Westminster Seminary Counseling Course

For those who are asking, here’s the syllabus for the D.Min. course I’m teaching at Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia) this week.

Course Purpose:

To investigate how the Scriptures shape a distinctive model of counseling among believers in the local church.

 Degree Program Learning Goals

This course is designed to contribute to the following D.Min. program learning goals:

(1) Demonstrate the ability to be a reflective practitioner through interrelating counseling theory and practice.

(2) Demonstrate how an advanced understanding of one’s counseling ministry should be derived from the various exegetical and theological disciplines.

 Course Learning Goals

As a result of this course you should be able to:

(1) Describe the distinctive characteristics of biblical counseling.

(2) Identify the essential steps in the biblical counseling process.

(3) Practice the skills used by biblical counselors.

(4) Evaluate your level of competence in the skills used by biblical counselors.

(5) Create a vision for how counseling functions within the life of a congregation.

Course Outline

The class will meet on the Campus of Westminster Theological Seminary from August 14-18. Exact times and venue TBA. The course will be divided into three main sections:


An examination of the distinctive characteristics of biblical counseling:

  • The Counselor’s Self-Knowledge
  • The Counselor’s God
  • The Counselor’s Bible
  • The Counselor’s (and Counselee’s) Humanity
  • The Counselor’s Qualifications
  • The Counselor’s Church/Community
  • The Counselor’s World


A step-by-step explanation of the essential steps in the counseling process.


The principles and process of counseling in practice. A brief look at what biblical counseling looks like in practice via various counseling scenarios, together with some practical examples via role-playing.

Course Schedule

The class will meet from August 14-18 as follows:

Monday 14 Aug:          1- 6pm

Tuesday 15 Aug:        8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Wednesday 16 Aug:   8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Thursday 17 Aug:       8.30am-12.30pm, 2-6pm

Friday 18 Aug:            8.30am-12.30pm

Course Assignment

Prepare a script of a multi-session counseling scenario which narrates a dialogue between you and a counselee (real, based on reality, or imaginary), with footnotes explaining the reasoning behind your approach, questions, responses, decisions, homework, etc.

1. All you know before the first counseling session is what the person’s name is and that they are coming to you for counseling. You have to “discover” everything else in the counseling sessions.

2. Demonstrate in the dialogue how you would introduce yourself, welcome the counselee, explain your approach to counseling, initiate the conversation about the counselee’s problem, etc. You may choose any common counseling problem (e.g. depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, pornography, conflict, bereavement, anger, etc.).

3. There should be a minimum of 3-4 counseling sessions, each of which demonstrate knowledge of the principles and process of biblical counseling and skill in applying the Bible’s teaching to particular problems.

4. Each session should be set out as a dialogue between the counselor and counselee. Use footnotes to highlight where you are applying your counseling knowledge, and to explain what you are doing and why. Footnotes should also explicitly demonstrate what you learned from the lectures and from the books on the required reading list. You may wish to conclude each session dialogue with a summary reflection on what you learned and what you wish to teach others from it.

5. Although it may be helpful to get input from another party (e.g. the counselee’s spouse), in the interests of simplicity, try to keep such dialogue to a minimum for the purposes of this exercise or simply summarize what you may have discovered from other sources.

6. Be realistic by showing where you made mistakes in your counseling and how you hope to learn from them in future sessions.

7. Come to the classroom module with a rough draft of the first two sessions already prepared. You may submit this draft to the lecturer between August 14-18 for input and feedback. Use the class lectures to further refine these dialogues and be prepared to present your draft to the class if called upon. You will not be graded on this part of the assignment.

8. The sessions should demonstrate that your counseling is effecting change in the counselee’s life. However, it is not necessary to have a “happy ending.” The paper should conclude with a plan for future care for the counselee.

9. The assignment should be submitted into the online classroom by November 15 using the appropriate upload link.

10. The ultimate aim is to produce a counseling dialogue that can be used as a teaching tool, by you and your fellow students, for training counselors in a local church.

