science, but the Scriptures were my guide and source of wisdom. He and his wife can glorify God fully and completely in this scenario because of the wisdom from the Bible on these matters.

Really thankful to be able to discuss these things. I am praying for you and your ministry and perhaps we can meet in person sometime.

Sean.

Sean, that’s another good example of the “integration” we’ve been discussing. I hadn’t thought of that one before even though it’s certainly one that my wife and I have wrestled through with the help of Scripture and science.

I agree with you that in this case the Scriptures are a necessary source of wisdom. But, in our case, we found that scientific data was also a necessary source of wisdom in helping us decide whether to use birth control and, if so, what one. For example, my wife is a medical doctor and without her medical knowledge I would never have known that certain contraceptive pills and devices prevent implantation of fertilized cells. That scientific knowledge helped us decide that whatever we did, we could never use these means if we wanted to be consistent with Scripture. In this case science was also a source of wisdom that we needed for life and godliness. Sadly, I know many faithful Christians do use these means, only because they don’t know the science. They are not glorifying God because they lack the wisdom that science gives.

If you’re ever up in Grand Rapids, give me a shout, and we can hopefully continue to discuss these matters face to face.

Most of the current research in the areas of autism, pedagogy, sleep science, and the impact of digital theology on our lives is being done by psychologists. Is it really the position of biblical counselors that such wisdom is not admissible? Adams would seem to reject that position, at least to some extent, according to your quote.

Appreciate the spirit of your interaction.

I think we are closer now than we we started!

It seems the difference is I wouldn’t call “hard” science a source of wisdom. Rather, it presents observations and data that need to be interpreted and science cannot provide wisdom on interventions for solutions.

And likewise if you are ever in the Sunshine state. Sounds good! Now that I live in Florida, I try to stay away from the cold, but I look forward to connecting. Thanks David.

Check Out

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Benefits of Singing Psalms | Gentle Reformation
“Turns out you can have something that’s pretty good but not really realize and enjoy all the benefits. So it is with singing Psalms. ”

Conversations through 95 Theses – Defining “Psychology” and “Secular Therapy” | Brad Hambrick
Brad Hambrick continues to remove the nails from biblical counseling’s “95 Theses.” As a number of biblical counselors have pointed out to me privately over the past week, many, if not most, biblical counselors do not support the tone or entire content of these “95 Theses.”

“A document as significant as Dr. Lambert intends for his 95 Theses to be should have more precision and clarity on key terms like “psychology” and “secular therapy.” Based upon the level of repetition that exists between many of his other Theses, space for this precision could have been created by eliminating redundancy.”

Conversations through 95 Theses –Evidences for/against Biblical Counseling
And another in the same series:

“I am not opposed to biblical counseling becoming the kind of movement that could make the arguments that Dr. Lambert tries to appeal to in his 95 Theses. Actually, I am very much for it. But at the current time, I do not believe we are in a position to make these arguments and should display greater humility and polemical integrity until we are.”

Scripture Is Our Personal Trainer | Counseling One Another
“Scripture is our personal trainer for life and godliness. ”

5 Reasons Counselors Need to Cultivate Humility | Biblical Counseling Coalition
“If we wan t to be effective counselors, we will need to emulate Jesus by cultivating this same humility. Jesus had the impact He had, in part, because of His humility, and humility will make us better counselors. There are at least 5 ways our counseling will benefit from cultivating humility in our own lives.”

Biblical Preaching: Supernatural, Not Magical
It’s great to see Dan Phillips getting the opportunity to write at the politics and news site P J Media. You can support his voice there by clicking on the links, reading, and sharing his content. In How to Hear God’s Voice, the second in this two-part series, he gives ten ways to help us hear God’s voice in public worship.

The Upward Call – 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.”

The Stupidity of Sin | TGC
“Everyone who knows the Bible, knows people, or knows his own heart, knows this to be true: sin makes us stupid.”

Kindle Deals

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.


Comfort the Grieving: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Loss by Paul Tautges ($1.99)


Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness by Brian Croft ($1.99)


The Pastor’s Family: Shepherding Your Family through the Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Brian and Cara Croft ($3.99)


The Next Story: Faith, Friends, Family, and the Digital World by Tim Challies ($2.99)


Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples by Michael Horton ($6.99)

Pastor N. T. Grayshon schools me on the Sufficiency of Scripture

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 2:00am

I’m back in Pastor N. T Grayshon’s study with some more questions about how he integrates truth in God’s Word with truth from God’s world. 

