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Cross Talk: Where Life and Scripture Meet Paperback – November 10, 2009
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Michael Emlet has written a readable and insightful guide on how to move from the ancient text to our present situation. This book is especially important for counselors, pastors, and seminarians, but all thoughtful Christians will benefit from reading it. --Tremper Longman III, Ph.D., Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College, author of Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind
Are you, like me, unsatisfied with your ability to link passages to problems or people? With poignant insights shaped by years of teaching and counseling, Mike Emlet helps us connect the dots between Scripture and permanent change. If you hunger to apply the Bible to life, or to help other people gain an appetite, then feast on this book! --Dave Harvey, D.Min., Sovereign Grace Ministries and author of When Sinners Say I Do
In CrossTalk, Mike Emlet is serious about applying all of Scripture to all of life. Mike teaches us how to weave together the story line of Scripture with our own stories. And Mike gets the story right. It is a gospel story. Mike's passion for the immediacy and centrality of the gospel story comes through on every page. --Paul Miller, Author of Love Walked Among Us and A Praying Life
About the Author
Michael R. Emlet, M.Div., M.D., practiced as a family physician for twelve years before becoming a counselor and faculty member at CCEF. He is the author of many counseling articles and the booklets, Asperger Syndrome, Angry Children: Understanding and Helping Your Child Regain Control, Help for the Caregiver: Facing the Challenges with Understanding and Strength, and OCD: Freedom for the Obsessive Compulsive.
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Top Customer Reviews
The Negative: I was concerned with what isn't said. When describing sin the book is seriously lacking. The book is very weak in addressing sin. I found the writing about sin in the "sinner" section limited and lacking. It was not focused on seeing sin as an offense against a holy God. This was by far the biggest concern I have with the book. Other concepts were explained in ways that seemed lacking or too general to be helpful. I often didn't find the explanations of concepts concrete enough to be helpful in practical situations. If you are someone who is familiar with biblical counseling and have read Tripp, Powlison, Heath Lambert, etc you may found, as I did, that this book may not be of much help beyond what is listed above. While I appreciated the inclusion of case studies in the book, Counseling the Hard Cases provided case studies that gave much more depth and insight in how to help individuals.
Overall I thought the conceptual framework put forward is really helpful but found some of what was not said concerning or not particularly helpful. I was disappointed because I have really appreciated other talks and writings from Emlet in the past especially regarding medicine and counseling. I am very thankful for the conceptual framework he provides of saint, sinner, sufferer and recommend people familiarize themselves with this approach.
The publishers aptly promote CrossTalk with the phrase, "An antidote to 'take two verses and call me in the morning.'" For far too long, some segments of current pastoral ministry and modern biblical counseling have practiced the idea that there is a simplistic one-verse, one-problem, one-solution method to every counseling and relationship issue.
Michael Emlet's training as a family physician and as a seminary professor seamlessly equips him to teach a much more robust approach to changing lives with Christ's changeless truth. In CrossTalk, he investigates the intersection of biblical truth and people's lives by exploring how we understand people biblically and how we use the Bible in biblical counseling.
Speaking the Truth in Love
We have many books about how to interpret the Bible, but few address the topic of how to relate truth to life--how to connect Scripture to struggles. Or, if they do, they focus on the pulpit ministry of the Word--preaching and teaching, and not on the personal ministry of the Word--biblical counseling, one another spiritual friendship, and personal spiritual direction.
Emlet teaches us how to look at life experiences through biblical lenses. His focus is on the person and the passage, on how to read the Bible and how to "read" people biblically. You might say that he understands that hybrid Christians run on truth and love. CrossTalk promotes a gospel-centered, personally relevant use of Scripture in personal ministry. "It describes a way to use the Scriptures to help people to grow to love God and others more fully in the midst of their complex daily lives" (p. 4).
The Story of Suffering and Sin
CrossTalk also counters another all-too-frequent error in modern biblical ministry--dealing with sin but minimizing issues of suffering caused by sin. Historically, the church has always helped hardened (sinning) and hurting (suffering) people. Soul care through sustaining and healing has always related God's hope to suffering people, while spiritual direction has always related Christ's grace to people's besetting sins. Emlet wisely continues this biblical, historical practice of Christ-centered, comprehensive, and compassionate biblical counseling.
