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: 1 hour 41 min ago

The last sermon we will hear

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 8:42am

Almost ten years ago, Randy Pausch’s last lecture went viral. The Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor was dying of cancer and took the opportunity to deliver a final lecture in which he talked about the lessons he had learned from life and his illness, and also gave advice to students on how to achieve career and personal success.  Pausch’s irreverent lecture later became the basis for a bestselling book.

Many other final lectures have been given since where academics and other thinkers present the last message they would give if they were about to die.

What would you say? What would be your last lecture?

More importantly, what would God’s last lecture be? What would be his final message to the world before he wraps it all up and brings everybody’s life on earth to an end?

We don’t need to guess or speculate because he has revealed it in the Bible (Revelation 14: 6-7):

Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”

God’s last message to everyone will be, “Fear me!” Not what you were expecting, is it? But now that we know, we should prepare for it, shouldn’t we?

The fear of God is a theme that God has been impressing deeply on my soul in recent weeks, mainly because it’s so prevalent throughout the whole Bible, but also because it’s so missing in our churches and our nations. Indeed, it’s way too small in my own life. I want to change that, starting with myself, which is why Shona and I have started reading together through Pastor Al Martin’s excellent short treatment of the subject, The Forgotten Fear: Where have all the God-Fearers Gone? (RHB). 

I’ve been stunned at the frequency with which this theme appears in both the Old and New Testaments, especially when contrasted with the infrequency with which it appears in our lives and churches. Little wonder that Arnold Frank’s fine book on the subject, The Fear Of God: A Forgotten Doctrine (RHB), also incorporates “forgotten” in the title. Frank’s study highlights Puritan thought on the subject. See, for example, John Bunyan’s The Fear of God (in updated English).

In his wonderful book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs, Dan Phillips makes the case that “all of Proverbs actually centers on a particular theme, a theme that Solomon characterizes not as “one of the most important things” he knew, but the most important thing, the sine qua non of knowledge and wisdom. Without that foundational reality at the very start, there’s no knowledge and no wisdom. That theme is the fear of Yahweh” (see his blog post on this).

If you want to hear some sermons on the fear of God then you could listen to Al Martin’s series, which formed the basis of the book. Or, if you want a single sermon to listen to, try Dr. Steve Lawson’s powerful sermon, Whatever happened to the fear of God?

I’ve also posted links to a few blog articles below. Let’s use all these resources to prepare for God’s last sermon by fearing him before he announces his text.

Blogs on the Fear of God

A Letter from Kabwata: We have lost the sense of God | Conrad Mbewe

What Does it Mean to Fear God? by R.C. Sproul | Ligonier Ministries Blog

Are We Really Supposed to Fear the Lord? | Gentle Reformation

Exchanging Fear for Fear | Kevin DeYoung

Fear of God vs. Fear of Man | Permanent Things

Fearing the Mic | The Cripplegate

Check Out

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 7:50am
Blogs

Precious Clarity on Human Sexuality: The Nashville Statement | John Piper, Desiring God
“The Nashville Statement is a Christian manifesto concerning issues of human sexuality. It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness. There is no effort to equivocate for the sake of wider, but muddled, acceptance.”

A Necessary Change in My Preaching | Cody Deevers, LifeWay Pastors
“…I also developed a bad habit of using insider language. I assumed knowledge of Bible stories and church ‘rules.’ As an insider, I rarely considered the thoughts and perceptions of new guests or ‘outsiders.’ Furthermore, no one ever brought my use of insider language to my attention. Thankfully, while preparing to plant Valley Life Church in Peoria, AZ, my friend and coach, Brian Bowman, pointed out my habit and reasons I should take pains in breaking it. Here is what I learned and am still learning.”

Standing Firm on the Slippery Slope | Richard D. Phillips, Reformation21 Blog
“The slippery slope simply notes that those who remove the restraint against worldly conformity place themselves in peril of further and more damaging accommodations.”

Who Should Discipline? Mom or Dad? – 10 Principles to Guide Your Family | The Apollos Project
“Ideally, moms and dads are on the same page in terms of correction. Mom carries it out when dad is not around. She only refers the ‘big things’ to him. Dad makes sure that the family has a plan and the children are under control.”

Why It Takes Five to Seven Years to Become the Pastor of a Church | Thom Rainer
“In most established churches, there is a prolonged period before the church members as a whole will truly embrace you as pastor. When that time comes, most pastors enjoy their greatest and most joyous years of ministry. But the majority of pastors never make it to year five, much less year seven. So why does it take five to seven years to be embraced as the pastor of most established churches? Here are seven common reasons.”

New Book


Christ and Covenant Theology: Essays on Election, Republication, and the Covenants by Cornelis P. Venema

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.


The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves ($2.99)

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson ($4.99)

Special Report on Sexuality and Gender

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 7:59am

The New Atlantis Journal is a non-political, non-Christian publication that aims “to improve public understanding of the social, political, ethical, and policy implications of modern science and technology.” It tackles some of the biggest questions surrounding technology and human nature, and the practical questions of governing and regulating science — especially where the moral stakes are high and the political divides are deep.

One of my colleagues recently sent me a link to its Fall 2016 issue which publishes A Special Report on Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences. Some of the key findings are below. You can click through and read the whole report here. Note the opening words:

This report presents a careful summary and an up-to-date explanation of research — from the biological, psychological, and social sciences — related to sexual orientation and gender identity. It is offered in the hope that such an exposition can contribute to our capacity as physicians, scientists, and citizens to address health issues faced by LGBT populations within our society.

In other words, it is based on general revelation (science) not special revelation (the Bible). The key findings are:

Part One: Sexual Orientation

● The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are “born that way” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

● While minor differences in the brain structures and brain activity between homosexual and heterosexual individuals have been identified by researchers, such neurobiological findings do not demonstrate whether these differences are innate or are the result of environmental and psychological factors.

● As many as 80% of male adolescents who report same-sex attractions no longer do so as adults.

● Compared to heterosexuals, non-heterosexuals are about two to three times as likely to have experienced childhood sexual abuse.

Part Two: Sexuality, Mental Health Outcomes, and Social Stress

● Compared to the general population, non-heterosexual subpopulations are at an elevated risk for a variety of adverse health and mental health outcomes.

● Members of the non-heterosexual population are estimated to have about 1.5 times higher risk of experiencing anxiety disorders than members of the heterosexual population, as well as roughly double the risk of depression, 1.5 times the risk of substance abuse, and nearly 2.5 times the risk of suicide.

● The rate of lifetime suicide attempts across all ages of transgender individuals is estimated at 41%, compared to under 5% in the overall U.S. population.

Part Three: Gender Identity

● The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be “a man trapped in a woman’s body” or “a woman trapped in a man’s body” — is not supported by scientific evidence.

● About 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as a gender that does not correspond to their biological sex.

● Studies comparing the brain structures of transgender and non-transgender individuals have demonstrated weak correlations between brain structure and cross-gender identification.

● Sex-reassigned individuals were about 5 times more likely to attempt suicide and about 19 times more likely to die by suicide.

● Only a minority of children who experience cross-gender identification will continue to do so into adolescence or adulthood.

● There is little scientific evidence for the therapeutic value of interventions that delay puberty or modify the secondary sex characteristics of adolescents.

You can watch an interview with the authors here.

Check Out

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 7:40am
Blogs

God Made You a Writer: An Invitation to Every Christian | David Mathis, Desiring God
Here’s an encouragement to those feeling called to any kind of writing ministry:

Whether you think of yourself as a writer or not (and on the whole, it might be better if less people did!), I’d love to extend to you God’s invitation to find your ways of proclaiming his excellencies (1 Peter 2:9) in written words.

