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: 16 min 22 sec ago

Expedition 29: Heavenly Treasure

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 1:00am

Here’s the video for Expedition 29 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.

Check out

Wed, 08/29/2018 - 1:00am

Final Installment: Songs from The New City Catechism
“It’s taken nearly two years, but Songs from The New City Catechism is now complete. All 52 questions and answers from The New City Catechism have been set to music word-for-word.”

Can Someone Be Spiritually Healthy and Still Experience Mental Health Challenges?
“My prayer for this article would be that it: (a) encourages sincere Christians who feel undue guilt for persistent mental health struggles that their personal devotion does not remedy, (b) equips pastors to think more robustly about how their preaching and teaching influences church members with mental health challenges, and (c) increases the quality of one another care that exists in small groups and other settings by improving the understanding of the intersection of mental health and spiritual maturity.”

Eight Ways Church Members Can Help Pastors Avoid Burnout
The eight tips are:

  1. Let the pastor know he should not be 24/7
  2. Be an encourager
  3. Insist the pastor takes some time off
  4. Respond to critics for your pastor
  5. Become a prayer intercessor for your pastor
  6. Help protect the pastor’s family
  7. Find ways to help the pastor’s family have fun times together
  8. Pay your pastor reasonably

Some PhD FAQs
Kevin DeYoung continues his series on the pros and cons of a PhD.

Pride and the Preacher
“One of the greatest problems for preachers is pride.  It is an insidious and relentless foe that will look to creep in at every stage of a life spent in ministry.  What might we be proud about?”

The Sacred Trust of Pastors and Christian Leaders
“Ministry is not just a task. It is a sacred trust between the under-shepherd and the flock that has been entrusted to him by God. To misuse and violate that trust to achieve sexual conquest, or even emotional dependence, is a particularly deplorable behavior.”

New Book

The Man of God: His Calling and Godly Life: Volume 1 of Pastoral Theology  by Albert N Martin. I cannot commend this highly enough. I heard Pastor Martin’s pastoral theology lectures on tape over twenty years ago and have longed for the day to see them in print.

Kindle Books

Mindscape: What to Think About Instead of Worrying by Timothy Z. Witmer $2.39.

Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom from Shame by Heather Davis Nelson $2.99.

Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman $4.99.

20 Causes of Teen Anxiety

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 2:00am

So, if teen anxiety is so widespread, what’s causing it? On the basis of personal experience, counseling, and research, here are what I believe are the most common causes of teen anxiety.

Unresolved guilt: Teen years are often sin-filled years, especially in the area of sex, both virtual and real-life. This causes fear of being found out, fear of God, fear of consequences, and fear of judgment.

Unbelief: Related to the above, many kids are not saved, they have no peace with God, because they have never believed in Christ for salvation. But even teens who are believers suffer from anxiety through unbelief, just simply not believing God’s promises.

Physical problem: Oftentimes it’s not a sin or faith issue but a biological issue, where the “fight-or-flight” mechanism is disordered, constantly or periodically flooding the body and brain with “anxious chemicals” such as adrenaline, cortisol, etc. (I’ll have more to say about this in another post)

Impossible expectations: Teens can impose on themselves perfectionistic targets in school, sport, work, and other areas of life, causing huge anxiety when they fail to live up to them. Although young, there’s often a sense that bad decisions already taken, or bad exam results, will ruin the rest of life, and that there’s no way back.

Parental pressure: Parents add their own unrealistic expectations, often with a view to getting scholarships, or of maintaining their social standing with other parents. Related to this is the problem of over-protective parents. Many kids are so spoiled or protected by their parents that they are totally unprepared for what the world throws at them as soon as they venture outside of the cocoon.

Over-busy parents: And the opposite of the above. Some kids just need quality and quantity time with Dad and Mom.

Broken homes: This is one of the most under-reported causes of teen anxiety.

Sleep deprivation: Teens need 8-9 hours of regular sleep to thrive, but many are getting less than six causing significant physical, emotional, and intellectual damage.

Technology addiction: The teen brain is being fried by the constant sizzle of social media and gaming, giving the brain no opportunity for calm and repair.

