CrossTalk Where Life and Scripture Meet is written by Dr. Michael R. Emlet counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. CrossTalk is a unique book in that it not only explains why reading the Bible in a Christ-centered way is important but actually helps the reader to connect the Christ-centered nature of Scripture to one's daily life and ministry.
The first reason why this book is an important contribution to the conversation on the Christ-centered nature of Scripture is that book major's not on theory but combines serious scholarship with deep love for God's people. The best part of this book was chapter seven where Dr. Emlet proposes how to integrate a Christ-centered reading of Scripture into ministry. He proposes that as we minister the Scriptures we see people as falling into three categories: saint, suffer, and sinner. Under the saint category the author explains that as we minister to one another we should affirm the evidences of grace in a believer's life. In other words we should affirm where we see and have seen the Holy Spirit at work in the believer's life (page 95-96). Under the category of suffer we need to see the "entry gate themes" such as fear, anger, despair, shame, guilt, etc in a person's life (page 98) Under the category of sinner we are seeking to understand the stories, values and beliefs that guiding and leading the person to sinful words, values, and beliefs (page 99).
Reading this book has been very helpful for me especially thinking through how I minister to people in the categories of saint, suffer and sinner. Many times in ministering to others I focus to much on the suffering and sinner aspects and miss out on affirming the saint category. CrossTalk is an important book on a vital topic and will help you to understand not only the Christ-centered nature of Scripture, but how to live out the Christ-centered nature of Scripture and minister to others in a way that brings glory to God, and advances the Kingdom of God. I recommend you read CrossTalk to learn how Life and Scripture meet together to transform lives for the Gospel.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the New Growth Press book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
In today's world, Biblical illiteracy is becoming widespread. Even in America, one will find people without any knowledge of even the most basic Bible stories. The evangelical church doesn't fare much better, unfortunately. While the average church-goer is familiar with Bible stories and even Bible trivia, they are often unable to connect the Bible's message to the real, every-day problems life throws their way. As a result, the Bible stays tucked away on a dusty shelf, while the latest self-help book lies half-read on the nightstand.
Michael Emlet addresses this problem head on in his new book, "CrossTalk: Where Life and Scripture Meet". The book explains how to understand and apply the Bible to the problems of life. Along the way it deals with questions of nature and interpretation: What is the Bible all about? How do we interpret the Bible? What are the real nature of life's many problems? How should we understand these real life situations?
The book opens by explaining the concept of ditches and canyons in relation to the Bible. Some passages have a relatively simple connection to our modern day life. The separation from the original world and context of the Bible to today is comparable to a shallow ditch. Other passages seem, in contrast, like canyons. It is hard to visualize any kind of contemporary application from the endless genealogies of 1 Chronicles or the bloody conquest of Canaan. Functionally, this leaves many Christians with an abridged Bible. Ditch passages resonate with us and: "In practical terms, we end up ministering with an embarrassingly thinner but supposedly more relevant Bible." (pg. 16) Of course, the Bible wasn't given to us in such an abridged manner. In fact, upon closer examination of several passages, Emlet shows how the ditches are actually wider than they seem, and canyons may not be quite so deep.
The next 2 chapters discuss what the Bible is and what it isn't. For me, this was the best part of the book. Emlet confronts several popular misconceptions of Scripture. The Bible is not primarily a book of Do's and Don'ts. It is not a book of timeless principles for the problems of life. The Bible is not primarily a casebook of characters to imitate or avoid. It is not primarily a system of doctrines. In all of this, Emlet emphasizes that for too many, the Bible has become Gospel-deficient! "You could talk about how to discipline your child..., draw encouragement from God's presence as you start a demanding new job..., emulate David's courage..., and discuss predestination..., without ever referring to the coming of the kingdom in Jesus Christ or encountering him yourself! Shouldn't the life, death and resurrection of Christ have some practical connection to disciplining children, God's presence, living with courage, and the doctrine of predestination?" (pg. 37-38) The Bible is a story - The Story. It's chapters include creation, fall, and redemption. It's main character is Jesus. It is all about Him!
Emlet draws important implications from this understanding of what the Bible is. We should read it back to front and front to back. Using a bigger Bible, results in a richer ministry. God's mission is central. Our lives should be lived bidirectionally. Interpretation and application should be a community (church) affair.
The next few chapters address the story aspect of life. The bits and pieces of life, which are so easy to diagnose and correct, actually have a "narrative skeleton" on which they hang. These pieces "add up to a cohesive whole". "Despite (their) diversity... certain patterns can be discerned. Life histories are going somewhere." (pg. 65-66) In light of the True Story, our lives are a combination of competing stories. Focusing too narrowly on individual aspects of one's life may ignore the larger picture of what God is doing, and where the real battle is.
