Mindscape by Timothy Z. Witmer

mindscapeAbout the Book – 

“No Worries?”

We lob the phrase at others, but lie awake at night ourselves. Ebola, the economy, our kids, our parents, our future. We struggle to pull our thoughts away from our worries, fears, and frustrations. When we get stuck, it’s not exactly easy to fixate on “whatever is true, noble, right and pure.” We are profoundly aware that our worries have negative consequences for our bodies, minds, and relationships. But like most real people with real problems, our thoughts keep swirling around the same old issues.Mindscape builds a practical action plan for changing your mental landscape—and your life—based on Paul’s rich exhortation in Philippians 4:8. Author Tim Witmer draws from thirty years of experience in helping worried people apply Scripture to their lives to present a clear, biblical, and deeply pastoral guide to replacing worry with a new way of thinking.

Mindscape is not a self-help book or an academic tome on behavioral theory. It is a real-world guide to the transformation that Jesus works in us as we go to him in faith and ask for his power to change, to listen, and to think differently. Chapter-by-chapter application questions make Mindscape perfect for personal reflection or small group use.

  • Builds a biblical, practical action plan for filling your mind with new thoughts based on Paul’s rich exhortation in Philippians 4:8
  • Simple, clear, and pastoral guidance: Mindscape is the overflow of a pastor’s thirty years of helping worried people apply Scripture to their lives
  • Chapter-by-chapter application questions are perfect for personal reflection or small group use.

WitmerAbout the Author – 

Timothy Z. Witmer, MDiv, DMin is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary where he serves as Coordinator of the Practical Theology Department and Director of Mentored Ministry and Master of Divinity Programs. He has also served for thirty-five years in pastoral ministry, most recently completing twenty-seven years of service at Crossroads Community Church (PCA) in Upper Darby, PA having been designated Pastor Emeritus. Tim is the author of The Shepherd Leader and The Shepherd Leader at Home. He and his wife Barbara have three children, four grandchildren and reside in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

My Review –

‘What? Me worry?’

Yes, both me and you…we worry. We get anxious. Certain concerns overwhelm us to the point of distraction. Perhaps, we even get to the point where we can’t act, we can’t decide, we can’t even breathe.

Timothy Witmer wants the Christian to know that there is a remedy for this; a biblical remedy. He directs the reader to Philippians 4.8 for help. One would think he would go to verse 6, ‘Do not be anxious about anything.’ I mean, after all, that’s the command. Shouldn’t we need only a command from our Lord and worry is no longer an issue within us because we’ll obey. Or, we’ll worry about trying to obey it adequately. We’ll grow anxious about the degree to which I can or cannot carry out such a command.

So, dive into verse 8, Witmer says. This is the verse that will help us in our meditation, in our devotion to the Word of the Lord and the Lord of the Word. ‘…think about such things.’ Each chapter that follows is an exposition of what each of the phrases from verse 8 has us thinking about: that which is noble, right, pure, lovely admirable, and praiseworthy.

Witmer may be a teacher at a seminary, but he is a pastor at heart. He knows that too many will hear about this book and think, ‘I know some worriers who need this book.’ Yet they will never think of themselves as one who gets anxious. And this is really who this book is for. Oh, I have no doubt, for the chronic worrier, for the wife who is anxious about so many things at home, for the husband who is consumed with worry at work, that this book will prove very helpful–far more than the bottle of prescription meds for anxieties. This book, however, is for those of us who need to take God’s Word seriously, who need to learn to meditate upon it daily and apply it to areas of our lives in very specific ways…such as anxiety.

The author also keeps us looking to Christ. Oh, how I love this in an author, especially one who is writing about issues/disorders such as this one. This is a book that gets us to the point where our first reaction to the temptation to worry is not to worry, but to look to Christ; to think about Christ.

So, whether you are a worrier or not, you need to read this book. You need to learn the art of biblical meditation and application.

If you’d like to read more from another reviewer, Aimee Byrd has a delightfully helpful review over at Books At A Glance.

