Top 10 Books For Common Problems

In the next couple of weeks I hope to post a list of my top 10 biblical counseling books. However, today I want to post links to some books that I’ve found useful supplements when counseling people with common problems. Most of these are not Christian books, although a couple of them do have some Christian underpinnings (marked with an *). Read them all through the prism of God’s Word to get the best common grace wisdom out of them.  For more of my Top 10 Book lists go here.

Problem 1: “I can’t seem to concentrate.”

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winnifred Gallagher

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence by Daniel Goleman

Problem 2: “I’m too shy….too much of an introvert”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Problem 3: “I’m overwhelmed…There’s too much going on in my life.”

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels*

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Problem 4: “I’m paralyzed by all the choices…I find it difficult to choose”

The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

Problem 5: “I can’t stop doing this and I don’t understand why.”

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Problem 6: “My Finances Are Out of Control.”

The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey*

Problem 7: “I can’t end this relationship.”

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward by Henry Cloud*

Problem 8: “I’m Exhausted…I’m not sleeping enough.”

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson

Thrive by Arianna Huffington (for the sleep chapters not the ones on mindfulness).

Problem 9: “I don’t have any friends.”

Friendship Factor by Alan McGinnis*

Problem 10: “I can’t say ‘No’”

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No by Henry Cloud*

The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness by James Altucher

In addition to the Top 10, here are a few more books for common problems.

Problem 11: “I’m totally disorganized.”

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey

Problem 12: “I can’t get motivated”

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

Problem 13: “I procrastinate all the time.”

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore

Again, I emphasize, these are not replacements for good biblical counsel, but they can be useful supplements. They can help us see our need for biblical counsel, or fill out the details of general biblical principles; and they can also give us practical strategies and steps to implement that are consistent with biblical teaching.

How Successful People Stay Calm

Dr. Travis Bradbury, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, has listed 10 strategies that successful people use to deal with stress. In summary:

  • They Appreciate What They Have: People who work daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being.
  • They Avoid Asking “What If?” The more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control.
  • They Stay Positive. Give your brain a break from stress by identifying one positive thing that has happened, no matter how small.
  • They Disconnect. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors…Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline.
  • They Limit Their Caffeine Intake. Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, allowing your emotions to overrun your behavior.
  • They Sleep. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep.
  • They Squash Negative Self-Talk. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.
  • They Reframe Their Perspective. Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective.
  • They Breathe. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering.
  • They Use Their Support System. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it.

Read the whole article here.

“You are cured of MS!”

Some of you may recall how earlier this year I wrote about Trent Timmer, a young man in my congregation who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in June 2012. Through an amazing series of providences, Trent was admitted to a revolutionary treatment program that recently resulted in him being told by his doctor, “You are cured of MS!” His father, my friend Gary Timmer, wrote the following testimony to our congregation last Sunday and I wanted to share this God-glorifying witness with you.

Dear friends,

I want to tell you a truly blessed story of how the Lord made it possible that Trent Timmer had been told by Dr. Burt, from Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, on October 22, 2014, “You are cured of MS.”

Psalm 107:21-22

“Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!  And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.”

After many years of Trent going to multiple doctors, on June 6, 2012, Trent heard the devastating news that he had MS.

Of course the news was devastating for Trent. We as family felt like Trent’s life was in jeopardy. We really did not know how to comfort Trent because, as parents, having a child with a disease was something altogether new for us. Of course, we showed him all the love we could and directed him to put his care in God’s hands but we never could know what trial Trent was really going through.

Here are the steps God ordered for Trent’s recovery:

1. God made sure that a friend from church (Carol Prince) was listening to a certain radio station in which she heard about a certain procedure Dr. Burt was doing for cancer and MS. This seemingly little piece of information reminded me of the Bible story of the captive young girl who waited on Naaman’s wife. This girl told of a prophet that could heal her master. And with this small piece of information, great things happened. 2 Kings 5 verse 2-4.