Required Reading

Read two of the following three books. Demonstrate in the counseling scenario assignment that you have read two of the books by explicitly referencing them and interacting with them in the footnotes (indicating agreement and disagreement).

Gospel-Centered Counseling by Bob Kellemen (Zondervan, 2014)

Gospel Conversations by Bob Kellemen (Zondervan, 2015)

A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert (Zondervan, 2015).

Reformed Caffeine

Imagine your favorite coffee. Over thirty years, you’ve bought it hundreds of times and you’ve drunk it thousands of times. It’s comforted you, fueled you, and stimulated multiple friendships with fellow coffee connoisseurs.

Then, one day, you get an invite to the coffee plantation in Columbia to see and savor where the beans are planted, grown, harvested, dried, and ground before being sent many miles away to your local store. It’s hard to believe that you’re going to the source of so much caffeinated goodness.

That’s how I feel this morning as I travel to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia to teach a Doctor of Ministry course on “Counseling and Christian Ministry.” It’s my first trip to Westminster and a deeply moving one because of all the profit and pleasure I’ve gained from the teachers and teaching of Westminster since I was converted about thirty years ago.

I can’t count the Westminster professors I’ve studied under from afar via cassette, mp3, and innumerable books. Going all the way back to the original founders right up to the present day faculty, they have comforted me, energized me, and stimulated multiple spiritual conversations with friends over the years. And now I get to visit the plantation! So much Reformed goodness! I’ll try not to overdose.

I hope to post some updates as the week progresses, but the days are long and quite intense, so blogging might be a bit patchy.

Addiction Resources

I’m in the process of updating my resources pages for various subjects. These pages include book recommendations and the most helpful articles I’ve found on each subject. Here’s the updated addictions page.

Book Recommendations 

Help! I want to change by Jim Newheiser (more similar Lifeline books here)

Breaking the Addictive Cycle: Deadly Obsessions or Simple Pleasures by David Powlison

Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts by Mark E. Shaw

The Heart of Addiction Workbook by Mark E. Shaw. And here’s the companion workbook.

Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward T. Welch. Here’s the accompanying workbook.

‘Just One More’: When Desires Don’t Take No for an Answer by Edward T. Welch.

Article Links

What I’m Learning After Losing My Daughter to Drugs

Addiction, Lies and Relationships

10 Effects of Living with Addiction | Brad Hambrick

The Immaturity of Addiction | Barry York

9 Reasons We Struggle with Addictive Sin Patterns | Chuck Lawless

Steps to Breaking Sin Patterns | Chuck Lawless

What the Church can learn from AA 12 Steps

Good Read: Is addiction a disease of the brain? | Phil Monroe

Stopping addictive behavior: What works? | Phil Monroe

Breaking Pornography Addiction | CCEF

4 Approaches to the Use of the Label “Porn Addiction”


The Gospel, Breaking Sinful Patterns, and Addiction | Ed Stetzer

Two Underused Strategies for Addiction | Ed Welch

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ | Dave Dunham

Is Jesus Enough for Drug Addicts | Mez Mcconnell

Interview with Alcoholic Pastor

An analysis of Celebrate Recovery (Part 1) (Part 2)

Check out


Three Lessons Learned: Reflections of a Rookie Counselor
Not just for rookies either.

Parents Need To Get Serious About Saving Kids From Internet Addiction
“Forcing teens to turn off their phones isn’t about being cruel or Luddite. It’s about saving them from dangerous addiction—before it’s too late.”

The One Trait Every Leader MUST Possess
“I’ve meditated quite a bit on this question: What is a leader’s most important trait? Is it charisma? Is it intelligence? Is it wisdom? Is it people skills? Well, while I believe there are many traits and qualities a great leader must possess, there’s one that stands out among all others. In fact, the longer I think about it, I quickly realize that most every trait builds on this one trait! A leader’s most important trait is….”

