Book Review – A Lost God in a Lost World

November 25, 2015

We truly live in a lost world. We live in a world that has rejected God. The problem is that worldliness has infected the church. Our churches tend toward looking like the world, rather than the authentic Christianity of the New Testament. Melvin Tinker in his new book, A Lost God in a Lost World, tackles these issues in a clear and effective way.

The solution is to make less of the world and to make more of God. In that vein, Tinker addresses a number of problems that exist in the church and the solution that is rooted in God. He begins by addressing the weightiness (the immense glory of God) and why that should root out the problem of idolatry in our lives. Tinker articulates key points on the necessity of the cross, of Gospel proclamation, of grace, and of being heavenly minded. In sum, Tinker offers us a mini-systematic theology complete with the problems that exist in sinful man (and in sinful churches) and the solution rooted in various points regarding who God is and how God operates in the world.

David Wells in the forward writes, “If our vision of God is clouded, or our knowledge of him is deformed, living in a hostile cultural climate becomes an unequal contest.” Surely, we live in a 1 Peter context with a hostile culture around us. The solution is not to mimic that culture but to live out a unique culture rooted in the supremacy and majesty of the Triune God. To get there, Tinker simply reminds us of the beauty and majesty of God from the Word and reminds us of it’s significance for serving as our framework for life and the church.

If you’re like most in the church, you’re concerned by the lack of growth; both in our own lives, and in our churches. Tinker will remind you the solution is not in fads or programs or in mimicking the culture, but instead is in a bigger picture in our hearts and minds of God. While some more detail on how that would look (rubber meets the road) would be helpful, overall, he sets a good foundation for us to work on in each of our contexts. Highly recommended.

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Memories of Thanksgiving

November 21, 2015

 

It’s not the event itself that makes you nostalgic, it’s the memory of the event.

I remember back to a life of memories of the second Monday in October. It always seemed nice to have the three day weekend with no shopping Armageddon following it. I remember the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the corn, the stuffing, the home-made rolls. And the pies… Dear Lord I remember the pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Pecan. You name it. It was there. That was of course because my mother wasn’t able to make enough food only for us. Clearly she had to make enough for an invisible army that was going to attend. I remember her maxim for how many mashed potatoes to make: one large potato for each of us, and then add 2 or 3 others for good measure. But I digress…

Certainly my experience of the event may not have been as profound as many Americans. Yet, so much of it was the same. A meal with the family. An opportunity to be thankful for what we had. Time spent with family (whether we liked it or not!). And whatever the historical reason why we celebrated, we simply wanted to enjoy a good meal together and to be thankful. And, while I may not always have been thankful at the time, I’m thankful for the experience and the memories to this day.

While so much is the same, so much is different. In a few short days we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States. There will be turkey, pie, and all the trimmings. There will be traditions and family, and good times had by all. And while the proclamation of giving thanks for survival in a new land in 1621 might be more profound than giving thanks for the recovery of King Edward VII in 1872 (although Thanksgiving was celebrated informally in Canada as early as the 1578 voyage of Frobisher), at the foundation, they are the same: being thankful for what we have, no matter what we have. I haven’t been able to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving since moving to the US (it’s hard to make the trip back to Canada for the weekend), but I am thankful for the many years of Thanksgiving celebration that I did have. And I’m thankful that, even while I celebrate the event on a different day, I’m thankful for my homeland, my family, and Thanksgivings of bygone days.

And that’s what being thankful really means. It’s not about being thankful when in plenty. It’s about being thankful in all situations (1 Thessalonians 5:18). There are times in our life where we don’t have all the family support or even the big turkey on our table. That doesn’t mean it isn’t time to be thankful. Have a roof over your head, but stovetop stuffing on your table? Be thankful. Don’t have a roof over your head, but have friends and family that help to take care of you, be thankful. Don’t have friends or family to take care of you? Be thankful you are alive and have breath. Everyone has something for which they can be thankful. The question to ask yourself this year is, in plenty or in want, what can I be thankful for?