Social media: Regardless of the impact of how long and how often teens are on social media, there’s the constant performance anxiety that flows from seeing other teens “perfect” lives online.

Physical immobility: Teen bodies were not made to sit down all day. Lack of exercise reduces healthy brain and body chemicals and increases damaging ones.

Friends and enemies: There’s constant pressure to please and keep up with friends, and especially for girls, these relationships are often complex and fragile. Then add frequent bullying from enemies, sometimes in real life, but today more often online.

Neglect of Sabbath: God made the Sabbath for our good, but very few teens take a day off a week from studies, work, sports, shopping, etc., and are suffering the consequences of going against our Maker’s instructions.

Bad news: Our teens are exposed to a constant diet of negative news from the media, feeding anxiety and fear.

Unhealthy diet: Sugar, carbs, soda, and caffeine drinks make up a large part of many teen diets, a lethal cocktail for mental health.

Bad time management: Bad organization, wrong prioritizing, doing the wrong things at the wrong times, procrastinating, taking on too much, all combine to create a constant background hum of stress and tension.

Money worries: Poor planning, indisciplined spending, taking on debt, impulsive shopping, all stretch the budget and the nerves.

Practical Godlessness: Without God as the foundation and framework of life, everything depends on us. Teens, yes even Christian teens, often go days and even weeks without praying and reading God’s Word. This results in a lack of a sense of God’s presence, plan, and power in their lives.

Faulty thinking: Teens can fall into a range of

Trauma: Abuse, unexpected bereavement, exposure to violence, accidents, etc. can result in degrees of PTSD.

As you can see, parents, there are multiple cause of teen anxiety. I hope this list helps you to think and talk to your teens as you try to explore what factors may be contributing to your teen’s worries — it’s usually more than one. Unless we find out the causes, it’s unlikely we’ll discover any cures. I’ll pick out some of these in future posts for further explanation.

Check out

Tue, 08/28/2018 - 1:00am

When Our Negative Emotions Can Come in Handy
“Although emotions can be disruptive in our lives, they don’t have to be. In fact, there are some surprising ways that emotions benefit us:”

7 Reasons You Should Pray the Psalms
“I think every Christian should learn the habit of praying through the Psalms. What can I do to persuade you to do this, if you don’t already do so? I have developed the arguments at greater length in Teaching Psalms, volume one. But here are seven good reasons.”

What Does Prophecy Offer that Scripture Does Not?
Tim Challies takes on Matt Chandler’s idea of modern day prophecy.

It’s Not Enough to Have Your Sins Forgiven: Why the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness Is Essential
“If the forgiveness of sins is all there is to the doctrine of justification, then we have a significant problem. As essential as it is to have our sins forgiven, if we only have our sins removed, we still stand before God empty without a positive righteousness that gives us favor with God.”

The Tyranny of the Immediate in Short Attention Span Theatre
Might help you recalibrate your social media intake.

20 Quotes from a Profound New Book on Death
Solemn and sanctifying (see below).

New Book

Remember Death: The Surprising Path to Living Hope  by Matthew McCullough.

Just How Bad is the Teen Anxiety Epidemic?

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 2:00am

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of people asking me for help with anxiety issues. While it seems to be affecting people of all ages, the most common problem is teens with anxiety, as the following stats underline:

  • Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
  • Nearly a third of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health, with the incidence among girls (38.0 percent) far outpacing that among boys (26.1 percent).
  • More than 6 million American teens are grappling with an anxiety disorder of some kind.
  • Anxiety is now the most common issue for which people of all ages seek counseling.
  • Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services.
  • Since 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA has been asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed” by all they had to do. The first year, 18 percent replied yes. By 2000, that climbed to 28 percent. By 2016, to nearly 41 percent.
  • The American College Health Association has been recording about a 10% annual increase in anxiety rates over a number of years.
  • Recent studies have declared millennials, especially women, the most anxious generation in history.
  • Among 10- to 24-year-old females, seven to 14 per cent will experience an anxiety condition in any given year.
  • There’s been a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall.
  • A 2015 report from the Child Mind Institute found that only about 20% of young people with a diagnosable anxiety disorder get treatment.
  • Based on data collected from the National Survey of Children’s Health for ages 6 to 17, researchers found a 20 percent increase in diagnoses of anxiety between 2007 and 2012.
  • One Christian counselor said, “When I first started counseling twenty-four years ago, probably one out of every twenty kids coming in were dealing with anxiety,” she says. “Now, out of my new appointments, I would say at least sixteen of every twenty families are here for that reason, if not more.”

