Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

The Grand Canyon from the Bottom Up: Creation and Counseling

The Grand Canyon from the Bottom Up--Creation and Counseling

A few years ago I had the amazing privilege of visiting the Grand Canyon in a unique way. I had been there numerous times so what was different about this trip? Instead of looking down from the top, confined to a small section of the national park, I was able to see many miles of it up close and personal from the bottom up!

That’s right; I was able to raft 180 plus miles of the Colorado River going through 150 rapids. We spent a week in the bottom and many times we were so deep in the canyon we could not see the uppermost rim. It is a different world looking at this 200-mile-long gorge up close and personal from the bottom up. I was there with a number of other college and seminary profs to look at geologic evidences for catastrophe (there are many). This research trip’s focus was Genesis 6-9, looking at the evidences for a worldwide flood, but the Lord had additional purposes in store for me.

Soul Food

Those days were not only intellectually stimulating, but were also soothing for my soul. I was away from my normal routine; never ending emails (wouldn’t you like to declare an e-mail bankruptcy? I would), the regular counseling concerns for people, and grading.

It was refreshing to see waterfalls coming right out of the side of the canyon walls with 1000’s of feet of strata still above. We saw mule deer, big horn sheep and even a rattlesnake. There were so many big horns that it became routine and it even lost some of its exhilaration. Of course there were also the famous brilliant sunrises and sunsets with all their various hues and shadows reflecting off the multicolored desert tones of the mile deep strata.

But one element of nature stood out above the rest—the stars.

We camped each night in the open along the side of the river. This was one time I didn’t mind waking up because every time I rolled over on my cot I saw more stars than I ever had before and worship would just well up in my soul just as it did with David in Psalm 8. I thought:

“When I look at the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him”(Psalm 8:3-4, ESV).

David was overwhelmed by reflecting on the vast power of his God as he looked at the stars and so was I.  It is even more amazing to consider that He does care as many passages of Scripture affirm (e.g. Romans 8:28-39).

Creation and Counseling

My trip reinforced the contention that the natural world has many counseling applications and that it is a biblical counseling tool the Lord has given us that is often underutilized. In other words, He desires us to use creation as a tool to help our souls (and the souls of those to whom we minister) have the proper perspective on life. He desires us to meditate on creation to remind ourselves who He is which in turn ministers to our inner person.

This principle is firmly established by Scripture. And it is Scripture that gives us the proper lenses to even look at the natural world. It is only through Scripture that we can most accurately understand where this creation came from and how almighty the creator God truly is.

Scripture Makes This Connection

I have been intrigued by the numerous passages that directly connect the two (e.g. Psalm 8; Psalm 19; Psalm 33). My favorite is Isaiah 40. In this famous pivotal chapter the Lord is portrayed as the true God as opposed to idols. His mind-boggling power is exalted as the writer tells Judah that their Lord holds the waters in the palm of His hand (verse 12), and measures the heavens with the span of His hand (verse 12). A few verses later we are told that there is no one like him (verses 18, 25) and He names ALL the stars (verse 26). He then is declared as the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth who does not faint or grow weary (verse 28). So whether you look out at the oceans or up to the stars He is in control.

I don’t know about you, but my desperate soul needs those thoughts. Based upon these truths of who our Lord is then the end of the chapter gives verse after verse of direct counseling applications that minister to our inner persons.

For example, our God who holds the waters of the earth in the palm of His hand and can use His hand to measure the universe and name the stars of the universe, gives power to the faint (verse 29). He promises that those who “wait” for him (that is trust him) shall renew their strength. So by believing these things, rather than exhausting myself through anxiety, I can trust him and find refreshment (verse 31).


It is no mistake then that going on a church retreat in the mountains soothes the soul. Or, looking up at the stars and remembering that I can call the Creator of these stars my Father calms me down. He names the stars and He knows His sheep by name (John 10:3, 14). As we reflect on His glory, as revealed in creation (Psalm 19:1), we can grow in our awe of him. And our love for our Lord can grow as we consider that the creation is reflecting something of the personality of the Creator just as art reflects the artist. Of course, all of this stimulates worship and true worship is always healthy for the soul.

This theme makes me wonder if we are utilizing the tool of creation enough in our counseling ministries and in our own walks with the Lord. It also causes me to raise the question of the location of counseling. Does it all need to be in a formal setting in a building?

Well, I’m looking forward to going camping in the mountains in a few weeks and writing this has gotten me even more excited. I think I’ll go do some planning!

Join the Conversation

How could you use creation in your own walk with the Lord?

How could you use creation in ministry to others?

