Bell Creek Community Church

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

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 27 min ago

Three Films about Porn

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 5:14pm

Fight the New Drug have recently released three 30-minute films, Brain Heart World, about the impact of pornography on the brain, relationships, and society. The films are extremely well produced with first class graphics, expert interviews, and personal stories. They are free for private viewing, but only until the end of November, if you sign up online here. You can also buy the right to public viewings at $50. This would be a great option for youth groups or other small groups.

If you are addicted to porn you may want to have a look at Fortify (one of the film sponsors) a science-based online recovery tool to help individuals quit pornography.

None of these organizations have any Christian basis as far as I can see, but represent the growing social unease with porn even if only for health and relationship reasons. If used together with Christian counseling, pastoring, and support, the films and other resources could be useful both to prevent and deliver from porn. Just make sure to view the films in their entirety before a public showing to ensure that you can mute or edit any content that might offend your community. The content is quite raw and hard-hitting in places.

Accountability Reinvented

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 10:34am

I’ve always been a strong supporter of Covenant Eyes. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best digital accountability service I’ve found. I was therefore delighted to read about how they are planning to launch the the next generation of their software that will address some of the obvious weaknesses. For a long time, I’ve believed that the way forward was more along the lines of screen-shotting and therefore I’m delighted to see how they are planning to center their new service around this with a number of safeguards in place. You can watch Covenant Eyes President Ron DeHaas speak about it here and then scroll down to read more of the details. You can also sign up to trial the service.

How Overparenting Backfired on Americans

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 10:21am

Pre-1995 the average age kids were allowed outside to play independently (without adults present) was 8-years-old. Post-1995 the average age was 12+. Historically, ages 8-12 was the period kids learned to practice independence. Now it’s much later and kids are not being readied for the outside world, hence the proliferation of “tigger warnings” and the insistence on protection from “hate” speech in college, etc.

See Haidt’s excellent book, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

The website he references is letgrow.org.

Expedition 36: Foolish Sheep and a Good Shepherd

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 2:00am

Here’s the video for Expedition 36 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Is an Elephant Running Your Life?

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 1:00am

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff  and Jonathan Haidt.

Yesterday we looked at the first Great Untruth that our culture has embraced in recent years:

  • The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

Today, we will look at what the book teaches about the second Great Untruth:

  • The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.

This chapter sets out to dismantle this Great Untruth by insisting that while feelings are always compelling, they are not always reliable. “Often they distort reality, deprive us of insight, and needlessly damage our relationships. Happiness, maturity, and even enlightenment require rejecting the Untruth of Emotional Reasoning and learning instead to question our feelings.”

The authors illustrate the struggle between reason and emotion by the image of a small rider on an elephant.

“The rider represents conscious or “controlled” processes—the language-based thinking that fills our conscious minds and that we can control to some degree. The elephant represents everything else that goes on in our minds, the vast majority of which is outside of our conscious awareness. These processes can be called intuitive, unconscious, or “automatic,” referring to the fact that nearly all of what goes on in our minds is outside of our direct control, although the results of automatic processes sometimes make their way into consciousness.

The rider-and-elephant metaphor captures the fact that the rider often believes he is in control, yet the elephant is vastly stronger, and tends to win any conflict that arises between the two…The rider generally functions more like the elephant’s servant than its master, in that the rider is extremely skilled at producing post-hoc justifications for whatever the elephant does or believes.

Emotional reasoning is the cognitive distortion that occurs whenever the rider interprets what is happening in ways that are consistent with the elephant’s reactive emotional state, without investigating what is true. The rider then acts like a lawyer or press secretary whose job is to rationalize and justify the elephant’s pre-ordained conclusions, rather than to inquire into—or even be curious about—what is really true.:

What’s the answer to this? The authors propose CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

CBT was developed in the 1960s by Aaron Beck, a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania. Beck saw a close connection between the thoughts a person had and the feelings that came with them. He noticed that his patients tended to get themselves caught in a feedback loop in which irrational negative beliefs caused powerful negative feelings, which in turn seemed to drive patients’ reasoning, motivating them to find evidence to support their negative beliefs. Beck noticed a common pattern of beliefs, which he called the “cognitive triad” of depression: “I’m no good,” “My world is bleak,” and “My future is hopeless.”

