Promoting PErsonal Change, Centered on the PErson of Christ through the PErsonal Ministry of the Word
Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth
2016 BCC Global Conference: Revive the Nations | June 5th - 7th, Chicago, IL

You Can’t Be Neutral

YouCantBeNeutral1

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog first appeared at Kevin Carson’s blog site. The BCC is re-posting it with Kevin’s permission. You can also read the original post at Kevin’s site here.

The Upside-Down World

For most issues in life—and on social media—I find that I can be neutral. Time after time I can pass by without liking, clicking, or reposting. It’s not that difficult; in fact, my general tendency is to keep surfing—especially if it is political. Who wants to be THAT person?

However, some issues force us to not be neutral! We as human beings cannot stand or sit idly by…we as human beings cannot surf on…we as human beings cannot afford to ignore what’s going on under the guise of research for the greater good. What we see on video is us. Hands, arms, feet, legs, faces, heads, hearts, brains, neural tissue, lungs, livers … all part of us, dissected in Petri dishes, sold to the highest bidder, then resold for research and profit. These gruesome videos bring to our awareness the barbaric practices by abortionists at Planned Parenthood and document the cavalier attitude toward human life in the womb.

Recently, I was overwhelmed when it was reported that the death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe garnered 30 minutes, 1 second of nation-wide coverage on the major networks ABC, CBS, and NBC compared to a total of 11 minutes, 13 seconds of combined coverage for all four Planned Parenthood videos through the first two weeks (source). One crime, one lion in Africa … no shared hands, arms, feet, legs, faces, heads, hearts, brains, neural tissue, lungs, livers, etc. … just an animal that was well-respected and beautiful. At the end of the day, just one animal on another continent. No soul. Not made in the image of God. Not in our shared image. Yet 30 minutes, 1 second of pure outrage.

Recently a picture surfaced on the Internet regarding the bald eagle. According to the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the law provides for the protection of the bald eagle and the golden eagle by prohibiting the take, possession, sale, purchase, barter, offer to sell, purchase or barter, transport, export or import, of any bald or golden eagle, alive or dead, including any part, nest, or egg, unless allowed by permit (16 U.S.C. 668c; 50 CFR 22.3). Civil penalties and felony convictions vary with a maximum fine of $250,000 or two years of imprisonment. The fine doubles for an organization. Rewards are provided for information leading to the arrest and conviction for violation of the Act (source). A beautiful eagle, a formerly endangered bird … no shared hands, arms, feet, legs, faces, heads, hearts, brains, neural tissue, lungs, livers, etc. … just a bird. No soul. Not made in the image of God. Not in our shared image. Yet legal protection with significant fines and fees for even the possession of various parts of a dead bird or even a part of a nest.

As of this writing, there are 43 homicides in Baltimore this month, the 3rd most homicides ever in a single month in Baltimore history (source). In Chicago, there were 216 homicides in the first six months (source). In Planned Parenthood approximately 900 abortions per day are performed, according to historical records (source). Homicides and abortions have commonalities: shared hands, arms, feet, legs, heads, hearts, brains, neural tissue, lungs, livers, etc. … a person. Souls. Made in the image of God. In our shared image. Human.

Sit in the average perinatologist’s office and talk to the pregnant ladies who hope beyond all hope that the doctor can help them save their babies. The doctors have devoted their lives to helping moms deliver this baby growing inside the womb. Or move sometimes just down the hallway into the NICU where doctors work tirelessly with families to save the lives of babies. Babies. Humans.

Why can’t we be neutral?

We can’t be neutral because God is not neutral on this issue. God described the process of what was happening in the womb in incredible detail from His perspective. As every baby develops, God is miraculously working in that baby’s formation. David records God’s view in Psalm 139.

Speaking to God, David writes (Psalm 139:13-16, translation mine):

You Yourself created my mind and heart;
You knit/wove me together in my mother’s womb
I will continually praise You because I am made wonderful awesomely,
Your creative works are miraculous; as I know exceedingly well.
My bones/skeletal frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in the secret place (the womb);
I was skillfully woven together in the lowest places of the earth (speaking of the womb). Your eyes saw my formless mass, incomplete vessel, embryo…

So what should we do?

First, we must be a voice for the unborn. They are voiceless humans. By ultrasound you can see them move their mouths, cringe, and push away from invading devices to mutilate and kill them. They can’t say, “Stop!” “Get Away!” “Leave me alone!” But we can make their voice heard through personal conversations and social media. As we do, we need to pay special attention to our tone, our love, our consistency with the Gospel, and being judgmental. The standard of our speech is love. The sound of our speech is mercy, especially toward those who have committed abortion in the past.

We must object to the inhumane harvesting and dissecting of human body parts. These videos show individuals who barbarically sort body parts and celebrate how much money there is to be made. They crush some “parts” in order to protect “better” and more “valuable” parts. They haggle over price in an effort to gain money. They proclaim, “This is a boy.” We respond to this proclamation, “Yes, absolutely. This is a person – either a little boy or little girl made in the image of God to love and be loved. This is a hand made to hold another’s hand. This is a foot made to walk down the sidewalk. This is an innocent, little person needing protection as he or she develops.”

