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: 27 min 49 sec ago

Expedition 21: A Dangerous Detour

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 8:42pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 21 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.

Expedition 20: The Choice

Sat, 06/02/2018 - 9:59pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 20 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

Tue, 05/22/2018 - 1:00am

Twelve Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age
“The greatest need of our teens today is not new restrictions and new dumb phones and contracts and limits. Their greatest need is a community of faith where they can thrive in Christ, serve, and be served. They need to find a necessary place as a legitimate part of a healthy church. Keep building faithful families and churches. Listen to teens. Don’t mock them. Don’t laugh at them. Envision them for risk-taking mission — online and offline.”

Smartphones and Distraction: Sheathing the Double-Edged Sword
“If you struggle with the double-edged sword of your smartphone, I hope these rules sparked some ideas about how you can sheathe the weapon when it has the most potential to be harmful so that you can keep it at the ready for those situations which make phones so beneficial.”

How Do I Know If a Sermon Is Too Long or Too Short?
“Know yourself. Know your people. Know your text. Know the situation. Pack as much as you can into the time you have for the glory of God and the good of your people.”

Major Depression Diagnoses Up 33 Percent Since 2013

Want To Help Vets Struggling With PTSD? Tell Them About Warriors Heart

11 ways we can all nurture our mental health
“Making choices like these won’t guarantee you never experience a mental disorder or emotional struggle. And they probably won’t be enough to “cure” a challenge you’re already living with. But in either case, they will help. So as you’re thinking about your health, give some thought to that powerful organ that sits above your shoulders. Consider the all-important function of your mind. And do something good for yourself. ”

Do You Fear a Day of Rest?
“The busy trap is the self-defeating spiral of nonstop action that feeds on the belief that restfulness is weakness. But rest is not weakness. Rest is an irreducible ingredient for the life that enjoys God.”

The Cult of Overwork
“Last October, Goldman Sachs told its junior investment-banking analysts not to work on Saturdays, and it has said that all analysts, on average, should be working no more than seventy to seventy-five hours a week. A couple of weeks ago, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that analysts are expected to have four weekend days off a month. And, last week, Credit Suisse told its analysts that they should not be in the office on Saturdays.”

Body clock linked to mood disorders
“Disruption to the body’s internal clock may put people at increased risk of mood disorders, scientists say.”

7 Marks of a Good Apology vs. 8 Marks of a Bad Apology

Kindle Books

Love Your Neighbor: Thinking Wisely about Right and Wrong by Norman Geisler $4.99.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper $3.99.

Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn $3.99.

By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair B. Ferguson $5.99.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung $4.21.

The Role of Parents in Preparing for the Ministry

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 2:00am

Over the years, I’ve been collecting principles or maxims from the biographies of pastors, missionaries, and other Christian leaders. Some students have also contributed to my collection via various assignments and internships. Here are a few of the lessons we’ve gathered about the role of parents in preparing men for ministry, with the bold sentences being the major takeaways.

John Stott

Every man is to a great extent the product of his inheritance. The most formative influence on each of us has been our parentage and our home. Hence good biographies never begin with their subject but with his parents and probably his grandparents as well. (Dudley-Smith, John Stott)

C. H. Spurgeon

Wherever she (C.H. Spurgeon’s mother) has resided, she has been known and esteemed for her sincere piety, Christian humility, and various works of usefulness in connection with the cause of the Redeemer. The prayerful solicitude and earnest care with which she trained up her children have been abundantly rewarded. Speaking one day to her son Charles of her solicitude for the best interests of all her children, she said, “Ah, Charlie, I have often prayed that you might be saved, but never that you should become a Baptist.” To this Charles replied, “The Lord has answered your prayer with his usual bounty, and given you more than you asked.” (Shindler, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19-20)