Dr. Witmer gives a lecture on Mindscape’s teachings in this video as well:

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Mindscape may be purchased here:

New Growth Press

Amazon.com:

Paperback edition

Kindle edition

There’s also a great bargin on the book over at:

Westminster Book Store

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Purity Is Possible by Helen Thorne

purity is possibleAbout the Book – One in five Christian women use pornography. One in three visitors to a porn site is a woman. Many, many more women read explicit books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Even more than that write their own pornography – not on paper for publication, but in their heads for their own use.

Helen Thorne knows all this because she’s done it.

But no one talks about it. Our churches are silent on it. There are very few books about it. It is the unspoken struggle of thousands of Christian women – perhaps you, and probably someone you know.

But no more. In this refreshingly honest, resolutely hope-filled and gospel-soaked book, Helen speaks the unspoken. In doing so, she shows how purity is better and more satisfying than fantasy – and that, whoever you are and whatever your struggles, that purity is possible.

helen thorneAbout the Author – Helen Thorne is Assistant Director of the Open Bible Institute where she oversees the Cert HE Theology courses validated by Middlesex university and offers general student support. She is also a trustee for Capital Youthworks, the charity behind Sorted – an annual youth event held in London.

Helen Thorne is the blog editor at The Good Book Company and oversees the work of The Good Book College. She has a passion for biblical counselling, edited The Good Book College’s course in a Women’s Ministry and is a trustee of Capital Youthworks (the charity behind Sorted and Sorted Nano). She attends Dundonald Church in Raynes Park, London.

My Review – This book doesn’t really add anything new to the conversation about seeking to develop purity in one’s life when it comes to pornography…if you’re a young man. But Helen Thorne isn’t writing to young men; she writes to young women, the fastest-growing demographic using pornography.

I think this book shocked me, simply in the sense that I don’t usually associate women and pornography together…at least not when it comes to using it for one’s own fantasy life. Of course, we all know about the degradation of women, the objectification of women IN porn, but as the OBJECTS of its intake; well, that’s something which needs to be addressed.

Thorne lays out her plea to women in a manner that not only seeks to get them to stop the sinfully impure life of fantasy adultery/fornication via pornography, but to replace it with a stronger, better affection.  Chapter 1 begins by talking about real beauty, true beauty, rather than the airbrushed, silicon-injected variety that women are now feeling like they need to pursue in order to be attractive to others. ‘Magazine beauty is superficial beauty. Real beauty–that’s what we were designed for. We were made for the kind of beauty that starts in the hearts and overflows into every part of our being.’

From here, she goes on to address fantasy, which I could only wish she’d have explored more. My curiosity is raised here by the huge influx of so-called ‘Christian romance novels’ over the past decade. I wonder how much this contributes to the female reader’s discontent with her own love life (be it physical or emotional) and causes her to fantasize about something other than what she’s been given by God. It may seem all ‘innocent’ because, well, after all, it’s ‘Christian.’ But the mind is a powerful tool and is open to temptations of all sorts.

Thorne’s later chapters on Mercy, Purity, Liberty and true Intimacy were very helpful. As I said at the beginning, if this short book were being offered to men, it doesn’t say much that hasn’t been said by men like Tim Challies (The Next Generation and Sexual Detox). But Thorne writes for the woman struggling with purity issues related to fantasy and pornography. She is very readable and relatable (sharing her own struggles without become morbid or vulgar, thus increasing the problem itself).

I now have a ‘go to’ book for young women when it comes to talking about sexual purity.

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The Good Book Company

Amazon.com

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A New Apostolic Reformation by R. Douglas Geivett & Holly Pivec

NAR (final   6-6-14)About the Book –

This critique provides a framework for understanding and interpreting the widespread but little-known New Apostolic Reformation movement. As the authors state in the preface: “We write this book with two major goals in mind. First, to give people an idea of the sheer size and reach of the NAR movement. And second, to systematize its key teachings and practices and evaluate them on the basis of Scripture and careful reasoning. . . . In our judgment, the NAR perspective crosses these boundaries [that is, certain broad parameters, revealed in Scripture and practiced in the historical orthodox church], and it does so in part because of flawed theology rooted in a flawed understanding of Scripture.

