Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 2 hours 19 min ago

Quagmires, Watergate, and the Bethlehem Infanticide

10 hours 44 min ago

“It’s going to be a quagmire.” The media use this phrase whenever the American military run into any difficulty or experience any setback. I remember numerous headlines with the word “quagmire” in both Iraq wars and during the initial Afghanistan campaign. They used it because they knew that Americans would immediately remember the Vietnam war and the literal quagmires that so many American units found themselves in during that fateful conflict.

By predicting a “quagmire” in Iraq or Afghanistan, journalists were not saying that the Vietnam experience was going to be duplicated in every respect in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan. That would be impossible. They were saying that some of the core elements of the Vietnam war were going to be repeated.

Watergate
We see the same thing happening with the word “Watergate.” How many times the media have said that the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation are going to produce another Watergate. Again, they don’t mean that every detail of the Nixon scandal is going to be replicated in what they hope is Mueller’s takedown of the Trump administration. No, they are using “Watergate” as a kind of shorthand, a word that every American immediately understands, to predict some similar outcomes for the Trump presidency and his associates.

So, whether it’s “quagmire” or “Watergate,” the media are reaching back into the past to find a narrative that everyone is familiar with in order to paint a similar, though not identical, picture of the future.

Ramah
That’s what Jeremiah is doing in Jeremiah 31v15: “Thus says the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Jeremiah is reaching back into the past, to Genesis 35 where Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin, to say “Something similar is going to happen again in the future.”

In Genesis 35:16-20, a mother, Rachel, laments the pain of being separated from his child by death. Jeremiah says something very similar is about to happen again.

And sure enough a few years later, the mothers of Judah experienced the pain of death and exile separating them from their children, when Babylon carried them away into captivity using Ramah as a staging post (Jer. 40:1). It’s not an exact replica of what happened with Rachel in Genesis 35, but the mourners are the same (mothers), the places are in the same locale, and the causes of the mourning are the same (death causing painful separation from their children). Based on the continuous tenses of the Hebrew verb, Walter Kaiser argues that Jeremiah was predicting more than one Rachel-like mourning for Israel:

If Jeremiah realized that Rachel wept over her children/nation in the past, and had continued to do so in his day with the unspeakably horrible events of the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem and its Temple, did he not also realize that she would yet have future occasions to weep in the days that lay ahead prior to the eschatological inbreaking of the new David and the restoration of Israel to her land? How many chastisements, when they would appear, and under what circumstances they would come, Jeremiah does not profess to know, much less imagine. But the iterative and durative nature of these days of trouble he does know.

Bethlehem

Then fast forward about 600 years and there’s another “fulfillment” of this prophecy. Matthew tells us that Herod ordered the Bethlehem infanticide in order to fulfill “what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:17-18).

Matthew is saying that although Jeremiah’s prediction of a Rachel-like mourning for the mothers of Judah came true, he was also predicting an even greater and more significant mourning many years later. Again, it’s not an exact replica of what happened with Rachel in Genesis 35 or with the mothers of Judah in Jeremiah 31, but we have the same mother-mourners, the places are in the same general locale, and the causes of the mourning are the same (death causing painful separation from their children).

This is not the same kind of exact and precise prediction-fulfillment we find with, say, Micah’s prophecy of Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It’s more along the lines of typological fulfillment, where, although the details differ, the essence of a past story is used to predict a similar story in the future.

Now then, who’s going to preach about infanticide for their Christmas sermon?

Signs You are on the Pathway from Stressed to Depressed

11 hours 13 min ago

You can read a transcript of Shona’s message on this video at the Crossway blog. You can get a study guide for Shona’s book, Refresh, here.

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12 hours 14 min ago
Blogs

God Wants to Shape Your Wants: An Invitation to the Psalms
“God wants our hearts. He will take them as he finds them. And then, with the healing balm of the Psalms, he will shape them. Accept his invitation to come. On the front door, he has promised, Enter here. Find your delight in lingering here in meditation.”