We are fallen people. But created in God's image, and redeemed by Christ, we are simultaneously saints, sufferers and sinners. It is important to provide hope to those we minister to. "Ministry to others is much more than correction or reproof. It is also encouragement..., vision-casting, and hope-building." (pg. 95)
The final chapters of the book apply the approach to two case studies. "Tom" and "Natalie" present challenging life situations and varying degrees of understanding Scripture. Michael Emlet models how to apply Scripture carefully from a variety of texts (both ditches and canyons) to their life stories. This fleshes out the book's message and offers a practical explanation for how this perspective to the Bible and people works out. Emlet takes pains to emphasize that this isn't an exact science, nor is ministry only to be performed by people who have everything figured out. You will learn and grow, and the more you do, the better able you will be to connect the Bible to life, and the more impact you will have on people's lives.
The book covers a lot of ground as it seeks to explain how to approach Scripture and how to approach people. Both skills are needed. "In ministry we are reading two `texts' simultaneously, the story of Scripture and the story of the person we serve.... Reading the person without reading the Bible is a recipe for ministry lacking the life-changing power of the Spirit working through his Word." (pg. 90)
I appreciated the immense practical value of this book. I can't think of a more important topic for Christians to study. We need to minister to our own selves and speak the Word into the lives of those around us. Readers will find the book laid out in a helpful way, and very easy to read. Discussion questions after each chapter make the book ideal for group studies.
I can't recommend this book more highly. The "whole Bible", redemptive-historical approach to Scripture that is explained is life changing. The pattern for personal application of Scripture for use in ministry to others will multiply that change exponentially. You need to get this book!
Disclaimer: This book was provided by New Growth Press for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
I was sitting in my office at the church on a rather quiet Friday afternoon. Things weren't very busy, as many had already left for the day. My phone rang. The receptionist said a woman walked in who was in need of pastoral care. Given my present mix of responsibilities at the church where I serve, pastoral counseling isn't formally listed on my "job" description. It's not that I didn't want to come alongside this person in our body; I just didn't expect to be the one called upon to provide the care. That being said, those who normally are involved in pastoral care and counseling had departed for the day, so the receptionist asked if I could talk to Irene*.
As I walked out into the lobby to greet Irene, she immediately apologized for being an inconvenience (which, she wasn't) and began to cry. I invited her into my office where she proceeded to share the news that she had just been let go from her job under rather unjust circumstances. With a flood of questions, doubt, confusion, sadness, and more, she was longing for some manner of help and healing; and she was looking to me for guidance_
The question is, "How does one effectively and accurately, in a timely and sensitive manner, bring the Word of God to bear on the lives of those whom we are given the grace to counsel toward the cross?"
The Psalmist wrote:
"My soul melts away for sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word!"
Psalm 119:28, ESV
"My soul longs for your salvation;
I hope in your word."
Psalm 119:81, ESV
The challenge presented for many Christian pastors, counselors, and those in any type of accountability relationship is connecting the Bible to a myriad of life situations, in an interpretively faithful and biblical sound manner, bringing strength to the person facing the difficulty.
CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet (New Growth Press, 2009), by Michael R. Emlet (M.Div., M.D.), is a welcomed and much-needed resource which stands in refreshing contrast to plethora of books spouting self-help, psychological nonsense. In this gospel-centered, accessible resource for pastors, counselors, and laypersons alike, Emlet provides methods and models for meeting life's most challenging situations with the transforming power of the gospel.
"God speaks to change us," writes Emlet. Though that truth is widely known, the art of applying the Scriptures in a meaningful way to a particular person's life often ends up in well-intentioned, but contextually-absent, eisegetically derived principles, with very general applications; possibly serving to meet the moment, but failing to help the person continually move more deeply into gospel realities and experiencing long-term spiritual growth and healing.
CrossTalk aims to help the reader "interpret people as well as Scripture and suggest relevant biblical applications that will benefit those around [them]." Emlet accomplishes this aim by:
o Addressing several common misunderstandings of biblical application.
o Reorienting the reader around a redemptive-historical understanding and application of the grand narrative of Scripture, centering on the person and work of Christ.
o This approach opens up the entirety of the Bible to the couselor, allowing them to utilize passages (i.e., 1 Chronicles & Haggai 2) potentially un-mined in the past in terms of their gospel-centeredness.
o Instructing the reader in becoming an active listener of the stories of individuals to help counselees move toward a biblical understanding of, and outlook on, their story in light of the gospel.
o Making the reader aware of the indicative-imperative structure of biblical commands, grounding them in the reality of the gospel.
o Graciously approaching those we seek to help in the biblical categories of saint, sufferer, and sinner. In every case moving them toward a deeper understanding of the faithful grace of God.
o Including thought provoking discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
o Demonstrating the approach and process in action through two case studies.
Overall, CrossTalk is an invaluable resource in the development of a gospel-centered, grace-saturated, biblically faithful approach to care and counseling. I highly recommend it!
Just in case you were wondering about my counseling appointment_Through the story of Job and the Sermon on the Mount, by God's grace, I was able to redirect her toward the riches of the gospel and God's sovereignty; applying aspect of what Emlet describes in the pages of CrossTalk to Irene's situation. She left encouraged by the reality of the gospel in the life of a believer, and for that I was grateful.
*The name was changed to protect the identity of the individual.