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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Biblical Counseling

Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Biblical Counseling

BCC Staff Note: The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), recently released their Statement Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling. The BCC applauds this compassionate and comprehensive statement. We’ve reproduced the first section below. You can read the entire statement here. If you want to make others aware of this statement, you can share this shortened link: http://bit.ly/1CZr5pw.

I. Mental Disorders and Biblical Counseling

We live in a broken world full of people suffering with profound trouble and intense pain. One manifestation of that brokenness is the problem that our culture recognizes as mental disorder. Increasing numbers of people are diagnosed with these complex difficulties, which require wisdom and multi-faceted care. We confess that, too often, the church of Jesus Christ has not been recognized as a source for profound hope and meaningful help for such difficult problems. We further acknowledge that many Christians have contributed to a negative stigma attached to such diagnoses through simplistic understandings of these problems, and have offered solutions grounded in ignorance.

As an organization committed to pursuing excellence in biblical counseling the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors has, for decades, been calling upon faithful Christians to grow in the twin tasks of understanding complex problems and learning skills to address them in the context of counseling. As an organization committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling we believe that the Bible provides profound wisdom to guide us in caring for people diagnosed with mental disorders.

One example of this wisdom is the biblical teaching on dichotomy. The Bible is clear that God created human beings to consist of both a body and soul. To be a human being is to exist in these two constituent parts, which are separable only at death. Even after death, Christians confess that the bodies and souls of human beings will be restored at the Last Day. This biblical truth points to the high honor and regard that God gives to both the physical and spiritual realities of humanity.[1]

A theological reality like this one requires Christians to honor both body and soul as crucial to human existence. Christians, therefore, should respect medical interventions as a fully legitimate form of care for those struggling in this fallen world. Examinations by medical professionals are crucial adjuncts to a biblical counseling ministry as they discover and treat, or rule out physical problems, which lead many to seek counseling help.

Another example of this biblical wisdom is the teaching in Scripture on the dynamic nature of problems that we experience in a fallen world. Human beings have difficulties, which always carry physical and spiritual implications. Both aspects need to be addressed in an appropriate fashion. Human beings experience problems with spiritual implications for which they are morally culpable and must repent. Human beings experience other physical and spiritual problems, which are not a consequence of their sins, are not their fault, but which are painful realities that attend life in a fallen world.[2]

This theological reality requires Christians to approach problems in a complex way, rather than a simplistic one. Christians understand that some spiritual realities will require a rebuke, but others will require encouragement in the midst of pain. Still others will require help in the midst of weakness.

[1]Genesis 2:7; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 7:34; 2 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Timothy 4:8

[2]Matthew 5:8; 26:38; 2 Corinthians 7:9-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:14

BCC Staff Note: You can read the entire statement at the ACBC’s site here. Statement Regarding Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Medication, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , ,

Scripture and Counseling: Foreword by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Scripture and Counseling--God's Word for Life in a Broken WorldThe Biblical Counseling Coalition is excited to announce the release by Zondervan of our second book: Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

To learn more about Scripture and Counseling click here.

To purchase a copy of Scripture and Counseling at 40% off, click here.

You can also purchase a copy of our first BCC, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, here.

 

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.To introduce you to Scripture and Counseling, today’s post provides the Foreword to the book, written by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. serves as President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Mohler has been recognized by such influential publications as Time and Christianity Today as a leader among American evangelicals. In fact, Time.com called him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”

In addition to his presidential duties, Dr. Mohler hosts two programs: “The Briefing,” a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview; and “Thinking in Public,” a series of conversations with the day’s leading thinkers. He also writes a popular blog and a regular commentary on moral, cultural and theological issues. All of these can be accessed through Dr. Mohler’s website, www.AlbertMohler.com. Dr. Mohler’s mission is to address contemporary issues from a consistent and explicit Christian worldview.

Foreword to Scripture and Counseling, by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of the gospel of Jesus Christ is the assumption that our main problem is inside of us and our only hope for rescue comes from without. In matters of counseling, the secular worldview, driven by the engine of therapy, says precisely the opposite—our problem is something outside of us, and the rescue we need is something that comes from within. This is the very antithesis of gospel proclamation. It is impossible to reconcile the doctrine of human depravity with the ethos of self-esteem. It is impossible to mix orthodox theology and secular therapeutic counseling.