“We wish to warn readers about a possible confusion: Some critics have linked the NAR movement with mainstream Pentecostalism and charismatics. We do not do this. In fact, it is our contention that the NAR movement deviates from classical Pentecostal and charismatic teachings. This movement has emerged out of independent charismatic churches and, thus, has gained a foothold in many of those churches in varying degrees. But we do not argue for cessationism, the view that the ‘miraculous gifts’ listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are no longer active in the church. Whether the miraculous gifts are ongoing has no bearing on the arguments of our book.”

About the Authors –

douglas geivettR. Douglas Geivett is Professor of Philosophy in Talbot School of Theology at Biola University (La Mirada, California, U.S.A.). He is the author of Evil and the Evidence for God, and coeditor of four books: Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology; In Defense of Miracles; Faith, Film and Philosophy; and Being Good: Christian Virtues for Everyday Life.

hollypivecHolly Pivec holds a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University in Southern California (U.S.A.). She is an experienced journalist andresearcher, having served as a newspaper reporter, a contributing writer to the Christian Research Journal, and as the University Editor at Biola University for nearly 10 years as well as the managing editor of the award-winning Biola Magazine. She has more than 200 published articles, many related to the New Apostolic Reformation, church trends, and theological issues. She currently operates a popular blog that critiques the New Apostolic Reformation, called “Spirit of Error” (www.spiritoferror.org).

My Review –

Unaware that I had heard of this movement previous, but not by this name, I consider this book to be very helpful in putting on display what the New Apostolic Reformation is. What these two authors do well is giving information to describe and define this movement, what they hold to and how they are growing. What I’m not convinced of, however, is whether it’s a helpful book to help the reader beware the dangers of such a movement. Geivett & Pivec are clear in their objectives: 1) to give people an idea of the sheer size and reach of NAR; and, 2) to systematize NAR’s key teachings and practices and evaluate them on the basis of Scripture and careful reasoning. They achieve #1 very well indeed. What will take some convincing, for me at least, is whether #2 is met adequately or not.

The New Apostolic Reformation has arisen out of the Pentecostal movement. However, it’s gone beyond that group by a good stretch. NAR’s emphasis upon apostolic moves them beyond Charismatics and Pentecostals. ‘Its leaders claim they’re restoring the lost office of apostle to the church–an office endowed with astonish authority, miraculous powers, and divine strategies for establishing God’s kingdom on earth’ (Geivett & Pivec, p. 1). Those within the movement consider it a reformation because ‘the movement will completely change the way church is done, and its effects will be as great–or even greater than–the sixteenth Protestant Reformation.’ (Geivett & Pivec, p. 1)

Both of these are very bold claims indeed. What Geivett & Pivec then do is go chapter by chapter and describe what this NAR is, what it emphasizes and what its far-reaching objective may bring about. The authors do a fine job of documenting where they are getting their information. The reader can tell this is meant to be a credible scholarly work.

I am convinced, however, that they fall short in some of their evaluations of what this movement has done, is currently doing and could do in the future. One could listen to the sessions from John MacArthur’s ‘Strange Fire’ conference held nearly one year ago as a back drop for discerning the value of this current work. While I may not be the outright strong cessationist MacArthur is, there is no doubting the havoc that has been brought upon the church and individual Christians by this movement (and all of its more radical and aberrant adherents). I think Geivett & Pivec’s pre-dispositon toward the non-cessationist position leaves them wanting, somewhat, in their ability to use Scripture well to evaluate this movement.

My own convictions turn me away from this aberrant-cum-mainstream movement. However, that does not mean this book is not a worthy read. I think that it is…just not for the average layperson who either has never heard of this movement or given thought to whether apostles could exist today and whether new revelation is being given from God to a select few who appear to have no form of accountability to what they prophesy.

