Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Biblical Counseling Video Observation Courses Compared

As part of my longterm goal of developing skill as a Biblical Counselor, I have been taking training from a local Biblical counseling ministry affiliated with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC, formerly National Association of Nouthetic Counselors).

Part of the training requirement is to observe 10 hours of counseling.  You can watch live counseling or watch videos that have been approved by ACBC.  In September, I attended a class in which we watched observation DVDs produced by Faith Bible Church.   The DVDs were excellent overall and I was surprised to learn afterwards that the recordings used amateur actors, not real counselees. That made me wonder how realistic the counseling sessions were to "real life".  Is it like evangelism?  When I was learning to share the gospel, I watched some video reenactments of evangelistic encounters.  When I actually began evangelizing, I learned that the "real life" evangelism was not nearly as "cut and dried" as the reenacted videos made it look.  (On the other hand, Ray Comfort's videos use real evangelism and are very true to life.)

Then I learned that the Biblical Counseling Center has produced videos using real counselees (with counselee permission).  They were kind enough to let me review theirs as well.  I wanted to know which set of videos would be best when our church holds its own observation classes.

There were definitely differences between the two sets of recordings.  Here is a chart comparing some of them.

Produced by
Faith Bible Church
Biblical Counseling Center
Biblical Counseling Observation
Portraits of Biblical Counseling
Number of episodes
Number of counselors
5 (4 male, 1 female)
4 (3 male, 1 female)
Number of counselees
8 (4 male, 4 female)
9 (1 male, 8 female)

Online viewing
$127 + shipping
$50 per viewer

Marriage problems
Medical problems
Identity In Christ
Guilt (etc)
Wrap up
Post-session analysis interview with counselor

Didactic (a lot more teaching and less listening)

More intense
More relaxed

More varied

Deciding between the two is proving to be really hard for me. To me, the counseling approach of the Faith Bible Church DVDs seemed slightly more biblical. I also liked how they seemed a bit more aggressive in working with counselee problems. But I really like the realism of BCC's videos.  Perhaps after I actually get to do some real counseling myself, I will have a better feel for which one to recommend. (Does anyone out there have a problem you'd like some free Biblical counseling for? :))

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lots of Free Christian Books

If you don't mind reading on electronic devices, you can get some quality Christian eBooks for free by bookmarking
The site is constantly updated with the latest freebies. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Free! ESV Study Bible Online

The ESV Study Bible is known for its excellent, conservative, extensive commentary notes.  This month Crossway is making available access to the notes online, for free.  You have to sign up before November ends.  Unfortunately the sign up process is slightly cumbersome, but hang in there, you'll get it! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Zello: the Unlikely Skypecast Alternative

After Skype closed their Skypecasting feature back in 2009, I searched extensively for another tool that would offer the same sort of tool.  Skypecasts were sort of like ham radio combined with talk radio, and provided an excellent platform for evangelism.

My aunt recently told me about a tool called Zello that has features almost as good as the original Skypecasts.  Strangely, Zello's main feature is a way to use your computer or mobile device as a simple walkie talkie.  But they also have a "Channels" feature that is quite similar to Skypecast.  And it's completely free for personal use.

My Zello handle is 'danielofaz'.  Feel free to look me up.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Insanity of God: Oddly Encouraging

The Insanity of God is hard to categorize.  Combine the inexplicable suffering of Job, the intense action and miracles of Mark, and the simple repetitive language of 1 John and you have a start.  I read it last month on Mom's Kindle, mostly late at night after coming home alone from caring for her in the nursing home, and found it oddly encouraging.  It is the story of a man with character strengths and flaws meeting a God who is not "tame".

Nik Ripken is a pseudonym.  But his story is true, and more unsettling than any work of fiction.  He and his wife went to Africa as missionaries and he wound up trying to provide basic provisions for the people of Somalia for 6 years in the 90's.  The work was extremely demanding and unsafe.  He was there before the UN arrived and he stayed on after they left.  He witnessed all kinds of tragic situations and at the end of it all, he was unsure whether he had done any lasting good whatsoever.  When funds dried up and he finally had to shut his work down, one of his sons died suddenly of a freak asthma complication.

Deeply discouraged, he returned to the US with his wife and remaining two sons.  Then he got the idea to travel to countries where the church has lived or is living through intense persecution, to ask them what has helped them thrive under suffering.  He thought perhaps he could use this to help the Somalian church, which had been nearly exterminated.  The experiences and conversations he had are enough to make any VOM worker envious.  Suffice it to say that you could make compelling feature-length movies out of many chapters from this book.

