Check out

Blogs

How Your Church Can Respond to the Loneliness Epidemic
“Western community is in sharp decline, and radical individualism has become the functional status for even the most devoted churchgoers. This radical individualism has engendered unprecedented social isolation and yielded a depth of loneliness unique to 21st-century American culture.”

How to Stop Saying “Um,” “Ah,” and “You Know”
“Used sparingly and effectively, filler words can make you more relatable to your audience, give you time to catch your breath, and emphasize key points. That’s why Google built fillers into the latest version of its AI assistant, Duplex. But when they become crutch words, used out of nervousness or lack of preparation, they hurt your credibility. As you prepare for your next presentation, identify the words you lean on most, and train yourself to avoid them. Then, next time you’re in front of an audience, use silence to gather your thoughts, rather than filling the air with sound.”

10 Ways to Comfort a Grieving Person
“Over the years since I experienced the death of my daughter, Hope, and my son, Gabriel, I’ve interacted with grieving people, especially through the Respite Retreats my husband and I host for couples who have lost children—and have identified a number of key ways to minister to grieving people:”

A tale of two confessions
“In the past month, two prominent pastors have had their private sins publicly exposed: Bill Hybels and Art Azurdia—one nationally known and whose fall was front page news, the other known only inside of evangelical circles and his fall reported largely on social media. Both demonstrated conduct contrary to the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3, conduct that disqualifies them from being elders. Both committed adultery, and the fall of both men will obviously bring shame on the name of Christ. But there is one huge contrast between these two situations—namely, how their respective churches responded. ”

For the Long Days
“My personal struggle with faith and pain is embedded with my depressive disorder, but the way scripture speaks to my issue speaks to issues we all struggle with. What do we do when the days seem long and the nights feel like they will never end? When life is painful, death has taken those we love, and we are grieved to our bones, what does that say about God’s love toward us? Or, better yet, is this the way it is because I lack enough faith? By God’s grace scripture has swooned my heart and helped me grieve faithfully”

Living Under Authority
Here’s a good article if you find yourself bristling against authority in your life.

Book Review: Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism | ERLC
“I found Uniquely Human by Dr. Barry Prizant to be the rare book about autism that helped lift the weight of my anxiety, counterbalancing fear with the forces of understanding, insight, and encouragement—all powerful and underrated forces, might I add.”

The Minister’s Soul is the Soul of his Ministry

I want to highly recommend Brian Croft and Jim Savastio’s new book, The Pastor’s Soul: The Call and Care of an Undershepherd. Here’s the foreword that I wrote for the book.


“The minister’s soul is the soul of his ministry.” I can’t remember where I first heard this saying, but I’ve never been able to forget it. And, having read this book, I never want to forget it. In these pages, Jim Savastio and Brian Croft establish the foundation of all faithful and fruitful ministry – the pastor’s soul. But, although their main target is the epidemic of ministerial hyper-activity and the accompanying burnout, backsliding, and brokenness, they carefully avoid over-reacting and running to the opposite extremes of monkish withdrawal or lazy self-indulgence. Instead, you have a book that skillfully walks a balanced biblical path in both content and style.

Self and Others
It balances self and others. Yes, the pastor is all about serving others, about sacrificing for the sake of others, about spending and being spent for others, and about pouring out to fill others. But, as many pastors have discovered to their cost and pain, servants are finite, sacrifices eventually turn to ashes, non-stop spending leads to bankruptcy, and pouring out without ever filling up ends in drought. This book reminds us that caring for self is not selfish but necessary if we are to sustain a life of caring service to others. It’s not a warrant for sloth or selfishness, but rather a call to self-care that will lead to better other-care.

Soul and Body
It balances the soul and the body. While the spiritual life of the pastor is their primary concern, Brian and Jim do not fall into the trap of gnostic dualism—belittling the body and focusing exclusively on the soul. Yes, the soul is prioritized, and spiritual life is at the core, but the authors recognize not only that our souls impact our bodies, but our bodies also influence our souls. You’ll therefore find not only wise shepherding of our souls, but also a concern for how we sleep, eat, exercise, and so on.

God and People
It balances relationship with God and relationship with others. This book encouraged me to go deeper, longer, and wider with God. I came away from it with a hunger and thirst for renewed friendship with my heavenly Father, my Savior, and my Sanctifier. But I was also motivated to pursue deeper, wider, and longer friendships with others. As the authors emphasize, this begins with a pastor’s wife and children, but they also prove the necessity of more godly male friends in the pastor’s life.

Instruction and Illustration
It balances biblical instruction and personal illustration. The foundation of this book is biblical exegesis as it tours numerous key verses to mine them for all that God has to say to pastors about their own soul care. But it also incorporates numerous personal examples of how Jim and Brian have experienced the truth of this teaching in their long pastoral ministries. Their transparency and vulnerability about their failures and successes bathe the book in authenticity. Pastors will clearly sense that the authors have been in the trenches of everyday ordinary pastoral ministry and bear many genuine scars as well as carry a few medals for valor. You’ll find reality, but not a reality show.