Any attempt to reconcile these worldviews with the gospel subverts the gospel intentionally or unintentionally. Mixing secular psychology with the church’s theology makes the gospel something it is not. The history of secular counseling bears witness to this fact. Freud told us that our problem is in our subconscious and must be treated by therapy; Jung found the problem in the structures of the unconscious brain; Maslow told us that what we need is self-actualization; Bettelheim told us to get in touch with our stories; and the list goes on. These notions are all contrary to the Christian worldview. Yet one of the great tragedies of our age is that the average Christian bookstore is teeming with literature promoting the agenda of secular psychology. Sadly, much of this literature can succeed in the Christian market by barely camouflaging the secular worldviews it promotes.

This means that the task of biblical counseling must be undertaken with a sense of urgency. We are living in a time of tremendous cultural and theological confusion and this has led to a vast and dangerous infection of the church. Regrettably, many churches have embraced counseling that majors on the therapeutic. Marketable and pragmatic, this form of counseling orbits around the self and is theologically anemic. It lacks the transforming power of the gospel—a gospel that reminds us that the solution to our problems comes from outside ourselves, not from within.

In counseling, as in every area of life, the people of God must take their marching orders from the Word of God, committed to its authority and sufficiency. Believers are called to counsel one another with the rich truth of God’s Word in a way consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the center of this counseling ministry that we have to one another is the church—more specifically local churches marked by the truth, power, and authority of God’s Word and of the gospel (Matthew 16:13-20). The communion of the saints, ordered by the authority of God’s Word, is the center of biblical counseling.

Christ has richly lavished His grace on His church. As we minister, serve, and worship together we receive the vast riches of God’s counsel together. Part of the biblical counseling ministry of the church proceeds from the pulpit as church members corporately submit themselves to the Word of God. At other times a more personal ministry of the Word is needed as members counsel one another with respect to specific problems, looking at specific situations in the Scriptures.

The communion of saints exercises godly counsel through worship, preaching, the ordinances, and other means of grace. The communion of the saints is a communion of godly counsel givers. We are not merely individual Christians, loosely scattered throughout the world. Christians are members of the body of Christ, and our identity is bound up in the community of God’s people. As Paul reminds us, “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Therefore, congregations and churches must be theologically equipped to apply the Word of God to one another’s lives. In this way the church is equipped, the church is called, the church is exhorted, the church is encouraged, and the church is made into the likeness of Christ.

As a communion of holy ones, our aim is to conform one another to the image of Christ. In the words of Paul, each member is to work as God has gifted him such that the body “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Words of godly counsel are the natural discourse of a believing congregation. And counseling is part of the natural order of the church, as saints move toward faithfulness and maturity.

Preaching on Ephesians 6:14, Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There can be no doubt whatsoever that all the troubles in the church today, and most of the troubles in the world, are due to a departure from the authority of the Bible.” The recent history of counseling ministries in evangelical churches has demonstrated the truthfulness of Lloyd-Jones’s words. As churches outsource counseling needs to the secular world or adopt the worldview of therapeutic psychology into their own ministries, they damage the church’s convictions about the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word and belittle the redeeming power of the gospel.

The contributors to this volume are men and women who faithfully uphold the Word of God as the church’s only resource for Christ-centered change. I commend their conviction in this Word, a Word that reveals how God has rescued sinners by turning them away from self to the cross and resurrection of His Son.

I am thankful for the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s commitment to promote counseling that is grounded in sound theology and rooted in the life of the church. And I am even more thankful that the BCC is producing the book that you are now holding in your hands. Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World is representative of the type of theologically sophisticated and pastorally sensitive counseling literature needed in evangelical churches.

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

10 Endorsements for Scripture and Counseling

Scripture and Counseling--God's Word for Life in a Broken WorldThe Biblical Counseling Coalition is excited to announce the release by Zondervan of our second book: Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

To learn more about Scripture and Counseling click here.

To purchase a copy of Scripture and Counseling at 40% off, click here.

You can also purchase a copy of our first BCC, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling, here.

Endorsements

We are thankful to the following 10 Christian leaders for their gracious endorsement of Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World.

