Bell Creek Community Church

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

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago

J. I. Packer’s Definition of Depression

4 hours 37 min ago

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

Three Authors

J. I. Packer writes a chapter introducing Baxter. Michael Lundy is a clinical psychiatrist who has modernized two texts of Baxter on the subject of depression. Richard Baxter was a Puritan with many pastoral interests, but one of his primary concerns was to relieve depression, as reflected in two of his addresses on the subject published together in this book, together with a shorter essay in the appendix.

The Authors’ Definition

The books provides a dictionary definition of depression:

A recent dictionary defines depression as “a state of extreme dejection or morbidly excessive melancholy; a mood of hopelessness and feelings of inadequacy, often with physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, insomnia, etc.”

But it then supplies J I Packer’s extensive and vivid definition:

Fretful heaviness seizes the mind, sometimes slowing it down to a point of virtual paralysis where thought ceases, sometimes driving it into unfruitful randomness, or a fixed attitude of gloom, or an incessant harping on things felt to be incurably wrong. Depressed persons feel themselves isolated and distant from others— even their nearest and dearest— and from projects in which hitherto their hearts had been fully engaged. Conduct may become eccentric, randomness or inaction may set in, focused creativity may fade away, or sadness may become habitual. Feelings of anxiety, worthlessness, and hopelessness develop, and defensive pessimism takes over. Upset by others’ cheerfulness, the depressed may seem cross-grained and combative. Some depressions are cyclical, low points in bipolar mood swings, where they may be followed by bursts of energetic overconfidence. What medication can do to modify these extremes varies from person to person.

The Authors’ Aims

Why did Packer and Lundy write this book? They wrote it for two reasons.

1. They want Christians “to live as far as possible in the outgoing love, stability, and joy— along with patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control—that form the moral profile of Jesus Christ in his disciples. We see such living as true human flourishing, and the promotion of it as central to all forms of pastoral care, church worship and fellowship, personal therapy, and Christian family life. And we see depression in all its forms as a prima facie obstruction to this, in which Satan regularly has a hand.”

2. They believe that mental and emotional thorns in the flesh, such as depression, “may become means of spiritual advance that would not otherwise take place..”

3. “We believe that greater wisdom in this matter than we are used to is found in the pastoral heritage of seventeenth-century Puritanism. Supreme here is the wisdom of Richard Baxter, who in his day was viewed and consulted as a top authority regarding ministry to Christians afflicted by what was then called “melancholy,” but would today be labeled depression. Our hope is that by presenting what Baxter wrote in this field we may contribute to wise pastoral care in Bible-believing, gospel-centered, Christ-honoring churches at this time.

The Authors’ Rejection

Packer and Lundy reject the idea of some Christians that depression in Christians is always a sign of unbelief or some other major sin.

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

Expedition 33: Water in the Desert

Sat, 10/13/2018 - 9:23am

Here’s the video for Expedition 33 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.

Tolerating Uncertainty

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Chapter Six in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Although we love to be certain about things, we must learn to accept and live with uncertainty.

2. People who worry have unhelpful positive beliefs about worry (see the golden worry beliefs), and unhelpful beliefs about certainty. They maintain worry by setting such high standards for certainty that they are quite unachievable. These include:

  • Being uncertain is an unpleasant experience
  • You should act only when you are absolutely certain.
  • Better safe than sorry
  • I can’t be safe when I’m not sure
  • If I am sure, then I can predict bad things and so prevent them.

3. These beliefs about certainty create a desire to control any uncertainty, creating more worry when they can’t, and so on.

4. Present contemplation is the gold-standard technique for overcoming worry. Two lesser techniques that will train us for that are “thought records: and “making new appraisals.”

5. “Thought records” help us to recognize the irrationality of worry thoughts and the link between thoughts and feelings. An example of a “thought record” can be seen here. The general format is:

  • Situation: The moment when you had a worry thought.
  • Mood: Your feelings in response to your worry thought (rate intensity out of 10)
  • Automatic thoughts (and images): The thoughts that result from your worry.
  • Evidence for: The evidence that supports the likelihood of your worry coming true.
  • Evidence against: Evidence that opposes your worry thought.
  • Alternative thought: Review original worry in light of the evidence.
  • Review and plan: Re-read your original worry and review your mood/feelings (rate intensity out of 10)

Thought records can really help us familiarize ourselves with worry and help us see that most of our worries are poorly founded.