Most Doctors Have Little or No Management Training, and That’s a Problem
You can substitute “pastors” for “doctors.”

What Does the Old Testament Say about the Trinity?
“Here are some traditional proofs (some more compelling than others) for the presence of the Trinity in the Old Testament.”

Waiting Outside an Abortion Clinic Years Ago Was Worth It
“I estimate conservatively that, in a span of ten years, over the course of my weekly shifts, I saw at least 2,500 women go into the clinics (quite possibly twice that). Roughly a couple dozen of them told me upon leaving the clinic that they had decided to keep the baby. Some of them accepted the help I offered while others said they didn’t need it. And how many more changed their minds without ever speaking to me, I will never know on this side of heaven.”

Feeding on Christ: The Pastoral Year in Review
Nick Batzig is one of my favorite writers on the Internet. I love his Christ-centered pastoral writing, especially his unique gift of making profound biblical theology short and simple. Here’s a list of all his articles written in the past year.

8 Marks of True Reformers
Lessons from Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli’s (1584—1531) advice to his contemporaries.

Julius Kim on Teaching for Attention and Retention
Great advice for all teachers.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Pastoring the Pastor by Tim Cooper  and Kelvin Gardiner $2.99.

Church History in Plain Language by Dr. Bruce L. Shelley $3.99.

The People’s Theologian is now the Perfect Theologian

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 8:14pm

It’s a day of sore hearts and wet eyes for many of us. “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?” (2 Sam 3:38). Read Justin Taylor’s tribute here.

Watch RC’s face light up as his Highland Hymn is sung. The beautiful words which he composed (see below) were never truer for him than today.

Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes

Refrain
Lutes will sing
Pipers play 
When we see Him face to face 
On that day

His face now hidden from our sight
Concealed from ev’ry hidden gaze
In hearts made pure from sinful flight
Is the bliss that will amaze

Refrain

We know not yet what we will be
In heaven’s final blessed state
But know we now that we shall see
Our Lord at heaven’s gate

The beatific glory view
That now our souls still long to see
Will make us all at once anew
And like Him forever be

Refrain

Free Study Guide for Refresh

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 2:00am

Yesterday I made available a Study Guide for Reset (for men). Here’s a companion Study Guide for Refresh which my wife Shona and I co-wrote for women.

These guides have been designed so that men’s groups can go through Reset and women’s groups can go through Refresh. However, the questions have also been composed in such a way that men and women can discuss the books in mixed groups, with only a few questions here and there (marked with an asterisk) that are significantly different.

It also allows a husband and wife to work through Reset and Refresh together using the Study Guides to compare notes and discuss the differences between men and women’s experiences of stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, etc.

As with yesterday’s Study Guide, there is no copyright on these, so print and photocopy at will!

Study Guide for Refresh.

Double Your PRTS Donation by Dec 31

Thu, 12/14/2017 - 1:30am

Here’s a message from my colleague, Chris Hanna, Director of Development and Marketing at PRTS.

Dear PRTS Partner,

The end of 2017 is just about here, and it has been a remarkable year. There has been joy and sorrow, but throughout it all the Lord has reigned from on high. He is still sovereign!

I want to take a moment to once again say thank you. Every time you donate to PRTS you are working alongside us to train students from around the world to serve Christ and His church. You are helping to equip them with a biblical, Reformed, and historic faith.

It is people like you that are making a lasting investment in the lives of our students, their families, and those whom they will serve as pastors and educators for decades to come.

I recently spoke with a student who will shortly be returning with his family to Singapore. There he will again serve the church he left to attend PRTS. He is grateful for his theological education and for the tremendous outpouring of love he and his family experienced while studying at the seminary.

Maybe you’ve given to the seminary in the past, or considering a first-time donation, and you’re wondering what donation options are available. You can give a one-time gift or become a monthly partner through the seminary website or by calling the Development Office at 616.432.3407. In fact, a gift given by December 31 will be generously matched by loving partners of PRTS. We are hoping to raise $400,000 by year end so as to have a two-month balance for the opening lean months of 2018. Please remember that no gift is too small. Your $50 donation will become a $100 gift to the seminary.