“Robert Jones says it well, ‘The Bible does not merely inform our counseling…the Bible drives our counseling.’ I believe he is exactly correct. The contributors to Scripture and Counseling encourage, teach, and show us how this happens as we pursue and develop a robust biblical strategy in ministry to hurting, confused, and broken people. The book is obviously comprehensive! It is also well-written. I suspect it will become a standard resource in the field of biblical counseling.”—Dr. Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

“What role does the Word of God play in counseling? This is a crucial and often energetically debated question in the church and among counselors. The contributors to Scripture and Counseling have carefully, thoughtfully, and helpfully explored both how to think about the Bible in counseling and how to use the Bible in counseling. I commend this significant work to anyone who looks to Scripture to help people make sense of life in a broken world.”—Jack Delk, Pastor for Counseling, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, MN

“Scripture and Counseling is not just a book about Scripture, but a book about how to apply Scripture to our lives and in our ministries to others in manner that will lead us to function as God intended, resulting in God’s glory, and our ultimate good. This will be an extremely helpful tool for people who want to apply the Word of God in their counseling ministry in an efficient and effective manner.”—Dr. Nicolas Ellen, Professor of Biblical Counseling, College of Biblical Studies, Houston, TX

“Scripture and Counseling is both theologically robust and pastorally helpful. On its pages you will find a lively discussion that will bring you up to speed on the conversation taking place among contemporary biblical counseling.”—J.D. Greear, Pastor, The Summit Church, Durham, NC

“When it comes to diagnosing and solving life’s issues, a biblical counselor is someone who is committed to the sufficiency of God’s Word found in the Bible, rather than the wisdom of man found in psychology. But what does that mean in practical terms? How would you know the difference? In Scripture and Counseling, the authors have masterfully brought this issue, and this much-debated topic in the counseling world, to the forefront. The authors’ collaborative work and thorough scholarship will lead you, whether you are a pastor, biblical counselor, or psychologist, to settle what you believe and practice in your counseling ministry. This is a must read.”—Dr. Kevin E. Hurt, Senior Pastor, Grace Bible Church, Mountain City, GA

“Conviction and competence are key ingredients to caring well for the souls of others. All followers of Christ must have a growing conviction that God’s Word is sufficient and a growing competence in how to use it to care for one another. By providing a sound theology of Scripture and a thorough approach to using God’s Word, Scripture and Counseling is an indispensable resource for helping believers grow in both conviction and competence.”—Andrew Rogers, Pastor of Soul Care, College Park Church, Indianapolis, IN

“Scripture and Counseling offers the Christian an apologetic for the Bible’s sufficiency for the care of souls and then demonstrates it through common yet challenging disciple-making matters we encounter in a broken world. Every follower of Christ should read this collaborative volume to glean biblical truths for enthusiastic, loving disciple-making within the context of personal ministry. Committed disciple-makers, relying upon the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to transform heart desires for God’s glory, will discover the ‘why and how’ of biblical counseling in this excellent work.”—Dr. Mark E. Shaw, Pastor and Executive Director of Vision of Hope, a Ministry of Faith Church, Lafayette, IN

“Because we live in a culture that considers the Bible to be at best irrelevant, or even ridiculous, there has been a growing question even among serious Christians as to its sufficiency, especially for counseling the serious problems of the soul. Scripture and Counseling provides the framework for a profitable discussion of this issue and helps us to appreciate the richness of God’s Word in helping people who are hurting. It purposefully and wisely moves from how counselors’ correct beliefs about the Bible directly affects how it will be beneficial to them. Anyone interested in helping people with the Scriptures should read this book.”—Dr. John D. Street, Chair, MABC Graduate Program, The Master’s College & Seminary, Sun Valley, CA

“My heart rejoices whenever I hear of a book being published that strengthens our understanding of and commitment to the sufficiency of the Scriptures for personal ministry. This book is relentless in the pursuit of that goal! As a textbook, as a resource, and as a source of inspiration and encouragement in the modern ‘battle for the Bible,’ Scripture and Counseling will serve and strengthen many generations of Bible students and soul care practitioners.”—Dr. Wayne Vanderwier, Executive Director of Overseas Instruction in Counseling, Louisville, KY

“Scripture and Counseling is a book that every friend and critic of biblical counseling will find challenging and enlightening. Linking counseling and preaching with simplicity and profundity reveals the full effects the ministry of the Word can have upon the body of Christ. The authors demonstrate the wisdom of counseling the Word as being sufficient for life and ministry.”—Dr. Thomas Zempel, Pastor-Professor of Counseling, Colonial Baptist Church, Cary, NC

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Book Reviews, Education, Equipping, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Counseling As If a Life Depended on It (Anorexia)

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 audio from the 2014 IBCD Summer Institute. For a complete list of speakers and messages, visit the IBCD Summer Institute 2014 home page.

