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.
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Biblical Counseling Resources

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 2:00am

Here are some of the online resources I refer to in the Foundations of Biblical Counseling course that I teach at Puritan Reformed Seminary. I have another bunch of links under the heading “The Counselor’s World” which deal with the relationship between Biblical Counseling and the other counseling systems that influence our world. However, that list is so long that I’ll post it separately another time.

For articles and resources on more specific counseling issues scroll down this page

WHAT IS BIBLICAL COUNSELING?

A Ministry to Serve and Shepherd | Dave Jenkins

5 Definitions of Biblical Counseling | Bob Kellemen

One Definition of Christian Psychology | Phil Monroe

Why we “care” instead of “counsel” one another | Robert Cheong

THE COUNSELOR’S GOD

12 Ways the Holy Spirit Energizes Discipleship Counseling | Paul Tautges

How God is good for the soul | Eric Johnson

Four Liberating Truths About God | Tim Chester

THE COUNSELOR’S BIBLE

Scripture and Counseling Interview with Bob Kellemen(Part 1) (Part 2)

Sufficiency of Scripture and Psychotropic Medication | Bob Kellemen

Extrabiblical Books and Scripture’s Sufficiency | Tony Reinke

Marvin Olavksy on Journalism and the Six Classes of Knowledge | Trevin Wax

THE COUNSELOR’S HUMANITY

The Very Real Pain of “Imaginary” Illnesses | BBC

Overspiritualizing invisible wounds? | Phil Monroe

How can Christians Tell the Difference Between A Spiritual Issue and a Physical One? | Heath Lambert

Sorting Out the Spiritual and the Physical | Mike Emlet

A Christian Approach to & Nature vs. Nurture | Justin Taylor

Emotions: What does the Bible each? | Bib Kellemen 

Emotions: Why Do We Feel What We Feel? | Bob Kellemen

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Woefully and Tragically Fallen | Steve Cornell

How Abuse Changes a Child’s Brain | Wired Science

Imbalanced Theology Leads to Imbalanced Counseling | Todd Hardin

THE COUNSELOR’S COMMUNITY/CHURCH

Thirteen Benefits of Church-Based Biblical Counseling |Robert Jones (Part One) (Part Two)

The Preacher, the Counselor, and the Congregation | Kevin DeYoung

Five Reasons I Love Church-Based Counseling | Pat Quinn

How to Counsel as a Friend | Jackie Knapp

Adultery and Counseling in the Local Church | Jonathan Holmes

Prayer Is a Great Place to Begin Biblical Counseling | David Powlison

The Local Church is THE place for Biblical Counseling | David Powlison

Baylor Study: Churches Blind to Mental Illness | Baylor University

 Do You Offer a Lab with Your Instruction? | Mark Shaw

Transformational Small Group Labs | Bob Kellemen

6 Benefits of the Weekly Training Meal | Steve Viars

How We Do Biblical Counseling Training in Our Congregation | Deepak Reju

THE COUNSELOR’S PROCESS (1): CONSENT & CONFIDENTIALITY

In general, I follow Paul Tripp’s helpful schema of “Love, Know, Speak, Do” as found in his book, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. However, I expand it considerably under each heading.

When your Counselee Confides Abuse | Julie Ganschow

11 Ways to Avoid a Lawsuit in Counseling | Steve Viars

Pastoral Care, Confidentiality, and Sexual Abuse | Matt Kapps

My Pastoral Confidentiality Policy | Tom Ascol

THE COUNSELOR’S PROCESS (2): LOVE

Counseling Relationships

Truth and Love: Sharing Scripture and Soul | Bob Kellemen

Five Portraits of a Biblical Counselor (Part One) | Bob Kellemen

Five Portraits of a Biblical Counselor (Part Two) | Bob Kellemen

The Blessing of Being Counseled by Someone You Know | Scott Mehl

Should Counselors Talk about Themselves? | Bob Kellemen

Is the Future of Counseling and Therapy Online? | Infographic

Preparing for Difficult Counselees | Todd Hardin

When Men Counsel Women | David Powlison and Nancy Guthrie

Cultural Sensitivity

The Culturally Competent Biblical Counselor | Victoria Mwongela

Sympathy

Winston Smith on Entering into the Emotions of Others | Phil Monroe

God’s Nouthetic Confrontation of Uncaring Shepherd | Bob Kellemen

Bob Kellemen series on Sympathy

Half Biblical Ministry to the Suffering
Counseling Without Loving Compassion
Mingling Our Sufferings and Sorrows
Job’s Miserable Counselors: How Not to Counsel
Climbing in the Casket: Rich Soul Empathy
5 Marks of Compassionate Biblical Counseling
4 Christlike Characteristics of a Biblical Comforter
Gospel Listening 
Listening to 5 Biblical Principles of Gospel Listening

How to Be a Miserable Comforter | Paul Tautges

Prayer

David Powlison on Prayer and Counseling

Humility

Over-confidence? Under-Confidence? Assessing Counselor Tendencies | Phil Monroe

Hope

The Centrality of Hope in Counseling Biblically | Joshua Waulk

New Research Shows that Personalities Change | Charles Hodges

Counselors Need Hope Too | Ken Long

When Hope Hurts | Winston Smith

Preparation

Counsel for the Counselor | Matt Capps

THE COUNSELOR’S PROCESS (3): KNOW

Questions

How God uses Questions in the Bible | Michael Kelley

20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry | Paul Tautges

2 reasons why finding the root problem may not be a good goal for counselors | Phil Monroe

