Book Review: A Small Book About A Big Problem

I don’t tend to think of myself as an angry person. I don’t burst out in yelling and my face rarely, if ever, turns red when I don’t get my way. So, when I picked up A Small Book About a Big Problem by Edward T. Welch, I was anticipating a read I would recommend to others who struggle with this problem. What I encountered was a diagnostic of my own anger problem. A Small Book About A Big Problem was a book for me too!

In 50 short meditations, Counselor Welch does the work of a spiritual surgeon. He first sits us down and lays out the depth of the problem. If anyone thinks they are exempt, the meditation for Day 6 on the many faces of anger will reveal we all face this problem in some manner. Before he takes us back for surgery, we are given hope. Although this problem exists, there is a solution. The meditation for Day 7 starts the patient down the path of wisdom in fighting anger and finding patience and peace. The theme of humility throughout this book makes clear this work is not an easy task. The scalpel of the gospel will strike us because it will expose us and our need for the Healer, Jesus Christ. Unless one has confessed their sin to God and professed faith in Christ, they will not be able to follow on what Welch has for them. Even for the Christian, these short meditations will present a challenge. It cannot be done apart from the empowering and enabling work of the Holy Spirit. As Dr. Welch points us back to Scripture, we not only see our hearts exposed but we find hope in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Small Book About A Big Problem: Meditations on Anger, Patience, and Peace by Edward T. Welch lives up to its title. The strategy of the book is to read one meditation each day for 50 days, to interact and engage with the questions posed, and to begin sharing this conversation with someone else (Welch 4). While I do wish the book would have addressed more elaborately what righteous anger looks like (although, as the book points out, most of the time our anger is unrighteous), Dr. Welch performs a thorough work, examining the problem, exposing each one’s heart, and encouraging transformation in the gospel. I recommend A Small Book About A Big Problem to anyone who knows they have an anger problem and to anyone who believes they don’t.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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Book Announcement: Are We United?

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Reformation. Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg Castle Church on October 31, 1517 put in motion a call for the Church to return to biblical truth and an exhortation to submit to Scripture alone in reforming believers and the church in belief and practice, namely how one is saved. The events of the Reformation drew the dividing line between Protestants and Catholics. The reaction of the Catholic church to the Reformation made clear Protestants and Catholics were not unified in the gospel. One was in line with the gospel and the other was out of step and headed toward destruction. The Reformation, resting on the authority of Scripture alone, revealed Protestants who believed salvation was found in trusting Christ alone by grace through faith alone were those in line with the gospel.Yet, today there seems to be a call for unity between Protestants and Catholics. The problem is not that we stand together on social issues. Protestants should stand beside their Catholic friends to speak for the unborn and to care for the poor. However, does this mean Protestants and Catholics ought to unite in the gospel? Pastor Brandon Sutton answers this question is his new book, Are We United? The Question for Protestants and Catholics. Are We United? looks to the truth of God’s Word and asks whether Protestants and Catholics are united in the gospel. Pastor Sutton examines the material cause of the Reformation, justification, and the formal cause of the Reformation, authority. 500 years after the birth of the Reformation, we still need to answer this question clearly. It makes all the eternal difference. May this book serve you well in pointing you to The Book. Purchase your copy HERE! (If you use BOOKSHIP17, you will receive 10% off and free shipping; discount ends October 9!)

Props to the Profs: Dr. Charles Ware and Hosea Baxter

Note from Theron: This post is the third in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. (The first post honored Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski and can be found here, and the second post honored Dr. Mark Eckel and can be found here). This last post in the series gives tribute to Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter.

The famous line goes, “Ignorance is bliss”. The problem is such a statement fails to tell the truth. Ignorance is not bliss. Especially in my case. My ignorance led me to respond with a heart of apathy. That is until God brought me to Crossroads Bible College. The Lord used one particular course to open my ignorant eyes and expose my apathetic heart. The course? Culture, Race, and the Church.

The semester I took the course, Spring 2011, Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter served as co-teachers of the course. Reflecting back on my time learning, I was the lone Caucasian student with three African-American classmates and two African-American professors. I am grateful to the Lord for how that turned out. The course revealed racism in historical perspective while also pointing out how the church has been guilty of racism as well. Culture, Race, and the Church also showed how racism is not an issue of the past; it still goes on today, even in subtle ways. Observing the events of the last couple of years, Dr. Ware and Professor Baxter’s assessment was and is on-point.

