A Brief Review of “Safe People” by Cloud and Townsend

I just finished reading the book “Safe People” by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (the same authors who wrote “Boundaries”) and thought I would share a brief review.

Safe People Book Cover

I confess the title led me to believe it was going to be about how to get rid of all the unsafe people in your life. And I think the authors titled it that way intentionally; even the tag line of the book gives that impression.

As I read the book, though, and the descriptions of unsafe people at the beginning, I realized that a few of those traits even describe me. 😳 I think that’s the authors’ point: the line between “safe” and “unsafe” people isn’t so black and white. Because we’re all sinners, any of us might be “unsafe” or fall into “unsafe” behavior patterns from time to time. You can fall into them without even realizing it.

After describing the characteristics of unsafe people in part 1, the authors go on to examine the reasons we may be drawn to unsafe people in part 2. I found this section very revealing as well, for I saw a number of the tendencies they described in that section in myself. The last chapter of part 2 asks why we isolate ourselves, which is one of the tendencies that makes us more vulnerable to unsafe relationships. That chapter hit me right between the eyes. I do tend to isolate myself. They said some people isolate because they’ve lost the ability to feel their hunger for relationships. Ouch. That describes me more than I wanted to admit.

The final section of the book, part 3, describes the characteristics of safe people, and why we need them in our lives. They bring home the point that if we tend to isolate ourselves this really isn’t what we need; it’s a self-protection mechanism (my words) but it keeps us from getting what we really need, which is relationships with safe people. The book then goes on to look at how we can find safe people, and how we can become safe people ourselves.

In the last chapter of the book the authors ask the question: So what about the unsafe relationships in your life? Do you need to get them completely out of your life, or should you instead try to repair and rebuild those relationships? I started the book just wanting to get the unsafe people out of my life, but the authors make a strong case that this is never the ideal. They talk about how God is so much about relationships and how God goes out of His way to pursue relationships with broken, hurtful people, and the authors admonish us to follow God’s example.

The authors recommend ways to try to repair unsafe relationships. The main thing they advocate is: instead of simply abandoning the unsafe person, we should take a stand for our needs and values in the relationship. They say that often the person who’s being mistreated in a relationship can bring change to the way the other person treats them by standing up for themselves. So the authors recommend that ending a relationship is a last resort and should only be chosen as the solution when every effort has been made to stand up for oneself and hold the other person accountable, and still there is no change. They also recommend trying this for some amount of time rather than giving up at the first sign that it’s not working. They talk about how longsuffering God is toward us and say that we should be longsuffering toward one another as well.

In conclusion, “Safe People” is not an easy read. If you read it prayerfully with an open mind and heart, it will prod you to look more at yourself than at the people in your life who are causing you problems. It has definitely given me a lot of food for thought and prayer.

“Paul, Apostle of Christ” is a good movie that could’ve been better

Yesterday I finally got to see the new movie about the apostle Paul, entitled “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” My response to it is a mixed bag.

James Faulkner in Paul, Apostle of Christ (2018)

SPOILER ALERT: This review includes some spoilers. Proceed at your own risk.

From a cinematic standpoint it was pretty well done. Jim Caviezel puts in a good performance as Luke the physician, Paul’s traveling companion and author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible. The storyline is compelling, and the production is good. Visually the scenery is interesting and true to the historical background. In all these ways it’s better than your typical Christian film.

I didn’t know much about the movie going in. I had only scanned a single review of it, so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I did expect to see was a movie about the life of Paul based on the biblical book of Acts and Paul’s writings. I assumed it would tell the broad outlines of Paul’s story from his conversion to his death, hitting some major events along the way.

Instead, the movie focuses on the last few days or weeks of Paul’s life. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when Paul died, nor does it tell us how he died. Based on the little bit of evidence we do have from Scripture, found in Paul’s 2nd letter to his protege Timothy, it’s believed Paul was executed in Rome in the late 60s AD. Because Paul was a Roman citizen he most likely would have been spared a more grizzly death like crucifixion, as Roman citizens were not allowed to be crucified. For this reason it’s believed Paul was beheaded.

Many scholars believe 2 Timothy was written while Paul was awaiting execution in Rome, and this background provides the setting for the movie. The time is during emperor Nero’s reign of terror. Nero had burned the city and then blamed it on Christians. In supposed retribution Nero begins burning Christians alive at night to give light to the city. The movie portrays this and in doing so gives a realistic and chilling depiction of what the persecution of Christians was like under Nero.