Listening

Six LISTENing Principles | Bob Kellemen

Telling Painful Memories: Recommendations for Counselors | Phil Monroe

Interpretation

Does your counselor have these two important skills? | Phil Monroe

Six Basic Struggles | Ed Welch

Winston Smith on Entering into the Emotions of Others | Phil Monroe

Shame, Fear, Guilt | Tim Challies

The Very Real Pain of “Imaginary” Illnesses | BBC

THE COUNSELOR’S PROCESS (4): SPEAK

Are you counseling a Saint, Sufferer, or Sinner? | Trevin Wax

Avoiding a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Counseling | Trevin Wax

Gentle Answers #1: A Friend in Sin | Jared Olivetti

Gracious Candor: A Tutorial in Speaking the Truth in Love | Heath Lambert

Counseling Stories | Barry York

Dump-truck Counseling | Paul Tautges

How Not to Quote the Bible to Hurting People | Mike Emlet

Different Approaches for Different People (Pt. 1 of 2) | Paul Tautges

Different Approaches for Different People (Pt. 2 of 2) | Paul Tautges

D.A. Carson on how to avoid being pastorally insensitive and theologically stupid

More Things Not to Say to Those Who are Suffering | Ed Welch

4 Words that Give a Well-Rounded Picture of Counseling in the Church | Paul Tautges

How can Christians Tell the Difference Between A Spiritual Issue and a Physical One? | Heath Lambert

Journal : Sorting Out the Spiritual and the Physical | Mike Emlet

A Christian Approach to & Nature vs. Nurture | Justin Taylor

Your Heart Matters More Than Your History | Kevin DeYoung

More on “Can Your Body Make You Sin?” | Phil Monroe

THE COUNSELOR’S PROCESS (5): DO

The Gospel Grid | J. A. Meddors

Meditation

A Healing Counselee is a Meditating Counselee | Todd Hardin

Sing

Counseled by Casting Crowns | Paul Tautges

Worship/Church

Counseling and Worship | Terry Johnson

Some Thoughts on How to Provide Long Term Pastoral Care (Part 1)  (Part 2) | Tim Lane

Repent

Battle Plan | Tim Challies

Replace

How to win the war for your mind | Jeff Vanderstelt

A Free Bible Study on How to Change the Way You Think, Act, and Experience Life | David Powlison

Goal-Setting

What Are We Aiming At? | Pat Quinn

Church Discipline

The Pastor and Counseling: An interview with Jeremy Pierre

Accountability

Accountability as a Lifestyle (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

Referral

The Pastor and Counseling: When to refer | Jesse Johnson

The Pastor and Counseling: An interview with Jeremy Pierre

Six Steps to Wise Decision-Making About Psychotropic Medications | Brad Hambrick

How can Christians Tell the Difference Between A Spiritual Issue and a Physical One? | Heath Lambert

Termination

When do you Stop Counseling? | Deepak Reju

Medication

6 Steps to Wise Decision Making About Psychotropic Medications | Brad Hambrick

Check Out

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 1:00am

Here are some articles by Joni and others reflecting on the 50th anniversary of her diving accident. If ever there was an example of God working all things together for good, this is it.

After 50 Years in a Wheelchair, I Still Walk With Jesus | Christianity Today

In Awe of Her God | Desiring God

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident

Moms Need To Stop Degrading Our Job As Brainless, Because It’s Not
“I have a college degree and worked for nearly a decade before I became a mother. The energy and ambition that I used to put into my career, I now put into my family. I’m still constantly drawing on my education and professional skills, but for a much more meaningful purpose. Most of the projects I worked on in my previous career are now obsolete. I believe my husband and children have eternal souls.”

When Husbands Die Young
“I was 30, and my husband had died. Sometimes I awoke to the sound of my own voice screaming his name, drenched in a cold sweat. Other nights were sleepless, the pain visceral. I lived in a fog, and then reality began to settle. He wasn’t coming back. Only 0.6 percent of American women are widowed when younger than 35. I’m a major anomaly, and people haven’t always known what to do with me. But the church can help. Here are six practical ways.”

10 Differences between Cockiness and Confidence
“You have heard it said that there is a thin line between confidence and cockiness, but the truth is they are miles apart. A cocky leader is not a leader with simply too much confidence; confidence and cockiness are very different traits all together. Here are ten differences between cockiness and confidence.”

What I’ve Learned From Being Fired
“I have been fired from three different jobs or gigs in my career and I learned from each one of them. Don’t get me wrong. Each of these was a painful experience. But these experiences also taught me important lessons that I probably could not have learned any other way. They were invaluable for my future success. Here are those lessons:”

What I Believe About Ministry
“Here’s a list of what I stand for. It’s still a work in progress. I expect to add to it and improve it over the years. But I don’t expect that many of the convictions I articulate here will change. I wish I’d held to them 25 years ago. My service to those I’ve pastored would have been richer for it.”

Kindle Books

Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn $2.99.

Walking from East to West: God in the Shadows by Ravi Zacharias $2.99. Part auto-biography.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung $2.99.

There Are Souls To Be Saved: How Can We Rest?

Fri, 07/28/2017 - 7:35am

Pastors used to be some of the happiest and healthiest people alive, with better life expectancy than the general population. But in “Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work,” journalist Paul Vitello reports, “Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.”

High levels of stress, depression, and burnout are leading to broken bodies, broken minds, broken hearts, broken marriages, and broken churches. According to Christianity Today, burnout is responsible for 20 percent of all pastoral resignations. That’s hardly surprising, since surveys reveal that pastors relegate physical exercise, nutrition, and sleep to a much lower priority than the average worker.

I’ve been there and done that—and suffered the consequences. But through painful personal experience, and also through counseling many others since, I’ve learned that God has graciously provided a number of ways for us to reset our broken and burned-out lives, and to help us live a grace-paced life in a burnout culture. Before we get to these, let’s consider why so many pastors are joining these statistics.