You can also give a gift of appreciated assets. To start this process, please contact the Barnabas Foundation – a PRTS partner – at 888.448.3040 and ask for Cindi Riemersma. If you’re in Canada, please contact our Canadian Development Coordinator, Corney Les, at 604.795.6938 or email him today at cles@shaw.ca.

If you or your spouse is 70 ½ or older, you may consider an IRA Charitable Rollover. As of 2015, the US tax code allows seniors of this age to donate tax-free up to $100,000 in IRA assets. The Charitable IRA Rollover is tax-free and will not be included in your adjusted gross income. Once again, please contact Cindi Riemersma at 888.448.3040 for more information.

By supporting PRTS you will be stewarding your resources in a lasting ministry, a ministry that the apostle Paul instructed Timothy to pass on to others (2 Tim. 2:2). Thank you again for prayerfully considering a matching gift to PRTS before December 31.

In the bonds of our Savior,
Chris Hanna
Director of Development & Marketing

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Thu, 12/14/2017 - 1:00am
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The #MeToo Movement Is Destroying Trust Between Men And Women
I don’t agree with everything in this article, and it shouldn’t be used as a weapon against legitimate complaints. But it shows how the devil can use good movements with worthy aims to ultimately destroy one of the building blocks of civil society.

Like a disease, distrust is infecting our most foundational relationship as a people, the building block of a free, civil society—the relationship between men and women.

How Christianity Gave Rise to Modern Science
“There were a number of ways in which Christianity gave rise to modern science, and the idea that a set of naturalistic assumptions is necessary to do science is just historically false.”

God Has a Heart for the Vulnerable. Do You?
Paul Martin, the father of a special needs child, writes at Tim Challies’ blog:

Disability makes us ask a lot of questions though. Did God make a mistake when He sewed together the little girl with Patau Syndrome? Did He miss a stitch? The short answer is no. God has His own purposes in mind when He created our friends with disabilities. For instance, “Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?’” (Exodus 4:11). These are God’s words to the disabled Moses, the man with some form of speech impediment, but they hold true for us all. God did not make a mistake when He made the disabled. He did not momentarily lose focus or find His power eclipsed by some interfering evil force. At no point does the Bible teach that the disabled lack or lost the image of God.

One Man Faithfully Loving His Wife Through Early Onset Dementia
“Six years ago, a neurologist gave Debbie Echternach, then age 56, a diagnosis no one wants to hear: “Your brain has atrophied. You have early onset dementia.” Since that time, her husband Jay, a good friend and an EPM board member, has written eloquently about their experience. Each time he sends an update about Debbie, I’ve deeply appreciated his heartfelt insights, and faithful love for his precious wife.”

Three Ways The Devil Uses Social Media
“If the Apostles walked among us today, they would warn the church of the following spiritual dangers faced posed by social media”

The Work of the Holy Spirit and the Christian Therapist
I came across this article while researching the work of the Holy Spirit in counseling. I’m linking to it to show how, contrary to some caricatures, Christian counselors outside the biblical counseling movement also rely on the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit in their practice.

New Books

Here’s the RHB catalog for the new year.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal $4.99. A book making a lot of waves right now.

Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography by William Zinsser $1.99. Not a Christian book but six eminent biographers pull back the curtain to explain the pleasures and problems of their craft of reconstructing other people’s lives.

Free Study Guide for Reset

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 2:00am

I’ve been encouraged to hear of many groups of men, including pastors and their elders, working together through Reset: Living a Grace-paced Life in a Burnout Culture. In response to feedback, I’m  pleased to make available a free Study Guide (pdf) to accompany the book.

The Study Guide  has been designed to help individual readers apply the book to their own lives and assist the process of moving from theory to practice.