I recommend this book with caution. Know your background, your biblical context, your theological context and your historical context. Then, with discernment, you could benefit from this work. If you’re nearly unfamiliar with NAR or whether or not modern-day apostles can even exist or not, perhaps you should start with the authors’ shorter work: God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Apostles and Prophets Movement. It’s a much briefer book, more concise in the explanations and descriptions and geared for those just being introduced to such matters.

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A New Apostolic Reformation may be purchased here:

Weaver Book Company

Amazon.com

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Love Hurts

IMG_2968The Everly Brothers recorded a song in the 60s; Nazareth sang it as a rock ballad in the 70s. Most of us have sung it ourselves, whether we knew any of the lyrics or not. We know the experience: seeking to love someone, to genuinely care about them, we find our heart gets broken. They rebuff us. They don’t reciprocate. Misunderstanding. Miscommunication.

Love hurts.

Yes, it does seem to, doesn’t it? I find it’s often because of the expectations I have for others. I want so much better for them. I desire to see them grow, to mature. Perhaps they’ll improve their service, learn the art of self-sacrifice, open up and remove more of their personal walls.

Love hurts.

Paul Miller, in his book, A Loving Life, points out this happens when love becomes an idol. Yes, that epitome human affections, that glorious peak of Christianity becomes something that we worship. How can this be? It happens when, like many of God’s other good gifts, we take the gift and stop there. We fail to keep our eyes upon the Giver. Instead, we make the gift the object of our…, well, love. Sadly, this begins to empty love of what it could be full of: Christ.

So, God must take us through a crucible in order to purify us. Self needs to be burned away. Self-pity. Self-centeredness. Self-actualization. Self-esteem. Self. It’s for good reason the apostle Paul tells us to ‘put off the old self.’ Self cannot remain; it must die. Most of us try to just talk about taking ‘Self’ off the throne of our life (an old gospel tract illustration comes to mind). Yet we want to remain in the throne room, giving advice to God and His Son, Jesus.

Out comes the crucible again. ‘I must become less; He must become more.’ This happens best in the crucible, the place of suffering. Burning off our longing to merely be comfortable. Searing away our cravings. Purifying our desires.

IMG_2969What comes out of the crucible is…love. Love that gives itself away. Love that embraces another’s pain and heartache. Love that stops seeking to see everyone through Self’s lenses. Love which says, ‘I thought I knew you by the few passing words at church, but I find I barely know you at all; let’s have coffee and work on this.’

Love hurts…when it’s our own. That’s the pain of our own selfishness being stripped away so that the glorious God of love may shine in us and through us.

Some Post-Thanksgiving Thoughts and Gratitude

I hope you all had a delightful Thanksgiving. Weather & road conditions altered our plans for that day, but we still had a wonderful time as a family. (No time to thaw a turkey, so steaks made the menu…perhaps a new tradition was begun!) It was also a week of vacation for me and now I’m back ‘in the saddle’ and preparing for the Advent season that is upon us.

I am thankful for my children, all three of whom have trusted Christ by God’s good grace.

I am thankful for churches which preach the gospel. We had the opportunity to visit one this past Lord’s Day. It’s never quite ‘like home’ but it was a joy to worship with God’s people and hear a message instead of delivering one.

I am thankful for the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. We are reminded again and again of the God-man who came to live and die and live again for us.

I am thankful for those who bring God’s Word and open it faithfully at Cornerstone EFC in my absence.

I am thankful that some in my congregation are learning to ‘live’ without me there. And I’m thankful for those who haven’t learned it yet; they’ll get the opportunity to do so in the future.

I am grateful for elders who are so willing to serve above and beyond what I even hope.

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reading chairDuring my time off last week I did quite a bit of reading. I was able to get through two ebooks, one of which I’ll be reviewing next week. I also read/am reading two ‘real’ books: another Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child bit the dust in my hands while sitting in the easy chair in the sun shining through our living room window. Now, there’s a comforting experience.