Treasure Your Marriage | Tim Challies
“If God has given you a wife, he has given you a precious gift. He calls you to treasure your marriage, and to treasure marriage, you must treasure your bride. If you are to treasure your wife, you must learn from Jesus Christ how to love her well. Here are four marks of a husband’s love.*”

Feeding on Christ Diagnostic Decision Making | Nicholas T. Batzig, Feeding on Christ
“There are also a number of questions that we derive from God’s word that help us discern what decision we are to make in any given life situation. In his excellent little book Discovering God’s Will, Sinclair Ferguson set out the following diagnostic questions to ask when we are confronted with numerous life decisions:”

On technology and preaching | Mike Pohlman, Southern Seminary
“If it really is God speaking through the preacher (which it is) then God forbid we miss one word he’s saying. And technology use (whether screens up on the stage or in a listener’s hand via smartphone or tablet) dramatically increases the risk of this happening. ”

My Dark Night of the Soul | Jon Bloom, Desiring God
“For me, it’s fitting that a solar eclipse occurred this week. Twenty years ago, in the spring of 1997, I experienced an eclipse of God. And twenty years ago this week, light dawned in my darkness (Psalm 112:4)…”

“The Life of the Professor” — My Talking Points for our New Faculty Workshop | Jonathan Pennington
Guidance and motivation for teachers beginning another school year:

I was asked earlier this week by the provost here at Southern to come in and speak to our new professors… I put together a brief talk that focuses on three areas of the life of the professor — Teaching, Scholarship, and Mentoring. Here are my far from perfect and far from comprehensive talking points for those who might be interested.

To Faithful Pastors in Forgotten Places | Stephen Witmer, Desiring God

“Dear small-town pastor,

I’m a small-town pastor myself, and I want to spur you on in the ministry. We labor in places we dearly love, but few others have heard of. We have a wide range of responsibilities, which may include (but not be limited to) typing the bulletin, doing pest control for the church building, helping at Vacation Bible School, performing emergency toilet repairs, and preaching.

The conferences we attend, the books, magazines, blogs, and websites we read, and the podcasts we listen to are produced by big-city, large-church pastors. Gradually, though no one has ever said this to us, we may have come to feel like we’re junior varsity. We have not been gifted or called to influence the influencers in the big city. We’re doing the best we can, seeking to be faithful pastors in our forgotten places, but sometimes we may wonder whether we’re missing the real action. If that’s you, I want to encourage you in four ways.”

Think Beauty and Artistry Aren’t Important? Think Again. | Amy Simpson
“…a person who claims beauty, creativity, and quality don’t matter is missing something important about who God is.”

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.


Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung ($3.19)


God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr. ($3.99)


Work and Our Labor in the Lord by James M. Hamilton Jr. ($3.99)

Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 7:40am

The Journal of the Association for Consumer Research new report Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One’s Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity provides confirmation of what many of us have been increasingly feeling. We’re losing our minds….to our smartphones.

Researchers studied the hypothesis that smartphones are producing dumb humans and found that even the presence of a phone (not using it, just its physical presence) diminishes cognitive resources and performance. That means that even if it’s on our desk while we’re studying, it puts a hole in our brain.

Basically, even when we win the battle not to use our phone, that battle is draining significant intellectual resources from our task. The fact that our phones are the source of so many satisfying stimuli creates a stronger gravitational pull than, say, having a book on our desks. So, even if we’re not using it, attentional resources are being used up in resisting its pull.

Together, these investigations of phone-related distractions provide evidence that mobile devices can adversely affect cognitive performance even when consumers are not actively using them.

A visible cellphone can impair performance on tasks requiring sustained attention by eliciting awareness of the “broad social and informational network … that one is not part of at the moment.

While most of us are aware of the performance deficits in driving and education due to interaction with digital devices, the idea that even the presence of an ignored or unused phone drains our brains is new to most of us.

The research also found that individuals who most depend on their phones will suffer the most from their presence—and benefit the most from their absence.

Tactics and Fixes

The researchers briefly addressed tactics to mitigate this brain drain and found that intuitive “fixes” such as placing one’s phone face down or turning it off are futile.

The data did suggest one simple solution that actually worked: planned separation. Although previous research had found that being separated from one’s phone undermines performance by increasing anxiety, participants in these past studies were unexpectedly separated from their phones and forced to hear them ring while being unable to answer.

In contrast, participants in the current experiments expected to be separated from their phones and were not confronted with unanswerable notifications or calls while separated.

Researchers concluded that defined and protected periods of separation, may allow consumers to perform better not just by reducing interruptions but also by increasing available cognitive capacity.

They also found that dumbphones (stripped-down basic devices) made people smarter in that they did not create the same gravitational pull or drain on mental resources.

Implications

Obviously this research has implications for the workplace, for relationships, and for education. Noting the dependence of young adults on their smartphones, the researchers note:

Given that many of them are in school, the potential detrimental effects of smartphones on their cognitive functioning may have an outsized effect on long-term welfare. As educational institutions increasingly embrace “connected classrooms,” the presence of students’ mobile devices in educational environments may undermine both learning and test performance—particularly when these devices are present but not in use. Future research could focus on how children, adolescents, and young adults are affected by the mere presence of personally relevant technologies in the classroom.

However, it also has implications for personal devotions and public worship. It’s not just using a digital device in these spiritual activities that can retard spiritual growth. The mere presence of an unused phone is not only draining our brains but damaging our connection with God.

I have sensed this for a while now, which is why I take the following steps:

1. I put my phone in airplane mode during public worship.

2. I put my phone in airplane mode during my personal devotions and put it far enough away from me that I cannot reach it without making a special effort.

But on the basis of this research, from now on I will also ensure “planned separation” from my phone during study times.

And, yes, students, I’m afraid this just confirms my general policy of banning digital devices from the classroom. It’s for your good!

Check out

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Millennial Motherhood: Three Traps for Young Moms
“Much of what’s true of every generation throughout all time is true of millennials. We are just people. Yet, just like every other generation, we have some particular tendencies, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses that result from the time, place, and society into which we were born. Here are three harmful characteristics I’ve observed in millennial motherhood, along with ways I’ve sought to align my mothering with God’s word.”

Challenges to Becoming a Multicultural Church
Although recent events and the spectrum of extreme reactions make it hard to keep hoping for change in society, surely we have to keep up hope in the church and the power of the Gospel.

This movement to open up the Church to a multicultural face is the visual expression of what happens in the heart when God heals our land. It should not be used to beat down those who are less diverse. Rather, it can be a great way to build the family and reach the lost. After all, if the redeemed can reach across the gulf to reconcile with the lost, certainly we can join hearts and arms with those who have a little more or less melanin than we do, right?

How to Talk About Race with Your Kids
And this is where it really starts. In the home. With the next generation.

Addressing the issues of racial difference and appreciation of the other and naming the sin of racism with our children from a young age are crucial parenting choices for any Christian seeking to raise up a child who understands the imago Dei, God’s heart for the nations, and the promised redemption and unification of all races in Christ.”

My 7 Least Productive Habits
Here are some of the problems I address in Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.

I get distracted very easily, so to get things done efficiently and enthusiastically, I need a good plan, which I will share next week. Today I want to share seven of my least productive habits, because failures are much more fun to read about.

Why is my husband so angry? Simply put, shame
As soon as I read this, it rang true for every case of porn addiction that I’ve dealt with.

As I look back on almost seven years of treating wives of sex addicts I can only think of one who said her husband didn’t have serious issues with anger.

Four myths about the wives of porn addicts

The world finds lust, fantasy, masturbation, and pornography not only acceptable, but something to be elevated and encouraged, because they’ve embraced the belief that if anyone is being hurt, it’s only the person looking at porn. This is a lie. A wife is part of the collateral damage that’s resulted from her husband’s addiction. There are four misconceptions that many hold about pornography addiction and the betrayed wife. Being aware of these myths will help you improve your counseling strategy to these women.