I missed Thanksgiving in Canada for another year. But I celebrate my Canadian holidays in abstentia (my wife is gracious to me that way). I don’t have to be present to celebrate Victoria Day, Canada Day, or Canadian Thanksgiving. I can be thankful that I can celebrate here, both Canadian and American Thanksgiving. I can be thankful for family, for food, for fellowship, for friends, for everything I have. And I can be thankful for, the things I once had, and the things I will have. I’m thankful for the memories of things past, and the memories I make today. What are you thankful for today?


Book Review – Gospel Conversations

November 2, 2015

One of the areas in which most of us are poorly trained by the seminaries is counseling. We spend much time studying good and important things, but considering the inordinate amount of time that most pastors spend on speaking Gospel truth into people’s lives, you’d think we would do a better job of preparing people to do just that. I’m finding in 15 years of ministry, that I’m woefully under prepared for the counseling that I do, and that I am looking for further training. What is wonderful though, is that there is a great abundance of resources being published to help address these most pressing needs. Robert Kelleman, in his new series, Equipping Biblical Counselors from Zondervan is filling a large gap in those resources. His newest, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ, is exceptional, not just for pastors and counselors, but for all in the body of Christ who want to minister like Jesus did.

Kelleman’s previous book in the series, Gospel-Centered Counseling: How Christ Changes Lives and another companion book edited by himself and Jeff Forrey, Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World (both from Zondervan), offer helpful resources to most pastors and counselors and the dedicated layperson. The first offers a helpful look at the entire counseling process and the theology behind it, in particular, the 8 ultimate questions of life to apply Christ’s truth to, and whereas the second devotes copious resources to understanding how biblical counseling uses God’s Word as it’s source. Both are excellent, but where Gospel Conversations shines in that it is designed for all of us in mind.

Gospel Conversations, though is written as a second work following Gospel-Centered Counseling, in that it is the continuation of that discussion and bringing what we’ve learned into actually doing counseling. The beauty of this though is taking the principles that Kelleman lays out and seeking to apply them to all our Gospel conversation, not just to the formal counseling situation (think Tripp’s, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands).

Kelleman employs his “four compass points” of biblical counseling to speak Gospel truth into any situation. These points are:

  • Sustaining – “It’s normal to hurt.”
  • Healing – “It’s possible to hope.”
  • Reconciling – “It’s horrible to sin but wonderful to be forgiven.”
  • Guiding – “It’s supernatural to mature.”

Kelleman uses these four points to build off speaking the truth in any Gospel-focused conversation, whether it be formal counseling or simply speaking to a brother or sister.

These points are developed along 5 or 6 further points of development (21 in all) through the handy acronyms of GRACE, RESTS, PEACEE, and FAITH. Each one develops the points further into helpful characteristics for counseling. For instance, under the 5 Sustaining counseling competencies of GRACE, Kelleman wants us to develop the following:

  • Grace Connecting
  • Rich Soul Empathizing
  • Attuned Gospel Listening
  • Comforting Spiritual Conversations
  • Empathetic Scriptural Explorations

All of these points, rooted in God’s Word, provides a helpful map of helping each person in each situation. So many Christians, “don’t know what to say,” when people are hurting. Myself, with the recent loss of our unborn baby, struggled through some severe depression. So few had anything helpful or sustaining to say from God’s Word. How wonderful would it have been been to hear the kind of words outlined above through that acronym, and which Kelleman develops further, to help to sustain me in my dark depression?

Keep in mind, this isn’t an easy book. It’s certainly prepared as a textbook format, and Kelleman, while offering some foundations of biblical counseling in the beginning, also presumes we’ve got a good understanding of those foundations before we begin. That being said, for those who are interested and willing to be stretched and grow in how they speak Gospel truth into people’s lives will be richly rewarded, not only through how they apply the Gospel in their own lives but how they apply it in each others as well. You’ll apply Gospel truth to a number of real situations that will shape how you apply those same truths to those whom you meet.

Are you frustrated that you “don’t know what to say,” or frankly, that what you do say is unhelpful (often too, the case for Christians), then I would recommend Gospel Conversations, as a helpful tool to train you to speak the Gospel into any and all of life’s circumstances.