Beck’s great discovery was that it is possible to break the disempowering feedback cycle between negative beliefs and negative emotions. If you can get people to examine these beliefs and consider counter-evidence, it gives them at least some moments of relief from negative emotions, and if you release them from negative emotions, they become more open to questioning their negative beliefs. It takes some skill to do this—depressed people are very good at finding evidence for the beliefs in the triad. And it takes time—a disempowering schema can’t be disassembled in a single moment of great insight

The book does not suggest that everyone needs to get a therapist and start CBT. Just learning how to recognize cognitive distortions and challenging them is a good intellectual habit for all of us to cultivate. With a little training, people can be trained to question their automatic thoughts on their own, every day. With repetition, over a period of weeks or months, people can change their schemas and create different, more helpful habitual beliefs.

The authors summarize this chapter as follows:

  • CBT is a method anyone can learn for identifying common cognitive distortions and then changing their habitual patterns of thinking. CBT helps the rider (controlled processing) to train the elephant (automatic processing), resulting in better critical thinking and mental health.
  • Emotional reasoning is among the most common of all cognitive distortions; most people would be happier and more effective if they did less of it.
  • By encouraging students to interpret the actions of others in the least generous way possible, schools that teach students about microaggressions may be encouraging students to engage in emotional reasoning and other distortions while setting themselves up for higher levels of distrust and conflict.
  • Students, professors, and administrators should keep in mind Hanna Holborn Gray’s principle: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable; it is meant to make them think.”

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff  and Jonathan Haidt.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 1:00am

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff  and Jonathan Haidt.

Our culture has embraced three Great Untruths in the past ten years or so:

  • The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  • The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: Always trust your feelings.
  • The Untruth of Us Versus Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.

That’s the claim that forms the foundation of The Coddling of the American Mind. The authors’ criteria for an idea to be classified as a Great Untruth are:

  • It contradicts ancient wisdom (ideas found widely in the wisdom literatures of many cultures).
  • It contradicts modern psychological research on well-being.
  • It harms the individuals and communities who embrace it.

They make the case that all three criteria are met in the three Great Untruths of our culture, especially on American High School and College campuses.

Why are the three Great Untruths so damaging? Let’s take the first one

The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.

Here are some quotes from the book to explain this Great Untruth.

“Teaching kids that failures, insults, and painful experiences will do lasting damage is harmful in and of itself. Human beings need physical and mental challenges and stressors or we deteriorate.”

“By shielding children from every possible risk, we may lead them to react with exaggerated fear to situations that aren’t risky at all and isolate them from the adult skills that they will one day have to master.”

“If we protect children from various classes of potentially upsetting experiences, we make it far more likely that those children will be unable to cope with such events when they leave our protective umbrella. The modern obsession with protecting young people from “feeling unsafe” is, we believe, one of the (several) causes of the rapid rise in rates of adolescent depression, anxiety, and suicide.”

“A culture that allows the concept of ‘safety’ to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.”

“Like the immune system, children must be exposed to challenges and stressors (within limits, and in age-appropriate ways), or they will fail to mature into strong and capable adults, able to engage productively with people and ideas that challenge their beliefs and moral convictions.”

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Greg Lukianoff  and Jonathan Haidt.

Upcoming Speaking & Teaching

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 1:00am

Various conference organizers have asked me to let you know of the following upcoming opportunities for teaching and fellowship.

Reformation Conference, Boise, ID: Nov 9-10, 2018. 

The conference addresses will be focused around the chapters in John Calvin’s Little Book on the Christian Life. More info here.

Magnify Conference, Lansing, MI: Nov 30-Dec 1, 2018
This conference will be on the subject of the God of Rest and the three addresses will be:

  • God Gives Spiritual Rest
  • God Gives Physical Rest
  • God Gives Emotional Rest

Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC: 13-16 December, 2018
I’ll be giving an address on grieving, speaking at a men’s breakfast, and preaching on the Lord’s Day.

First Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, GA: 8-10 January, 2019.
A couple of addresses on depression.

Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, PA: 14-18 January, 2019.
I’ll be teaching a D.Min. course on Sustainable Ministry.

2019 Bethlehem Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders, Minneapolis. MN: 26-28 January
Shona and I will be speaking on The Joy of Living a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands.

Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: 15-17 March
More details here.

Philadelphia Conference of Reformed Theology, Philadelphia, PA: 15-17 March
More details here.

But God

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 1:00am

Here’s the Covenant Christian School choir that my daughters are privileged to sing in. The students love their choir director, Eric Gritters, who wrote this moving song. It begins with the Christian in darkness, but then moves into powerful exclamations of triumphant faith.