Arianna Huffington: How to Keep Email from Ruining Your Vacation
Probably comes a bit late for most of us this summer, but if you’ve ruined your vacation (and your family’s) once again through email, here’s a service that will help you to avoid it in future.

While you’re away on vacation, people who email you get a message, letting them know when you’ll be back. And then — the most important part — the tool deletes the email. If the email is important, the sender can always send it again. If it’s not, then it’s not waiting for you when you get back, or, even worse, tempting you to read it while you’re away. So the key is not just that the tool is creating a wall between you and your email; it’s that it frees you from the mounting anxiety of having a mounting pile of emails waiting for you on your return — the stress of which mitigates the benefits of disconnecting in the first place.

New Book

Honoring the Elderly: A Christian’s Duty to Aging Parents by Brian De Jong.

Here’s a really helpful resource on a neglected subject which Pastor Brian De Jong has developed and used over a number of years. I heartily recommend it. Only $4.99 for Kindle version.

Kindle Books

How Should I Think about Money? by R C Sproul (Free!).

How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael Williams $2.99.

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl $3.99. Most practical book on apologetics I’ve read.

Check out

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Declining Interest In History Hits Museums Like Colonial Williamsburg Hard
Sad

“One of the country’s most well-known tributes to the Revolutionary era is on the brink of financial ruin. Mitchell Reiss, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s president and CEO, released an open letter at the end of June revealing that Colonial Williamsburg, which markets itself as “the world’s largest living history museum,” is in dire financial straits. Reiss wrote that in 2016, Colonial Williamsburg lost an average of $148,000 every day. The debt burden of the Foundation stood at a staggering $317 million at the end of last year.”

How To Survive Graduate School
“There are three key practices that will help graduate students survive their programs and end up as healthy as possible on the other end.” See also my resource Get the most out of Seminary

Summer Vacation Is No Sabbath
Oh, yes. Been there. Done that. Have a read and have a laugh. Then learn:

God has granted us popsicles, watermelon, and cabin getaways. Yet when we strive after these blessings without setting our minds and hearts on their Creator, we chase after wind (Eccl. 2:11). Rest derives not from a destination, but from a daily communion with the all-knowing and loving God, who offers us ultimate replenishment through his Son.

How Writing on Transgenderism Changed Me
Interview with Andrew Walker about his new book which is a much more reliable guide to transgender issues than Mark Yarhouse’s.

One More Time on Game of Thrones
Kevin DeYoung once more into the breach.

Only in a hyper-sexual, pornographic-saturated culture like ours could we think that graphic sex scenes are no big deal, or somehow offset by a brilliant screenplay. I cannot imagine how anyone growing closer to the God of the Bible will want to see more sex and nudity, or that anyone has found shows like Game of Thrones to be a serious blessing in seeing and savoring Christ. We become what we behold. So let’s be careful little eyes what we see.

Before the Throne of Social ‘Likes’
“Being faithful in our day means giving up our pursuit of likes and living as the people pursued by Love.”

An Open Letter to Those Nonchalant about Their Sexual Sin
“Sex is like fire. When it blazes in the fireplace, a good fire warms and brightens the room, enhancing joy and companionship. But when fires ignite in the wrong places, the house burns down. Is your sexuality igniting in the wrong places? Are you treating sexual sin casually? How do you know when this has happened? Let me offer a few tests that can rouse your conscience.”

New Books

If you liked Kevin DeYoung’s previous book for kids, you’ll also enjoy his latest, The Biggest Story ABC. Different format, simpler, probably better for younger children.

Kindle Books

Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure by Alastair Begg $1.99.

United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity by Trillia Newbell $1.99. Loved this book and learned a lot from it.

Reading God’s Story: A Chronological Daily Bible by George Guthrie $2.99.

Anxiety Resources

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 2:00am

I’ve been updating my resources pages over the past few weeks and, with the help of my assistant Jo DeBlois, I’ve just finished updating this page on anxiety which starts with books and then goes on to online articles.

Books


Anxious: Choosing Faith in a World of Worry by Amy Simpson


Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Edward T. Welch.


Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure by Robert W. Kellemen


The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Dr. Edmund J. Bourne


When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by Dr. David D. Burns

Articles

These resources are organized using Paul Tripp’s “Love/Know/Speak/Do” paradigm.

Love

Talking to yourself can reduce your stress levels

More Americans suffering from stress, anxiety and depression, study finds | CBS News

Ann L. Dunnewold, Ph.D. | Stigma

Why Are Our Children So Anxious? | CT Women | ChristianityToday.com

Anxiety at Work. – Medium

What Exactly Is Anxiety? — TIM LANE

Pastoral Anxiety

Helping those who struggle with anxiety | ERLC

Hope for Your Dark Night of the Soul – Justin Taylor

Surprising Facts About Anxiety Disorders – 7 Ways to Cope 

The Anatomy of Anxiety | RPM Ministries

Anxiety – is it a sin?

How a flash of light to the brain can banish fear | Mail Online

The Anxiety-Killing Power of Creation

A Day In The Life Of This Christian Living With Anxiety/Depression | Ragamuffin Soul

Surviving Anxiety – Scott Stossel – The Atlantic

An Update on Fear | CCEF

What My Anxiety Taught Me About God | RELEVANT Magazine

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends | TGC | The Gospel Coalition

A Good Word from My Wife — JOETHORN.net

A Letter to the Anxious Christian | Gentle Reformation

Before you advise someone with anxiety . . . 

Know

Is Worry Making Us Sick? — TIM LANE

What Neuro-revolution? The Public Find Brain Science Irrelevant and Anxiety-provoking | WIRED

Social Media Fuels Low Self-Esteem, Anxiety 

No Cause for Shame: Understanding Anxiety Disorders | Amy Simpson

7 Factors that Contribute to the Impact of Depression-Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

6 Changes in Lifestyle that Add to the Impact of Depression-Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

12 Ways Depression-Anxiety Impacts Family and Relationships | Brad Hambrick

The Anxiety Beneath All Your Anxieties

What Anxiety Does to Your Brain and What You Can Do About It

5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety | RELEVANT Magazine

Are You Experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)?

What It Feels Like to Live with Postpartum Anxiety – Postpartum Progress

Why women are way more likely than men to suffer anxiety – CNN.com

8 Arguments for Why You Should Be Anxious Today (and How the Bible Responds) | TGC

The relationship between cell phone use, academic performance, anxiety, and satisfaction with life in college students

Anxiety and Depression Together | Psychology Today

Busyness as Moral Laziness | internetmonk.com

The Upward Call – The Upward Call – The Gift of Anxiety

6 Reasons Why Anxiety, Worry, & Fear are Particular Problems for Christians

Anxiety: My Thorn in My Flesh – A Daughter of the Reformation

Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety

How Does the Bible Define Worry? — TIM LANE

When Is Depression-Anxiety Sinful? | Brad Hambrick

Q&A: How Do We Ask for Help When Living with Mental Illness? | Amy Simpson

Out of the Ordinary: Anxiety and the Battle for the Mind

Speak

Tempted To Worry? Call These 4 Words To Mind – The Blazing Center

What Good Is “Don’t Worry” in Times Like These? Part 4 | CCEF

Some Thoughts on the Sin of Anxiety | Counseling One Another

4 Frameworks for Fighting Fear

The secret behind the Bible’s most highlighted verse

Words for the Anxious Soul | Mere Orthodoxy

How to Battle Anxiety with the Promises of God – Justin Taylor

10 Types of Thinking that Undergird Depression-Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

Anxiety and Scaffolding

The Christian Cure for Worry | Gentle Reformation

Sunday Women: What Not to Share

How to Overcome YourWorst Fears

Eight Reasons Why My Anxiety Is Pointless and Foolish – Justin Taylor

Scriptures to Fight Anxiety | Counseling One Another

Abys(s)mal Thinking and Christ « Grace Looking Back

Embracing The Thorn That Bleeds You Dry

More Thoughts on Anxiety | Counseling One Another

What Would God Say to Your Anxiety? | Desiring God

7 tips to help manage Depression and Anxiety

God-Shaped Comfort | The Christward Collective

6 Ways the Psalms Sing to Our Fears — George H Guthrie

Jesus Isn’t Going To Take My Zoloft

Instead of Worrying by Tim Witmer | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Does trusting God remove anxiety? | Musings of a Christian Psychologist

