Check out

Blogs

Back-to-School Backpack List (2016) | Redeemed Reader
Some reading suggestions for different ages to kickstart your school year.

Ministry: A Haven for the Lazy and the Workaholic | Eric Geiger
“Sadly, ministry can be a great place to hide out and a great place to burn out…Ministry can be a haven for the lazy and the workaholic.”

If Women Can’t Have it All, Can Men? | Courtney Reissig
“At the end of the day, no one can have it all. We all make sacrifices to do what we want to do most. Perhaps a greater question we should be asking is “where do your priorities lie”? Maybe then we could get to the heart of the matter. ”

This Republican mayor has an incredibly simple idea to help the homeless. And it seems to be working | The Washington Post
Yes, I know it’s hard to believer, but this really is a good news story about a Republican in the Washington Post.

The Best Leadership Quotes from the 5LQ Podcast | The Blazing Center
Chew on one a day.

5 Mistakes Pastors Make in Reaching Men

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms by Martyn Lloyd-Jones $3.99.

White than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul Tripp $3.99.

Decision-Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen $1.99.

Video

A Slice of Life at PRTS

Our wonderful librarians, Kim and Laura, organize a book giveaway for students. This is the first film for PRTS shot by our new and hugely talented video producer, Darryl Bradford.


Am I a Controlling Person?

In Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets out of ControlAllen Mallinger asserts that the central dynamic in the obsessive personality is that of control.

Most of us, obsessives included, would allow that life is fundamentally unpredictable. As hard as the best-intentioned, most conscientious person might try, it is impossible to control every aspect of one’s existence; we are vulnerable. Despite such lip service to these truths, however, somewhere near the center of their inner being, far from their conscious awareness, obsessives are trying to deny this reality. Their subtle but constant efforts to control everything in the world around them (and inside them) are an attempt to do the impossible: to guarantee security; to assure safe passage through the risks and uncertainties of living. (8)

The price of this attempt to control is an inability to show or share feelings, reluctance to trust anyone, loneliness, the stress of being perfect in everything, the fear of embarrassment, an over-sensitive conscience, a phobia about trying anything new, and an inability to relax and enjoy the moment.

In pages 10-12 of Too Perfect, Mallinger provides 25 self-test questions. The most piercing and telling in my view are:

2. Is it hard for you to let go of a work project until it’s just right—even if it takes much longer than it should?

4. Is it important to you that your child, spouse, or subordinates at work perform certain tasks in a certain specific manner?

9. Do you have a particularly strong conscience, or do you often feel guilty?

11. Are you especially wary of being controlled, manipulated, overpowered, or “steam-rollered” by others?

12. Is it important for you to get a “good deal” in your financial transactions, or are you often suspicious of being “taken”?

15. Is it hard for you to let yourself be dependent on others, rather than self-reliant? (For instance, are you uneasy about delegating tasks at work or hiring help with taxes or home repairs?)

17. In thinking about some future event, such as a vacation, a dinner party, or a job report, do you dwell upon the things that might go wrong? 18. Do you worry more than most people?

22. Do you feel guilty when you aren’t getting something done, even in your time off (no matter how hard you’ve worked all week)?

The number of “yes’s” is important, but even more so is the question: “Does this characteristic cause difficulties in relationships, work, or leisure activities, or does it interfere with your ability to enjoy life in general?”

To go back to the beginning though, at the root of all this, though often deeply buried in the psyche, is the irrational conviction, the myth, that perfect control can be achieved and can guarantee a safe and successful life. Dealing with that myth requires reason and revelation, but that will have to wait until next week now.


Check out

Blogs

Why Do You Want to Be Happy?
Randy Alcorn asks why we’re so suspicious of the desire to be happy.

Based on books I’ve read, sermons I’ve heard, and conversations I’ve had, it’s clear many Christians believe that humanity’s desire for happiness was birthed in the fall and is part of the curse. Hence, the desire to be happy is often assumed to be the desire to sin. But what if our desire for happiness was a gift designed by God before sin entered the world? If we believed this, how would it affect our lives, our parenting, our ministry, our entertainment, and our relationships? How would it affect our approach to sharing the gospel?