When was the last time you meditated on some aspect of creation and allowed your soul to worship because of it?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , , , , ,

2 Equipping Opportunities

Restoring Trust Workshop

Life Counseling Center of Marriottsville, Maryland, has its roots as a small counseling ministry of Chapelgate Presbyterian Church. In the past 5 years the counseling ministry has grown significantly. What started as informal counseling offered in whatever rooms the church had available, has now grown to a formal counseling center that staffs 10 counselors and a full-time receptionist. It has been an honor to be a part of the work that the Lord is doing through this ministry.

Besides offering counseling for individuals and families, we are excited to now be presenting workshops and training events. Highlighted below are two of our upcoming events.

Restoring Trust Workshop: September 19-20, 2014

This fall Life Counseling Center is pleased to partner with Regeneration Ministries of Baltimore to provide a workshop called Restoring Trust: Helping Couples Heal. This workshop is designed to help couples heal from the destruction of pornography. With a new porn video created every 39 seconds, the problem of pornography is quietly devastating marriages everywhere. This workshop is not just for couples impacted by pornography, but also for the people who care for them.

It will highlight Josh Glaser of Regeneration Ministries and his wife Jamie as they draw from their own personal experience as well as their collective 20 years of ministry. In addition to Josh and Jamie, Life Counseling Center’s marriage counselors will provide interaction with the material; discussing practical application, engage in interactive conversations, as well as serve on a question/answer panel.

The workshop will be divided into two parts.

  • Restoring Trust, Part 1: Earthquake and Triage
    When a big earthquake hits, it’s traumatic. The ground under your feet no longer feels trustworthy, the home you’ve lived in has shifted, and there’s damage everywhere. This is what it can feel like when trust is violated through the viewing of pornography. In this session, we’ll discuss the early stages of recovery; including how a couple can set a course to effectively navigate through the damage in order to begin moving toward restoration. We will explore topics such as establishing safe recovery communities and counseling, how and what to disclose, male and female experiences and expectations, establishing boundaries, avoiding co-dependency, and the place of developing a restoration covenant.
  • Restoring Trust, Part 2: Learning to Relate through the Rough Stuff
    Once the initial cleanup is underway, those who survive an earthquake need to learn to relate in new, healthier ways. Life cannot go back to “normal” because normal was part of the problem that caused the destruction. In this session, we will address how to talk about progress, slips, and relapses, practicing healthy communication, maintaining a support network, moving through the challenges of rebuilding trust, and cultivating a healthy sex life.

We believe this workshop will provide extremely beneficial information to help you or your loved one’s marriage move toward health and wholeness. If you or someone you know would like more information on this workshop, please visit our website

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands Training: Spring 2015

Last spring, Life Counseling Center presented extensive training to a local church using the material, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Paul David Tripp. This practical hands-on training was attended by small group leaders, lay counselors, and also individuals looking to strengthen their relational interaction. Over the course of six weeks our counselors took the material far beyond the pages of the book and included practical application through role playing, case studies, and years of counseling training experience. The response was overwhelmingly positive as these comments note.

  • “The anecdotes were great because they provided better understanding through examples which you cannot get from a book.”
  • “The material was grounded in the gospel and the reminder of what God calls us to—it was very practical to daily relationships.”

Because of the positive response, we will be offering this training workshop again on select weekends in April and May of 2015. It will be held onsite at Chapelgate Presbyterian Church and will be open to churches in the local area. This is perfect for small group leaders, lay counselors, those considering counseling ministry, or those actively engaged in personal ministry.

If you or your ministry is looking for ways to be better equipped relationally, won’t you consider joining us? For more information about the spring training event you can contact Pam Riley at

If you live near or around the Baltimore area, we would love to extend this invitation for you to join either of these two upcoming events. It is our hope that the church would be well prepared to help care for people in all of their sufferings and trials. Please consider joining us. Click HERE for more information.

Topics: People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , ,

5 Factors Leading to Spiritual Growth: “Run, Forrest, Run”

5 Factors Leading to Spiritual Growth--Run, Forrest, Run

In the movie, Forrest Gump, Forrest was a character known for many things, but one thing certainly stands out—he liked to run.

The apostle Paul uses running as a metaphor to describe what the Christian life is like. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).

In Philippians 3:12-16, Paul expands the metaphor in order to help us see what our approach to spiritual growth should look like. We see in these verses 5 features that should characterize our approach to spiritual growth.

1. Pursue Christ with an Accurate View of Yourself

In verse 12, Paul confesses his own shortcomings. One thing Paul knows about himself is that he is in progress.