Just how bad is the teen anxiety epidemic? It’s really bad, isn’t it? I list these statistics, not to make everyone even more anxious, but to try to re-assure anxious teens and their parents that anxiety is a very normal abnormality. Due to the stigma that still surrounds anxiety and depression, especially in the church, many people suffer in silence and secrecy. They think, “I’m totally weird….There’s no one else like me.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The statistics say otherwise. We are surrounded by kids who are suffering like this but most are afraid to admit it, and so are many of their parents. The kids therefore often continue to suffer without help or support.

I’m planning on writing a series of posts in the coming weeks that will hopefully help concerned parents understand what’s going in with their anxious kids, offer guidance on how they can help them, and give practical and biblical advice on how they can contribute to their healing.

Check out

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 1:00am

Why sleep should be every student’s priority
Sleep your way to academic success.

10 Lessons I’ve Learned While Working on my PhD
“Once you see top-notch scholarship, you realize you aren’t doing much of it! You do what you can in your specific (micro)field and stay humble about 10 million others things you don’t know. ”

5 Actions a Counselor Can Take In-Between Meetings
“What could we be doing in-between counseling meetings with a counselee in order to prepare for our next session with them? Here are 5 activities I engage in the week in-between meetings to prepare for an upcoming counseling meeting. ”

My Decision to “Retire”
“I published an article about a year ago titled “The 8 Questions I Need to Answer Before I Decide to Retire.” In it, I said that I did not know when I would “retire” and that I was taking it year by year. I had no idea that just one year later I would be writing about my decision to retire; it seemed much further away at that time.”

10 Things I Wish Church Leaders Knew About Divorce
“Here are 10 aspects of divorce I’d like to share with church leaders to help them love the brokenhearted while not condoning divorce.”

What Not to Say to Someone in the Hospital
“When we lift away the bedside curtain, the following suggestions for what not to say may help to build up those we seek to love, rather than tear them down.”

How to Help a Friend with Mental Illness
“To prompt your own thinking, here is a small collection of ideas for helping a friend with mental illness.”

New Book

Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter by Michael S. Lundy.

Kindle Books

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty by Joni Eareckson Tada $2.39.

The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ by Chap Bettis $1.99.

On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church by Deepak Reju $2.99

Expedition 28: Enemies

Fri, 08/24/2018 - 5:14pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 28 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.

The Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 2:00am

I’ve known Dr. Jeff Doll, Counseling pastor at Cornerstone URC, and Director of the Institute for Reformed Biblical Counseling (IRBC) for a number of years. We’ve both taught in one another’s counseling classes and I’ve used Jeff’s teaching materials at the Seminary. I am a huge admirer of his passion for training Christians to do more counseling in the local church, while also recognizing limitations and the need for professional help at times. (And for the purposes of full disclosure, my son and his lovely daughter recently got engaged, although neither of us can claim any credit for that!)

Anyway, I’m writing about Jeff because I want to bring to your attention the wonderful work he is doing at IRBC in promoting and educating Christians in a holistic view of Biblical counseling based on a strong biblical, confessional, Reformed perspective. He’s recently published part of his curriculum and it’s available here. This book presents the seven biblical principles of IRBC’s view of biblical counseling, the seven dominant domains of human problems, and seven steps of counseling.

It’s all good, but Jeff’s unique contribution is his work on the seven dominant domains of origin for human problems, which he divides into two main categories:

Internal Dominant Domains

  • Spiritual domain
  • Mental domain
  • Emotional domain
  • Social domain
  • Bodily domain

External Domains

  • Environmental domain
  • Production (or vocational) domain

I think you can immediately see that this is a serious attempt to expand the concept of biblical counseling in a way that is sensitive to all the mixture of influences and factors that come into play in so many human problems.