John Broadus

The significant accomplishments of John A. Broadus can in many ways be traced to the marvelous model and paternal love and wisdom provided by his father.  The presence of social, political, and religious leaders in the Broadus home greatly influenced John.  Major Broadus had offered much support to Thomas Jefferson in the development of the University of Virginia, with which his famous son was to be so long and intimately associated.  Broadus’s mother was a woman of godly character and a competence that admirably prepared her to be the wife of her notable husband and the mother of her remarkable children. (Dockery, John A. Broadus, 14)

Thomas Boston

It is the earliest reminiscence of the boy (Thomas Boston) that he was taken into prison with the father to relieve his loneliness.  The experience left a deep mark on the child’s memory, and he often rejoiced, in his mature years, that he had thus been honored to have fellowship with his father in his sufferings. (Thomson, Thomas Boston, 22)

John Paton

How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen World to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Saviour, and learned to know and love Him as our Divine Friend. As we rose from our knees, I used to look at the light on my father’s face, and wish I were like him in spirit, hoping that, in answer to his prayers, I might be privileged and prepared to carry the blessed Gospel to some portion of the Heathen World. (Paton, Missionary to New Hebrides, 21)

Herman Bavinck

“Her [Bavinck's mother Gesina] uncompromising ways when it came to Scripture became a characteristic that her son, Herman, learned very well from his mother. In short, Gesina was a spiritual asset to the entire Bavinck family.” (Gleason, Herman Bavinck, 17)

Gresham Machen

Arthur Machen’s tastes and interests, rooted in the classical tradition of the Old South, were decisive in defining his son’s interests. He read the works of Horace, Thucydides, and Caesar with pleasure and found personal inspiration in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the Greek New Testament… [This] nourished the hallmark of the legal mind, precise and logically consistent reasoning – a trait on which Arthur’s sons would later rely whether opposing Prohibition in Maryland politics or theological liberalism in the Presbyterian Church. (Hart, J. Gresham Machen, 12)

*Inclusion of a biography/leader does not mean endorsement of every aspect of their character, conduct, or teaching.

Why not think about how God has used your parents or grandparents to prepare you for your calling in life and thank God and them for it.

Check out

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 1:00am

When Do You Stop Counseling?
“As a pastor or counselor, how do you know when to stop counseling? As you try to decide whether or not to end counseling, you will probably be aware, with some uneasiness, that not every problem has been solved. You will sense the need for more growth or the person’s desire that counseling continue regularly. But these are not adequate reasons to perpetuate counseling. When to end counseling is always a judgment call that requires a lot of wisdom. The decision to bring the counseling process to a close is sometimes clear, but often not. It’s best to think through the decision to end counseling with some clear criteria. Consider two positive indicators, and four less pleasant ones.”

The Busy Critic and the Simple Church
“Honestly, when I think of people I look up to spiritually, they don’t seem frazzled. They are active, they accomplish things within the kingdom of God, but they aren’t overcommitted and in a frenzy of activity. In fact, they seem to know how to properly say “yes” and “no.”"

Piper’s Six-Stage Process for Writing Books
Always interesting to see behind the curtain of the sermon prep or writing process.

A Great Big List of Recommended Books
Tim Challies: “Here are 50 or 60 contemporary authors I’ve read and a book by each of them you may enjoy.”

Refreshing the Saints
“What am I to my brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus? Do I refresh or weary them? Do I give rest or restlessness? Am I a comfort or an anxiety? Do I encourage confidence or are people walking on egg shells around me? Am I blessing to those I am bound to in the gospel or a burden? Are the hearts of the saints being refreshed through me?”

You Must Disappoint Someone: How to Say No to Good Things
“Most of us would like to believe we say yes and no to our time commitments based on objective, logical assessments of what appears most important. But that is very often not the case. Very often we make these decisions based on subjective assessments of what we believe others will think of us if we do or don’t do them.”

One-on-One with Matt Perman on ‘How to Get Unstuck’
“By doing our work more effectively for Christ’s sake, we participate with God in his work to renew all things.”

Kindle Books

Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers by John M. Frame $5.99.

Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond $2.99.

An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo $0.99.