We must prioritize human life over animals and birds. The world rages against poaching a wild lion. The law of the United States protects the eggs and even the nests of eagles. We can’t passively allow lions and eagles to be more protected than humans, babies, or embryos. Every day, all day, 365 days per year, year after year after year, human life is always worth more than animals or birds. Do we respect God’s creation? We must; God tells us to be stewards of it (Gen 1-2). However, human life is greater than all other living creatures.

We must pray for God’s mercy and help. Pray that God would protect the unborn, provide help for pregnant mothers, use Christ-followers to show mercy, and change the attitude of the politicians in Washington D.C. Pray diligently recognizing that millions of lives hang in the balance.

We must be human for humanity. We who live must protect, care for, and prioritize all those who also live. Whether in the womb, in Baltimore, in Chicago, or anywhere on this planet, all lives matter. Lives matter. People matter. God cares. We care.

You can’t be neutral. Choose human life.

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

The Bible for Overachievers

 

BibleforOverAchievers

The Bible can be a dangerous book for overachievers. When a God-loving, passionate, Type A person reads his or her Bible, every command feels like a personal assignment. This is incredible, at least for a while. Personal growth, evangelism, and discipleship abound as the overachiever tries to capitalize on every opportunity.

Predictable Outcomes

Usually, several predictable things happen:

  • The individual experiences spiritual growth.
  • The growth is very satisfying and motivating…sometimes intoxicating.
  • Other people notice and affirm the achiever; this too is motivating.
  • Opportunities for growth and ministry multiply and crowd out a balanced life.
  • Mild life disruption begins to occur but can be managed because of the person’s “high capacity.”
  • Opportunities for growth and ministry begin to compete with one another in an over-crowded life.
  • Life disruption becomes greater as the conflict is experienced in the individual’s spiritual life, which is now very core to their identity.
  • Frustration grows towards the church and those being served.
  • Cynicism grows towards other Christians who aren’t as committed to personal growth and ministry.
  • Personal growth and ministry mutate to having a cynical tone, being focused on personal achievement, or is abandoned.

This does not have to be the case, but too frequently it is the case for achievement-oriented people.

Perhaps this is one dynamic that accounts for the seed that falls on rocky soil (Matthew 13:1-23). They receive the gospel with joy, meaning they whole-heartedly embrace its message and cause, but allow their personal disposition to drive them to grow short-term fruit more than sustaining root.

But for the achiever this all seems very unfair. They are “doing everything they are supposed to be doing.” They are, in any measurable way, doing it better than everyone else. But it’s not “working.” God seems to bless for a while, but then it doesn’t seem like even God can keep up with them. What’s happening?

Life Is Out of Balance

The obvious answer is their life is out of balance. The fact that an achievement-oriented person never hears God say “well done” or “rest,” reveals they are practicing selective listening.

But that only pushes the question a little further. IF they are doing everything God commanded and IF God designed life, then shouldn’t their life remained balanced?

That takes us to another question: what kind of commands does God give? There would seem to be at least three types:

  • “Do” commands (positive commands; pursuit of virtue and purpose)
  • “Don’t do” commands (negative commands; avoidance of vice and folly)
  • “Rest” commands (Sabbath and self-care commands)

All three are needed, but achievement-oriented people don’t tend to like the third category; reaching the world and mortifying sin feels like progress, but the latter feels lazy or weak.

But these three types of commands serve a checks-and-balances function for one another; like the three branches of the United States government were designed to do. Each makes sure the other two do not dominate.

  • Positive commands in excess lead to pride and elitism.
  • Negative commands in excess lead to legalism and a judgmental attitude.
  • Rest commands in excess lead to laziness and ineffectiveness.

But:

  • Positive commands ensure that life has meaning and we have a sense of progress in life.
  • Negative commands ensure that we don’t derail our lives with sin and folly that often seem appealing.
  • Rest commands ensure that we can persevere and finish well the purposes God has given.

So why is this post written to overachievers when the imbalance can be due to any of three? Merely because I had to choose a primary audience.

The point of this post is that the Bible is written for the whole church, an audience that covers the spectrum of achievement orientation (and other dispositional differences), so it has commands that can seem to contradict themselves or may be more relevant-important for one person than another.

Consider this example: It would be easy to call a professor hypocritical who tells some students to “relax” and others to “get it in gear” about the same test in the same class. But a good professor knows his or her students.

  • Some have test anxiety and will perform best if they place less importance on the exam.
  • Others are too invested in their grades and would benefit most from a more balanced life.
  • While others are too socially-oriented and need to remember they came to school to get an education.

The professor is not being contradictory; he is being personal in a corporate setting. That is how the Bible is written; it speaks to the individual needs of Christians as part of an address to the entire church.