The second ‘real’ book I’m reading is a bit disturbing: A New Apostolic Reformation: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement by R. Douglas Geivett & Holly Pivec, published by Weaver Book Company. It’s a presentation of the new ‘super apostles’ arising, mostly in the United States. Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson and many others would be names out of this group. The International House of Prayer located in Kansas City, MO would be just one example of a ‘church’ led by one of these new ‘super apostles’ (if that term is new or unfamiliar to you, just read 1 Corinthians and you’ll be introduced to them by a true, real apostle, Paul). I’ll be reviewing it later this week. I know some who are very supportive of these groups and it troubles me deeply that they are susceptible to many of their false teachings, false prophecies, deceptive practices and heresies. John MacArthur devoted an entire conference to something close to this, last December. You may recall hearing or reading about the Strange Fire conference. It caused an enormous stir on the inter-webs.

I have two other books waiting to be read for review that I’m looking forward to: Mindscape by Timothy Witmer (focusing on dealing with anxiety using Scripture) and Hide Or Seek by John Freeman (dealing with men and sexuality).

What have you been reading lately?

Some Pre-Thanksgiving Reading for you

It’s the day before America’s Thanksgiving and I’m on vacation, just kind of cruising through the week, so…

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Start out by taking a little Thanksgiving Quiz

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I’m thankful for grammar: a wise use of it, that is. So, keep your colons clean and properly functioning…

How To Use the Colon

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4-Spiritual-Blessings-to-Be-Thankful-For

Four Spiritual Blessings To Be Thankful For … at least four!

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The Transforming Power of Thankfulness and Forgiveness

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I’m also thankful for humor and creative people who can make me giggle…like Liz Climo, When She’s Not Drawing the Simpsons.

animal-comics-by-simpsons-artist-liz-climo-1

Taking a Look Around

It’s the week of Thanksgiving, at least for those of us in the central part of North America. Our northern brothers have already celebrated their day of thanks. I’m on vacation this week, so I thought I’d provide some ‘deeper’ thoughts from others for you to check out:

The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols
Warning: as you read this, insert your tongue firmly in the side of your cheek, as the author does in writing this parody. Then attempt to hear the argument he’s truly making…and you’ll see how selective and silly the argument truly is.

number1ish-300x30020 Cities Who Can Legitimately Complain About the Cold
I live in the state who’s sports motto is ‘Evaluating Quality Losses.’ MLB, NFL, NBA, even Division I college hoops take this motto quite seriously. No need wasting time and emotional energy bragging about wins and championships. So, it’s nice to see our state’s capital and biggest cities have something to brag about in being #1.

The Preacher, the Counselor, and the Congregation
I do not have the privilege of having a staff member serving alongside me. We just are ‘there’ yet. I’m not sure that a Minister of Counseling would be my first choice, even if Cornerstone were ready to bring on an associate staff member. This doesn’t make it wrong for others to do so; it’s just not my first priority. Instead, what I long to see is our people taught, trained, equipped and ready to be the counselors for one another. I’m not advocating against ‘professional’ counselors; I am advocating that brothers and sisters in Christ can do, and should do, far more in this role.

Bible-Balance in Christian Ministry
Reaching far back into the archives of articles I’ve stored up, I present this one from DesiringGod Ministries.

Me, Myself & I – Sologamy
Does anything scream ‘S-E-L-F’ louder than this concept? Is there another example of the mayhem being produced by all the disparate notions about marriage floating around in the cultural air we breathe than this? On a purely pragmatic scale, however, I guess it keeps the costs of wedding much lower. Sigh!

facepalm200_swork.4807654.2.flat,550x550,075,f.exasperation

Thankful for All Things…Even Work of All Sorts
Such lunacy in our world is largely because so few have ‘attitudes of gratitude’ like Dylan Weston (apologies for the cliched sloganeering).