Exploring the Bible: Expeditions 18 & 19

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 8:23pm

Sorry for not posting a video last week. I’ve posted two this week to catch up. 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.

Expedition 18: Songs about the Coming Kingdom

Expedition 19: A Fork in the Road

Check out

Thu, 05/10/2018 - 1:00am

Sorry things have been a bit slow on the blog the past few months. I’ve been working on a project that’s demanded almost all my time and energy. But I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and hope to return to more regular blogging soon. Thanks for your patience.

How to Incorporate Biblical Archaeology into Your Preaching
“In the final analysis, archaeology is an important supplement to preaching because it helps the person in the pew to see that the Bible is grounded in history. This is no small thing today since post-modernism dominates western society, and it is clearly ahistorical. History has little meaning to a large segment of western population, and so it is important for people to see that biblical events happened in time and space. These events are not mythic, mere folk-tales, or cute little Sunday school stories. Archaeology provides an earthiness to Scripture, and it helps to anchor the texts in the realia, that is, real and everyday life. Archaeology highlights the sitz im leben (“life setting”) of the narratives of Scripture.”

The Reading Habits Of Highly Successful People
“Some of the world’s highest achievers have one thing in common: it isn’t a high IQ, nor is it an incredible lucky streak, but their appreciation for reading. Books were their most profitable investment.

Open Both of God’s Books: Wisdom in His Word, Wisdom in His World
“One of the main reasons that we believe in a liberal arts education, where you read lots and lots of stuff outside the Bible, is because the Bible tells us to. The Bible tells us there are dimensions of wisdom to be found in the assiduous, penetrating, critical, biblical observation of the world — not only in the Bible.”

Anxiety and Depression: More College Students Seeking Help
“Between 2009 and 2015, the number of students visiting counseling centers increased by about 30% on average, while enrollment grew by less than 6%, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found in a 2015 report. Students seeking help are increasingly likely to have attempted suicide or engaged in self-harm, the center found. In spring 2017, nearly 40% of college students said they had felt so depressed in the prior year that it was difficult for them to function, and 61% of students said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the same time period, according to an American College Health Association survey of more than 63,000 students at 92 schools.”

Let Sinclair Ferguson Teach You Pastoral Ministry
“Here’s one way to think of Some Pastors and Teachers: What if you could take a seminary-level course in pastoral ministry from the Rev. Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, for one academic year, with one lecture per week for 39 weeks, each one about an hour in length, for a mere $45…Who would not sign up for that course eagerly?”

What the Word of God Says About the Word of God, Book by Book | For The Church
“What God says about his word is a deep, complex, and staggering thing. And each book of the written word testifies to the wonder of his revelation. I decided to take a look, book by book, selecting a representative passage from each to highlight many of the things God’s word says about God’s words.”

Why Your Church Needs a Mental Health Inclusion Strategy
“The church is beginning to make significant strides in supporting church members and attendees with mental illness. The logical next step is to seek to welcome and include those for whom church participation has been difficult because of a mental health condition.”

50 Good Mental Health Habits
“My goal in this post is to identify goals for each area of life that influences mental health: cognitive perspective, physical well-being, social context, spiritual vitality, general life management, emotional regulation, etc.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that no one area of life can completely account for our mental health.”

Connecting with Your Introverted Teen
“At a recent conference I was urging fathers to press in and communicate with their children. One father asked, “How do I communicate with my 16 year old who is very introverted and doesn’t seem willing to talk?” Here are a few of the things to consider.”

Kindle Books

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton $4.99.

Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches by Megan Hill $3.99.

Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life by Jared C. Wilson $2.99.

Check out: Seminary Edition

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:00am

As another semester draws to a close, Seminary faculty, staff, and students, and also churches, have a bit more time to think about how best to deliver theological education and prepare students for the ministry. Here’s a collection of articles I’ve gathered over the past year that can hopefully provoke constructive conversations about the subject. I’m not saying that I agree with all the ideas discussed; simply that the ideas are worth discussing.

