Is there a sin gene?

A Review of Chapter 8: The Influences on the Human Heart by Jeff Forrey and Jim Newheiser in Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling.

The authors of this outstanding chapter discuss the physical and social influences upon human choices and behavior. They tackle the social and genetic determinism that is so often used to excuse sinful attitudes and actions, but they do so in a beautifully balanced way. I’d describe this chapter as:

Honest: Jim discusses his own counseling journey, moving from a classically nouthetic view to a much more holistic view of our human nature, our problems, and the solutions to them.

Compassionate: A sincere acceptance and description of the impact of social history and bodily factors. A recognition that the body can affect the soul and vice versa.

Biblical: While accepting genetic and social influences, rejecting the idea of them as determinative of human behavior.

Constructive: Five scriptural principles that help us interact with people who struggle with bodily weaknesses PLUS five scriptural principles that help us deal with people who have difficult relationship influences.

Encouraging: Both  counselors and counselees should be greatly encouraged by the way the Bible frames and interprets genetic and social factors in such a way that promotes both loving sympathy and strong hope for strugglers.

Previous Posts in this Series

Introduction: Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling

1. John Piper on Biblical Counseling

2. Charity and Clarity in Counseling 

3. The Counselor’s Role in the Holy Spirit’s Counseling

4. Is the Trinity Relevant in Counseling

5. Counseling and the Grand Narrative of the Bible

6. Biblical Counseling and the Sufficiency of Scripture

7. The Spiritual Anatomy of the Soul

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The Perils of Multitasking
“Some of the greatest threats of multitasking are not, like those posed by texting and driving, to life and limb, but to the meaning – of lack thereof – of life itself.”

These Teenage Girls Are Some of the Most Promising Scientists of the Future
Some fantastic finalists at the Google Science Fair. And just in case that inspired you, here’s the $10,000 Technology Degree.

Christians put B&B up for sale after death threats
Another homosexual “victory.”

The Real Navy Yard Scandal
Conservative pundit and former Psychiatric doctor, Charles Krauthammer, reflects on society’s abandonment of the mentally ill. I’m afraid many parts of the church aren’t much better.

Ask RC: What is R2k Theology
“At their worst, however, R2K theology can silence the prophetic voice of the church.  While many R2K advocates would be comfortable with individual Christians speaking to the great moral issues of our day, the church is forbidden to do so. ”

Art, Nakedness, and Redemption
Bill Vandoodewaard: “To reject nudity in art and film is no denial of artistic ability, nor of created beauty. It is a realistic, careful, humble acknowledgment of God’s redemptive work in Christ and His precepts for a grace transformed, holy, happy life in a fallen world.”

Kingdom of Darkness
Doug Page is a Southern Baptist physician who’s given his life to help heal the physical and spiritual wounds of a Central Asian people living in darkness.

Three New Books on Pastoral Ministry

You Lift Me UpYou Lift Me Up by Al Martin
Al Martin has been my mentor from a distance for many years. I listened to innumerable cassettes of his sermons when I was just converted in the late 1980′s, and when I entered the ministry in 1995, I devoured his pastoral theology lectures. Although I’ve continued to listen to his sermons on, I always wished he would write some books. Well, now, in the latter years of his ministry we are beginning to see the ripe fruit of decades in the pastorate appearing in print form. His latest book is Al Martin at his best, as he identifies three ministry challenges – ministerial backsliding, ministerial burnout, and credibility washout – and proposes various preventative and curative measures. As always with Pastor Martin, the book combines a deep spirituality with huge doses of common sense. I loved the sections on the pastor’s humanity and the need to care for our bodies. If pastors don’t read this now, they will need it later. This book is already available in the UK and will soon be available in the US.

pastors-justificationThe Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson
Jared has not been a pastor for quite as long as Pastor Martin – who has? – but has also written a book that will encourage many beat-up pastors. It’s less immediately practical than Al Martin’s book, but Jared’s aim is the long-term application of Gospel truths to the minister’s life and work. It continues in the rich vein of many Gospel-centered books that have come out over recent years, with this one being specifically focused on applying the Gospel to pastors. I especially enjoyed the biographical examples that helped demonstrate how Jared has practiced what he’s preaching in this book. If I was a discouraged and struggling pastor, I’d buy both of these books, Martin’s and Wilson’s, and read them together for a holistic approach to pastoral challenges. In fact, better still, buy them before you hit the wall.

Labor of loveA Labor of Love by Stephen Yuile
The puritan minister, George Swinnock, penned sixteen wishes, sixteen heartfelt desires for his own pastoral ministry. Stephen Yuile extracts the essence of these, sums them up in chapter headings such as “A Royal Ambassador,” “A Skilled Physician,” A Diligent Student,” etc., and expounds them over a few pages for a modern audience. He also includes a beautiful sermon by Swinnock on Acts 20, “The Pastor’s Farewell,” preached upon his departure from his own congregation. This is a more devotional book than the previous two, and would work well as part of a pastor’s daily devotional reading with each of the 16 chapters in part one being only a few pages in length.

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Losing is good for you
Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program.

Ask “What’s strong?” not “What’s wrong?”
“A study of people being videotaped while learning to bowl illustrates this nicely. Half of the group watched videotapes of their spares and strikes while the other half watched videos where they failed to knock all the pins down. When they bowled again later, the group who had watched the positive videos outperformed the other group significantly.”

