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Theological Training
John Brand, Principal of the Faith Mission College in Edinburgh, reflects on the identity crisis in theological education.

“Jay Adams is deep and compassionate”
My very uncontroversial friend, Bob Kellemen, has a rather controversial post today. Check it out and let me/him know what you think.

The Demise of Guys
TED talk on male arousal addiction by Psychologist Philip Zimbardo. “Zimbardo cites excessive internet use, video gaming, and online porn as causes of this new addiction. By age 21, boys spend 10,000 hours gaming, two-thirds of that time in isolation. The average young man watches 50 porn clips per week.”

The Quiet Joys of the Introvert
Introverts of the world, rejoice!

Financial crisis or empathy crisis?
Arianna Huffington says that the world isn’t suffering from a financial crisis, or a eurozone crisis, or a confidence crisis as much as from a crisis of empathy. Her prescription? “Slow down, unplug, and get a lot more sleep. You’ll better understand and really connect with the people around you — and that, more than stimulus of the monetary or intellectual sort — is the key to making the world a better place.”

Filming Forests with a drone
Is it possible to watch something like this without coveting?

Counseling yourself

Summary: One of the best ways to learn how to counsel others is to learn how to counsel yourself by knowing your Bible, heart, body, past, social character, personality type, and learning style.

There are many ways to learn how to counsel: books, lectures, watching/learning from other counselors, and of course the actual practice of counseling others. All of these are vital components of a counseling education. But the best counselors of others are those who have learned how to counsel themselves first of all. I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones who said that the secret to the Christian life was to “learn how to preach to yourself.”

The best counselors understand themselves, their personalities, their hearts, their strengths, their weaknesses, their limitations, their vulnerabilities, etc., and they have learned how to address these needs with God’s Word and God’s Works from God’s World.

So, what does self-counseling involve?

1. Knowing our Bible
The Bible must have priority and primacy in all that we do. It is the only infallible guide and teacher in the world. If we start with ourselves, we are starting with error. But of course it is our error-filled and error-prone minds that process the Bible. That’s why we so much need prayer and the Holy Spirit in all our Bible study (1 Cor. 2:10, 11).

2. Knowing our heart
I know of no better example of self-counseling than Joe Thorn’s excellent book, Note to Self: The discipline of preaching to yourself. Please read and re-read that little book of “heart-surgery” to understand the kind of spiritual dialogue that you should be having with yourself continually. And that in turn will be a huge help to you in ministering God’s Word to others.

3. Knowing our body
But there’s more to self-counseling than preaching God’s Word to yourself. We are not just spiritual beings; we are also physical and social beings. And sometimes our needs are more physical and social than spiritual. The best self-counselors understand their bodily and social needs as well as their spiritual needs, and they also understand the mysterious interaction of these realms of need. Our physicality affects our spirituality. As our weight, our health, our fitness, and our sleep all impact how we think and feel, we must get to know our bodies.

4. Knowing our past
Have a good think about all the factors in your past that have gone into shaping who you are. Your parents, your education, your values, and your experiences all impact who you have become, how you speak, how you think, how you feel, how you act. This is not some Freudian rubbish; it’s basic common sense. And again, the more we can grasp the impact of the past on our present and our future, the better placed we will be to understand, sympathize with, and help others as they move from past and present problems into the future.

5. Knowing our social character
Perhaps using Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church, get to know the difference between extroverts and introverts, place yourself on the extro/intro scale and it will help you to understand others much better too.

6. Knowing our personality type
Knowing what kind of personality we have will also be a huge help in self-counseling. Questions to consider are: Do you like active or passive roles? Are you task-oriented or people-oriented? How do you respond to challenges and problems? What roles do you take on in a group? What are the strengths of your personality? What are your weaknesses? Are you a one-way or two-way communicator? One of the ways to find out about ourselves is to ask others or to consider the criticisms we’ve received from others over the years. Understanding the wide range of different personalities that exist and the way that personality impacts every area of life will be a huge help to you in counseling.

7. Knowing our learning style
Some learn by watching and listening, others by feeling and experiences, others by thinking, and still others by doing. If we are data learners, lots of practical work will be wasted on us. But if we learn mainly by doing, then lots of book work will be pointless. If we can grasp our own learning style, we will better identify the learning style of others, and help them to learn from us.

Conclusion: One of the best ways to learn how to counsel others is to learn how to counsel yourself by knowing your Bible, heart, body, past, social character, personality type, and learning style.

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The State of the Pulpit
Strong? Weak? Indifferent?

Although many will answer “No” to Mike’s questions, there are enough “Yes’s” around to justify the questions.

Real women don’t text back
How women fuel the Man-boy problem

Meet the marriage-killer
No, it’s not adultery. It’s nagging. And it’s definitely NOT a problem in my home (HT Challies)

What the debates say about America
Is there anything Kevin DeYoung is bad at?

Should Steve Jobs have been a nicer CEO?
You can’t help but ask this question as you read his bio.