In this resource, Martha Peace addresses the issue of Counseling As If a Life Depended on It. This lecture explains the physical issues of anorexia and the biblical antidote. It includes biblical principles, helping your counselee renew her mind, and, by God’s grace, to overcome her sinfully entrenched mindset about her weight.

Popout Audio Player

Topics: Eating Disorders, 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.

Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Biblical Counseling

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors has released a compassionate and robust statement on Mental Disorders, Medicine, and Counseling.

12 Pillars of Faith for Parents of Special-Needs Children

Paul Tautges provides 12 Pillars of Faith for Parents of Special-Needs Children.

7 Things Your Church Needs from You

Tim Challies shares 7 Things Your Church Needs from You.

Speaking Up for Christ in the Classroom

Randy Alcorn provides counsel on Speaking Up for Christ in the Classroom.

ACBC 2015 Annual Conference Announcement

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors has announced their conference theme for 2015: Homosexuality: Compassion, Counsel, and Care for Struggling People. Read their full announcement at ACBC 2015 Annual Conference.

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

Overcoming a Critical Spirit

Overcoming a Critical Spirit

Do you criticize and pass judgment on others? Do you find yourself with a negative disposition, always finding fault with something or someone? Is it difficult for you to see the positive in a person or a situation because the negative is so glaring in your eye? Are you compelled to give your critical point of view for the good of all mankind?

If you answered yes to one of these questions, then you have a critical spirit and you are in danger. Not getting hit-by-a-truck-kind-of-danger, but an even more serious kind—and that is spiritual danger. A critical spirit is from the dark side. It is meant to hurt and destroy its object.

A critical spirit is a negative attitude of the heart that seeks to condemn, tear down, and destroy with words. In contrast, constructive criticism involves opinions that are meant to build up. A critical spirit creates blind spots in a person’s heart and mind causing them to believe they are being constructive. In reality, it is characterized as the ungodly.

4 Types of Critical Spirits

1. Gossiper

A gossiper is one who reveals secrets going about as a talebearer or scandal-monger. She has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to others with sinful motives without their knowledge or approval. Gossipers attempt to make themselves significant to the hearer by appearing to be the source of all knowledge.

The Bible’s Perspective

1 Timothy 5:13—“At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.”

Proverbs 11:13—“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.”

Proverbs 20:19—“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.”

2. Slanderer

A slanderer is a person who makes false statements in order to damage a person’s reputation. She does not care about the truth or correcting an error. A slanderer creates error in order to inflict harm.

The Bible’s Perspective

Proverbs 10:18—“He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who spreads slander is a fool.”

Proverbs 16:28—“A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

1 Peter 2:1—“Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”

3. Judgmentalism

A judgmental person has an excessively critical point of view, characterized by a tendency to judge harshly. She lacks empathy for others’ viewpoint because she believes her point of view is the right one. She believes she has the ability to know others’ motives. She has the amazing skill to point out others’ mistakes, while minimizing her own.

The Bible’s Perspective

Matthew 7:1-2—“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”

James 2:13—“For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”

4. Complainer

A complainer is a person who is habitually negative about others and circumstances of life. They are characterized by discontentment and ingratitude.

The Bible’s Perspective

James 5:9—“Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.”

Philippians 2:14—“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”

The Motives Behind a Critical Spirit

A critical spirit comes from within the heart of a person. Mark 7 tells us that sins such as evil thoughts, coveting, deceit, envy, and slander proceed from within a person. There are several factors that contribute to the development of a critical spirit.

1. Self-Factor

This includes jealousy or envy, vengeance, anger, hatred, and holding grudges for the purpose of personal gain by destroying the other person.

