1. The Story of Wisdom
Even the story of wisdom is enlightening. It is announced as humanity’s true task: discern the difference between good and evil. One way leads toward death, the other to life. Nothing could be more important, yet we never seem to get it right. To help us discern God’s ways, the wisdom literature does everything possible to open our eyes to these distinctions, including the Psalms. Yet it is not enough. We remain foolish until Jesus brings wisdom and the Spirit brings Jesus to our hearts. When this happens, we can truly grow in wisdom, this most important human calling.
2. The Beauty of a Life of Wisdom
A wisdom psalm, Psalm 34 presents the beauty and radiance of a life of wisdom. Together we will celebrate the surprise of how this psalm leads us into wisdom and into a life of internal blossoming amid external pain. In other words: the startling path into a life of wisdom. We will focus on Psalm 34, though with recourse to the rest of the Psalter and the whole Bible, and ultimately the gospel of Jesus Christ.
3. The Fool and the Way of Death
The author of Proverbs speaks passionately of two paths in life—the way of the wise, and the way of a fool. He speaks urgently, knowing that folly can persuade our desires to the point where foolishness appears right and good. Ultimately, folly not only harms ourselves and others, but it also begins to shape us as people. Like the author of Proverbs, we want to discern between wisdom and folly, and we want to speak persuasively, inviting the foolish to wisdom. In this session, we will consider together the deceptive nature of folly and the dangerous path that it can lead us down, and we aim to grow in engaging with folly, both for ourselves and for those in our lives.
4. Speaking Words that Bring Life
Our closeness to the Lord and care for others are deeply enriched when we seek after wisdom. The book of Proverbs guides us on this journey. Though the proverbs are filled with sayings that are almost like riddles, we can extract wisdom from them if we see our lives in light of the truths they possess. This requires discernment. Our challenge in this session will be to answer the question: “How do we grow in discernment?” Together, we will look at how the words of life spoken in Proverbs persuade us to walk humbly and dependently alongside the Lord in our search for hidden treasures (Col 2:2-3).
5. Futility, Meaning, and Life under the Sun
Ecclesiastes is a challenging book. It highlights the futility of life as death comes for every single person, whether wise or foolish. Its relentless refrain, “all is vanity and a striving after the wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun,” seems to suffocate any hope or any enjoyment in life. But as the author systematically demolishes false hopes for lasting meaning and as he gazes unflinchingly at the injustices of life amidst experiences of true beauty, a path of wisdom emerges grounded in relationship with our Creator. This wisdom prompts us to live with enjoyment, meaning, purpose, and hope in God, who through Jesus Christ ultimately rescues us from futility.
6. The Wisdom of Love and Marriage
Whose idea was it to place this love song within the Old Testament’s wisdom literature? Is there anything to learn from its romantic poetry? Delving into the Song of Songs, we find that its primary audience is the unmarried. However, couples are repeatedly welcomed in to refresh their delight in one another—like springtime in marriage. God is the author and source of love, and in Solomon’s mysterious poem, he brings to light the deep wisdom of a beautiful and true love that reflects Christ’s love for his bride.
7. Wisdom Wrestles Well
Job is one of the most enigmatic and troubling books of the Bible. Yet it gives us desperately needed insight into the nature of suffering. More than that, Job's story illustrates the heart of a biblical response to suffering. As we wrap up our conference on wisdom, we will look at the reality of suffering through Job’s life and reflect together on what it means for Christ to lead us in responding wisely to the trials we face in this broken world.
Wisdom for Conflict
As cultural divides over social issues, COVID policy, and the use of power bleed into the church, relationships between believers are under strain. Conflicts have arisen, leaving many feeling hurt, judged, and relationally exhausted. In a world that elevates outrage and self-importance, our humble unity around Christ is being put to the test. Yet these painful and unwanted conflicts present us with a fresh opportunity to find wisdom from above as we let the God of peace come near.
What Is a Fool and How Do You Deal with One?
In this breakout, we will look at the book of Proverbs and glean wisdom for what a fool is and how we deal with one. We will look at some other texts (such as in James and elsewhere), but the focus will be on Proverbs. We will see that the category of “fool” refers fundamentally to one who deflects rather than considers any counsel from the outside, while a wise person considers rather than deflects counsel from outside. Ultimately, this breakout will connect the discussion of the fool and how to engage with one to the gospel.
