Sep 24

Sin and Misery…Connecting the Dots

People do not always appreciate the fact that the pain they experience is often due to acting or thinking in ways that are out of harmony with Scripture. As a biblical counselor, therefore, you must understand the relationship between sin and misery.

Many of the over 250 secular counseling models would agree with the humanist manifesto which denies the existence of consequences for sin. But the Bible says “God is not mocked” and “whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal.6:7; cf. Eph. 4:18; Rom. 8:20; Lam. 3:39; Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9). Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 10

Family Life Today interviews

A few weeks ago I asked our church to pray for my trip to Little Rock, Ark., as I was recording a broadcast interview for Family Life Today. The programs will air this Wednesday through Friday. Thank you to all of you who prayed. To see how the Lord answered these prayers you can tune into WLBF at 12 noon on those days or simply click on the following links at your convenience.

Wednesday’s Broadcast: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Thursday’s Broadcast: Taking Every Thought Captive
Friday’s Broadcast: Married to a Liar

May 21

A Word to Pastors

God uniquely calls church leaders to do the work of biblical counseling as a part of their pastoral responsibilities. Hebrews 13:17 is not only instructive to the church member, but also to the church officer.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. (emphasis added)

What does it mean to “keep watch” over the souls of the saints? The Greek construction of this word (ἀγρυπνέω), which means to be watchful (attentive), is present and active, indicating continuous action on the part of the shepherd. This connotes an almost hypervigilant mind-set on the part of the shepherd. In other words, it’s not a matter of waiting around until some problem in the flock materializes, but rather of proactively looking for signs of a problem before it develops. A good shepherd will regularly examine his sheep. He will keep his eyes peeled for indications of sickness. He will notice any unusual smells or sounds emanating from the sheep’s bodies. He will check their fleeces, running his hands under the wool to check for scabs, unusual lumps, or insects. He will notice things that don’t look normal—not to find problems where none exist, but to deal with any real issues before they become serious ones. The point is that shepherding involves a level of intimacy with the sheep that too few church leaders are willing to achieve. Shepherding can be dirty work. All of this necessitates counseling.

Paul’s example of an elder who is intimately involved with his flock can be seen in Acts 20:18–21.

And when they had come to him, he said to them, “You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Paul was not the kind of shepherd who locked himself in the study for thirty-five hours per week, only to come out to publicly preach on the Lord’s day. Rather, he would minister publicly and from house to house. That is, he would minister the Word to entire congregations, and he would minister the Word to smaller groups and individuals as well.

Like a skilled marksman, the man of God knows how to wield his Bible as a shotgun (when, from the pulpit he sprays a wide pattern of bird shot, hoping to hit as many consciences as possible) or to utilize it as a 7mm ought 08 rifle (when, in the counseling office, he carefully places the crosshairs of his $1,200 Austrian-made scope on the exact spot where it will have the greatest impact).

Few people have made this point as boldly as John Calvin in his commentary on the book of Acts.

Publicly, and throughout every house. This is the second point, that he [the Apostle Paul] did not only teach all men in the congregation, but also every one privately, as every man’s necessity did require. For Christ hath not appointed pastors upon this condition, that they only teach the church in general in the open pulpit; but that they may take charge of every particular sheep, that they may bring back to the sheepfold those who wonder and go astray, that they may strengthen those who are discouraged and weak, that they may cure the sick, that they may lift up and set on foot the feeble (Ezek. 34:4) for common doctrine will oftentimes wax cold, unless it be holpen [helped] with private admonition.

Wherefore, the negligence of those men is inexcusable, who, having made one sermon, as if they had done their task, live all the rest of their time idly; as if their voice were shut up within the church walls, seeing that so soon as they departed thence, they be dumb.[1]

What was it that characterized the false shepherds of Israel? They were primarily concerned with their own needs, not those of the flock. The false shepherds of Ezekiel’s day were so concerned about their own advancement and enrichment that they neglected the sheep. They wouldn’t invest the time and effort necessary to care for the weak, sickly and diseased, or to seek after those who were scattered and lost. Their lack of attention to the individual needs of the sheep resulted in some of the flock becoming “food for every beast of the field” (C.F., Ezekiel 34:1-6).

Our churches are filled with spiritually weak, sick, and diseased sheep. Many of these flocks have shepherds who possess, in the Word of God, the cure for all such spiritual maladies, but who, because they are only interested in “feeding” the sheep, will not care for their wounds.

So, while all Christians are “competent to counsel,” all shepherds are “called to counsel.” And if you are called, you should be equipped. But are you? If you aren’t, let me urge you to consider availing yourself to some the fine training courses offered by reputable certified training centers across the country. Some of them, such as the The Institute for Nouthetic Studies http:/www.nouthetic.org even offer video courses that may be taken in the comfort of your own home or office.

Never forget, that you have all that you need in the Word of God (and through the Holy Spirit) to not only feed God’s flock but also to cure its spiritually sick.

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[1] Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminister John Knox Press, 1960), IV.i.4, p. 1016.

Mar 26

A Short Primer on Depression

Depression is probably the most common personal problem for which people seek counseling. There are physiological as well as nonorganic causes for this condition. I would like to take a brief look at three of the most common nonorganic causes of depression—at least, three of the things I look for when counseling someone who is depressed.