6. “Making new appraisals.” This is a less controlled version of thought records that operates in our thoughts not on paper. It involves the assumption that we are overestimating our worries and starts to consider a range of more probably alternative outcomes and conclusions. We look at our predicament from different angles and produce alternative conclusions.

7. Unhelpful techniques for worry include:

  • Trying to get more information. Looking up stuff on the internet usually increases worry and keeps you on the “I-must-be-in-control” treadmill.
  • Journaling. Unless you keep it to a couple of paragraphs a day, this can set your mind racing when you are trying to sleep.
  • Phoning a friend. This is often a way of avoiding responsibility for decisions and only produces short-term reassurance.
  • Alcohol. And any other addiction like shopping, eating, self-harm.

8. Experiment with losing control. Try a mini-experiment by not trying to control what you usually demand control over. Before doing it, predict what will happen. Then write down what did happen. Keep trying this with various control issues until you learn that there really is nothing to worry about.

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check out

Tue, 10/09/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

When Depression Makes Church So Hard
“Having struggled with severe depressive illness for over twelve years, I can tell you that I never (never!) want to go to church on a Sunday morning. It is an exhausting battle every single time, and I don’t always make it.”

Why CEOs Devote So Much Time to Their Hobbies
“In public and in private, CEOs state that their leisure interests help them cope with the ever-increasing demands of the top job. They typically invest considerable time in their leisure, and even block off time far in advance to protect it from “life taking over,” as one interviewee said. A few common themes stood out about how their passion helps them:”

The Most Powerful Lesson My Cancer Taught Me About Life and Work
“Cancer changed my life by encouraging me to reexamine the stories I’d been telling myself, and to re-craft them with higher levels of construal. My advice is don’t wait until you get cancer to improve your story of why you’re doing what you’re doing.”

How perfectionism became a hidden epidemic among young people
“Broadly speaking, perfectionism is an irrational desire for flawlessness, combined with harsh self-criticism. But on a deeper level, what sets a perfectionist apart from someone who is simply diligent or hard-working is a single-minded need to correct their own imperfections.”

Obey God with Your Creativity
“The other reason I say that imagination is a Christian duty is that when a person speaks or writes or sings or paints about breathtaking truth in a boring way, it is probably a sin. The supremacy of God in the life of the mind is not honored when God and his amazing world are observed truly, analyzed duly, organized clearly, and communicated boringly.”

Encouragement for Bible Reading from Puritan Women
“These women found themselves in different situations but each one made the Bible central to their lives because, despite the hard passages and personal doubts they had, they knew its basic message could be understood and that by reading it, they communed with God himself”

Counseling Together: Ten Benefits to Co-Counseling with Your Spouse
“I love team counseling. Whenever I counsel a woman, I involve a female co-counselor or trainee. She might be my wife Lauren, or she might be another godly sister in Christ. Perhaps I want to give that woman added training and experience. Or she might bring valuable experience or expertise. Or maybe she has a positive relationship with the counselee, or better fits her demographic, etc.”

Tips on Preaching Narratives
“Since we move by and large towards the Reformed spectrum of the Christian church our tendency inherently is to be most comfortable when we are preaching Paul–and as a consequence, to be least comfortable when we are preaching from things that are very different from the Pauline style–with the result that we tend to preach the whole of the Bible as if Paul had written it. We take historical narrative or poetic narrative and there is really no difference in the style of our exposition whether we are preaching from one part of Scripture or from another.”

Kindle Books

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture by David Murray $2.99.

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands by Shona and David Murray $2.99.

Pursuing Health in an Anxious Age by Bob Cutillo MD $3.99.

Video

Stories of God’s Grace

The Single Hardest Instruction in the Bible?

Mon, 10/08/2018 - 1:00am

Summary of Chapter Five in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. “Do not worry” is the single hardest instruction in the Bible. Although anxiety and depression are the most common emotional health problems among Christians, the church rarely addresses them and is ill-equipped to deal with them.

2. Churches often communicate that being worried is proof of a shallow or weak faith. This compounds the problem because then the worrier has the additional worry that they are offending God by their lack of faith.