It has also been written to enable couples to work through Reset (for men) and Refresh (for women) in tandem. Tomorrow, I’ll be publishing a separate Study Guide for Refresh that reflects the differences between the male and female experience of stress, anxiety, burnout, depression, etc. However, both the books and the Study Guides have been written to help couples work through them together. The handful of Study guide questions that are slightly different for Reset and Refresh are marked by an asterisk (*).

The Study Guides for both Reset and Refresh have also been composed to facilitate group discussion of the material. Again, this could be done in separate men’s and women’s groups or together.

I hope the timing of the Study Guide, coinciding with the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one, will encourage many to “reset” their lives and make 2018 more grace-paced than race-paced.

There is no copyright on the Study Guide, so print and photocopy as many as you need.

Study Guide for Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture.

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Wed, 12/13/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

The Biggest Hindrance to a Leader’s Growth
Agreed: “The biggest hindrance to a leader’s development is not intelligence or work ethic. It is a lack of self-awareness.”

How to Read Jonathan Edwards
“The first point to get clear in our minds is not how to read Jonathan Edwards but why. And here is why. He turns our postcard views of Christ and the beauty of authentic Christian living into an experience of the real thing. What we had only smelled we now see. What we heard others call magnificent and considered overstatement we now see as magnificent and recognize as understatement.”

Best Books of 2017
Kevin DeYoung’s list
The Gospel Coalition list
Russell Moore’s list

Your 50s Will Probably Be the Most Unhappy Time of Your Life
As a 51-year-old I don’t agree with this. However, as it may reflect the general culture, it’s useful info for preachers.

According a new analysis of life satisfaction from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which encompasses seven massive surveys and 1.3 million randomly sampled people from 51 countries, rock bottom is somewhere around the early 50s for most folks. On the other hand, people report being pretty happy in their early 20s and their 60s once retirement kicks in.

Introducing Hope Barlanark
This gives me great hope for my motherland, and especially for one of the most depressed and deprived areas of it.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Rejoicing in Christ by Michael Reeves $2.99.

Men of God by various authors $2.99.

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Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2017
Collin Hansen with his annual review of the most important stories affecting the Church:

The emphasis of theological debate has shifted again. And it threatens once more to divide churches, families, and even networks and coalitions forged in previous generations. The topics that generate the most controversy now concern public theology—how we apply the Bible to contemporary ethics. How does our faith testify that it is genuine? How does it lead us to regard and love our neighbor? How does it shape our view of systems and patterns of behavior, deeply ingrained and often denied by people in power?

Ten Critical Trends for Churches in 2018
This would be a great conversation starter for pastors, elders, and deacons.

In the waves of these seas of negativity, are mercy drops of hope and possibilities. Look at these ten major trends carefully. See how God would have your church respond.

Anxiety and Depression, My Strange Friends
A pastor shares his story of how God has blessed seasons of anxiety and depression in his life.

Though I would not wish anxiety or depression on anyone, I am strangely thankful for the unique way that this affliction has led me, time and again, back into the rest of God.

A Master’s Degree in Counseling or Biblical Counseling?
Yes, I agree, lots of Christian women are asking this question and facing this dilemma:

I’ve noticed that female students who are considering a degree in biblical counseling, especially at the graduate level, are facing a dilemma. For some women, a degree in biblical counseling is not necessary for their job, but they want to gain more education for personal reasons or to complement their ministry skills. For most women, however, the prospect of finding a job is an important part of the equation in deciding on a degree.

Keys to a Fruitful—Not Busy—New Year
“As we head into 2018, could it be that doing less is actually doing more? Instead of trying to prove that you are not lazy, abide in the Lord, work from a place of rest and trust. We have nothing to prove, orly a God to serve, who loves us as His children and desires to see us live fruitful not busy lives.”

Evangelicals and Domestic Violence: Are Christian Men More Abusive?
Some myth-busting here. I suspect the same is true of porn stats and “Christians.”

“Although the empirical story of religion and domestic violence looks good for practicing believers, it’s much less rosy for others. My research suggests that the most violent husbands in America are nominal evangelical Protestants who attend church infrequently or not at all.”