Pastor Grayshon, although I’m really struggling to accept that we need more than the Bible for biblical preaching, I thought your example of preaching on the subject of digital technology was hard to argue against. I see how necessary science is in this area if we are to provide maximum help for people pursuing sanctification. But maybe that’s just an exception. Can you provide another example, this time to prove that we need more than the Bible for biblical counseling. And notice, I used the word “need.” I want you to prove that information from outside the Bible is not just helpful but necessary.

I don’t have all the answers here, Pastor. I admit that it’s not an easy area to navigate. But here’s an example I think might help. A few months ago, I was approached by parents who were really worried about their teenage son, James.

Over a period of time James had become really angry and bad-tempered. He wasn’t eating, he wasn’t socializing, he wasn’t talking. When he came home from school, he just went to his room and, apart from supper and family worship, he spent the whole evening there. His grades were dropping and his teachers were noticing him dozing off in class. He was a Christian, and his youth pastor initially had high hopes for him, but his Christian growth had slowed and his participation in service projects had tailed off. In the weeks before I saw him, his parents had taken him to the family doctor, but although she felt he was a bit run-down, none of the medical tests revealed anything serious.

So, let me ask you, if you were his counselor, what would you do?

Hmm, I think it’s pretty obvious. He’s watching porn on his iPad and his guilt is causing his anger, anxiety, loss of appetite, backsliding, and academic decline. He needs to repent of his sexual sin.

Yes, that’s where my mind went first too, but when I pressed James, he denied he’d ever looked at porn and offered me his iPad to prove it from his history. I noticed that he used Covenant Eyes and had blockers on other Apps to prevent accidental exposure to porn. I checked his history and noted that he mainly used the internet to visit Amazon and download Kindle books. They were all good books from Christian publishers, but I did notice that sometimes he was buying books very late at night, and sometimes very early in the morning.

What about his Bible reading and prayer? He’s probably stopped that.

I talked to him about that and he insisted he read and prayed every morning and evening. He admitted that he was finding it very hard to concentrate during these times and sometimes fell asleep on his knees.

You know, I’ve noticed a few times in the story that he’s very tired and sleeping odd hours. 

Yes, that’s where my mind was going too. I asked him about this and he admitted that he was sleeping less than six hours a night and often very irregular hours. He defended himself on the grounds that it was Christian books he was reading on his iPad, and that he was trying to prepare for Christian College and eventually even Seminary.

Oh, well, that’s probably OK then if he was doing it for a good reason like that.

Not at all. I’ve been reading a lot about sleep science the past few years and know that sleep deprivation is the cause of many physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual problems.

But the Bible doesn’t say anything about sleep does it?

It does actually. The Psalmist tells us that sleep is a gift of God, that it sustains us, and that it’s pointless to deprive oneself of it (Ps. 3:5; 4:8; 127:2).

So did you counsel him with that?

Yes, I got him to read these verses, and he totally agreed with the biblical principles in them, but he wasn’t convinced that his problems were related to sleep deprivation and also argued that lots of successful people (and pastors) managed on less than six hours a night. I couldn’t think of anything else in the Bible that would convince him he was damaging himself and needed more sleep.

Did you show him the science?

Yes, I mentioned a few facts to him that I could remember. For example, I shared with him that the light that comes from an iPad is equivalent to the noonday sun behind a cloud and that sleep scientists have found exposure to it last thing at night not only makes it harder to sleep but also results in shallow and interrupted sleep. I gave him a few books from my shelf that dealt with it in more detail, most of them written by psychologists. Unfortunately, none of them were Christian books, but facts are facts and I just told him to ignore the evolutionary theories about sleep that appeared here and there.

So what happened next?

It was a few weeks before I saw him again, but I could immediately see he was a changed person. His parents came too and  said that he was back to his old self. He was talking, eating, exercising, socializing, involved in the Youth Group again, and so on.

What did he say was the clincher for him?

He admitted that he wasn’t convinced by my Bible quotations that his problems were caused by lack of sleep, and he wasn’t convinced that he needed at least seven hours of sleep a night. However, when he read the science and saw the proven impact of sleep deprivation on every part of life he got quite scared and felt convicted that he was disobeying Scripture in refusing to accept God’s good gift of sleep and in thinking that he could get more done by sleeping less.

Did he find it easy to change?

No, he said that he’d got into such bad habits that he found it really difficult to get back on track. That’s where the books came in useful again. They provided a lot of scientifically proven means to improve sleep hygiene and after a few days of trying some of these, he found himself getting into a good routine.

How’s he doing spiritually?

Well obviously now that he’s doing better in his health, in his emotions, in his thinking, and in his friendships, that’s having a beneficial impact on his spiritual life too. He’s much more alert and engaged in his private devotions and in public worship. Best of all, he told me that he no longer resents having to sleep, but embraces it as a good gift from a gracious God and thanks God every night for both the Bible’s teaching on sleep and also for the truth that psychologists have discovered.