In 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul says that Luke is with him, meaning most likely that Luke had come to visit him in prison. The story for the movie is built around this brief mention of Luke’s visit to Paul at Rome. Beyond that the story is more of a historical re-creation than actual history.

In the film Luke comes to visit Paul in prison. It appears Paul may soon be executed so Luke realizes he doesn’t have much time left. In addition to wanting to encourage Paul, his main reason for coming is to interview Paul about his life in order to put his story down in writing. Of course, the document Luke creates by the end of the movie is supposed to be what we now know as the book of Acts.

One would expect that the stories Paul tells about his life would be the focus of the movie, but actually that’s not the case. Jim Caviezel as Luke is really the movie’s star, and as such he gets a bit more screen time than Paul. Also, one of the movie’s subplots examines the Christian community in Rome headed by Aquila and Priscilla, a couple whose names appear six times in the New Testament. Luke stays with this community when he’s not with Paul and tries to help them decide how to respond to the persecution by the empire.

The movie takes some liberties there historically. While we do know from Acts 18:2 that Priscilla and Aquila were originally from Rome, they were forced to flea when emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, and we don’t know whether they ever returned there. In 2 Timothy 4:19, Paul asks Timothy to greet Priscilla and Aquila, implying they were with Timothy in another location (Ephesus?), rather than in Rome near Paul. Nevertheless, the depiction of the early Christian community in Rome at the time of Paul is both interesting and appealing, and probably pretty accurate historically overall.

Yet despite these side stories the filmmakers do use Luke’s interviews of Paul as a way of telling a couple key stories from Paul’s life through flashbacks, the most central being the story of his conversion. The film’s creators also choose a few key passages from Paul’s letters to put in his mouth as part of the dialogue. I was disappointed, though, that there wasn’t more emphasis on Paul’s life, ministry, and teaching.

Entirely absent, in fact, is any mention of Paul’s doctrine of justification by grace through faith, which is all the more surprising since it was to the church at Rome that Paul addressed his most thorough explication of that topic. The producer, director, and primary screenwriter for the movie is a Catholic, though, which may help explain this rather glaring omission.

In a video interview I found on youtube, the producers state that their intended audience is Catholics. They said Paul’s letters are read in the Catholic church most Sundays, but not read or studied much by individual Catholics, and so the filmmakers wanted to create a movie that would help Catholics learn more about Paul. They also said they wanted to create a movie that was less “vanilla” than most other Christian films they had seen, and more cinematically interesting to a younger audience. Overall I think they did achieve this goal.

The filmmakers referenced Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” as a Christian-themed movie they liked (note that Gibson is also a Catholic). “Paul, Apostle of Christ” focuses on Paul’s last days just as “The Passion” focuses on Jesus’ final days. Perhaps the makers of the movie wanted this film to be for Paul what “The Passion of the Christ” was for Jesus.

The film’s portrayal of Paul misses the mark in some other ways, too. One small way is in the language Paul uses to talk about Jesus. In the film Paul always and only refers to him as “Christ.” Yet in Paul’s letters he almost always calls the Son of God “Christ Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” or simply “the Lord.” Rarely does Paul call Jesus merely “Christ” in his letters. This is a small detail that could’ve added more authenticity to the movie.

Another instance in which the movie misses the mark in its portrayal of Paul comes in a scene toward the end. After the prison warden’s daughter is healed by Luke (see below), the warden is softened toward Paul and his message. As he and Paul are talking, he asks Paul “What if I still choose not to accept your Christ?” To this Paul replies “I’m not trying to persuade you to become a Christian” or words to that effect; I can’t remember the exact phrasing at this moment.

I felt this response was totally out of character for Paul. Paul’s entire life was devoted to persuading people of the truth of the gospel and actively trying to convince people to accept Christ as God’s messiah. In this pursuit he was a bulldog. He shared the gospel with everyone and he didn’t care who he offended, so important to him was this message and his belief that faith in Christ was the only way to escape the wrath of God. Moreover, in the book of Acts every time Paul has the opportunity to speak with a secular official he takes the opportunity to share the gospel with them (for instance see Acts 24 and also Acts 25:13 – 26:32). In 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 Paul writes these words: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” Paul was all about persuading people to accept Christ, so for him to say in the movie that he wasn’t trying to persuade the warden to become a Christian just didn’t ring true.

I felt the movie was lacking from a spiritual standpoint in a couple other ways, too. Just about the only time the characters are shown praying they all recite the Lord’s Prayer together. No prayers of a more extemporaneous or personal kind are expressed, except by Paul in some of his more desperate moments in his prison cell.