Read the rest of this article at 9 Marks.

10 Pictures of Faith

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 7:29am

Why does God give us so many pictures of believing in Jesus? Why not just some philosophical treatise on faith, or some systematic theology of faith? Why illustrations? And why so many?

First, because faith is so hard. Unbelief comes naturally to us; faith is unnatural. Faith is so hard it has to be given us by God. And he gives it to us partly by multiplying the pictures of faith to maximize our understanding and exercising of it.

Second, because people are so different. Because of our different backgrounds, personalities, needs, etc., if God had only given us one picture of faith, it might not have suited everyone. He gave us ten (more than ten, in fact) to ensure that everyone could have a picture of faith that would suit them.

Third, because God’s desire for faith is so strong. Take these ten pictures as a vivid expression of Christ’s passionate yearning for us to believe in him. Click on over to The Christward Collective for ten pictures of faith and try to still believe that he really doesn’t want you to believe in him.

 

 

Check Out

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 7:24am
Blogs

The Top Ten Surprises New Pastors Have | ThomRainer.com
Hopefully this will result in fewer surprises.

No Time for Widows? | Biblical Counseling Coalition
“Many people are uncomfortable around the bereaved, particularly if they have not experienced the death of a close family member or friend. Below I’ve listed just a few examples of things to say and not say to a widow.  If you are unsure of what to say, it is best to say only ‘I’m sorry.’ Gentle hugs often speak more eloquently than words.”

6 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Bible | Jon Nielson, TGC
“I’m a father of three young kids. I can’t think of many things more important for them than regular exposure to the living Word of God. If you’re a Christian parent of young children, I assume you share the same conviction: Your kids need to hear from God, and you long for them to listen carefully to his good Word. But it’s hard. Life is busy, kids are lively, and reading the Bible often struggles to compete with the Disney channel, Legos, and the newest phone app. Here are six tips my wife and I have found helpful in our rhythm of Bible reading with our young kids (currently 6, 5, and 3).”

Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy | David R. Wheeler, The Atlantic
“As full-time pastors become a thing of the past, more and more seminary grads are taking on secular jobs to supplement their incomes. ”

An Open Letter to the Person Caring for a Loved One with Dementia | John Dunlop, Crossway
“Taking responsibility for the care of a person suffering from any stage of dementia can be one of the greatest challenges of life. But there are not only challenges. There are also opportunities; opportunities to serve unselfishly in the way our Lord serves us, opportunities for personal growth, and opportunities for God to be glorified. ”

6 Steps to Setting Technology Boundaries in Your Home
“Technology exposes our idolatry. Combating the misuse or overuse of technology is important, but parents must always remember that a child’s behavior is nothing more than a reflection of his or her heart. And just like yours, those hearts are full of idols. But as you work toward these deeper issues, setting up appropriate boundaries can be very helpful. Here are some helpful ways to do just that:”

Building a Theological Library, Part 3: Tips on Building a Digital Library | Jeff Straub, Credo Magazine
“We live in exciting times. At no point in human history has it been easier to collect and maintain a ministerial library if one chooses the route of digital books. ”

Why is Cremation on the Rise? | Alex Chediak, The Stream
“For Christians, this raises the question: Is it really a neutral choice between whether to be buried or burned? If so, it’s easy to opt for convenience. But there’s a long tradition among Christians that a burial is much better.”

7 Insights From J.D. Vance And Co. About What’s Ripping Families Apart | Josh Shepherd, The Federalist
“On Thursday, with an auditorium packed to hear best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance, Heritage Foundation scholars unveiled the 2017 Index of Culture and Opportunity, an annual compendium of charts, essays, and expert analysis tracking national social and economic changes…”

Kindle Deals


Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible by Brian Cosby ($1.99)


Wilberforce by John Pollock ($1.99)


Running on Empty: The Gospel for Women in Ministry by Barbara Bancroft ($1.59)


Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer by Elizabeth W. D. Groves ($1.99)


Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey ($2.99)

Counseling Victims of Domestic Abuse

Wed, 07/26/2017 - 8:30am

I try to read or listen to anything that Diane Langberg says in the areas of abuse and PTSD. Here’s a video of a lecture she gave on domestic abuse to the Christian Leaders Forum in Budapest. As Cry for Justice puts it:

In this talk, Diane condemns the way that many Christians minimize the seriousness of what happens in domestic abuse, and she says that the church is not doing a lot to address the issue. She defines abuse as including emotional, verbal, financial, sexual, spiritual and social abuse as well as physical abuse. Likewise, she emphasizes that domestic abuse is a pattern of conduct, not just isolated incidents. And she applies scriptures very well to the issue.

You can follow Diane on Twitter or read more about her work at her website. She has also written a number of books which you can find here.

Loneliness is Killing us

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 8:46am

We all know loneliness is not a good thing. At the very beginning, God told us that it is not good to be alone (Gen. 2:18). But perhaps it is beyond “not good,” – harmful, detrimental even.

That’s what Billy Baker from the Boston Globe discovered as he researched the effects of loneliness in his article, The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness.

He writes, “Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States, has said many times in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation.”

Through his research, Baker identifies himself in the problem, realizing he hasn’t seen some of his “closest” friends in years. What is interesting to note, however, is that this loneliness and isolation is felt even among men with wives and families.

Lack of Friendship

It seems the real problem might not be “isolation” but a lack of friendship. Psychiatrist Richard S. Schwartz has studied this now typical phenomenon among middle-aged family-men. “When people with children become overscheduled, they don’t shortchange their children, they shortchange their friendships. ‘And the public health dangers of that are incredibly clear,’ he says.”