Principles and Application
It balances big-picture principles with detailed practical application. A few big truths will emerge throughout this book, important theological principles that stand out demanding attention and meditation. But how do we connect them with our lives? How do we bring them down from their lofty theological heights and into contact with Sunday through Saturday ministry? That’s where this book excels. It takes deep doctrine into the details of daily pastoral life. Theory becomes intensely and intimately practical.

Challenge and Do-ability
It balances challenge with do-ability. Some pastoral ministry books aim so high that their impossible standards paralyze and depress us. Others set such a low bar that the ministry is diminished and the dignity of the pastoral calling is tarnished. This book lifts the bar high but not out of sight. It promotes a high view of gospel labor and demands high standards, but not in a discouraging way that ends up limiting gospel ministry to supermen. At times, you will exclaim, “Who is sufficient for these things?” But you will quickly respond, “My sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. 2:16; 3:5).

Repentance and Hope
It balances Gospel repentance with Gospel hope. No pastor will read this book without repenting. Tears of contrition will stain the pages (or ruin your Kindle!). But it doesn’t end there. Brian and Jim apply healing Gospel balm to the deepest wounds of conviction. And it doesn’t end there either. They go on to entice and encourage us with the prospect of a much healthier and happier ministry ahead. Yes, it can be different. The past does not have to be repeated. There’s a different and better way of being faithful in this calling. It doesn’t have to be all about grit and grind until early retirement or even earlier death.

Yes, you will see blue lights and hear wailing sirens if your busyness and stress have made the presence of God in your life a distant memory. But you will also sense the prospect and possibility of a much better kind of ministry life—one that doesn’t hollow out your heart, run down your body, or jeopardize your most important relationships. This is a hopeful and hope-filled book that can change the trajectory and tone of your entire ministry.

Thank you, Jim and Brian, for writing such a biblical and balanced book. My earnest prayer and fervent hope is that God will use it to rescue many pastors from the wrecker’s yard and prevent multiple others from ending up there. May God bless your labors so that pastors everywhere will experience that a revived soul is the key to a revived ministry.


The Pastor’s Soul by Brian Croft and Jim Savastio is the third in a trilogy of pastoral theology books. The other two are The Pastor’s Family and The Pastor’s Ministry.


Check out

Blogs

One Simple Key to Thriving with Mental Illness
“I realized that my problem was simple. I’m still human and I still need human things. That is how God designed us all. Regardless of our mental illness, we still need to be in community. We still need to be known. We need people.” See also this article at the BBC, Regular exercise ‘best for mental health’

Getting Unhitched from the Old Testament? Andy Stanley Aims at Heresy
Al Mohler takes on Andy Stanley’s falsehoods. See also How to Preach and Teach the Old Testament for All Its Worth. And on the positive side here’s Clowney’s Diagram for Preaching from the Old Testament

“Dr. Clowney’s illustration helps guide the preacher toward a faithful declaration of Christ. His book, with its final section of his sermons an illustration itself of this type of preaching, is certainly worth having on one’s bookshelf, whether to help in sermon preparation or to learn how to evaluate the faithfulness of preaching.”

Exploring Islam, A New Teaching Series from James Anderson
“In Exploring Islam, a new ten-part video teaching series, Dr. James Anderson surveys the history and beliefs of the Islamic religion and prepares Christians to better witness to their Muslim neighbors with gentleness and respect. This is a series to stir confidence in the gospel and equip you to speak the truth in love to the Muslims in your community. ”

Eight Areas Where Pastors Wish They Were Better Equipped
All eight are in the Practical Theology department, which means that either Practical Theology departments are failing or, more likely, there’s not enough Practical Theology taught at Seminaries.

9 Tips to Help Kids Have Daily Devotions
“Here are nine tips to help parents take the lead in establishing fresh devotional habits for the young hearts in their care.”

The Healing of Willow Creek
“We tend to think that loyalty means always taking the side of the leader to whom we want to be faithful. Loyalty instead means doing everything in your power to make the leader not only a better one but a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s not unlike patriotism for one’s country. The true patriot loves his country; so much so that he will speak out when he believes the country is doing wrong, to call the nation to adhere to its deepest ideals.”

Books

Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation $1.59.

Making Sense of God: Finding God in the Modern World by Timothy Keller $2.99.

Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change through Ordinary Moments by Winston T. Smith $0.79.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet $2.39.


Six Steps out of Disappointment

Your girlfriend drops you. Your family is at war. Your spouse commits adultery. Your best friend betrays you. Your fiancé breaks your engagement. The coach cuts you. A faction in the congregation wants your ministry to end. You suffer agonizing injustice. The church rejected you. Your wife left you and won’t let you see your children. Your womb is still empty.

Many different emotions are provoked by these painful experiences. But disappointment is the common denominator in all of them. Our hopes are dashed. Our dreams are shattered. Our expectations are unfulfilled. External events and the decisions of others produce the agony of disappointment. It is the opposite of hope and the forward-looking joy it brings. Instead, it looks backward with anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, and despair.

You simply cannot escape disappointment in this broken world (see the book of Ecclesiastes). No matter how many overly optimistic commencement addresses raise the hopes of wide-eyed students every spring, sooner or later all of them will end up disappointed. Friends will let them down. Family will let them down. Employers will let them down. Their nations will let them down. At times they will feel God has let them down.