Likewise, one of the prominent story lines in the movie is about a daughter of the prison warden who is dying, and the best remedy Paul has to offer the warden is not prayers or gifts of healing, but merely to have Luke the physician come pay a house-call to the daughter. When Luke is finally able to visit her, no prayers are said. Instead the girl’s recovery is credited to Luke’s ingenuity as a doctor rather than to the power of God. In fact, the entire supernatural element in Paul’s ministry and early Christianity is very much downplayed, and the few times it is mentioned, it’s treated more like legend than reality. I felt this was a definite weakness of the film.

Despite the filmmakers’ expressed desire to appeal to a younger audience, the movie relies more on dialogue than action to tell its story. The flashback sequences are more artistic than action-oriented. For this reason, some viewers may find the movie to be a slow starter. But once the overall plot kicks in it becomes a pretty gripping tale.

To conclude, I thought “Paul, Apostle of Christ” was a good movie cinematically and artistically. Because the film is not heavy-handed spiritually and because it doesn’t offer platitudes or sentimentality I think it could offer a winsome portrayal of Christianity for non-believers. The film’s portrayal of the persecution experienced by the early church provides an important teaching moment for those who may not be aware of this aspect of Christian history. Yet I think the movie would’ve been better and more powerful if it had included more of the most interesting stories from Paul’s life and ministry; likewise I think it would’ve been more accurate if it had shared Paul’s central message about salvation by grace through faith in Christ. The movie would’ve been more compelling if it had shown us more of the supernatural power of Christ and the Holy Spirit which was expressed throughout the life and ministry of Paul, Luke, and others in the early church. Lastly, I think the movie would’ve been more meaningful if it had included heartfelt prayer as an integral part of the story.

What did you think of the movie?

“Where Was God??” The Perennial Problem of Evil and Suffering

One of the age old questions about religion and faith is: If God is all-powerful and truly good, then why is there evil and suffering in the world?  When people experience deep pain or tragedy in their lives or in the life of someone they love, often the question is asked: “Where was God??  Why did He let this happen??”

Do you remember the story of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden from Genesis chapter 3?  In the previous chapter God had given Adam and Eve only one command:
“You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17).  The serpent succeeds in tricking both Eve and her husband into violating God’s command and eating from the forbidden tree, bringing untold misery on themselves and generations to come as a result of their disobedience.

The world and the garden God created for Adam and Eve were perfect.  They contained no evil.  There was no death, no disease, no sin, no misery, no suffering, no tragedy, no unfortunate accidents, no natural disasters.  It truly was a paradise.

Adam and Eve’s disobedience changed all that.  By obeying the serpent, Adam and Eve became enslaved to him.  Scripture tells us the serpent was really Satan, the enemy of God, in disguise (Revelation 20:2).  Satan’s goal was to thwart God’s plans by interfering in His new creation, and subjugate mankind to himself.  Sadly, it worked.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, the entire nature of creation changed.  Everything was thrown out of kilter.  Paradise became a prison.  Through sin, evil, death, disease, suffering, and tragedy entered the world.  We have to understand that none of these things were in God’s original plan and purpose for the earth, and we have to understand that it was man’s disobedience to his Creator that brought them into existence.  Evil and tragedy entered creation because of us.  We brought it upon ourselves.  Or at least our first ancestors brought it upon us.  And we, as their descendants, inherited it all.

But not only did we inherit death, disease, and tragedy, we also inherited their sinfulness, and their guilt.  Once sin entered the world, it became natural for Adam and Eve to sin, and we inherited that trait.  Sin became natural for us as well.  Along with their tendency to sin, we inherited their guilt, too.

Genesis 3 tells us that Adam and Eve’s sin brought with it a curse, and that curse was passed on to all mankind.  That’s another reason bad things happen, because the unredeemed human race is under a curse (see Genesis 3:14-19).

Now the Bible tells us that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to redeem us from the curse.  Gal 3:13-14 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’ 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”  But we only receive freedom from the curse if we accept Christ’s remedy for it, his death and resurrection.  And by faith we must walk in the new freedom He gives us in order to experience it fully.

Now as we ponder that scene in the Garden between the serpent and Eve, we might think to ask, “Where was God?”  Where was God when the snake was telling Eve his subtle lies and she was buying it all hook, line, and sinker?  Why didn’t He show up and warn her “Don’t listen to him!!  He’s just deceiving you!!”?  Why didn’t God stop this awful tragedy from happening?  Especially when He no doubt knew its ramifications?  Surely God knew what would happen to His world and His new creatures if He allowed this to happen.  So why didn’t He intervene??