A Theology of Vacationing
“Rest times and vacations are not meant to be an opportunity to get away from Christ – especially if we feel ‘he is our work’ day in and day out – but, rather, to enjoy him under different circumstances and in a different way. Pastors easily fall into the trap of relating to Jesus only on a professional basis. But he wants us to know him as our Friend – one who gives us theological warrant to enjoy our vacations!”

A Spiritual Brotherhood
“There are many others ways in which “God does great things when ordinary ministers of the gospel are bound together as blood brothers, to live and die together.” If Gospel ministers would ask God to increase in their hearts and minds a desire to intentionally integrate themselves into such spiritual brotherhoods, I am certain that we would be encouraged and astonished by what great things God will do through them. ”

The Benefit of Pairing Digital and Analog to Manage Your Day – Michael Hyatt
“When it comes to planning our time, reviewing our goals, and tracking our tasks, we basically have three options. Full digital. You can do everything with a digital solution such as Nozbe, Todoist, or Evernote. Full analog. You can do everything with a paper-based system such as a Bullet Journal, Day Runner, or the Full Focus Planner™. Hybrid system. You can do some things digitally and some things on paper. Obviously, you need to use what works for you. But there are some major drawbacks to the first two.”

Here’s why it feels like you have no free time, in one chart
“Compared to 2007, when screens ate up mere minutes of our free time, the ratio has now flipped. Practically all of people’s free time goes toward screens of some sort, Alter’s research has found. ”

Game of Dethroning Sexual Sin
“What are we to do, then, when it comes to fix a limit on what a Christian should and should not watch? Is drawing such a line tantamount to fundamentalism? Are we to simply chalk everything up to a case of personal liberty of conscience? Is it legitimate to compare the sex in the Bible to the sex in a show like Game of Thrones? We must ask and answer these and related questions, if we are to get to the bottom of a Christian ethic regarding what we watch and what we are to abstain from watching. ”

One Week Only: Subscribe to Tabletalk for $20
“For one week only, you can subscribe to Tabletalk for $20. Each month, you’ll receive articles from trusted teachers on a variety of topics related to theology and Christian living. Upcoming themes will provide biblical wisdom on important topics like the Reformation, leadership, and the Temple.”

A Well-Spent Sabbath
“in an age of frenetic and unrelenting busyness, when technology allows us to stay plugged in to the world twenty-four-seven, when entertainment becomes the de facto purpose of so many lives, nothing could be more countercultural, nor bear more eloquent testimony to a Christian’s citizenship in another world, than a well-spent Lord’s Day.”

Kindle Books

Growing in Christ by J I Packer  $3.19.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet $4.99.

True Community by Jerry Bridges $2.99.

Lots of R C Sproul books and booklets at reduced prices.

A Few Good Men

Let me introduce you to seven men who will give us a guided tour of Romans 3:9-31.

Mr. Goodness
Mr. Goodness hardly needs an introduction. We are all born hand in hand with him, know him well, and like him. After all, he tells us how good we are. And if we have any doubts, he helps us to find excuses, blame others, or find others that we can still look good beside.

As Mr. Goodness is extremely experienced, persuasive, and skillful, Paul spends the first few chapters of Romans attacking him with the sharp sword of Scripture. And in Romans 3:9-18 he “goes for the jugular” with thrust after thrust of multiple verses proving universal human sinfulness: “None righteous, no not one… none who understands… none who seeks after God…they have all turned aside… etc.”

Mr. Guilty
With Mr. Goodness slumped on the floor, Mr. Guilty enters the room. And when Mr. Guilty enters the room, every mouth is stopped (3:19). Without defense, alibi, or excuse, we stop arguing with God.

Mr. Guilty drags us again and again to Mr. Law (we’ll look at him a bit later), who presents us with two documents: precepts to be obeyed and penalties to be suffered. And what can we say there but, “Guilty, guilty, guilty.” The precepts I have not obeyed. The penalties I cannot suffer.