However, this Bible college did not just highlight the problem facing our culture and facing our churches. It put forth the solution. The resolution is found in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. To work toward racial reconciliation we must engage in what Dr. Ware calls GRACE Relations. We must understand how the gospel of God’s grace impacts our discussion on race. For me, I’ve learned the gospel calls for me consider others before myself (Philippians 2:3-4). To imitate the attitude of Jesus, I must pray for the Holy Spirit to enable me to display humility in my conversations, recognizing the privilege I may receive unknowingly as a white while my black brothers and sisters in Christ receive suspicious looks or more, simply because of their skin color. I pray I would listen to their concerns. My stance is not to a political party. My posture is to stand with my black brothers and sisters in Christ. We are together in Christ. We are one in Christ. I thank Dr. Charles Ware and Professor Hosea Baxter for instructing me from God’s Word. A heart once containing apathy is now a heart ready for action in GRACE relations!

Book Review: Counseling Under the Cross

The Babylon Bee, a Christian News Satire site, recently ran a humorous article titled, “New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology Questions”. While the news story was purposely fake (thus, satire), this sentiment of Luther is real and familiar. The portrayal of Luther is the staunch Reformer, the one who spoke out against the corruption of the Catholic church and stood up for what he believed being convinced by Scripture and conscience. The result was the start of a Reformation. Yet, to depict Martin Luther only in this light would not serve Martin Luther, church history, or us well. What will serve everyone well is Dr. Bob Kellemen’s new book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

Dr. Kellemen opens his book informing the reader, “Luther, the pastor and shepherd, inspired Luther the Reformer” (Kellemen 6). Dr. Bob then takes the next 11 chapters leading all Christians to follow in Martin Luther’s footsteps of applying the gospel. The book is sectioned off into two parts, the first painting a portrait of the Reformer and the second laying out the practices of the Reformer. In section one, Bob Kellemen observes what shaped Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling, from his deep and despairing trials (chapter 1) to finding peace with God in the cross-shaped theology (chapter 2). The second section moves from what shaped Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling to the shape of Martin Luther’s pastoral counseling. In counseling through the lens of the cross (chapter 3), Dr. Kellemen shares firsthand accounts and real-life vignettes of Martin Luther applying the fourfold historic Christian approach to pastoral care, the theology and methodology of sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding (chapters 4–11).

Counseling Under the Cross by Bob Kellemen is a timely resource for any biblical counselor who desires to let Scripture reform their life, ministry, and counseling. In this well-researched, easy-to-follow book, the Christian will be encouraged by Martin Luther’s compassionate heart and gospel-centered approach to pastoral counseling, enlightened by exposing the schemes of the devil and cropping Christ back into the picture to comfort the suffering and confront the sinning, and enriched to believe the gospel indicatives and apply the gospel imperatives. Bob Kellemen opens the book by sharing how Martin Luther reformed his life and ministry and closes the book engaging the reader to draw out particular implications to apply to their own lives. The one who reads and heeds what is found in Counseling Under the Cross will be competent to robustly counsel in Christ alone and know deeper the love of God in Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, click here.

Props to the Profs: Dr. Mark Eckel

Note from Theron: This post is the second in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. (The first post honored Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski and can be found here). This second post gives tribute to Dr. Mark Eckel.

The teacher who taught me how to think, not what to think. The instructor who impressed upon me the importance of incarnational ministry. The moviegoer who ruined watching movies for me, in the best kind of way. The practitioner, always connecting truth and wisdom to life. This is how I would describe Dr. Mark Eckel and the impact he and his teaching has had on my life.

My first Bible college course was taught by Mark Eckel. My second favorite course during my undergraduate, Introduction to Philosophy, was led by Mark Eckel (for the curious, my favorite course was Hermeneutics!). In this course on philosophy, God used Dr. Eckel’s teaching to stir in me a passion for thinking deeply and sharing the truth. However, that semester in his class was only the beginning. In the Lord’s providence, I would receive the blessing to learn under Mark Eckel again in seminary. His personal style allowed for much discussion in thinking through cultural analysis and engagement. These discussions were not abstract for Dr. Eckel. He was living out the truth on a public university campus he was teaching us in a seminary course.

He has been my professor. I am grateful to call him my friend. Dr. Mark Eckel now serves as the president of Comenius Institute, interacting with students on the IUPUI campus to discuss where Christian wisdom and college life meet. I can assure you the students who come in contact with this man are blessed. In his life, Dr. Mark Eckel’s own words ring true: Legacy is not what you leave behind; legacy is who you leave behind.