2. Fear-Factor

This involves feeling threatened by someone or feeling anxiety toward someone which produces a critical spirit as a way of self-protection.

3. Control-Factor

This is feeling out of control and using manipulation and shaming someone in order to gain control.

The Effects of a Critical Spirit

The effects of a critical spirit are damaging. In Matthew 22:37 and 39, God commands us to love Him with all of our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our souls and to love our neighbor as we already love ourselves. Harboring a critical disposition closes off our hearts, minds and souls to loving God in anyway. Our fellowship with the Lord is hindered. We will stop spending time with Him in reading the Bible and praying. We will avoid seeking wisdom from the Lord. As a result, our spiritual life will be put on the shelf.

A critical spirit displeases God and causes Him to judge that sin. Luke 6:37 says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” God warns us in Matthew 7:2 that we will be judge the same way we judge others.

A critical spirit in action is the opposite of loving your neighbor as yourself. Relationships are broken when there’s gossip, slander, judgment and slander. When we are critical toward others, we put ourselves in an authoritative position over them. This isolates a critical person from fellowship with others. People tend to separate themselves from harsh and critical authority.

Overcoming a Critical Spirit

Overcoming a critical spirit can be difficult because it develops into a life-dominating sin. It becomes a way of life. The way to rid ourselves of a critical heart is to put on love instead of hate, to build up instead of tearing down and to give grace instead of grief.

Love Instead of Hate

As stated before, God commands us to love Him and to love others. The simplest way to view this is to stop feeding the flesh and start feeding the spirit. The Bible is chalked full of all things we are to put off and all things we are to put on. 1 Peter 2 tells us to put off malice, envy and slander and to pursue the pure milk of the word. We are to stop returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but to give a blessing instead (1 Peter 3:9).

Building Up Instead of Tearing Down

A critical spirit naturally tears down, but as believers, we are called to edify others. In Romans, the apostle Paul instructs us on how to build up others. We are to focus on pleasing our neighbor (15:2) and pursuing things which make for peace (14:19). A person with a critical spirit must be renewed in the spirit of her mind as she seeks to do all things for edification (1 Corinthians 14:26).

Giving Grace Instead of Giving Grief

As believers, our words and our lives are to reflect God’s grace. We are to give grace to others instead of the grief that comes from a critical spirit. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Our words are to be encouraging, uplifting and instructive even when it is corrective. We are to be “kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Christians have no business possessing a critical spirit. We have not been given authority over the hearts of others. We know we have overcome a critical spirit when we are characterized by a forgiving spirit because we have been forgiven by God.

Join the Conversation

Which of these principles about a critical spirit stand out to you as most important?

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

3 Principles for Asking for Forgiveness

3 Principles for Asking for Forgiveness

One of the first steps we learn to take as followers of Christ is to ask for forgiveness when we sin against someone. Since we are such great sinners this asking should be happening regularly. Asking for forgiveness is a sign of humility and of trusting God. As we ask for forgiveness, we are taking a most important step in restoring an injured relationship.

Often a sinner will ask for forgiveness by saying something like this, “I am sorry that I have upset you. Will you please forgive me?” Unfortunately, with this request there are a number of problems.

  • There is no acknowledgement of any wrong being done, much less sin.
  • There is no acknowledgement of the offended person’s real pain from being sinned against.
  • Also, there is no acknowledgement of what will happen in the future when the sinner is again tempted in a similar manner.

When a person grants forgiveness to another, they are making a number of deep promises. Ken Sande says that when granting forgiveness, the forgiver has actually decided to make these “Four Promises of Forgiveness” to the offender.

  • “I will not dwell on this incident.”
  • “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”
  • “I will not talk to others about this incident.”
  • “I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

Since the forgiver has to make such deep promises, the sinner should make it as easy as possible for the forgiver to make these “Four Promises of Forgiveness.” When asking for forgiveness, the sinner should take this opportunity to fully engage with the person who has been sinned against. This can be done by having their request for forgiveness speak to three aspects of being human:  the mind, the emotions, and the will.