Here are those health dangers, not to mention the effects on mental health:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Early death (even after correcting for other lifestyle choices)

Male and Female Relationships

Another important point in this conversation is that (as we know) men and women are created differently. Therefore, they experience relationships differently. This is not to say that loneliness isn’t a danger for women, too, but that women naturally maintain their relationships better than men do. This is at least in part because what appears to be most meaningful to women is conversation, which can be done over the phone and from a distance.

However, activity is what bonds men together, which is why “studies have shown, men tend to make their deepest friends through periods of intense engagement, like school or military service or sports.” Unfortunately, as men and their responsibilities grow, the chances to engage in those kinds of side-by-side activities wane, or at the least, require a lot of effort. Baker even described feeling guilty about running off with the guys during his free time instead of using it to be with his family. That’s noble – and I’m sure his wife appreciates his consideration – but as we’re seeing, that might not always be the best choice for his health.

“I’m very happy in my life,” Baker says, “If I need someone to confide in, I have my wife. All the pieces are here, except one — the guys. I’d like to think they’re also missing me and are just locked into this same prison of commitments. But I don’t want to wait until we’re all retired and can reconnect on a golf course. It feels silly to wait that long, and thanks to this stupid story, I know it’s quite dangerous.”

What Can We Do?

So what do we do? One practical tip Baker describes is to establish a regular time for this side-by-side type of friendship. Pick a day with a few of your friends and meet every week at that time and do something together. Make it a standing appointment so that the importance of relationship doesn’t get swept away in the busyness of life. I would also recommend taking a long, hard look at your obligations. If you don’t have time to tend to your physical, mental, and/or spiritual health – and relationships are part of that – It’s time to drop some commitments.

Biblical Friendship

We need friends. We need confidants (Proverbs 17:17, 27:5-6), companions (Ecc. 4:9-10), comforters (Job 2:11, 16:20-21), encouragers (Proverbs 27:17, 1 Thess. 5:11). The Bible is full of verses like these exhorting us in our friendships, showing us who and who not to have as friends, and outlining the many, many reasons we need others in our lives. Jesus Himself during his time on earth developed deep, rich friendships with three of His disciples, and also calls us “friend” (John 15:15). How important, then, this kind of relationship must be!

But it is hard. Even as people of God and members of local churches we fall into the same rut as Baker – overscheduled, overworked, and lonely. I encourage you to make the time. Find the regular, standing appointment. Fellowship with the men in your church. Don’t be afraid of the awkwardness or effort it takes to do this. Modern research is showing us what God has told us all along: It is not good for man to be alone.

For more resources on Christian friendship, I recommend The Company We Keep by Jonathan Holmes or The Friendship Factor by Alan McGinnis. Or just get started by picking up your phone and dialing a friend.

Check Out

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 8:43am
Blogs

Why Evangelism Requires Both Logic and Loveliness | Holly Ordway, Christianity Today
“The classic rational arguments for Christian faith—based on evidence, philosophy, and history—are as sound as ever, but they are effective only when people are interested in the questions and find our words and ideas meaningful. Today, we cannot count on our listeners to be either interested or informed. Here, we see the need for a new approach—or rather, the return to an older, more integrated approach to apologetics that engages the whole human person. Many contemporary apologists—myself included—look to both reason and imagination to help us lead people to know about, follow, and love our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Seven Dangers in the Last Few Years of Your Ministry | ThomRainer.com
“To be clear, I want to avoid seven dangers in my last years of ministry. And I know I can succumb to any and all of these dangers without His strength, His mercy, and His plan.”

The Banner of Truth Trust Turns 60 Years Old | TGC
“Iain Murray is 86 years old. Sixty years ago today, along with Jack Cullum and Sidney Norton, officially founded Banner of Truth, the Reformed-evangelical publisher that began out of Westminster Chapel in London in 1957.”

Go Ahead Leaders, Take That Vacation | Michael Hyatt
Michael Hyatt gives us 7 strategies to optimize time off and come back refreshed.

Control Your Sexuality | Tim Challies
“Stop masturbating. Is that too blunt? I don’t think it is. I think men need to hear it. Whether you’re single or married, just stop. Masturbation is self-love. It runs entirely counter to the heart of our Savior, who ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Mark 10:45). It is counterfeit and fraudulent sexuality. Because it involves no woman, it is more properly a form of homosexuality than heterosexuality. It’s immature, it’s a misuse of God’s gift, it’s just plain dumb. You ought to be ashamed and embarrassed by it. So cut it out already and show some self-control.”

Are Video Games Keeping Young Men Out of the Work Force? | Alex Chediak, The Stream
“Screen time for young men without college degrees has more than doubled from the period 2004-2007 to the period 2011-2014. Unemployed young men now spend 2 to 3 times as many hours in front of a screen, compared to those who have jobs. More to the point, the percentage of screen time devoted to computer games has increased. Video games aren’t just sucking more time, they’re increasingly preferred over blogs, streamed videos and Facebook.”

New Books


The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography by Matt Fradd


Westminster Confession of Faith: Journal Edition


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

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.


Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood: An Eleven-Week Devotional Bible Study by Melissa Kruger ($4.99)


Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul by Hannah Anderson ($0.99)


Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey ($2.99)


The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love by Gloria Furman ($2.99)

Profitable Fails

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 8:19am

Most success comes after many fails. For example:

  • Angry Birds, the best-selling Apple App was software maker Rovio’s 52nd attempt at successful software in 8 almost-bankrupt years.
  • James Dyson failed in 5,126 prototypes before perfecting his revolutionary vacuum cleaner.
  • WD40 lubricant got its name because the first 39 experiments failed. WD-40 literally stands for “Water Displacement–40th Attempt.