Props to the Profs: Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski

Note from Theron: This post is the first in a three-part series giving tribute to professors whose teachings and lives have been a godly example to my life and ministry. This first post honors Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski.

A Passion for the Word

2011 served as a year of spiritual growth. However, my sophomore year of Bible college began with a struggle. I had begun to take a hard look at my spiritual life. My time in the Word of God seemingly had run dry, where I merely spent time in the Scriptures for college assignments. This time in the spiritual desert forced me to evaluate the genuineness of my Christian faith. During my time of introspection, the Lord brought me to confess of my spiritual dryness and ignited a passion within my heart for His Word.

One of the main means God used to give me a deeper passion for His Word came through Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski. In the Spring of 2012, I registered for a course in hermeneutics, which is the science and art of interpreting the Bible. The professor teaching the course: Nicholas Piotrowski. Little did I know how much this course would transform my study of the Bible, and I could never have expected how God would use this professor in my life. The Lord used that Hermeneutics course in 2012 to ignite a passion in my heart to know and study the Word of God, seeing how all of Scripture points to Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25–27, 44–47). Moreover, His providence blessed me with taking at least one course per semester with Dr. Piotrowski throughout the remainder of my undergraduate studies. Nicholas Piotrowski became much more than a professor. He was and is someone I consider a dear friend and mentor.

Entrusted with Teaching the Word

Yet, he is more than a friend and mentor. Now, I call him my boss. I have for the last two years. Up until this summer, I served as his assistant at the Bible college. While my tenure in the staff role ended in June, Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski remains my superior. He is the Associate Dean of Academics and I am entering my second school year as Adjunct Professor at Crossroads Bible College. One of the courses I have the responsibility and pleasure of teaching for the second straight year: Hermeneutics. The course which transformed my life and ministry, taught by a man who continues to bless my life, has been entrusted to me. What a call! As I prepare to teach another group of students this semester how to study the Bible, I reflect and thank God for Dr. Nicholas Piotrowski!

Counseling Under the Cross: Author Interview with Bob Kellemen

Last month, I (Theron) shared my decision to begin biblical counseling training. This personal ministry is a great need in many churches today. A working knowledge of church history is essential in the life of a church as well. Both come together in Bob Kellemen’s newest book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. The book releases on September 11, 2017, by New Growth Press. Just in time for the celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, Counseling Under the Cross shares scores of powerful vignettes, Luther quotes, and real-life narratives that illustrate how Martin Luther provided biblical counseling to hurting and struggling people. The following author interview with Dr. Kellemen provides a great introduction to the book.

  1. You began and ended your education with Martin Luther. Since he lived some 500 years ago, our listeners might be interested to hear more about that!

Bob: I attended a Lutheran kindergarten. Then, some thirty years later, I completed my PhD dissertation at Kent State University, writing on Martin Luther as a Case Study in Christian Sustaining, Healing, Reconciling, and Guiding. And in almost all 14 of my books, I quote Luther. Truly, Luther has been a spiritual companion for my entire life.

  1. In Counseling Under the Cross, you say that Martin Luther reformed your life and ministry. How so?

Bob: As for my life, BL (Before Luther) I applied justification to my life—I knew that God the Judge forgave me because of His Son’s death on the cross that paid for my sins. However, I wasn’t really grasping reconciliation. I pictured it like this: The Judge said, “Forgiven!” Then he sent me out of his court room, not wanting me in his life. Luther helped me to grasp reconciliation, which we could picture like this: God the Judge takes off his judge’s robes, puts on his family attire, and, because of Christ, invites me into his family. Because of Luther, I now hear God saying to me not only “Forgiven” but also “Welcome home!”

As for my ministry, people often ask me what biblical counselors most impacted my counseling. I’ll mention modern counselors such as David Powlison, Steve Viars, and Ron Allchin. But then I’ll say that the person who has most influenced how I apply the gospel in counseling is Martin Luther. To learn how…you could read Counseling Under the Cross!

  1. Many people, when they think of Martin Luther, think of the great theologian-reformer. Yet you say that it was Luther the pastoral counselor who motivated Luther the reformer. In what way?

Bob: In his own life, Luther struggled to understand how to find peace with God. After many failed attempts at gaining favor with God by works, Luther finally realized the truth of salvation through Christ alone by faith alone through grace alone. He then spent the rest of his life helping others to come to the same saving realization. He nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg because he had a tremendous pastoral concern that people were being led away from grace/faith and led toward works as the means for peace with God.

  1. You explain that Luther struggled greatly with depression, anxiety, fears, and even with what we might today call “OCD.” What were Luther’s struggles like and how did he find peace and hope in the gospel?