2. Carol took note of this and told me at church.

3. I remembered and told Trent that evening.

4. Trent went online and applied to be included in this research study even though he did not meet the requirements which were that in the previous year he would have had to have been hospitalized twice, taking steroid injections. Trent had only had this procedure done once in the previous year.

5. God inclined the heart of the doctor to invite Trent to come to Chicago for an interview even though he did not qualify.  Julie, Trent and I went, but we wondered why Trent was invited when he did not meet the requirements of the study.

6. After Dr. Burt looked at a fresh MRI showing more spots on Trent’s brain, he spent less than 5 minutes with Trent and said “you don’t qualify for this study” and walked out of the room.

7. After Dr. Burt and the nurses interviewed many people to discuss who of the 48 people they would choose for this study, God inclined their hearts to decide to do a stem cell transplant on Trent. This was not part of the study but they decided to do this for him as a special case. They contacted us and told us the good news but said you must first send in $125,000 before we will schedule this. At this time I did not have the needed funds.

8. The Lord inclined the hearts of the people in our church to give at a special collection and also a group of young teenage girls had an idea to have a baked good sale to bring in a combined $35,000; a very generous gift from their hard work and hard earned money. We were told that if we could switch our insurance to a company “Aetna” there would be a possibility they would pay for the procedure. Julie (my wife) worked on this for 4 months and it seemed impossible. All this time Trent is becoming very anxious because if he would go into the next stage of MS, the Doctor would not do this procedure.

9. After hearing a sermon message, preached at church, about the Lord being in control of even the smallest details of our life, that evening Trent told me that even though he would not choose to have this disease, it had taught him to pray. This was a very great thing because now Trent was starting to look outside of human hands.

10. The next morning at 9:00 am, I got a phone call from a friend and he said that he had $90,000 for us so Trent could get this procedure done. There is absolutely no way the Lord did not incline this man’s heart to call at this time. Even a blind man with no eyes would be able to see this clearly. The man knew we needed this money but I believe God wanted Trent to come to a certain place in his life before this door would open.

11. We called the hospital and they got Trent in within 2 weeks. They told us to send in the $35,000 but wait on the $90,000 because “we think your new insurance company will accept you and will pay for the procedure.” Because of “Obama-Care” the insurance company had to take Trent even though he had pre-existing conditions. Our friend never had to write a check, and recently the $35,000 from the church was returned to the church. Friends of the family who live in Illinois offered use of their condo for the two month time frame that Trent would be in Chicago. The condo was located 2 blocks from the hospital.

12. God blessed this procedure. Every movement of the doctor’s hand and every cell in Trent’s body the Lord directed so Trent is cured today. When you see Trent, look at him as a walking testimony of what the Lord did for his body but also believe that He can do this for every soul that calls out to him. Mark 2:9 “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” He can make the impossibilities possible. The Bible is full of examples. He is the same God. When you don’t see a way out, search God’s word for a word from Him to you. He never will go back on His word. One word that God speaks to your soul is worth more than 10 thousand words from man.

Psalm 34:8

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”

Psalm 68:20

“He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.”

Thanks so much for praying for Trent!

The Lord heard YOUR prayer.


Trent’s father.

You can read more about Dr Burt and see videos about the treatment here. Once this treatment is approved and becomes available to many more, it will drastically cut the cost of MS treatment, which in many cases can amount to more than $100,000 a year in drug costs. 

R. C. Sproul and The World-Changing Power of the Simplest Truth

holiness of godInnumerable millions of Christians throughout the world have been blessed by R. C. Sproul’s writing and speaking ministry. His impact on global Christianity, indeed on the globe itself, is immeasurable. Sure, there are other Christian speakers and writers who are better-known, but none of them have managed to combine such geographical reach with such theological depth as Sproul has. He has a unique ability to teach the loftiest truths in an accessible manner.

He does break modern pedagogical rules. For example, he uses complicated words, Latin terms, philosophical concepts, and theological vocabulary; and yet he always manages to quickly explain them using simple short sentences, illustrations, and personal anecdotes before the reader or hearer switches off. He doesn’t treat his audience like academics; but he doesn’t treat them like dummies either. I’ve never read an author quite like him, who operates at a lofty academic level without appearing to show-off, and yet who also comes alongside the simple without being condescending.