3. Matthew 6:25-34 is an example of divine cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Jesus is challenging us to transform our response to perceived threats and find better ways to face the challenges of life. Lessons from that passage include:

  • Jesus challenges us not to remain independent of God by incessantly worrying about our own needs but to be God-reliant for all our needs
  • Jesus does not command us to give up all concern for what we need but to give up insightless, faithless obsession with security.
  • Jesus teaches us not to “run” (v. 32) after the certainty of provision. This word “run” indicates a desperate obsession.
  • Striving for certain security is not just irrational and fruitless; it undermines God’s good character.

4. There are two types of worry—today worry and tomorrow worry (v. 34).

  • Today worry (v. 34b): The solvable worries you can deal with today.
  • Tomorrow worry (v. 34a): The unsolvable floating worries, or hypothetical “what ifs” about tomorrow.

5. Jesus leads us out of bondage by leading us into the now. He teaches us to focus on the present of the Kingdom of God. Once we get better at focusing on the present Kingdom of God rather than our security, trust and peace will increase.

6. The Christian life can be undermined by seeking and demanding absolute certainty. Most Christian problem worriers find themselves drawn toward desperate attempts to attain certainty regarding their faith, which ultimately undermine confidence in their relationship with God. They will worry less if that learn to accept a degree of uncertainty rather than demanding it. In the next chapter, we will look at tolerating uncertainty.

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Expedition 32: A Night Time Visitor

Sat, 10/06/2018 - 7:40pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 32 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.

Three Worry Rules You Must Break

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Chapter Four in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Worry is like a weed. If we just prune the top branches, it will soon grow back.

2. Worry damages low self-esteem. It undermines our confidence in the things we know are true and makes us doubt all our decisions. 

3. 70% of people with GAD experience depression at some point. This is because they tend to focus on negative events and make negative forecasts.

4. Most problematic worry has some core worry rules. These rules act like fertilizer that surrounds our worry plant. “Worry rules are the opposite of God’s grace to us: they are always absolutes; they are harsh and judgmental in tone and completely inflexible.”

5. “Worry rules” and “worry beliefs” often appear to be helpful attitudes or outlooks. That’s why people are often reluctant to change them.

6. Three characteristics to help spot “worry rules” are:

  • Shoulds, musts, and oughts. (e.g. “I should be able to do this more easily”)
  • Always and never. (e.g. “Things never work out for me.”)
  • Consequences or if-then rules. (e.g. “If I am nice to people, then I will have lots of friends)

Until we change or re-evaluate our worry rules, we will not pull worry out by the roots.

7. “Worry beliefs” actually champion worry as a good thing. These beliefs are the greatest obstacles to healing and recovery, mainly because we thing it is actually helping us. They include:

  • Worry aids problem-solving
  • Worry helps to motivate
  • Worry prevents things going wrong
  • Worry protects from difficult emotions if things do go wrong
  • Worry makes for nicer people.

8. Learning to break worry rules and doubt worry beliefs is the way to healing. There are three simple ways  to do so:

  • Challenge the weakest first. Undermining one worry rule will weaken all the others.
  • Challenge the logic. See the inevitable hole and flaws in your rules and beliefs.
  • Challenge the benefits. Ask how do you benefit from adhering to this worry rule and how would you benefit from breaking it.

9. Changing your behavior will change some of your worry feelings. Despite the feelings, do what you fear doing and more positive feelings will generally follow. “Overcoming worry rules in a challenge where you must lead, but you undertake it with Jesus, reliant on his comfort and encouragement.”

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check out

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, October 2018
The October issue of Tabletalk addresses the issue of perfectionism, control, and the sovereignty of God.

10 Things You Should Know about Discipling People with Special Needs
God has called us to make disciples of all people no matter their intellectual capabilities.

How can pastors face battles with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide?
“Do we have evidence in Scripture that men of God suffered through seasons of depression, and even anxiety? Do grief and sorrow have a valid, spiritual place in the life of pastors? What happens when pastors try to suppress pain and depressive impulses in their lives? Is it wrong for pastors to grieve before their people? What spiritual and physical practices might help during times of depression and anxiety? Listen as Brian and Jim discuss these and other questions in this episode.”

Counselor, Comforter, Keeper?
Nick explores the meaning of an important New Testament word.

Kindle Books

Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love by Katherine and Jay Wolf $1.99.

The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life by Os Guinnesa $1.99.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung $1.99.

