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.
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9 hours 43 min ago

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

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 2:00am

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.

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Tue, 08/14/2018 - 1:00am

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.”


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

Mon, 08/13/2018 - 2:00am

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?


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 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 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.


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.


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).


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

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Mon, 08/13/2018 - 1:00am

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.


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.”


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.


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

Sat, 08/11/2018 - 8:38am

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.

Expedition 25: A Strange Place

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 11:55am

Here’s the video for Expedition 25 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.

Expedition 24: The Growing Excitement

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 11:45am

Here’s the video for Expedition 24 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.

Expedition 23: Looking into the Distance

Sat, 06/30/2018 - 5:06pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 23 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.

Expedition 22: Love Songs

Sun, 06/24/2018 - 8:05am

Here’s the video for Expedition 22 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.

Expedition 21: A Dangerous Detour

Sat, 06/09/2018 - 8:42pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 21 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.

Expedition 20: The Choice

Sat, 06/02/2018 - 9:59pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 20 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.

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Tue, 05/22/2018 - 1:00am

Twelve Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age
“The greatest need of our teens today is not new restrictions and new dumb phones and contracts and limits. Their greatest need is a community of faith where they can thrive in Christ, serve, and be served. They need to find a necessary place as a legitimate part of a healthy church. Keep building faithful families and churches. Listen to teens. Don’t mock them. Don’t laugh at them. Envision them for risk-taking mission — online and offline.”

Smartphones and Distraction: Sheathing the Double-Edged Sword
“If you struggle with the double-edged sword of your smartphone, I hope these rules sparked some ideas about how you can sheathe the weapon when it has the most potential to be harmful so that you can keep it at the ready for those situations which make phones so beneficial.”

How Do I Know If a Sermon Is Too Long or Too Short?
“Know yourself. Know your people. Know your text. Know the situation. Pack as much as you can into the time you have for the glory of God and the good of your people.”

Major Depression Diagnoses Up 33 Percent Since 2013

Want To Help Vets Struggling With PTSD? Tell Them About Warriors Heart

11 ways we can all nurture our mental health
“Making choices like these won’t guarantee you never experience a mental disorder or emotional struggle. And they probably won’t be enough to “cure” a challenge you’re already living with. But in either case, they will help. So as you’re thinking about your health, give some thought to that powerful organ that sits above your shoulders. Consider the all-important function of your mind. And do something good for yourself. ”

Do You Fear a Day of Rest?
“The busy trap is the self-defeating spiral of nonstop action that feeds on the belief that restfulness is weakness. But rest is not weakness. Rest is an irreducible ingredient for the life that enjoys God.”

The Cult of Overwork
“Last October, Goldman Sachs told its junior investment-banking analysts not to work on Saturdays, and it has said that all analysts, on average, should be working no more than seventy to seventy-five hours a week. A couple of weeks ago, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said that analysts are expected to have four weekend days off a month. And, last week, Credit Suisse told its analysts that they should not be in the office on Saturdays.”

Body clock linked to mood disorders
“Disruption to the body’s internal clock may put people at increased risk of mood disorders, scientists say.”

7 Marks of a Good Apology vs. 8 Marks of a Bad Apology

Kindle Books

Love Your Neighbor: Thinking Wisely about Right and Wrong by Norman Geisler $4.99.

Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper $3.99.

Managing God’s Money: A Biblical Guide by Randy Alcorn $3.99.

By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair B. Ferguson $5.99.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung $4.21.

The Role of Parents in Preparing for the Ministry

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 2:00am

Over the years, I’ve been collecting principles or maxims from the biographies of pastors, missionaries, and other Christian leaders. Some students have also contributed to my collection via various assignments and internships. Here are a few of the lessons we’ve gathered about the role of parents in preparing men for ministry, with the bold sentences being the major takeaways.