I think I’m beginning to grasp the integration…sorry, I mean connection, between the truth of Scripture and the truth of science. What then are you saying about the sufficiency of Scripture here? Can you summarize it for me?

I haven’t thought this through fully, but as I reflect on these examples, I think the following is true:

  • The Bible is sufficient in the sense that we need no further special revelation.
  • The Bible is comprehensive in that it has something essential to say about every area of life (e.g. sleep) and is therefore necessary in every life situation.
  • The Bible is not exhaustive in the sense that it covers every area of life exhaustively (e.g. the impact of sleep deprivation, how many hours of sleep are optimal, how to sleep better)
  • The Bible is authoritative in that everything it says is true and all other knowledge is subject to it (e.g. the science of sleep is subject to the theology of sleep and nothing may be admitted from science that is contradictory to Scripture).
  • The Bible is foundational, in that we must always begin there and build upon it.
  • Sometimes God’s truth found outside the Bible is necessary if we want to provide maximum spiritual help to people.

So you’re basically saying, that biblical counseling needs more than the Bible if it is to be maximally effective?

I’ll let you say that. I don’t really want to get into debates about it.

What I learned in my season of depression

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 1:30am

Written by Shona Murray, my wife and primary author of Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands [RHB].

No one can anticipate the trials that God sometimes ordains. Yet when a particular trial comes our way, we are often taken completely by surprise. We may even wonder if this is indeed God’s plan or some random out-of-control event.

When I was a pastor’s wife and a mother of four children, I was T-boned by burnout and depression. As an energetic, motivated, organized, and outgoing person, I could never have anticipated the anxiety, fear, and endless despair that enveloped me. But God, in his love and wisdom, chose this very specific trial for me. Perhaps he has chosen it for you, and you too are bewildered. Let me give you some hope by sharing some of the lessons I learned from this shocking providence.

Read the rest of this article at Crossway’s blog.

Check Out

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 1:00am
Blog Posts

6 Reasons to Take Seminary Chapel Seriously | For The Church
“Historically, a chief strategy toward forming students has been the seminary’s chapel worship gathering. In the points below, I want to highlight the seriousness of chapel and God’s good purposes in it for the seminarian. ”

4 Lies That Cause Pastors to Neglect Their Families | For The Church
“The walls of our church’s nursery needed painting. So there I was, on my regular day off with a brush in my hand. A country song I’d never heard before—’The Dollar,’ by Jamey Johnson—filled the room as I splashed the first coat of something called Polar Bear over the entrance door…”

My Five Counseling Goals for Session One | Biblical Counseling Coalition
“Effective biblical counseling begins with a successful first session, and a successful first session requires clear goals. What should we seek to accomplish in our first counseling session? Let me suggest five goals. While our methods and techniques will vary, the following five goals—welcome, know, hope, plan, commit—seem comprehensively wise to pursue.”

Research Reveals the 5 Biggest Influencers on Your Child’s Spiritual Health – Eric Geiger
“The study analyzed 2,000 Protestant adults who finished their parenting journey with one or more kids now between 18-30. The study looked at faith characteristics of those kids now, all grown up, and looked at the parenting practices and habits of the children as they were growing up… I am going to briefly offer the top five. If you care for your kid’s spiritual journey, this research is gold:”

Evidences of God’s Grace in the New Calvinism – Tim Challies
“Whatever else we can say about New Calvinism—and there’s lots to say—we can’t deny this: It displays many evidences of God’s grace. It is beyond dispute that God has been blessing his people and glorifying his name through this movement. In this video I want to point out 6 evidences of God’s grace in this Reformed resurgence.”

When I Lost a Daughter, My Children Lost a Sister | Christianity Today
“families that lose a child often struggle with social deprivation and poor health. Even a decade after losing a child, parents (especially mothers) face an increased mortality rate. But such loss may be hardest on children, Carroll said, with preteens exhibiting higher levels of depression and anxiety and adolescents being more likely to show attention problems and anger.”

A Confrontation Checklist – LifeWay Pastors
From the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 12) to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5) to Jesus (Matthew 18) and Paul (1 Corinthians 5) examples of confrontation permeate the Bible. The following is a checklist (drawn primarily from Nehemiah 5:1-13) that I hope will help the next time you have to confront someone living in sin.

Feeding on Christ Criticizing Our Camp – Feeding on Christ
“We readily lend our weight to the demonization of those we perceive to be most dangerous to the cause we seek to champion, while neglecting significant error within our own affinity groups.”