How to Write a Sermon: A Template
Preachers will always learn something from this kind of post.

How do I get from text to sermon? This is the question in sermon preparation. After preaching for 15 years, I’ve developed a basic pattern that might serve as a helpful resource to others. Call it “Thunome’s Template for Sermon Prep.”

5 Words of Advice for Young Seminarians | TGC
“For those starting college or seminary education, I know it can sometimes be intimidating or overwhelming. And for those who don’t feel a little intimidated or overwhelmed, you may need to prepare yourselves, lest you get caught off-guard by the challenges of your studies and the seminary culture. Maybe the following few words can serve in this regard.”

6 Ways to Smash the Approval Idol
“What’s a chronic people pleaser to do? Here are six ways I’m still learning to fight the idol of approval.”

Why So Many Families Who Want To Adopt Can’t
“Since the dawn of time there have been pregnant women who could not parent the child in their wombs, and there have been infertile couples longing for a family. Never has it been harder to bring those two parties together—birth mother and adoptive parents. The basic problem is the growing scarcity of babies due to culture of abortion.”

New Book

And So I Began to Read…Books that Have Influenced Me by Faith Cook (author of over twenty books) $8.99.

Kindle Books

The Liberator: One World War II Soldier’s 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau by Alex Kershaw $1.99. This is an incredible book, but you’ll need to steel yourself for the horrors of war.

Video

An Update From Our Church Planters In Barlanark, Glasgow
I was born and grew up in the city of Glasgow. These church planters are working in one of the neediest areas of that city.


A Controller’s Story

Kathleen Peck left an insightful comment to my article on controlling behavior that I wanted more people to see:

These types of controlling behaviors can be so difficult to identify because they’re so deeply entrenched in many of the positive behaviors & attributes you named here in the article. Being hard working, striving for the very best quality in everything or most effective use of time, resources, education, recreation, ALL seem to be productive life skills but where things turn the corner is our personal reactions when we’re unable to achieve these things, unable to somehow make everything right according to our high standards. Other people become annoyances, stumbling blocks, obstacles to be overcome.

Sadly I see myself in these descriptions, & I’m sure it’s been wounding for those around me to live with me. To be out of control in one area or another brings on such a feeling of being overwhelmed often to the point of just wanting to give up trying. It’s bearing the constant “all or nothing” burden that really weighs the heart/mind/body down. Living this kind of life is exasperating for the person under these strictures &equally so for those whom they’re being imposed upon.

God help us to turn over these fears & needs to control to the only wise One who truly does have all control & can be trusted in every circumstance to wield that control gently, graciously & altogether wisely.

A few comments on what Kathleen wrote:

1. Controlling behavior can be the result of good traits and habits carried to an extreme.

2. The problem can arise when we respond badly to our failure to achieve or to people and events messing up our plans.

3. It only takes one area of life to go wrong for some people to feel that all of life is out of control.

4. This impacts everyone connected to the person.

5. Trusting the wise and good sovereignty of God is key to overcoming vain attempts to achieve personal sovereignty.


Check out

 Blogs

Praying in the Whirlwind
In the whirlwind of life Calvin reminds us of four rules for prayer–four rules for when we need the basics all over again.

#TruthAtTheGames: From Rio to the World
Encouraging news of evangelism at the Rio games.

A Pastor Looks Forward at 50
“Look back with gratitude.  But look forward with hope.  God isn’t close to being done with you yet.”

How Can You Optimize Your Computer for Top Productivity? – Michael Hyatt
Michael Hyatt describes 10 utilities that he installs first on any new device to shave time and drive results.

From Medical Doctor to Stay-at-Home Mom | Desiring God
I’m sure a lot of Christian women can identify with this:

“The prospect of abandoning a secure position with excellent prospects for advancement terrified me. I spent many nights agonizing that despite the Lord’s call, my decision to leave medicine was reckless or irresponsible. Such fears are normal and expected, but reflect our own limited understanding, rather than an enduring faith in the Lord. God is sovereign over our lives, and whatever doubts we have, we may trust that he knows the path, and is in command over all

Kindle Books

Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict $2.99.

