Check out

Blogs

Why Pastors Are Committing Suicide
“Pastor Tony Rose fell into a “deep hole of depression with obsessive thinking” when he was 31. It got so bad he couldn’t physically lift himself off the floor. “I began begging God for somebody who could speak a vocabulary that preached to my soul, and I couldn’t find anybody in the contemporary Christian world,” said Rose, who now pastors in Kentucky. “Then I stumbled onto the Puritans. And they’re known for a lot of things, but very few people actually read their writing on pastoral care.”"

7 Reasons Churches are Too Busy
“So how did churches get so busy? How did their calendars fill up so quickly that it left no breathing room for members and staff? There seems to be seven major contributing factors.”

3 Ways Technology Makes Us Anxious
“Here are three common problems—and gospel solutions—to address our technology-driven angst.”

How to Connect Sermon Application to People’s Jobs
“Believers often wonder how they can serve God and neighbor at work, and often doubt the value of their work. But pastors can help, and the strategic sermon illustration is a leading tool in our arsenal. A good illustration is like a parable, presenting a case that is both particular and universal, specific and common.”

Why You Should Thank God That Your Kids Are Mediocre Athletes

“Thank God that your kids haven’t displayed the athletic prowess necessary to trick you into spending a fortune you don’t have for a dream that will almost certainly never materialize.”

Kindle Books

An Infinite Journey: Growing toward Christlikeness by Andrew Davies $0.99.

Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard $0.99.

Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem by Jay Richards $1.99

Video

Awesome story of teen girl triumphing over adversity


The Big Picture Jesus

Most biographies start with a person’s past. Presidential biographies not only go back to the president’s first job, or where he went to school, or even where he was born. No, the author usually starts with the president’s parents, or grandparents. In fact, usually he goes as far back as records allow.

Why? Why so much interest in people and places that existed and lived hundreds of years before the president?

Partly it’s because we want to trace the important influences on the president’s ancestors. We recognize that a president’s genes, characteristics, interests, personality, etc., were all shaped by his family history and even geography.

But it’s also because we want to see a plan. We want to be able to look back many years and sense the guiding hand of Providence in a person’s story, even before they were part of the story. Biographers look for decisions, events, and characters, both big and small, that demonstrate the Divine Hand preparing the way for this remarkable person’s arrival on earth. He’s looking for evidence of a plan, a pattern, or a sense of destiny that can be traced way back, through centuries, perhaps.

Presidential candidates often attempt this in their own autobiographies. For example: Dreams of my Father by Barak Obama, Faith of my Fathers by John McCain, etc.  They want us to connect them with the past, because they all want us to see that they were “predestined” to this, that this was part of a higher plan they had little or no say in. They’re saying, “I’m not just an accident or a coincidence! I have a story, a long and important story, that Someone else is writing for me.”

The Gospels

That’s why the first chapter of the first Gospel, starts with a summary genealogy of Jesus’ ancestors. Although most people just skip over the first seventeen verses of Matthew and go straight to the baby scene, Matthew is saying: “Hey, this is important. Here’s a thumbnail sketch of this baby’s past. Now, go back, read the details, and see how this birth day is not just a combination of good luck and probability. Under God’s direction, many people, places, and events have prepared the way for this day. And if you really want to figure out who this baby is, what his purpose is, and what you should do with him, you have to go back and read about all that led up to this event.”

But not many do. Some might dip into the Psalms and Proverbs here and there, and perhaps read a couple of inspiring chapters in Isaiah from time to time, etc. But it’s like picking up the odd piece of a jigsaw puzzle, admiring it for a few minutes, then throwing it back in the box again. There’s rarely much attempt to put it all together, see the bigger picture, and identify the way that the Old Testament connects with the New, prepares for the New, sheds light on the New, and even makes sense of the New.

As this disjointed and fragmentary approach to the Bible leads to a disjointed and fragmentary spirituality, let me give you four reasons to study the Big Picture of both Testaments.

Understanding Jesus better

First, the Big Picture helps us understand Jesus better. Whenever a President is asked what books have influenced them, his answer immediately propels that book to the top of the bestsellers list. People want to understand what went into the making of such a successful person, and also to see if the book will have a similar powerful effect on their lives.

The biggest influence on Jesus’ beliefs, language, decisions, spirituality, morality, and actions  was the Old Testament. Brought up in a devout Jewish home by a godly mother and father, He was immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. He heard them, read them, memorized them, sang them, obeyed them, quoted them, consciously and deliberately fulfilled them, and regularly taught them to others. No other book had anything like this influence upon Him. It’s so hard, if not impossible, to understand much of what Jesus said and did without reading the book that shaped Him more than anything else in the world. It’s like putting a few central pieces of the jigsaw together but not even trying to complete the rest. If you complete the rest, you will see Jesus in a whole new light, you’ll see how each piece of the jigsaw connects so beautifully and necessarily with all the other pieces, even some of the oldest pieces.

Revealing more of Jesus

Second, the Big Picture reveals more of Jesus to us. What if I told you that I’d found 39 “Bonus” Gospels, 39 books that not only describe how the world and church were prepared for Christ, but are actually full of Christ? Yes, in the Old Testament, the Son of God was present and active long before his incarnation, revealing Himself to needy sinners via prophecies, pictures, precepts, and especially by His personal presence.

