Crisis Counseling (a Guide for Pastors and Professionals)
Scott Floyd, Kregel Academic & Professional, 2008, ISBN 9780825425882, 280 pages, $17.99, softcover.
Pastors and others in spiritual leadership capacities are frequently called to minister to those who are in crisis. This book contains helpful information on dealing with the most common crisis situations. The author, a licensed counselor, has ministered to those in crisis situations for twenty-five years.
Floyd lists several types of trauma, (both single event and repeated trauma) with their effects on human personality, their behavioral symptoms, and their likely after-effects (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
He also deals with the crisis of loss. Loss may be large or small, actual or perceived, conscious or unconscious, and abstract or subjective. Loss may be related to grief. Grief often has to do with the sickness or death of a loved one. Abraham, Jacob, Naomi, and David all experienced grief over loved ones.
In the second half of the book the author identifies several intervention techniques. He suggests helpful things (meeting basic needs, transportation, financial support, medical and dental care and legal advice) that friends and other non-professionals can do. He also gives more detailed and technical information for the professional counselor.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Crisis Counseling
Where Is God When We Suffer?
Lynn Gardner, College Press Pub., 2007, ISBN 9780899007199, 381 pages, $23.99, hardcover.
Lynn Gardner knows about pain and suffering. His adult son was tragically killed in a traffic accident; Lynn underwent a double lung transplant to cure a terminal disease; and his wife, Barbara, developed breast cancer. The author denies that he is an expert on pain and suffering, but his own experience enabled him to skillfully connect biblical teaching with human experience.
We cannot adequately discuss Christian suffering without considering the life of the patriarch Job. His intense pain and suffering devastated this man of God. Unknown to Job, his troubles were caused by Satan's attempt to prove that believers love God for purely selfish reasons such as peace, power, and prosperity. In the outcome Job was restored to his former estate, but God never explained to him the reason for his suffering. Perhaps that should be a lesson for us today.
King David, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and the unnamed martyrs of Hebrews 11:37 are others in the Old Testament who had their share of distress. In the New Testament, the apostles were persecuted and killed for their proclamation of Jesus the Messiah. And, of course, our Lord Jesus suffered more than any saint of God when He was crucified.
The book reminds us that suffering is the lot of humanity. We may not always know the reason for our difficulties. Our suffering may be to teach us patience, to help others in their suffering, to make us stronger in our faith, or to glorify God. Often Christians suffer because of the sins of others, e.g. traffic accidents.
Part 2 gives us encouragement to face suffering with faith, joy, and hope. Pain and suffering rarely are pleasant, but believers can look confidently to the time when we will be present with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Glen H. Jones
Type: Encouragement in Trials
Take: Highly Recommended
Christ and Culture Revisited
D. A. Carson, 2008, Wm. B. Eerdmans, ISBN 9780802831743, 228 pages, $24.00, hardcover.
Should Christians be involved in politics? Should believers refuse to participate in the same art, literature, and music as non-believing neighbors, or should believers engage their cultures and work at changing the not-so-biblical aspects of decadent societies? In short, how should Christians interact with the culture at large?
In striving to answer these not-so-simple questions, D. A. Carson focuses on sociologist Richard Niebuhr's five-prong model from the 1950s: Christ against culture, the Christ of culture, Christ above culture, Christ and culture in paradox, and Christ the transformer of culture.
The main premise of the work puts Scriptural authority over any model for the Christ-culture interaction. Carson claims that Scripture makes this interaction too fluid and complex to be whittled down to a singular model.
Unfortunately, the abstract nature of Carson's subject and his writing style may make the work difficult for some to follow at many points. Carson's sentences are like his ideas-too big and too encompassing to be digested with one pass-through. The gems of this book lie where Carson cuts straight to the heart of the issue, such as at his conclusion, or a biting critique of postmodernism at the end of the third chapter.
He comments imperatively on the need to live in the world (but not be of it) strictly by Scriptural principles. Especially important to American readers are his enlightening chapters on secularism and separation between church and state.
Type: Cultural Interaction
The Heart of Prayer
Jerram Barrs, P&R Publishing, 2008, ISBN 9781596381032, 255 pages, $14.99, softcover.
"Teach us to pray," the apostles implored Jesus. Taking that as his thesis, Jerram Barrs looks at the One who prayed more earnest prayers than any other recorded in Scripture. The Lord's Prayer (also known as the model prayer) shows us the high and exalted position of our heavenly Father, who delights to hear the prayers of His children. Jesus shows us from this prayer that our God has deep love and concern for those who are His children.
In another story (Luke 11:5-13) Jesus teaches us that sometimes we must persevere in prayer. Persistence in prayer strengthens our resolve to "pray through" until we sense that God will or will not answer this prayer at this time.
Communion with His Father was a crucial and constant factor in our Lord's life and ministry. At the end of His earthly ministry Jesus prayed to the Father that He (the Father) would glorify the Son as He faced the final terrible hours on earth. Jesus also prayed that the Father would be glorified by the work of His Son. The Lord Jesus also prayed that the Father would keep His followers in the world as they began the ministry of spreading the gospel.
Finally, Jesus prayed for unity among His followers. "We are called to unity with all other Christian believers, regardless of denominational affiliation, education background, social or economic status, language, national origin, or race. If someone is truly a Christian, then we must strive to realize the oneness with that person for whom Jesus prays" (p.199).
Glen H. Jones