1. Engaging the Mind

First, a godly asking for forgiveness must truly engage the mind of both parties. Since we ask for forgiveness when we have sinned against another, the sinner should objectively state how they have sinned, which engages the mind of each of the people involved, both the sinner and the one offended. King David realized that to properly confess, he must speak forthrightly of what he had done.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

For us, a request for forgiveness that engages the mind of all involved may be something like this, “Beth, please forgive me for not only coming home later than I told you, but for actually lying to you about when I would be home. I knew earlier in the day there was little chance that I would be able to come home by the time I told you.”

2. Engaging the Emotions

Second, a godly request for forgiveness must try to engage with the emotions of all involved, both the offender and the one offended. God has given us proper emotions and feelings for our good. Since they are an important part of being a person, they should never be ignored. When a person is sinned against, it is reasonable for them to feel deeply hurt.

Also, if a person is truly sorry about their sin, they themselves should be greatly pained about the hurt they have caused.  King David declared the necessity of his own felt pain over his sin by saying, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).

When asking for forgiveness, the sinner should acknowledge both pains that their sin has caused. An example of asking for forgiveness that engages everyone’s emotions is, “Beth, I understand now how deeply my lying hurt you. You trust me to always tell you the truth. Because I hurt you, the one I love so much, I am greatly troubled that I was so callous toward you.”

3. Engaging the Will

Third, a godly request for forgiveness must engage the sinner’s will. They should state how they would respond in the future when they are again presented with a similar temptation. An example of a request for forgiveness that engages the sinner’s will is, “Beth, my lying to you must stop completely. I desperately want my communication with you in the future to always be truthful. I have asked for God’s help in this area. On Monday, I am going to fast so as to talk with Him further about this. I desire a pure heart as I relate to you.”

Last Steps

One of the last steps in asking for forgiveness is to have all the above aspects stated together to the offended person in a gentle, humble way. And finally, the sinner must ask, “Will you please forgive me?” Hopefully the response by the originally offended party is a glad, “Yes, also with God’s help, I forgive you.”

Join the Conversation

What additional principles would you suggest for asking forgiveness?

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

4 Principles Related to Gossip and Prayer Requests

4 Principles Related to Gossip and Prayer Requests

Oh, those infamous prayer requests!

“We need to pray for Olivia and Liam. I heard that they might be getting a divorce!”

“I’m calling to ask for prayer for the church board. Something big is happening tonight. The chairman might resign!”

“How do we keep gossip out of our prayer ministries?” is the most frequently asked question I have received since I began teaching on resisting gossip.

It’s complicated. We want to encourage much intercessory prayer, so we create and maintain phone chains and email prayer lists and we take requests for others at small groups and prayer meetings. However, prayer requests come from sinners, are about sinners, and are passed on to other sinners, so there are plenty of opportunities for sinful gossip to make an entrance in the process (Proverbs 10:19).

Here is a mental checklist that I have developed for managing prayer requests in a careful, godly manner. Before you pass on that request, make sure to check your facts, your role, your audience, and your heart.

Check Your Facts

Prayer requests can be famous for being fuzzy. That’s no big deal if the situation isn’t something potentially shameful. If it gets reported that “Cheryl is having her tonsils out,” when Cheryl is really going to have her wisdom teeth removed, it’s embarrassing to the one with the incorrect facts, but not embarrassing to Cheryl. But if we report that “Cheryl got cut from the team” or “Cheryl lost her job” or “Cheryl broke up with Jeremy,” then it could be very damaging.

Check your source. Is this info straight from the horse’s mouth? Verify the facts. Is there another way of interpreting the facts you have (Proverbs 18:17)? Don’t transmit hearsay or rumor. Make sure what you are passing on is true.

And remember: you don’t have to share all of the juicy details with others (even their names). God knows all about it.

Check Your Role

Are you the right person to pass on this request? Do the people being talked about want this request to be made known? Would they want it repeated if they knew about it? Is the prayer request confidential? (If so, keep it that way!) Is this your place? Should you shoulder this prayer burden alone, not shrug it off onto others?

Many of us never ask ourselves these key questions. The answers are not always obvious. Sometimes we still need to pray for people who wouldn’t want it—unbelievers who don’t believe in prayer, for example. But, often, simply applying Jesus’ Golden Rule of Thumb answers a lot of difficult questions (Matthew 7:12).

Check Your Audience

Some people shouldn’t be trusted with certain prayer requests. Think about the person you are talking with. Are they tempted to be a gossip? Do they seem over-eager to hear bad news? Do they have a reputation for being safe or unsafe with confidences (Proverbs 11:13)?

