Christian growth catches fire where life and Scripture meet. We change when, in the midst of our day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we encounter Jesus Christ through his Word and find his grace and mercy for our time of need. We help others change when, in the midst of their day-to-day joys, sorrows, sufferings, and sins, we point them to Jesus Christ through his Word to find grace and mercy for their time of need. Scripture tells us that this is an ongoing process. The stories of our lives are to be shaped and reshaped, again and again, so that we might be increasingly transformed into the character of our God (2 Peter 1:4).
But how do we find the intersection between life and Scripture? Connecting the stories of our lives with the redemptive story of Scripture is often challenging. There are certain life struggles that defy an easy appeal to the Bible. Can we really find hope and practical help in Scripture for complex and thorny problems? What about hope and help for the ordinary, day-to-day struggles common to all: conflict between family members, financial strain, and vocational decisions? And what do we do with passages of Scripture that seem irrelevant to our lives? How are the directions for building the Tabernacle and consecrating the priesthood (Exodus 25-30), genealogies (1 Chronicles 1-9), a personal appeal to a slave-holder (Philemon), and much of the book of Revelation applicable to life? Can we find hope and practical help from these passages as well? How does Scripture apply to our lives, really?
This conference will increase our confidence that Scripture is not only relevant but essential to helping us navigate life in all its beautiful and distressing complexity. It will demonstrate how the Redeemer Jesus Christ meets us through his Word. It will teach us how to see and embrace the life-giving connections between our lives and the Bible, giving us hope and clarity both in our suffering and in our struggles with sin. Once we see them, these connections form the building blocks for all counseling and ministry to others.
Four short videos of David Powlison demonstrating his method of Bible reading for personal application:
General Session 1: Loving Your Bible: A Personal Invitation (Ed Welch)
We want to read Scripture. We want to read it more. We want to read it better. We want it to be increasingly lively to our souls. But, for so many reasons, this is hard to do. We will begin our weekend together by having Scripture persuade us to read Scripture.
General Session 2: Understanding Scripture: How the Story of Scripture Makes Sense of the Stories of our Lives (Nancy Guthrie)
Sometimes we read passages of Scripture that seem to be at odds with the reality of life in this world. So what do we do then? Deem the Scripture to be untrue, unreliable, or out-of-touch? Of course not. We must is dig deeper for understanding. Every part of Scripture must be understood within the whole. This means that we need a firm grip on the larger story the Bible is telling. This larger story helps us to make sense of smaller parts of the Bible and make sense of our own stories. As we grow in our understanding of the story of Scripture, we come to understand why our lives will never be without struggle. But we also discover grounds for unshakable hope for the future and the source of our ultimate security.
General Session 3: Mirror, Mirror: Seeing Yourself Clearly in Scripture (Mike Emlet)
Where do you go to make sense of the complexities of people’s lives? To understand what makes them (and you) tick? The latest neuroscientific research? Psychological theories? The DSM? Your neighbor? Oprah? Scripture invites us to look deeply into its pages to understand ourselves as God’s redeemed image bearers who wrestle with both suffering and sin. This general session will demonstrate that while Scripture does not give us chapter and verse for every specific situation in life, it does provide a comprehensive, gospel-centered lens to truly understand ourselves and our problems.Knowing that God approaches his people as saints, sufferers, and sinners primes us to expect a relevant word in whatever passage we are hearing, reading, or studying.
General Session 4: Practically Speaking: How to Bring the Bible to (Your) Life (Mike Emlet)
It’s easy to talk about applying Scripture to life, but how do we really take a message spoken to God’s people thousands of years ago and make it our own today? How do we take the redemptive story that centers on Jesus Christ and enact it in our own lives? How do the Bible’s narratives, promises, poetry, prophecy, commands, and more not only inform us but also transform us through the agency of the Holy Spirit? Building on the last two general sessions, this session will model how to connect a particular passage with the specifics of life in order to find comfort in your suffering and clarity for overcoming sin in your life.
General Session 5: Praying Scripture: The Cry of the Longing Heart (Joe Novenson)
We were not created to “live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3/Matt. 4:4). Our inner lives flourish as God’s Word shapes us. It makes sense then that prayer that is permeated with every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is infused and pulsing with life. Whether in praise, petition, or lament, God tempers the cry of our heart with Word-driven grace as we embrace his Word in prayer.
General Session 6: Common Ground? Scripture, Counseling, and Nonbelievers (Alasdair Groves)
“How do you counsel nonbelievers?” This is the most common question CCEF students ask us. It is an important question. After all, if the hope, comfort and promises of Scripture are all found in Christ, then do biblical counselors have anything to say to agnostics, atheists, or those of other faiths before they put their faith in Christ? The answer is a resounding “yes, we do!” This talk will lay out a framework for biblical counseling with nonbelievers, applying the previous sessions to the challenging task of engaging God’s Word with those who don’t yet accept or believe it.
