Monday, November 30, 2015

A passage from "The Hiding Place" I can't manage to read out loud...

Corrie Ten Boom's autobiographical The Hiding Place is best known for its account of her war time experiences. But one of the many powerful sections in the book is about something that happened decades before, in the year 1919.

Corrie's describes her Tante Jans as a Christian social activist, who helped the poor, and also wrote tracts and pamphlets decrying such evils as mutton sleeves and bicycle skirts. In other words, a busy, well-meaning, but generally humorless lady, who was trying to earn her way to heaven.

When the doctor diagnoses her with diabetes it is quite a shock as there was no real treatment at that time. It meant that Tante Jans had very little time left, maybe a few years. Her response? "And from then on she threw herself more forcefully than ever into writing, speaking forming clubs and launching projects."

But then one day her weekly blood test came back black. Black meant she not longer had years or months, but merely days, three weeks at most. The family learns this before Tante Jan, and as they consider how to tell her Corrie's father hopes that: "Perhaps she will take heart from all she has accomplished. She puts great store on accomplishment, Jans does, and who knows but she is right!" So upstairs to her room they all go.
"Come in," she called to Father's knock, and added as she always did, "and close the door before I catch my death of drafts."
She was sitting at her round mahogany table, working on yet another appeal... As she saw the number of people entering the room, she laid down her pen. She looked from one face to another, until she came to mine and gave a little gasp of comprehension. This was Friday morning, and I had not yet come up with the results of the test.
“My dear sister-in-law,” Father began gently, “there is a joyous journey which each of God’s children sooner or later sets out on. And, Jans, some must go to their Father empty- handed, but you will run to Him with hands full!” 
“All your clubs…,” Tante Anna ventured. 
“Your writings…,” Mama added. 
“The funds you’ve raised…,” said Betsie.
“Your talks…,” I began. 
But our well-meant words were useless. In front of us the proud face crumpled; Tante Jans put her hands over her eyes and began to cry. “Empty, empty!” she choked at last through her tears. “How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?” 
And then as we listened in disbelief, she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that we must come with empty hands. I thank You that You have done all – all – on the Cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Case of the "Hopeless" Marriage

A Nouthetic Counseling Case from Beginning to End
by Jay Adams
142 pages / 2006

If you need marriage counseling, or know someone who does, read Hopeless Marriage.

In this fictionalized account, we are introduced to biblical counselor Greg Dawson and troubled couple Bert and Sue Lancaster. We follow them through ten sessions with the pastor as they attempt to repair their marriage.

At the start of things neither thinks Pastor Dawson can really help them. Both think divorce the most likely possibility. However they are Christians and are willing to submit themselves to what God is telling them from His Word. And because of that, Pastor Dawson can offer them hope. As Dawson explains:
I'm glad you came here before you made any rash decisions. I want you to know that I'll work with you for as long as necessary to help you solve your problems. And – let me say at the outset – they can be solved. I say that because you're both Christians. That means that you have newness of life to enable you to do God's will, you have the Bible to direct you how to do it, and you have God's Spirit to strengthen and help you do it.
What does this biblical marriage counseling look like? For that you need to read the book, but here's a peak at one matter that was addressed over the course of the first three sessions.

SESSION 1: At the end of the session Bert and Sue are given a homework assignment that involves composing "a list of 100 or more ways that [they] are failing God as a person, as a husband or wife, and as a father or mother." After they list their faults, then they are supposed to exchange lists to let their spouse add in any they might have missed! Why 100? Why so many? To provide some concrete material - as Dawson explains, "few people can come up with 100 generalizations." Instead of general he wants specific, because it is in specific small ways that people change. Just imagine if you were given the vague charge to "love your spouse more this week." How would you know whether you were meeting this goal or not? But what if things were more specific?

SESSION 2: Their homework assignment this time is to work on two of their faults, as picked by their spouse. This is the putting on of the new man spoken of in Ephesians 4 and while it's a small task – just two items! – that also means it's do-able! Bert is told to concentrate on taking out the trash and making sure his socks hit the hamper. If Bert wants to show his wife that the loves her, here are two very real ways he can go about doing so.

SESSION 3: When the couple shows up for week three it turns out that while Bert's socks hit the hamper six out of seven times, he completely forgot about the trash! Concrete goals reveal concretely whether they are being met or missed. Blame can be clearly assigned, sin shown, and therefore repentance sought – Bert can't evade responsibility, no real excuse is possible, for failing to attend to such a small task. Dawson explains to Bert that his lack of attention is going to be understood by Sue as a lack of love. Confronted by his sin, Bert has the choice of ignoring it, or seeking forgiveness for it. And because he really is a Christian man he shows his love for God by repenting.

That's a taste of the contents, but there is far more here. And what's wonderful about the fictionalized format is that it is a very easy read. This overview of what biblical marital counseling should look like will be useful to elders, deacons, ministers and anyone who is having difficulties or knows someone who is. You can pick up a copy of The Case of the "Hopeless" Marriage at by clicking here.