Check out

Wed, 10/03/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Don’t Just Redecorate Your Life–Redesign It!
“The healthier, more mature, and more values-driven your “inner room” grows, the more you will provide a welcoming and inspiring space for others.”

Paul Tripp’s Story of Hope in the Midst of Suffering
Watch the moving video that accompanies this article.

Burnout Is Coming. Here’s How to Prevent It.
“Compassion burnout is a reality of ministry life as finite and fallen creatures. But by slowing down, stocking the pond, and leading from within, we can find ongoing renewal for a compassion-filled life.”

Be the Teen God’s Calling You to Be
“The teen years have been hijacked. They’ve been hijacked by pleasure–fashion, sex, music, movies. They’ve been hijacked by pressure–from school, peers, and society. And they’ve been hijacked by distraction–games, smartphones, and social media. None of these things give teens the purpose or identity they were made for. None of these things give teens ultimate happiness and satisfaction. None of these things answer the big and serious questions teens have: Who am I? Why am I here? How can I make a difference in this world?”

Six Ordinary Lessons for Mental-Health Issues
“The church we attended was relatively small (maybe one hundred attenders), on the youngish side (a number of recently married people), and with no mental-health professionals that I knew of. It seemed ordinary. And yet the help this church gave its psychiatric patients had stood out to the staff. As I have reflected on that church and others like it, I’ve identified six principles that guided their care for those with complicated troubles — troubles that would be identified as psychiatric. These include depression, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, anorexia, and other disorders that are commonly treated with medication. I am assuming that the person is already under the care of a psychiatrist.”

Be Tender-Hearted and Thick-Skinned: How Humility Protects Pastors from Pastoral Burnout
“heep have been known to bite their shepherd. How should pastors respond in the face of unjust criticism? In a nutshell: don’t be thin-skinned, do bSe thick-skinned, and be sure to be tender-hearted.”

Sleep 101: Harvard Freshmen Required To Take Sleep Course Before School Begins
“For the first time, Harvard is requiring that all incoming first-year students complete an online course about sleep health before coming to campus. Research finds that college students tend to sleep too little and too erratically — habits that can affect everything from mental health to athletic and academic performance.”

Keeping Technology in Its Proper Place: An Interview with Andy Crouch
“With new research linking smartphone use to teen loneliness, depression, and even suicide, more experts raising concerns over laptops in the classroom, and the ever-present threat of exposure to harder core pornographic material online, there are legitimate reasons for all of us to be concerned about the effects of technology on children’s well-being and the health of family life.”

A 10-Point Social Media Strategy
“Ligon Duncan—Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary, as well as the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at RTS—recently shared his social media strategy. ”

The Sins Forbidden by the Ninth Commandment in a Social Media World
“I will share in bullet points each phrase of the explanation provided in the Westminster Larger Catechism, then, beneath each one, suggest questions that may foster meditation and application”

New Book

6 Ways the Old Testament Speaks Today: An Interactive Guide by Alec Motyer

Kindle Books

Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church by Michael Horton $2.99.

Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung $3.99.

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering by Kelly M. Kapic $4.99.

Expedition 31: A Sad Wedding and a Dirty Temple

Fri, 09/28/2018 - 12:30pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 31 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 Body’s Role in Worry

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Chapter Three in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. One of the way to stop a worry cycle is to control bodily symptoms.

2. Generalized anxiety order is characterized by:

  • Excessive (out of proportion) worry that a person finds difficult to control.
  • Lack of confinement to a particular problem, but more a tendency to worry.
  • Accompanied by three or more of these symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscular tension, and sleep disturbance
  • Significant distress, meaning that the worrier can no longer perform as before.

3. The mind is very powerful and literally controls the body. But controlling the body can also help the mind. The two primary ways of using the body to control the mind are controlling breathing and maintaining sleep hygiene

4. Controlling breathing. Most people who worry chronically tend to breathe 20-30 times a minute whereas the norm is 10-15 breaths a minute. This adversely affects our blood chemistry and brain activity. This can be changed by practicing slowing down breathing twice a day.

5. Maintaining sleep hygiene. This is comprised of a number of elements but the most important is a regular bed-time and rise-time.