15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

15 Things Seminary Teaches Me that My Busy Pastor(ate) Can’t

How Technology Is Revolutionizing Pastoral Training | LogosTalk

Should You Pursue a Ph.D.?

The Big Thing Seminary Did Teach Me: I’ll Never Graduate from Learning

Pastoral Training Reinvented

Pastoral Training Is Changing

Why Don’t Schools Use The Most Effective Teaching Methods?

4 Reasons Why Maybe You Shouldn’t Choose a Seminary Church

How to Read Faster

Preparing for Winter

Sage Advice: The Teacher as Pastor

People Are Going to Hell. Do I Really Need Seminary Training?

Strategies for minimizing plagiarism (essay)

Teaching Students the Importance of Professionalism

6 Reasons to Take Seminary Chapel Seriously

A Professor’s Prayer from Matthew 23

“The Life of the Professor” — My Talking Points for our New Faculty Workshop

How To Survive Graduate School

Syllabus Strategies for a Successful Semester – Seminary Survival Guide

Seminaries across the country are shutting down

Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

Why Go to Seminary? Here’s Ten Reasons

Jealous for His Time: The Wife of a Seminarian

This Year’s Reminder That the Lecture is Not Dead 

The Lecture Lives. I Would Know — I’m a Professor

U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This

The Future of Ministry, according to a Seminary President

Students learn more effectively from print textbooks than screens, study says

10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago

More Or Less Technology In The Classroom? We’re Asking The Wrong Question

How the Reformation Changed Education Forever

Failure and Disappointment in Scripture

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 2:00am

f we organized a conference on “Failure and Disappointment,” do you think anyone would come? If you wrote a book on that subject, do you think anyone would buy it? Failure and disappointment are not popular topics. They don’t sell tickets or books. They don’t generate clicks, as Internet marketers assure us. We don’t want to think about our own failures and disappointments, never mind hear about those of others. We live in a “success culture” that idolizes victory and fulfillment. But it’s all so unreal.

When we turn to the Bible, we’re given a deep dose of reality. Failure and disappointment are on just about every page. Whether we like it or not, that’s much truer to life than the success narratives that we aspire to and are trying to write for ourselves. By all means, aim high, but recognize that no one escapes failure and disappointment. So, we might as well plan on it and prepare for it with a view to profiting from it.

“Profiting from failure and disappointment? Are you serious?” Yes, like many of God’s people, I’ve found seasons of failure and disappointment to be some of the most spiritually productive times of my life.

Before we turn to the Bible to help us plan on, prepare for, and profit from failure and disappointment, we first need some definitions. Failure is a lack of success in doing something. It’s coming short of a performance standard that we have set for ourselves or that others have set for us. It may be something that we are accountable for and blamed for (e.g., we fail an exam because we did not study enough), or someone else may be to blame (e.g., our marriage may fail because our wife or husband committed adultery). And sometimes we can have a sense of failure when we have not actually failed (e.g., we lose our job because of a merger or reorganization). Disappointment is the sense of sadness and frustration that results from failure, either from our own failure, the failure of others, or both. So, with these definitions in hand, what does the Bible teach us about failure and disappointment?

Read the rest of this article at the Tabletalk website. You can also find many other articles from this month’s issue of Tabletalk.

Check out

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 1:00am

Why is silence good and necessary for a pastor’s soul?
“I’ve spent most of my adult life hating silence—and didn’t know it. It was a major blind spot. I always dismissed my desire to be with people and avoid being alone as being an extrovert and loving people. I excused my talkative nature to my heightened relational instincts. These qualities also seemed to help my interactions with people as a pastor, so I thought nothing more of it. It wasn’t until I began my own counseling journey out of a personal crisis where I was confronted with this long-held deception in my life.”