I Shall Not Die But Live and Tell
I really enjoyed this moving testimony from Gordon Keddie:

As I thought later on these things, I could not but wonder at the fact that, days before my illness, I had finished a book on the prayers of the Bible, with a meditation on a prayer for every day of the year, and yet could not remember one of them! It was my faithful Savior who chose the Scripture prayer I needed in a moment when my life-time of memory of that very Scripture had apparently vanished from the scene. And this proved that his love never fails, and his promise ever stands, for he who keeps Israel “will neither slumber nor sleep.” When all you who are in Christ are at your most vulnerable, “he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 121:4, 7-8).

Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer?
“Nevertheless, it is bad translation and bad discipleship to deny the meaning of biblical words simply because they don’t line up with human estimations of the way God ought to behave. In this case, it is hermeneutical malpractice to change the translation in an attempt to force God’s revelation onto a procrustean bed.”

Podcast

Trillia Newbell interviewed me about How to handle depression.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp $3.99.

A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble by Paul David Tripp $3.99.

Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and‎ Dennis E. Johnson $2.99.

God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray $2.99.

New Book

O Death Where is Thy Sting: Collected Sermons of John MurrayDiscounted hardback at Westminster Books. My endorsement as follows:

I still remember the first time I heard a recording of a John Murray sermon and its impact upon me. I was a young Christian with a growing sense of God’s call to preach. This sermon was the clincher. Never before had I encountered such a unique combination of careful exegesis, profound theology, fresh insight, clear expression, and spiritual application. It inspired me with a vision of how glorious Reformed, experiential preaching could be. May this beautiful collection of Murray’s sermons touch and motivate a new generation of preachers and revive those who have lost sight of their high calling.

Video

The Danger of a Transgender Ideology

Super New Children’s Books from Banner of Truth

Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:00am

One thing that’s always frustrated me about pictorial kids’ books is how awful the illustrations usually are. Christian books for kids are among the most disappointing. Some of them look as if I was the artist; others are just really cheesy cartoons.

Thankfully that’s all about to change with a new series of board books from the Banner of Truth written by Rebecca Vandoodewaard and illustrated by Blair Bailie. The first three are:

The Woman Who Helped A Reformer: Katherina Luther (RHB).

The Woman Who Loved To Give Books: Susannah Spurgeon (RHB).

The Man Who Preached Outside: George Whitefield (RHB).

Hopefully you can get some idea of the fascinating graphics from these covers. I found myself intrigued by all the different characters and expressions that fill each picture.

So, super artwork, but also fine content. Each book makes one major point in simple language. Not too much text and not too little.

I read them to my four-year-old yesterday and they certainly passed his test. He loved them and gave them the ultimate accolade: “Do it again, Daddy!”

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Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

Immutability and Reformed Theology
Kevin DeYoung compares two different approaches to the doctrine of immutability: one from Herman Bavinck and one from John Frame.

“I am working with these two authors because Bavinck (of older theologians) is especially detailed when it comes to immutability, and because Frame (of more recent theologians) is so widely read and respected….While my sympathies lie with Bavinck, I’m going to refrain from arguing one view over another. Instead I hope to fairly represent both theologians, noting where they agree and disagree.”

The Most Important Part of Your Sermon
I
t’s probably not what you think:

“I had a seminary professor once say, “You have to begin in Nashville before you head to Jerusalem.” His point was that if you do not meet listeners where they are and engage them where they live, you will have a hard time getting them to the truths of the Bible, and more particularly, to the relevance of the cross of Christ for their lives.

The introduction of the message is what helps listeners know where you are going and whether or not they want to go with you. In this regard, the first five minutes of your message may be the most important of all of them. In light of that, I want to give you two areas to focus on as you prepare and deliver your sermons.”

Announcing a New Series of Booklets
Tim Challies has a new series of booklets based upon popular blog series.

How Can We Transform Scotland Once Again? Lessons From 5 Years of 20schemes
Hard-hitting truth from the battlefield.