6. Three common worry cycles.

  • What-if Worry: Thinking about all the possible things that could happen next. The more you think, the more worries arise, and the worse it gets. Because we are pro-actively scanning for every possible type of problem, we see lots more problems than the average person sees.
  • The Worry Pendulum: Swinging from “Panic” to “Trying not to worry” with no time spent in the middle, the place of uncertainty (which is the place we must try to spend more time in so that we can tolerate uncertainty)
  • Worry about worry: Will I spiral out of control if I stop monitoring my worry? However, this monitoring becomes extremely difficult and stressful itself.

 7. Worriers will do almost anything to avoid getting into worrying situations. 

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check out

Thu, 09/27/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Verses to Memorize for the Hospital
“Those of us struggling in the hospital need assurance of God’s goodness and steadfast love more than ever. But a hospital stay, or any ordeal with debilitating illness, doesn’t permit elaborate exegesis. We need verses to which we can cling when the waves of pain seize us and hope shrinks away. We need the power of God’s word to uplift our souls, in doses our disease-crippled minds can retain.”

Exploring Emotions
“All emotions must ultimately be brought under the authority of God’s Word; our fallen state makes them a fallible guide for life. But cultivating and identifying our emotions is an essential first step in sanctifying them.”

Natural Revelation Podcast
Excellent discussion on the place of natural theology in the Christian life and in apologetics with unbelievers.

The Duties Required by the Ninth Commandment in a Social Media World
“With the rise of modern communications technologies, and especially social media, I am convinced we need to diligently apply ourselves to a fresh consideration of all this commandment requires of us.”

Kindle Books

NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture $2.99. Even if you don’t like the NIV, you’ll grt a ton of useful background info.

The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity by Barnabas Piper  $2.39.

New Book

Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story by Nancy Guthrie.

Video

I Will Wait for You (Psalm 130)

Two Types of Worry

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Chapter Two in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Bigger worries usually lie behind smaller worries. “Behind many apparently superficial worries lurk far more catastrophic threats and fears. Worriers very rarely get beyond the immediate worries to what lies behind them.”

 2. The most common areas that people worry about are relationships, finances, work, and health.

3. A major part of recovery from problem worry is resisting the urge to run away from fear. ”Worriers need to stay with the threats they perceive long enough to realize they don’t actually pose a risk…Tackling avoidance is essential in overcoming worry problems.” (34).

4. Worrying increases the significance of threats, strengthens them, and increases their frequency.

5. God works and we work. Although God can instantly cure people of worry, in the vast majority of cases that we see, God works alongside our efforts and intentions.

6. There are two main types of worry. Working out the difference between useful (solvable) worry and problem (floating) worry is the key to success. Solvable worry  has an underlying problem that responds to problem solving, whereas floating worry needs to be tackled in another way because there is no problem to solve.

7. Solvable worry.

“Solvable worry is typically about problems that are currently happening and have a solution that is required now or at some point in the near future. It is often a clearly understandable problem, one that we would all be anxious about. Solvable worry has concrete characteristics and is authentic in that the mind is seeking out a resolution to a problem that provokes appropriate anxiety. The litmus test for solvable worry is that, when shared with friends, they all begin offering sensible suggestions as to how the situation can be overcome.” (38-9)

“Solvable, normal worry is a useful catalyst for real action in response to a clear and present threat, and if we can channel it, it will make a difference.” (41)

8. Floating worry.

“Floating worry is not amenable to problem solving, because it is about problems that do not have answers, and when it comes to sharing them with friends, we generally shy away because we fear that they will think we are worrying about nothing. Floating worry is often oriented around problems that are less urgent and might or might not happen at some point in the future. The level of anxiety is usually less acute, and grumbles along in the background.” (40)

Here ”the worry issue lingers on, but there is absolutely no resolution. No action is taken other than worry.” (41)

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check out

Wed, 09/26/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

8 Reasons Your Excuses for Not Practicing Church Discipline Don’t Work
“The question is not, “What does it say about the church if we exercise discipline?” but rather, “What does it say about the church if we neglect church discipline?” Paul says that our refusal to discipline unrepentant church members—by taking their names off the membership rolls, refusing to admit them to the Lord’s Supper, and helping them see that their sin calls their professed faith into question—says at least eight bad things about us. Ironically, these eight things are precisely what we’re afraid the world will think if we do exercise church discipline.”

10 Lessons I Learned from Preaching Revelation
“In June I concluded a series of 38 sermons in the book of Revelation. As I reflect on my time in this remarkable book, 10 truths stand out. Spoiler: the things that had the greatest effect on me had nothing to do with numerical symbolism or 666 or the Beast or the Great Prostitute or the millennium.”

