Create a Culture of Reading

All Christians should cultivate a reading habit. Besides reading the Bible, we need to read books that elevates our passion for God. Here is a good reading list

Dr. David Powlison – Building Intimacy with a Spouse Who Has Different Interests than Yours

Evangelizing “Christians”

Via Rick Thomas: Counseling Solution

Wives come to counseling hoping to get their husbands fixed.

Husbands come to counseling hoping to get their wives fixed.

Parents come to counseling hoping to get their children fixed.

Friends come to counseling hoping to get their friends fixed.

The counselor sits and listens to their stories, illustrations, and anecdotal evidence that could persuade any jury that the other person is guilty.

If allowed to continue, I think the typical counselee could talk for hours about what the other person did to them, or how they were hurt by the other person.

I do wonder to myself sometimes if people think that counseling is a place where they can vent, just to get things off their chest.

There is a fine line between conveying information and venting.

The former is speech that is redemptive, while the latter is speech that flows from a heart of bitterness.

It is not unusual for a counselee to be more interested in getting the situational difficulty resolved than repairing their relationship with Christ.

Rather than seeking to understand the objectives and purposes that God wants to accomplish through their troubles, they only want the other person fixed. Unfortunately, getting the other person fixed is not a promise from God.

Getting fixed is a choice that each person can make. It is a personal choice, not a mandated choice and no spouse or counselor can guarantee that the other person will make that choice. Therefore, the goals within the counseling process must be higher than getting another person to change.

Do you want God?

It is rare for a counselee to come to me with a greater interest in what God is trying to do, teach, or illuminate, than what is going on in their horizontal life. Last year a lady was honest enough to say, “I really don’t care what God is up to, I just want my husband to be nice to me.”

This kind of attitude and hope is when counseling devolves into negotiations rather than helping a person to learn more about God, while growing into a deeper relationship with Him.[1] As odd as it may sound, it could be that God’s main point is for her to draw closer to God.

What I’m really talking about is the need to evangelize Christians before they can be biblically counseled. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a Christian is re-introduce them to God.

You do this so they will have the right trajectory set in their hearts, before they attempt to resolve the horizontal problems in their lives–assuming it is God’s will for their problems to be resolved the way they hope. If they don’t do this, then counseling will turn into negotiations:

  • The counselor says to the wife: I will give you a spiritual husband, if you will stop nagging him.
  • The counselor says to the husband: Your wife will give you sex if you will provide better care for her.
  • The counselor says to the parents: Your son will repent, if you guys start modeling Christ in your home.

Some people reading this might not see a problem with this approach–though it is not biblical. If you compared what some counselees want versus what the Savior taught, then it becomes clearer:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:26 (ESV)

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. – Matthew 10:21-22 (ESV)

When the brother turns against the brother or that which is more common: when the husband and wife turn against each other, we act as though some strange thing has happened to us.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. – 1 Peter 4:12 (ESV)

Your first question

All situational difficulties, regardless of what they are, have a triunal-dynamic-tension: God, man, and the situation. You cannot have a problem and God not be part of that problem. At some level, in some way, He is working in your trouble. This was the testimony of Joseph and Job in the Old Testament and of Paul in the New Testament. (See Genesis 50:20; Job 1:12; 2 Corinthians 12:1-10)

The first question any Christian should be asking when trouble comes should be along these lines: “My life is going sideways. My husband is doing such and such and I want to know what God is up to. Can you help me learn more about God so I can be sustained during this trial?”

Friends, that is a rare counseling question from a counselee. Typically the first question is about what is going on horizontally in the life of the counselee. And the real big question, whether asked or not, is how can the nonsense in my life cease.

If we believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-everywhere, also called omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, which all Christians should believe, then we know that God is in our troubles. We also know that He has a plan for the troubles He is writing into our story.

Now let’s just get wild in our thinking here: it could be that God has brought this pain into your life for a greater purpose. Let me press the point a bit more: and it will never go away. You don’t believe me? Go ask Joni. This is crazy thinking, I know…but it is also biblical.

When I’m partly to blame

Some troubles happen to us, (i.e. Joseph, Job, and Paul), and we are not necessarily the cause of the troubles, in part or in whole. However, most of our troubles–particularly relational ones, are caused at least in part by us.