The basic difference between successful people and the rest of us is that they’ve learned to fail well. They humbly embrace their mistakes, use them as opportunities to learn, and persevere until each shot got them nearer the bullseye.

  • Apple founder Steve Jobs ascribes his success to reevaluating his life after three setbacks: dropping out of college, being fired from the company he founded, and being diagnosed with cancer.
  • Michael Jordan said: “I have failed over and over and over again, and that is why I succeed.
  • The American chess master Bruce Pandolfini, who trains many young chess players, said: “At the beginning, you lose – a lot. The kids who are going to succeed are the ones who learn to stand it. A lot of young players find losing so devastating they never adapt, never learn to metabolize that failure and to not take it personally. But good players lose and then put the game behind them emotionally.”
  • Philip Schultz wrote a book of poems about his writing failures. Entitled, Failure, it won a Pulitzer prize!

If we have learned to fail well:

  • We will have realistic expectations of ourselves and our work.
  • We will not soar too high on success, and we will not sink too deeply upon a setback.
  • We will not resent or envy the “success” of others, nor will we get caught up in trying to imitate them.
  • We will diligently and patiently labour in our vocations, gradually developing our talents and skills for God’s glory and the good of others.
  • We will confess our failures, seek our Lord’s forgiveness, and pray for His re-directing guidance.
  • We will emerge from our failures humbler and weaker, but wiser and happier too.
  • Eventually we will see how God can transform our ugly failures into something profitable and even beautiful.

As the Apostle Peter might say: “Sometimes, failure is the best thing that can happen to us.”

Check out

Mon, 07/24/2017 - 7:48am
Blogs

Well, as usual, I didn’t get as much done as I hoped to during my “blog vacation.” Shona says my epitaph should be: “That took longer than I expected.” I’m way too optimistic about my DIY abilities. Anyway, normal service is now being resumed.

A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce
“Evangelical and confessional churches are striving to maintain a high view of marriage in a culture that is ripping the institution to shreds. So extra-biblical barriers to divorce can be well-meant. They try to protect marriage by doing everything possible to avoid divorce. In doing so, they not only fail to keep a high view of marriage. They also spread lies about the gospel, divorce, the value of people, the character of God, and the nature of sexual sin.”

An Open Letter to Husbands who Abuse Their Wives

Dear Abuser…

I want to make it clear that if you want to invoke Bible verses to control and manipulate your wife, the Bible is against you.

If you harm your wife physically, sexually, emotionally, or materially, Jesus stands against you.

To hide behind the Bible in order to justify how you treat your wife is vile. Justifying your attitudes and actions with the Bible is like blaming the cook book for the food poisoning you caused when you cooked a meal with putrid meat. The issue isn’t with the book, but what you brought out of your fridge.

You are destroying your family, dishonouring God, and deceiving yourself.

The Average Sermon Length of These 10 Well Known Pastors
“We did a little research of our own to discover just how long the most watched preachers in America preach. You might be surprised by the results. We certainly were.”

Fasting 101
“Fasting is a lost art in pursuit of the spiritual disciplines and one that seems quite distant from everyday life in modern western culture. However, when we look to Scripture there is an expectation that believers would fast as a part of the Christian life (Matt. 6:16; 9:15). So, before you dismiss this practice as only for Tibetan monks…let’s explore a few of the “whys and hows” of fasting so that we might enrich our spiritual development and the lives of those whom we walk alongside.”

Hope When Your Children Stray
“Today when I’m counseling the parents of a rebellious child, here are five things I tell them: ”

If you’re watching “Game of Thrones,” you’re watching porn.
“If you think you can somehow filter out the porn and only take in the art, you are deceived and double-minded as well.  Porn does what porn does: as soon as it enters the scene, it removes all dignity and humanity.  All that is left is body parts and the consuming of other humans.  You can’t keep someone’s dignity once you have already devoured it.  You don’t get porn and human dignity; you get porn or human dignity.”

Why Did Jesus Need the Holy Spirit?
“John Owen set out eleven ways in which the Holy Spirit is said to have worked in the life and ministry of Jesus in the Scriptures:”

Losing your voice: 4 ways pastors lose pulpits
1. Burn out
2. Rust out
3. Kicked out
4. Fall out

Your Smartphone Costs A Lot More Than You Think It Does
“Maybe it is called a smartphone because it sucks the brains out of otherwise-creative and intelligent creatures. Sayonara, so-called smartphone! Onward I shall go, towards living a quiet, productive, God-honoring life.”

Kindle Books

The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zach Eswine $4.99.

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson $2.99.

The Pastor and Counseling: The Basics of Shepherding Members in Need by Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju $3.99.

God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design Is It Anyway? by John Lennox $3.53.

 

Blog Vacation

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 6:47am

I’m on a blog vacation this week. Hoping to make some progress on some DIY projects at our new home. See you again next Monday (July 24).

Why read a book on sin?

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 8:27am

Monstrous. Hideous. Mischievous. Odious. Pernicious. Poisonous. Vicious. Villainous. Heinous. Obnoxious. Venomous. Tedious. Treacherous. Impetuous. Ruinous. Murderous. Dangerous. Lascivious. Injurious. Infectious. Vexatious. Serious.

Bet you didn’t know so many words ended with “-ous” did you?

“So, what’s the point? Is this a blog or a thesaurus?”

OK, the point is that this is a sample – yes, just a sample – of words that the Puritan Ralph Venning used to describe “sin” in his book Sin, The Plague of Plagues. Although the Puritans didn’t win too many prizes for Book Title of the Year, they did speak to contemporary events, with this book being published shortly after The Great Plague of London that killed over 100,000 people.

“A book on sin? Why would anyone want to write that? And why would anyone want to read it?”