“I was recently asked to attend a ‘Transforming Scotland’ event in order to present my opinion on the state of Scottish Christianity and what we can do to reverse its current decline. I was asked to speak to a room full of church leaders from my scheme perspective. Here is a summary of what I said.”

The worst gift to give a middle-school student
“This Christmas thousands of middle school students are going to get a gift under their tree or in their stocking, and it is going to wreck their lives. The worst gift you can give your middle-school student is…   A smart phone.”

4 Types of People on Your Team (Only One Is Effective)
“There are two essential qualities in all great leaders: Intentionality (knowledge) and intensity (zeal). In your context, you have met these four types of people. And only one of them is really effective.”

What Expository Preaching Is Not
“Here are fifteen myths about expository preaching that should be exposed to help the preacher rightly understand and faithfully practice expository preaching.”

Is There a Place at the Table for Leaders with Mental Illness?
“I think my pastor friend could have sat down with the church leaders and talked about his condition. I challenged him on that point and he said that probably the next church opportunity will never come if people know that he struggles with bipolar illness. I don’t want to agree. There’s room in the church for people with chronic illness. Not only room, but a place at the table.”

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Amazon have good discounts on Kindles and Fire Tablets right now.

Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms by Martyn Lloyd-Jones $3.99.

All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Christian Theism by James E. Dolezal $4.99.

Ten Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin $2.99.

Love Into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard $1.99.

Power Causes Brain (and Heart) Damage

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 2:00am

Ever watched the agonizing sight of a respected leader gradually lose the skills and abilities that were essential to their rise—especially the ability to read other people? Over at the Atlantic, in Power Causes Brain DamageJerry Useem highlights a number of stories demonstrating this fatal loss in business contexts and the horrendous consequences that followed. There’s much for churches and Christian institutions to learn here too.

Useem quotes the historian Henry Adams who described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” That observation from history has now been backed up scientifically by Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, who found that people who gained power “acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.”

Another scientist put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, and found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. This is what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.

Susan Fiske, a Princeton psychology professor, explains that “power lessens the need for a nuanced read of people, since it gives us command of resources we once had to cajole from others.”

Lord David Owen, a British neurologist turned parliamentarian who served as British foreign secretary founded an organization called Daedalus Trust to study and prevent “Hubris syndrome,”  which is defined as a disorder of the possession of power, particularly power which has been associated with overwhelming success, held for a period of years and with minimal constraint on the leader.” Its 14 clinical features include: manifest contempt for others, loss of contact with reality, restless or reckless actions, and excessive self-confidence.

What can be done? One suggestion is to encourage the leader to remember when he was powerless. Another suggestion is to watch documentaries about ordinary people. Politicians are advised to read constituents letters. Another more likely remedy is a good wife (or husband), as illustrated in Winston’s Churchill’s wife who once wrote to him:

“My Darling Winston. I must confess that I have noticed a deterioration in your manner; & you are not as kind as you used to be.” Written on the day Hitler entered Paris, torn up, then sent anyway, the letter was not a complaint but an alert: Someone had confided to her, she wrote, that Churchill had been acting “so contemptuous” toward subordinates in meetings that “no ideas, good or bad, will be forthcoming”—with the attendant danger that “you won’t get the best results.”

Obviously, as Christians, we would trace this problem to heart damage—specifically to the heart sins of pride and vanity—and our solutions would also involve repentance and faith. However, this research reminds us of the physical consequences of sin, and how difficult it can be to undo. It also offers some common grace preventatives and remedies which may have some role in addressing hubris syndrome. The biggest preventatives though are to walk humbly with our God and to have someone in our lives who will have the courage to tell us the honest truth about ourselves.

Check out

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 1:00am
Blogs

To Recover from Burnout, Regain Your Sense of Control
“It’s far better to adopt an ownership mindset, that sounds like this: Others may have contributed to my situation, but I have the ability to make choices that can improve my present and future. Thinking in this way gives you the license to choose, even in small ways, to take action to recharge and build momentum. Realizing you have autonomy opens up hope for the future.”

