Check out

My Jericho Moment
What happened when Timmy Brister’s neighbor’s house burned down?

Why Christians Should Be Speaking Up About The Surveillance State
If there’s one thing that’s stunned me about the USA in the past few years it’s the incredible passivity of the citizenry in the face of ever increasing government intrusion into their lives.

Become A Better Writer With These Important Reading Skills
Even if you’re not a writer, this post will help you to become a better reader.

The Single Greatest Command of Deuteronomy
What a great insight from Dane Ortlund. I’ve taught a course on Deuteronomy and never noticed this before!

Typology as Prophecy
Fred Zaspel continues his helpful study of Old Testament typology.

Ten Testimony Tips
Good advice.

Children’s Daily Bible Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

And here’s the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

Counseling and the Grand Narrative of the Bible

A Summary and Review of Chapter 5: The Grand Narrative of the Bible by John Henderson in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

This chapter was written to highlight the weaknesses of the “one-problem-one-verse-one solution” approach to ministry, and to demonstrate how the central narrative of Scripture should “influence, shape, and instruct the ministry of counseling.”

What better way to do this than through a narrative? asks John Henderson, before proceeding to narrate a short illustrative story of ten pages or so.

It’s an interesting approach, and, to be honest, one that I didn’t immediately take to. I’m not really a “story” guy and find a lot of fiction a boring waste of time. Give me bullet points any day!

However, when I slowed down and read the chapter a second and a third time, I began to discover some real gems of ideas and illustrations, especially about half way through when one of the characters, Mr Kindren, tries to help Maggie’s troubled marriage by simply quoting a few verses and calling her to submit to God regardless of her happiness.

At this point, Reggie steps in to critique Mr Kindren’s simplistic approach to problems and to Scripture. He says:

Those are wondrous verses and all, but they may not make a lot of sense if she doesn’t get the Story behind the verses…The story of the Bible shows how fiercely the Lord works for people’s true happiness. Purity, submission, and happiness, from God’s point of view, can’t be separated.

Then follow two excellent illustrations to show how important it is to counsel within the context of the grand narrative of the Bible.

Sweep them into the river
“I’m guessing you’re trying to get her downriver to a good place. I just can’t figure out how you’ll help her along by standing at the banks, drawing out buckets of water, and throwing them on her feet. They’re good buckets of water and all, but they have no current by themselves. Just like the rest of us, Maggie needs to be swept into the river” (80).

Hear the whole orchestra
“The Word acts like a mass symphony of instruments working in harmony and building to something grand more than a phone book of musical soloists up for hire. All the stories and poems and letters and oracles and wisdom verses of God’s Word, like individual instruments in a great orchestra, serve the whole story. You served Mrs. Maggie a beautiful but single note from a single instrument in the orchestra. No doubt there are solos and duos all around, and each of these comfort and convict us in their way and time, but they aren’t strumming and blowing on their own. In His time, I think the Lord wants us to hear and appreciate the way they harmonize” (81).

The rest of the chapter tells how Reggie went on to demonstrate how:

  • Everyone has a story they use to explain the world and their world.
  • God’s story is found in the Bible where we read of God’s careful work in creating, loving, judging, and saving a world that He made good and beautiful, but plunged into evil and ugly.
  • God’s story interprets, confronts, reshapes, and even redeems or condemns all other stories.
  • God is not only the author of His story, He’s the center of it (not us).

See, I knew I’d get bullet points in there somewhere.

All in all, a helpful and thought-provoking chapter that calls counselors to know the Bible’s big story, listen to the counselee’s “small” story, and learn how to connect these two stories in a life-transforming way.

And if there’s one word that comes across loud and clear, it’s “patience.” This is much more complex and challenging than the oft-caricatured “take-two-verses and call me in the morning” idea. But it’s also much more likely to lead to long-term fruit.

Check out

How Children Succeed
Alex Chediak interviews Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed.

Rethinking Stuart Anglicanism
This is one for us Puritan geeks.

Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging Improve Writing
Teachers have come to view social media as a positive avenue for creative expression. “Most teachers told us they wouldn’t consider texting or tweeting as formal writing, in the strict sense, but it means students are writing more and they see that as a plus.”

Why So Many Leadership Programs Fail
Peter Bregman: “What makes leadership hard isn’t the theoretical, it’s the practical. It’s not about knowing what to say or do. It’s about whether you’re willing to experience the discomfort, risk, and uncertainty of saying or doing it. In other words, the critical challenge of leadership is, mostly, the challenge of emotional courage.” (HT: Zac Nielsen)

10 Ways to Resist The Devil
Tim Challies summarizes Thomas Brooks’ ten strategies for resisting the devil.

Mike Wittmer: “Here’s the takeaway for me and for you:  your level of success is not a reliable way to gauge the quality of your work. You may be laboring in relative obscurity, but you may still receive the most enthusiastic “Well done!” from our Lord.”