Anticipating such objections, Venning wrote in his introduction that “it cannot but be extremely useful to let men see what sin is: how prodigiously vile, how deadly mischievous, and therefore how monstrously ugly and odious a thing sin is. Thus a way may be made:

  • For admiring the free and rich grace of God.
  • For believing in our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • For vindicating the holy, just and good law of God, and his condemnation of sinners for breaking it.
  • For hating sin, and repenting for and from it, thereby taking a holy, just and good revenge on it and ourselves.
  • That we may love and serve God at a better rate than we ever did in the little and short time of innocence itself.
  • And, lastly, that this black spot may serve to set off the admirable, incomparable and transcendent beauty of holiness.

So, why not take some time to mediate on each of these ugly -ous words. And let them lead you to the beauty of three other -ous words: that God is gracious, that Christ’s blood is precious, and that we are righteous in Him.

Now that’s miraculous!

And if you’re looking for books on the subject here are Top 10 Puritan Books on Sin and Top 10 Modern Books on Sin.

Check out

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 8:15am
Blogs

The First Year of Pastoring : Founders Ministries
“Every pastor has to experience the first year of pastoring to start laying groundwork for a lifetime of ministry. So what should a new pastor focus on during that year?”

5 Consequences Leaders Face for Not Resting
“Wise leaders don’t affirm people who brag about being workaholics or brag about never resting. Wise leaders know that a leader who fails to rest is a leader who fails to lead effectively. If you don’t rest, you won’t lead effectively. If you don’t lead your team to rest, they won’t lead as effectively as they can. Here are five consequences for not resting.”

Any Given Day with Ed Welch and Todd Stryd
“On any given day Ed Welch and Todd Stryd may be found counseling, teaching or writing. As you may imagine, they spend much time considering how Scripture impacts our lives. Here is a glimpse of what they have been thinking about recently.”

Learning to Love the Psalms, A New Teaching Series from W. Robert Godfrey
I’ve been listening to the audio book version of Learning to Love the Psalms and it’s meaty. Highly recommended

Are You in the Dangerous Time In Between?
I’m sure we all know people who need to read this article:

“I have been a Christian long enough to see more than my fair share of men fall. This I have observed: It’s so often the ones who seemed to be at their greatest moment of success who were on the precipice of destruction. Like blind men about to blunder off a cliff, they were oblivious to their impending doom. They failed to heed God’s warnings in that time in-between.”

Soul Care for Exhausted Young Mothers
Good mix of practical common sense advice and spiritual counsel in response to this question:

“”Dear Pastor John, my husband and I are new parents to a two-month-old son. Caring for him has been joyful and exhausting. I can barely concentrate on anything I used to but need the Lord more than ever to sustain me. What counsel do you give to new mothers on continuing their walk with God?”"

The Great Prize in Christian Dating
“Pursue Clarity and Postpone Intimacy”

One of My Biggest Ministry Mistakes
A short read but it could save you years of trouble.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my ministry, but avoiding conflict was one of the biggest. Nobody likes conflict, and if you do you have other issues we need to discuss. But when we avoid conflict, we hurt relationships and damage the church.

Kindle Books

Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament $1.99.

Remember and Return: Rekindling Your Love for the Savior by John Macarthur $1.99.

The Dangers of Loneliness

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 6:39am

We’re all aware of the epidemic of burnout, with close o 50% of people saying they are often or always exhausted at work. That’s twice as many as 20 years ago. But did you know of the connection between burnout and loneliness?

In Burnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion. It’s Also About Loneliness researchers demonstrate a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel. “This loneliness,” they say, “is not a result of social isolation, as you might think, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout.”

And if you thought burnout was bad for you, loneliness is even worse.

  • Loneliness has a tremendous impact on psychological and physical health and longevity.
  • While obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.
  • Loneliness increases your chance of stroke or coronary heart disease by 30%.
  • Loneliness costs employers billions of dollars each year and employee burnout costs hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

On the other hand, feelings of social connection can strengthen our immune systemlengthen our life, and lower rates of anxiety and depression.

What an opportunity for the church! Not only can we offer the grace of rest and peace but the grace of community and fellowship.

Check out

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 6:14am
Blogs

How Many of the Ten Commandments Do Americans Think They’ve Broken This Month?
“How many of the ten commandments have you broken this month?” Find out what the most common response is.

Church Size: The Optimal Number?
150 apparently. Intriguing discussion.

Sloth Doesn’t Just Mean Sleep
“The sluggard is really the one who is doing something other than what ought to be done in that moment to the glory of God.”

10 Things You Should Know about Dementia
What a helpful book for ministering to a growing segment of the population.

5,000 Days
Tim Challies celebrates his 5000th consecutive day of blogging by taking us behind the curtain. Thank you, Tim, for your faithful service and the blessing you’ve been to me and so many Christians.

10 Practical Ways to Focus Your Mental Energy
“In a world of distraction and competing demands, mental focus is a scarce commodity. If you want more of it, you will have to be intentional about getting it. ”

Tempted To Worry? Call These 4 Words To Mind
And the four words? “There will be grace.”

Husband, Lift Up Your Eyes
This is a powerful plea. May God bless all Christian men with the same revulsion at the very thought of adultery.

Ever since I fell in love with Noël and I knew we would spend a lifetime being intimate, the very thought of touching another woman sexually became disgusting, sickening. This may sound weird. I have not talked about it with many people. But I have said to myself often, with amazement, “The thought of having sex with any other woman besides Noël feels as nauseating to me as the prospect of having sex with a man.”

The Confession of a Grace Abuser
“There have been times I’ve used my “grace card” like it was some kind of unlimited hall pass that allows me to go anywhere or do anything without fear of the consequences….So, let’s talk about grace abuse and why we do it.”