Paul acknowledges that he does not yet fully know Christ. “Not that I have already obtained this…” (Philippians 3:12, ESV). This refers to what he said previously in verse 8-11, namely to know Christ fully. This would be obtained at the resurrection of the dead (v. 11).

Paul also acknowledges that he is not yet fully sanctified. “Not that I…am already perfect” (Philippians 3:12).  He does not want us to think we can be perfect in this lifetime. Like Paul, we must recognize we have not arrived, but that we are people in progress.

2. Pursue Christ with All Your Might

Paul continues in verse 12, “I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). Paul’s response to not knowing Christ fully or being perfect is to pursue Christ with all his energy and strength. From the world of sports, Paul uses aggressive and violent language to describe his pursuit of Christ. Press on means to pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain.[1] Make it my own means to obtain the prize with the idea of eager and strenuous exertion.[2]

This is nitty-gritty, blood and sweat language. Paul wants Christ and he won’t stop until he gets him.

Was the reason for his pursuit to earn favor with God? To merit or deserve salvation? No! Paul’s eager and strenuous pursuit of Christ is because of Jesus’ eager and strenuous pursuit of him. Christ sought after Paul and made Paul his own. Christ arrested his heart and made him a child of God. This whole, passionate, nitty-gritty, blood and sweat pursuit began when Christ seized him on the Damascus road.

Do you often think about God’s pursuit of you? If you are a follower of Christ; if you have put your faith in Jesus; then you were first sought after and pursued by Him (John 15:16). Like Paul, we are to pursue Christ with all our might.

Would you say you are? What do you do with your thoughts or wants? Do you subject them to rigorous testing? Do you cut those sinful thoughts and desires down at the knees? When you think of being in progress, does that discourage you? Or, does it motivate you to respond like Paul and eagerly press on?

3. Pursue Christ with Focus

Paul develops his spiritual workout routine further in verse 13. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). Paul has a singular focus. Straining forward to Christ is Paul’s singular pursuit. Runners in a race must fix their eyes ahead of them; those who watch the crowd or their own feet are likely to trip and fall.

Paul’s pursuit is marked by intentional amnesia: “…forgetting what lies behind(Philippians 3:13). Paul is not saying that we somehow seek to wash our minds of any previous memory. His point is that we must concentrate on the present with a look to the future.

Paul made a break with everything in his past, both good and bad. Spiritual achievements, virtuous deeds, great successes in ministry, as well as sins, missed opportunities, and catastrophes must all be forgotten. We must not dwell on them or in any way think our past determines who we are. Our past does not control the present or the future. We cannot live on past victories, nor should we be debilitated by the guilt of past sins. God is interested in what we do now and in the future. Like runners we must be aware of how dangerous it is to turn our heads and look back.

Paul’s pursuit is also marked by intentional aim: “…strain forward to what lies ahead(Philippians 3:13). Like the runner who has the finish line in sight, Paul describes the runner with his body stretched out in intense passion for the goal. Our pursuit of Christ is singular in focus, marked by intentional amnesia and aim. Our eyes must be fixed on what lies ahead, never satisfied until we get it.

While we are overjoyed to be in the race, we are not satisfied with where we are in the race.

Kent Hughes, in his commentary says, “Humble dissatisfaction…opens us to the blessing of God—and to a sublime cycle of dissatisfaction and satisfaction and dissatisfaction and satisfaction….It brings on a life that knows more and more of Christ and then desperately wants to know more and indeed does know more and more and more and more. Spiritual dissatisfaction is a blessed state. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

Do you long to know Christ better? Part of the race is that the more we progress and grow in Christ the more we recognize our own need to grow. Let us press on!

4. Pursue Christ with the Right Motivation

Next, Paul explains, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). The word for toward means that Paul is bearing down on his goal. Paul was bearing down toward the goal of rising above sin, knowing Christ more, and making him known throughout the world. Everything about Paul’s disposition and pursuit is heavenly. His call is from heaven and toward heaven.

At the end of the race there is the long anticipated prize. This prize is not for those who have accomplished anything except put their faith in Christ and persevered in doing so to the end, marked by a life not of incredible achievements, but by a relentless pursuit of Christ. We want the resurrection from the dead. We want to see Christ face to face. We want to be found in him.

5. Pursue Christ with Tenacity

Paul completes his race analogy with these words: “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:15). When you think you are in progress and that you must relentlessly pursue Christ you are thinking maturely. You know you are perfectly justified in Christ and that you no longer live under God’s wrath. But, you know you are incomplete in your knowledge of Christ and in being like Christ.

Paul trusted that as God’s people assess themselves accurately, pursue Christ vigorously, with concentrated focus, with the right motivation, and with persistent tenacity, God would continue to guide them into all truth and grow their knowledge. He will finish what he started (Philippians 1:6).