Do

6 Things to Do with Your Anxiety | TGC

20 Approaches to Battling Depression-Anxiety as Suffering | Brad Hambrick

Regular Exercise & Depression | Counseling One Another

Talk to God About Your Anxiety | Desiring God

Use Anxiety to Your Advantage | Desiring God

Keeping Anxious Thoughts at Bay

How the Lord Restored Me from Intense Anxiety | Desiring God

How Regular Exercise Can Calm Anxiety

Mom and Dad, Your Job Is Not Over | TGC

9 Ways to Battle Depression, Condemnation and Anxiety | The Village Church

A Game Plan for When You Start to Worry – Justin Taylor

Stopping seasonal high anxieties: Some strategies and a better goal | Musings of a Christian Psychologist

Relax, Turn Off Your Phone, and Go to Sleep

Bring Flowers into the Office to Increase Productivity and Reduce Anxiety

The Five Minute Antidote for Anxiety | Musings of a Christian Psychologist

A Gameplan for Combating Worry – Justin Taylor

Three Tricks for Dealing with Anxiety In the Moment

Read the Bible to Your Anxiety | Desiring God

Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 1 | Counseling One Another (Part 2) (Part 3)

Ruminating: The Mental Health Killer | Musings of a Christian Psychologist

Some things that have helped with my anxiety

Resources

Overcoming Depression-Anxiety (Seminar Videos) | Brad Hambrick

Why Three Seminars on Depression-Anxiety? | Brad Hambrick

Help Me Teach the Bible: Ed Welch on Helping Those Battling Shame, Addiction, or Anxiety

Experiencing the Trinity

Online Depression-Anxiety Evaluation | Brad Hambrick

RESOURCES: Anxiety, Fear, Panic | Counseling One Another

A scientific look at the purpose and effects of anxiety – 22 Words

My Favorite Posts on Anxiety | Brad Hambrick

Check out

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

What Depression Taught Me About Biblical Womanhood
PPD is often more complex than this, but this could help many women take some small steps out of the darkness.

Don’t smile it away. Don’t fake it till you make it. Stare right into the face of the darkness and trust that Christ is sufficient to conquer every little thing that you find inside of it — because he is.

Sleep Deprivation Can Make It Harder to Stay Calm at Work
Who knew?

Sleep deprived leaders were unaware that their sleep deprivation was harming their working relationship with their employees. Much like a person who has had a little too much to drink and does not realize they will be impaired when driving, sleep deprived leaders are essentially clueless about how their sleep deprivation leads their employees to mistrust and dislike them.

New manual guides church leaders in sexual abuse policies and prevention
The Child Safeguarding Policy Guide for Churches and Ministries is aimed at a Christian audience, though it may be useful to any group that serves youth. The book helps church leaders identify different types of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual), learn about state laws and institute safeguards, such as background checks for employees. It guides churches on how to draft a protocol for responding to allegations of abuse and how to support victims.

When Homeschool is Hard
Some wonderful sentences in here. For example:

So the next time someone says, “I don’t know how you do it. You must have the patience of a saint,” perhaps I should say, “Actually, I don’t. But if we keep at it, that might be just what God develops in me!”

An Open Letter to Those Debilitated by Their Sexual Sin | Crossway Articles
Encouraging post for those despairing of their sin, and for those who minister to them.

10 Common but Illegitimate Reasons to Divorce
“God has provided a limited set of circumstances in which a marriage can legitimately be severed. However, many people—even Christians—offer reasons to divorce that are not sanctioned by God. Jim Newheiser helpfully outlines a number of these in his book Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: Critical Questions and Answers. Here are 10 common but illegitimate reasons to divorce.”

Feeling Forsaken, But Not Forgotten: An Infertility Story
I challenge you to hold back the tears on this one.

The Devil’s Glasses
“How does Satan fool us with lies so that we believe that committing sin will be inconsequential? Here are five of the common ways he distorts our spiritual vision with his lies during temptation.”

New Book

The Disciple-Making Parent’s Donut Date Journal: 70 Questions to Connect You to Your Child’s Heart by Chap Bettis, author of the excellent Disciple-Making Parent.

Here’s how Chap describes this new book:

In The Donut Date Journal you will find:

  • An easy, fool-proof method for connecting with your child’s heart.
  • More than 70 questions you can use to start the conversations.
  • Pages to record their answers over the years.
  • As easy plan to create a keepsake they will value as adults.

Perfect for:

  • Parents or Grandparents who want to connect with their children.
  • Birthday and baby gifts.
  • Children or youth ministers who want to equip their church.
Kindle Books

The Scriptures Testify about Me: Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament by Don Carson and others $2.99.

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger $2.99. An excellent book on connecting the Gospel with our jobs.

The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing by Jonathan Dodson $2.99.

“Mom and Dad, I’ve become a Christian”

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 2:00am

Every Christian father and mother longs to hear these wonderful words and prays earnestly for that happy day. Yet, it’s so hard to know how to respond when our children eventually utter them.

Skepticism
Some might go to the discouraging extreme of immediate skepticism: “Well, son, there’s a lot more to it than just saying you’re a Christian. We’ll see where you’re at in a couple of years.”

Idealism
Another danger is simply to accept our child’s profession without any questioning or examination: “Great, we’re all going to heaven now, honey.” This fails to recognize that it’s fearfully common for children to profess faith just to please their parents or to follow others in their peer group.

Routine
Perhaps other parents might just accept this as part of the routine of being brought up in a Christian home. There’s happiness, but there’s no surprise, no delight, and no thankfulness for the mercy of God. It may not be said like this, but it’s sometimes the underlying thought: “Of course you’re a Christian, you’ve been raised in a Christian home.”

How then do we balance our joy with realism?

1. Welcome: Our first words should indicate how glad we are to hear this profession of faith. “You know that this is what we’ve prayed for and labored for all these years. We’re just overjoyed that you’re saying these longed-for words. There’s nothing we want more for you than to become a follower of Christ.”

2. Question: Without turning it into a suspicion-filled interrogation, we should then ask a number of questions — first experiential and then doctrinal.

The experiential questions should be framed in a way that communicates affirmation rather than hesitation: “Can you share with us what God has done in your life? How did you come to this faith in Christ? Who or what played a role in it? What impact has it made upon you? What’s changed most?”

The doctrinal questions should focus on the content of the faith. What is our child’s view of sin, of God, and of Christ? What or who are they putting their faith in? What is their understanding of repentance? What emphasis do they put on the cross? The questioning should be a gentle and joyful exploration of what they believe.

Both the experiential and doctrinal questions will either help us to enter into the joy of our child and worship God’s sovereign work of saving grace in their life, or else they might flag up some worrying misunderstandings and confusion for further discussion at a later date.

3. Patience: Even if our children have given “wrong answers” to our questions, we should not immediately write them off and conclude that this is a counterfeit faith. There can be much confusion, error, and misunderstanding in young believers. We must exercise patient charity over coming weeks and months to see if they are teachable and receptive to gentle correction and discipleship in these areas.

And even if our children give all the right answers, we still need to exercise patience to see if this is a genuine work of God. Some children from Christian homes can say all the right things without personally experiencing conversion. With them, we need to patiently wait to see if their lives will match their lips.