In such cases of our personal culpability, many counselees do not seem to realize that part of the reason they have this kind of trouble in their lives is because there is something broken regarding their relationship with Christ. They won’t see that this is more about them and God, than them and the other person.

Recently I met with a lady who told me, “I am very angry at God.” I had to draw this out of her. This is not what she led with. Don’t you think she should have led with that? There is no more important statement she could have made to me.

Sadly, her thoughts were elsewhere–what she was going to lose in her marriage and family. Her thoughts were as logical as me cutting my foot off and then complaining about not being able to run.

There is a disconnect, something missing, or something not understood regarding her relationship with Christ. Whatever that is, it must be fixed before she begins to address or repair her marriage and family–assuming God has plans to fix her marriage and family.

To be angry, frustrated, or discontented with God, while trying to fix the horizontal relationships in your life is a fool’s mission. It does not work that way in God’s world. Our job is to authentically seek God first, while lining up our other desires behind Him (Matthew 6:33).

We’re pragmatists at heart

The sad news is that many of the Christians I have counseled are not genuinely interested in my God-centered approach to counseling. “Just fix my problem” is the implication of their requests to me.

The tension is that we disagree on counseling methodology. I’m trying to deal with their hearts first, as it pertains to their impoverished relationship with the Father and they want me to primarily deal with the practical and external dysfunction in their lives.

While I don’t want to ignore the practical dysfunction in their lives, and I don’t ignore it, I do make a strong appeal for them to think about, focus, and practically work on restoring the brokenness they are experiencing with God. In short, I am “evangelizing” them all over again–or re-introducing them to Jesus Christ.

What they don’t see (or won’t see) is that if they do not fix their relationship with the Father, there is no way they can truly change or experience real peace, joy, and relational unity in the world in which they live.

You cannot have authentic harmony in the relationships in your world when there is disharmony between you and your heavenly Father. It just does not work that way.

Let me illustrate

Anger, for example, is not so much of a problem between two humans as it is a problem between the angry person and God. The angry man is making a strong case, as revealed by his anger, that God is not coming through for him.

He feels as though he has no choice but to blow-up in order to get what he wants. This is a man-centered approach to accomplishing goals. His anger-sin keeps him from a rich and vibrant relationship with God.

If he repaired his relationship with God, he would be able to patiently endure a lot more than what he is currently going through. He also would have a Spirit-empowered perspective on his situation.

This perspective would help him to govern his heart through the situation. Thus, he would be enabled to model what Paul learned in Philippians:

I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:12-13 (ESV)

Criticism and gossip are two other behavioral sin issues that create strains in relationships. The real issue with the critic or the gossip is a diminutive relationship with the Father. The critic or the gossip feels compelled to put others down, which is a form of self-righteousness–”I am better than you are.”

A person who truly understands the Gospel would not be compelled to gossip or criticize another person–especially their spouse. The Gospel-centered person is not characterized by self-righteousness.

And when it does manifest in his heart–what does the Gospel-man do? He quickly repents and moves on. He lives in the daily awareness of what Christ did on the cross and his gratitude that the Savior would save him radically alters how he views, talks about, and responds to others.

Only a proper relationship with Christ can give him this kind of perspective. However, if the only or the primary thing that matters to him is fixing a broken relationship, then there is a good chance he is going to miss God–who is in his brokenness, seeking to show Himself strong.

Evangelizing Christians

There are an amazing number of folks who call themselves Christians, who come to counseling only to get some form of behavioral modification. God has been marginalized in their thinking and their lives and when I draw attention to this, they become frustrated.

They say they are Christians. They ask for Christian counseling. I counsel them as though they are Christians by addressing the most important issue in their lives–their relationship with God. But, seemingly, this is not valued by them.

Some Christians have been so psychologized and secularized that talking to them about the Gospel and how they are not walking “in line” with the Gospel is viewed as strange (Galatians 2:14). In such cases, it is easy for counseling to turn into negotiations:

  • On my end of the table I have Christ alone, with no guarantee that your relationships will ever change.
  • On their end of the table is one card: I want my relationships to change.

Time for honest confession

I am one of those Christians who needs to be evangelized. I understand their struggle because it is my struggle as well. There have been times in my life when I wanted my situation to change and that was the only thing that mattered. A life sentence of brokenness did not appeal to me.

And there have been many times when God did not change my circumstances, no matter how hard I wished, hoped, or prayed. And I’m sure there will be more times in my future where I will cry out to God for a change and, just like my past, it could be His good will for my life to not change my circumstances (Genesis 3:18).