The most basic cause of spiritual depression is living out of harmony with Scripture. But to simply call something “sin” without identifying its exact biblical designation does not help us effectively treat the problem. Just as a physician can prescribe a specific antibiotic once he’s identified the exact strain of bacteria causing an infection, biblical counselors must strive for a more accurate diagnosis of (and remedy for) any functional (nonmedical) depression those they counsel may be experiencing.

Please keep in mind that there is a bit of overlap between these three categories. In other words, the walls between these rooms (the three causes of depression) do not go all the way to the ceiling. Technically, they all fall under the same roof—the rooms are all covered by the roof of sin.

Unrepentant Sin

The first category of sin that causes depression is Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 26

On Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

To my way of thinking, the place of the doctrine of justification in the believer’s life is much like the operating system on a computer. I’m a PC guy. My personal computer operates under a Windows operating system. Windows is always up and running, but most of the time, it runs in the background. I don’t see it. I can go for days without looking at it (although I know it is functioning as long as the other programs are operating properly). Occasionally, I have to go to the control panel to troubleshoot a problem, make some minor adjustments, or defrag my hard drive, but I don’t give it another thought because I have faith that it is doing what it is supposed to do. So it is with my justification. It is always up and running. Though I am not always consciously thinking about it, everything I do flows from it. Indeed, I could do nothing without it. But there are many other things I am called to do

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 16

How to deal with Disrespectul Teenagers – Part 3

In this final blog article, I will address the question, “With what will your teen replace his discourteous deeds?”

Below is a worksheet your can use to help train your teen to be more respectful. The ‘form’ encourages your child to rate each suggestion according to its ease or difficulty.”

 

Specific ways I can show respect to my parents

Using the following rating scale, identify the specific new ways you may begin to demonstrate respect to your parents in order of ease (and comfortableness) to difficulty (and uncomfortableness).

5 Easy       4 Comfortable             3 Not Easy      2 Uncomfortable         1 Difficult Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 02

How to deal with Disrespectful Teenagers – Part 2

Last time we explored the selfishness and pride that often generates all manner of disrespectful attitudes. But there are other reasons teens find to justify disrespecting their parents. Here is a worksheet to go over with your children to help them identify other sinful thoughts and motives behind their impertinence.

Why am I disrespectful?

The motivation behind my disrespectful attitude toward my parents is often:

To divert their attention (to keep from having to do what my parents ask of me)

To get even (to vindictively pay them back for not giving me what I want)

To protest (to teach them that “they can’t treat me that way”)

To be myself (to help them to see that this is just the way I am, and I’m not going to change the way I talk for anyone) Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 19

How to Deal with Disrespectful Teenagers

As a rule, nothing provokes parents to anger quicker than disrespect. There is something about an insolent son or daughter that upsets a parent and incites him to action—often the wrong kind of action. In this post and the ones that will follow, I’ll explore what disrespect is, how it is displayed, why teenagers might be motivated to show it, and what parents can do to help teens correct it.

Disrespect is first and foremost an attitude of the heart. It is rooted in the sins of pride and selfishness. It is a root out of which flows all manner of other sins (i.e., resentment, abusive speech, and hatred).

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3, emphasis added)

Disrespect has to do with not esteeming others more highly than ourselves. It is the belief that we are wiser, smarter, “cooler,” or otherwise better than others. Beyond this, it is not giving others the honor that they are due and, in some cases, showing contempt for them. Because it is rooted in pride, disrespect loathes humbling itself in the presence of others by treating them as if they were in any way superior. Yet, ironically enough, it selfishly longs for others to esteem itself highly. Read the rest of this entry »

Dec 12

Love Communicates

You’ve seen it a thousand times. Two Christians, members of the same family (or of God’s family), are trying to resolve a conflict when one of them shuts down right in the middle of the process. “What’s going on here?” you wonder. You’re not sure where to begin probing. “Is he angry? Is she afraid? Is it a matter of vengeance—is she purposely shutting down in order to pay back the other for some hurtful comment that was made earlier in the conversation? Has he never been taught proper biblical communication skills? Is she trying to avoid conflict, or, is it simply a matter of her choosing to not answer because she doesn’t know what to say?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 21

Serving up Homework Asian Style

I love Asian food! When I was a boy living on Long Island, my grandparents would often drive in from Brooklyn to visit with us for the weekend. When they did, they would sometimes take my parents, siblings, and me out for Chinese food. We usually ordered “family style.”

What this meant was that we could order an entire meal for one set price based on the number of people in our party. But, the really neat thing was that we would have our choice of several dishes which were listed under each course. First, there was Column A: Soups. We each could make one selection from at least three varieties: Egg Drop, Wonton, and Hot and Sour. Then, there was the oversized appetizer plates from which the entire family could make two selections (Column B). This course contained such delicacies as egg rolls, barbecue spare ribs, crab rangoon, and my absolute favorite, butterfly shrimp (which were wrapped in bacon, dipped in batter and deep fried). Then, of course, there was Column C—the entrées—a rather long scrumptious list from which (depending on the number in our party) we could select several.  Finally, we had our choice of one scoop of vanilla, chocolate, or pistachio ice cream, which was carefully crowned with a fortune cookie.

“You are making me drool, but I really don’t understand what all of this has to do with Biblical counseling.” Read the rest of this entry »

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