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As you consider this triad of biblical categories—“saint, sufferer, and sinner”—which of these lenses tends to control the way you see and speak to God’s people around you? Each of these perspectives on our Christian experience is obviously important, but my sense is that—dare I say it?—our conversations with one another often suffer from a grave imbalance: “sinner” gets the most airtime, “sufferer” runs a distant second, and “saint” gets little to no mention at all.

Have you noticed how the Apostle Paul repeatedly references multiple associates—“fellow workers” and “ministers”—with whom he serves. As Colin Marshall and Tony Payne observe, “Up to 100 names are associated with Paul in the New Testament, of which around 36 could be considered close partners and fellow laborers.” [2] For example, there are Prisca and Aquila (Rom 16:3), Apollos (1 Cor 3:5), Tychichus (Eph 6:21), Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25), Epaphras (Col 1:7), and Timothy (1 Thess 3:2), to name just a few. In a word, Paul carried out his ministry within the context of a team.

Like yours, my heart has been heavy with grief this week in the wake of the evil suffered by Christians in Nashville. And, perhaps like yours, my heart has struggled to find words to speak to God in prayer.

By now you know that Harvest Church is hosting a special conference this spring called “Caring for One Another” (Friday-Saturday, April 21-22), featuring Dr. Ed Welch. Perhaps you’ve wondered, “Why should I attend this conference?” Great question! Here’s offering several reasons for your prayerful consideration:

At the heart of biblical change is a relational transaction: the real you engages the real God in the midst of real trouble. When someone seeks my pastoral counsel, this is one key principle that I try to help the person understand in the early stages of the counseling process.

Of course, grasping this concept is one thing; putting it into practice is another. Inevitably, a counselee will ask me, “How do I do this?” Great question! I think the answer is more easily “caught” than “taught,” which is why I love taking people to the Book of Psalms to eavesdrop on the prayers of God’s troubled people. When we slow down and watch closely, we see this relational, heart-to-heart transaction happening before our eyes.

This month began with a bang as twenty-five Harvest members participated in the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation’s National Conference in Hershey, PA (19 of us in person plus 6 by live stream). The worship, teaching, and fellowship (and chocolate!) were fantastic. But let me share three examples of how the flywheel is gaining steam as we grow forward.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2) Ponder this pivotal command and promise with me for a moment.

Clearly, the needs for wise care within the church far exceed the capacity of any pastor, and clearly, the solution is to multiply wise helpers within the church through training. “How?” is the million-dollar question! The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) is a biblical counseling ministry that God is using worldwide to help pastors like me answer this all-important, how-to question.

Here’s inviting you to join me in assessing and redressing a small but important slice of daily life: the words we speak to the people around us. But first some context to orient you. Two weeks ago, I preached from Proverbs 9. In the preceding chapters, we overhear a father counseling his young, soon-to-be-launched-into-the-world son by means of a series of ten fatherly talks: “Listen, my son . . .” (1:8-19; 2:1-22; 3:1-12; 3:21-25; 4:1-9; 4:10-19; 4:20-27; 5:1-23; 6:20-35; 7:1-27). Then, in chapter nine, we come to the climatic conclusion in which we hear two competing “counselors”—"Woman Wisdom” (vv. 1-6) and “Dame Folly” (vv. 13-18)—bidding for the allegiance of the son’s heart: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (vv. 4; 16). Now the kicker: You and I are the son who must decide between the two!

What kind of heart does God revive? “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite’’” (Isaiah 57:15).

“How do I act right when my spouse acts wrong?” That’s a great question! Let me recommend one resource that works out biblically-wise answers in ways that are practical and true to life: "How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong" by Biblical counselor Leslie Vernick. In what follows, I’ve tried to summarize what Vernick says in 200 pages. If you find yourself reacting sinfully to being sinned against by your spouse, or if you know someone who does, let me encourage you to read and apply this book in your life and ministry. Of course, if you would like to sit down together and talk about these sorts of struggles, please let me know; I would be glad to help you!

How do you get FROM Big Ben TO Buckingham Palace? Or more generally, how do you get FROM any point A TO any point B within a six-mile radius from the center of downtown London? You’ll find no better guides than the drivers of the Black Cab. The reason? As Gregory Hudson puts it, “Cabbies are famed for possessing a detailed understanding of the city.” First comes a few years of training, then comes a thoroughgoing testing. The result? These drivers possess a “mental map” of some 25,000 city streets! They call it “The Knowledge”—a very practical, down-to-earth understanding of how to take a person FROM here TO there.

I love the Bible because it is truth spoken in love by the Wonderful Counselor. Every day, otherworldly voices—other “counselors”—intrude and compete, beckon and beguile, sound plausible and pleasing. But wonder of wonders, God inserts himself into the conversation. He is not silent. He does not leave us guessing as to who we are and what life is really about. He speaks his mind in Scripture, exposing folly, providing wisdom, restoring peace. “The unfolding of your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130).

According to Scripture, “wisdom” is the art of knowing how to live, and one behavior that the Book of Proverbs is especially concerned to highlight and transform is the way we speak. Since God is the speaking God, and since we are created in his image, key questions confront us: Does the content of our talk image God’s truth, and does the intent of our talk image God’s love? The words that we speak are never neutral; they are either wise or foolish.

Gotta moment for something different? Cindy and I got such a kick out of the following that I thought you might enjoy it, too;

In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk in the news about government surveillance. I know little to nothing about this earthly sort of intelligence gathering, but I have come to know something about the unearthly sort of personal monitoring revealed in the Bible: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Heb 4:13). In Scripture, God reveals himself as the infallible and reliable Searcher of hearts. As such, he is the God who sees clearly, and who speaks redemptively to what he sees.

Pastors looking at their congregation through the lens of Scripture see both a wonderful prospect and a daunting challenge. The prospect? Scripture helps pastors see from a distance the glory of God’s people coming into their own: “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

On this Good Friday, I thought I’d share one of my favorite hymns. It was written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman, a Puritan minister who (along with 2000 clergy) was expelled from the Church of England for opposing its Act of Uniformity (1662). Many years later the hymn fell into obscurity, but in 1925 English composer John Ireland recast the hymn into a tune of his own.

Thirty-five years ago, I was sitting on the steps of my college fraternity house and reading these words written by the apostle Paul: “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10). It was a well-timed word that cut like a knife; I had just become a Christian, and the Holy Spirit was wasting no time in confronting my idol of choice. My ongoing fight against “people-pleasing” remains ferocious, but one biblically wise, Christ-centered book has proved especially helpful to me: When People Are Big and God Is Small by Ed Welch, a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF).

Many Christians view the Bible as if it were an “encyclopedia”

“Nativity” refers to a person’s “birth,” particularly the circumstances associated with a person’s birth. So, what are we to make of the nativity of Jesus? In Luke 2:1-7, God speaks three words of hope to kindle a heart of faith.