12 Questions To Ask Ourselves In Conflict
“Usually our first impulse in conflict is to look at all the ways the other person is wrong. All the ways they hurt us or messed up or all the ways they are thinking incorrectly about an issue. But over the years I have found it helpful to examine myself before focusing on the other person. Here are 12 questions I have found helpful to ask myself when I find myself in conflict:”

Entertainment Choices and Compromise
“One of the ways compromise comes into our life is through our entertainment. We’re very willing to be entertained by things that Christ died for. We’re very willing to laugh at jokes where the punchline is something that required the blood of Christ to atone for that. So, we can be very, very flippant with our entertainment. We can be entertained by things that are actually dishonoring to God.”

As One with Authority: The Four Pillars of Authoritative Preaching
“Modern preaching has been described as “A mild-mannered man encouraging mild-mannered people to be more mild-mannered.” The church—and the world—needs the opposite. Bold, authoritative preaching is the urgent need of the hour. Such preaching will hasten revival in the church, and further the Great Commission.”

3 Ways the Gospel Changes the Way You Apologize
“Christians, of all people in the world, should be the best apologizers. Not because they necessarily have more to apologize for, but because the gospel frees us to apologize rightly, changing our apologies in at least these three ways:”

Kindle Books

Whose Money Is It Anyway? by John F. MacArthur $1.99.

God So Loved, He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity by Kelly M. Kapic $2.99.

Conferences

Refresh and Reset Conference
“Finding Hope in the Midst of Burnout, Anxiety, and Depression.” September 28–29, 2018 With David and Shona Murray at New Covenant Bible Church, St. Charles, Illinois.

2018 Regional Conference
On October 5–6, 2018, Ligonier Ministries is hosting a conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland called “After Darkness, Light.” Drs. Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, Burk Parsons, Michael Reeves, and Derek Thomas will explore the history and legacy of the Reformation and explain how we must continue the work of the Reformers today.

Worry can be changed

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Chapter One in The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Worriers think worrying is eventually productive. Most worriers will admit that although worrying about things does not actually help, they think it does. They think that ultimately it will produce something valuable and useful.

2. Understanding the processes and patterns of worry is the first step to overcoming worry.

3. Worry can be genetic. The fact that most worriers can trace their worries back to childhood and even to their parents indicates that it sometimes has a genetic component. Cautious kids and deep thinkers tend to be adult worriers.

4. Worry is a normal human emotion in a fallen world. There are situations such as having a child in hospital with a serious illness where worry is appropriate. But this can also mutate into cycles of worry.

5. Worry can protect us by ensuring that we prepare for danger.  It may be better to call this acute concern, but without it we’d be dead.

6. People with generalized anxiety disorder worry about 60% of the day. They are never really panicking but never really relaxing, draining their days of joy through living in the future.

7. Worriers tend not to share their worries and therefore slip into isolation.

8. Worriers give themselves a hard time for worrying often ending up in depression.

9. Worry can be changed. Part of the cure is undermining beliefs that are at the root of worry. There may be some truth in them but they need to be broken.

“This book focuses on the techniques of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the approach for severe worry recommended by the latest scientific studies…Even more importantly, we have an amazing God who loves us and loves to help us. And finally we believe in the healing power of prayer and the community of the local church, and would encourage you all to get as much of these as possible.” (19-20).

10. God can make dealing with worry work for our good. It can actually make us more mature people, better appraisers of situations, and more compassionate friends.

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check Out

Tue, 09/25/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

“Living Dangerously”
“The passive seeker must be taught that the voice which comforts him where he is and tells him he is in a good place, when in fact he is in the place of greatest danger, is Satan, his enemy; whereas the voice which speaks the truth, and tells him that he is living dangerously if he remains where he is, and  says Strive, Agonise, make haste as in the quote above is the voice of the One who seeks his greatest good, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Unattainable Perfectionism of Millennials
“The young adults of the Millennial generation are showing a higher rate of mental problems than previous generations.  A study says that the problem is perfectionism and their inability to attain it.”

You Won’t Make It Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends
“What next steps might you take to cultivate deeper friendships? Identify a few people and plan time to get together, such as a weekly rhythm of coffee or lunch. Reach out to a friend you’ve lost regular contact with. Plunge your conversations below the shallows and into the deeper waters of life. Oxygenate your friendships with affirmation and encouragement. God helping us, let’s make it to our deathbeds without relational regret.”