Principles and Guidelines for Separation
“Those who effect separation are themselves sinners. So the questions of when, why, and how to separate are of cardinal importance. The New Testament gives us principles; it does not provide us with a single, simple sentence that relieves us of the task of thinking through and wisely applying the Scriptures to each unique situation. ”

Thinking Wrongly About Leadership
“When we think wrongly about leadership in the church, the church suffers. Sometimes we make the wrong people leaders. Other times we distort the relationship between the church and her leaders. What follows below is an attempt to kindly point out three of the most common errors I’ve seen in reformed churches when thinking about the leadership of elders in Jesus’ church.”

One Thing I Hope to Learn From John Piper In Preaching
“Now you may not agree with all of Piper’s points. But you cannot say that he isn’t getting his points from the Scriptures (at least in the way he is reading them). And this has a tremendous impact on those who sit under his preaching. He isn’t just telling people what to think. He is training them how to think.”

Free Christian Audiobook about Jonathan Edwards
“In this Trailblazers series biography, Jonathan Edwards was just an ordinary American boy, but the country he lived in wasn’t the America of today. Rather he was part of a new world full of adventure and opportunity. This filled Jonathan’s mind with questions and he grappled for the answers, even when it wasn’t easy. His genius and ability only strengthened his faith and love for Jesus. ”

The Beginning of How to Get Unstuck
“None of us enjoys being stuck. And it sometimes puts crucial, important things at risk. There are things we want to do, things we need to do, and things that make a difference in the world that won’t get done if we stay stuck. The good news is that it is possible to get unstuck and overcome the obstacles to doing great work and getting the right things done. David prayed for deliverance and got unstuck. Paul never became passive, in spite of his many obstacles. Mark Twain finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer after taking a year off to replenish. And Einstein got the help he needed with the math to bring the theory of relativity all the way through to completion. (Yes, Einstein needed help with math! — of a very advanced sort, of course.)”

Are You Addicted To Your Phone? (Take a Quiz to Find Out)
“take the test and prayerfully reflect on the results, then perhaps simply ask yourself this: Are you okay with this? Is this what you want from your relationship with your phone? Or maybe this: Is your smartphone helping you live the life you want to live, or is it in some ways hindering it?”

Two very personal reasons Tucker Carlson hates abortion

The Day Leukaemia Changed My Life
Adrian Warnock needs our prayers.

Kindle Books

Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture by Zack Eswine $2.99.

Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way  by J. I. Packer $3.99.

Check out

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:00am

Leaders, Talk About Power to Protect the Vulnerable
This is such an important article.

Go to Sleep…God Is Awake
“No one really knows why, but sleep is critical to the proper functioning of our bodies and minds. Studies show that sleep deficits slow our thinking, compromise memory, make learning difficult, impair our reaction time, cause irritability, increase anger, decrease capacity for stress, and make us less likely to engage in good habits such as eating well and exercising. Sleeplessness also increases the risk of depression and anxiety. In one study conducted by the University of North Texas, people with insomnia were almost 10 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression and more than 17 times more likely to be affected by “clinically significant” anxiety.”

Failure to Launch Syndrome and Young Men: The Educational Dilemma
“Over the past decade, 30% of male college students have dropped out during their freshman year.”

Make It Easy for Your Kids to Love God: Proverbs for a Happy Home
“Your children need something more than to be fortified against sin. They need to be inspired toward God. Tell them, with all the confidence that Proverbs 8 warrants, of his joyous wisdom across the whole of life. Prove to them, by the very ethos of your home, that the Lord is good. Let them see that faith in you, and the glory of the Lord will be hard for them to resist.”

On Mission at McDonald’s
“Never let your desire to be on mission be connected to a desire to appear cool. Coolness kills mission. It turns our attention to ourselves and how we are perceived rather than to God and the people he wants us to reach.”

10 Crucial Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible

Jesus, Take the Control Wheel: Southwest Pilot Saw Flying as Ministry
Great story.

They Call It Narcissism a blog by Ed Welch. How can we help?
“Secular literature is most helpful when its descriptions of difficult-to-understand behaviors are coupled with years of experience and when its practical suggestions come close to the wisdom and love we find in Scripture. With the behaviors that are called narcissistic, we know that the Spirit can change us and teach us more about how to love wisely, and we invite all comers to give their ideas on ways to love.”