John Stott

Every man is to a great extent the product of his inheritance. The most formative influence on each of us has been our parentage and our home. Hence good biographies never begin with their subject but with his parents and probably his grandparents as well. (Dudley-Smith, John Stott)

C. H. Spurgeon

Wherever she (C.H. Spurgeon’s mother) has resided, she has been known and esteemed for her sincere piety, Christian humility, and various works of usefulness in connection with the cause of the Redeemer. The prayerful solicitude and earnest care with which she trained up her children have been abundantly rewarded. Speaking one day to her son Charles of her solicitude for the best interests of all her children, she said, “Ah, Charlie, I have often prayed that you might be saved, but never that you should become a Baptist.” To this Charles replied, “The Lord has answered your prayer with his usual bounty, and given you more than you asked.” (Shindler, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19-20)

John Broadus

The significant accomplishments of John A. Broadus can in many ways be traced to the marvelous model and paternal love and wisdom provided by his father.  The presence of social, political, and religious leaders in the Broadus home greatly influenced John.  Major Broadus had offered much support to Thomas Jefferson in the development of the University of Virginia, with which his famous son was to be so long and intimately associated.  Broadus’s mother was a woman of godly character and a competence that admirably prepared her to be the wife of her notable husband and the mother of her remarkable children. (Dockery, John A. Broadus, 14)

Thomas Boston

It is the earliest reminiscence of the boy (Thomas Boston) that he was taken into prison with the father to relieve his loneliness.  The experience left a deep mark on the child’s memory, and he often rejoiced, in his mature years, that he had thus been honored to have fellowship with his father in his sufferings. (Thomson, Thomas Boston, 22)

John Paton

How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen World to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Saviour, and learned to know and love Him as our Divine Friend. As we rose from our knees, I used to look at the light on my father’s face, and wish I were like him in spirit, hoping that, in answer to his prayers, I might be privileged and prepared to carry the blessed Gospel to some portion of the Heathen World. (Paton, Missionary to New Hebrides, 21)

Herman Bavinck

“Her [Bavinck's mother Gesina] uncompromising ways when it came to Scripture became a characteristic that her son, Herman, learned very well from his mother. In short, Gesina was a spiritual asset to the entire Bavinck family.” (Gleason, Herman Bavinck, 17)

Gresham Machen

Arthur Machen’s tastes and interests, rooted in the classical tradition of the Old South, were decisive in defining his son’s interests. He read the works of Horace, Thucydides, and Caesar with pleasure and found personal inspiration in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament and the Greek New Testament… [This] nourished the hallmark of the legal mind, precise and logically consistent reasoning – a trait on which Arthur’s sons would later rely whether opposing Prohibition in Maryland politics or theological liberalism in the Presbyterian Church. (Hart, J. Gresham Machen, 12)

*Inclusion of a biography/leader does not mean endorsement of every aspect of their character, conduct, or teaching.

Why not think about how God has used your parents or grandparents to prepare you for your calling in life and thank God and them for it.

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Mon, 05/14/2018 - 1:00am

When Do You Stop Counseling?
“As a pastor or counselor, how do you know when to stop counseling? As you try to decide whether or not to end counseling, you will probably be aware, with some uneasiness, that not every problem has been solved. You will sense the need for more growth or the person’s desire that counseling continue regularly. But these are not adequate reasons to perpetuate counseling. When to end counseling is always a judgment call that requires a lot of wisdom. The decision to bring the counseling process to a close is sometimes clear, but often not. It’s best to think through the decision to end counseling with some clear criteria. Consider two positive indicators, and four less pleasant ones.”

The Busy Critic and the Simple Church
“Honestly, when I think of people I look up to spiritually, they don’t seem frazzled. They are active, they accomplish things within the kingdom of God, but they aren’t overcommitted and in a frenzy of activity. In fact, they seem to know how to properly say “yes” and “no.”"

Piper’s Six-Stage Process for Writing Books
Always interesting to see behind the curtain of the sermon prep or writing process.