How Michael Phelps Conquered His Demons: ‘I Didn’t Want to Live’
“When I’m able to talk through my problems, it’s like a one-hundred-pound weight has been lifted off my chest, and I’m able to live a happier life, be a better father, be a better husband, and be a harder worker. It’s taken me thirty years to get there, but it doesn’t matter. I was able to get through it and learned a lot about myself by going through some of the darkest places I’ve ever been to in my life, and I’m a better person now because of it. And you know, the suicide rate is way too high. This is life-changing. If I never talked, who knows if I’d still be alive today.”

Kindle Deals

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.


God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity by Kelly M. Kapic ($2.99)


Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson ($2.99)


Is Hell for Real or Does Everyone Go To Heaven? edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson ($1.99)


Becoming Worldly Saints: Can You Serve Jesus and Still Enjoy Your Life? by Michael E. Wittmer ($2.99)

Watch me call Pastor N. T. Grayshon to repentance

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 2:00am

Yesterday we met a pastor who claimed that he needed more than the Bible for Biblical preaching. Today I’m going to confront him and call him to repentance for undermining the sufficiency and authority of Scripture. My part of the conversation is in bold.

Good morning Pastor N. T. Grayshon. After talking yesterday, I came away deeply concerned about your view of Scripture and wanted to make sure that I heard you rightly. Did you say that sources of knowledge from outside of the Bible were necessary for understanding and preaching the Bible?”

Yes, but I can understand how you might misunderstand me. So let me give you an example. I always think it’s easier to deal in concrete practical terms rather than in theoretical abstract arguments where different words (like “sufficiency”) often mean different things to different people.

Let’s take digital technology for example. I preached a sermon about this a few weeks ago. The sermon arose out of numerous conversations with parents and Sunday school teachers who were increasingly worried about the impact of smartphones on their children. It wasn’t that the kids were viewing porn, violent games or anything like that. Most of it was just seemingly harmless stuff like Snapchat, Instagram, social media, etc. They couldn’t put their finger on it or prove it but they all felt that smartphone use was damaging the kids’ ability to concentrate, to relate, to manage their emotions, and even to read their Bibles and pray. So, they asked me to preach a sermon on it!

I wasn’t sure where to turn, apart from “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12) and insisting that the kids simply obey their parents and teachers when they said that they should put their devices away. However, I could just imagine the unproductive conversations that would ensue in many homes.

“Stop using your phone!”

“Why?”

“’Cos I said so and God said you are to obey me!”

That doesn’t prepare children for life outside the home. I’ve found it’s much better to help people implement Scriptural imperatives by supporting them with reasons and motives. That’s the way God usually works in the Scriptures.

I then noticed that there was a motive clause: “….that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord God is giving you.” I thought, “If I can prove that obeying their parents on this would extend their lives then that would surely be much more persuasive.”

But there’s nothing about that in Scripture.

I know, that’s why I turned to Amazon! I bought:

I was absolutely stunned at the research demonstrating the physical, chemical, emotional, and relational, damage that excessive use of digital technology is doing to our kids. Some of the books had scientifically tested various remedies and were able to recommend ways to explain this to kids, implement changes, manage “withdrawal symptoms,” and gauge the best limits for different kids.

After I’d done this research I changed my text to something much more direct: “You shall not kill” (Ex. 20:13), and was able to argue that excessive technology use was forbidden because the sixth commandment “requires all lawful endeavors to preserve our own life and the life of others” (Shorter Catechism 68).

Later in the sermon I also referred to texts about the duty of stewarding our bodies for God’s glory (1 Cor. 6:15-20) and the command to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), which at the very least requires us to care for our brains.

So, the Bible was the foundational authority for my sermon. The Bible was absolutely necessary. The Bible was sufficient to provide these basic principles. In this way, as someone once said, the Scriptures are authoritative, sufficient, necessary, and not surpassed or equalled for biblical preaching.

But science was also essential to proving that, above certain levels, digital technology use is damaging to our kids’ physical, mental, emotional, and relational health, and therefore a sin. It was also essential to guiding parents and kids about how to discover optimum time-limits of digital engagement, and what strategies work in managing technology for our good and God’s glory—although none of these books mentioned God, sadly.

Obviously, the Bible did not have exhaustive information about this subject. It had necessary and authoritative truth. But so did science. Science provided me not just with helpful facts but with necessary facts. I not only included a lot of these facts in my sermon, I encouraged my congregation to thank and worship God for enabling scientists to discover this vital information and sharing it with us so that we can advance our obedience to this command, progress in sanctification in the parenting realm, and also help our kids move forward in their spiritual lives.