4. Teach: This is a time that is ripe for teaching our children. If this is a true work of God, their hearts will be tender and impressionable. Let’s especially encourage them to get into the habit of daily Bible reading, perhaps using Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for KidsAs Jesus said: “If you continue in my Word, then are you my disciples indeed” (John 8:31). The Word is the best discerner and revealer of hearts and it will help our children discover for themselves where they truly are before God.

5. Challenge: Once we have laid the groundwork of positively welcoming this profession, hearing their spiritual experience, and patiently waiting for God’s Spirit and Word to work, we can begin to challenge our kids about what may be inconsistent with their profession of faith. Often this is in the area of their relationship to their siblings. We might quote “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). If God is savingly at work in our children’s lives, then their relationships with their brothers and sisters will be changed for the better. Loving siblings is one of the most humbling, testing, and revealing of challenges for kids who have become Christians.

Worship or Warning
As time passes, and the child goes on in the faith, we will hopefully be able to rejoice more and more heartily in God’s gracious work in their life. This is especially true as they navigate the teen years. This is when childhood faith will be truly tested. As the teen years pass, it get’s harder and harder to be a Christian, as temptations multiply both inside and outside the child. But there can be no greater joy than to see our children walking in the truth through these years (3 John 4).

If, however, there is little or no evidence of that work, if the child remains as he or she was before, or if the teen temptations sweep them away, then we need to lovingly warn them that many say, “Lord, Lord!” but don’t do the things that he says (Luke 6:46). If a child is truly born again, they will love God not the world. The Apostle John guides us to the right balance of warning and encouragement:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-17).

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids.

Check out

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Lots to catch up on after my week of teaching at Westminster Seminary.

On Knowing When to Resign
Best article I’ve read on the subject of pastoral resignations. File it away for the day you’ll need it.

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?
If you haven’t yet read this, you need to:

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

Our Wedding Date Is Set — Why Not Have Sex Now?
Sadly and badly needed.

12 Basic Principles for Faith and Work
Transform your Monday morning.

4 Money Principles for Millennials
Being a long-time Dave Ramsey listener, I’m not shocked by these stats.

How did millennials get into so much financial trouble? They’ve received little financial training, college tuition has skyrocketed during their lifetimes, and student loans have become as easy to get as candy canes on Christmas. This combination of factors has landed many millennials in debt, unable to achieve their goals. With all this debt, it’s harder to buy a home, own a car, save for retirement, and start a family. Many millennials are asking how they can make a difference in the world when they can barely make their debt payments.

Why Does It Take an Eclipse to Get Us to Look Up to the Heavens?
You don’t ned to be in the path of today’s eclipse to wonder and worship:

Let’s not wait until the next eclipse to stop and pause and wonder. Look up to the heavens, and then look further up, until you find joy in the God who enjoys his handiwork.

Today, More than Ever, Read Beyond the Headlines
To paraphrase Hosea 13:9: “O media, you have destroyed yourselves.”

I’m not sure the news will ever be the same after the presidency of Donald Trump. While the industry has already been in a long decline, it seems to have entered into an era of near-insanity as the networks and websites compete against one another to set new standards in thoughtless, bloviating reporting. Whether those networks love or hate the president, they seem to be tripping over themselves and one another to say the most the fastest, to constantly editorialize on every decision, every step, every misstep. Reading the news has become a grueling, exasperating chore. Watching it has become almost unbearable.

Walking Through It: A Family Violence Survivor’s Reflection
The basics of how to help victims of domestic abuse.

A New Set of Priorities for Our Kids
“We must intentionally teach our children the skills and character traits they’ll need to thrive in college and beyond. We must teach them about their need for three things in particular: passion, humility, and trust in a sovereign God.”

Kindle Books

Amazon are offering significant discounts on a number of Kindle devices.

God’s Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World by Don Carson and others $2.99.

Too Good to be True by Michael Horton $4.99.

Beating the College Debt Trap: Getting a Degree Without Going Broke by Alex Chediak $1.99.

New Book

God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible actually say about gender identity? by Andrew Walker

Westminster Seminary Counseling Course

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 8:30am

For those who are asking, here’s the syllabus for the D.Min. course I’m teaching at Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia) this week.

Course Purpose:

To investigate how the Scriptures shape a distinctive model of counseling among believers in the local church.

 Degree Program Learning Goals

This course is designed to contribute to the following D.Min. program learning goals:

(1) Demonstrate the ability to be a reflective practitioner through interrelating counseling theory and practice.

(2) Demonstrate how an advanced understanding of one’s counseling ministry should be derived from the various exegetical and theological disciplines.

 Course Learning Goals

As a result of this course you should be able to:

(1) Describe the distinctive characteristics of biblical counseling.

(2) Identify the essential steps in the biblical counseling process.

(3) Practice the skills used by biblical counselors.

(4) Evaluate your level of competence in the skills used by biblical counselors.

(5) Create a vision for how counseling functions within the life of a congregation.

Course Outline

The class will meet on the Campus of Westminster Theological Seminary from August 14-18. Exact times and venue TBA. The course will be divided into three main sections:

THE PRINCIPLES OF COUNSELING

An examination of the distinctive characteristics of biblical counseling:

  • The Counselor’s Self-Knowledge
  • The Counselor’s God
  • The Counselor’s Bible
  • The Counselor’s (and Counselee’s) Humanity
  • The Counselor’s Qualifications
  • The Counselor’s Church/Community
  • The Counselor’s World

THE PROCESS OF COUNSELING

A step-by-step explanation of the essential steps in the counseling process.

THE PRACTICE OF COUNSELING

The principles and process of counseling in practice. A brief look at what biblical counseling looks like in practice via various counseling scenarios, together with some practical examples via role-playing.

Course Schedule

The class will meet from August 14-18 as follows:

Monday 14 Aug:          1- 6pm

Tuesday 15 Aug:        8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Wednesday 16 Aug:   8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Thursday 17 Aug:       8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Friday 18 Aug:            8.30am-12.30pm

Course Assignment

Prepare a script of a multi-session counseling scenario which narrates a dialogue between you and a counselee (real, based on reality, or imaginary), with footnotes explaining the reasoning behind your approach, questions, responses, decisions, homework, etc.

1. All you know before the first counseling session is what the person’s name is and that they are coming to you for counseling. You have to “discover” everything else in the counseling sessions.

2. Demonstrate in the dialogue how you would introduce yourself, welcome the counselee, explain your approach to counseling, initiate the conversation about the counselee’s problem, etc. You may choose any common counseling problem (e.g. depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, pornography, conflict, bereavement, anger, etc.).

3. There should be a minimum of 3-4 counseling sessions, each of which demonstrate knowledge of the principles and process of biblical counseling and skill in applying the Bible’s teaching to particular problems.

4. Each session should be set out as a dialogue between the counselor and counselee. Use footnotes to highlight where you are applying your counseling knowledge, and to explain what you are doing and why. Footnotes should also explicitly demonstrate what you learned from the lectures and from the books on the required reading list. You may wish to conclude each session dialogue with a summary reflection on what you learned and what you wish to teach others from it.

5. Although it may be helpful to get input from another party (e.g. the counselee’s spouse), in the interests of simplicity, try to keep such dialogue to a minimum for the purposes of this exercise or simply summarize what you may have discovered from other sources.

6. Be realistic by showing where you made mistakes in your counseling and how you hope to learn from them in future sessions.

7. Come to the classroom module with a rough draft of the first two sessions already prepared. You may submit this draft to the lecturer between August 14-18 for input and feedback. Use the class lectures to further refine these dialogues and be prepared to present your draft to the class if called upon. You will not be graded on this part of the assignment.