In Philippians 3:16, Paul adds, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Hold true means to walk in step with. With tenacity, we are to continually walk in obedience to what we already know. And, as we grow we will walk in obedience to what now know. And so on and so on. This kind of steadfastness will produce a Christlikeness.

What Paul teaches us in Philippians 3, reminds us of these words from Hebrews 12:1-2. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

Like Forrest Gump, let us be found running.

Join the Conversation

Which of these 5 approaches to spiritual growth most resonate with you?

Note: This blog is from a sermon preached at College Park Church, Indianapolis, Indiana. Click here for the sermon.

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Ibid.

Topics: Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | Tags: , , ,

2 Biblical Counseling Conferences: One Hope—Christ’s Gospel of Grace

The BCC is not about the BCC. The BCC is about BC. Our mission is to multiply the ministry of the modern biblical counseling movement. So…we love using our “BCC megaphone” to make you aware of exciting upcoming opportunities hosted by leading biblical counseling organizations.

Today we join the ACBC and CCEF in announcing a unique opportunity to attend both conferences at a special discounted cost.

Listen in as ACBC Executive Director, Heath Lambert and CCEF Executive Director, David Powlison describe the relevance of each conference: the ACBC’s conference on The Gospel and Mental Illness and CCEF’s conference on Loss.

Forward your CCEF registration to to receive a $100 discount on the ACBC Conference, October 6-8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Alternatively, ACBC registrants may forward their registration to to receive a $100 discount on the CCEF Conference, October 3-5, 2014, in San Diego. Discount applies to only one of the conferences.

Topics: Conference, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

Ten Simple (But Critical) Questions to Consider in Marriage Counseling

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource article by Dr. Jeremy Lelek in which he discusses Ten Simple (But Critical) Questions to Consider in Marriage Counseling. This article originally appeared at the Association of Biblical Counselors’ website. You can read the original resource here.

I.  Does the couple read the Bible together on a regular basis?

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).

II.  Does the couple place their marriage as a priority?

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…(Ephesians 5:22; 25, ESV).

III.  Does each seek to put the interests of their spouse above their own?

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV).

IV.  Do they use their speech to build up one another?

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6, ESV).

V.  Are they honest in their communication?

“Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment” (Proverbs12:19, ESV).

VI.  Do they have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship?

“For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.  Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited tie, that you may devote yourselves to prayer, but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (I Cor. 7:4-5).

VII.   Is the couple sexually faithful to one another?

“You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, ESV).

VIII.   Do either of them use or view pornography?

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart”  (Matthew 5:28, ESV).

IX. Does either the husband or the wife abuse alcohol or drugs (illegal or prescription)?

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads righteousness” (Romans 6:16, ESV).

X. Is the couple dealing with any significant financial debt?

“One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless” (Proverbs 14:16, ESV).

Topics: Christian Living, Conflict, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By

Each Friday our BCC staff links you to the top five biblical counseling and Christian living blog posts of the week—posts that provide robust, rich, and relevant insights for living.

The Cool god Is a Puny god

Jon Bloom at Desiring God writes:

“Americans, and most westerners, live in cultures governed by the god called ‘Cool.’ Cool doesn’t have a temple we can see or visit, but his images and shrines are everywhere. Cool is a god that we actually invite to take up residence in the unholy of unholies of our fallen nature’s heart-temple. Once there, it entwines itself with our narcissistic selves, becoming part of our desired identity, the self-image we worship.

You can read and reflect on the rest of Jon’s thoughts in The Cool god Is a Puny god.

Two Conferences; One Theme: Christ’s Gospel of Grace

What a unique opportunity—attending the CCEF and ACBC conferences on back-to-back dates in cities in close proximity to one another. Enjoy this introductory video featuring David Powlison of CCEF and Heath Lambert of ACBC as they describe their conference themes: National Conferences. 

Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife?

Russell Moore addresses a difficult question: Does a man who had a brief affair several years ago need to confess it to his wife? Read his response in Does He Need to Confess Adultery to His Wife? 

The “Moses Model”: A Recipe for Disaster?

Sam Storms writes, “Many make the mistake of trying to take an OT model for leadership and applying it to the NT church.” You can read his expanded thoughts on this important issue at The “Moses Model”: Recipe for Disaster?

Psalms Singing in Our Services?

Pastor Brian Croft asks and addresses the question How Do Pastors Incorporate Psalm Singing in Their Worship Services

Join the Conversation

Which post impacted you the most? Why? What blog posts have you enjoyed this week that you want to share with others?