But does the fact that the Bible does not have exhaustive information on the subject of digital technology use reduce the authority of the Bible?

Only if the Bible claimed to have exhaustive information on it and then failed to deliver. But the Bible does not claim to be an exhaustive source source on the way digital technology undermines obedience and sanctification. It does claim to be comprehensive though, in the sense that it has something vital to say about every area of life.,

Are you not abandoning the protestant doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture?

No, not at all. The Reformation doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture was directed against the Roman Catholic claim of additional special revelation (see here), not against the existence of helpful and even necessary truth that God has revealed outside the Bible.

So are you saying that if we didn’t have science, we couldn’t help people in this area of sanctification. No, I’m saying that if we didn’t have science, we couldn’t help people as much as when we do. In fact, I’d agree with John Calvin who said that truth from non-biblical sources was not just helpful, and not just necessary, but to neglect it is a sin.

The human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. . . . We will be careful . . . not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears. . . .If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole foundation of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. Shall we say that the philosophers were blind in their fine observation and artful description of nature? . . . No, we cannot read the writings of the ancients on these subjects without great admiration. But if the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance. For if we neglect God’s gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloths (Calvin, Institutes 2.2 15-16)

Sounds like it’s me that needs to repent! Anyway, how did your congregation respond to the sermon?

Well, from what I’ve heard in the months after preaching it, there have been some wonderful conversations between parents and their kids. Kids were able to see the scriptural authority for preserving their lives, stewarding their brains for God’s glory, and renewing their minds. But they also said that the introduction of the science nailed the Scriptures into their minds in life-changing ways. Many kids have asked their parents to get them these books so that they can learn how to protect themselves from themselves. But the best part of this has been that the kids have seen how comprehensive the Bible is, how relevant and authoritative the Bible is to every part of their life and are studying their Bibles more than they ever did before.

I’m actually dealing with a lot of counseling problems in this area of digital technology in my own congregation. Sounds like we need more than the Bible for biblical counseling too. Is that too dangerous to say?

Why don’t you come back tomorrow and we can discuss that?

Check out

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Is Scripture Alone the Same Thing as Scripture Only?
Couple of recent articles on the sufficiency of Scripture:

“The Reformers held to sola Scriptura, not solo Scriptura. Solo Scriptura advocates a radical individualism that rejects the church, creeds, confessions, and tradition as having any authority while embracing private judgment above all else. This view radicalizes the Protestant ethic and undermines it. Such an approach finds no credence in the teaching of the Reformers or the early church. “

And this one: The Sufficiency of the Bible Contra Rome.

Breaking the Last Socially-Acceptable Addiction
“Most American Christians have an addiction and we all know it. The addiction is social media. You don’t think you do? Here’s a simple test”

Grace for the Afflicted
“Too often, we approach mental illness from a purely spiritual point of view, interpreting all mental health problems as simply spiritual in nature. Too many churches, and their leaders, are tempted to dismiss psychiatry and neurological discoveries as purely secular, or even anti-Christian. It’s hard to make a case for that way of thinking when brilliant and committed Christian professionals like Stanford share what they know, through the lens of what we all believe.”

With Rising Teen Suicides, the Church Cannot Afford Mixed Messages on Mental Health
“According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of suicide for girls aged 15–19 doubled between 2007 and 2015, and there was a smaller though significant uptick in suicide rates for boys. A Time article in late 2016 indicated that though there has been a substantial increase in teens who are depressed, the country has not seen corresponding growth in resources for mental health options.”

Autism Speaks | Biblical Counseling Coalition
“With rates of autism rising, counselors will be in a position to help parents struggling with these and other questions. This post will briefly consider issues that parents of autistic kids will likely face and give initial direction for counsel.”

Kindle Books

Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp $4.99.

Faker: How to live for real when you’re tempted to fake it by Nick Macdonald $2.99.

Do we need more than the Bible for Biblical Counseling?

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 2:00am

“Do we need more than the Bible for biblical counseling?” This question lies at the heart of one of the debates surrounding the sufficiency of Scripture in the Biblical Counseling movement.

Every Biblical Counselor I know of accepts that non-biblical sources of knowledge can be helpful in counseling. Even Jay Adams admitted this at points. The debate is not about whether sources of knowledge such as science, sociology, etc., can be helpful. The debate is usually about whether they are necessary. The pressing question then is: “Do we need more than the Bible for biblical counseling?”

This is a tricky question because it’s so easy to caricature any answer other than a straightforward “No” as sinful Bible-undermining compromise. “See, he says the Bible is not enough. He says the Bible is not sufficient, etc.”