This is where Christ’s biography differs radically from every other biography. When we read about His past in the Old Testament we are not just reading about His background or His ancestors; we are reading about Him. When He was encouraging the Pharisees to read the Old Testament, the reason He gave was, “They testify of me” (John 5:29). These books were speaking about Him, telling people about Him, drawing people to put faith in Him, even before He was born! “Moses wrote of me” said Jesus (Jn. 5:46). That’s almost 1500 years before Bethlehem! Traveling even further back to 2000 BC, Abraham “saw” Christ’s day way down the road of faith and rejoiced (John 8:56).

But Christ was not just seen by forward-looking faith. He was actually there in the Old Testament and seen with human eyes. He frequently came to earth to minister to His people as the Angel (or Messenger) of the Lord, a divine person who often appeared in human form to bring messages of grace and merciful help to needy sinners. 39 Bonus Gospels!

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

Third, the Big Picture builds confidence in God’s Sovereignty. The more you see the big all-encompassing and unchanging redemptive plan of God, the more you will trust in God’s sovereignty. When you see that no event was accidental, that every event was planned and part of the preparation for the Christ, that God has only a Plan A and it’s being perfectly accomplished, we can begin to trust Him better with our past, our present, and our future. If all I see are disconnected fragments, faith fails, especially in trial. But if I see that God has every piece in His hand and he knows exactly where to put it and when, and that it’s forming a beautiful big picture of Christ, that buttresses faith in a God who is in total and utter control of the world and of my world.

Making sense of our stories

Fourth, the Big Picture helps us make sense of our stories. In Christ-centered Biblical Counseling, counselor John Henderson corrects Reggie who tried to help Maggie’s suffering by quoting scattered Bible verses from here and there. He argues that we must always counsel within the grand narrative of Scripture, that these individual verses will never make sense to Maggie unless she gets The Story behind the verses. He compares Reggie’s approach to his own with this illustration:

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.”[1]

As Henderson says, everybody has a story that they use to explain the world and their world. But “God’s revelation is The Story  meant to help us see clearly and interpret everything else….God’s story interprets, confronts, reshapes, and even redeems or condemns all our stories.”

When we are swept into God’s Story, God becomes the center of the story; and when God is the center of the story, it’s much easier to see how every part of my story is connected to His, how everything harmonizes, as Henderson again illustrates:

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.”

If you see the Big Picture, you’ll increasingly hear the beautiful harmony of God’s Story, and you’ll sense your life’s many fragments coming together with grand purpose, new unity, and comforting cohesiveness.



[1] All quotes taken from John Henderson, “The Grand Narrative of the Bible.” Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2013), 80-81.


Check out

Blogs

The LGBT fraud has been exposed, and they’re definitely not happy about it | Opinion | LifeSite
Two bombshells have exploded that have shattered two homosexual myths, and the opinion-makers haven’t yet controlled its fall-out.

22 Prayers for Your Bible Reading
“Reading the Bible before praying is like putting the cart before the horse.”

Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith
The four most prominent reasons that people raised in Christian homes eventually leave Christianity behind.

Rutherford’s regrets
In a letter to John Fleming, Bailie of Leith, Samuel Rutherford lists a number of concerns about his attitudes and actions.

Kindle Books

For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word by Don Carson $2.99.

The First Thanksgiving: What the Real Story Tells Us About Loving God and Learning from History by Robert Mackenzie $2.99.

How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth by Christopher Wright $3.99.

Video

What’s Your Biggest Fear in Ministry?
“Kynes talks about what he calls “fears of the flesh” and what it would mean to lose his sense of conviction in the Christian faith. Núñez relates Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians to his own fears—that his own church would misunderstand him, abandon the gospel, or not grow in unity. Akin shares about his fear of following the unfaithfulness of others he’s known personally.”


Check out

Blogs

I’m A Modern Woman Who Loves My Church’s All-Male Pastors Rule
This was on the Federalist website! As the writer says, although she believes this is the biblical order, here she offers a more pragmatic argument.

Depressed and Thankful: Six Ways to Find Joy | Desiring God
“A melancholy side to my personality makes me prone to see the glass as half empty. I realize that for many individuals medication is truly necessary. But the weapon that has made the most difference in my life in fighting depression, and something we can all benefit from, is gratitude.”

Refusing To Serve People You Don’t Agree With Is Suddenly Not Bigotry
“Remember how it was the height of bigotry for religious objectors to decline to participate in a gay wedding? But now it’s brave to decline to sell Melania Trump a dress.”

Life Changing Sermons | Nick Batzig
“Here are what I would consider to be 10 life changing sermons that I’ve heard (either in person or online) over the past 15 years:”

Your Best Sermons are Your Least Favorite | Nick Macdonald
A short post with a powerful point:

The sermons I’ve liked least, congregants have liked most. Why? Because what I value as a preacher is often at odds with what congregants value. For me, I value: Excellence. Fluidity. Choice Words and Phrases. Consistency: nothing deviates from my plan or point. No stuttering, no wandering, nothing unpredictable or unexpected. But the congregation often values something else: Electricity. Authenticity. Spontaneity. Genuine Connection. A moment being shared, for the first time, together. In other words: congregants value the sense that their presence is what makes a sermon work.

