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"One Bit of Scripture…"

04/03/2013 Comments off

As I get older, more and more I am convinced the importance of discipleship evangelism is for our generation and the generations to come.  Part of that has definitely come from dialoguing with them.  It is through these continuing conversations that I have learned that not everyone likes or can learn when drinking from a fire hose.  I came across this quote some time ago and it is part of the ‘derek-ism’ as a friend of mine would say, that permeate throughout these conversations.  I share it now.

A Two-bit Answer to the Million Dollar Question

This article will consider one small part of the answer. It is an important part, however. Learning this has made a huge impact on how I live and counsel. In a nutshell, connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. In other words, always ask two questions of yourself and others: What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this?

What is your struggle? You might be facing sufferings and troubles of various kinds (James 1:2). You might be sinning—doing and thinking various troublesome things (James 3:16). Usually it’s a tangle of both. God talks exactly about these things. How does the one Savior enter these struggles? What does He say? How does He help?

What will He change?
Perhaps you’ve seen the ecology-minded bumper sticker that says, “Think globally. Act locally.” Keep the big picture in view, then do something constructive. The same principle operates in counseling ministry. Keep the big picture in view, then act on some detail. Get the whole Story on God. Get the whole story on this person. Know the themes both in Scripture and in person. Then apply one relevant thing from our Redeemer to one significant scene in this person’s story. Bring one bit of Bible to one bit of life. You can’t say it all at once.

Charles Spurgeon put the principle in his inimitable way,

  One bit of Bible prayed over, and bedewed with the Spirit, and made alive, though it be only a short sentence of six words, will profit you more than a hundred chapters without the Spirit.1

One bit of Bible, bedewed with the Spirit, comes to life in one bit of life! You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never does. Ministry, like life, goes one step at a time.
Apply this first and foremost to your own life. The best advice I ever got on preaching was this: “Live your message for a week, a month, a lifetime. Then aim low. You’re sure to hit something.” The same thing applies to would-be counselors. What is your current struggle? How does God in Christ connect to you in this? You can give away what you are being given. What you give from out of your own life will be life-giving to others. When you are learning kindness from your Savior you will be able to teach unkind people. When you are learning to endure suffering well, you will be able to reach sufferers. It is the same with any other radiancy of the Spirit: clarity, courage, humility, patience, joy, wisdom, gratitude, mercy, teachability, generosity, honesty. If you are unhesitatingly honest, you can help dishonest people.

Richard Baxter graphically named the alternative: “I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart go cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching is confused.”2 As with preaching, so with counseling. In fact, the impact for good or ill occurs more instantaneously in counseling. People come vulnerable, with current struggles laid openly on the table. You cannot conceal your response. You don’t have the luxury of planning even the next sentence to come out of your mouth. You immediately publish the distempers or radiancies of your soul. You publish by the questions you ask (or don’t ask), by how you listen (or don’t really want to listen), by the interpretations you offer (or don’t even think to offer), by the advice you give (or can’t give), by the attitude you take towards people, towards problems, towards people with problems.

Let me make the case that one timely passage does three essential things. First, it orients this person to the moral landscape within which he lives, moves, and has his being: “The unfolding of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:132). If someone tends to get lost in dark woods, the right road lost, then a good map and the light of dawn are extremely helpful! They don’t actually get you anywhere, but they orient you. You see where you’ve gotten and where you need to get. It must be simple and concrete—something true, riveted to real life. Theological generalities, abstractions and intricacies don’t do the job. General truths about yourself—your tendencies, typical patterns, themes that replay in your personal history—don’t change you. You must be able to identify where your particular current struggle lies, what it means, what exactly is at stake, where to go. Where is the firefight between good and evil? Today, what is your particular battlefield? You must be able to trace the difference between truth and lies, clarity and confusion, hope and illusion, right and wrongs, insight and self-deception, true need and wild desires, love and self-serving, living faith and functional godlessness. Where do you need God’s redemption and help? When you are disoriented in your current struggle, you don’t even know your choices. You can’t see the choice points. You can’t choose. When your way is deep darkness, you don’t know what makes you stumble. The right bit of Scripture—six words, two verses, one story—reorients you.