There’s much else that I could commend in Jeff’s approach, but would encourage you to get the book and study it yourself.

Four Old Testament Perspectives on Poverty

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 7:56am

If you’re looking for a daily devotional that will get you into the text of Scripture, that’s not too long but not too shallow, I’d highly recommend R C Sproul’s Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentaries. I’ve been going through his volume on Mark’s Gospel and loving it. I learn something new just about every day. Here’s an example of the little bite-size packages of theology you’ll find in every chapter (the sub-headings are mine).

“If we look at the words for “poverty” or “the poor” in the Old Testament, we see that there are four distinct types of people who are poor.

Poor because of Sin
It is true that the first category is those who are poor because they are lazy. They are poor because they will not work and are irresponsible. The Old Testament looks on these people with disfavor and judgment. Likewise, in the New Testament, it is these of whom Paul speaks when he writes, “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).

Poor because of Disaster
In the second category are those who are poor because of calamity, illness, natural disasters that ruined their crops, and other events beyond their control. These people receive the compassion of God, and in His law He declares that those who are better off should make provision for these who are poor through no fault of their own.

Poor because of Oppression
In the third category are those people who are poor as a direct result of the exploitation of the rich and the powerful. In the Old Testament, the rich and powerful were usually not merchants but rulers and other government officials, such as the pharaoh in Egypt or King Ahab in Israel. These poor people have God as their defender, for He refuses to tolerate the exploitation of the weak by the strong. The exodus of Israel from Egypt was an example of God coming to the aid of those who were exploited as slaves. As believers, we, too, must be defenders of those who face exploitation. James tells us, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (1:27).

Poor for the sake of the Kingdom
In the fourth category are those who are poor for righteousness’ sake; that is, they willingly embrace poverty that they might devote themselves to spiritual things and not be distracted by the pursuit of wealth.”

Mark by R. C. Sproul (Saint Andrew’s Expositional Commentary) (pp. 258-259). Reformation Trust Publishing.

Check out

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 7:24am

Deep Work for Pastors: 6 Keys for Better Sermon Preparation
“Recently, I enjoyed reading Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. It is one in a long line of new books detailing our challenged attention spans, social media’s deleterious effects on our ability to concentrate, and how the modern man bounces from one distraction to the next. Newport laments these challenges and offers helpful suggestions for correction. As I read his book, my mind continually raced to sermon preparation, and how pastors can strengthen their study time. Consider these six keys.”

When the Bible Becomes an App
“More than 90 percent of regular Bible readers prefer print to digital. That percentage holds true even though more than 90 percent of Bible readers also indicate that they engage with the Bible on digital platforms and through an app. So, the trends show exponential growth in digital Bible engagement alongside a strong preference for a print Bible reading experience. (In case you’re wondering how those statistics hold up generationally, consider the fact that three out of four millennials say they prefer a print Bible.)”

What I’ve Learned About Leviticus After Studying it for Over a Decade
Studying Leviticus “changed my life in ways far different from those just named. In my experience, at least four profound things happen when this book begins to seep into your soul.”

How to Love Visiting Church Members in the Hospital
“Hospital visitation is a unique opportunity wherein pastors can demonstrate Christian love and speaks gospel words into the minds and hearts of those who, due to the circumstances, may be unusually attentive. Chances are they’ll remember your hospital visit for the rest of their life, even though they may not remember last Sunday’s sermon. So brother-pastors, my prayer is that by the grace of God you too may come to the point where you can honestly say, “I love visiting my church members in the hospital.”"

465 Biblical Counseling Resources: The Annual Guide to Biblical Counseling Resources
hanks to Bob Kellemen for doing this work and making this available.

2018 Fall Resource Guide
Links to more helpful resources, this time divided into age categories: High School Students, College Students, Seminary Students, Small Group Leaders.

