It is with the greatest love and admiration that I want to honor the passing of a great saint of Christ. Dr. David Powlison, Executive Director of Faculty of CCEF.org, passed peacefully in his home on June 7th, 2019 of pancreatic cancer.
Of all my spiritual mentors–most being the kind one finds in a book, the authors having long-since proved their life testimony on earth–Dr. David Powlison captured my imagination for Christ in live form.
Discovering a True Model in a Confusing World
I discovered Dr. Powlison at a conference on Christianity and Psychology I just happened to stumble onto while visiting Dayton, TN. My daughter and I stayed to attend the 2-day event.
During that event, debates began to heat up between different factions of experimental or counseling psychology, and different perspectives on what it means to be a Christian who studies psychology and administers counsel for healing. But when Dr. Powlison stepped up on the stage to moderate, in his quiet calming voice, it was as if Christ had stepped onto the stage, centerpoint and sovereign over religion and preference. I thought of Jesus’ considered response to James and John about who would be greatest in the kingdom of God.
I will never forget that: he made me consider Christ above all. Not as a theory or a “perspective” or a “camp” but as Lord. And this has been the message of Dr. Powlison’s books of counsel, that Christ enters our lives wherever we are and ministers just there. He is real, He is involved, He is able and willing to enter into our lives no matter in what state they are, and He calls us to Himself for repentance, redemption, resurrection, and a glorious reconciliation with God.
Dr. Powlison was very humble and honest about his own struggles in life, including depression. Sometimes it seems as though everyone has “mental health disease” and this tends to devalue each individual’s experience as unique and in the Master’s special care; or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Christians just don’t admit they suffer at all, and worse, that suffering is somehow sinful and weakness is “of the devil”. Dr. Powlison brought GRACE and TRUTH from God’s Word to bear on the larger picture. That larger picture is the “body-enwrapped-soul” made in the image of God and redeemed through the blood of Christ for a glorious, eternal purpose and meaning through suffering, not in spite of it.
In Dr. Powlison’s eyes, or rather through his human lenses, one could see the radiance of the Christ-steeped soul. From all that I gained from him, he was honest, humble, gracious, wise, gentle. He had written a book called Speaking Truth in Love and I knew that book was written from a heart that knew both. Like his Christ, David Powlison was a man who was acquainted with the suffering of being human. He understood.
One could see through the life David on ahead to the beautiful Life of Christ Himself. David made Christ look good.
Isn’t that part of what it means to bring God glory? That a man or a woman can exhibit the goodness of Christ’s grace–just as by looking at Christ we see the goodness of our Father and Creator.
Long perplexed about who to listen to on this huge, controversial subject of intellectual, emotional, physical, and spiritual life, and contemplating further training in psychology, I took serious notes and pondered the perspectives with a wearying heart. But in that moment when Dr. Powlison took the stage and spoke to all the panelists and audience gathered, I saw Christ being glorified above professionalism and dogma.
I said to myself and to my daughter, “THAT is the man I want to learn from, and at whose feet I want to sit.” I wanted to absorb what He saw and knew. He alone offered what I and so many others I knew were looking for: Christ in the midst of controversy, Christ’s grace in the midst of raw judgmentalism, and Christ’s peace in the midst of much inner storm.
I went on to study with CCEF’s School of Biblical Counseling (ccef.org), and was privileged to take the Dynamics of Biblical Change course taught by him, though only online (i.e., recorded video).
That is my own experience with the man Dr. Powlison, and it is severely limited.
Sadly, I never met him personally, as it was never to be. But his tireless labors have already benefitted so many who will never meet him. He is indelibly inked onto my own life experience all the same. As CCEF’s ministry is broadening in the UK and their resources go throughout the world, we are all better, more hope-filled, worshipping children of God, because of a gentle man, in love with Christ, who counseled well.
You can benefit, too. It excites me to share some of his resources with you today (See the resources below).