Second, a timely passage brings Christ’s grace and truth to this person. Something that God is, says, and does must invade your life struggles, beckon you, teach you, master you. What about God in Christ do you need in your current struggle? The map-giver personally guides through dark woods. You need help, and the LORD is a very present help in trouble. You can’t make it without grace to help in your time of need. The people you counsel can’t make it without help coming from the LORD who made heaven and earth. The first beatitude—essential poverty, need, and weakness—comes first for a reason. We need what God gives. We need our Father to give the Holy Spirit to us, that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, that the love of God is poured out within us exactly when the heat is on. Augustine summarized the immediacy of grace this way: “Give what You command and command what You will.” Some part of the good news of the Lord’s redemptive purpose, will, and promise is absolutely necessary—right now. The Bible models how ministry and life focus on one thing at a time. A good theology book rightly asks, “Who is God?”, and goes on to fill 400 pages with truths. But Psalm 121 cries out, “Where does my help come from?”, and seizes on one necessary thing: “The LORD keeps me.”

Third, a timely passage invites change. In the Bible’s vivid picture, we “turn” to our Father, Savior, and Comforter. Oriented to our current struggle, and embracing what God says, we come to Him. He works in us to one end: change. Faith works through love—here and now. The central dynamic of the Christian life is a FROM … TO … movement. “Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life.”3 Faith does new transactions and conversations with God. Love does new actions and choices on the stage of life. When God calls, you listen. When He promises, you trust and talk back to Him from need. When He loves, you love. When He commands, you obey. You aim your life in a new direction by the power of the Holy Spirit who works with you. In every case, you turn.

These are the purposes of the whole Bible, the whole mission of our Redeemer. But a timely text brings truth down to consumable size. Think of it this way. When you get to know a person well, you come to know both the panorama and the details. But change walks out in the details.

The patterns, themes, and tendencies are like the view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. From one hundred floors up, everything spreads serenely before you. But the action and noise of life happens at the corner of 5th Avenue & 34th Street and takes the Lincoln Tunnel home to Hoboken. Our lives work as stories, in a running series of scenes. Like a novel or movie, big themes work out in small scenes. This is how God has made it to be. This is how He works. This is something that would-be counselors often don’t get. It is something that preachers who do not counsel—and counsel well—often don’t understand. When you counsel (or preach) in great and good generalities, people will nod, but they rarely change. They rarely really change. Jesus works for a turn-the-world-upside-down reorientation and redirection. Ministry needs to know the big picture, but it always takes the elevator down to “G.” Get involved on the corner. Talk into the traffic noise. Drive over to Hoboken at rush hour. Change actually takes place in the watershed moments, choice points, and decisive incidents of everyday life.

So what does this look like while you’re actually talking with someone? What does it mean for what you give a person to take away into the week ahead?

David A. Powlison, "Think Globally, Act Locally", The Journal of Biblical Counseling: Volume 22, Number 1, Fall 2003 (Glenside, PA: The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, 2003). 3-5.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
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From Connie and I to you…

24/12/2012 Comments off

John 3:16 can give us the message of Christmas.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

While this verse is often overlooked as being a “Christmas verse” we can easily see the loving, giving heart of the Father in that he gave His only begotten Son.

God the Father set the example of giving, and it was carried on through the life of Christ while He lived here on this earth. Jesus said in,

John 14:9 ESV  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

This spirit of giving originated with the Father and radiated through the Son, and in turn Jesus commands us to do the same in,

John 13:34 ESV  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This love is not based on feelings or emotions, otherwise Jesus would not have been able to “command” us to love. He is talking about the kind of love He had when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,

Luke 22:42 ESV  saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."