Post-Traumatic Growth

Christians aren’t the only ones who believe that good can come out of suffering. Harvard Professor Dr. Shawn Achor argues that Post-Traumatic Growth is as much a possibility as Post-Traumatic Stress.

For example, after the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid, “psychologists found many residents experienced positive psychological growth. So too do the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancers.” (The Happiness Advantage, 109).

What kinds of positive growth? Increases in spirituality, compassion for others, openness, and even, eventually, overall life satisfaction. After trauma, people also report enhanced personal strength and self-confidence, as well as a heightened appreciation for, and a greater intimacy in their social relationships. (110)

That’s why some psychologists even recommend that we fail early in life! In The Pursuit of Perfect, Tal Ben-Shahar says, “The earlier we face difficulties and drawbacks, the better prepared we are to deal with the inevitable obstacles along our path.”

Psychologists who have studied how people respond to trauma say that the key to profiting from pain is the story we tell ourselves when we are facing hard times. Optimistic story-tellers see difficulty as local and temporary (i.e. “it’s not so bad and it will get better”) whereas the pessimists see these events as more global and permanent (i.e., “It’s really bad, and it’s never going to change.”).

Their beliefs then directly affect their actions; the ones who believe the latter statement sink into helplessness and stop trying, while the ones who believe the former are spurred on to higher performance. (The Happiness Advantage, 123)

Optimistic story tellers, do better in high school, are less likely to drop out of college, perform better in sports, and even recover faster from heart surgery. Pulling together the research on this subject, Achor argues:

Study after study shows that if we are able to conceive of a failure as an opportunity for growth, we are all the more likely to experience that growth. Conversely, if we conceive of a fall as the worst thing in the world, it becomes just that. (108)

Post Traumatic Growth
One of the most remarkable illustrations of this is found in the growing body of research into post-traumatic growth (PTG)  among military personnel. Until recently the focus and headlines have all been about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an emphasis that produces additional problems, as Dr. Martin Seligman explains:

If all a soldier knows about is PTSD, and not about resilience and growth, it creates a self-fulfilling downward spiral. Your buddy was killed yesterday in Afghanistan. Today you burst into tears, and you think, I’m falling apart; I’ve got PTSD; my life is ruined. These thoughts increase the symptoms of anxiety and depression—indeed, PTSD is a particularly nasty combination of anxiety and depression—which in turn increases the intensity of the symptoms. Merely knowing that bursting into tears is not a symptom of PTSD but a symptom of normal grief and mourning, usually followed by resilience, helps to put the brakes on the downward spiral. (Flourish, Kindle 2546)

Seligman refers here to an alternative route for potential PTSD sufferers. In his research he questioned 1700 people who had experienced one or more of “the fifteen worst things that can happen in a person’s life: torture, grave illness, death of a child, rape, imprisonment, and so on.”

To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three—raped, tortured, and held captive for example—were stronger than those who had two. (Flourish, 2578).

In another study “61.1 percent of imprisoned airmen tortured for years by the North Vietnamese said that they had benefited psychologically from their ordeal. What’s more, the more severe their treatment, the greater the post-traumatic growth.” Seligman goes on to caution:

This is not remotely to suggest that we celebrate trauma itself; rather we should make the most of the fact that trauma often sets the stage for growth, and we must teach our soldiers about the conditions under which such growth is most likely to happen. (Flourish, 2601).

Common Grace
As Christians, we can celebrate these common grace experiences and insights. But in addition to seeing hard times as opportunities to grow in character, we also want to use these them to humble us, to sober us up, to make us examine our lives, to sanctify us, to make us appreciate Christ’s sufferings, to increase our evangelistic zeal, to drive us to the promises of God, and to make us long for the world to come. Above all, we get to know God more. We also have the huge help of the Holy Spirit in all this.

We agree that the key is the story we tell ourselves. But Christians don’t have to make up a story that may or may not be true, and that may or may not have a happy ending. They simply have to connect by faith with the already-written redemptive story of God. It’s the truest of all stories and has the happiest of all endings for all its characters. So, if unbelievers can get so much benefit out of suffering, how much more should believers!

Check out

MLB Commissioner Never Has, Never Will Send an Email
Sigh! That’s almost worth becoming important for.

6 Pillars of a Christian View of Suffering
Don Carson gives six principles to learn so that when the evil days come we will “be best positioned to face the complexities of suffering with stability, humility, compassion, and joy.”

Raising Black Boys
Thabiti takes issue with some of Toure’s advice to black parents in the way of the Trayvon Martin shooting and the George Zimmerman trial.

For The Guy With The “Smokin’ Hot Wife”
Kim Shay finds some old wisdom for modern times in Richard Baxter’s “The Godly Home.”

How To Tell If Your Grace Is Weak Or Counterfeit
And Mike Leake turns to William Bridge to help trembling souls answer this vital question.

Seven Steps to Teaching Your Kids That God Is Not Just For Sundays
“Someone recently asked me how do I integrate godly thinking into the “everyday” of my children’s lives…”