What Do You Think Of Me And Why Do I Care? by Ed Welch $3.99.

Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics to Find Faith by Alister McGrath $2.99.

Video

Why Academic Calvinism is a Misnomer


Dialogue with Heath Lambert

This is a guest post from Dr. Heath Lambert, Executive Director as the Association of Biblical Counselors. Heath is responding to a series of articles I wrote in reviewing his book, A Theology of Biblical Counseling. When I offered Heath an opportunity to respond he agreed to do so and requested that I send him some of the questions I posed. I sent him the first few questions I raised to get the dialogue started. I’m grateful for Heath’s willingness to engage, especially in the midst of a busy schedule. I’ve put my questions in blue, and Heath’s responses in black.


Heath’s Introductory Statement

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to some of the questions that David Murray has posed about my book, A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry.  I wrote this book because I think the theological foundations of counseling ministry are crucial, and must be carefully considered by the Christian community. David’s interaction with my book on his blog indicates that he is as serious about that consideration as I am.  I pray that my answers to some of his questions advance a more thorough understanding of these issues that I know we both want.

His gracious offer allowing me to respond to a selection of his questions directly on his website is a demonstration of his Christian charity and his authentic desire for dialogue.  I am grateful that he would extend this opportunity to me.

David’s Question

The format is (1) A quotation from your book, (2) Questions, (3) Suggested clarification. I hope the suggested clarifications will prove constructive. 

Quotation 1: “Theology is what the whole Bible teaches us today about any given topic” (12). Therefore, “when we pay careful attention to every relevant passage in the Bible on a topic, we should know what God has revealed to us about that topic” (13). 

Question #1: “Is there any revelation outside of the Bible? If so, how is that consistent with these statements? 

Suggested Clarification: “When we pay careful attention to every relevant passage in the Bible on a topic, we should know what special revelation (or “spiritual truth”) God has given us about a topic.”

Heath’s Response

As I made clear in the immediate context of this quote, I did not endeavor to utilize any creativity in my definition of theology.  The definition in this quotation is the definition of theology used by Wayne Grudem and John Frame.  These are two luminaries in two different evangelical traditions (Baptist and Presbyterian) who have each influenced untold numbers of people with their teaching on biblical doctrine.  It is significant that two individuals in two different Christian communities agree on the definition of theology.  I saw no reason to innovate, and no way to improve on these straightforward definitions, so I merely borrowed.

Grudem and Frame believe, along with faithful systematicians since the Reformation, that God has revealed himself outside the Bible in the world through general revelation.  They believe this because the Bible teaches it (e.g.,Rom 1:18-23).  I believe this as well.  That is why I unpack the concept of general revelation throughout my book (especially in Chapter 3) and devote an appendix to it (Appendix B).

Most faithful Christian theologians since the Reformation have believed theology to be an investigation of the biblical text.  Grudem and Frame clearly operate within this tradition.  My use of their definition demonstrates my agreement with them, and so I did not believe an adjustment was in order.

David’s Questions

Quotation 2: “God knows what is wrong with us and diagnoses the problem in the Bible. God prescribes a solution to our problems – faith in Christ — and reveals him to us in the Scriptures” (17). 

Question 2a. Does “problems” here mean all problems (such as autism, or those you mentioned a bit earlier — employment problems or choosing a college).

Question 2b. Is God’s prescribed solution (singular) to our problems (plural) always simply “faith in Christ”?

Question 2c. Is this the only solution to all our problems, as a following sentence seems to indicate: ““There is no other solution to our problem and no process of change other than the one God has provided” (17)?

Suggested Clarification 2: “God knows what is primarily wrong with us — sin — and that the solution to (and process of change for) our sin problems is repentance and faith in Christ.”