He is talking about each one of us doing our part in love regardless of what we “feel” like at any given moment.

This is the kind of love that will visit a new friend’s home and hold the hand of one who is discouraged. This is the kind of love that will cry with another who cries, and who rejoices with another who rejoices. This is the kind of love that will look “beyond faults” and see the need.

We encourage you at this wonderful time of year to appreciate our giving God once again, and to minister to the “one another’s” all around us.  We call it the ministry of investing in others without needing the credit.  This season should reveal Prophet, Priest and King to all of us.  And emanate from all of us.  Some from the Word, some from life you lead, the actions you take, the inconvenient moments we all have every day.  Thank you for sharing your lives with us.  So Connie and I want to extend you Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year!!! 

And He said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God."
(John 6:65-69 ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving from Derek & Connie Iannelli-Smith

22/11/2012 Comments off

We wanted to take a moment to say ‘Thanks’ to you for being such an evidence of God’s grace in our life…

William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony made this proclamation in 1623:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

During this season of Thanksgiving, I thought the above words would serve as a reminder that we are to be a people with a thankful heart for the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. Someone once said that true Thanksgiving, is first “thanks”, then “giving”. How true that is! When we really realize all that God has done for us, especially in sending His Son, Jesus Christ to this earth over 2,000 years ago, our hearts are filled with thankfulness which moves us to a life of service for Him.

If we begin to believe that somehow it is “our” strength and ability that has produced our blessings we have become deceived by our own thoughts. Just before the God’s people were going into the Promised Land, Moses gave these final words to them:

10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,

Deuteronomy 8:10-11 (ESV)

Moses goes on to warn the people that often the times we are tempted to forget God the most are the times of prosperity.
Looking back on this past year, Connie and I have been blessed greatly through God’s vessel, you… however we must always recognize that without the hand of God and His precious anointing, all our labors will be in vain. During this season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to express your appreciation to the Lord for His blessings upon our families and friends. Truly, He has been and continues to be a good God!
 
 
Thanksgiving Blessings,

Derek & Connie Iannelli-Smith

The Truth About the Lordship of Christ by John MacArthur

14/06/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for early preview of this work, this opportunity continues to be a blessing to me.

In The Truth About the Lordship of Christ, MacArthur is not dealing with minor problems or disputes peripheral to the faith, but with the crucial issue of all—namely, What does it mean to be a Christian? His answers in this condense work addresses what I consider to be the core issue of present-day Christianity.

Why is today’s church so pathetic? Why are we able to tout many conversions and grow church members but have less and less impact on our culture? How is it that Christians are indistinguishable from the world? Is it because we are calling the unregenerate/lost, Christians? Or is it that many are settling for a “form of godliness but denying its power”

(2 Timothy 3:1-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F55003001-55003005(ESV))? This pivotal work in MacArthur’s Truth series is successful in turning true followers/disciples from the feeble gospel and deceitful propaganda of this age to a true gospel-centered focus. This work reveals a man whose conscience is clearly taken captive by the Word of God. It reveals that he knows how to read the Bible for what it actually says, and is fearless in proclaiming that Word to desperate and handicapped generation.

As with all of MacArthur’s works, this book was very interesting, concise, and thorough.  As always, MacArthur also challenges, inspires, and enlightens in a very charitable way.  MacArthur teaches us through scripture to discern and think;

204168: The Truth About the Lordship of Christ The Truth About the Lordship of Christ
By John MacArthur / Thomas Nelson

Worship: The Ultimate Priority–John MacArthur Revised Audiobook

08/03/2012 Comments off

Of course, this review was not possible without the generous investment in me by the christianaudio Reviewers Program.  Thank you.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For He is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture,
and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you hear His voice,

If your desire is to listen to His voice; He knows us, and we get to follow Him. He gives us eternal life, and we shall never perish; as no one can snatch us out of His hand.  John MacArthur reminds us in the newly revised edition of classic work that Worship is the ultimate priority.