How to Talk about My Enemies
Do you find it challenging to know how to wisely talk about the people who have profoundly hurt you? If so, you are not alone. When we are wounded, it is extremely difficult to be both honest and honorable; and yet, this is what we are called to be. In this breakout, we will look to Proverbs and the Psalms to help us understand different types of enemies, and then we will explore how to talk about them to others and to God.
Making Sense of Forgiveness: How to and Not to Use Biblical Narrative in Counseling
The Bible is powerful. Stories are powerful. Combined, this means biblical narratives are particularly powerful. But they are also easy to misuse. In this breakout, we will use the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-50) as a case study for examining how to and not to use biblical narratives in counseling. Using this as an example, we can learn to discern when to use certain stories from the Bible so that we can simultaneously honor (i.e., rightly interpret) the Bible, our counselee, and their situation.
The Way of Wisdom in Weakness & Self-Doubt
How might we imagine success in ministry? Perhaps we imagine competency, charisma, self-sufficiency, growth in numbers, etc. We rarely imagine success as neediness and dependence, weakness, futility, or self-doubt. For those who feel they are "not enough" in ministry, who feel discouraged by the ways they come up short, we will consider how Scripture orients our hearts toward hope and faithfulness through its vision for weak and needy helpers. We will together discover the way of wisdom in ministry—in which weakness is the path to true strength, humility is the path to true glory, and Christ crucified is our example and hope.
Parenting from Proverbs: Principles of Wisdom and Applications of Love
An important theme woven throughout the book of Proverbs is the establishing of a God-fearing household. Wise parenting is an important variable in this pursuit, especially as it relates to the modeling of wisdom and the cultivation of a space where wisdom can grow. In this presentation, we’ll consider how principles of wisdom scattered throughout the book of Proverbs inform and shape our parenting.
Delighting in One Another: The Wisdom of Love
Song of Songs is truly one of the most mysterious books in the Old Testament wisdom literature. Sandwiched between Ecclesiastes’ “All is vanity” and the spiritual adultery in Isaiah, the Song surprisingly portrays a powerfully positive image of romance and love. This seminar explores and applies several key themes that pervade this Hebrew poetry and also highlights the delight and intimacy found in marriage.
How Jesus Makes a Difference through the Psalms
When life is pressing down on you, God can seem distant. We can doubt his love and care for us. When our realities loom large, it's easy to forget how Jesus makes a difference. Is it possible to experience God's presence when you feel numb and alone? Can God renew hope amid your despair? How can God's power break through in your weakness? This breakout will explore firsthand how the Psalms can restore your soul and help you abide in Christ so that you can know and experience his presence, promises, and power.
The Wisdom of Complaining: The Place of Lament in Faithful Living
“It doesn’t feel right to say that to God!” I often hear this response when I encourage people to share their confusing experiences and complaints with God. It's true: many of us tend to say less to Him, afraid we might communicate irreverence, entitlement, or doubt. However, Scripture not only models ways of praying honestly, but it also shows that this sharing is necessary for growing in holiness, contentment, and intimacy with God. In this workshop, we will explore how to use the psalms as Jesus did: as a script for godly and candid engagement with God.
“My God Is So Big!” The Fear of the Lord Is the Beginning of Wisdom
The God of the Old Testament was gracious and compassionate—and terrifying. The God of the New Testament is gracious and compassionate—and terrifying! He has not changed. Sometimes we can focus so much on God’s forgiveness and grace that we forget he is still scary. His searing holiness is the backdrop for his breathtaking mercy. If we ignore that essential aspect of his character, we can stop taking the call to obedience seriously. What would wisdom in daily life look like if we kept God’s absolute kingship in view and recaptured a deep reverence, awe, and fear of the Lord?
Finding Our Place in God’s Rhythms for Our Lives
The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that life is transitory. Success, failure, joy, suffering, and the world’s memory of us will appear briefly, then dissipate as a vapor. Like notes in a symphony, one note’s resonance lasts for a moment, but creates music. Ignorance, the sin in the world, and our own sin cause us to play like a pianist who has stumbled and lost her place in the song. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there is a time for everything, and that wisdom involves both knowing and acting in accordance with the season we are in. In this breakout, we will discuss how to help counselees find their place in the music once more, specifically in times such as when to tear down, weep, and mourn.