So let me try to take some of the heat out of the debate by asking another similar question about a related and (hopefully) less controversial domain: “Do we need more than the Bible for biblical preaching?”

Is the Bible enough?
The simple and instinctive answer most of us would offer is “No.” But let me ask you to pause and think a bit deeper and longer about it and see if the simple answer is perhaps a simplistic answer.

Yes, some have preached excellent sermons and all they have used is the Bible. Church historians could probably provide some examples of men whose library constituted one book: the Bible. They preached the Word, God blessed it, people were saved, and saints were edified. “Do we need more than the Bible for preaching?” Examples such as this would suggest no.

So, why is it that when we go into pastors’ studies today, their shelves are packed with books from every area of knowledge: theology books, Greek and Hebrew grammars and lexicons, biographies (sacred and secular), Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, church history, maps, fiction, social studies, modern ethics, critiques of the cults and false religion, analysis of modern trends and issues, politics, business, leadership, psychology, pedagogy, and so on. We also find their computers packed with software of various kinds that are central to their sermon preparation.

Let’s enter a study and ask one of them: “Do you need more than the Bible for preaching?”

He pauses, thinks, then answers, “No and yes.”

Confused, I press for clarification: “What do you mean?”

No and Yes
He replies: “No, I don’t need more than the Bible for preaching, in the sense that I could preach a sermon using only my Bible from start to finish and look to the Holy Spirit for help and blessing. However, I would probably have to stick to really simple texts and my sermon would probably be quite basic.”

“But yes, I do need more than the Bible for preaching, in that I could miss some crucial insights if I don’t know the background and culture of both the biblical text and of the people I’m preaching to. I could misinterpret Scripture if I don’t know how to do Greek and Hebrew word studies or if I don’t know the fundamentals of Greek and Hebrew syntax. I could confuse people if I didn’t follow the rules of logic and rhetoric in my presentation of my sermon. If I didn’t read outside of the Bible, I wouldn’t know the philosophies, errors, and heresies of the day that I should be counteracting and I wouldn’t know the problem areas of modern living that I should be applying the Word to. I wouldn’t have access to the sermon illustrations that I’m always picking up from reading books on the social sciences, popular biographies, cultural problems, etc. But I still need to look to the Holy Spirit for help and blessing, just as much (if not more) as if I only had a Bible.

“In summary, no, I don’t need more than the Bible for basic preaching of basic texts at a basic level. But yes, I do need more than the Bible if I really want my sermons to have maximal effectiveness, especially in long-term ministry, especially when preaching difficult passages and books, especially when addressing modern problems, and especially when it concerns issues that impact not only the soul but the body and the way the mind works.”

A compromiser who needs to repent?
This pastor insists that non-biblical sources of knowledge are more than just helpful for preaching; they are necessary. They are necessary if he wants to do maximum good to broken people in a broken world.

Is he undermining the sufficiency of Scripture? Has he abandoned the Reformation doctrine of sola scriptura? Is he unfaithful? Is he a compromising integrationist? Has he contradicted what the Bible claims for itself? Does he need to repent? If the Bible alone was good enough for pastors in the past, why is it not good enough for us today?

This pastor needs to be confronted. Join me in his study tomorrow.

Technology is Blistering our Brains

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 1:30am

I was helped and challenged by this podcast interview with John Dyer, on Technology and the Spiritual Life. Dyer is Executive Director of Communications and Educational Technology, and Adjunct Professor in Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. He’s also the author of From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology. I’d encourage you to listen to the whole interview, but to whet your appetite, here are my takeaways with some of the transcript.

Technology is a God-given transformative force

The way I often think about technology is kind of two things: 1. It is God given. 2. It is a transformative force. I would say, technology is a God given transformative force. That does help me say (that the Scriptures seem to say) that human creativity is good, full stop. It is God given. At the same time it is always going to be transforming something. It is going to transform my culture, my family, myself, my body, my mind, something like that. And so that helps me think what I’m going do with it.

Overuse of Technology “Blisters” the Brain

One thing Marshall McLuhan defines technology with is, that it is always an extension of your humanity. So for example, a telescope extending your eyes, or glasses extending your eyes, or a car extending your legs and so forth, or a shovel extending your arms. When we think about what modern technology extends, probably one of the major differences is that something like an iPhone is primarily working on operating on the level of your mind. And that is something that is not physical, you can’t see it, so sometimes I think its effects are harder to detect. Unlike blisters that we see immediately, that which happens in our mind is slower, takes place over time. 