Heath’s Response

As with the previous question, the isolation of this short quote from the immediate context makes it harder to understand what I’m trying to say.  This quote is the third sentence under a heading which reads: “Counseling Is Theological.”  The first two sentences say, “Understanding that counseling requires some vision of life is crucial to understanding the theological nature of counseling.  The reason is that such a vision of reality is always theological.”  These statements are right in the middle of a larger section where I am defining counseling and explaining the elements of it.  I am clearly talking about counseling here.  Understanding that contextual reality helps to answer the questions.

So to answer the first question, no, “problems” here does not mean all problems because I am not talking about all problems.  I am discussing counseling problems.  The reason I used examples like employment problems and choosing a college (to mention a few of the examples I listed) is because they are counseling problems, which was the subject at hand. I did not raise the issue of autism because autism is not, properly speaking, a counseling problem.  I do not, of course, mean to indicate that there would never be issues in the life of an autistic person that could benefit from counseling.  That is not true.  I mean that it is not the task of counseling to solve the problem of autism.

While the grace of Jesus will ultimately heal all physical problems in the next life through faith in him, we must be careful here not to mix obviously physical issues, which are the prerogative of medical professionals and other experts with the kinds of problems that counselors deal with in their work.  Because these issues are of such crucial importance I spent the larger portion of a chapter on them (Chapter 7) and deal with crucial issues about the matter in two appendixes (Appendix A and C).

David’s second question is even more tricky.  What makes it so complicated  is the addition of his word “simply” to my words.  It is one thing to say that God’s solution to our problems is faith in Christ.  It is another thing to say that this solution is simple.  Faith in Christ is the large master category that needs to be pressed down into a thousand different details in the lives of individuals struggling with countless problems.  If faith in Christ were simple I could have quit writing the book after I wrote that sentence.  But there are 318 pages that follow where I introduce readers to actual counselees who struggle with pain in the midst of broken marriages, homosexual lust, bitterness and heartbreak after rape, overwhelming sorrow in the death of a son, nagging worry, cutting, and more.  Each of my counselees in the book would agree that they changed by faith in Christ.  They would disagree that it was simple.  This is also the reason the Bible is not just one page, and not even one book, but is a collection of 66 books.  God takes dozens of authors writing across many centuries in numerous cultures to show the world how his solution to our problems—faith in Christ—gets worked out in the painful complications of a zillion details.

So I think I want to insist that God’s solution to our problems is faith in Christ.  But, I also try to show in the larger context of the book that this faith is often complex and not usually simple.

The final question concerning the quotation that there is, “no solution to our problem and no process of change other than the one God has provided” is also clearly a reference to counseling.  The position that I advance throughout the book is that God wrote the Bible to be about the problems we face in our lives before him.  These are the kinds of problems that motivate people to look for counseling.  The Bible’s own testimony is that it is a lamp unto our feet and light unto our path in the midst of a dark world that plagues us with apparently limitless problems (Pss 119:105).  If God has gone to incredible effort to explain his solutions to our problems in living then I do believe it is unfaithful and unhelpful to pursue other solutions.

But I think David may be on to something with his question about this statement.  Now that I’ve been pressed I would be forced to agree that there are other solutions to our counseling problems.

The example I always think of here is the one of my mother who was addicted to alcohol for decades.  She was a promiscuous, dishonest, and violent woman.  In God’s common grace she sobered up through the work of Alcoholics Anonymous.  After her encounter with AA my mom was sober, but she was still mean, she still slept around, and she was still at war with God. If she were alive today, she would tell you that AA taught her to be a more successful worshiper of herself.  She did not really change until she accessed God’s special grace by repenting of her sins and placing her faith in Christ.  And she would deny that this was simple.  I think she rather believed it was the hardest thing she ever did, and working out the implications of this faith in the details of her life took years.

So with this in mind I would revise the statement.  There are, in fact, other solutions that lead to change, but these do not lead to changes that honor God.  The statement would be more accurate if I had written, “There is no ultimate solution to our problem and no faithful process of change other than the one God has provided.”