So you see, the age-old question “Where was God??” goes all the way back to the  Garden of Eden itself.

In fact, we could go so far as to ask, Why did God even put the Tree of Knowledge (and the serpent!) in the Garden in the first place??

The fact that God did these things tells us some important things about Him, and about us.  For one thing, it tells us God trusted us.  He told Adam and Eve what He expected, and then He trusted them to do it.

Genesis 1 says God made human beings in His image.  That’s not talking about a physical image but a spiritual image.  In his book Creation and Fall Dietrich Bonhoeffer says being made in the image of God means God gave us a will like His own will, and then entrusted us to use it.  He gave us choice.  He gave us freedom.  And God respected our freedom so much He didn’t force us to obey him, He left it up to us, and was prepared to deal with the consequences.  Part of the reason for this is that love is only real love if it’s freely chosen.  God wanted us to love Him, but he wanted us to be free to choose to love Him or not.  I imagine it broke His heart when we rebelled, even though He had to know it was going to happen; because He knows everything.

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please. – Isa 46:9-10

The fact that God left Eve and Adam alone in the Garden to choose to obey him or not also shows He’s not a control freak.  He doesn’t force us to make the decisions He’d like us to make.  This comes with respecting us, and respecting our choices, even when they are bad choices, and also allowing us to experience the consequences of those choices.  Let’s be honest, often it’s the bad consequences of our choices that humble us and cause us to realize we were wrong and to turn back to God in repentance.  “You were right, God, and I was wrong.  Your way really is the best way, though I refused to accept that for a long time.”

Another lesson from the story of the serpent and Eve is that God doesn’t always step in and rescue us from making bad or stupid choices, or even tragic choices.  God let Eve and Adam do what they were going to do and, as I said above, was prepared to deal with the consequences.  Thankfully he didn’t abandon us when we sinned but already had a plan prepared to redeem us.  In fact, the Bible says His plan of salvation was set up before the creation of the world.  He knew what was going to happen, and had planned for it in advance.  1 Peter 1:18-21 says

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (emphasis added).

Before the creation of the world God had already chosen Christ to be the one who would save us from our sins.

And yet Christ didn’t come immediately after the fall.  Several thousand years passed between the time Adam and Eve sinned and Christ came into the world to rescue us.  This shows that God’s timetable is not the same as ours.  Most likely we would have rushed in to repair things as soon as we saw a problem, but God had other plans and purposes to fulfill.  But then again, 2 Peter 3:8 says “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” God is not bound by time as we are so from his perspective it may have seemed as though the time between Adam’s fall and Christ’s coming was just a few days.  At any rate, Scripture says God had an appointed time for Christ to come, and He was right on time.

The big picture in all this is that the God we are dealing with is good and just.  We may not understand everything He does, or all He allows, but we can trust that He’s good and will ultimately deal with every person and every situation wisely, justly, and fairly.  Everyone is going to get a fair shake from God.

Also, God is totally and completely sovereign.  That means that, even though He’s not a control freak, He is in complete control.  God and Satan are not equals battling it out for the souls of men.  Satan was created by God and so God is superior to Him in every way. (To explain: Satan was originally the archangel Lucifer, one of the highest angels, created good.  He became prideful and rebelled against God, trying to usurp God’s place in Heaven.  A third of the angels rebelled along with Lucifer.  There was an attempted coup in heaven, but God was more powerful and overthrew Lucifer and kicked him and his cronies out.)

God will have His way, which is a good way.  When Christ died on the cross and then rose from the dead, Satan was defeated once and for all, and provision was made for mankind to be restored to God, through faith in Christ.  When Jesus returns to the earth in bodily form he will defeat the evil that remains on the earth and set up his eternal kingdom.  The Bible says God has given Jesus the name that is above every name, and that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

I want to close my reflections on this topic with a story from the Bible about someone who experienced deep suffering.  The book of Ruth tells of Naomi, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah.  During a time of famine, Naomi along with her husband and two sons move to the neighboring country of Moab to find food.  While they’re living in Moab, Naomi’s husband dies.  Some years after that Naomi’s two sons die.  Now, I think having a child die must be one of the worst things a person can go through.  It goes against the natural of order of things.  Every parent expects their children to outlive them, and when this doesn’t happen, it’s just devastating.  People who have lost a child experience a kind of hell I doubt anyone else can understand.