Thank you, dearest heavenly Father, for sending me a father-figure that hinted at the greatness of Your own Fatherhood of me. Thank you for the years of painful shaping that prepared Dr. Powlison for the Calvary You had for him. He went directly to Your arms, honest about the human struggle with sin, sickness, sorrow, and suffering. He passed through the valley we shall all one day walk, but through which we can not receive a preview except by faith. Through his eyes, we see the truth of Your promises that You are with us to the very end–in love and reconciliation if we will take hold of it. Thank you for the gentle manner in which he wended his way through my pride and made human weakness a thing to not be ashamed of, but to embrace in this earthly life. He modeled the joy of Your strength to guide us through. Now he has won the crown given to a life lived to Your glory. I thank you that one day, I will in joy see him as a fellow-worshipper of our Christ in heaven! Please now be with his wife Nan and all the children and grandchildren and family and friends who are in grief at the earthly loss of this extraordinary saint of God. We know their pain is so real, and yet their joy is complete for David’s suffering is over and His eternal life in Christ is instant and in all blessed peace and rest. Joy is truly coming in the morning and we wait together for it to dawn. Until then, Lord, lead and guide us to live in the light of what we have witnessed of you through his life. Give us the strength and vision to carry on the work that Dr. Powlison re-energized for Your greater Glory. In the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This photo is from the memorial page for Dr. David Powlison at https://www.ccef.org/a-special-note-from-david-powlison/ Please click on this link to view the Memorial Services info, and a special video link of David Powlison’s Conversion Story [1:06:54 min.], a letter from Mrs. Nan Powlison, and a “history” of blog posts and videos along the journey he and the CCEF staff have trod these past months. You will be so blessed!
Please visit ccef.org for many resources by Dr. Powlison (and a host of other excellent counselors): books, articles, video clips, mini-books, conference audio (singles and sets). I am listing below the books and mini-books that Dr. Powlison has authored as a springboard to what manner of resources you can find at CCEF (and these are only a sampling!…).
BOOKS by Dr. Powlison:
Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken
God’s Grace In Your Suffering
How Does Sanctification Work?
Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining & Bitterness
Real Change: Becoming More Like Jesus in Every day Life, Study Guide (ed.)
The Biblical Counseling Movement: History and Context
Speaking Truth in Love: Counsel in Community
Jax’s Tail Twitches (Children’s book)
Zoe’s Hiding Place (Children’s book)
On the CCEF.org website, there are 70 video clips of Dr. Powlison’s counsel, 65 podcasts, 4 curricula, 2 courses (Dynamics of Biblical Change and Theology & Secular Psychology), and MANY articles within the Journal of Biblical Counseling (JBC), all available for free (podcasts, video clips) or purchase (course, curricula, journal articles or whole issues, books and mini-books, conference audio singles or whole conference audio sets).
From the home page, simply go to “Menu” (upper left hand corner), click on “Resources” and whichever kind of format you desire (for example, “Videos”). From this screen, select “Browse by: All Authors” and check the box for Dr. Powlison, and “Browse by: All Content Types” and check “videos”. You will now be able to view all of Dr. Powlison’s videos.
MINI-BOOKS by Dr. Powlison:
God as Father: When Your Own Father Failed (Mini-Book)
Life Beyond Your Parents’ Mistakes: The Transforming Power of God’s Love (Mini-Book)
Renewing Marital Intimacy: Closing the Gap between You and Your Spouse (Mini-Book)
Sexual Addiction: Freedom from Compulsive Behavior (Mini-Book)
Sexual Assault: Healing Steps for Victims (Mini-Book)
I‘m Exhausted: What to do When You’re Always Tired (Mini-Book)
I Just Want to Die: Replacing Suicidal Thoughts with Hope (Mini-Book)
Facing Death with Hope: Living for What Lasts (Mini-Book)
Breaking the Addictive Cycle: Deadly Obsessions or Simple Pleasures? (Mini-Book)
Grieving A Suicide: Help for the Aftershock (Mini-Book)
Healing After Abortion: God’s Mercy is For You (Mini-Book)
When Cancer Interrupts (Mini-Book)
Overcoming Anxiety: Relief for Worried People (Mini-Book)
Recovering from Child Abuse: Healing and Hope for Victims (Mini-Book)
Confronting Anger: Responding Constructively When Life Goes Wrong (Mini-Book)
Real Love: Better Than Unconditional? (Mini-Book)
You Make Me So Mad!: Managing Your Anger (Mini-Book)
Stress: Peace Amid Pressure (Mini-Book)
Pornography: Slaying the Dragon (Mini-Book)
Anger: Escaping the Maze (Mini-Book)
When You Are Worried: Finding Reasons for Peace (Mini-Book)
“Why Me?”: Comfort for the Victimized (Mini-Book)
Stressed Out: Becoming Peaceful on the Inside (Mini-Book)
Worry: Pursuing a Better Path to Peace (Mini-Book)
Coming Clean: Breaking Pornography’s Hold on You (Mini-Book)
Pre-Engagement: 5 Questions to Ask Yourselves (Mini-Book)
Innocence Lost: Rebuilding after Victimization (Mini-Book)
© June 2019, www.ReadPsalm119.com ( NOTE: The Hawaiian lei flower is in honor of Dr. Powlison's request that we remember him with the vibrant colors of his native Hawaiian home. All kind donations in his honor are to be made to ccef.org (online giving available).