8. The sessions should demonstrate that your counseling is effecting change in the counselee’s life. However, it is not necessary to have a “happy ending.” The paper should conclude with a plan for future care for the counselee.

9. The assignment should be submitted into the online classroom by November 15 using the appropriate upload link.

10. The ultimate aim is to produce a counseling dialogue that can be used as a teaching tool, by you and your fellow students, for training counselors in a local church.

Required Reading

Read two of the following three books. Demonstrate in the counseling scenario assignment that you have read two of the books by explicitly referencing them and interacting with them in the footnotes (indicating agreement and disagreement).

Gospel-Centered Counseling by Bob Kellemen (Zondervan, 2014)

Gospel Conversations by Bob Kellemen (Zondervan, 2015)

A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert (Zondervan, 2015).

Reformed Caffeine

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 8:38am

Imagine your favorite coffee. Over thirty years, you’ve bought it hundreds of times and you’ve drunk it thousands of times. It’s comforted you, fueled you, and stimulated multiple friendships with fellow coffee connoisseurs.

Then, one day, you get an invite to the coffee plantation in Columbia to see and savor where the beans are planted, grown, harvested, dried, and ground before being sent many miles away to your local store. It’s hard to believe that you’re going to the source of so much caffeinated goodness.

That’s how I feel this morning as I travel to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia to teach a Doctor of Ministry course on “Counseling and Christian Ministry.” It’s my first trip to Westminster and a deeply moving one because of all the profit and pleasure I’ve gained from the teachers and teaching of Westminster since I was converted about thirty years ago.

I can’t count the Westminster professors I’ve studied under from afar via cassette, mp3, and innumerable books. Going all the way back to the original founders right up to the present day faculty, they have comforted me, energized me, and stimulated multiple spiritual conversations with friends over the years. And now I get to visit the plantation! So much Reformed goodness! I’ll try not to overdose.

I hope to post some updates as the week progresses, but the days are long and quite intense, so blogging might be a bit patchy.

Addiction Resources

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:25am

I’m in the process of updating my resources pages for various subjects. These pages include book recommendations and the most helpful articles I’ve found on each subject. Here’s the updated addictions page.

Book Recommendations 


Help! I want to change by Jim Newheiser


Breaking the Addictive Cycle: Deadly Obsessions or Simple Pleasures by David Powlison


Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts by Mark E. Shaw


The Heart of Addiction Workbook by Mark E. Shaw. And here’s the companion workbook.


Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward T. Welch. Here’s the accompanying workbook.


‘Just One More’: When Desires Don’t Take No for an Answer by Edward T. Welch.

Article Links

What I’m Learning After Losing My Daughter to Drugs

Addiction, Lies and Relationships

10 Effects of Living with Addiction | Brad Hambrick

The Immaturity of Addiction | Barry York

9 Reasons We Struggle with Addictive Sin Patterns | Chuck Lawless

Steps to Breaking Sin Patterns | Chuck Lawless

What the Church can learn from AA 12 Steps

Good Read: Is addiction a disease of the brain? | Phil Monroe

Stopping addictive behavior: What works? | Phil Monroe

Breaking Pornography Addiction | CCEF

4 Approaches to the Use of the Label “Porn Addiction”

theaddictionconnection.com

The Gospel, Breaking Sinful Patterns, and Addiction | Ed Stetzer

Two Underused Strategies for Addiction | Ed Welch

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ | Dave Dunham

Is Jesus Enough for Drug Addicts | Mez Mcconnell

Interview with Alcoholic Pastor

An analysis of Celebrate Recovery (Part 1) (Part 2)

Check out

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 8:13am
Blogs

Three Lessons Learned: Reflections of a Rookie Counselor
Not just for rookies either.

Parents Need To Get Serious About Saving Kids From Internet Addiction
“Forcing teens to turn off their phones isn’t about being cruel or Luddite. It’s about saving them from dangerous addiction—before it’s too late.”

The One Trait Every Leader MUST Possess
“I’ve meditated quite a bit on this question: What is a leader’s most important trait? Is it charisma? Is it intelligence? Is it wisdom? Is it people skills? Well, while I believe there are many traits and qualities a great leader must possess, there’s one that stands out among all others. In fact, the longer I think about it, I quickly realize that most every trait builds on this one trait! A leader’s most important trait is….”

A Theology of Vacationing
“Rest times and vacations are not meant to be an opportunity to get away from Christ – especially if we feel ‘he is our work’ day in and day out – but, rather, to enjoy him under different circumstances and in a different way. Pastors easily fall into the trap of relating to Jesus only on a professional basis. But he wants us to know him as our Friend – one who gives us theological warrant to enjoy our vacations!”

A Spiritual Brotherhood
“There are many others ways in which “God does great things when ordinary ministers of the gospel are bound together as blood brothers, to live and die together.” If Gospel ministers would ask God to increase in their hearts and minds a desire to intentionally integrate themselves into such spiritual brotherhoods, I am certain that we would be encouraged and astonished by what great things God will do through them. ”

The Benefit of Pairing Digital and Analog to Manage Your Day – Michael Hyatt
“When it comes to planning our time, reviewing our goals, and tracking our tasks, we basically have three options. Full digital. You can do everything with a digital solution such as Nozbe, Todoist, or Evernote. Full analog. You can do everything with a paper-based system such as a Bullet Journal, Day Runner, or the Full Focus Planner™. Hybrid system. You can do some things digitally and some things on paper. Obviously, you need to use what works for you. But there are some major drawbacks to the first two.”

Here’s why it feels like you have no free time, in one chart
“Compared to 2007, when screens ate up mere minutes of our free time, the ratio has now flipped. Practically all of people’s free time goes toward screens of some sort, Alter’s research has found. ”

Game of Dethroning Sexual Sin
“What are we to do, then, when it comes to fix a limit on what a Christian should and should not watch? Is drawing such a line tantamount to fundamentalism? Are we to simply chalk everything up to a case of personal liberty of conscience? Is it legitimate to compare the sex in the Bible to the sex in a show like Game of Thrones? We must ask and answer these and related questions, if we are to get to the bottom of a Christian ethic regarding what we watch and what we are to abstain from watching. ”

One Week Only: Subscribe to Tabletalk for $20
“For one week only, you can subscribe to Tabletalk for $20. Each month, you’ll receive articles from trusted teachers on a variety of topics related to theology and Christian living. Upcoming themes will provide biblical wisdom on important topics like the Reformation, leadership, and the Temple.”

A Well-Spent Sabbath
“in an age of frenetic and unrelenting busyness, when technology allows us to stay plugged in to the world twenty-four-seven, when entertainment becomes the de facto purpose of so many lives, nothing could be more countercultural, nor bear more eloquent testimony to a Christian’s citizenship in another world, than a well-spent Lord’s Day.”

Kindle Books

Growing in Christ by J I Packer  $3.19.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet $4.99.

True Community by Jerry Bridges $2.99.

Lots of R C Sproul books and booklets at reduced prices.

A Few Good Men

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 8:03am

Let me introduce you to seven men who will give us a guided tour of Romans 3:9-31.

Mr. Goodness
Mr. Goodness hardly needs an introduction. We are all born hand in hand with him, know him well, and like him. After all, he tells us how good we are. And if we have any doubts, he helps us to find excuses, blame others, or find others that we can still look good beside.

As Mr. Goodness is extremely experienced, persuasive, and skillful, Paul spends the first few chapters of Romans attacking him with the sharp sword of Scripture. And in Romans 3:9-18 he “goes for the jugular” with thrust after thrust of multiple verses proving universal human sinfulness: “None righteous, no not one… none who understands… none who seeks after God…they have all turned aside… etc.”

Mr. Guilty
With Mr. Goodness slumped on the floor, Mr. Guilty enters the room. And when Mr. Guilty enters the room, every mouth is stopped (3:19). Without defense, alibi, or excuse, we stop arguing with God.