I remember my first Shepherds Conference and the sessions on Worship.  I was again struck with this audiobook of the great disciple of Christ that continues to be an evidence of God’s grace through John’s investment in the Body of Christ.  The two new chapters and the revisions in the foundational work are truly saturated as always, in scripture.  The Bible is the final authority of this work.  John guides us into understanding God’s perspective on the spectrum of our current ‘worship services’ to a Pink-like attributes of God systematic theology.

The audiobook was very interesting to me as it challenged me, inspired me, and enlightened me on how selfish I am in my interactions with God.  John has continued for fifteen years of my walk to exhort me to meditate and focus my life on the Living Word of God.  John keeps me focused on God and Scripture and the narrator’s voice was an excellent compliment to this work.  The book was obviously presented in John’s classic style of cohesiveness and appealing manner while not compromising solid Biblical Truth.  I would recommend this book for general audiences of all kinds, as most of it is Scripture – timeless and multi-generational.

402158: Worship: The Ultimate Priority Worship: The Ultimate Priority
By John MacArthur / Moody Publishers* How can we best glorify God? By making worship a priority! Taking you beyond church walls into the recesses of your heart, MacArthur explores the attributes of God, the right and wrong ways to worship him, and ideas on how to honor him in our daily lives. This revised edition includes two new chapters.

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus–Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson — Audiobook Review

25/12/2011 Comments off

Thank you Christianaudio.com Reviewers Program for the opportunity to review this book!

Do you really need another Christian Parenting book and is your parenting really Christian?

Elyse and Jessica evaluate their work by this scathing statement and even get bold enough to state that the best parenting book is the Bible, then why another one you ask?  Because many of them teach parents how to train up their children to be either Pharisees or Prodigals.  That is all about to change when Mother and Daughter describe how to parent with grace and an emphasis on the Cross.

As a biblical counselor I see many Christian parents, in their desire to raise godly children, lean toward rule-centered discipline. There is, however, a far more effective method–a gospel-centered, grace-motivated approach that begins with the glorious truth of God’s love for sinners.

In Give Them Grace, parents will learn how to connect the benefits of the cross–especially regeneration, adoption, and justification–to their children’s daily lives. Chapters address topics such as our inability to follow the law perfectly, God’s forgiveness and love displayed at the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like. Fitzpatrick and Thompson also discuss discipline, dealing with popular culture, and evangelism as a way of life. Parents will find this book a great resource for raising grace-filled, Jesus-loving kids.

This was an exemplary and very interesting work, even now as kids have all grown and we are now interacting with grandchildren.  It challenged, inspired, and enlighten me to remember the gospel first for myself, and the benefits of making time in the moment with children.  Something not normally considered in the life of parenting or grand parenting.  The author(s) made me think about the ‘rules’ we have for the grandkids when they come over;

  1. No whining or complaining.
  2. Ask before you do anything.
  3. An adult will only ask you once.
  4. No tattle telling.
    In putting these through the grid, I see that every time we address these areas we get a chance to share the gospel with them, and it has been amazing to see the gospel of grace walked out as ages 5-10 respond differently to the same message.  I was made aware too, how these same ‘rules’ can can tend toward rule-centered discipline and I need to be cautious of that.  I thought the author(s) did a great job of holding my attention attention and the audio narrator even did a fantastic job of singing beautifully some of the songs in the book as well.  Elyse and Jessica presented gospel centered parenting information in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  Even the appendixes were fantastic, especially the gospel story to share with kids!  It goes without saying that

NANC

    counselor Elyse successfully conveys Biblical truth and ensures that the Bible is the final authority for all matters of parenting.  I highly recommend this book to any parents and grandparents who desire to supplement their Bible reading with gospel-centered application.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F19127003-19127005(ESV)

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