Adoption Plans
Some of you will remember praying for Martin Alan, the baby son of president, Steven Lee. Not only is Martin now doing really well, but the experience has inspired the Lees to adopt a Chinese baby girl with severe heart defects. It’s amazing how God can bring so much good out of so much pain.

Killing Jesus
Well worth reading Tim Challies’ review of a book that’s going to be much talked about in the next few months.

5 Reasons Christians Do Not Visit The Sick And Dying
“One of the most important tasks in a pastor’s ministry is one of the most neglected:  Going to hospitals to care for the sick and dying.  It has practically become a lost art in the younger generations of pastors.  Why is this?  Here are 5 of the most common reasons Christians do not go to hospitals and visit the sick and dying.”

PhD’s In Peril
Scary Infographic.

The Power of Preaching
Paul Wolfe’s testimony is something I hear again and again from those who have gone through great trial. He’s also written a great book, My God Is True, on the lessons he learned while suffering with cancer.

An Addendum to Crazy Busy?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kevin DeYoung’s new little book, Crazy Busy. It’s especially good in diagnosing the spiritual roots of the over-busyness or workaholism that many of us have a tendency to fall into. It’s also well-written – such an enjoyable read.

However, Tim Challies,  Aaron Armstrong, and others identified a weakness that I didn’t really pick up on when I read it, and it’s the book’s incompleteness. It’s lacking in practical remedies. And the one suggested, more quiet time with the Lord, just seems to add another to-do to the already endless list. It suggests that while the author has analyzed the problem, maybe he hasn’t yet discovered or lived the solution.

That could have been solved by Kevin telling us how he fixed the problem: how many things he stopped doing, how many things he said “No” to, how he decides what to say “Yes” to, and how he is managing that change.

However, although the book doesn’t take us to the finishing line, I did find that the wide-ranging, heart-searching diagnosis helped me to identify sins to be repented of that will, I hope, produce ongoing fruit in my life. That was invaluable.

An Addendum?
I’ve not mastered “busyness” myself and fully expect a lifelong battle to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but here are some practical ideas that have helped me over the past few years. Obviously they are ministry focused, but many of them can be applied more generally as well:

1. Listen to your family. Ask your family, your wife and kids, if they think you’ve got work in the right place and if you’re giving them enough time.

2. Listen to your body. Have you been suffering a series of health problems? Is your body bearing up under the stress or is it beginning to break up as you wear out your machinery? 

3. Take one full day off work every week. “Six days you shall labor” applies to pastors as well. And if you are a pastor, Sunday does not count as your “sabbath.” You need a real day off.

4. Set a reasonable number of working hours per week, stick to it, and give an account for it to your wife or a friend. Treat time like money: budget it, spend less than you take in, and constantly review.

5. Allocate a couple of limited time windows a day for email. I try to do 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the late afternoon and keep it shut down in between. I also set aside an hour a week for answering more complex emails.

6. Turn off all social media notifications. Decide how much you are going to spend on social media, blogs, etc each day, and enforce it by running a large visible timer on your computer or device.

7. Take a regular vacation that is kept totally free of work. No matter how much you enjoy work, writing, etc., you need a total break.

8. Schedule daily exercise time with a mix of weights and aerobic exercises. Although that seems to be adding something major to the day, it actually ends up making you much more decisive and efficient in your work.

9. Set up a small accountability group (2-3 people) that you share your calendar with, and run every ministry opportunity (writing books, speaking engagements, etc.) past them. Let them help you decide what to say “No” to. If you are a pastor, agree a set number of days away each year at conferences, etc., and stick with it.

10. Set a time every evening that you will not work past if you are at home.

11. Keep regular sleeping hours, going to bed and rising at the same time each day, and taking a minimum of seven hours sleep.

What else have you found helpful that could be added to the addendum?

PS: If you want a good laugh, watch Kevin and Justin Taylor’s video interview and especially watch the outtakes.

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Growing Up With An Autistic Brother In The 1990′s
“Today approximately one in 88 children are identified as on the autism spectrum. But in 1990, autism was just a blip on the radar. You didn’t hear about support groups, special training for educators, clinical studies. All that a small autistic child had was his family.”

Making Our Home In God’s Land
An extract from Nancy Guthrie’s Son of God.

Pastoral Lessons Learned in Great Tragedy
Lessons from an extra-marital affair, a house-fire, and attempted murder.

Bible Reading Shifts Towards Internet
“Four in ten Bible readers (41%) used the Internet on a computer to read Bible content during the past year, while 29% searched for Bible verses or Bible content on a smart phone or cell phone, 26% listened to an audio version of the Bible, 26% listened to a teaching about the Bible via podcast, and 17% read an electronic version of the Bible on an e-reader such as a Kindle or iPad.”

Google Hangout with Dr. Sinclair Ferguson
This Friday at 12pm ET, I’ll be joined by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Ligonier Teaching Fellow and former senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, S.C., for a conversation on pastoral ministry, some of the concerns facing the evangelical church, and an update on what ministry looks like for him since his retirement.

Eating, Body Image, and the Gospel
Amie Patrick: “In retrospect, I’m tremendously grateful for my struggles with food and body image because God, in his great mercy, used them to bring me to the end of myself. I was a high-achieving, performance-driven young woman who hadn’t faced many challenges I couldn’t figure out how to overcome in my own strength.”

Why Should You Support 20 Schemes
Here’s an old friend from Scotland telling us why this outreach ministry to the Scottish housing schemes (projects) is worthy of our support.