Topics: Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Going Back to School

Going Back to School

BCC Staff Note: This blog was first posted at the Lighthouse Community Church blog. It is re-posted by the BCC with the permission of LCC and of the author, Jenn Chen. You can read the original article at Going Back to School.

The Perfect Storm

In May 2014, I printed out my syllabi for two classes. Yes, I’m going back to school!

I have been providing therapy for almost 20 years and as a licensed clinical psychologist for over 10 years. My degrees in Marriage and Family and in Psychology are from well-known Christian institutions. I had training in Christianity and Psychology, cutting-edge psychotherapies, and in neuropsychology. So why am I pursuing a Masters in Biblical Counseling at the Master’s College, especially in my (gulp) forties? (Last time I checked, I thought I just celebrated my 29th birthday…)

Because of God and His grace in my life.

When we first attended Lighthouse back in the summer of 2011, I saw a church pamphlet that stated, “We believe in biblical counseling.” My limited exposure to biblical counseling was in my “Introduction to Integration” (integration of theology and psychology) class. It was given a brief mention in lecture, critiqued as narrow and over-simplistic or even worse, as harmful to the counselee. And it doesn’t involve science (which psychology reifies)!

So I wondered if Lighthouse was the right place for our family, even to the point of discussing it with a fellow Christian psychologist. She encouraged me not to let it stop us exploring Lighthouse. Though I was unaware at the time of any Christian convictions against psychology, I could sense some discomfort at times when people would hear my answer to “What do you do?” (I get that anyways, but in secular settings, I get more “So can you read my mind?” or “So are you analyzing me right now?” discomfort.)

However, Peter and I felt like we were really growing from the teaching in Sunday sermons and continued to come to Lighthouse.

Then God created the perfect storm in my life: severe illness with accompanying panic attacks, no church home, awareness of my very limited faith. Everything I knew was not working, including therapy techniques. In desperation, I signed up for biblical counseling at Lighthouse. And through this, God showed me the core of “issues” I have been struggling with my whole life: my kingdom of shame, control, and fear. He began to show me His kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17). I began learning the sweetness of His Word of life and biblical truth. He began to turn my heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25).

My Journey…

I could go on about how God continues to transform me, but that would be a digression for this blog. I began to read everything I could put my hands on about biblical counseling, and even took a class The Dynamics of Biblical Change through CCEF (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation: go to for great resources).

Through my own biblical counseling and through reading and class, I became aware of the untruths I had learned in my schooling. In seminary, theology had been difficult for me. In a postmodern era, I became very confused about truth—I began to think it was unknowable, because doesn’t everyone come from a subjective place? And to claim absolute truth can be arrogant and inflexible—no one wants to be either of those. Theology seemed like an ivory tower pursuit that did not pertain to my daily life, so I thought, let the theologians battle it out with each other.

But biblical counseling is applied theology. As Pastor Kim says, what we believe about God affects how we live our lives. And Scripture is filled with knowable truth, especially the life-changing truth of the gospel, not just for our eternity but for each moment in this life.

Also, I had been taught that the Bible addresses issues of ultimacy, while psychology addresses issues of finitude. In non-academic language, this means the Bible addresses our ultimate state (our eternity) of being, while psychology deals with our day-to-day life here on earth (what will end). And as a therapist, we should direct counselees to pastors for issues of ultimacy. Thus, therapy didn’t need to explicitly deal with Scripture, nor did Scripture necessarily entail the answers to psychological questions. At one point, I posited that Scripture told us how we should be ideally, but not how to get there (change our behaviors or hearts).

In addition, somewhere I learned that by being a Christian, I was bringing the Holy Spirit with me into the therapy room, which implicitly made my therapy Christian. I also thought that by bearing another’s suffering, I was acting on a theology of presence in suffering just as Christ bore our suffering.

Also in reading literature on biblical counseling, I realized that in a sense, as a psychologist I work as a “secular clergy.” A church has theology based on its leadership’s understanding of the Bible, of people, and of suffering, which affects that church’s ministry to suffering people. A therapist can also serve as a “priest,” listening to “confessions” and administering “wisdom” and how to deal with suffering. In fact, the word patient comes from Latin as “one who suffers.”

Interestingly, prior to the illness that brought me to biblical counseling, I had been working on a book on the latest psychotherapies. I was laying out how each therapy viewed etiology (cause of the problem), its philosophical underpinnings and assumptions (worldview and view of sufferers), and techniques (how to solve the problem). Biblical counseling speaks to the idea of instead of taking secular therapies and trying to adapt them for a Christian, starting from the beginning with a Christian worldview of the problem and a scriptural solution.