Pastoring Amid Depression
“After several months of depression, the cloud lifted for me. I experienced healing. Can I tell you something marvelous? The joy I experience now with friends, my spouse, my kids, my church, is somehow deeper. I’m a better pastor, I think. Folks here and there who also have experienced depression or melancholy have expressed they feel like I’m a safe person to talk to. That’s a gift. Can you believe it? The Lord somehow restored all that the locust had eaten and more. Praise the Lord! I would not have chosen to experience the darkness, but the darkness was transformed into a grace and I wouldn’t exchange it for anything.”

Is he able…He is able
“A series of verses in the Bible that have one thing in common—that little phrase “He is able”. They breathe hope, strength and assurance. They are promises made to those who are looking, or need encouragement to look to Jesus Christ for rescue, and to those of us who have put our trust in Jesus, but need fresh hope, strength and assurance.”

Kindle Books

If you ever wanted to get started on Jonathan Edwards, these books are excellent introductions to his work. They are all available in Kindle format for $2.51 each. See all five here.

Jonathan Edwards on True Christianity

Jonathan Edwards Lover of God

Jonathan Edwards on Beauty

Expedition 27: A Church on a Mountain

Fri, 08/17/2018 - 10:53am

Here’s the video for Expedition 27 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.

Check out

Wed, 08/15/2018 - 8:48am

How Your Church Can Respond to the Loneliness Epidemic
“Western community is in sharp decline, and radical individualism has become the functional status for even the most devoted churchgoers. This radical individualism has engendered unprecedented social isolation and yielded a depth of loneliness unique to 21st-century American culture.”

How to Stop Saying “Um,” “Ah,” and “You Know”
“Used sparingly and effectively, filler words can make you more relatable to your audience, give you time to catch your breath, and emphasize key points. That’s why Google built fillers into the latest version of its AI assistant, Duplex. But when they become crutch words, used out of nervousness or lack of preparation, they hurt your credibility. As you prepare for your next presentation, identify the words you lean on most, and train yourself to avoid them. Then, next time you’re in front of an audience, use silence to gather your thoughts, rather than filling the air with sound.”

10 Ways to Comfort a Grieving Person
“Over the years since I experienced the death of my daughter, Hope, and my son, Gabriel, I’ve interacted with grieving people, especially through the Respite Retreats my husband and I host for couples who have lost children—and have identified a number of key ways to minister to grieving people:”

A tale of two confessions
“In the past month, two prominent pastors have had their private sins publicly exposed: Bill Hybels and Art Azurdia—one nationally known and whose fall was front page news, the other known only inside of evangelical circles and his fall reported largely on social media. Both demonstrated conduct contrary to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3, conduct that disqualifies them from being elders. Both committed adultery, and the fall of both men will obviously bring shame on the name of Christ. But there is one huge contrast between these two situations—namely, how their respective churches responded. ”

For the Long Days
“My personal struggle with faith and pain is embedded with my depressive disorder, but the way scripture speaks to my issue speaks to issues we all struggle with. What do we do when the days seem long and the nights feel like they will never end? When life is painful, death has taken those we love, and we are grieved to our bones, what does that say about God’s love toward us? Or, better yet, is this the way it is because I lack enough faith? By God’s grace scripture has swooned my heart and helped me grieve faithfully”

Living Under Authority
Here’s a good article if you find yourself bristling against authority in your life.

Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism | ERLC
“I found Uniquely Human by Dr. Barry Prizant to be the rare book about autism that helped lift the weight of my anxiety, counterbalancing fear with the forces of understanding, insight, and encouragement—all powerful and underrated forces, might I add.”

The Minister’s Soul is the Soul of his Ministry

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 2:00am

I want to highly recommend Brian Croft and Jim Savastio’s new book, The Pastor’s Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd. Here’s the foreword that I wrote for the book.

“The minister’s soul is the soul of his ministry.” I can’t remember where I first heard this saying, but I’ve never been able to forget it. And, having read this book, I never want to forget it. In these pages, Jim Savastio and Brian Croft establish the foundation of all faithful and fruitful ministry – the pastor’s soul. But, although their main target is the epidemic of ministerial hyper-activity and the accompanying burnout, backsliding, and brokenness, they carefully avoid over-reacting and running to the opposite extremes of monkish withdrawal or lazy self-indulgence. Instead, you have a book that skillfully walks a balanced biblical path in both content and style.