Where did it begin?
Whenever we see a remarkable ministry like this, we often ask, “What explains this?” Although we ultimately trace all ability and blessing to heaven, we also look for the earthly means that God used to shape, fuel, and propel a teacher like Sproul and his teaching.

Where did it all begin?

It began in the beginning.

It began with, ”In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

In chapter 1 of The Holiness of God, Sproul relates how this verse rocked his world, and through him rocked the world.

He was a young Christian, struggling to stay awake in a boring and irrelevant philosophy lecture, when the lecturer referred to Augustine’s doctrine of creation and quoted Genesis 1:1.

Momentous and Moving
Although he had heard this verse many times before, and believed it, the Holy Spirit now took this truth far deeper into Sproul’s mind, heart, and soul than ever before, gripping him in the very core of his being and overwhelming him with the awesome holy power of God.  If you read the description of how Sproul’s mind went into orbit as he meditated on what it meant for God to create everything out of nothing with just soundwaves, you’ll read one of the most momentous and moving passages in all of Christian literature.

It’s such a soul-stirring account of the world-changing power of the simplest truth. When Sproul, “came back down to earth” he was never the same again. These short simple words, blessed by the Spirit of God, transformed him into a zealous student of God’s Holy Word, a passionate worshipper of God’s holiness, an ardent lover of God’s holy people, a stalwart defender of God’s holy doctrine, and a daily seeker of God’s Holy Spirit.

Trust in the Word
What an encouragement to pastors, teachers, and parents everywhere to put our trust in the bare Word of God, in the simplest truths of the Bible, and look to our Holy God to grip us, our churches, our communities, our friends, and our children, in a similar life- and world-transforming way.

12 Struggles Singles Face

When we hear the word “single” we usually think of one kind of single – someone maybe 25-50 who has not married. But there are other kinds of singles: widows, single parents, divorcees, those who suffer with same-sex attraction, and even those who are in loveless marriages – perhaps the most painful singleness of all. But for all singles, there are twelve struggles that must be faced at different stages and to different degrees:

1. Submission not rebellion: Accept and approve God’s will as good, right, and wise. That is not easy when every part of you is crying out for intimacy, as Fabienne Harford explained in Sex and The Single Woman:

In some ways—in dark and frightened places—I feel forgotten and betrayed and confused because I know he [God] knows me. I know he knows my body and my heart, and I know he designed and wired this desire inside of me.

2. Trust not anxiety: Rest in God’s provision now and for the future. Again, that’s extremely difficult, as actress Anne Hathaway explained in a recent interview:

Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.

3. Friendship not loneliness: First, cultivate friendship with Christ. Draw near to him through verses such as Jeremiah 3:14; 31:3; Haggai 2:23; Isa 62:12; Isa 43:4; 49:16; 54:5.

Fabienne Harford put it like this when speaking of her painful hunger for physical intimacy:

This pain has blessed me by forcing me to be all in with God: banking on him for my joy. Our God is a God of pleasure. He is not calling us to hunger because he wants us to be miserable. He is calling us to hunger because he wants us to experience the greatest pleasure available to man: himself.

Second, build strong friendships within your church family. Every single will tell you that the biggest help to living with singleness is friendship. Regarding those who fight against same-sex attraction, Corey Widmer issued this challenge to the church:

I’m now convinced any church that holds a traditional view of sexuality must also foster a radical practice of Christian community in which living out a biblical sexual ethic becomes possible and even attractive.

4. Opportunities not difficulties: Instead of focusing on the difficulties, use the single state to serve God and His people. It’s an opportunity to do things and go places that married people cannot do or go (1 Cor. 7:25ff).

Also, there are many lonely people you can serve and bless with understanding and sympathy. Fabienne Harford wrote of how the pain of lacking physical intimacy has become a gift that helps her serve others:

That pain has taught me how to hold my infertile friend and cry with her when Mother’s Day rolls around again. That pain has given weight to my words when I explain to a mom with three kids that Friday nights alone on your couch really aren’t as amazing as they sound.