I have been able to use some of what I have learned about biblical counseling with some of my Christian patients and have been blessed to see heart changes. One woman with bipolar has become less reactive—in situations which she would have cursed people out, she has been able to stop and bless them. Another woman who would isolate for days in her room with depression has joined her beginning believer’s class at her local church even though she has been attending there for years. I have also come across challenges, which has caused a deeper desire to learn even more about biblical counseling.

When I originally went to seminary for psychology, I thought I was going to learn how to minister to others through my faith. I learned about how my faith would “inform my practice.” Today, I am going back to school for the gospel and my faith to be my practice!

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Education, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

Good News for Single Men

Good News for Single Men

Last night I had a conversation with a handful of single men from our Soma Tacoma family. As a shepherd and elder who cares deeply for the hearts of people, I’d like to speak directly to other single men about a few of the takeaways from our two-plus-hour dialogue.

1.  Jesus wants to “secure your undivided devotion.”

After beginning by affirming my love for these men, we read from 1 Corinthians 7 where Paul makes some interesting statements about singleness and marriage. There is one section, however, that is extremely clear:

“I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided…I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35, emphasis added).

Paul’s call to all single people is clear: as long as you are single, secure undivided devotion to Jesus! When you marry, you add a layer of complexity to your life. Use the extra margin you have today to sharpen your focus on Jesus.

My chief concern for all of our single men is that they passionately pursue…Jesus. Not a woman, but Jesus. Love Jesus, serve Jesus, pursue Jesus, know Jesus, walk with Jesus, be satisfied in Jesus, experience intimacy with Jesus, find every bit of their significance and value in Jesus. Be a faithful disciple of Jesus! THAT is the Father’s chief concern for you, single men.

And though every man I talked with last night is already doing that, the Spirit led me to echo Paul again by saying, “excel still more!” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).

2.  Start with the right question.

It shouldn’t be shocking that our evening included a discussion of how to determine which woman one should pursue. As we talked, I heard the essence of a question that I often hear single men ask (and I clearly recall asking myself when I was a single man): Who am I interested in?

I believe when it comes to pursuit, if you start here men, you are starting with the wrong question.

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). Everything we do should be motivated by love for God in response to what He has done for us in and through Jesus. We love him because He first loved us (1 John 4:10-11), and love for him is what motivates us to lay down our lives for the sake of others (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Therefore, starting with the right question means asking, “Who would the Father have me pursue? Who would He have me serve and bless by initiating an intentional friendship?”

Finding a wife should not be your primary motive for pursuing a woman. A single man’s motivation for pursuing a woman must primarily be loving obedience to the Father, and secondarily to serve and bless his sister. Pursuing a woman in Spirit-led fashion, regardless of the outcome, honors God and blesses her.

So, begin by asking the Spirit to make it clear to you who He wants you to pursue. He is your perfect Father, and He knows you (and all of your sisters) better than you know yourself. He is uniquely qualified to guide you. And ask others for help in determining the Spirit’s leading. Don’t feel like it’s totally up to you to sit in the corner, listening to the Spirit, until some woman’s name pops into your head. Process this in community.

(This is nothing new, of course. I remember talking for hours with my friends about the different women we were interested in, trying to determine what we should do next. But we were starting with the wrong question. I wish we’d been armed with the thought that our Heavenly Father had an opinion on the matter. It would have significantly altered the discussion.)

3.  Having a wife doesn’t make you a man. Jesus makes you a man.

As an elder, I know that at times I have inadvertently sent the message that finding a wife makes you more of man. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I often ask men, married and single, “How do you know you’re a man?”

I believe there are three main ways for Jesus’ followers to answer this question.

First of all, I know I’m a man because I am a male who has been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). Men and women both uniquely image God, and as a man, this uniqueness is reflected in my heart and life.

But secondly, I know I am a man because Jesus is the only perfect man who ever lived. Jesus was, in every sense, the ultimate man. He was the man that Adam failed to be (Romans 5:12-21). Jesus’ success as a man supersedes the failures of every man who ever lived.

And now, I am in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). His perfect record is given to me. His performance, His work, His accomplishments, His achievements—it’s all mine, and it all defines me as a man. In any way that I seek to prove my identity as a man, I fail; and in every way I need Jesus to prove my identity as a man, He succeeds. Jesus, the only perfect man who ever lived, is the one who makes me a man.

Finally, as one who is in Christ, the Father affirms His love for me by His Spirit. He also affirms that I am His child. And when He affirms this, He calls me “son.” “The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16).

That is how I know I’m a man!