Self and Others
It balances self and others. Yes, the pastor is all about serving others, about sacrificing for the sake of others, about spending and being spent for others, and about pouring out to fill others. But, as many pastors have discovered to their cost and pain, servants are finite, sacrifices eventually turn to ashes, non-stop spending leads to bankruptcy, and pouring out without ever filling up ends in drought. This book reminds us that caring for self is not selfish but necessary if we are to sustain a life of caring service to others. It’s not a warrant for sloth or selfishness, but rather a call to self-care that will lead to better other-care.

Soul and Body
It balances the soul and the body. While the spiritual life of the pastor is their primary concern, Brian and Jim do not fall into the trap of gnostic dualism—belittling the body and focusing exclusively on the soul. Yes, the soul is prioritized, and spiritual life is at the core, but the authors recognize not only that our souls impact our bodies, but our bodies also influence our souls. You’ll therefore find not only wise shepherding of our souls, but also a concern for how we sleep, eat, exercise, and so on.

God and People
It balances relationship with God and relationship with others. This book encouraged me to go deeper, longer, and wider with God. I came away from it with a hunger and thirst for renewed friendship with my heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Sanctifier. But I was also motivated to pursue deeper, wider, and longer friendships with others. As the authors emphasize, this begins with a pastor’s wife and children, but they also prove the necessity of more godly male friends in the pastor’s life.

Instruction and Illustration
It balances biblical instruction and personal illustration. The foundation of this book is biblical exegesis as it tours numerous key verses to mine them for all that God has to say to pastors about their own soul care. But it also incorporates numerous personal examples of how Jim and Brian have experienced the truth of this teaching in their long pastoral ministries. Their transparency and vulnerability about their failures and successes bathe the book in authenticity. Pastors will clearly sense that the authors have been in the trenches of everyday ordinary pastoral ministry and bear many genuine scars as well as carry a few medals for valor. You’ll find reality, but not a reality show.

Principles and Application
It balances big-picture principles with detailed practical application. A few big truths will emerge throughout this book, important theological principles that stand out demanding attention and meditation. But how do we connect them with our lives? How do we bring them down from their lofty theological heights and into contact with Sunday through Saturday ministry? That’s where this book excels. It takes deep doctrine into the details of daily pastoral life. Theory becomes intensely and intimately practical.

Challenge and Do-ability
It balances challenge with do-ability. Some pastoral ministry books aim so high that their impossible standards paralyze and depress us. Others set such a low bar that the ministry is diminished and the dignity of the pastoral calling is tarnished. This book lifts the bar high but not out of sight. It promotes a high view of gospel labor and demands high standards, but not in a discouraging way that ends up limiting gospel ministry to supermen. At times, you will exclaim, “Who is sufficient for these things?” But you will quickly respond, “My sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5).

Repentance and Hope
It balances Gospel repentance with Gospel hope. No pastor will read this book without repenting. Tears of contrition will stain the pages (or ruin your Kindle!). But it doesn’t end there. Brian and Jim apply healing Gospel balm to the deepest wounds of conviction. And it doesn’t end there either. They go on to entice and encourage us with the prospect of a much healthier and happier ministry ahead. Yes, it can be different. The past does not have to be repeated. There’s a different and better way of being faithful in this calling. It doesn’t have to be all about grit and grind until early retirement or even earlier death.

Yes, you will see blue lights and hear wailing sirens if your busyness and stress have made the presence of God in your life a distant memory. But you will also sense the prospect and possibility of a much better kind of ministry life—one that doesn’t hollow out your heart, run down your body, or jeopardize your most important relationships. This is a hopeful and hope-filled book that can change the trajectory and tone of your entire ministry.

Thank you, Jim and Brian, for writing such a biblical and balanced book. My earnest prayer and fervent hope is that God will use it to rescue many pastors from the wrecker’s yard and prevent multiple others from ending up there. May God bless your labors so that pastors everywhere will experience that a revived soul is the key to a revived ministry.

