Christ-centered Counsel After Combat: Emotions, Pain and The Chief End of Man

He reluctantly walked into the church. The only reason he went was because his neighbor, an old salty Vietnam Vet named Jim who still flew the Marine Corps Colors high on the pole every morning, has been on his case to just go with him.

The moment the moving truck showed up in 2007 and Jim noticed the small sticker with an Eagle, Globe and Anchor in the middle pointing inboard on the SUV full of clothes and pillows, Jim knew he was going to have a neighbor that would be a brother.

Jim didn’t get along with many folks, as a matter of fact, the truth was that he was more comfortable alone except in the company of his immediate family and his “brothers” for the longest time. So for Jim to see images of his brotherhood move in across the street, it was like homecoming. It gave him an opportunity to try these new waters of “being social”.

He walked across the street and looked at the guy who was still somewhat trim and had the remnants of a very low reg haircut indicative of his short-timer status. “What’s your MOS?” – Jim barked with a gravely voice scared by years of drinking, smoking and yelling obscenities at anyone in his path. “What?” The new neighbor was caught off guard. All he wanted to do was run as far away from the Marine Corps as he could and here is some old guy asking about his MOS. He still believes that he never ran so fast in his entire enlistment as he did the day he turned in his checkout sheet and now someone wants to talk shop. “Why, did you serve?”  Jim replied, “Grunt from ’68-’73”. “I was a tracker in 2nd AAV, I hauled your butts around so you didn’t have to hump everywhere.”

That introduction and acknowledgement of each other glued an instant bond, not so much like a brother, but like a father to a son. Jim was now a Marine vet whose identity as a Marine had been replaced as a child of God, redeemed by Christ who had been providentially placed in the path of a younger Marine whose identity had still been wrapped up in his title as a Marine and his experience and trauma from war. God is sovereign like that. God is mysterious like that. God works miracles like that.

The tiny development of condominiums where they lived left little room for hiding noise or offering cover and concealment from how one really lived. Jim could see him drinking and yelling, storming out at all hours of the night. Jim could see hear him on the phone with his buddies from the Corps telling jokes and making fun of each other. Jim would go days and weeks and not see anything of him, and when he would peak out to get the mail or something he would look like he hadn’t bathed, shaved or slept in weeks.

Jim saw a little bit of himself across the street and he hurt for him. He saw brokenness, hopelessness, anger and pain. But unlike him, Jim was fighting a new kind of war. One that already had a certain victory but the battle enraged daily. Jim was on the winning side of the battle for his soul.

Just a few years back Jim lost his job ultimately because of his drinking and angry outbursts at his nasty civilian co-workers. All he wanted to do was drive deep into the forest and eat a .45 long colt but for some reason he couldn’t help but remember the verse on a church sign that he would pass almost daily that week as he would go to the store . “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest…” Those words from The Gospel of Matthew resonated in his heart and was just the little shimmer of hope that he needed to turn back home instead of toward the forest. That next Sunday, with every bit of resolve and fortitude he could muster Jim showered, shaved and put clothes on for church and at 10:40 am he sneaked in the back avoiding eye contact, and staring at his pamphlet the silver haired old man gave to him on the way in. He hadn’t been to a church since his kids were baptized in a Catholic parish years ago and he was too drunk to remember his daughter’s wedding. He was unsure of what to do, so he sat there and eavesdropped and patiently awaited through the formalities of the order of service and then the pastor began to preach a message from the end of Matthew 11 and he was shown a picture of burden lifting grace in Christ that withdrew the weight of the world from his soul. By God’s grace he saw that he spent an entire lifetime trying to own the circumstances and results of something that was cosmically orchestrated so that God would ultimately be seen as the treasure that He truly is.

Jim did not know it, but those days of driving to and from the store to buy another bottle of Johnny Walker Black after he lost his umpteenth job were the days that God would begin to invade his life and engulf him with grace and the purpose for which all of his life has occurred, God’s glory. He saw that God is most glorified when we are most weak without Him. Jim saw that his emotions of pain and grief over loss and anger at those who do not understand him were meant to cause him to cry to Abba Father for shelter, and forgiveness and the cool waters of relief from Satan taught expectation of a carefree holiday-filled life. Jim learned that when he still struggles that he need only remind himself of the gospel of Jesus Christ, dead and alive again, that even today when he cannot see beyond his fallen distorted perception of reality that beckons him to see his trauma and sin as the center of his existence, that God reigns supreme and that is truth!