Kindle Books

It’s Amazon Prime Day today. Maybe time to get a Kindle device at reduced prices?

The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness by Kevin DeYoung $3.99.

Understanding the Times: A Survey of Competing Worldviews by Jeff Myers. A superb book of 500+ pages for only $2.39!

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung $3.99.

The Worrying Effects of Working More and Sleeping Less

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 7:35am

A recent BBC article highlighted The Worrying Effects of Working More and Sleeping Less. Here are some stats which will either keep you awake tonight or perhaps send you to bed earlier:

  • Back in the 1940s people were sleeping on average just a little bit over eight hours a night, and now in the modern age we’re down to around 6.7, 6.8 hours a night. That’s 20% less sleep in just 70 years.
  • The blue light emitted from our digital devices put the brakes on the release of a hormone called melatonin at night, and melatonin signals when you should sleep.
  • Technology also causes sleep procrastination. Midnight is the time when we think, well, we should probably send our last email, let me just check Facebook one more time.
  • The primary cause of modern sleep deprivation is the economic and social pressure to work more, sleep less, and be more like some famous world leaders – including Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Margaret Thatcher – who have claimed to exist on five hours of sleep a night or less.
  • 10,000 research study papers show that the number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less and show no impairment is zero.
  • Anything less than seven hours’ sleep, we start to see health consequences.
  • Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Every major disease that is killing us in the developed world: Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, suicidality. All of them have direct now and very strong causal links to deficient sleep.”

Here are God’s stats: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2).

And here are two ways to respond:

  • “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me” (Ps. 3:5).
  • “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).

Check out

Mon, 07/10/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Preaching Under Pressure
“The Lord does not teach us to pray in a classroom. He teaches us to pray on a battlefield”

Angered At and Angry With
“As I work my way through the proverbs, I see anger everywhere. I see the folly of anger, the danger of anger, the sinfulness of anger. I see that the godly learn to control their anger while the fools let it rage.”

Discovering Christ in the Psalms
“It should not, therefore, surprise us that the New Testament writers cite the Psalms more than any other book of the Old Testament. Neither should it surprise us that, in each citation, Jesus and the Apostles teach us that the Psalms are Messianic in nature. In so doing, they teach us the principles that we must follow as we seek to discover Christ in all the rest of the Psalms.”

Laboring to No Purpose
“It is doubtless very significant that, even by the time of his Ascension, Jesus did not leave a mega-church behind him on earth. Rather, it was through his weak and bumbling disciples that he began to build his church in the face of the hellish powers that sought to withstand it.”

Martin Luther’s Shelter Amid the Flood of Depression
“Singing does more than raise our hearts’ affection for the triune God; it steels us with confidence to stand defiant against our enemy. It’s not the prince of darkness grim for whom we tremble. No, we tremble in the presence of our Lord Jesus, whose gospel is the declaration of our enemy’s demise (Col. 2:13–15). His kingdom is forever (Heb. 1:8; John 16:33). ”

Learning the life of faith
“One of our pastor’s said recently, “We associate evil with pain, and good with pleasure. But God does not associate things this way.”"

5 Reasons Sermons Fail
To preach is to occasionally lay an egg. Every preacher has felt it, and every preacher hopes to never feel it again. What did I do wrong? Why did the sermon flop? How do I avoid this ever happening again? These questions, and many more, hound the conscience of the preacher who’s delivered a still-born sermon.

Reset Interview
Here’s an interview about Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.

Kindle Books

What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert.

How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour by Gordon Fee $3.99.

Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior by Kim Wagner $2.09

Check Out

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

My Entire Company Avoids Email For One Full Day Every Quarter | Tom Gimbel, Fast Company
“Sometimes we need to be reminded of the great things that can come from in-person communication. I know this type of thing won’t work for every company, but it never hurts to experiment. If not a no-email day, there’s probably something you can do to give your whole team a jolt of energy on a regular basis—and it probably isn’t high-tech.”

3 Reasons Preachers Shouldn’t Publicly Contradict a Bible Translation | Mark Ward, LogosTalk
“I cringe almost every time I hear a preacher criticize a particular phrase from an English Bible translation in preaching—even and especially those times when I caught myself doing it before I could stop myself. We preachers and Bible teachers would do better not to publicly correct the Bible translations on people’s laps. Here are three reasons why.”

Poll: Most Agree With Mike Pence’s Refusal To Eat Alone With Women | Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist
“How out of touch are newsrooms that they thought this position was Sharia-like, as opposed to what it turns out to be: completely normal? According to The New York Times, ‘Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work.’”

Is One The Loneliest Number? | MOS – Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
“Lydia Brownback debunks some common myths about loneliness, offers careful critique of singles in the church, and voices the biblical standards at stake in the sexualized culture in which we live.”

3 Ways Ministry Can Make You Conceited | Tim Keller, TGC
“Here are three ways ministry can make you conceited unless God intervenes. Pastors, be warned.”

Pastor John MacArthur says it is not sinful to provide services for a gay wedding? | The Christian Post
Well, this is deeply disappointing and undermines the stand that many courageous Christians have been making. I fear these words are going to be used against ordinary Christians fighting in the trenches of religious liberty. I’m surprised Macarthur does not see the difference between providing a service to gay people (which no one objects to) and providing a service that involves the provider in the approval and even celebration of gay marriage.