The Pastor’s Soul by Brian Croft and Jim Savastio is the third in a trilogy of pastoral theology books. The other two are The Pastor’s Family and The Pastor’s Ministry.

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Tue, 08/14/2018 - 1:00am

One Simple Key to Thriving with Mental Illness
“I realized that my problem was simple. I’m still human and I still need human things. That is how God designed us all. Regardless of our mental illness, we still need to be in community. We still need to be known. We need people.” See also this article at the BBC, Regular exercise ‘best for mental health’

Getting Unhitched from the Old Testament? Andy Stanley Aims at Heresy
Al Mohler takes on Andy Stanley’s falsehoods. See also How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth. And on the positive side here’s Clowney’s Diagram for Preaching from the Old Testament

“Dr. Clowney’s illustration helps guide the preacher toward a faithful declaration of Christ. His book, with its final section of his sermons an illustration itself of this type of preaching, is certainly worth having on one’s bookshelf, whether to help in sermon preparation or to learn how to evaluate the faithfulness of preaching.”

Exploring Islam, A New Teaching Series from James Anderson
“In Exploring Islam, a new ten-part video teaching series, Dr. James Anderson surveys the history and beliefs of the Islamic religion and prepares Christians to better witness to their Muslim neighbors with gentleness and respect. This is a series to stir confidence in the gospel and equip you to speak the truth in love to the Muslims in your community. ”

Eight Areas Where Pastors Wish They Were Better Equipped
All eight are in the Practical Theology department, which means that either Practical Theology departments are failing or, more likely, there’s not enough Practical Theology taught at Seminaries.

9 Tips to Help Kids Have Daily Devotions
“Here are nine tips to help parents take the lead in establishing fresh devotional habits for the young hearts in their care.”

The Healing of Willow Creek
“We tend to think that loyalty means always taking the side of the leader to whom we want to be faithful. Loyalty instead means doing everything in your power to make the leader not only a better one but a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s not unlike patriotism for one’s country. The true patriot loves his country; so much so that he will speak out when he believes the country is doing wrong, to call the nation to adhere to its deepest ideals.”


Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation $1.59.

Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World by Timothy Keller $2.99.

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments by Winston T. Smith $0.79.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet $2.39.

Six Steps out of Disappointment

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 2:00am

Your girlfriend drops you. Your family is at war. Your spouse commits adultery. Your best friend betrays you. Your fiancé breaks your engagement. The coach cuts you. A faction in the congregation wants your ministry to end. You suffer agonizing injustice. The church rejected you. Your wife left you and won’t let you see your children. Your womb is still empty.

Many different emotions are provoked by these painful experiences. But disappointment is the common denominator in all of them. Our hopes are dashed. Our dreams are shattered. Our expectations are unfulfilled. External events and the decisions of others produce the agony of disappointment. It is the opposite of hope and the forward-looking joy it brings. Instead, it looks backward with anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and despair.

You simply cannot escape disappointment in this broken world (see the book of Ecclesiastes). No matter how many overly optimistic commencement addresses raise the hopes of wide-eyed students every spring, sooner or later all of them will end up disappointed. Friends will let them down. Family will let them down. Employers will let them down. Their nations will let them down. At times they will feel God has let them down.

If disappointment is so inevitable, how do we recover from it?


First, prepare for it without becoming a nihilistic Eeyore. If we adopt a realistic attitude towards this world, then we will expect a measure of disappointment and not be shaken or swept away when it happens. That’s not defeatism or pessimism; it’s realism. It involves expecting and rejoicing in the goodness and kindness of God and others. But we don’t get carried away into over-confidence and complacency. In this way, we brace ourselves for the body blow that is sure to come without losing the benefit of delighting in God when things are going well (see Psalm 104 and Psalm 136).


Share your disappointment. Tell the Lord about what you are experiencing. Be completely honest and transparent. Describe how you are feeling. Or if you can’t find words, bring him your tears and groans (Psalm 56:8) and ask him to interpret and treasure them.