Naomi went through this hell not once, but twice.  When she and her daughter-in-law Ruth (who has also lost her husband, one of Naomi’s two sons) finally return to Israel all her friends are excited to see her and exclaim “Naomi!  Can it really be you?!!”

Naomi replies, “Don’t call me ‘Naomi'” (which means “pleasant”) “…Call me ‘Mara,'” (which means “bitter”) “because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”  Naomi was very bitter about all she had lost, and she blamed God.  And who can fault her?  She went through probably one of the most painful losses a human being can experience.

Naomi loved her daughter-in-law Ruth, though, and did what she could to help Ruth find happiness again.  She introduced Ruth to her kinsman Boaz.  Ruth and Boaz fell in love and got married, and Ruth conceived a son.  This brought joy to Naomi’s life again, as she got to help raise the child.  Naomi’s story ends on a hopeful note:

“The women said to Naomi: ‘Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.’ 16 Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, ‘Naomi has a son.'” – Ruth 4:14-15

Naomi never got her husband or her sons back.  But she did learn to find joy and comfort again in the good things God brought her way.  And she did what she could to make the lives of those she loved more meaningful.

Our circumstances may not change.  When suffering comes into our lives, we can choose to become bitter, or we can make the choice to become better, with God’s help.  The path of bitterness only hurts us.  Taking our hurts and our pain, even our anger, to God is really the only way to deal with tragedy, suffering, and pain.  There’s really only two choices: You can deal with your pain by yourself, or you can ask God to help you with it.  Thankfully, we can trust that God is good, kind, loving, and just, and will do what is good and right and fair according to His infinite and unknowable wisdom.

If we know Jesus Christ, then we have the Holy Spirit as a companion in our sufferings.  In the gospel of John the Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete.  This Greek word can be translated several different ways, but one of those ways is “comforter.”

15 If ye love me, keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. – John 14:15-20

25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. – John 14:25-27

2 Corinthians 2 also tells us that when we go through suffering, God is there to comfort us, and then we have an opportunity to comfort others who are going through something similar:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

For more on the story of Naomi and reflections on how to face suffering in this life, check out the book Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb.

For Shirley.

My Reaction to the “Hunger Games” Trilogy

With the release of the last “Hunger Games” movie I thought this post from last year might be of interest to some.

Morgan Trotter

(This is not a review, nor is it a plot summary.  There are plenty of those to be found all over the internet, I’m sure.  This is just my unadulterated response to reading the Hunger Games trilogy [The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins].  This will probably only make sense if you’ve read the books, or at least seen the movies.  [Warning, if you haven’t read all three books, there will be some spoilers below.])

Hunger GamesAfter seeing Catching Fire, the second Hunger Games movie that just came out, I became interested in the story of Panem and decided to read the books. I just finished the trilogy. Yes, I know.  As usual, I am way late to the party.  As I recently posted on Facebook, I tend to live my life on the trailing edge.  But that’s a topic for another…

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Priscilla Shirer breaks down what it means to put on the FULL armor of God

Here’s a great post from my friend Heather.


If you’ve never had the opportunity to sit under the teaching of Priscilla Shirer you are flat out missing out. This woman is empowered, y’all. Like Yoda said about about Luke, “The force is strong in this one.” And by force I mean Holy Spirit. She’s got an anointing, that’s for sure.

She was in my hometown a few months ago presenting a simulcast that was broadcast live around the world, and I and several thousand others were so fortunate to have attended this day of worship and teaching in person and in my city!

She taught from Ephesians on the armor of God, giving us a battle plan for victory and teaching us how to push the enemy back and take back what he’s stolen.

Stop right there. Take back what he’s stolen. Hmm. He’s a thief. But just what has he stolen from me? I wrote down a few things:…

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Book Summary – “Foundations of Exchanged Life Counseling” by Richard F. Hall

Hall, Richard F. Foundations of Exchanged Life Counseling. Englewood, CO: Exchanged Life Ministries, 1998.

Hall, Richard F. Foundations of Exchanged Life Counseling. Englewood, CO: Exchanged Life Ministries, 1998.

This is the third of three book summaries I had to write for a class on Discipleship Counseling I’m taking through my church.  The first summary can be found here, the second right here.  The third book we had to read has the captivating title Foundations of Exchanged Life Counseling by Richard F. Hall.  It is somewhat of a brief textbook for the type of biblical counseling in which we’re being trained.

Explained briefly, the term “exchanged life” refers to the idea that when we place our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, he takes our sin, death, and selfishness and in exchange gives us forgiveness, life, and a loving heart.  Hall says the exchanged life involves exchanging our self-centered approach to living for a new approach in which we live for Christ.