O now I lay me down to sleep
— I can’t find words for prayer.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
— but does my Shepherd care?
Who will watch me through the night,
in darkness as in light?
Who will wake me in the morn?
In whom can I delight?

My tired eyes, they look above
— they fall and look below.
Yet there is none who seem to care
— My pain they do not know.
I hear no voice. I feel no touch.
I see no glory bright.
His promises are not seen
— I do not see his might.

But God, He will never leave me!
But God, he is my strength!
But God, my faithful Shepherd!
He is my Rock, my only Hope.

O now I lay me down to sleep
— I know the Shepherd’s near.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
— I have no need to fear.
Gently watch me through the night
— And when the morning breaks,
Walk beside me down life’s pathway,
and all for Jesus’ sake!

But God, He will never leave me!
But God, He is my strength!
But God, my faithful Shepherd,
He is my Rock, my only Hope.

But God, He will never leave me.
But God, He is my strength.
But God, my faithful Shepherd,
He is my Rock, my only Hope.

“Because they lovingkindness is better than life
My lips shall praise thee!”
My Rock. My Hope. My God.

Expedition 35: Lost and Found

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 4:50pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 35 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Stop Reading the Bible?

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 1:00am

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

One of the strangest steps of faith I’ve ever taken as a pastor was telling a depressed Christian to stop reading the Bible. This Christian was in a terrible dark hole of depression and was tormenting herself every day by spending long periods ransacking the Scriptures for a verse that would cure her depression. She was frantic and desperate in her search and every day her “failure” only deepened her depression as she concluded that she must have been abandoned by God. It also left her mentally and even physically exhausted. Bible reading seemed to be harming rather than helping her.

I felt that her mind needed a rest and that she would never recover unless she stopped this daily self-torture. That’s when I said that she should stop reading the Bible for a short time to let her mind rest and to rebuild her emotional reserves. Then she would hopefully be able to read the Bible again with profit. I wasn’t 100% sure it was the right course of action but it seemed like the only option. I did make sure her husband read a verse or two of Scripture to her every day but insisted that she was simply to listen during these seconds and then not think about it any more. Thankfully this strange strategy seemed to work within a couple of weeks. She gain a measure of mental relief, and before long she was able to read the Bible again for herself, just a verse a day to begin with, and not suffer for it.

This was a rare situation, of course. It’s not the norm. But I was intrigued by similar advice Richard Baxter gave to depressed Christians concerning the duty of meditation:

Meditation is not a duty at all for a melancholy person, except for the few that are able to tolerate a brief, structured sort of meditation. This must be on something furthest from the matter that troubles them, except for short meditations like sudden, spontaneous prayers said out loud. A rigid and protracted meditation will only frustrate and disturb you, and render you unable to perform other duties. If a man has a broken leg, he must not walk on it until it is set, or the whole body will suffer. It is your thinking faculty or your imagination that is the broken, hurting part. Therefore, you must not use it to reflect upon the things that so trouble you.

Perhaps you will say, “That is profane, neglects God and the soul, and lets the Tempter have his will!” But I answer, “No, it is simply to refrain from what you cannot presently do, so that by doing other things that you can, you may later do what you cannot do now. It is merely to postpone attempting what (at present) will only make you less able to do all your other duties. At present, you are able to conduct the affairs of your soul by sanctified reasoning. I am not dissuading you from repenting or believing, but rather from fixed, long, and deep meditations that will only hurt you.”

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

The Most Common Trait in Great Men

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 2:00am

The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World by A. J. Baim.

This is a captivating and beautifully written book about the first four months of Harry Truman’s presidency, which the author argues were the four most world-changing months in American history.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Truman’s early life is its sheer ordinariness, and yet God placed him in an extraordinary office during an extraordinary time. There was nothing in his education, his family background, his finances (or serious lack of them), or his working life that would have given the slightest possible hint as to his future role.

Looking back, however, his biographer highlighted one pivotal period in his life. Truman took seriously ill with diphtheria while in first grade and was packed in snow to try and reduce his dangerous fever. He ended up being paralyzed for a year, but it was during that year when he took up reading. He read the Bible, especially Matthew and Exodus, but he also read a set of books, called Heroes of History. As he read about Moses, Cyrus, Hannibal, the Duke of Wellington, Ulysses Grant, and many others, he noticed one common trait in them all. Here’s how he put it in his diary:

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves . . . Self-discipline with all of them came first.”