As stated in Does Grace Grow Best in the Winter? God does not waste his children’s suffering. This flew in the face of everything Jim expected. All he heard from his church going acquaintances was that they were just blessed to be there, life was always a blessing, and Jesus just brought smiles to their faces. Essentially Jim needed to learn how to deal with the reality that life was a struggle. Life was not all smiles, hugs and rainbows. Christians need to be authentic and true as the Bible they teach. His perception was that a “real Christian” wouldn’t have feelings of despair, depression and fear. Truthfully, death, loss and sorrow have been part of the lives of God’s people since the first act of war in The Garden of Eden.

So how does one help Jim? How does Jim help his neighbor? What got him to the point that he knew the only answer for his neighbor was the same burden lifting grace of God that he experienced?

He must be shown that trauma and the emotions he is experiencing are certainly normal for someone with his life experiences as a result of the broken state of God’s creation.Then he should be pointed to the overwhelming glory of God as displayed throughout Scripture and demonstrated in the person and work of Jesus Christ in all of its magnificent details and the hope of a New Heavens and New Earth where these burdens are but a distant memory as believers fixate upon the Throne of The King.

If the chief end of Man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then certainly veterans suffering from post traumatic experiences do not get a free pass, but instead their lives must be saturated with that purpose. The exchange on The Cross is what points hopeless veterans to the truth that He will deliver us.

The burden lifting grace of God reshapes the purpose of the memory of a fallen brother being carried away on a litter and rushed toward a medivac to one that can cause you to glorify God with gratitude because any action or inaction on your part was not only forgiven at The Cross but also orchestrated by the Author of Life so that ultimately He would be glorified in forgiving you.

The fear of imminent danger around crowds and alertness while laying in bed trying to fall sleep can be used to glorify God when you remind yourself of the eternal safety of the New Creation when pain, hurt and harm no longer exist.

The depression of wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself again, as all of us veterans do, is swallowed up in praise as you realize that you have been adopted literally into Christ as a child of God and you are part of a global Body whose purpose is to shine the spotlight on the forgiving power of The Creator.

Ultimately, remind yourself of what Jesus’s blood has bought on your behalf. He has purchased your verdict that will read thus before the Judge: “Has this person lived in a manner that has always enjoyed God and glorified Him forever?” On this side of The Cross, the answer is a resounding yes!


Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat: Assurance and Freedom in Christ

Of all the resources out there for my fellow veterans struggling to find relief after war, There is only one true resolution to our woes and that is assurance and freedom in Christ. Freedom from fear of the unknown, freedom from the guilt for their actions at war, freedom to commit to a relationship and to be loved, and freedom from the guilt of their reactions as they face the reality that their life has changed after they experienced terrible things. William Bridge in A Lifting Up for the Downcast said “a man that lacks the assurance of God’s love, and of his interest in Christ, is fit neither to receive mercy from God, nor to make return of love and praise to God as he should.” He goes on to say lack of assurance leads to the misinterpretation of the mercies offered to him and that lack of assurance affords to many conversations with Satan. The veteran who lacks assurance has doubts, which is conversation with Satan, and then The Evil One bears false witness that he is not a child of God[1].This is ultimately where the combat continues. Veterans must be reminded of the sheer power, absolute truthfulness, and complete ruination of the power of death and guilt in Christ so that ultimately while their physical body may still show the effects of war, their hearts will wear the crown of victory.

The promises of God must be a reinforced and assured that they are true by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jeremiah Burroughs once said “God gives a man an eye to see the love of God in every affliction and as well as in prosperity.” And this eye looks upon what Christ has endured.[2] The Christian who bears guilt must be reminded to fixate upon the finished work of our Great High Priest. Geerhardus Vos said that through the priesthood of Christ in the book of Hebrews, the “the eternal covenant becomes religious ideal, since as a mere means to an end could not be eternal…and what is true of the covenant is true of the priesthood through which the believer attains the goal of all religion.” The goal attained is “through the Priest the people enter representatively into the safe sanctuary of perfect communion with God.”[3]Through the work of Christ and the Priestly office that God is satisfied and through which He may allow veterans suffering from guilt, fear, anxiety, anger and moral trauma to be reconciled to God. The goal of the priesthood throughout Scripture is to satisfy God so that He would allow our uninhibited communion with Him.[4]It is because who Jesus is as the Eternal Word and Son of God, that the covenants are fulfilled in Him, and through Him that God is satisfied and man is graciously reconciled. Through the work of Christ and the reconciliation accomplished from it, veterans are forgiven for their anger.