Here is my brief summary of the book.  I’ve included a few explanatory comments in [brackets].

  1. Each person is made up of three parts: the spiritual (i.e., spirit), the psychological (i.e., soul) and the physical (i.e., body).  An unsaved person operates out of the psychological part of themselves. For a Christian, the spiritual aspect is the essence of who they are.
  2.  [This “tri-partite” view of the person is based on the following Scriptures: 1 Thessalonians 5:23 ~ “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.   And Hebrews 4:12 ~ “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”]
  3. The primary cause of problems in people’s lives is living life out of their own resources rather than in dependence on God.  [This way of living is known in the Bible as “living by the flesh.”  The apostle Paul uses the term “flesh” in a unique way, not to refer to our physical bodies but rather to speak of that part of us that is drawn to sin and opposes God. Key passages in which Paul uses the term “flesh” this way are Romans 7:14-8:17 and Galatians 5:16-25.]  Sin and the flesh are the source of people’s problems.  Living out of the flesh is a self-centered approach to life and ultimately detrimental.
  4. There are certain qualification a person needs to meet in order to be an exchanged life counselor.  First and foremost, they must have a personal experience of salvation through Jesus Christ.  They also need to be totally surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.  The exchanged life counselor needs a good overall knowledge and understanding of Scripture, as well as training in communication skills.  Finally, he or she should meet the qualifications for Christian leadership outlined in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus.
  5. As with most counseling methods, exchanged life counseling begins with the client’s presenting problem–their stated reason for seeking counseling. The counselor then takes the client’s personal history.  This helps the counselor get to know the client. It also helps both counselor and client identify unhelpful patterns the client follows to deal with life.
  6. After the client’s problem is presented and a personal history is taken, the first step in the actual counseling process is a presentation of the salvation message if necessary, for this is the foundation of the entire method. The second step is to acquaint the client with their former identity “in Adam”–that is, the way they were as a fallen, sinful, and unredeemed person when they were born into this world. The third step is to help the client understand his or her new identity in Christ.  [The assumption is that we are all born “in Adam” but when we accept Christ we are born again, or “born from above” (see John 1:12-13 and John 3:1-21).  From that moment on we are no longer in Adam, but we are now in Christ.]
  7. The counseling method presented in the book has six steps: A) Assess the problem. B) Learn the client’s social history. C) The connection needs to be drawn between the presenting problem and the client’s past living patterns. D) The client is taught about his/her identification with Christ. E) The client is led to appropriate his or her identity in Christ. F) Further areas need to be dealt with that relate to the issue at hand.
  8. Exchanged life counseling techniques include: A) Preparation – through prayer, reviewing previous counseling sessions, and relaxation. B) Attentive communication skills, listening. C) Observation, concreteness, respect, and empathy. D) Confrontation, self-disclosure, and immediacy. E) Genuineness. F) Use of visual aids such as charts or diagrams which illustrate the truths being taught. G) Appropriate use of Scripture. H) Homework tailored to the client’s needs.
  9. The primary goal of exchanged life counseling is that the client come to understand and experience his or her identity in Christ and apply this understanding to life’s problems. Sub-goals to this primary goal include: A) Helping the client grow in Christ-like-ness. B) Helping the client grow to spiritual maturity. C) Seeing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) start to emerge in the client’s life. D) Helping the client experience freedom in Christ’s life.
  10. Exchanged life counseling is founded on certain theological concepts: A) The Bible as the infallible source of authority. B) The doctrine of man and sin. C) The doctrine of salvation. D) The doctrine of sanctification.

In conclusion, Foundations of Exchanged Life Counseling serves as a good summary and explanation of what exchanged life counseling is all about. As such it serves as a good resource to consult over and over again.  My one criticism of the book is that it’s very conceptual and therefore mostly abstract.  The author doesn’t take time to illustrate the concepts.  It would be very helpful if the author would release a later edition in which illustrative material is added to flesh out the concepts.  However, the book does include a number of drawings which could be used in counseling sessions to help explain concepts to the client.  All in all the book is a good beginning resource for exchanged life counseling.


On Phil Robertson, Utah Polygamists, and Robert E. Lee | Morgan Trotter

This is a blog post I wrote about 18 months ago.  I feel it speaks surprisingly well to the events of the last couple weeks.  I commend it to you again.  (To read the article, click the link below.)

On Phil Robertson, Utah Polygamists, and Robert E. Lee | Morgan Trotter.