Single men, secure undivided devotion to this One who truly defines you. Love the only One who can deeply satisfy you. Obey the perfect Father who you can trust with your today and your tomorrow. And rest in the fact that you are already a man, made whole and complete by Christ.

Join the Conversation

Which of the three principles most resonates for you? What principle(s) would you add in counseling single men?

Topics: Christian Living, Discipleship, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Singleness | Tags: , , , ,

Complaining: Rewriting the Story God Is Writing

Complaining - Rewriting the Story God Is Writing

Summer is a time of fun and leisure—being lazy on the beach and entertaining around the pool. It is also a time for Blockbuster movies—scrolling movie review websites to find great stories to get lost in all summer long only to resurface at the beginning of fall.

The movie industry rakes in billions of dollars from summer movie-goers. We crave great storytelling—whether it be a romantic comedy or an adventurous sci-fi thriller. We each have personal motives for choosing the movies we watch. We may want to see a chaotic world come to a peaceful resolution in two hours or a broken person become whole again by the end of the movie.

This is great for the fantasy world, but it becomes a serious problem when we begin to view real life the way we view movies. We want the romance, adventure, thrill, and drama of our personal lives to be resolved in two hours and to resurface from the story unscathed.


Reality is too real. Unlike movie spectators, we experience real pain—the pain of divorce, death of loved ones, broken relationships, failed businesses, foreclosures, illnesses, and national unrest. We are shocked and confused when undesirable circumstances in our lives take more than a day to resolve themselves.

Human nature compels us to try to fix the problems in our lives by any means necessary. We get angry and frustrated when we can’t control our circumstances and God won’t act as our personal genie to fix everything with the snap of His finger. We begin to grumble in our hearts only to spew out negative expressions of discontent. We complain against others, the world, and ultimately God about the unwanted parts of our life story.

Biblical Complaining

Throughout the Bible, we read about casting our cares on God (Psalm 55:22; 1 Peter 5:7) and pouring out our hearts to the Lord (Psalm 62:8). God wants us to bring our complaints before Him in such a way that honors Him.

Biblical complaining is pouring out our concerns and feelings before the Lord without attacking His character. This type of complaining always ends with praises for who God is. Psalm 102 is a good example. The psalmist pours out his complaint to the Lord. He is afflicted and overwhelmed. He finds relief only when he reflects on God’s sovereignty and eternal purposes in his circumstances.

Sinful Complaining

Sinful complaining is trying to rewrite the story God has written. We are the characters and God is the author. The novelist will sometimes say that the character they created begins to dictate the story of the novel. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen in God’s story. God is the novelist and we are His characters. We do not possess the power to dictate the story of our lives—but we act like we do. The Bible is written from God’s point of view. He has and is creating the characters and telling each individual story.

Complaining is the symptom of a deep-seated spiritual problem. It is a failure to trust God and to submit to His will. When we complain sinfully, we reject God’s authority, providence and sovereignty over our lives. In Philippians 2:14, we are commanded to “do everything without grumbling.” Why? Because He wants us to “become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation—to shine among them like stars in the sky—holding firm to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). Our life circumstances—good and bad—are a part of God’s eternal purposes that are sometimes beyond our understanding.

The Faces of Complaining

Complaining has many faces. It can look like blaming God, unbelief, failing to trust God, rejecting God’s will, and rebelling against God. The story of the Israelites has all five elements of complaining in one event. Numbers 13 and 14 tell the story of the Israelites’ unbelief when God sent men to spy out the land of Canaan. Caleb and Joshua brought back a factual report of the land and a positive charge to obey God. But the other spies gave a bad report causing the Israelites to complain out of fear and disobey God (Numbers 14:2, 36).

Immediately unbelief arose in their hearts. They chose to believe the bad report and not believe the report God gave to Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 13:31). Next, they failed to trust God when they “lifted up their voices and cried…and wept that night” (Numbers 14:1). Then they blamed Moses, Aaron, and God for bringing them to the wilderness to die instead of leaving them to die in Egypt (Numbers 14:2-3). Furthermore, they rejected God’s will when they said, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt” (Numbers 14:4). Finally, they rebelled against God when they planned to stone Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:10). As a result, God judged the Israelites causing that complaining generation to die in the wilderness never receiving the Lord’s blessing.

Embracing the Story God Is Writing

At the root of sinful complaining is discontentment. To be discontent is to be dissatisfied. When we are not satisfied with our circumstances, then we are tempted to complain sinfully. There is either something we want that we don’t have or something we have that we don’t want.

Discontentment propagates ingratitude, discouragement, depression, and anxiety. As a result, we view life from our perspective as if we are writing our story and not God.