Through the union with Jesus Christ and therefore perfect communion with God, veterans are never abandoned or isolated but in eternal communion and community with other believers. Through the atoning work of Christ all guilt and burdens are cast upon Jesus who bears the yoke and makes their burden is light. It is the Great High Priest who is also the Shepherd who said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)  

excerpted from: He Will Deliver Us: Christ-Centered Counsel After Combat  by Marc Mullins

[1] Bridge, William. A Lifting Up for the Downcast. (Carlisle, Banner of Truth, 2001), 129. [2] Burroughs, Jeremiah, “Learning to Be Content” in Be Still My Soul,  ed. Guthrie, Nancy. (Wheaton, Crossway, 2010), 164. [3] Vos, Geerhardus. Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation, (Phillipsburg, P&R, 1980), 137. [4] Stott, John R. W. The Cross of Christ. (Downers Grove, IVP, 2006), 124.

The Gospel at Work: Questions and Answers


The Gospel at Work: Questions and Answers

The Gospel at Work recently hosted a panel discussion in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, with Mike Lee of Hope Community Church, Henry Kaestner of, Bob Doll of Nuveen Asset Management, and Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was moderated by J. D. Greear of Summit Church.

In this hour-long conversation, these pastors and practitioners cover a variety of topics, including:

  • How can pastors encourage and serve practitioners?
  • Should our language about work-as-mission change?
  • How can there be gain for the gospel as cultural Christianity disappears?
  • How can we navigate what organizations we choose to work with?
  • What are some ways that non-senior management employees can express their faith at work?
  • How can we be thinking in redemptive terms about “winners” and “losers” in the business community as we have to deal with P&Ls and letting people go?
  • Where can we find motivation to start again after we’ve failed professionally?
  • What are some practical ways to prioritize family if we have jobs that require a lot of travel?
  • What books can we read to help us think about these things more thoroughly?

If you’re thinking through any of these questions, their insights may be helpful for you.
HT The Gospel Coalition

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Work, economics initiative at Southern Seminary receives grant

I am elated to hear of the new Faith, Work and Economics initiative at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The Church desperately needs this.

Work, economics initiative at Southern Seminary receives grant


By James A. Smith Sr.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS) – A new academic initiative at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to foster a theology of work and economics among students and faculty received a major grant from the Kern Family Foundation, seminary officials announced recently.

“We are very pleased to enter into this partnership with the Kern Family Foundation,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary. “This grant will make a real difference in the ministries of our students, who will gain invaluable knowledge and insight from the programs that this grant will make possible. We deeply appreciate this investment in our students and their future ministries.”

Randy Stinson, senior vice president for academic administration and provost, said, “In the next decade the topic of faith, work and economics will be more important than ever. With growing economic complexities it will be incumbent upon every pastor to be able to speak intelligently on this topic in order to teach his congregation how the gospel applies to this important intersection of life. The grant that we have received will go a long way in preparing the ministers of the gospel that we are training on this campus.”

Kenneth Magnuson, director of the initiative and professor of Christian ethics at Southern, expressed appreciation to the Kern Family Foundation for its “generous grant.”

“We are grateful for the Kern family’s commitment to equipping future pastors with an understanding of issues at the intersection of faith, work and economics,” Magnuson said.

The initiative will sponsor conferences, workshops, faculty retreats and discussion groups “aimed at equipping students to understand some basic principles of economics, business and entrepreneurship, the biblical and theological principles that ground and shape a theology of work and how the intersection of faith, work and economics relates to ministry in the church and through the church to the community,” Magnuson explained.

Faculty, students, pastors and denominational and business leaders are projected participants in the initiative’s activities and programs.

The Kern Family Foundation, based in Wisconsin, established the Oikonomia Network in 2009 to support through grants “theological education in the area of work and economics,” according to the foundation’s website. “The Oikonomia Network brings together educators who are doing work supported by the foundation or are exploring whether to partner with the foundation for mutual edification and cooperative effort.”

The initiative is a program of Southern Seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Cultural Engagement in partnership with the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern.

“We believe that where the gospel is received and lived, it transforms every aspect of life,” Magnuson said. “This means not only our personal lives as individuals, but also our work, businesses and even economics. We desire to see our students equipped with a robust biblical understanding of the purpose and meaning of work, economics and human flourishing, as they seek to reach and disciple people who spend a significant percentage of their waking hours in the workplace.”