The Lord is slowly teaching me that the first place I must look in times of trouble is not for a method of escape, but to the God of hope. My starting point for all of my troubles has to be the evangelization of my heart.

I need to remind myself all over again about the Gospel. I need to remind myself that if God can solve the worst problem in my life–my lack of relationship with Him, through the power of the cross, He is able to solve any other problem that should arise in my life.

Even if I cannot see Him working in it. Even if He chooses not to change the situation according to my hopes, if my heart is right with Him, then I will be okay.

My first and foremost responsibility in all of my situational difficulties is to evangelize my heart. The best place to evangelize my heart is on my knees, in my closet, begging God to change me, with no expectation that He changes anything else.

So, here are some questions for you:

  1. Do you spend more time thinking about your problems or God?
  2. Do you spend more time trying to change your problems or trying to change your heart?
  3. Do you spend more time trying to change other people or trying to change you?
  4. Will you unconditionally surrender to God? You’ll know this has happened when contentment, peace, rest, and faith begin to annihilate all forms of anger, criticalness, anxiousness, and worry. This kind of life is born in a closet of prayer.

All Things Subject to Christ

There may be circumstances in your earthly lot which at this moment are peculiarly trying.  You look around and wonder how this or that circumstance will terminate.  At present it looks very dark–clouds and mists hang over it, and you fear lest these clouds may break, not in showers upon your head, but burst forth in the lightning flash and the thunder stroke!  But all things are put in subjection under Christ’s feet!  That which you dread cannot take place except by His sovereign will–nor can it move any further except by His supreme disposal.  Then make yourself quiet.  He will not allow you to be harmed.  That frowning providence shall only execute His sovereign purposes, and it shall be among those all things which, according to His promise, shall work together for your good.  None of our trials come upon us by chance!  They are all appointed in weight and measure–are all designed to fulfill a certain end.  And however painful they may at present be, yet they are intended for your good.   When the trial comes upon you, what a help it would be for you if you could view it thus, “This trial is sent for my good.  It does not spring out of the dust.  The Lord Himself is the supreme disposer of it.  It is very painful to bear; but let me believe that He has appointed me this peculiar trial, along with every other circumstance.  He will bring about His own will therein, and either remove the trial, or give me patience under it, and submission to it.”

J.C. Philpot
The Subjection of All Things Under the Feet of Jesus.

Tragic Life

The average person in the world today, without faith and without God and without hope, is engaged in a desperate personal search throughout his lifetime. He does not really know where he has been.  He does not really know what he is doing here and now. He does not know where he is going. The sad commentary is that he is doing it all on borrowed time and borrowed money and borrowed strength; and he already knows that in the end he will surely die! Man, made more like God than any other creature, has become less like God than any other creature. Created to reflect the glory of God, he has retreated sullenly into his cave; reflecting only his own sinfulness. Certainly it is a tragedy above all tragedies in this world that man, made with a soul to worship and praise and sing to God’s glory, now sulks silently in his cave.

 A.W. Tozer

Where a Man Belongs

A famous cigarette billboard pictures a curly-headed, bronze-faced, muscular macho with a cigarette hanging out the side of his mouth.  The sign says, “Where a man belongs.”  That is a lie.  Where a man belongs is at the bedside of his children, leading in devotion and prayer.  Where a man belongs is leading his family to the house of God.  Where a man belongs is up early and alone with God seeking vision and direction for the family.

 John Piper
Desiring God, 1996, p. 185,

As Christ Loved the Church

A husband is to love his wife.  Such love never demands obedience.  It never demands anything; it seeks not to be served, but to serve…The measure of the love required by the husband is to be well noted, “just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”  This is a lofty standard.  How did Christ show His love for His Church?  Think of His gentleness to His friends, His patience with them in all their faultiness, His thoughtfulness, His unwearying kindness.  Never did a harsh word fall from His lips upon their ears. Never did He do anything to give them pain.  It was not easy for Him at all times to maintain such constancy and such composure and quietness of love toward them; for they were very faulty, and tried Him in a thousand ways.  But His affection never wearied nor failed for an instant.  Husbands are to love their wives even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave Himself up for it.  He loved even to the cost of utmost self sacrifice.