Be discerning. There may be nothing wrong with passing on this request to one person but everything wrong with passing it on to another.

Check Your Heart

Sinful gossip is bearing bad news behind someone’s back out of a bad heart. What is your motivation for sharing this prayer request? Is it loving? Is it for the glory of God?

Be honest. Do you actually want to be seen as someone “in the know” with an inside scoop? Do you want to impress your friend? Do you get a surreptitious thrill from sharing the juicy secret? Are you passing it on for entertainment purposes? Are you asking for prayer about a situation so that you can stealthily complain? Would you say it differently if the person you’re talking about was present?

A good prayer request comes from the good stored up in a good heart, and one day, we’ll all have to give an account for the prayer requests we passed on (cf. Matthew 12:35-36). May we be found faithful.

Join the Conversation

Have you struggled with gossip in your prayer requests? Either way, how can we help our church to live and pray in a way that is gossip-free?

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

Mental Illness and Faith-Based Counseling

Mental Illness and Faith-Based Counseling

I have been hesitant to weigh in on the recent debate related to faith-based counseling and mental illness because it is not an easy issue to address in a blog or short amount of time. However the more I read, the more I am compelled to share some insights from my journey as a trained psychologist who now practices as a biblical counselor.

Learning from One Another

First of all, I want to say that I have appreciated many of the posts and articles related to this important topic. I think the conversation is helpful and we can learn a great deal from one another. I grieve over those who have lost loved ones, and I am sickened by the trite and hurtful things that many Christians have said in response.

I have gained humility and insight from some challenges to an over-simplistic view of mental health. Even those who we sharply disagree with can help us to form clearer thoughts and deeper convictions.

None of Us Has Arrived

Secondly, that none of us have arrived. The battle is really not about human opinion and proving someone right or wrong. We must guard against our petty tendencies toward self-protection, our preferences, and, worst, our personal prejudices.

The battle is for truth and grace. What I love about living under grace is that I have learned that God never compromises truth or grace in the name of love. So, I hope you will catch the spirit of this post as I try to navigate a very sensitive topic with grace and truth.

My History

It is helpful to know who it is who is writing these types of posts. I wish I knew more about others that have had the courage to tackle this tough topic. It might help me to appreciate their view point or understand their passion better.

As for me, I was trained as a psychologist in the 1980’s. I received my doctorate in 1990. I leaned more toward a cognitive-behavior counseling approach and focused a lot on teenagers in my counseling early on. I loved working with teens, and the harder the case the better.

I soon realized that parents were integral in the counseling if a teen was to thrive. So, I started studying family therapy. In graduate school I had the privilege of being trained by some of the best in the field. I find that my background and some of the research and methods had significant results in correcting dysfunctions and conflict in families. My study of the DSM model and psychotropic medication was helpful as well. I grew into a holistic practitioner trying to use best practices to help children and families.

I graduated and moved to Indianapolis where I enjoyed running a private practice and supervised two “day treatment” programs for 12-18-year-olds that were very successful. My goal, like most of those in mental health, was to relieve symptoms, build self-esteem, and teach coping skills for a higher quality of life. I worked closely with psychiatrists who I trusted to be moderate with medications, I was part of an interdisciplinary team of professionals, and I led case conferences that developed very comprehensive treatment plans. Eventually, my practice evolved to include adult clients and a significant focus on marriage counseling.

In 1992 I had a radical conversion experience and a significant crisis in my worldview. I was not looking for Christ to arrest my heart, but I was growing disillusioned with my life and practice. I saw too much recidivism, and I knew people seemed less than satisfied with just a “more functional life.”

After hearing the gospel clearly, and coming to faith, I started to study Scripture and saw the profound way God speaks into the human condition. At first, I thought all my training in psychology had been a waste. It was really interesting how many mature Christians told me my training was invaluable and not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Others told me that psychology was the devil’s playground and that I needed to forsake it completely. It took me a good five years in the faith to reconcile the extremes as both had some truth.