Additionally, Magnuson said, “We want to see pastors lead their congregations to understand and embrace a strong sense of vocation and God’s calling in all areas of life, in order to serve and minister to others and to promote a gospel saturated vision of life, where the church is active in the transformation of communities.”

Magnuson, who has a background in the business world as well as Christian ministry, noted, “We have an unfortunate tendency to create and reinforce a sacred-secular divide by thinking of pastoral ministry as ‘full time ministry,’ while thinking of the work of our lay people in their business environment not as ministry but as ‘secular’ work.”

Instead, he asserted, “There is a need for pastors and churches to have a well-formed theology of work and economics. Work is a gift of God that is meant to be a blessing and to be integral to the creation mandate to subdue and exercise a godly dominion over the earth. Economic exchange and service to others are meant to be part of human flourishing. Yet because of sin we toil, our work is often futile, and through greed we take advantage of others instead of serving them.”

David Kotter, a New Testament doctor of philosophy student at Southern who has extensive background in business in America and Europe with Ford Motor Company, is the associate director of the initiative. Kotter is also a senior research fellow for the Institute for Faith, Work and Economics in Washington, D.C., and teaches business, entrepreneurship and economics at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Kotter will speak at the first event of the initiative, a Feb. 26 “Faith@Work” lunch talk, “What Every Pastor Needs to Know About Economics,” for doctoral students, faculty and a limited number of master of divinity students.

Topics for future events will include: how Christian virtues should guide work and economics; the purpose, meaning and dignity of work; gospel transformation in businesses, communities and economies; and vocation, calling and stewardship in all of life, Magnuson said.

A Plea to Pastors: Brothers, We Are Not Professionals But Neither Are They

The Center for Holistic Discipleship

Portrait of Martin Luther as an Augustinian Monk

Brothers, we are not professionals and neither are they.

In evangelical ministry circles and discussions it is looked down upon to discuss the pastorate as a profession. John piper’s excellent work, Brothers, We are Not Professionals, laid out this exact argument. Piper lays out the foundational of the differences between the pastoral ministry calling and the profession of business CEO leadership type pastors, and rightfully so, Scripture guides us by scouring its pages and prayer, not the MBA. Simply, we must realize as pastors we do in fact have a calling of God, a task that is divine and by its nature otherworldly. We’ve been gifted by God, then tested and affirmed by men that specific gifts and talents have been bestowed upon us by the Triune God himself to execute a supernatural task. Dave Jenkins at Servants of Grace has written extensively on this here, I…

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The Infinite has become an infant


Do you see Him as on that day of heaven’s eclipse when He did ungird His majesty? Oh, can ye conceive the yet increasing wonder of the heavenly hosts when the deed was actually done, when they saw the tiara taken off, when they saw Him unbind His girdle of stars, and cast away His sandals of gold?

Can ye conceive it, when He said to them, ‘I do not disdain the womb of the virgin. I am going down to earth to become a man’? Can ye picture them as they declared they would follow Him! Yes, they followed Him as near as the world would permit them.

And when they came to earth they began to sing, ‘Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.’ Nor would they go away till they had made the shepherds wonder, and till heaven had hung out new stars in honor of the new-born King.

And now wonder, ye angels, the Infinite has become an infant. He, upon whose shoulders the universe doth hang, hangs at His mothers breast. He who created all things, and bears up the pillars of creation, hath now become so weak that He must be carried by a woman!

And oh, wonder, ye that knew Him in His riches, whilst ye admire His poverty! Where sleeps the new-born King? Had He the best room in Caesar’s palace? Hath a cradle of gold been prepared for Him, and pillows of down, on which to rest His head?

No. Where the ox fed, in the dilapidated stable, in the manger, there the Saviour lies, swathed in the swaddling bands of the children of poverty!”

–Charles Spurgeon, “The Condescension of Christ,”


He came, He’s here!

By Marc Mullins

And Christ Jesus descended from Heaven to be born as a sacrifice, not the result of His birth, but the cause. He willed for himself to die and came anyway.

He came knowing his fate and demanded that in life he would forsake his royal status. He endured all the struggles of fallen humanity, yet even with trials and temptations of this world, he overcame them all being born of The Holy Spirit.

Lived in purity and perfection, shear grace and mercy, the past prophesy proven true and the future revealed in his life.

This is the miracle of Christmas, that He would do all of this still for a wicked sinner like me.

This is The Word made flesh, Wonderful Counselor, Bright Morning Star, The Promised Messiah, Immanuel which means God with us.

This is Jesus Christ, who will come again.