CK2:12 A conversation with Nancy Guthrie

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Author and speaker Nancy Guthrie pays us a visit on this week’s Connected Kingdom podcast. We talk about Nancy’s teaching ministry to women, and especially her Bible Study books on Christ in the Old Testament. Nancy also explains how the Lord used the loss of two infant children to move her and her husband David to host regular retreats for other bereaved parents. You can watch David and Nancy glorify God as they talk with Joni about Holding on to Hope in the midst of this suffering.

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Barna Report: How technology is influencing families

Fascinating new report just published by the Barna Group on the impact of technology on families. You can read a summary here, but here are the major findings.

1. Parents are just as dependent on technology as are teens and tweens.

2. Most family members, even parents, feel that technology has been a positive influence on their families.

3. Very few adults or youth take substantial breaks from technology.

4. Families experience conflict about technology, but not in predictable ways.

5. Few families have experienced—or expect—churches to address technology.

Re #5 you may want to have a look at this DVD or this book.


CrossReference: A brand plucked from the fire

Here’s the ninth in our preview series of ten films on the Old Testament appearances of Christ in the Old Testament. This week we look at how Christ defends the indefensible in Zechariah 3.

The first two videos will be permanently available online. (Episode 1, Episode 2). The remaining episodes will be released once a week for the next seven  weeks. Each of them will be available for online viewing for seven days.

DVD, HD download, and Study Guide available now from HeadHeartHand Media. DVD and Study Guide also available from Ligonier, and RHB.

Fear and the brain

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Bob Kellemen over recent months, both electronically and in person. Bob is probably the most balanced and careful biblical counselor that I’ve come across (he’s also got enough energy for five men!). He blogs at RPM Ministries, and has written a number of excellent books such as Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the suffering (a fascinating survey of counseling lessons from the suffering Black Church), and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. He’s also heading up the Biblical Counseling Coalition with Pastor Steve Viars. It’s quite a broad group, with various counseling perspectives represented on its Council and at its blog. However, with some discernment you’ll find some great resources there.

Bob recently linked to a fascinating article by Christian Psychologist Phil Monroe, on The Physiology of Fear. What pleased me so much about this post was Phil’s explanation of the physical dimensions of fear, the way the brain’s architecture and chemistry contribute to a person’s experience of fear and anxiety.

I’m so encouraged that increasing numbers in the Biblical Counseling movement are increasingly willing to allow their presuppositions to be influenced by evidence. The over-reaction to science’s false claims about human personality that closed many minds to science’s legitimate discoveries is slowly re-balancing and moderating. True science is the friend of true presuppositions.

Where there’s still a lot of work to be done is on seeing science not just as a helpful part of the diagnosis, but also as part of the cure. For example, while Phil’s article gives four physical causes of fear and anxiety, when he comes to cure, he asks, “What do we do with fear from a spiritual standpoint?” and lists four answers. They are great answers, but it feels a bit lop-sided. Yes, because of the body’s mysterious connection with the spirit, some chemical, structural and pathway problems can be helped with spiritual answers. But might not some physical (chemical?) element contribute too.

I can paint my house with an artist’s fine brush. And I’ll eventually complete it. But I’d prefer to use a power-spray and enjoy life a bit more.

Should we practice preaching?

Very few good preachers begin as good preachers. Of the twenty or so practice preaching sermons that I listen to every semester, maybe one or two students have it all together: good intro, accurate exegesis, clear structure, appropriate illustrations, personal application, voice variation, body language, etc. Most have a lot of practice preaching ahead of them (don’t we all!).

And that word “practice” sometimes sticks in people’s throats. Practice preaching? Is that not a bit unholy or unspiritual?

Or maybe, practicing exegesis and related disciplines is OK, but surely not the speaking part. I mean, I don’t want to be an actor in the pulpit, do I!

No, we certainly don’t want to be actors. And if we are only putting on a certain voice for the pulpit, then that is indeed unnatural and pretty close to acting.

So what’s the solution? How do I improve my public speaking without putting on an act?

The answer is to improve your speaking in every day speaking.

If you have a monotone voice, then try consciously varying it up and down in one-to-one conversations (that’s what I’ve tried to do). If you have a quiet voice, try experimenting with different volumes at the dinner table. If you tend to give every word the same weight, try emphasizing important words the next time you talk to someone. If you tend to talk too fast, practice slowing down and pausing in normal life, etc.

In other words, practice preaching, by practicing when you are not preaching. That way, over time, these changes become natural, they become part of normal you, and acting is kept out of the pulpit.

I know someone who carried this a bit far and eventually ended up preaching at people in ordinary conversation. That was extremely painful!

So, yes, there are dangers to practicing. We must also avoid turning away from dependence upon the Holy Spirit and trusting in gifts or “wisdom of words.”

I don’t go along with everything in this article, but Peter Bubriski captures the essence of what I’m trying to say here:

Think of practicing speaking skills as practicing a sport. With a sport, you’re not pretending to be someone else. You are training your body and your mind to achieve feats of skill — building your muscle memory with drills and repetition…

…We speak of some athletes as artists in their field because they exercise their skills with a mastery that appears effortless. That is where the art and sport of great communication skills come together. As either an athlete or an artist, you have to practice over and over and over again so that you’re not thinking about the people in the stands watching your brilliant shot, not thinking about the people in the audience hearing your brilliant words, but just thinking: here’s how I always use my instrument when the “ball” comes my way.

With preaching, practice will never make perfect. But it may help get rid of some of the imperfections that impair effective preaching. As a preacher, that’s my responsibility. The rest, thankfully, is up to God.