Mr. Righteousness
Into this dark and gloomy room walks Mr. Righteousness. “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed” (v. 21). Mr. Righteousness has a nickname – Mr. Law Satisfier. He comes to law, looks at the precepts to be obeyed and the penalties to be suffered, and says, “I can do both. I can obey these precepts and suffer these penalties until there is nothing left to be paid.”

But how come Mr. Righteousness has a righteousness “apart from the law”? How can he be a law-satisfier apart from the law? It’s like saying red tomatoes are not red. This cannot mean what it seems to mean – a law satisfaction without satisfying the law. Rather it is a law satisfaction without any regard to our attempted law-satisfying.

Imagine if Mr. Righteousness walked into your yard with a wheelbarrow. Instead of admiring his perfection you start trying to put some of your own imagined law-keeping into his wheelbarrow. But he says “NO! I don’t want any contribution from you. I’m not interested in your law-satisfaction. I offer a law-satisfaction that is completely separate and independent from your attempted law-satisfying.”

It is also a “righteousness of God” (v. 21, 22). This is not a mere human righteousness but a divine righteousness. This is not a mere man that has obeyed the precepts and suffered the penalties. It is God himself.  Can you imagine the value of that law-satisfaction!

We might conceive of a man who obeyed the precepts, suffered the penalties, and survived. That’s conceivable; but what good is that for anyone else? How can his righteousness extend beyond himself to any other human being. It might be enough for himself; he might be able to hand it over to someone else; but as it is only one human righteousness, it can only cover one human being. But divine righteousness is infinitely valuable and can extend to a multitude greater than any man can number.

Mr. Righteousness was witnessed to by the law and the prophets and has now been revealed even more clearly. Both Old and New Testaments point towards Mr. Righteousness. Who is Mr. Righteousness? It’s Mr. Jesus Christ. He can obey the precepts and suffer the penalties until they are exhausted. He is “the righteousness of God.”

Mr. Faith
So, here’s this soul chained to Mr. Guilty. And there’s Mr. Righteousness who can meet this soul’s deepest needs. But how to get rid Mr. Guilty and connect with Mr. Righteousness? That’s where Mr. Faith comes in. The righteousness of God is “through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe” (v. 22).

Mr. Faith comes to the soul, severs it from its guilt and connects it with Mr. Righteousness. As soon as this soul believes, faith smashes the chain of guilt and connects the soul with perfect righteousness (v. 25). All my guilt gone. His whole righteousness mine.

And this is not just for special believers, for those with special faith, or even strong faith. It’s “to all and on all who believe.” Instead of hearing, “Guilty, guilty, guilty!” the believing soul now hears not just, “Innocent, innocent, innocent!” but “Perfect, perfect, perfect!” All precepts obeyed, all penalties met.

Mr. Boasting
The light has gone on, the dust is settling, and the soul is enjoying this salvation. Paul looks around and says, “Now, where is Mr. Boasting?” (v. 27). Mr. Boasting and Mr. Goodness were great allies. But with Mr. Goodness gone, Mr. Boasting is friendless. In fact, he’s very angry, especially with Mr. Faith. Because faith looks away from self to Christ. Faith turns the spotlight from self to Christ. Boasting is now evicted and runs away, cursing Mr. Faith. Oh, to be sure, he sometimes gets back together with Mr. Goodness and they stick their heads in the window  again from time to time. But with the help of chapters like Romans 3 they are kept outside and at a safe distance.

Mr. Law
So faith has chased away Mr. Goodness, Mr. Guilt, and Mr. Boasting. What about Mr. Law? Does Mr. Faith chase him away too? Let Paul answer: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (v. 31).

Every other pretended way of salvation diminishes the law in one way or another: it’s requirements, it’s penalties, or it’s inner-penetration. In one way or another it makes void and diminishes the law. It helps people be saved by lowering the barrier, or by compromising justice. But this way of salvation strengthens and confirms the law. Mr. Righteousness reached the standard perfectly, and suffered the penalties fully. That’s why Paul says God is both “just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). He is “a just God and a Savior.”