It was helpful when mentors like David Powlison told me that psychology was descriptive, but not prescriptive. I began to see how my study of humanity, psychopathology, and human development before my worldview shift was actually part of God’s journey for me. I was better equipped to understand patterns, to discern root causes, and to help people to consider a biblical equivalent to psychiatric labels. Knowing the efficacy and side effects for most psychiatric drugs was very helpful as well. I was able to help those in my care to be better consumers and, when they seemed conflicted, I was able to help them wrestle through issues of the conscience related to their choice of taking certain medications. To be clear, I never have counseled someone to go off medication and, when appropriate, still refer people to a physician to rule out any biological factors.

As I grew both in my faith and as a biblical counselor, I saw God work in amazing ways. I worked in several churches and ended up starting an intensive retreat to help the most severe cases of “mental illness.” Most of those who came were Christians, but not everyone. I really believed that a biblically-focused treatment would be superior to anything I had seen or been involved with before.

In the first five years we saw folks who struggled with bi-polar, schizophrenia, suicidal thinking, and borderline personality traits. We met with victims of rape, incest, and physical abuse. We worked with men addicted to pornography, drugs, and alcohol. At the same time, we worked with marriage conflict, parenting issues, significant anxiety, and depression. The intensity kept us on our knees and we did not have the luxury to dismiss “mental illness” or what I would call “deep and profound soul sickness” as just a lack of faith.

In most cases, people were hurting deeply, trying to understand suffering and faith, and sought to get right with or closer to God. There were physical, mental, emotional, and relational issues that all had to be addressed. Many who came for help were disillusioned with counseling, the church, and most Christians.

My question was not how did you get so disillusioned with people or people of the faith, but what do you think about God and what is your problem with Jesus? I was not ignoring their complex symptoms or pretending that a Bible verse would fix everything. For most, nothing they had tried including years of psychotherapy and even Christian counseling had worked. At the same time, I knew from both personal experience and numerous breakthroughs with very severely troubled people that the power of Jesus Christ and His Word was the only real and transformative answer for lasting hope and help. I knew that there had to be a change of mind and heart that had not yet come about.

I found that common themes of pride and unbelief plagued those who were struggling the most. Pride often morphed into anger or foolish actions, and unbelief descended into extreme fear or despair. At the core, all the DSM diagnoses no matter what the cause had a profound spiritual component. Over a five-year period we saw hundreds break free of life-long patterns of sin and others rise up out of a victim mentality to embrace new hope and life in Christ.

The Role of the Church

I now work in the local church again. I have always had the goal to return soul care back to the church. However, in the last twenty years of counseling as a Christian, I have come to believe we are not doing a great job as a church as a whole in helping those who are severely mentally ill.

Not only that, but we are poorly equipping those who love them as well. We would benefit greatly by teaching our people to be grounded in a biblical worldview, but at the same time training our counselors and pastoral staff to understand psychology and psychiatry at a fundamental level.

I am not a big fan of the word “integration.” I don’t think you want to mix the fallibility of a “soft science” with the inerrant Word of God. I do think, however, there are methods, research findings, and medical interventions that can be very helpful for those we serve and love.

I don’t think we want to rearrange symptoms like fruit on a tree, but get down to root issues and motivations that drive our speech and behavior. Our target is radical heart change, not symptom reduction. Our esteem will fail us, but God’s esteem through our new life in Christ is a love that never fails. We are not interested in coping skills, but helping people appropriate their identity in Christ and teaching them to live an abundant life.

We can only do this because we are the church. We can only do this because we have divine weapons and tools given to us by our creator. After all, we have the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and we are the community of God, making the church God’s best place for discipleship and care.

Join the Conversation

What are your convictions about faith-based counseling and mental illness?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity | Tags: , ,

BCC Weekend Resource: Counseling Sexually Abused Women and Children

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 audio from the 2014 IBCD Summer Institute. For a complete list of speakers and messages, visit the IBCD Summer Institute 2014 home page.

In this resource, Caroline Newheiser addresses the issue of Counseling Sexually Abused Women and Children. Sexual abuse is more and more prevalent in our society. Vulnerable children become women who have lived with a secret for years. Women counselors need to understand how the Bible helps females who have been sexually abused. There is a biblical way to deal with the shame and emotional pain of the victim. The role of the church will be addressed. Real cases will be discussed.

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Topics: Biblical Counseling, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sexual Abuse, Women/Wives | 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.