Kindle Books

Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ by J. Todd Billings $1.99.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller $1.99.

Unshaken: Real Faith in Our Faithful God by Crawford W. Loritts $3.99.

Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life by Jared C. Wilson $2.99.

Expedition 17: Songs about the Coming King

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 8:46am

Here’s the video to show your kids at the end of Expedition 17 of Exploring the BibleIf you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, 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.

You Know I Love You (Video)

Wed, 04/25/2018 - 7:09am

Among many memorable moments on my recent trip to Israel, the one that touched me most deeply was visiting the shore where Jesus met the disciples after his resurrection and graciously restored Peter by asking him, “Peter do you love me?” I couldn’t help but hear the same question coming from Jesus to me and wanted to just say out loud in the same spot, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you” (John 21:17).

Check out

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 1:00am

The Moral of Moral Failings of Christian Leaders
Ed Stetzer addresses the rash of fallen pastors and urges change. Along similar lines here are 3 Spiritual Vitality Warning Signs for Pastors, which includes five practical questions to help keep your personal spiritual vitality alive and well. How to Lose a Pastor in 10 Years was written by the daughter of a fallen pastor.

How the Proverbs Turn Poverty into Prosperity
“The route to alleviating material poverty is first alleviating social poverty. As the Proverbs show—and now economics too—living and institutionalizing behaviors that lead to right relationships is the surest route to end poverty, in this generation and the next.”

The Church and Mental Health: What Do the Numbers Tell Us?
“LifeWay Research conducted a survey in partnership with Focus on the Family and an anonymous donor to gauge the perceptions of pastors, churches and those suffering from mental illness on a wide range of related topics. The following is a brief synopsis of what we uncovered:”

7 Ways to More Thinking Time
“Oftentimes, I do not have time to sit and think simply because I overcommit. So, when you are busy—and we’re all busy—we need principles we hold to in order to simply think, dream, and strategize. Here are seven strategies that I use to implement more brain time into my life.”

15 Things Seminary Teaches Me that My Busy Pastor(ate) Can’t | Greg Lanier
“An unfortunate side-effect of the ‘what seminary can’t teach me’ motif is that it can unintentionally validate the broader trend that undermines the utility and role of seminary training altogether.”

If We’re More Connected Than Ever, Why Are We So Lonely?
“We’ve never experienced this level of connectivity in human history, and yet we are increasingly lonely.”

9 Things You Should Know About the Creation of Modern Israel
“On Wednesday and Thursday, the modern state of Israeli celebrated the 70th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence. Here are nine things you should know about the creation of the modern Israeli state.”

Kindle Books

Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World by David F. Wells $2.99.

Favor: Finding Life at the Center of God’s Affection by Greg Gilbert $1.99.

Depression: Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch $2.99.

Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb by Jessalyn Hutto $2.99.

Expedition 16: The Devil Attacks

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 7:18am

Here’s the video to show your kids at the end of Expedition 16 of Exploring the BibleIf you want to bookmark a page where all the videos will eventually appear, 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

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 1:00am

A “Ten Commandments” Prayer
One for the closet.

Living the Christian Life with C. S. Lewis
Raving review of a new book.

Charles Spurgeon’s Call to Preach Christ in a Christly Manner
“As we share the gospel with friends and neighbors, Spurgeon reminds us that it is Christ—in all the multifaceted glories of his person and work—who must be the focal point of our message and the treasure we offer. And as we do that, we will properly adorn our message as we share Christ’s own zeal, Christ’s own courageous meekness and simplicity, and Christ’s own love for both God and neighbor.”

10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago
“Something is wrong—very, very wrong. Teachers across the country at all grade levels, in all subjects, teaching a wide variety of student populations, can sense it. There is a pulse of dysfunction, a steady palpitation of doom that the path we are on is not properly oriented.”