Wisdom Adorns the Disgraced
Proverbs offers us a beautiful description of wisdom as an adornment around our necks. Better than jewels and more precious than rubies, the picture we’re given is one of splendor. It is an extraordinary promise that we can wear this kind of splendor, but figuring out what this actually means can be tricky. In this breakout, we’ll consider how wisdom clothes us in honor as we face things that leave us naked, dirty, and disgraced. We’ll think about practical ways to bring the splendor of wisdom into the experience of shame in our own lives and the lives of those whom we walk alongside.
Deceived by OCD: When Crooked Paths Seem Straight
OCD is a mysterious problem. The solution seems so simple—but in reality, it is quite elusive. “Why can’t she just stop it? She must not really want to. She is trusting in herself, not God.” OCD deceives the sufferer into a life of unremitting anxiety, in which improbable fears masquerade as true threats to their safety or the welfare of others. How then do you see the crooked path for what it is? What does it look like to follow the way of God’s wisdom? In this breakout session, Monroe will describe her journey through a near-debilitating bout of OCD and discuss what helped her to move forward.
Facing Our Mistakes in Counseling and Growing in Wisdom
The counselor role involves high responsibility and, often, felt insufficiency. Human error is unavoidable. But mistakes in counseling can be a source of harm for people needing care and a source of profound regret for people providing care. Learning to avoid and address errors of all kinds will prevent unnecessary harm and restore helping relationships wherever possible. Biblical wisdom literature offers a vision for avoiding and addressing potential failure of all kinds: ethical errors, conceptualization errors, and application errors. This session will explore the skill-building process of gaining wisdom in counseling.
Shepherding the Simple
The simple, or simpleminded, include the young and naïve and extends to those who remain simple throughout lifespan due to intellectual disability or other conditions that limit understanding. Scripture is not silent regarding these cherished members of the church and society. Proverbs tells us the simple can become prudent; but how do families, and the church, help encourage growth in prudence? This breakout will include a discussion on how Scripture addresses these members of the church with reference to Dr. Wilson’s practice with developmentally delayed individuals with intellectual disability, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Instilling Wisdom in the Next Generation
With every passing generation, God’s truth is replaced with man’s truth. The way of biblical wisdom is all too rare; the youth are navigating a culture where everyone does what is right in their own eyes. Their own hearts interact with this context as well, leading them to face temptations that draw them particularly and powerfully. How do we walk alongside them at this vulnerable, formative time? What can cultivate a deeper relationship with God in their hearts, through all their wanderings, successes, and failures? This breakout will discuss how to proactively instill wisdom and discernment in our young people.
“Lord, Listen to My Cry!” The Power of Lament for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Those who have been sexually abused as children will often believe that God’s promises for love and protection do not apply to them. Their horrific experience of the past understandably prompts them to question how to trust God in the present. This breakout will work through one psalm, Psalm 142, to show the unique role that lament can play in battling the lies that tempt survivors to believe both that God is untrustworthy and that they are on their own.
The Hidden Gift of "Hevel": Finding Meaning and Fulfillment in a World of Futility and Frustration
We all long for productivity, purpose, success, and satisfaction in our endeavors, and yet these longings are constantly frustrated. To paraphrase the teacher of Ecclesiastes, all our efforts appear meaningless, "a chasing after the wind." Yet what appears to be a cruel setup is actually God's way of freeing us from the things that will never bring the fulfillment for which we were made. This breakout will focus on explaining the challenges we face as we work in this broken world, as well as identify how God uses futility to work on us, fulfilling us in him as we become like him and giving our work new and unimaginable meaning.
Prodigal or Predator? Discerning When Behavior Makes a Prodigal and When It Leads to Corruption
When a loved one goes astray, we long to see them restored. But what do you do when their behavior leads to corruption? When should a loved one’s sinful choices be viewed as a prodigal in need of grace and receptive, open arms? When does corrupt behavior go down a path of wickedness, requiring accountability and consequences? This breakout session will discuss these crucial questions and illustrate how we can wisely discern other people’s actions and our reactions in turn.
The Importance of Metaphor in Counseling: Connecting to People and Connecting to God
Our use of language is at the center of how we engage people and make sense of life. Metaphor especially acts as a bridge between what we do know and what we don’t know, what is understood and what we are trying to understand. Not surprisingly, then, Scripture uses metaphor to bridge us to God and God’s kingdom. In this presentation, we will consider how Scripture uses metaphor and how we can use it in counseling to understand people, make connections, and grow in holiness. We will identify the theological parameters and relevance of metaphor in our counseling work and some principles that can guide our use of language and metaphor.