A Great Big List of Recommended Books
Tim Challies: “Here are 50 or 60 contemporary authors I’ve read and a book by each of them you may enjoy.”

Refreshing the Saints
“What am I to my brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus? Do I refresh or weary them? Do I give rest or restlessness? Am I a comfort or an anxiety? Do I encourage confidence or are people walking on egg shells around me? Am I blessing to those I am bound to in the gospel or a burden? Are the hearts of the saints being refreshed through me?”

You Must Disappoint Someone: How to Say No to Good Things
“Most of us would like to believe we say yes and no to our time commitments based on objective, logical assessments of what appears most important. But that is very often not the case. Very often we make these decisions based on subjective assessments of what we believe others will think of us if we do or don’t do them.”

One-on-One with Matt Perman on ‘How to Get Unstuck’
“By doing our work more effectively for Christ’s sake, we participate with God in his work to renew all things.”

Kindle Books

Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers by John M. Frame $5.99.

Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age by Erik Raymond $2.99.

An Introduction to the New Testament by D. A. Carson and Douglas Moo $0.99.

Exploring the Bible: Expeditions 18 & 19

Sat, 05/12/2018 - 8:23pm

Sorry for not posting a video last week. I’ve posted two this week to catch up. 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.

Expedition 18: Songs about the Coming Kingdom

Expedition 19: A Fork in the Road

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Thu, 05/10/2018 - 1:00am

Sorry things have been a bit slow on the blog the past few months. I’ve been working on a project that’s demanded almost all my time and energy. But I’m beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and hope to return to more regular blogging soon. Thanks for your patience.

How to Incorporate Biblical Archaeology into Your Preaching
“In the final analysis, archaeology is an important supplement to preaching because it helps the person in the pew to see that the Bible is grounded in history. This is no small thing today since post-modernism dominates western society, and it is clearly ahistorical. History has little meaning to a large segment of western population, and so it is important for people to see that biblical events happened in time and space. These events are not mythic, mere folk-tales, or cute little Sunday school stories. Archaeology provides an earthiness to Scripture, and it helps to anchor the texts in the realia, that is, real and everyday life. Archaeology highlights the sitz im leben (“life setting”) of the narratives of Scripture.”

The Reading Habits Of Highly Successful People
“Some of the world’s highest achievers have one thing in common: it isn’t a high IQ, nor is it an incredible lucky streak, but their appreciation for reading. Books were their most profitable investment.

Open Both of God’s Books: Wisdom in His Word, Wisdom in His World
“One of the main reasons that we believe in a liberal arts education, where you read lots and lots of stuff outside the Bible, is because the Bible tells us to. The Bible tells us there are dimensions of wisdom to be found in the assiduous, penetrating, critical, biblical observation of the world — not only in the Bible.”

Anxiety and Depression: More College Students Seeking Help
“Between 2009 and 2015, the number of students visiting counseling centers increased by about 30% on average, while enrollment grew by less than 6%, the Center for Collegiate Mental Health found in a 2015 report. Students seeking help are increasingly likely to have attempted suicide or engaged in self-harm, the center found. In spring 2017, nearly 40% of college students said they had felt so depressed in the prior year that it was difficult for them to function, and 61% of students said they had “felt overwhelming anxiety” in the same time period, according to an American College Health Association survey of more than 63,000 students at 92 schools.”

Let Sinclair Ferguson Teach You Pastoral Ministry
“Here’s one way to think of Some Pastors and Teachers: What if you could take a seminary-level course in pastoral ministry from the Rev. Dr. Sinclair B. Ferguson, for one academic year, with one lecture per week for 39 weeks, each one about an hour in length, for a mere $45…Who would not sign up for that course eagerly?”

What the Word of God Says About the Word of God, Book by Book | For The Church
“What God says about his word is a deep, complex, and staggering thing. And each book of the written word testifies to the wonder of his revelation. I decided to take a look, book by book, selecting a representative passage from each to highlight many of the things God’s word says about God’s words.”