General Session 7: The Living and Active Word of God (Steve Midgley)
God is always doing something with his Word. He speaks to get things done. When he speaks things happen. That is obvious in the creation account and it is evident also in the ministry of Christ–for example, when Jesus speaks to still the storm. It is also evident in all the ways that God addresses us in his Word. When God speaks, his Word does its work. Scripture then is not a deposit of information but the place to encounter the living God who reveals himself in a living Word. We need him to speak to us–and we need to listen. Listening is the challenging part. Do we listen? Will we listen?
Going Deeper: Meditating on One Passage of Scripture (Steve Midgley)
“Meditation,” writes Edmund Clowney, “is the form of thought that is appropriate to revealed mystery.” If God had revealed mere facts, a kind of encyclopedia of spiritual information, study alone might suffice. We might understand God much as a student might understand algebra. But God has revealed mysteries, “not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:13). And although these mysteries will always surpass us, Christian meditation can, through personally encountering God, help us to grasp these mysteries more fully and richly. In this workshop we will consider (and practice) a number of practical ways to engage meaningfully with God’s Word.
Restoring Hearts to Scripture: Reconnecting with God’s Words After They Were Used to Hurt You (Darby Strickland)
Scripture shows us both our need for Jesus and his deep love for us. But some people experience Scripture as a hammer that only hurts. Maybe that is because it was used by another to control and hurt, or perhaps it was taught in an extremely legalistic way. What can we do when engaging with the Bible wounds and alienates, leaving precious truths inaccessible? In this workshop, we will explore how to gently re-engage people’s hearts with God’s Word in ways that heal and restore hope.
So Much Richer Than “Just Do It!”: Reading Ephesians 6:1-4 in Its Context (Libbie Groves)
Are we called to obey commands in the Bible simply because God said so? Absolutely. But how is our track record of obeying naked imperatives? To apply Ephesians 6:1-4, we need to move beyond the bare proof text and consider concentric layers of context. Then we will find that the Lord embedded those imperatives in encouragement, hope, and vision that directly impact our obedience. He knows our feeble hearts and provides practical, strengthening motivation to help all of us—not only parents and children—obey him.
Husbands: Cleanse Your Wives Through the Word (Aaron Sironi)
The call to “cleanse your wives” in Ephesians 5:25-33 strikes an uneasy feeling in the heart of many Christian husbands. Even the most conscientious man struggles to understand and imitate Christ as he washes his bride, the church. Confusion, fear, and feelings of inadequacy keep us from moving toward our wives as everything in us says, “How do I this? Can I do this?” This workshop will explore how to encourage and empower husbands, from both the counseling chair and the pulpit, to grow in this calling.
Drawing Near to the God of Peace (Cecelia Bernhardt)
Life can be hard in this broken world. We face many challenges that can grip our hearts and minds. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and despair. Yet the apostle Paul encouraged believers to “rejoice always.” Is that even possible to do?! This workshop will consider Paul’s message in Philippians 4 of how to overcome struggles such as conflict and anxiety by drawing near to the Lord—and how we can do the same.
Hearing Scripture Speak into Your Sorrow (Nancy Guthrie)
Sometimes it seems simplistic when we offer “Jesus” as the answer to life’s most painful realities. And yet the more we understand about who Jesus is and what he has done, we discover that hearing Jesus speak truth, challenge, and comfort really does make a difference. But it can’t be a surface hearing or a formula for how to get what we want. We have to chew on his words, maybe even wrestle with them, and ultimately embrace them. In this workshop we’ll consider several statements Jesus made that are often misunderstood or misapplied. We will seek a clearer understanding of God’s role in our suffering, the purpose of prayer, whether or not we can expect God to heal here and now, and the spiritual realities beyond this life.
The Use and Misuse of the Bible’s Teaching on Dating and Courtship (Michael Gembola)
Christians seeking to marry face a conflict between the church’s dating rituals and broader cultural rituals. And even within the church, people hear conflicting messages. Some of the difficulty is rooted in problematic interpretations of ancient courtship customs referenced in the Bible and in the challenge of bringing context-specific instructions to our lives today. This workshop addresses often misunderstood texts and draws on tensions within biblical themes, such as dependence and independence, family and individuality, and decision-making and the will of God.
Scripture’s Reflection of Body Image (Julie Lowe)
Everyone is bombarded with messages that physical beauty is paramount. The price for flawlessness is often steep—eating disorders, body dysmorphia, self-hatred, and the like. Scripture leads us to where true value and worth is found. In this workshop we will learn how to stop listening to other voices. We will explore what it looks like to turn instead to our Creator and allow him to define your value and identity.
Three Rules of Thumb: Lessons Learned from Using Scripture in the Counseling Room (Todd Stryd)
Our conviction is that the Scriptures guide and organize the whole counseling endeavor. But what does it mean that our counseling is biblical? And what exactly does it look like? This workshop will focus on three things I’ve learned about the way the Scriptures inform a robust counseling ministry.