If You’re Feeling Too Frantic, Genuine Leisure Can Restore Your Soul
“We need to create more time for what Pieper calls meaningful “non-activity.” We need to add pockets of leisure in our family lives, so we can fall more deeply in love with our world and each other. We need to protect our Sabbaths, our nights off, and our holidays. While the demands of work and technology seek to exert their dominance over our lives, we must also make a concerted effort to abide by the divine command: be still.”

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, December 2017
“The December issue of Tabletalk addresses the biblical-theological theme of the temple. The tabernacle and temple are prominent in old covenant worship and history. There is also extensive teaching on the temple in the Gospels, Hebrews, Revelation, and other New Testament books. A right understanding of the temple thus is key to a right understanding of the Bible. Regrettably, however, Christians often have a poor understanding of the temples’ significance and its fulfillment in Christ and His church. This issue considers various aspects of the tabernacle/temple, and what it tells us about Christ, the church, and salvation.”

The Pentateuch: 5 Books About God’s Grace
“If we take a tad closer look at the Pentateuch, we will see that it contains five books filled with God’s grace.”

Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms | Desiring God
Free e-book on the Psalms by John Piper: “My aim in this book is God-centered, Christ-exalting, Psalms-saturated thinking and feeling. I believe this kind of thinking and feeling will bear fruit in the kind of living that cares for people and magnifies Christ.”

Matt Chandler on Leading a Growing Church Without Getting a Big Head
You don’t need to have a big church to learn from this.

Kindle Books

For your non-Kindle book buying needs please consider using Reformation Heritage Books in the USA and Reformed Book Services in Canada. Good value prices and shipping.

Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat by James D. Bratt $2.99.

 

From Heaven: A 28-Day Advent Devotional by A. W. Tozer $1.59. You may need to strip out a few Arminianisms but his writing is always warm and worshipful.

The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between by Gregory Koukl $3.99.

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World by John Stonestreet $4.99.

Cruise the Rhine with PRTS

Wed, 12/06/2017 - 4:47pm

Travel with Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary on a 15-day study tour and cruise featuring Switzerland, Germany, France, and the Netherlands. 

Highlights include majestic alpine scenery, uniquely Puritan and Reformed historical sites, a week-long cruise on the lovely Rhine River, and a stay in Dordrecht to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dordrecht (Dordt).

We’ll enjoy frequent academic lectures and theological addresses by Dr. Joel Beeke, Dr. Ian Hamilton, Dr. Michael Haykin, and Mr. David Woollin. Our journey also includes Sunday services and time for reflection. 

Details

Start
9 July 2018

End
23 July 2018

For more information, visit Witte Travel online at https://bookings.wittetravel.com/tour/5656 or contact Kristina Choura at KristinaC@wittetravel.com / 616-954-7492.

Sola Scriptura Video

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 7:58am

This is a great series of videos on the “Five Solas.” I especially commend Michael Kruger’s address on Sola Scriptura for an excellent explanation of what that doctrine meant in its original historical context, but also how it is still so relevant today.

What role does the doctrine of God have in counseling?

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 9:04am

Here’s the latest video in my biblical counseling series. You can view the previous videos here.

The Eric Johnson article I refer to at the end of the video is here.

Check out

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 8:55am
Blogs

What Sexual Theft Says About You
“You can begin to see adultery for what it is by grasping how antithetical it is to faith. The sin of adultery screams out to the world that you don’t really believe God. Perhaps it will be helpful to make this clear. If you are contemplating adultery, consider at least four probing questions about what you believe.”

With teen mental health deteriorating over five years, there’s a likely culprit
“What happened so that so many more teens, in such a short period of time, would feel depressed, attempt suicide and commit suicide? After scouring several large surveys of teens for clues, I found that all of the possibilities traced back to a major change in teens’ lives: the sudden ascendance of the smartphone.” And Evidence mounts that laptops are terrible for students at lectures. Yet…..