The Common Sin of Middle Age Believers | Gentle Reformation
Barry York says it’s spiritual complacency and offers helpful advice for overcoming it.

Kindle Books

Loving the Way Jesus Loved by Phil Ryken $3.99. An excellent book.

A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul Miller.

Video

The Effect of Prayer and Being Present Has on a Troubled Community


Check out

Blogs

How to Make a Bad Decision | Freakonomics
Podcast and transcript on some of the science behind our decisions.

5 Common Marriage Counseling Mistakes | Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation
“The next time you encounter a difficult couple in counseling, remember this advice: slow down, set concrete goals, get at the heart, don’t force change, and use your resources. Not only will you be better equipped for helping the man and woman who come to you for counsel, you will be less frustrated and will better understand the issues at hand.”

Elephant and Man at Harvard | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson
Post-election, Harvard admits its idealogical uniformity among students and staff.

The most glaring ideological diversity deficit among undergraduates is the relatively small number of students who identify as conservative. In the election survey, fewer than 13 percent of respondents described themselves as “somewhat” or “very” conservative, compared to over 70 percent describing themselves as “somewhat” or “very” liberal.

Speech for the Yale Political Union
Staying with the Ivy League, Elizabeth Bruenig makes the case for religion in government.

Psychiatry Professor: ‘Transgenderism’ Is Mass Hysteria Similar To 1980s-Era Junk Science
“A disorder of gender identity that afflicts a minuscule number of Americans has become a polarizing cultural cause celebre. Its influence—in capturing public attention and demanding social change—has been extraordinary, out of all proportion to the numbers of the gender-dissatisfied.”

We Cannot Complain About America if We Do Not Listen to Others | Sayable
Lore Ferguson recommends books to help us listen to and understand people from very different Americas to our own.

None of these books solve the crisis of divide at hand here, but they do give us a small glimpse into what “the other side” might be thinking or processing or what has bolstered their belief in what’s right.

Parenting Myths We Are All Tempted To Believe | Tim Challies
“The truth is that even the perfect environment offers no guarantees of successful parenting, that raising godly children is not the ultimate goal of your life, and that you are dependent upon others in raising your children. It is far, far better this way. It frees us to make use of means and methods without enduring the tyranny of impossible, idolatrous expectations.”

Miscarriage Changed Me | Desiring God
“My palms were beginning to sweat. The walls seemed to be closing in around me. I tightened my grip around my husband’s hand as the cold wand slid across my abdomen in search of life. Instead of the rapid thump of our baby’s heartbeat, a deafening silence filled the room. “I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.”"

Pessimism May Be Bad for Your Heart | The New York Times
“A pessimistic attitude increases the risk for death from heart disease, a new study reports, while an optimistic view of the world may have no effect at all.”

New Book

The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids by Nancy Guthrie. I’ve had a look at this book, and highly recommend it.

In The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, trusted author Nancy Guthrie weaves together wisdom and insight from each day’s reading in The One Year Bible, providing encouragement through the triumphs and turbulence of parenting. Day by day you’ll find your dreams and desires for your children are becoming shaped more by Scripture than by the culture around you. Worry less, pray more, and help yourself to a daily dose of perspective, hope, and grace as you parent.


A Counselor’s Checklist

As my Foundations of Biblical Counseling course comes to a close we’ve started to put some of the principles we’ve learned into practice. Although it has its limitations, we use role-playing to help students learn how to ask questions. The scenario we’re working on right now is:

Tim is 19 years old. He’s had a Christian upbringing and made a profession of faith a year ago. However, his parents are deeply concerned about what they call his “addiction to technology” which they say is affecting many areas of his life. They told him that they would be contacting you to ask if you would speak to him about it. Tim agreed to this because although he feels that his parents are exaggerating things, he does see some problems in his relationship to technology.

We split into groups with one student acting as the counselor, another as Tim the counselee, and the others watch and take notes with regular pauses for feedback. The class then comes together to discuss the lessons learned from the sessions.

Which all raises the questions: How can we measure or grade counseling skills? And how can the students know if they are making progress in their counseling abilities?

In an attempt to answer such questions, the students were tasked with producing a counselor’s checklist, or rubric, based upon all that they had learned in the course so far. I chose the most comprehensive submission, which used the Tripp/CCEF structure of Love, Know, Speak Do. I then supplemented it with input from the other assignments to come up with this counselor’s checklist (with thanks to my assistant, Jo de Blois, for her help in typesetting and layout).

We’re now using this to grade the students’ counseling and to act as a checklist for them in their initial counseling sessions. Ultimately the aim is for this checklist to be internalized so that the counseling process becomes more natural and instinctive.

Feel free to use this checklist yourselves. Also, I’d welcome any input on how it could be improved or enhanced.

Counselor’s Checklist pdf

checklist-1checklist-2