Mr. Guilty drags us again and again to Mr. Law (we’ll look at him a bit later), who presents us with two documents: precepts to be obeyed and penalties to be suffered. And what can we say there but, “Guilty, guilty, guilty.” The precepts I have not obeyed. The penalties I cannot suffer.

Mr. Righteousness
Into this dark and gloomy room walks Mr. Righteousness. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed” (v. 21). Mr. Righteousness has a nickname – Mr. Law Satisfier. He comes to law, looks at the precepts to be obeyed and the penalties to be suffered, and says, “I can do both. I can obey these precepts and suffer these penalties until there is nothing left to be paid.”

But how come Mr. Righteousness has a righteousness “apart from the law”? How can he be a law-satisfier apart from the law? It’s like saying red tomatoes are not red. This cannot mean what it seems to mean – a law satisfaction without satisfying the law. Rather it is a law satisfaction without any regard to our attempted law-satisfying.

Imagine if Mr. Righteousness walked into your yard with a wheelbarrow. Instead of admiring his perfection you start trying to put some of your own imagined law-keeping into his wheelbarrow. But he says “NO! I don’t want any contribution from you. I’m not interested in your law-satisfaction. I offer a law-satisfaction that is completely separate and independent from your attempted law-satisfying.”

It is also a “righteousness of God” (v. 21, 22). This is not a mere human righteousness but a divine righteousness. This is not a mere man that has obeyed the precepts and suffered the penalties. It is God himself.  Can you imagine the value of that law-satisfaction!

We might conceive of a man who obeyed the precepts, suffered the penalties, and survived. That’s conceivable; but what good is that for anyone else? How can his righteousness extend beyond himself to any other human being. It might be enough for himself; he might be able to hand it over to someone else; but as it is only one human righteousness, it can only cover one human being. But divine righteousness is infinitely valuable and can extend to a multitude greater than any man can number.

Mr. Righteousness was witnessed to by the law and the prophets and has now been revealed even more clearly. Both Old and New Testaments point towards Mr. Righteousness. Who is Mr. Righteousness? It’s Mr. Jesus Christ. He can obey the precepts and suffer the penalties until they are exhausted. He is “the righteousness of God.”

Mr. Faith
So, here’s this soul chained to Mr. Guilty. And there’s Mr. Righteousness who can meet this soul’s deepest needs. But how to get rid Mr. Guilty and connect with Mr. Righteousness? That’s where Mr. Faith comes in. The righteousness of God is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (v. 22).

Mr. Faith comes to the soul, severs it from its guilt and connects it with Mr. Righteousness. As soon as this soul believes, faith smashes the chain of guilt and connects the soul with perfect righteousness (v. 25). All my guilt gone. His whole righteousness mine.

And this is not just for special believers, for those with special faith, or even strong faith. It’s “to all and on all who believe.” Instead of hearing, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” the believing soul now hears not just, “Innocent, innocent, innocent!” but “Perfect, perfect, perfect!” All precepts obeyed, all penalties met.

Mr. Boasting
The light has gone on, the dust is settling, and the soul is enjoying this salvation. Paul looks around and says, “Now, where is Mr. Boasting?” (v. 27). Mr. Boasting and Mr. Goodness were great allies. But with Mr. Goodness gone, Mr. Boasting is friendless. In fact, he’s very angry, especially with Mr. Faith. Because faith looks away from self to Christ. Faith turns the spotlight from self to Christ. Boasting is now evicted and runs away, cursing Mr. Faith. Oh, to be sure, he sometimes gets back together with Mr. Goodness and they stick their heads in the window  again from time to time. But with the help of chapters like Romans 3 they are kept outside and at a safe distance.

Mr. Law
So faith has chased away Mr. Goodness, Mr. Guilt, and Mr. Boasting. What about Mr. Law? Does Mr. Faith chase him away too? Let Paul answer: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (v. 31).

Every other pretended way of salvation diminishes the law in one way or another: it’s requirements, it’s penalties, or it’s inner-penetration. In one way or another it makes void and diminishes the law. It helps people be saved by lowering the barrier, or by compromising justice. But this way of salvation strengthens and confirms the law. Mr. Righteousness reached the standard perfectly, and suffered the penalties fully. That’s why Paul says God is both “just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). He is “a just God and a Savior.”

Mr. Joy
Mr. Goodness has gone. Mr. Guilt has gone. Mr. Boasting has gone. Who do we have left? Mr. Righteousness, Mr. Faith and Mr. Law. And then walks in our seventh man, Mr. Joy.

Mr. Joy says to Mr. Law “Are you happy?” “I’m happy,” he replies, “my demands have been met, my penalties satisfied. Rejoice!”

“Mr. Righteousness, you happy?” “Of course! I still have a perfect complete righteousness.”

“Mr. Faith, you happy?” “Sure, I’ve severed another soul from sin and united it with perfect righteousness!”

“And what about you, Soul?” asks Mr. Joy.

“Me?” says the soul, “Who could be happier! The law is satisfied. Guilt has gone. Righteousness is mine. And all by faith, without any contribution from me.” What a happy scene. What a happy soul!

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

Check out

Tue, 08/08/2017 - 7:56am
Blogs

Four Plumblines to Parent with Grace
“What does it mean to be a gospel-centered parent? As a youth minister who is also a parent, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I may have a bit of insight. At our church, we often talk about four plumb lines – little phrases that, we believe, capture the heart of grace-centered parenting. 1) “Parents are neither saviors nor sanctifiers” 2) “Parents are pastors” 3) “You parent best when you repent most” 4) “Parent your kids to be sent, not to stay”"

Give Me Jesus Over Westminster Abbey
I loved Trevin Wax’s account of his visit to Westminster Abbey, especially his conclusion:

“If forced to choose between the power of Westminster’s ambience or the power of a simple preacher who shows me Christ, I say: Give me Jesus every time.”

Are You Chasing Happiness or Holiness? | Desiring God
Tony Reinke argues that “by distancing holiness from happiness we create a false dichotomy.”

We Cannot Help Women Reject Abortion By Screaming At Them
T
his from someone who left Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life campaigner:

“I do not believe we will ever win hearts through intimidation or illegal tactics. We won’t be able to help women if we scare them. It’s illogical to think that a woman already in a vulnerable position would willingly walk up to a man who is holding a graphic image, engaging in civil disobedience, and calling her a murderer just to, you know, have a conversation with him.”

The 4 Key Tools to a Successful Time Management System
Very simple but would transform the lives of so many young people:

“Here are the 4 Key Tools to a Successful Time Management System:

To-do List – A place to capture your tasks and get them out of your head so that you can concentrate on what you are doing.

Calendar – A tracker for all of your appointments and obligations to manage your day’s timeline.

Address Book – A collection of the contact information of all of the people who you need to connect with whether regularly or infrequently.

Notebook – Documentation of ideas and notes from your day’s activities and meetings. “

I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones
Also, see the Piper questions that Kevin points to:

“This will not be a long post. Because the issue doesn’t seem all that complicated. I don’t understand Christians watching Game of Thrones.”

Brothers, We Are Not Amateurs | For The Church
“Never before in the history of the church has theological education been so accessible, and never before has it been so needed. Advanced technology, innovative delivery systems, and proliferating resources all make being a ministerial amateur—as a permanent state—inexcusable. Why pursue ministry preparation? ”

10 Issues To Work Through Before You Get Married – Tim Challies
“Some people get married too soon. After love at first sight and a whirlwind romance, they quickly plan a wedding, exchange rings, and settle into a marriage that soon turns sour. So much pain can be avoided by working through issues before that wedding day. While courtship and engagement is, of course, the time to plan a wedding, it is also the time to plan a marriage. Here, drawn from the work of Jim Newheiser, is a list of issues to work through before you get married.”