Why you should Read the Westminster Confession of Faith
New online course. And you may also want to check out the regular podcast working it’s way through the Westminster Confession. The latest episode is on Christ’s Humiliation and Exaltation

PURITAN – All of Life to the Glory of God
New documentary/teaching film

Dear Church: Hear the Word of the Lord
Good word to the church about how to handle abuse.

Kindle Books

God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation by Starr Meade $2.99.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More? Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior $0.99.

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

Technology and Our Relationship with God

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 2:00am

How do we thrive in Digital Babylon? That’s a question I’ve been asking for a long time and which I’ve begun to answer over a number of posts:

In that last post I proposed that the ultimate answer to digital technology is digital theology. I argued that:

If we want a deep, lasting, and spiritual solution, we need to learn and teach deep, lasting, and spiritual truths. Digital theology is the answer to digital technology; the oldest truths are the best rebuttal to the newest challenges. More Trinity is more effective than more technology.

However, we need more than more theology. We can have all the theology in the world without a relationship with God. The end is not deeper theology but a deeper relationship with God. The deeper and healthier our relationship with God, the more that satisfying friendship and communion will replace technology in our lives and also regulate it so that our use of it is more balanced and beneficial.

I’ve written elsewhere about 18 Obstacles to Personal Devotions in a Digital Age and also given 20 Tips for Personal Devotions in a Digital Age. But if you want just five tips that will give you the greatest return on investment it would be these:

1. Meet with God first and alone. Turn off your phone and avoid the computer before personal devotions. It’s absolutely vital that you meet with God before anyone else in the day. Keep your mind free of digital distractions.

2. Use a physical Bible. See Should I use a Phone for Personal Devotions for my argument against using digital devices for personal devotions. I would apply the same logic to using a paper Bible in Church too.

3. Use free moments to pray. Instead of reaching for your phone when at a traffic stop, in the bathroom, or in line, why not use these brief moments to pray.

4. Take a weekly digital Sabbath. Sunday is the ideal day to come apart from all the din and drama of the Internet and social media and set your mind and heart on things above. It will surprise you how little you miss, how little you are missed, and how much you will gain.

5. Memorize Scripture. Think how much Scripture you could memorize in a year if you even just halved the number of times you checked your email and social media.

Whatever ways help to deepen your relationship with God will also help to wean you off technology and help you use it in ways that glorify him.

Here’s a solemn message that gets to the heart of this.

Seven Marks of a Workaholic

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 2:00am

Workaholism is probably the most respectable sin in the Christian community, and maybe especially among pastors. In this Harvard Business Review podcast (and transcript) Nancy Rothbard, a professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, “draws a distinction between workaholism and working long hours. She explains the health consequences of being addicted to your work. She also gives practical advice for managing work addiction, whether it’s you who’s suffering, your direct report, boss, peer, or partner.”

Rothbard provides seven statements and says we should be worried if we often or always do at least four of them.

1. You think of how you can free up more time to work.

2. You spend much more time working than initially intended.

3. You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness, and depression.

4. You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

5. You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

6. You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

7. You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

She makes a helpful distinction between working long hours and being a workaholic. Here’s how she puts it.

Bascially, long hours are 50 hours a week or more. So, there are some people who work a lot but they can turn off. They might even work once they get home, but if something is demanding their attention at home or if they, you know, need to go to the gym or they want to hang out with friends, they’re able to do that without ruminating on their work.

[Workaholism is more about] our attitude towards our work: how we think about our work, whether we dwell on it, whether we feel guilty when we’re not working. When you’re a workaholic, the work really looms large in your mind, and it can be really difficult to turn it off, even when you’re not actually working….There’s a strong correlation between working long hours and being a workaholic. So, I mean, you can be a workaholic without working long hours, but typically if you’re a workaholic, you are also working long hours.

See also Rothbard’s article  “How Being a Workaholic Differs from Working Long Hours — and Why That Matters for Your Health.” It has a fascinating section on the how the chronic stress levels associated with workaholism create a whole lot of  health dangers.