Our minds adapt to what we do with them

One of the terms you will hear is neuro-plasticity and all that really means is that your mind is just like your body and that it adapts to whatever you have it to do over time. So for example, when we go into the gym we use tools based on how we want them to shape our body, right? So if we do a treadmill we want long lean legs and if we do leg press we want big strong legs. And the catch is that we can’t do both. So if you want to have your mind to be shaped in the direction where you really are good at reading long books, you got to do that, and if you want to be able to read lots of little disconnected bits, you should do that a lot. It is just hard to do both. You can’t be a marathon runner and a leg lifter. They are two different activities so you want to decide what kind of mind you want to shape just like when you are shaping your body, if you choose an apple versus a candy bar you know it is going to change you.

We can’t beat 17 PhD’s in the attention war

I think one thing to think about that, before we go on, is to remember that out there are technology companies that are employing people with seventeen PhD’s in human attention and all kinds of computer degrees, and their entire job is to get your eyes on your phone as often as possible in order to sell you ads. So you were trying to say, “I bet I can beat a thousand googlers, I can overcome that with my own will.” Well, that is very hard to do. I think to acknowledge that, is very important, because people are fighting for your attention in very active ways worth billions of dollars. So when we say: “oh I can probably just beat them,” that is a bold claim

Use devices for creating, not just consuming

What I try to differentiate between with my kids is whether they are creating something or if they are consuming something. So if one of my kids is saying “I want to write a story on the computer” or “I want to edit a video” or “I want to paint,” I will let them do that for as many hours as they want to do that. If they say “I want to watch a show,” we think a little more about that time. So one thing is to encourage people to say: “these devices are for making things and they are not just for consuming things.”

Kids need “driver-training” in digital device use

When we gave them a car we waited till they were fifteen and we had them go through this huge amount of training and responsibility and there were consequences to it when you violated it. So I think we want to do the same thing with the phone. We want to think through how to do some intense training with them, how to do some follow up and how to set some boundaries. So if you search for like “family technology contract,” there are millions on google, those can be really useful framing device. Also checking up on that every six months. We have given our kids one more little rule and that is to say: you are going to see some things evil on the internet. So it is not just that we will prevent it, we believe that they will see it. The idea with our kids is that we tell them, “hey, if you see something that you know you shouldn’t see, close the laptop and the phone and come talk to us about it.” Then you won’t be in trouble and we will work what is going on. So they have that expectation in there.

Check out

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Conversations through 95 Theses: Areas of Agreement
Brad Hambrick begins his charitable dissection of Biblical Counseling’s “95 Theses.”

How do you start a profitable conversation when you know there are going to be differences of opinion? You start where you agree. By starting where you are aligned, you accomplish two things: (a) you show that you are a fair-minded participant in the conversation, and (b) you can discern where differences would be most easily navigated.

Here’s How To Save Your Family From Technology Creep
“I consulted some parents, asking for their advice and input on setting aside family time and pushing away devices. Here’s what some of them said.”

Be a Boaz in Your Business
“If you’re a man blessed with authority and influence in the workplace, use it to protect and empower women. As you do so, you follow in the footsteps of not just Boaz, but Boaz’s greatest son, Jesus Christ.”

What Is a Writer Who Can’t Write?
Please pray for Tim. We need him.

“So here’s the deal: I’m a writer who can’t write. Sometimes I joke about it—I’m like a preacher without a voice or a painter without a brush. But seriously, who or what is a writer if he can’t write? The story behind the story is the cubital tunnel syndrome that has taken over my hands and left me unable to type. It’s not the tapping of the keys that gets me as much as the typing position—the rigid forearms, the cocked wrist, the extended fingers. That position is almost unbearable at the moment.”

When a Loved One “Comes Out”
“Loving and welcoming does not negate any of the other truths above. We must seek God’s best for our loved ones, which always means honoring Him first. We are never to sacrifice truth, but we also are not to sacrifice love.”

Decision paralysis and searching for paradise
“All this choice and information, often rather than enabling us to make better choices, leaves us with a fear of missing out (FOMO). Or perhaps a FOMP (fear of missing perfection), or even FOMSMP (fear of missing social-media perfection).”

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.”

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.

The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols $3.99.

To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy by Michael A. G. Haykin $3.99.

American Hour: A Time of Reckoning and the Once and Future Role of Faith by Os Guinness $3.99.

Do we really need 95 Theses for Biblical Counseling?

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 9:12am

I’ve been a bit concerned about some biblical counselors posting “95 Theses For Biblical Counseling,” not least for the (hopefully unintentional) implication that those who might disagree with them are in the same category as Roman Catholics and their indulgences were in Luther’s time.

Having said that, there are saner versions of this approach, a welcome contrast to the attempted return to the medieval times of biblical counseling which is undoing much of the wonderful reformation in biblical counseling that has been going on over the past 10-15 years.