Kindle Books

If you want to stock up on J I Packer books, today is the day.

Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know by J I Packer $2.99.

A Grief Sanctified: Through Sorrow to Eternal Hope by J I Packer $2.99.

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J I Packer $2.99.

You’ll find some other discounted Packer books here.

Check out

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 8:33am
Blogs

Seems like every second article these days is about either (1) technology addiction, (2) sexual addiction, or (3) depression. Beginning to think that there’s a frequent connection between them all.

Can You Repent Without Changing? The Beginning of the End for Sexual Sin
This wins the “Article of the Week” award and is in the running for “Article of the Year.”

“Having counseled thousands of men and women, I find that the first step in overcoming sexual sin is to understand that sexual misbehavior is the heart’s arrogant attempt to deal with pain, and that the pain itself is not the problem.”

Plowing Through Addiction: The ABC’s of Victory | For The Church
“Now, I’ve worked with men struggling with some form of sexual addiction for almost twenty years and there is much to this problem. Regardless of the addiction, recovery as a believer after involves these 3 beginning, common-sense steps.”

How ‘Facebook Infidelity’ Can Sabotage Your Marriage

“The evidence that many married men and married women are using Facebook as a means to communicate emotionally and/or sexually outside of their marriage is overwhelming. Massive amounts of research pertaining to Facebook infidelity and related topics have been conducted by other researchers as well as myself. To bring you up to date, below are some key bullet points of what’s happening on the Facebook-infidelity front:”

Calling, Burdens, and Being Crushed By Facebook
“Why specifically does social media leave me so dried up? Because of callings, burdens, and borders.”

Texting and Driving is Not Loving Your Neighbor. It Could Kill Them

Hope in the Darkness of Mental Illness
“Here are four descriptors of a good comforter: a witness who sees us when we’re stricken; an advocate who defends us when we’re abandoned; an intercessor who prays for us when our prayers have run dry; a friend who hopes for us when we no longer have hope for ourselves.”

3 Lines in the Sand
“All three of these lines in the sand are drawn in the opening two chapters of the Bible. God makes it clear that He created us, that He created male and female, and that He designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. Those three foundational truths are clear. All three are rejected today.”

Ten Difficult, But Really Important Words
“Many words in the English language are hard to get out. In fact, there’s even a Dictionary of Difficult Words. But none are more difficult than these: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”"

Kindle Books

Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence by Crawford Loritts $1.99.

United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity by Trillia Newbell $1.99.

Lasting Love: How to Avoid Marital Failure by Alistair Begg $1.99.

The New Matthew Henry Commentary: The Classic Work with Updated Language $3.99.

New Book

Collateral Damage: My Journey to Healing from My Pastor and Father’s Failure by James Carroll. My endorsement:

You will shed tears of joy over the healing power of Christ and the astonishing love of God’s people for a heart-broken 12-year-old boy.

 Video

The Golden Rule in Christian Dating

Summary:

Lean hard on the people who know you best, love you most, and will tell you when you’re wrong. We need friends who love God even more than they love us. Only people who love Christ more than they love you will have the courage to tell you that you’re wrong in dating — and give you the encouragement, truth, wisdom, and perspective you need.

See Marshall’s new book Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating 

Smart Rules for Smartphones

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 7:58am

In Counseling Parents about Smart Rules for Smartphones (And All Social Media), Garret Higbee discusses how he and his wife have navigated the digital jungle with their three kids (including two teens). Click through to read about his approach. Here are the 10 rules they have developed over the years. He also provide an additional ten guidelines.

10 Rules for Smartphones and Social Media (Violation Means Restricted Use for Days or Weeks)

  1. Never text while driving a car.
  2. Never write a text or send a photo that you wouldn’t want your mom or dad to see.
  3. Always ask before you forward a text or photo.
  4. Never post your cell phone number anywhere.
  5. Turn off location services and never broadcast your location.
  6. Never respond to numbers you don’t recognize.
  7. If someone asks you to send an inappropriate photo, say “No!” and talk to your parents about it.
  8. If you receive an inappropriate photo, delete it immediately and tell your parents; block the sender.
  9. Don’t download apps without your parents’ permission.
  10. Don’t use social media or electronic devices to bully or gossip.

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch.

Check out

Wed, 08/02/2017 - 7:52am
Blogs

The 8 Questions I Need to Answer Before I Decide to Retire
“Retirement is just another season in life; one filled with both challenges and opportunities. So, as in any stage of life, we can never go wrong if we put God’s kingdom first when making the important decision about when to retire and how we will spend our time once we do.

Podcast: Pastoral Rest | Practical Shepherding
“Listen as Brian Croft and Jim Savastio discuss the often neglected issue of pastoral rest. From the vacation to the day off to the pastoral sabbatical, Brian and Jim explore the biblical necessity of rest and offer practical insights for avoiding pastoral burn-out.”

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence | Tim Lane
“In March of 2015, I pursued certification to use a tool called the Birkman Method to help leaders and teams grow in Emotional Intelligence. In addition to learning how to use this tool to help others, my training also allowed me to grow in greater self-awareness and learn how my own leadership style could be both productive and not so productive given the situation. I wished I had been exposed to this while I was in seminary preparing for leadership in ministry.”

3 Ways to Control Your Phone Addiction on Vacation | Harvard Business Review
“If we want to truly disconnect from everyday pressures and reap the positive benefits of a holiday we need to commit to setting three helpful boundaries.

How “Online” Is Your Prayer Life? | Counseling One Another
“The average adult in the UK spends nearly nine hours of each day on media and communication, outstripping even the amount of time spent sleeping or doing other vital tasks. Over 80 per cent of respondents to the study said the internet makes communicating easier, but a majority also conceded that they were probably “hooked” on the internet and spent longer than intended online each day. On average, we spend a little more than one day each week online (25 hours), with 10 per cent saying that they access the internet more than 50 times each day.”

Christian, What Are You Watching? | Crossway

“As followers of Christ, we cannot afford to take lightly the media’s pervasive presence in our lives. Think about the power of video entertainment, for instance. Whether viewed on computer, a portable player, or a traditional TV set, television and film are without peer in their cultural influence. Ken Myers, an astute Christian observer of popular culture, notes that television is not only “the dominant medium of popular culture” but also “the single most significant shared reality in our entire society.” He compares television’s impact to that of Christianity centuries ago, when “Christendom” defined the Western world:”

When Your Spouse Is Mentally Ill | Christianity Today
“Through the years, I have learned some things about marriage and mental illness that I wished someone would have told me early on. If you or a loved one are facing a similar challenge with mental illness, here are a few important truths.”

Four stages of “evangelical” affirmation of gay marriage | Denny Burk
“I have noticed a pretty consistent progression among those who eventually embrace gay marriage. It goes like this:
(1) Oppose gay-marriage.
(2) Oppose taking a stand on the question.
(3) Affirm gay marriage.
(4) Vilify traditional marriage proponents:”

4 Reasons to Teach Church History to Teens
“Far from being a stagnant collection of dates, movements, and odd-sounding names, the church’s past represents a treasure trove of God-exalting wisdom that helps us navigate the cultural realities of the present.”

God’s Grace in My Anorexia
“If you’d met me 13 years ago, here’s what you’d have seen: A ”successful” Christian, newly married to a pastor in training. The leader of a thriving children’s ministry with a bright future ahead. Someone who seemed to have it all together. But there’s one part you might have missed: a young woman gripped by an eating disorder that would nearly take her life. So how did I get there—and what has changed?”

Kindle Books


Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life by Michael Kelley $2.99.

Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? by David Jones $4.12.

The Most Important Place on Earth: What a Christian Home Looks Like and How to Build One by Robert Wolgemuth $2.99.

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