If disappointment is so inevitable, how do we recover from it?

Prepare

First, prepare for it without becoming a nihilistic Eeyore. If we adopt a realistic attitude towards this world, then we will expect a measure of disappointment and not be shaken or swept away when it happens. That’s not defeatism or pessimism; it’s realism. It involves expecting and rejoicing in the goodness and kindness of God and others. But we don’t get carried away into over-confidence and complacency. In this way, we brace ourselves for the body blow that is sure to come without losing the benefit of delighting in God when things are going well (see Psalm 104 and Psalm 136).

Share

Share your disappointment. Tell the Lord about what you are experiencing. Be completely honest and transparent. Describe how you are feeling. Or if you can’t find words, bring him your tears and groans (Psalm 56:8) and ask him to interpret and treasure them.

Alternatively, use the words provided in the Psalms of Lament (for example Psalms 44, 60, 74, 77, 79, 88). These songs contain a lot of God-centered therapy for the disappointed. Note that the psalmist doesn’t attempt to hide his disappointment from God. He knows that covering and denying is never going to lead to healing.

But don’t just share it with the Lord; share it with his people as well. We need all the help we can get when we are down. Therefore, while we cast our burdens on the Lord, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), we also ask our fellow believers to share the weight of our disappointment with us (Galatians 6:2).

Remember

Remember that the Lord Jesus knew deep disappointment from his days on this earth. His disciples let him down continually. All forsook him, one denied him, and one even betrayed him. He knows the pain and frustration you are experiencing. He can sympathize with you and support you as you reel from the blows (Hebrews 4:15). He is the friend who sticks closer than any brother (Proverbs 18:24). He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Submit

Humble submission and acceptance rather than arrogant fighting is the way through this dark valley and into the light. Nothing can be gained by taking vengeance on our disappointers, or by angrily shaking our fist in God’s face. No, we must confess, “Lord, I don’t understand how they could do this or you could allow this. But I’m going to bow before your sovereignty and believe you know best and that this is for my best.” This is not to say that justice must never be pursued when we are wronged; but it is to hand over the administration of justice to God and those he has appointed to this task.

Grow

Use disappointment to grow in sanctification and service. In terms of sanctification, use the pain you feel to make you resolve never to inflict this on other people if you can help it. Or maybe look back on your life and think of times you disappointed people and see if you can put it right in a godly way. You can also use disappointment to serve others by ministering to the disappointed all around you with the comfort with which you have been comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Hope 

Finally, rekindle eternal hope. While earthly hopes may have been dashed, at least for a time, the Christian still has a heavenly hope that no amount of earthly disappointment can take away. Indeed, earthly disappointment can help us to redirect our hopes towards that which is spiritual and eternal. There is a day, an eternal day in the not-to-distant future, when all disappointment will be taken away and when all things will not only be new but will remain new. Every possible source of disappointment will be removed, and all our hopes will be fulfilled (Revelation 21:1–8).

This article was originally published at Desiring God


Check out

Well, I’m back! Apart from the Exploring the Bible videosI’ve posted virtually nothing on the blog for the past six months or so. I’ve really missed providing this service, but I was working on a large research project that I’d never have finished unless I had ruthlessly pruned my blogging. 150,000 words later, the finish line is in sight and I’m eager to get blogging again. Thanks for your patience and hopefully you will not all have deserted me. I appreciate everyone who takes the effort to click their way over here regularly and I hope I can make it worth your while.

Blogs

5 Myths About Depression
By Michael Lundy, author of the new book, Depression, Anxiety, and the Christian Life: Practical Wisdom from Richard Baxter. “This book presents 17th-century pastor Richard Baxter’s wise, gentle advice to comfort and strengthen all who struggle with depression or know someone who does.”

The Pastor’s Health (Podcast)
Jared Wilson and Noah Oldham talk food and exercise.

101 Books on Biblical Theology: An Annotated Bibliography
A lifetime of reading right there.

Dear Church, Hear the Word of the Lord
“Many of us are grieved at the wreckage in the church that occurs when victims are silenced, abusers are protected, power is abused and “truth” is disseminated to the less powerful. The body of our Lord is sick. Here are some thoughts for her.”

Lessons on the Craft of Scholarly Reading
“Rookie scholars and established ones alike could benefit from a clearer, more detailed understanding of how to read effectively. For me, the craft of scholarly reading proceeds in three phases, each with goals and pitfalls.”

Books


Church History in Plain Language $1.99.

The New City Catechism for Kids: Children’s Edition $1.99.

Christ from Beginning to End: How the Full Story of Scripture Reveals the Full Glory of Christ $2.99.

Video

The Haunting Beauty of Scotland
I was in Scotland the week or two before Tim arrived and saw wall-to-wall sunshine for ten days and temps of about 70 degrees. Positively Hawaiian for Scotland. Unfortunately for Tim, it looks like I used up Scotland’s annual sunshine allowance. Also see his vlog on The Beauty and History of Scotland.


Expedition 26: A Temple and a River

With apologies for the delay, here’s the video for Expedition 26 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.