Emlet connects the Bible to life--all of life in all its complexity. He does so by focusing on the "story"--the story of Scripture and the stories of people's lives. CrossTalk equips readers to make meaningful connections between the two.
Connecting the Bible to Life
While emphasizing the connection between truth and life, Emlet refuses to make the process simplistic. He begins by explaining the nature of the Bible--what it is not and what it is. He correctly summarizes the Bible as a CFR Narrative--the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption with a Christ-centered focused of helping people to become Christlike.
With this foundational understanding in place, Emlet begins to establish implications for reading and using the Bible. Rather than imagining that personal ministry involves finding the right passage for the right problem for the right person, truly biblical ministry thinks theologically about relationality.
*Creation: Who are we? What makes us tick? (People)
*Fall: What went wrong? Why is the world such a mess? (Problems)
*Redemption: What's the remedy? How do people change? (Solutions)
Biblical counseling is more than looking for one verse for one problem. It is more than looking for theological categories to relate to life issues. It is exploring how a person's dominant story (approach to life) intersects with God's Christ-centered Creation, Fall, Redemption story so that people respond to suffering and sin in such a way that Christ is glorified as they become more Christlike.
Connecting the Stories
In simplistic biblical counseling, we connect the dots. We connect a problem to a passage or a principle.
In robust, rich, relational biblical counseling, we connect the stories. We connect a person and his/her dominant life story of suffering and sin to God's redemptive meta-story of grace.
Emlet first offers some general principles for applying his approach to personal ministry. These seem a tad brief while at the same time being a tad technical--not as full of "real and raw life" as the preceding buildup. However, Emlet subsequently takes an in-depth look at this model, thus breathing life into the skeletal outline. He offers insightful questions for saints, sufferers, sinners, and Scripture which serve as foundations for relating truth to life.
Even more helpfully, CrossTalk introduces Tom's story and Natalie's story. He teaches readers how to read the person, how to connect the person to the Old Testament narrative, and how to connect the person to the New Testament narrative.
We "read" a saint's story by looking for marks of grace. Where is the person living true to his identify as a child of God?
We read a sufferer's story by pondering what circumstances impact his or her struggles. Here Emlet looks predominantly at "level one suffering"--what is happening to the sufferer, and less at "level two suffering"--what is happening in the sufferer. An in-depth look at such internal suffering could have added more richness to this overall valuable approach.
We also read the story of sinning by probing what desires (relational), thoughts (rational), emotions (emotional), and actions (volitional) are out of line with kingdom values and therefore compete with the biblical story. Here Emlet models a thoroughly comprehensive approach to spiritual direction through reconciling and guiding.
Perhaps the most powerful and practical chapters are the two (chapters 9 and 10) in which Emlet demonstrates how to use an Old Testament and a New Testament passage with Tom and with Natalie. Talk about rich! The dialogues of applying scriptural narratives to life narratives are worth the proverbial price of the book. And, quite importantly, Emlet emphasizes that once we understand the grand biblical narrative and the person's dominant life narrative, there are a host of potentially applicable intersecting passages. He offers samplers to whet our appetite and to model what it looks like in "real life."
While the purpose of CrossTalk was not to focus on the relational element in biblical counseling (no one book can cover everything), Emlet's approach is clearly relational. He emphasizes that ongoing relationship is the context for personal ministry and that multiple conversations over time provide a natural framework to relate the biblical story to a person's dominant life story. Growth happens in community.
A Watershed Book
CrossTalk is one of those watershed books. It has the potential to help move the modern biblical counseling movement into the next generation. Its dynamic incorporation of truth and life in the context of scriptural and life narratives is a rare blend. Everyone interesting in understanding where life and Scripture meet should read and apply CrossTalk.
Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships, and God's Healing for Life's Losses.
I was most impressed by this book. Emlet has done an excellent job of connecting serious study of the Bible with diligent application of Scripture to daily life. I hope that many churches will move toward the approach of this book, by acknowledging the paradigm of saint, sufferer and sinner instead of providing simplistic answers to real life which are really not answers at all and which fail to address life as it really is, beautiful and broken, challenging but hopeful.
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