“One of the questions posed to the panelists asked if it’s ‘truly sinful’ for a Christian business person to make a product for a same-sex wedding… MacArthur responded by saying that providing products to same-sex weddings is not a sin. ‘No, it’s not sinful for a cake maker to make a cake for a gay wedding anymore [sic] than its [sic] sinful for a guy who runs a restaurant to serve dinner to somebody who is gay, sits in a booth and eats the food, or goes to the market and buys a loaf of bread and you own the market,’ he argued. ‘What the issue is, is not whether that’s sinful. It’s whether the federal government can demand that people do certain things, which goes against their Christian conscience.’”

Pastor, Are You Prepared to Shepherd Your Flock through Dementia? | John Dunlop, Crossway Articles
“The tragedy of dementia is common and will become more so in the future. It is estimated that over 30% of the average church congregation will die with some form of dementia. That represents an enormous challenge in pastoral ministry. I would suggest th at one of the metrics by which a pastor’s ministry can be assessed is how well the saints are prepared to face this test in a way that glorifies God.”

Slogging Blogging | Tim Challies
“Slogging is doing things that are difficult, things that are repetitive, things that do not return immediate results or pay quick dividends. It’s continuing to advance against obstacles, to find paths around whatever hinders progress. It’s knowing what matters and doing those things with tenacity, with determination. It’s grit. It’s sticktoitivness. It’s believing in what you do enough to keep doing it when you don’t see obvious results and just want to give up.”

New Books


Counsel to Gospel Ministers by John Brown


How to Read and Understand the Biblical Prophets by Peter J. Gentry

Kindle Books


Alexander Hamilton: A Life by Willard Sterne Randall ($1.99)


Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne ($2.99)


On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju ($2.39)

8 Ways to Help Depressed Christians

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 7:53am

Many of us struggle with what to do when someone we know is depressed. We want to help but fear, confusion, or misunderstanding holds us back. Over at the Campaign for Core Christianity, I suggest eight guidelines for helping depressed people.

1. Prepare for it.

2. Don’t assume personal sin.

3. Measure the dimensions.

4. Don’t rush to or rule out medication.

5. Be holistic.

6. Involve family and friends.

7. Maintain spiritual disciplines.

8. Give hope.

Read my explanation of each point here.

Check out

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 7:46am
Blogs

Teens Who Choose Life in Unplanned Pregnancies Need Support
Commentary on the Christian school student who got pregnant, decided to keep her baby, and then was stopped from participating in the graduation.

Isn’t there a way for us to show both grace and truth, to be clear that promiscuity is against God’s revealed will and therefore our own happiness, but also to honor a girl’s courageous choice to give her child life?  Isn’t there a way to uphold rules, but still value relationship?

How Much Sleep Is Too Much Sleep?
A few good podcasts out there today. First  there’s Ask Pastor John on how much to sleep:

So, the question always will be: Am I getting less sleep because I am truly being led by the Lord and sustained by the Lord in humble faith, or am I presumptuously jumping off the temple and testing the Lord to see if he will catch me and keep me from getting a heart attack?

Then there’s Flippin’ with Aaron a discussion about “flipping the Classroom” with Aaron Sams, author of Flipped Learning.

As an author and popular speaker on the flipped classroom, Aaron describes this concept and its potential uses from homeschooling to grad school to seminary.

And if you’re in the mood for some theological meat, here’s Dr. Bill Vandoodewaard and Dr. Jonathan Master discussing the marrow controversy.

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine
The July issue of Tabletalk considers entertainment and its role in the Christian life. Here are some of its monthly articles.

A Checkpoint for Your Ambition
How do we know when we’ve fallen into sinful ambition?

The minute we stop being happy for the successes and victories of others, especially when those successes and victories come in an area of life in which we are ambitious, we know there’s a problem brewing if not already boiling.

Six Reasons We Must Seek Solitude
“Jesus tirelessly made Himself approachable and available. Yet, what impresses me even more about Christ was the time He spent alone. Before He launched out into public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days and nights by Himself in the wilderness…Note these six reasons that we, like Jesus, must seek solitude.”

From What Got Done to What God Did
This is excellent counsel and, if implemented, would radically alter the quality of our sleep and the state of our souls:

Whether our day is filled with the dramatic or the ordinary, or our labors lack any visible reward, asking ourselves what God did orients our hearts away from discouragement over our lack of accomplishments, and toward the goodness of God. Consider your day and ask yourself God-focused questions. Here are a few to get you started:

Why Your Smartphone Is a Direct Threat to Your Friendships
Jasmine Holmes warns that “the obsession with our smartphones is so often an obsession for power.”

We have become increasingly uncomfortable with awkward silences, quiet moments, and thoughtful conversation. Smartphones are an easy way to dull the pain of difficult circumstances, stay removed from the messiness of confrontation, ignore tough realities we would rather not face, and expend as little effort as possible to stay connected with other people. To use my iPhone as a haven from the messiness of face-to-face friendship is the enemy of authentic intimacy.”

The “Other” 10 Second Rule
Affairs do not begin over a long period of time but often in a few short seconds that change the whole trajectory of many lives:

Over the years, I’ve talked with many men and women who have been involved in affairs. One of the most salutary things is to realize that with many of them, they didn’t intend to be unfaithful to their partners. They sometimes blurt out, “It just happened.” They will normally go on to talk about some innocent event in which they were involved (often a genuine desire to help the other person in some way), and then go on to say, “It suddenly got out of hand.”

When is the battle won or lost in the affair? Is it decided at the bedroom door? No. The battle is so often decided when somebody smiles at you across a room and you have ten seconds to decide whether you will walk those twenty feet or keep talking to the boring colleague next to you. There is, in so many affairs, a line that has to be crossed. The tragedy is that so often it is drawn very near the beginning of the relationship, but once it is crossed it is hard to go back.”

Kindle Books

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper $3.99.

Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America by Stephen Mansfield $2.99.

Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying by Timothy Witmer $1.59.

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