Bob: Luther lived in terror that he could never satisfy a holy God—and he could not—in himself. He was tormented daily with fears of death and damnation. When Luther came to realize that Christ already satisfied all of God’s righteous requirements, Luther found the peace he longed for. Luther taught that if we deal with life’s greatest fear/anxiety—whether God accepts us—then we can face all of life’s lesser (but real) anxieties and fears. Grace grants peace.

  1. Counseling Under the Cross is filled with scores of pieces and stories of Luther’s pastoral counsel. Which stories are most meaningful to you?

Bob: It’s almost impossible to choose from among so many stirring examples, so I’ll highlight a “category” of care. In the book, I share numerous vignettes where Luther counseled grieving people. We often think of Luther as the fiery reformer. But he also had such a tender heart for hurting people. He encouraged people to grieve honestly, deeply, and candidly. He entered their pain and loss, and then he directed them to the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. Grieving people found in Luther a compassionate spiritual comforter.

  1. Counseling Under the Cross has scores of direct quotes from Luther’s letters of spiritual counsel. Which quotes of note are most powerful in your thinking?

Bob: This is another difficult question because there are almost 600 direct quotes from Luther in Counseling Under the Cross. On my website, I selected 95 Quotes of Note (since Luther had his 95 Theses). Here are links to those 6 posts:

Here are two of my favorite quotes…

  • “You say that the sins which we commit every day offend God, and therefore we are not saints. To this I reply: Mother love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness on a child, and so the love of God toward us is stronger than the dirt that clings to us. Accordingly, although we are sinners, we do not lose our filial relation on account of our filthiness, nor do we fall from grace on account of our sin.”
  • For who is able to express what a thing it is, when a man is assured in his heart that God neither is nor will be angry with him, but will be forever a merciful and loving Father to him for Christ’s sake? This is indeed a marvelous and incomprehensible liberty, to have the most high and sovereign Majesty so favorable to us. Wherefore, this is an inestimable liberty, that we are made free from the wrath of God forever; and is greater than heaven and earth and all other creatures.”
  1. Martin Luther counseled his mother and his father. What were the issues and how did he minister to his parents?

Bob: It’s always difficult to counsel family members. Yet, Luther counseled his mother and his father with such humility, respect, graciousness, empathy, and care. In most of these vignettes with his parents, Luther was counseling them when they were near their deathbed. He respected their fears, empathized with their feelings, and tenderly reminded them of their gospel hope in Christ.

  1. Luther faced many losses in life, including the loss of a child and the loss of his parents. In Counseling Under the Cross, you explain that Luther grieved deeply and that he gave Christians permission to grieve. How so?

Bob: Sometimes we have the false notion that if we are truly spiritual, then we won’t grieve the loss of a loved one. Luther taught that the failure to grieve was actually a sign of a lack of Christlike love. So he commended people for grieving, he gave examples of his own great grief, and most importantly, he shared scriptural examples of holy grief.

  1. One of the most powerful messages of Counseling Under the Cross is the four-fold message Luther taught about our salvation in Christ alone. What is that four-fold message and what difference does it make for our lives and ministries today?

Bob: In Christ, the Father says to us, 1.) “Forgiven!” (Justification). 2.) “Welcome home!” (Reconciliation). 3.) “Saint!” (Regeneration). 4.) “Victor!” (Redemption).

What difference does it make? We are to preach the gospel to ourselves every day so that we understand who we are in Christ and so we then live out that newness through Christ. I say it like this in one of my tweet-size chapter summaries:

Daily behold in Christ’s gospel mirror your gracious Father saying to you:

“Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”

  1. If Luther was talking to pastors today, what counsel would he give them about pastoral counseling?

Bob: “Do it!”

We think we are too busy to counsel. We think we are ill-equipped to counsel. We think we should just preach (the pulpit ministry of the Word) and not counsel (the personal ministry of the Word). Luther was busy—and he still counseled. Luther never had a course in “pastoral counseling,” but he still counseled the Word. Luther was a preacher, but he was also a pastoral counselor.

So, “Pastors, just do it! Speak gospel truth in love.”

  1. You end each chapter with a tweet-size summary. So, what’s your tweet-size summary of Counseling Under the Cross?

Bob: I’d use the sub-title of the book as the foundation for that tweet. Here we go:

Richly Apply the Gospel to Each Other’s Daily Lives: “Forgiven! Welcome home! Saint! Victor!”

If you are interested in reading more of Bob’s work, you can find his blog here.