Embracing Adversity

Is parting such sweet sorrow?

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” is one of Shakespeare’s oft-quoted lines. What few realize is that it was uttered in the context of Juliet saying goodnight to Romeo “till it be tomorrow.” The sorrow of that parting was sweetened by the knowledge that it was only for a few hours.

But what about those partings from loved-ones that will be for years and years? There is nothing sweet and plenty bitter about such partings. What unmixed sorrow when a dying husband has to kiss his wife and children goodbye for the last time! What bitterness when soldiers on the way to Afghanistan have to say goodbye to their family and friends! What agony when a pastor and his beloved flock have to part, in  response to God’s providential call, and sever the bond of love built up over years! Such partings are not “sweet sorrow,” but usually bitter, bitter, bitter.

The Lord Jesus also knew the deep sorrow of parting from His beloved family and flock on this earth. Time and again, He cautioned them that He had to “go away” (John 16:7). This was not easy for them; but neither was it easy for Him.

The pain of missing them
For Jesus, there was a double sorrow in this parting. First, there was the pain of missing the disciples’ company. Over the years, He had come to love them, and even to need and to depend upon them. As a man, He enjoyed their friendship. He took pleasure in their conversation and delighted in their varied characters and personalities. He loved seeing their faces with their ever-changing expressions. When He heard their familiar voices, He could tell what mood they were in. He delighted to see any hints of spiritual growth and appreciated their unique spiritual gifts. He wanted them with Him on earth (Matt. 26:37) and He wanted them with Him in heaven (John 17:24). But now there was the pain of parting from them for a time. How He would miss them, and what pain this caused Him, even in anticipation.

This bitter thought of missing His disciples, though, was partially sweetened for Christ by the knowledge that He was going to heaven, where all His pain and sorrow would be over. He was going to be with His glorified people, where the friendships and fellowship would be perfect and permanent. This, for Christ, somewhat sweetened the sorrow of parting.

The pain of paining them
Second, there was the pain of causing His flock pain. Jesus was not selfish. He was not thoughtless about those He was to leave behind. He cared deeply for His disciples and would have done anything, apart from disobeying His Father, in order to make them happy. The thought of His disciples feeling the aching void of His absence and shedding even one tear over it affected Him deeply and troubled His sensitive soul. “Because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:6). As a perfectly sympathetic High Priest, He felt their painful feelings even more acutely than they did!

How He wished He could be in two places at once!

But wait … He could!

Not physically, but spiritually! Not in His body, but by His Spirit! Not a localized bodily presence, but a worldwide spiritual presence! This would be even better than being with His disciples one by one! “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Here, Jesus promises His sorrowing disciples that by His Spirit He would come to them, fellowship with them, and comfort them. The dying husband, the departing soldier, and the called pastor may wish they could do the same. They may wish that they could leave their spirit behind to continue the relationship and so sweeten the sorrow of physical parting. They can’t.

But Christ can, and did, and does.

Dear, lonely, sorrowing Christian, Christ promises, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18). Even in dread-filled anticipation of life’s partings, such plain words sugar the emotions: “I will come to you.”

Take all the bitter sorrow of this world’s partings – both present painful reality and future feared possibilities – to the Lord Jesus and seek His comforting, sweetening presence in your empty and bitter soul. Then, and only then, will this world’s partings begin to become “such sweet sorrow.”

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Visual Theology: The Attributes of God
Tim Challies with another thought-provoking infographic

Family Worship: Part 3
RC Sproul Jr concludes his three part series with singing and answers to some objections.

The Shorter Catechism’s Time is Still Here
Paul Levy gathers some resources together i this post.

The Iron Lady
Carl Truman reflects on the passing of years and his memories of being one of Maggie’s fanboys. I was one too, and even campaigned for the Conservatives (for Americans, read “Republicans”) in Glasgow’s Maryhill (kind of like a Republican campaigning in the Bronx). But that’s a story for another day.

Scottish Independence: The American Perspective
As about 95% of all Americans outside Grand Rapids seem to have come from Scotland, I thought you might be interested in this BBC article on how Americans view the move towards Scottish Independence.  And no I won’t be eating Haggis tonight. I tried it once; never again.

Pat Kiernan: On curation, Tactics, and Getting it done
Enjoyed this insight into the life and work of  a TV journalist whose job is to filter the deluge of news for his viewers.

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 9.5 oz: World’s Smallest Baby
Barry York calls us not only t0 watch this video but act upon it.

Don’t take it from me: Reasons you should not marry an unbeliever
Kathy Keller with some brave and needed words.

Why I don’t homeschool, and you shouldn’t either
It’s not what you think!

Is too much texting giving you”Text Neck”?
If so, here are some exercises.

Obama Administration: Religious Employers Must Pay for the Pill
This. Is. Astonishing. Looks like we’ll have to delete the last line of the national anthem.

Ed Stetzer reflects on Newt and the difficulty of recovering a lost reputation.

Writing Secrets of Prolific Authors
“I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.”~Isaac Asimov (500 books).