Why Your Church Needs a Mental Health Inclusion Strategy
“The church is beginning to make significant strides in supporting church members and attendees with mental illness. The logical next step is to seek to welcome and include those for whom church participation has been difficult because of a mental health condition.”

50 Good Mental Health Habits
“My goal in this post is to identify goals for each area of life that influences mental health: cognitive perspective, physical well-being, social context, spiritual vitality, general life management, emotional regulation, etc.  Sometimes we need to be reminded that no one area of life can completely account for our mental health.”

Connecting with Your Introverted Teen
“At a recent conference I was urging fathers to press in and communicate with their children. One father asked, “How do I communicate with my 16 year old who is very introverted and doesn’t seem willing to talk?” Here are a few of the things to consider.”

Kindle Books

God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton $4.99.

Praying Together: The Priority and Privilege of Prayer: In Our Homes, Communities, and Churches by Megan Hill $3.99.

Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life by Jared C. Wilson $2.99.

Check out: Seminary Edition

Mon, 05/07/2018 - 1:00am

As another semester draws to a close, Seminary faculty, staff, and students, and also churches, have a bit more time to think about how best to deliver theological education and prepare students for the ministry. Here’s a collection of articles I’ve gathered over the past year that can hopefully provoke constructive conversations about the subject. I’m not saying that I agree with all the ideas discussed; simply that the ideas are worth discussing.

15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

15 Things Seminary Teaches Me that My Busy Pastor(ate) Can’t

How Technology Is Revolutionizing Pastoral Training | LogosTalk

Should You Pursue a Ph.D.?

The Big Thing Seminary Did Teach Me: I’ll Never Graduate from Learning

Pastoral Training Reinvented

Pastoral Training Is Changing

Why Don’t Schools Use The Most Effective Teaching Methods?

4 Reasons Why Maybe You Shouldn’t Choose a Seminary Church

How to Read Faster

Preparing for Winter

Sage Advice: The Teacher as Pastor

People Are Going to Hell. Do I Really Need Seminary Training?

Strategies for minimizing plagiarism (essay)

Teaching Students the Importance of Professionalism

6 Reasons to Take Seminary Chapel Seriously

A Professor’s Prayer from Matthew 23

“The Life of the Professor” — My Talking Points for our New Faculty Workshop

How To Survive Graduate School

Syllabus Strategies for a Successful Semester – Seminary Survival Guide

Seminaries across the country are shutting down

Higher Calling, Lower Wages: The Vanishing of the Middle-Class Clergy

Why Go to Seminary? Here’s Ten Reasons

Jealous for His Time: The Wife of a Seminarian

This Year’s Reminder That the Lecture is Not Dead 

The Lecture Lives. I Would Know — I’m a Professor

U Can’t Talk to Ur Professor Like This

The Future of Ministry, according to a Seminary President

Students learn more effectively from print textbooks than screens, study says

10 Things Teachers DID NOT Have to Deal With 10 Years Ago

More Or Less Technology In The Classroom? We’re Asking The Wrong Question

How the Reformation Changed Education Forever

Failure and Disappointment in Scripture

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 2:00am

f we organized a conference on “Failure and Disappointment,” do you think anyone would come? If you wrote a book on that subject, do you think anyone would buy it? Failure and disappointment are not popular topics. They don’t sell tickets or books. They don’t generate clicks, as Internet marketers assure us. We don’t want to think about our own failures and disappointments, never mind hear about those of others. We live in a “success culture” that idolizes victory and fulfillment. But it’s all so unreal.

When we turn to the Bible, we’re given a deep dose of reality. Failure and disappointment are on just about every page. Whether we like it or not, that’s much truer to life than the success narratives that we aspire to and are trying to write for ourselves. By all means, aim high, but recognize that no one escapes failure and disappointment. So, we might as well plan on it and prepare for it with a view to profiting from it.