But oddly, the book itself is not exceptionally well-written, despite the help of a co-author.  The story is told simply; sometimes with unnecessary repetition and sometimes with colorless language.  But the story itself will keep you reading even when the words do not.  The book lacks much interaction with Scripture; don't base your theology on it. 

Most interestingly, the book does not have a picture perfect ending.  Dr. Ripken opens the jagged edges of his life story to you, and leaves you with the same questions and uncertainties that he still faces.  You will question some of his decisions, and be inspired by others. 

I have read a lot of books about the persecuted church, and this is now my fifth-most favorite book in that category.  (The top four are, in order: Tortured for Christ, God's Smuggler, In God's Underground, and Faith That Endures.)  If you have a Kindle and want to read it, I can loan you my copy for free.

Please check out the video trailer below. 
"Insanity of God" from imb connecting on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Desire a Noble Task!

"The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." (1 Tim. 3:1, ESV)

A note I recently sent to a dear friend who has worked in parachurch ministry for many years:

Dear ____,

Thank you (and _____) for your encouraging emails.  It’s amazing to me that in the middle of the busyness of your work in _____ you find time to pray for us, much less write notes!  

Have you ever prayed about the idea of serving as a pastor?  I know that would be a major change from the kind of ministry you are involved in now, but maybe not so big a change as it would seem.  Your work already is primarily shepherding and discipling people.  And you have a shepherd’s heart.  With pastoring, you shepherd fewer people but you get to shepherd a larger variety of people.  You also get to disciple them in all aspects of their spiritual development (at least, if you take the task of pastoring seriously, as I know you would) rather than the more limited scope that parachurch work gives you.  Parachurch work seems more efficient and focused (at least, that is how it felt to me for the years I was with VOM) but church work feels more real and holistic.  It is sort of like the difference between being a schoolteacher and being a parent.  In pastoring there is also the sobering but strangely joyous knowledge that you are serving the primary organization that the Lord established to continue and advance His work until His return.  (Not that parachurch work is at all wrong, but there is not a direct establishment of it in Scripture, while there clearly is for the church.)

I don’t say all this as “a word from the Lord” but just something that came to mind while I was thanking Him for you. 

In Jesus’ love,


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spiritual Heartburn from the Old Testament

I've received a fair number of books for free in exchange for an unbiased review.  Most of them were interesting.  But this one is compelling.  I could recommend you buy most of the others I read.  But this one, I might actually buy myself a few more copies to give to friends.

Pastor and professor David Murray takes a complex and controversial area of theology -- interpreting the Old Testament correctly in the light of the fuller revelation of the New Testament -- and explains it in language that is both simple and beautiful.

Jesus on Every Page is wonderful in almost every way.  It's well organized: you could easily use its chapters as outlines for a preaching series or Sunday school class.  It's personal: Murray shares his own journey in appreciating the Old Testament.  And it's condensed: he doesn't flesh out every point in minute detail.  It's the kind of book that makes you think deeply rather than doing all the thinking for you.

After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:44-47, NRSV) Jesus on Every Page shows how what Jesus said is true of every era and genre of Old Testament writing: the creation, the law of Moses, the prophets, the historical narratives, the Psalms and Proverbs, even the Song of Solomon.  They all point forward to Jesus, more clearly and beautifully than I had ever noticed.  When Jesus showed two disciples on the road to Emmaus how the Old Testament talked about Him, they said afterwards, "Did not our hearts burn within us?"  I felt like that while reading this book.  It's that great. 

The only negative I see in this book: David Murray is clearly a believer in covenant theology rather than dispensationalism.  As such, while we both see tremendous foreshadowing of Jesus in the Old Testament, he sees greater continuity between the old and new covenants than I do.  His treatment of passages like 2 Corinthians 3 seemed forced. 

Nevertheless, I heartily recommend this work as a great source of spiritual nourishment for your soul which will cause you to understand and delight in Jesus more as you see Him throughout the Old Testament. 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Mom is home!

Mom came home from Kachina Point Rehab Facility on November 1, exactly a month after she was first put in the hospital.  Here's a picture of her getting a little sun this afternoon. She has an appointment Tuesday to get an X-ray and see the bone doctor. 
Behind her you can see the wheelchair-accessible van we purchased.  

We will miss many of the people we met at Kachina Point, both staff and residents. The Lord gave us many wonderful opportunities to talk about Him while we were there. 

God has been faithful and good to us, in answering the prayers of his people for mom and for dad and me too. The future is uncertain for Mom, but His promises aren't.