J.R. Miller
Secrets of Happy Home Life

Why I’m Reading the Bible in Ten Different Places

 By: Bob Kaulin (Worship Matters Blog)

Read entire post here:

I’m reminded daily how little I know of God’s word.
I’ve been reading the Bible for over 40 years. The more I read the more I feel like I’m just scratching the surface. I don’t want to master the God’s Word. I want God, through his Word, to master me. And I’ve got a long way to go.

I’m understanding better how Jesus is the story line of the bible.
In one sitting I read about the instructions for the tabernacle in Exodus, Job’s cry for a mediator, the failure of the Israelite kings, a psalm extolling the steadfast love of the Lord, the promise of a righteous branch in the prophets, Jesus being rejected by those he came to save, the testimony of Jesus’ death and resurrection in Acts, instructions for godly living in the Epistles, and the consummation of all things in Revelation. I feel like I’m getting a biblical theology lesson every morning.

I’m more convinced of God’s sovereignty over all things.
I still don’t understand how moral responsibility for our choices and God’s sovereignty over our actions work together. Not sure I ever will. But I’m increasingly certain that Scripture contains both, and that this should produce peace and security in my life, not striving and confusion. The God who knows the end from the beginning, who intends evil for good purposes (Gen. 50:19), who directs the paths of arrows (2 Chron. 18:28-33), who ordained the details of Christ’s death and resurrection (Acts 4:27-28), and who has already assured us of his final triumph over death and Satan – this God – can surely handle whatever difficulties and trials I face.

Familiar verses speak to me in unexpected ways.
The other morning I was reading chapters 7&8 from Isaiah. God told Ahaz that He was going to defeat his enemies, and told Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (Is. 7:10). But Ahaz played the false humility card and refused. “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” (Is. 7:12). God said He Himself would provide a sign of his promise. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call him name Immanuel” (Is. 9:14). While those words had an immediate fulfillment, they were finally fulfilled in the birth of Christ. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that Ahaz never dreamed that God would ultimately prove his faithfulness by giving up his own Son as our substitute. God is always better than we expect.

I’m appreciating God’s holiness more than I used to.
God judges sin in the Bible a lot. Of course, there’s a lot of sin in the Bible to judge. Immersing myself in Scripture each day reminds me that God is not who my culture says he is. He’s not apathetic toward sin. He hates it with an unyielding, consuming, terrifying hatred. Which make giving up his Son to endure his wrath in my place all the more amazing.

I’m encountering God in his Word more often.
You might think that reading so much of the Bible at one time doesn’t allow time for reflection and engaging with God. That hasn’t been my experience. It usually takes me between 30-45 minutes to read 14 chapters. I read at a normal pace, but still have time to meditate on, cross-reference, or memorize a passage. And frequently I’m aware of God’s Spirit speaking to me, working on my heart, molding my will to his own.

Merry Christmas

Look to Christ

From the cross of Calvary, where the bleeding hands of Jesus drop mercy; from the garden of Gethsemane, where the bleeding pores of the Savior sweat pardons, the cry comes, “Look to me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” From Calvary’s summit, where Jesus cries, “It is finished,” I hear a shout, “Look and be saved.” But there comes a vile cry from our soul, “No, look to yourself! Look to yourself!” Ah, look to yourself, and you will be damned. That certainly will come of it. As long as you look to yourself there is no hope for you. It is not a consideration of what you are, but a consideration of what God is, and what Christ is, that can save you. It is looking from yourself to Jesus. Oh! there are men that quite misunderstand the gospel; they think that righteousness qualifies them to come to Christ; whereas sin is the only qualification for man to come to Jesus. Good old Crisp says, “Righteousness keeps me from Christ – those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but only those who are sick. Sin makes me come to Jesus, when sin is felt; and in coming to Christ, the more sin I have the more cause I have to hope for mercy. – CH Spurgeon

He Who Grows in Grace

“We shall, as we ripen in grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may know a great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet very immature in heart.

He who grows in grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christians to be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in his own case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.

As he has sometimes to say of himself, ‘This is my infirmity,’ so he often says of his Brethren, ‘This is their infirmity.’ And he does not judge them as he once did. I know we who are young beginners in grace think ourselves qualified to reform the whole Christian Church.

We drag her before us and condemn her straightway. But when our virtues become more mature, I trust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God, and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms. Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.”

–Charles Spurgeon, “Ripe Fruit” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 16 (1870) – Sermon 945.

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