Mr. Joy
Mr. Goodness has gone. Mr. Guilt has gone. Mr. Boasting has gone. Who do we have left? Mr. Righteousness, Mr. Faith and Mr. Law. And then walks in our seventh man, Mr. Joy.

Mr. Joy says to Mr. Law “Are you happy?” “I’m happy,” he replies, “my demands have been met, my penalties satisfied. Rejoice!”

“Mr. Righteousness, you happy?” “Of course! I still have a perfect complete righteousness.”

“Mr. Faith, you happy?” “Sure, I’ve severed another soul from sin and united it with perfect righteousness!”

“And what about you, Soul?” asks Mr. Joy.

“Me?” says the soul, “Who could be happier! The law is satisfied. Guilt has gone. Righteousness is mine. And all by faith, without any contribution from me.” What a happy scene. What a happy soul!

“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”

Check out


Four Plumblines to Parent with Grace
“What does it mean to be a gospel-centered parent? As a youth minister who is also a parent, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I may have a bit of insight. At our church, we often talk about four plumb lines – little phrases that, we believe, capture the heart of grace-centered parenting. 1) “Parents are neither saviors nor sanctifiers” 2) “Parents are pastors” 3) “You parent best when you repent most” 4) “Parent your kids to be sent, not to stay”"

Give Me Jesus Over Westminster Abbey
I loved Trevin Wax’s account of his visit to Westminster Abbey, especially his conclusion:

“If forced to choose between the power of Westminster’s ambience or the power of a simple preacher who shows me Christ, I say: Give me Jesus every time.”

Are You Chasing Happiness or Holiness? | Desiring God
Tony Reinke argues that “by distancing holiness from happiness we create a false dichotomy.”

We Cannot Help Women Reject Abortion By Screaming At Them
his from someone who left Planned Parenthood to become a pro-life campaigner:

“I do not believe we will ever win hearts through intimidation or illegal tactics. We won’t be able to help women if we scare them. It’s illogical to think that a woman already in a vulnerable position would willingly walk up to a man who is holding a graphic image, engaging in civil disobedience, and calling her a murderer just to, you know, have a conversation with him.”

The 4 Key Tools to a Successful Time Management System
Very simple but would transform the lives of so many young people:

“Here are the 4 Key Tools to a Successful Time Management System:

To-do List – A place to capture your tasks and get them out of your head so that you can concentrate on what you are doing.

Calendar – A tracker for all of your appointments and obligations to manage your day’s timeline.

Address Book – A collection of the contact information of all of the people who you need to connect with whether regularly or infrequently.

Notebook – Documentation of ideas and notes from your day’s activities and meetings. “

I Don’t Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones
Also, see the Piper questions that Kevin points to:

“This will not be a long post. Because the issue doesn’t seem all that complicated. I don’t understand Christians watching Game of Thrones.”

Brothers, We Are Not Amateurs | For The Church
“Never before in the history of the church has theological education been so accessible, and never before has it been so needed. Advanced technology, innovative delivery systems, and proliferating resources all make being a ministerial amateur—as a permanent state—inexcusable. Why pursue ministry preparation? ”

10 Issues To Work Through Before You Get Married – Tim Challies
“Some people get married too soon. After love at first sight and a whirlwind romance, they quickly plan a wedding, exchange rings, and settle into a marriage that soon turns sour. So much pain can be avoided by working through issues before that wedding day. While courtship and engagement is, of course, the time to plan a wedding, it is also the time to plan a marriage. Here, drawn from the work of Jim Newheiser, is a list of issues to work through before you get married.”

Kindle Books

If you want to stock up on J I Packer books, today is the day.

Taking God Seriously: Vital Things We Need to Know by J I Packer $2.99.

A Grief Sanctified: Through Sorrow to Eternal Hope by J I Packer $2.99.

Finishing Our Course with Joy: Guidance from God for Engaging with Our Aging by J I Packer $2.99.

You’ll find some other discounted Packer books here.