How to Pray Like a Pastor
“I pray for one of these traits each day, using the bullet points as a guide. Perhaps you will find it helpful to do something similar.”

Confessions of a Ministry Introvert
“Temperament appears to be heavily influenced by neurochemistry—the collection of brain chemicals and the path of blood flow through the brain. Emerging brain science tells us introversion and extroversion show in our neural pathways. One study found that introverts have more blood flow to their brains than extroverts, indicating more internal stimulation. The study also found that introverts’ and extroverts’ blood follows a different pathway through the brain. In introverts, the pathway is longer and more complicated, with blood flowing to the portions of the brain involved in internal experiences like remembering, problem-solving, and planning. Extroverts’ blood flows faster and follows a shorter and less complicated route. It goes to the parts of the brain associated with sensory processing. Introverts are wired to focus on internal stimulation; extroverts external.”

How to Raise Spiritually Mature and Mentally Healthy Kids
“Forbes reports a new study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found those who were raised religious or spiritual as children are more likely to have happier lives as adults. Those who attended religious services with parents or prayed or meditated on their own had healthier lives and improved mental health. Those who attended church at least once a week as children or teens were 18 percent more likely to report being happy as 20-something adults than those who never attended services. After reaching adulthood, church-attending kids were 30 percent more likely to do volunteer work and 33 percent less likely to use drugs.”

Kindle Books

Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts  by Trillia Newbell $1.99.

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J. I. Packer $3.99.

Disability and the Gospel: How God Uses Our Brokenness to Display His Grace by Michael S. Beates $2.99.

The End of Worry

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 2:00am

Summary of Preface and Introduction to The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller. Will is a  pastor working in London and Rob is a Christian psychiatrist. Both are recovering worriers.

1. Everyone worries. Every kind of person worries, it’s just the degree and nature of the worry that differs from person to person.

2. The effects of worry. Worry has many damaging consequences, including anxiety, bodily tension, headaches, tiredness, irritability, insomnia, shame, broken relationships, absenteeism, reduced productivity, and so on.

3. Christians are ashamed of worrying. Their shame focuses on why they can’t seem to trust God or obey his commands not to worry; which in turn causes even more worry about their spiritual state. As a result it is often hidden from the church and even those closest to us.

4. Christians tend to see worry as an exclusively spiritual problem.

In only a very few instances have people expressed any awareness of the contribution of psychological factors. Christians tend to believe that the problem is purely spiritual – one of simple disobedience and lack of trust. It is no surprise then that they often feel too ashamed either to acknowledge that a problem exists or to seek help to overcome it. (Preface, xii)

5. Worry tends to be preoccupied with tomorrow. This is on contrast with depression which generally tends to be focused more on the past.

6. Severe worry, or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), is common. it affects 44 in every 1000 adults. Less severe forms of worry affect 164 per 1000 people.

7. GAD is more like background noise. Unlike panic attacks which are so obvious or phobias which are specific, GAD tends to be in the background not the foreground of our minds and is like a constant fog.

8. Worry can be reduced. This involves spiritual, physical, and psychological work. Just as a physiotherapist expects us to do numerous exercises to recover from injury, so we should expect to do various strengthening exercises to get out of worry.

The End of Worry: Why We Worry and How to Stop by Will Van der Hart and Rob Waller.

Check out

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

Say it in a Sentence
“One Thursday afternoon I went for a walk with my pastor. He asked me what my sermon was about for later that night. Four minutes into trying to explain what my sermon was about, my pastor interrupted me and said: “SAY IT IN A SENTENCE!” He said I wasn’t ready to preach until I could state what my sermon was about in one, clear sentence. That piece of advice transformed my preaching.”