Here’s a quick explanation of why: To cope with stress, the body activates several systems (e.g., cardiovascular, neuroendocrine). So say you’re facing an important deadline. As you approach it, your stress hormones (e.g., cortisol), pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6), and blood pressure would likely go up. But after the deadline, these would return to their original levels, known as the “set points.” When you’re working an excessive workload and continually pushing your system beyond its range, you may re-set your set points. Elevated blood pressure may become chronic, and cortisol levels stay elevated. When your biological systems keep working around elevated set points, you have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even death.

In short, the body gets stuck in “fight-or-flight” mode which is ultimately exhausting and unsustainable and often leads to depression.

“But I love my job!”

Well, the researchers found that while loving your job does protect from some of the health risks, you are still at significantly increased risk of ill-health:

We wanted to see if enjoying the work mitigates the negative health effects of workaholism. Looking at the data from our study, we differentiated between workaholics who reported being highly engaged with their work — meaning they enjoyed their work, felt vigorous at work, and got easily absorbed in their work — and workaholics who reported low work engagement. We found that both types of workaholics reported more psychosomatic health complaints (e.g., headache, stomach problems) and mental health complaints (e.g., sleep problems, depressive feelings) than non-workaholics. However, non-engaged workaholics had higher RMS [Risk for Metabolic syndrome] — a 4.2% higher risk — than engaged workaholics.

Rothbard’s solutions?

1. Acknowledge when a relationship to work is unhealthy — when it feels out of control and is undermining outside relationships.

2. Regain control over your work behavior by setting clear rules for how many hours you will work each day.

3. Stop working two or three hours before bed.

4. Take up enjoyable non-work activities, such as seeing friends, watching a movie, reading a book, or learning a new skill, can also help you psychologically detach from work.

5. Reflect on the reasons why you work excessively and compulsively.

On this last point, the two most common reasons I’ve come across (also in my own heart), are idolatry and identity. By identity, I mean finding one’s significance in one’s work rather than in one’s spiritual status as justified and adopted by God through Christ.

To test yourself on this, what’s the first answer that comes to mind when you ask yourself “Who am I?” If your first and loudest answer is anything other than “I am a Christian” then someone has stolen your true identity and substituted a false one.

Check out

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 1:00am

This Week, Speak the Name of Andrew Brunson, A Persecuted Brother in Turkey
The most important post of the week. “Please join us in standing with Brunson’s family and home church in lifting the name of Andrew Brunson to the God he serves.”

Social Media and Sin
“Theology recognizes that human hearts are curved inward, inclined to boast, and always looking for opportunities to prove their own self-righteousness. Human-computer interaction, UX, and user-centered design recognize that social media platforms should be designed to meet the wants and needs of real human users. Putting these two concepts in conversation with one another reveals why Facebook can be so dangerous. Facebook’s technology is designed to accommodate, encourage, and exploit human depravity. The “Like” button on Facebook is not there by chance; the “Like” button was created to satisfy our deep longing to be liked by others, lauded for our accomplishments, and acknowledged for our righteousness.”

I Used This Simple Chart To Prioritize My Crazy Busy Work Life
“This former media executive hated saying “no,” so she created a system that forced her to set boundaries.”

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep
“In short, nothing good—and just one bad night can trigger a cascade of scary side effects.”

Mariah Carey Beat Stigma. You Can Too
Not recommending Mariah Carey as a model in anything other than her openness about mental illness.

“This week, singing star Mariah Carey made an announcement that was a long time in the making: back in 2001, she was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. She has recently made the decision to treat it and to share her story. Carey is not the first celebrity to acknowledge a struggle with mental illness, but she is one of the most high-profile people to do so. And she has struck a major blow in the fight against the crippling stigma that keeps so many people trapped behind fences of shame, fear, and isolating silence.”

Starting from zero
“Iraq’s Nineveh churches are retaking their towns from years of ISIS control, without guarantees of money, safety, or a future.

Steve Lawson on Preaching Without Notes

Kindle Books

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies $2.99.

Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family by Jessica Thompson $2.99.