“Profiting from failure and disappointment? Are you serious?” Yes, like many of God’s people, I’ve found seasons of failure and disappointment to be some of the most spiritually productive times of my life.

Before we turn to the Bible to help us plan on, prepare for, and profit from failure and disappointment, we first need some definitions. Failure is a lack of success in doing something. It’s coming short of a performance standard that we have set for ourselves or that others have set for us. It may be something that we are accountable for and blamed for (e.g., we fail an exam because we did not study enough), or someone else may be to blame (e.g., our marriage may fail because our wife or husband committed adultery). And sometimes we can have a sense of failure when we have not actually failed (e.g., we lose our job because of a merger or reorganization). Disappointment is the sense of sadness and frustration that results from failure, either from our own failure, the failure of others, or both. So, with these definitions in hand, what does the Bible teach us about failure and disappointment?

Read the rest of this article at the Tabletalk website. You can also find many other articles from this month’s issue of Tabletalk.

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Thu, 05/03/2018 - 1:00am

Why is silence good and necessary for a pastor’s soul?
“I’ve spent most of my adult life hating silence—and didn’t know it. It was a major blind spot. I always dismissed my desire to be with people and avoid being alone as being an extrovert and loving people. I excused my talkative nature to my heightened relational instincts. These qualities also seemed to help my interactions with people as a pastor, so I thought nothing more of it. It wasn’t until I began my own counseling journey out of a personal crisis where I was confronted with this long-held deception in my life.”

Principles and Guidelines for Separation
“Those who effect separation are themselves sinners. So the questions of when, why, and how to separate are of cardinal importance. The New Testament gives us principles; it does not provide us with a single, simple sentence that relieves us of the task of thinking through and wisely applying the Scriptures to each unique situation. ”

Thinking Wrongly About Leadership
“When we think wrongly about leadership in the church, the church suffers. Sometimes we make the wrong people leaders. Other times we distort the relationship between the church and her leaders. What follows below is an attempt to kindly point out three of the most common errors I’ve seen in reformed churches when thinking about the leadership of elders in Jesus’ church.”

One Thing I Hope to Learn From John Piper In Preaching
“Now you may not agree with all of Piper’s points. But you cannot say that he isn’t getting his points from the Scriptures (at least in the way he is reading them). And this has a tremendous impact on those who sit under his preaching. He isn’t just telling people what to think. He is training them how to think.”

Free Christian Audiobook about Jonathan Edwards
“In this Trailblazers series biography, Jonathan Edwards was just an ordinary American boy, but the country he lived in wasn’t the America of today. Rather he was part of a new world full of adventure and opportunity. This filled Jonathan’s mind with questions and he grappled for the answers, even when it wasn’t easy. His genius and ability only strengthened his faith and love for Jesus. ”

The Beginning of How to Get Unstuck
“None of us enjoys being stuck. And it sometimes puts crucial, important things at risk. There are things we want to do, things we need to do, and things that make a difference in the world that won’t get done if we stay stuck. The good news is that it is possible to get unstuck and overcome the obstacles to doing great work and getting the right things done. David prayed for deliverance and got unstuck. Paul never became passive, in spite of his many obstacles. Mark Twain finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer after taking a year off to replenish. And Einstein got the help he needed with the math to bring the theory of relativity all the way through to completion. (Yes, Einstein needed help with math! — of a very advanced sort, of course.)”

Are You Addicted To Your Phone? (Take a Quiz to Find Out)
“take the test and prayerfully reflect on the results, then perhaps simply ask yourself this: Are you okay with this? Is this what you want from your relationship with your phone? Or maybe this: Is your smartphone helping you live the life you want to live, or is it in some ways hindering it?”

Two very personal reasons Tucker Carlson hates abortion

The Day Leukaemia Changed My Life
Adrian Warnock needs our prayers.

Kindle Books

Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture by Zack Eswine $2.99.

Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way  by J. I. Packer $3.99.