5. Contentment not envy: Don’t be looking enviously or angrily at happily married couples. Although it looks picture-perfect as perfectly groomed children pour out of the minivans every Sunday morning, the reality is often very different. There are challenges and trials in every life situation.

6. Forgiveness not bitterness: Don’t get angry with God for His providence or with others for their insensitivity or thoughtless neglect of you.

7. Patience not rush: If your singleness is involuntary, don’t be so anxious to marry or re-marry that that you end up in a disastrous relationship. God provides escapes from temptation (1 Cor. 10:13), but the escape for you may not be marriage. As Jason Helopoulos said:

Loneliness in a godless marriage can be even more severe than the loneliness one experiences in singleness.

8. Hope not despair: God may change your state sooner than you think. So, don’t give up praying and hoping. Paul Mathies an unmarried church elder, expressed this hope:

Run after Jesus with all you are. Then, one day, you may look up and see a woman beside you running on the same path. But regardless of if that day comes, you gain Christ in the end, whether she comes or not.

Yes, God will definitely change it in the future when you will experience the closest possible marriage forever (Rev. 7:17; 19:7). Listen to these beautiful words forged in the fire of Fabienne’s singleness:

It might be that the pain of a life without physical intimacy was part of what equipped Paul to proclaim through the Spirit that to die is gain. To die is to gain a glorified body that feels and experiences the truth that all our needs are met in Jesus. To die is to gain the heavenly reality that earthly intimacy can only reflect in shadows. To die is to gain full oneness with God, fullness of joy, and pleasures forevermore.

9. Spiritual parenting not physical parenting: There are so many young men and women who would value your input into their lives as a mentor and model. You can become a spiritual mother or father without having any children of your own.

10. Spiritual identity not marital status: You are not defined by your marital status or your sexual orientation. You are defined by your spiritual identity – in Christ, a child of your heavenly Father.

11. Ask don’t assume: It’s a great mistake to assume that singleness is a punishment from God. However it may be that God is keeping you back from marriage because you have made an idol of it. Ask God to show you and deliver you, if this is the case. Also, ask friends if there’s anything really obvious to others, though not obvious to you, that may be putting others off.

12. Holiness not sin: You will often be tempted to sin mentally or even physically. Fabienne Harford wrote:

Singleness presents a series of hardships, but for me learning to live without physical intimacy has provided the biggest challenge and deepest suffering of this season.

Remember Jesus was able to live 33 single years, tempted in all points like as you are, and yet without sin. He is therefore able to sympathize, support, and strengthen you when are tempted.

He is THE SINGLE. He lived a life of perfect singleness and died a death of perfect singleness – experiencing the greatest possible sense of abandonment, desertion, and loneliness – so that we could be brought into the deepest marriage relationship of all.

Check out

Best Books

How People Change by Tim Lane and Paul Tripp $2.99

Renewing Your Mind: Basic Christian Beliefs You Need to Know by R C Sproul $3.03

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman $2.99

How to Stay Christian in Seminary by David Mathis and Jonathan Parnell $0.99

Am I Called? The Summons to Pastoral Ministry by Dave Harvey $0.99

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson $0.99

Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals by Trevin Wax $0.99

The Gospel In Ezekiel by Thomas Guthrie $1.99

John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Jonathan Aitken $0.99

Best Blogs

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6 Reasons Established Churches Should Plant Churches | The Exchange | A Blog by Ed Stetzer

Gushee is no martyr | Denny Burk

The No. 1 Reason Teens Keeps the Faith as Young Adults | Alex Chediak

Being Content with Saying No to Truly Good Opportunities – Blog – Eternal Perspective Ministries

Reasons to Study at a Seminary

7 Lessons Pastors Can Learn from the Mark Driscoll-Mars Hill Fallout by Todd Pruitt

The First 11 Minutes at Your Church – Eric Geiger

Taming The Email Beast | Tim Challies

If I could change Christian vocabulary: “Closed Canon”

Landing On A Comet, 317 Million Miles From Home

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