The Most and Least Digital Jobs – and How Well They Pay
“The researchers broke occupations into high, medium, and low use of digital, and found that highly digital occupations made $73,000, on average. Medium occupations made $48,000 and low occupations made just $30,000. To some extent, that’s due to the fact that more digital jobs are held by more highly educated people. However, the researchers found that, even after controlling for educational requirements, more digital jobs paid better — and that this premium had increased over the past decade.”

A dose of nature: doctors prescribe a day in the park for anxiety
“The Huddle’s family physician wrote her a prescription that read: “Five times a week… spend 30 minutes at a park near your home.” Huddle’s treatment plan is part of a growing field of medicine called “ecotherapy” — nature-based programs and exercises that can help patients cope with mental and physical illnesses. Instead of prescriptions for more pills, doctors around the country are increasingly prescribing trips to the park for a range of conditions, including anxiety and depression, attention deficit disorder and chronic illness such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Personality Disorder: What Use Is This Label for a Counselor?
“So what does a biblical counselor do with a personality disorder label? Do any of your counselees have this label from a psychotherapist? Do you suspect a counselee might fit the diagnosis? Does it even matter?”

Kindle Books

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson $3.99.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper $3.19.

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie $0.99.

Uncensored: Daring to Embrace the Entire Bible by Brian Cosby $2.99.

The Puritan Passion for Philosophy and Science

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 2:00am

Yesterday I highlighted my surprising recent discovery that ”the overwhelming majority of Puritan theologians were firm believers in the legitimacy of natural theology and evidentialism,” resulting in their embrace of extra-biblical sources of knowledge in their pastoral counseling of believers.

I had come across this in a few of their writings–Matthew Henry’s and John Owen’s for example. But I had never realized how much this was a common core of Puritan belief until I read Wallace Marshall’s book, Puritanism and Natural Theology. He goes on to demonstrate how the Puritans’ enthusiasm for natural theology “went hand in hand with their adamant insistence that ministers not only be trained in the Scriptures and in systematic theology but also have ‘humane learning,’ as they liked to call it—the study of logic, philosophy and the classics.”

Passion for Philosophy
For example, the Puritan Charles Chauncy, who served as president of Harvard from 1654 to 1672,  pointed out:

“The Bible itself quoted pagan authors favourably, that all truth came from God, whatever its origin, and that since there were many excellent and divine moral truths in Plato, Aristotle, Plutarch, Seneca, etc…to condemn all pel-mel will be a hard censure.”

Thomas Manton sounded the same note:

“We should not despise the help of human learning, neither should we despise grace, as if it did make men dull, and blunt the edge of their talents….Religion hath never lost more than when outward helps have been despised, which men do to hide their own ignorance.”

Passion for Science
One of the consequences of the Puritans’ commitment to natural theology was their unusual degree of interest in science. Instead of being opposed to it, the Puritans, says Marshall, were “markedly enthusiastic about the study of the natural world” and as a result they “befriended science.”

Thomas Adams, for example, hailed nature as “God’s epistle to the world.” Alexander Richardson wrote that since God was the Creator of all things, “this teacheth man thus much, that he is to seek out, and find this wisdom of God in the world, and not to be idle; for the world, and the creatures therein, are like a book wherein God’s wisdom is written, there we must seek it out.”

Stephen Charnock “extolled the study of nature as one of the most satisfying human activities” and even saw it as a religious duty. “What a sweetness is there in knowing the secrets of nature, and the phenomena in the world,” he exclaimed, and went on:

“Study God in the creatures as well as in the Scriptures…The world is a sacred temple; man is introduced to contemplate it, and behold with praise the glory of God in the pieces of his art.”

He admitted that there was more clarity in the book of Scripture than in the book of nature, but because the Author of both has joined both together, we should not put it asunder. Charnock went on to say that it was a gross insult to God to pay so little attention to the things he had made and that “God must be read wherever he is legible.”

And here’s a thought-provoking idea to finish up. “Charnock though that since the complexity and richness of the created order could not possibly be exhausted by human beings in their brief lifetimes, this activity would continue in the world to come when the fountains of the depths of nature would be opened.”

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