I’ve written before about the mistake of equating the Reformation doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture with what some are arguing for in the biblical counseling movement. I’ve also highlighted how some modern versions of the sufficiency of Scripture are not just contrary to what the Reformers taught but actually end up unintentionally undermining the sufficiency of Scripture (here and here).

I’ve been close to entering this debate, not only to express concern about the damage that the aggressive tone and personal targeting is doing to the biblical counseling movement and its relationship with other Christians, but also to expose the internal confusion and inconsistency of some of the content. However, I discovered that Brad Hambrick, a biblical counselor that I highly respect, has decided to interact with Heath Lambert’s “95 Theses” and I’d commend this series to you. I’ll try to keep you updated as Brad posts subsequent articles.

In the meantime, you might want to have a look at these pages that present the case that Luther and Calvin were more “integrationist” than some would like to admit (see especially Table 1-2d). It looks like some versions of biblical counseling have more in common with Zwingli than with Calvin and Luther.

Check out

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 8:41am
Blogs

Fishers of Men
“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” My experience has shown me that the words are familiar to the church, but the actual work perhaps not so much. How might we better understand the words so the work can be more accessible to us?”

In a Distracted World, Solitude Is a Competitive Advantage
“There is no silver bullet to solving the complex problems ushered in by the information age. But there are some good places to start, and one of them is counterintuitive: solitude. Having the discipline to step back from the noise of the world is essential to staying focused.”

3 Ways Pastors and Church Leaders Undermine Themselves on Social Media
“Pastors and church leaders need to be in social media spaces. Here are three basic ways I see pastors and church leaders undermine themselves on social media, and some ideas about how to avoid these missteps:”

Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue
You don’t have to agree with all of Jackson Katz’s views on gender and equality issues to be helpfully challenged by this passionate speech. And, young women, if you want to avoid becoming a victim of an abusive husband, learn the signs to watch out for in Unmasking the Abuser. In fact, pastors and elders would do well to watch this too if they want to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse. If this these videos aren’t helpful examples of common grace wisdom, I don’t know what is.

Kindle Books

Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen Meyer $1.99.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman $2.99.

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments by Winston Smith $2.39

Video

Why should ordinary Christians read Bible commentaries?
Bill’s commentary on 1 & 2 Peter is available at Reformation Heritage Books.

Two Broken People, One Great Physician

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 2:00am

In this video Shona shares her experiences with depression and I discuss my burnout and blood clots. Two broken people talking about one Great Physician.

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands (for women) [RHB]

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

Grace-Paced Life Links

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Idolatry at the Office: Confessions of a Workaholic
“During these years, I worked so feverishly, not to serve God, but to relish the approval it brought me — and because I feared the implications for my identity should the praise fall silent.”

3 Questions To Ask As Soon As Your Work-Life Balance Stars Slipping

  1. Is my work still fulfilling enough?
  2. Why am I saying so connected?
  3. Are my expectations too high across the board?

Eric Schmidt: Good Sleep Enhances Your Ability to Do Almost Everything
“Studies have shown people with interrupted sleeping patterns are prone to depression, are more likely to be compulsive eaters, and complain much more than those who sleep well. Good sleep can only enhance your physical and mental ability to do almost everything. Just remember, healthy sleeping habits make an absolute difference in your overall quality of life. Most likely, you are not sleeping enough.”

On the same topic here’s The Secrets of Sleep: Why do we need it and are we getting enough?

7 Spurgeon Quotes for Stressed Leaders
“[Spurgeon] battled anxiety, depression, and significant suffering. He knew the pressures of leadership and ministry like few others. Here are seven encouragements from one tired, stressed, faithful leader to you”

God Is with You in Your Panic Attack
“Panic attacks have been a source of both grief and grace. Grief, because they are terrifying and painful and disorienting and exhausting. Grace, because through them, God has humbled my proud heart and taught me to trust less in myself and more in Him. When Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever,” boy, do I get it.”

Resilient Ministry: What Pastors Told Us About Surviving and Thriving
“Resilient Ministry is a summary and analysis of American pastors’ reflections considering long-term fruitful ministry and the effects of stress. It considers an extensive array of subjects to include spiritual formation, burn out, strategies to improve longevity, emotional intelligence, marriage and family etc. It reaches a number of conclusions that are presented in a clear and helpful way. It is sprinkled with pithy and often wise observations that should benefit pastors living with the burden of their calling.”

Book

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (RHB). This is the female version of Reset and was largely written by my wife, Shona. In it she shares what God has taught her through a painful time of depression/anxiety.

Video

How Can Husbands Protect Their Wives from Burnout?

Pages