Cultivate Contentment

Overcoming sinful complaining is found in contentment. Contentment is “an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances” (Holman Bible Dictionary). Although it is a command (Hebrews 13:5), contentment must be nurtured and cultivated. It is a learning process. The apostle Paul says that he has learned to be content in whatever circumstance (Philippians 4:11-12).

To cultivate contentment, first, we must get to know the Author of our lives. Knowing who is writing our story is the basis of contentment. Second, we must know who we are in Christ. We are the characters created in the image of God. We must view ourselves and our circumstances from God’s point of view and not our own. Third, we must embrace this season of life because it is a part of a bigger story. We may not be able to see the whole picture. However, by faith we trust in God’s sovereignty, authority, and providence in fitting our story into His bigger story.

Join the Conversation

Do you complain? Is it biblical complaining or sinful complaining? How can you challenge yourself to turn sinful complaining into biblical complaining by cultivating contentment?

Topics: Bitterness, Christian Living, Faith, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

5 Ways Training in Biblical Counseling Changes Our Lives

5 Ways Training in Biblical Counseling Changes Our Lives

I have been counseling from Scripture for over thirty years and have been ACBC (NANC) certified for twenty years. For the past several years, I have been the director of a counseling/training center (IBCD—The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship in San Diego County). For some time, I had been praying that the Lord would send us a happily married woman who could care for the many ladies who come to us for counsel. We also needed someone to help train women who want to learn to counsel in their own local churches. My own wife, Caroline, didn’t really come to mind as a possible solution. My observation had been that most of the women who complete their certification are more driven (“type A”) individuals. Caroline is much more laid back, which is a wonderful calming complement to my very driven personality. She would happily attend conferences at which I would speak, or occasionally quietly sit in with me when I would counsel a woman or a couple.

Then a few years ago, much to my surprise, the Lord put it on her heart to go through the ACBC certification process. She spent many hours reading, studying, and taking the exams. She then completed her fifty hours of supervised counseling under the wonderful expert guidance of Dr. Bob Somerville. For the past few years she has been counseling two days a week for IBCD, plus meeting regularly with several ladies in our church. She also has had opportunities to teach groups of women. I have been amazed at the many good things God has done. Here are just a few examples of how training in biblical counseling has impacted her life and our relationship.

1. She has found significant ministry work to perform in a new phase of her life.

Titus 2:3-4 instructs older women to encourage the young women. While it is hard to think of my lovely, young-looking wife as an “older woman,” she had completed the arduous task of training/home-schooling our three sons and was ready for a new focus in her life’s work. She has flourished in her spiritual care and discipleship ministry to ladies.

One of my fellow counselors says that as he watches the women come and go from meeting with Caroline, it is like she has many daughters for whom she cares deeply. Her sweet, quiet disposition enables her to connect with women in a very special way. They love her. I think that some would move in with us if we would let them!

2. I have seen incredible spiritual growth in her personal life.

I have known Caroline since we were 15 years old. She has always been a godly person. But her involvement in helping others has given her a renewed appetite for God’s truth. She listens to sermons and other Bible teaching with greater intensity. She meditates on God’s Word more than ever. She reads important books. She yearns to find answers from the Word of God to help the women she counsels.

I also see that the Word of God is helping her to address her own sins and weaknesses as never before. She listens to the counsel that she gives to others and is being transformed by God’s Spirit.

3. The spiritual component of our marriage is the best it has ever been.

We enjoy talking over her cases as she seeks my help in applying God’s Word to her counselees. We share insights from Scripture with one another. We pray together for the people we are trying to help.

4. We serve together as a team.

When we counsel couples, while she is careful to follow my leadership, she speaks out much more than before and has important things to say. Others are recognizing her gifts, and her opportunities are expanding. Sometimes when I get invited to speak, Caroline is also invited to speak to ladies. I knew things had really changed when a major counseling conference invited her to speak (and not me).

5. She has become my counselor.

Caroline, by nature, does not like confrontation. During the first thirty years of our marriage she almost never corrected me, perhaps thinking that this was part of being a submissive wife. As she has grown in her understanding of God’s Word, she has come to realize that part of her role as my “helper” (Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 31:11-12, 26) is to address sin in my life to which I might be blind.

While I confess that I have had to learn to receive her correction gracefully (Proverbs 9:8), I am grateful to God that she is the best example I know of someone who gently and spiritually restores the one who is caught in sin (Galatians 6:1). I know that she is on my side and that she is trying to help me to be more Christlike. My soul is enriched by her godly help.

Join the Conversation

How has being trained as a biblical counselor changed your life and relationships?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Education, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

About the BCC

The BCC exists to strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.