It was a trait that he himself quietly cultivated and strengthened over many years and through many difficult providences, never realizing the greatness he was being prepared for.

Who knows what God is preparing you for. Sometimes, like Truman, all the self-sacrifice seems to lead nowhere. It’s all pain and no gain. But God may be preparing you for a great task many years down the road. In the meantime, keep building that muscle of self-discipline, which, of course is made even stronger by Spirit-discipline.

Like Truman, you may find that there’s nothing accidental in God’s plan.

The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World by A. J. Baim.

Six Spiritual Causes of Depression

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 1:00am

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

As we’ve already noted, Richard Baxter understood that there was often a physical cause in depression and recommended medicine in such cases. But he also recognized that there were often spiritual causes of depression. For example, he mentions:

1. Most commonly some temporal loss, suffering, grief, or worry that has affected them too deeply.

2. An excessive fear of common if nevertheless dangerous situations.

3. Too strenuous and unremitting intellectual work or thought, which has confused and strained the imagination too intensely.

4. Fears, too deep or too constant, and serious, passionate thoughts and cares about the danger of the soul.

5. The major predispositions to it are a frailness of faculty and reason, joined with strong emotions .

6. In some cases, melancholy is ushered in by some heinous sin, the sight of which those guilty of it cannot bear, once their consciences are finally awakened.

J. I. Packer; Michael S. Lundy. Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life (Kindle Locations 1175-1181). Crossway.

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

35 Spiritual Symptoms of Depression

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 1:00am

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

After introductory essays by J. I. Packer and Michael Lundy, this book the presents modernized text of Richard Baxter’s writings on depression. The first is “Directions to the Melancholy about Their Thoughts,” the second is “The Cure of Melancholy and Overmuch Sorrow, by Faith,” and the third is on “The Duty of Physicians.”

In the first, Baxter lists no less than 35 symptoms of depression, all of which are related to the spiritual aspect of depression. It’s an astonishingly detailed and accurate insight into the spiritual dimension of depression. I’ve never come across a more insightful x-ray of the depressed mind and soul of the depressed Christian.

Some of the most striking are:

19. Their perplexed thoughts are like unraveled yarn or silk, or like a man in a maze or wilderness, or one who has lost his way in the night. He is looking and groping about, and can make little of anything. He is bewildered, confused, and entangled even more, filled with doubts and difficulties, out of which he cannot find the   way.

22. [Depressed] individuals have lost the power of controlling their thoughts by reason. If you convince them that they should reject their self-perplexing, unprofitable thoughts and turn their thoughts to other subjects or simply be at rest, they cannot obey you. They are under a compulsion or constraint. They cannot push out their troublesome thoughts; they cannot redirect their minds; they cannot think about love and mercy. They can think of nothing but that on which they do think, as a man with a toothache can think only of his pain.

34. Few of them respond positively to any reason, persuasion, or counsel. If it does seem to satisfy, quiet, and cheer them for the moment, the next day they are just as bad as before. It is the nature of their illness to think the way they do. Their thoughts are not cured, because the underlying disease itself remains uncured.

35. Yet in all this distress, few of them will believe that they are depressed, and they hate being told that they are. They insist it is merely a rational sense of unhappiness from being forsaken and under the heavy wrath of God. Therefore, they can hardly be persuaded to take any medication or use other means for the cure of their bodies. They maintain that they are well, being confident that it is only their souls that are distressed.

What’s so helpful about Baxter’s list is that depressed Christians can so readily identify with it. It rings true in their experience. They read it and say, “He gets it. He understands me,” thus making them willing to consider his prescriptions and directions. He obviously had sat with many depressed people and listened so long and so carefully that he could eventually articulate their experience even better than they could. What a door-opener to the reception of his counsel!

How should we respond to Christians with depression? Baxter urges pity and sympathy.

This is the miserable case of these unfortunate people, greatly to be pitied and not to be despised by anyone. I have spoken here only what I myself have frequently observed and known. Let no one look down on these individuals; persons of all sorts fall into this misery: educated and illiterate, high and low, good and bad, as well as some who previously lived in decadent self-seeking and sensuality until God made them aware of their foolishness.

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy with an introduction by J. I. Packer.

Expedition 34: Wonders of the World

Sun, 10/28/2018 - 8:57pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 34 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Pages