Ancient Text Meets the 21st Century: Submission in Marriage (Robyn Huck)
The Bible was written a very long time ago. Women were dependent on men for safety, economic security, and personal identity. They had little or no access to formal education. All of that has changed, and we now live in a culture that bristles at the wordsubmission. So how should we read the Apostle Paul’s instructions regarding the role of women in marriage? Are his words too old to consider relevant? In this workshop we will allow Scripture to interpret Scripture and use the whole counsel of God to illuminate these difficult passages. We’ll come away with encouragement to glorify God with our full selves.
Developing Your Skills in Seeing Christ in All of Scripture (Nancy Guthrie)
When we hear Christ presented from the Old Testament, it melts our hearts. We want more. But for many of us, our lifetime of Sunday School lessons has thoroughly oriented us toward jumping from the text of the Old Testament right to what it means for us today, without traveling through the cross. In this interactive workshop we’ll work our way through eight different ways Old Testament texts point to Christ. We’ll consider how we can apply these texts in our teaching and counseling in legitimate, Christ-centered ways.
Gleaning Wisdom from Seldom Used Passages (Alasdair Groves)
This highly interactive workshop will press you to think about how awkward, confusing, or seemingly less-relevant passages in Scripture (e.g., detailed descriptions of sacrifices in Leviticus) can benefit and impact your counseling. The goal of the workshop is two fold: to experientially reinforce the conviction that all Scripture is not just true but also useful, and to give us practice stretching outside of our go-to verses. Come eager to participate and ready to discover new sides of old texts as we learn from each other.
Getting Personal: Connecting a Person to a Passage (Darby Strickland)
What does it look like to bring a particular person a particular passage of Scripture? So often we miss the mark and miss the person. Jesus has such a tremendous impact on struggling hearts because his love is deeply personal. How can we better showcase his care and love? In this workshop we will look at how to wisely and lovingly speak his story into the stories of those we care for.
Living Under Threat of Violence with the Imprecatory Psalms (Michael Gembola)
People with a history of living under violence often remain sensitized to the possibility of bad things happening long after the time of danger. Psalms of lament give faithful expression to this experience of the threat (and reality) of violence, and several of them include calls for God to intervene with force. Many believers find these texts difficult to interpret, but they speak powerfully of God’s heart for the sufferer who is in the presence of enemies. This workshop will offer an interpretive framework for these psalms, a reflection on traumatic experiences, and an introductory application to circumstances such as abuse, bullying, and loss.
Be Like Martha? Scripture’s Invitation to the Overly Responsible (Laura Andrews)
Scripture models a counterintuitive and seemingly counterproductive way for the over-responsible: drop what you’re doing, speak to God honestly (even presumptuously) about your troubles, and expect him to respond and help. This workshop will look at how we can help those who struggle like Martha to practice engaging with God in accordance with their human limitations and his welcoming invitation.
Schizophrenia, Psychosis, and Scripture? Finding Certainty in Chaos (Todd Stryd)
Psychosis, schizophrenia, and other thought disorders can seem like they exist outside the influence of biblical truth. If these are chronic and organic conditions, how does Scripture intervene? How does Scripture redeem or help those whose connection to reality waxes and wanes? In this workshop we will consider what the authoritative and orienting nature of the Bible offers to those afflicted by these mental conditions.
Prepare to Care: Prioritizing Personal Engagement with Scripture (Eliza Huie)
Preparation is a vital part of the counseling process. Join others who are called to the ministry of care for this breakout session and hear practical encouragement anchored in the life-giving promises of Scripture. Caregivers will receive sensible direction on what it means to prioritize personal time in the Word in a way that uniquely prepares you for the ministry of caring for others.
Getting to Know the God of Unfailing Love (Janet Nygren)
Does God truly love me? So often this is the question behind other questions: Have I done enough? Do they like me? What did I do to deserve this? Why me? When life is hard, we confront the most elemental questions of acceptance and love. In Scripture, the floodgates of heaven open up to reveal the God of unfailing love who never leaves or forsakes us. Will we believe it? Whether you are grasping for this unfailing love yourself, or want to grow in pointing others toward it (him), join us to consider how to connect the deeper questions we ask with a God who answers. We will see how God makes his love critically relevant for counseling conversations and ministry.
Good Lessons from Bad Examples (Robyn Huck)
Sometimes Scripture teaches through examples of missing the mark. Think of the anger of the proverbial fool, Samson’s poor choice of companions, and the prodigal son’s spending habits. These offer helpful reproof. However, we must remember that true wisdom is not simply a change of behavior. Wisdom is a Person. And relationship with him brings not only self-control, but also new life. In this workshop we will explore counseling strategies that encourage growth in wise character, which then produces wise behavior.
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If you are interested in the individual sessions from the conference, you can find a list of them by clicking below.Individual Sessions