Alternatively, use the words provided in the Psalms of Lament (for example Psalms 44, 60, 74, 77, 79, 88). These songs contain a lot of God-centered therapy for the disappointed. Note that the psalmist doesn’t attempt to hide his disappointment from God. He knows that covering and denying is never going to lead to healing.

But don’t just share it with the Lord; share it with his people as well. We need all the help we can get when we are down. Therefore, while we cast our burdens on the Lord, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), we also ask our fellow believers to share the weight of our disappointment with us (Galatians 6:2).


Remember that the Lord Jesus knew deep disappointment from his days on this earth. His disciples let him down continually. All forsook him, one denied him, and one even betrayed him. He knows the pain and frustration you are experiencing. He can sympathize with you and support you as you reel from the blows (Hebrews 4:15). He is the friend who sticks closer than any brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will not leave you nor forsake you.


Humble submission and acceptance rather than arrogant fighting is the way through this dark valley and into the light. Nothing can be gained by taking vengeance on our disappointers, or by angrily shaking our fist in God’s face. No, we must confess, “Lord, I don’t understand how they could do this or you could allow this. But I’m going to bow before your sovereignty and believe you know best and that this is for my best.” This is not to say that justice must never be pursued when we are wronged; but it is to hand over the administration of justice to God and those he has appointed to this task.


Use disappointment to grow in sanctification and service. In terms of sanctification, use the pain you feel to make you resolve never to inflict this on other people if you can help it. Or maybe look back on your life and think of times you disappointed people and see if you can put it right in a godly way. You can also use disappointment to serve others by ministering to the disappointed all around you with the comfort with which you have been comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4).


Finally, rekindle eternal hope. While earthly hopes may have been dashed, at least for a time, the Christian still has a heavenly hope that no amount of earthly disappointment can take away. Indeed, earthly disappointment can help us to redirect our hopes towards that which is spiritual and eternal. There is a day, an eternal day in the not-to-distant future, when all disappointment will be taken away and when all things will not only be new but will remain new. Every possible source of disappointment will be removed, and all our hopes will be fulfilled (Revelation 21:1–8).

This article was originally published at Desiring God

Check out

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 1:00am

Well, I’m back! Apart from the Exploring the Bible videosI’ve posted virtually nothing on the blog for the past six months or so. I’ve really missed providing this service, but I was working on a large research project that I’d never have finished unless I had ruthlessly pruned my blogging. 150,000 words later, the finish line is in sight and I’m eager to get blogging again. Thanks for your patience and hopefully you will not all have deserted me. I appreciate everyone who takes the effort to click their way over here regularly and I hope I can make it worth your while.


5 Myths About Depression
By Michael Lundy, author of the new book, Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter. “This book presents 17th-century pastor Richard Baxter’s wise, gentle advice to comfort and strengthen all who struggle with depression or know someone who does.”

The Pastor’s Health (Podcast)
Jared Wilson and Noah Oldham talk food and exercise.

101 Books on Biblical Theology: An Annotated Bibliography
A lifetime of reading right there.

Dear Church, Hear the Word of the Lord
“Many of us are grieved at the wreckage in the church that occurs when victims are silenced, abusers are protected, power is abused and “truth” is disseminated to the less powerful. The body of our Lord is sick. Here are some thoughts for her.”

Lessons on the Craft of Scholarly Reading
“Rookie scholars and established ones alike could benefit from a clearer, more detailed understanding of how to read effectively. For me, the craft of scholarly reading proceeds in three phases, each with goals and pitfalls.”


Church History in Plain Language $1.99.

The New City Catechism for Kids: Children’s Edition $1.99.

Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ $2.99.


The Haunting Beauty of Scotland
I was in Scotland the week or two before Tim arrived and saw wall-to-wall sunshine for ten days and temps of about 70 degrees. Positively Hawaiian for Scotland. Unfortunately for Tim, it looks like I used up Scotland’s annual sunshine allowance. Also see his vlog on The Beauty and History of Scotland.

Expedition 26: A Temple and a River

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 8:38am

With apologies for the delay, here’s the video for Expedition 26 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.