Pastor Stress Statistics
“Why aren’t these pastors overflowing with the love, joy and peace of the Lord in their lives, families and ministries? What is the cause of their emotional problems and moral failures? A major factor is overwhelming ministry stress:

  • 75% report being “extremely stressed” or “highly stressed”
  • 90% work between 55 to 75 hours per week
  • 90% feel fatigued and worn out every week
  • 70% say they’re grossly underpaid
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month
  • 78% were forced to resign and 63% at least twice, most commonly because of church conflict
  • 80% will not be in ministry ten years later and only a fraction make it a lifelong career
  • Seminary trained pastors last only five years in church ministry
  • 100% of 1,050 Reformed and Evangelical pastors had a colleague who had left the ministry because of burnout, church conflict, or moral failure
  • 91% have experienced some form of burnout in ministry and 18% say they are “fried to a crisp right now”

I Live with OCD and Tourette’s—Here’s What Anyone Who’s Facing Anything Can Learn with Me
“Medication was a turning point in my healing process. It completely changed my world for the better. After almost a year of chaos, I was slowly able to start living my life again. I wasn’t the kid I used to be, but I was able to establish a new normal. I could go all day at school with no panic attacks. I could hang out with my friends without fear that something bad was going to happen, and most of the irrational fears began to stop! I was able to jump back into sports. This was huge for me! After about 10 years, I was able to stop taking medications, and that was a great thing for me, too.”

How Porn Is Sidelining Missionaries
“Pornography isn’t just an affront to a holy God; it’s an oil leak in the engine of missions. If unaddressed, an engine with an oil leak will, drip by drip, cease to operate. And dose by dose, porn renders a heart unfit for missions. Just last week, I was asked twice why I think so many godly ladies are signing up to engage unreached peoples, while the men seem to be content on the sidelines. My answer: internet pornography.”

What you should know about women and pornography
“A myriad of reasons can lead to women watching pornography, such as curiosity, loneliness, boredom, rejection, stress, dissatisfaction, curiosity, comfort, connection, or to escape from reality.”

Mommy Drinking Is No Joke
“Since God wants to “set a guard” over “the door of [our] lips” (Ps. 141:3), here are three good reasons to think before speaking (or sharing) that “mommy juice” joke.”

Kindle Books

Making Sense of Salvation by Wayne Grudem $3.99.

How to Enjoy Reading Your Bible by Keith Ferrin $1.59.

Evangelism in a Skeptical World: How to Make the Unbelievable News about Jesus More Believable by Sam Chan $2.99.

Expedition 30: Two Houses

Sat, 09/22/2018 - 7:56am

Here’s the video for Expedition 30 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

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 1:00am
Blogs

10 Phrases that Encapsulate Your Journey with an Eating Disorder
This kind of timeline is worth bearing in mind when dealing with most counseling problems.

Dementia: A Biblical Approach for Care
This article demonstrates a healthy integration of biblical counseling and medical care.

Like the secular Medical Model, the biblical approach has a standard definition of dementia: decreased mental capabilities such as memory loss, inability to think abstractly, impaired decision-making, and the inability to communicate normally. The biblical approach values the contributions of physicians and considers dementia a medical condition that should be managed by a physician.[2] In addition, the biblical approach recognizes that people with dementia and their loved ones need counseling based on biblical truth. A biblical counselor is advised to take a personal interest in a counselee with dementia and visit frequently, be sensitive to spiritual needs, and encourage him or her from Scripture.

3 Dangers in Rejecting Mental Health Care
This article calls for the kind of integration outlined above to be practiced in broader mental health issues.

The rejection of mental health care sets up a polarization between two disciplines that should be helping each other. The lack of trust between clergy and mental health professionals is obvious and palpable in too many areas of our culture.

Let’s bring back the Sabbath to give us a true work break
A secular article on the benefits of Sabbath keeping.

It is time for us, whatever our religious beliefs, to see the Sabbatarian laws of old not as backward and pharisaical, but rather as the liberatory statements they were meant to be. It is time to ask what our society would look like if it made room for a new Sabbath–or, to put it a different way, what our society would need to look like for the Sabbath to be possible.

How to Evangelize Your LGBT Neighbors
B
y a voice you can trust, Rosaria Butterfield:

“I believe that if Christians lived communally, then people who struggle with same-sex attraction would not be driven away from the church for intimacy but instead would find real intimacy within the family of God.”

How stress affects your body
A friend who teaches in a college send me this video. She shows it to her students at the beginning of the semester.

New Book

In the Year of Our Lord: Reflections on Twenty Centuries of Church History by Sinclair Ferguson.

Kindle Books

A Proverbs Driven Life by Anthony Selvaggio $3.99.

Not a Chance: God, Science, and the Revolt against Reason by R. C. Sproul and Keith Mathison $1.99.

The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness by Dr R. Albert Mohler

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