Author Jay Adams is the man most responsible for bringing the Bible back to biblical counseling – he started his own reformation and could properly be called the Martin Luther of biblical counseling. In addition to many other helpful resources and books he has authored (some of which we review here) Adams has also helped found the following three Christian counseling organizations which are good places to look for help. These are not perfect organizations, so discernment still needs to be used in picking a counselor from them, but this is a better place to start than any other I know of. Only a few Canadian counselors are listed, but there seems to be one in most major cities.

ACBC is the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, and was begun by Jay Adams more than 40 years ago. You can find out how to get training and how to find a counselor at there website:

INS or the Institute for Nouthetic Studies is Jay Adams own, smaller, training website with much of the course material available via online delivery (it is not free, but it is online) at

CCEF is the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, and it was also started by Jay Adams, back in 1968 (along with others). It also offers courses, and other resources (books, lectures, etc.) which you can find by visiting

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wrestling with an Angel: A Story of Love, Disability, and the Lessons of Grace

by Greg Lucas
99 pages / 2010

I found reading passages of this book aloud both irresistible and difficult, because it was so often both profound and heart-breaking.

Why heartbreaking? Because Greg Lucas has been through the valley of the shadow and seen that, as he puts it, "the darkness I have experienced is actually the sheltering shadow of my ever-present Father." As a father himself of four children (two adopted), Lucas knows how difficult parenthood can be. As a father myself, I found reading it revealed to me both my own dilemmas and weaknesses in raising my own children and the pride that is so often involved in trying to make it through the valley on my own. To be clear, I have never had to face the problem that Lucas faced in raising his son Jake, who is afflicted with multiple neurological and sensory disorders. At the same time, I, like all fathers, struggle with the fact that children never entirely meet their parents' expectations (both the reasonable and the unreasonable ones) - and with the feeling that God should be doing more.

This is where the profound comes in. God is doing more. In His grace, He brings us through the valley deliberately to enable us to grow in our dependence on Him, our awareness of His presence, and our awe at His greatness and love.

You can buy a copy at by clicking here.

Greg Lucas's blog can be found here

Monday, November 9, 2015

ON GRAPHIC NOVELS, and 5 that are "good" but not "really good"

Graphic novels as a genre, have a lot more bad than good so parents need to be wary.

Some of the bad is obvious. Spend a few minutes in the graphic novel section of any bookstore or library and you'll see that when women are on the covers they are of the impossibly buxom sort, and either clad in spandex, or not really clad at all. While many a male character is spandex clad as well, there are far fewer "bust and bum poses" for the men. The men are heroes; the women are to be ogled and lusted after.

And while gore isn't too common, violence is. The medium doesn't allow for anything near as graphic as can occur on film, but full-color battle illustrations can get disturbing when they're showcasing teeth-shattering and even limb-rending blows.

Some of the bad is less obvious, but just as much an attack on God and what He loves. To discern the worldview of a story the best questions to ask are, "Who, or what, is the god here? Who or what is the object in which people are supposed to put their trust for salvation?" In superhero comics the most obvious "god" is the hero himself, but sometimes it's science (futuristic technology is a huge part of many comics in this genre), and other times we're being told to trust in Man's intrinsic goodness.

Among non-superhero comics the "god" can run the gamut, but sex and fame are popular choices (particularly in the many biographical comics) while God Himself is almost always absent. Or present only to blaspheme Him.

So comics can be pretty bad, and because of the tendency to the bad, even in comics aimed at teens and children, parents have to be particularly discerning.

But at their best comics are a higher art form, combining the visual and the written mediums seamlessly. On this blog we've reviewed some of the very best, and you can peruse that collection by clicking on this link here. But if your son or daughter is devouring graphic novels very soon you'll run out of great ones. It's with that in mind that we're making an exception to the policy of only reviewing the really good. This time around we're passing along here some comics that are quite, but not really good. In other words, this time we're going with quantity over quality: here's five that may not be brilliant but aren't half bad either.


The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel
by Jeanne DuPrau
adapted by Dallas Middaugh
art by Niklas Asker
144 pages / 2012

If you, like me, had never heard of the novel this graphic novel is based on, it still wouldn't take you long to figure that this is an adaptation - the events are a bit truncated, evidencing that they were from longer source material that had to be cut down a good deal.

This is the story of a town, surrounded by darkness on all sides, with the streets lit only by lamps, and never sunlight. But those lamps are starting to flicker out, and sometimes the entire town blacks out. There's also less food than there once was, and certain types of food, like peaches, exist only as memories for most residents. So how has this town come to be, and why does it seem the only place for people to live in the whole world? And why is there no sun? These are the questions that our two young heroes, Doon and Lina, a teen boy and girl, set out to address. This is a dystopian novel, but a kinder gentler sort than some others, intended for the teen and preteen readership – no one gets shot in this book, and no teen is forced to kill their friends.