Our Call

That means our call is to:

  • Know ourselves well enough to identify our natural tendencies (strengths and weaknesses).
  • Allow others to know us well enough to speak to our blind spots.
  • Seek to obey the various types of commands that exist within Scripture in balance with one another.
  • Avoid the temptation to disproportionally focus on the type of commands that fit our personality or disposition best.

If this is a struggle for you, let me offer a few resources and suggestions:

  • This presentation on burnout provides guidance and tools to help you become a good steward of your 168-hour week.
  • Becoming a good steward of your time and body is a primary evidence of balanced obedience to God’s commands.
  • This evaluation on the balanced obedience to the one-another commands can help you better assess how balanced you are in your “giving” and “receiving” in your Christian relationships.
  • When we lose this balance, we are tempted to view ourselves as God’s employee more than His child; believing God wants a return on His investment in us more than He delights in seeing our maturation.

Know who you are and how that shapes how you read your Bible. God didn’t write a separate Bible for every personality type because the Bible isn’t a self-help manual, but the great story of redemption. However, your disposition will shape how you read your Bible. Understanding this will help you not derail your life with the best of intentions.

Join the Conversation

How does seeing the Bible as a personal book for a corporate setting help you make more balanced application of what you read in Scripture?

What aspects of your personality or disposition tend to most distort which sections of Scripture you try to apply or are willing to neglect?

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

Counseling in a War Zone

CounselingInAWarZone

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at the Association of Biblical Counselors’ site. It is re-posted by the BCC with the permission of Jeremy Lelek and the ABC. You can also read the original post at the ABC’s site here.

Your Mindset as a Biblical Counselor

What is your mentality when you sit down to counsel someone? Do you seek to be kind, loving, compassionate, merciful, quick to confront, ready to offer solutions, or eager to give the answers you know are in the Bible? Do you place pressure on yourself to have it all figured out within an hour so you will appear to know what you are doing? What tends to consume your thinking when you enter the counseling context?

Has it ever occurred to you that when you counsel you enter one of the most rabid war zones in the human experience? Are you aware that when you sit with others to discuss the issues of their hearts, you actually engage in warfare? Would you say this is a prominent aspect of your counseling mindset?

Consider the Apostle Peter’s words for a moment:

“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11, ESV).

This is very interesting language to the modern culture where behavior is so heavily attributed to sociological, cultural, and physiological dynamics. With such pervasive messages, it is important for us to ask:

“What was Peter getting to when he penned these words that has application to the life of the modern counselee?”

It is from verses like this that the biblical counseling community has developed a theology of the heart (or psyche) as being something “active” (Powlison, 1995; Tripp, 2000; Welch, 2003). Peter’s words reflect the idea that the hypothesis of a “blank slate” of human nature misses the dynamic, intentional, and active nature of the human soul as revealed by God. He tells us that humans are in a perpetual war, and the active nature of this war is profoundly evident in what he calls “the passions of the flesh.”

Spiritual Reality

Bringing this reality into our conceptualization of the counseling process is significant because it exposes a profoundly influential variable. It shapes our methodological approach by helping us realize the true nature of the issues at hand. As we sit down to discuss a person’s disintegrating marriage, or paralyzing anxiety, or relentless craving for meth, we do so with an awareness that we enter an unseen war zone of cosmic proportions. Many Christians have exercised a tragic disservice to others by ignoring this reality, and diminishing sin to being exclusively behavioral.

As such, mistakes in counseling have been made in that counselors have often focused on fixing sinful or unhealthy communication (a symptom of the war), offering relaxation techniques for anxious feelings (a symptom of the war), stopping drug use (a symptom of the war), or legalistically applying Scripture rather than addressing the vortex from which these outward issues emerge. From a medical standpoint, this would be akin to trying to eradicate terrorism by tending to the physical wounds inflicted in battle. Setting a soldier’s broken leg is certainly important, but it will not (in itself) conquer terrorism. The wound is a symptom of the war, not the war itself.

Therefore, mindfulness of the war is significant.

As a sojourner in a hostile land, do you strategically help others fight this battle, or do you get caught up in the enormity of the explosions of war? When a husband and wife are yelling at each other, are you caught off guard by this behavior, or do you ask probing questions that might help you understand “the passions of the flesh” “waging war” against their souls (Powlison, 1999)?

When someone is having panic attacks, do you stop with helping her calm down through breathing and relaxation, or do you also proceed and go deeper in considering the desires of her heart produced and shaped by the flesh? If someone feels bound by obsessive thoughts of contamination, do you exclusively revert to behavioral techniques to help him become desensitized to his fears, or are you mindful of the war within that is raging with ferocity, even driving much of the obsessions and fear? Do you ever become so overwhelmed by these symptoms that you revert to a mechanical mode of counseling to ease your sense of limitedness as a counselor?

Approaching People and Reality Biblically

To counsel biblically means we must approach people biblically. Our counselees are in a war zone. Quite frankly, so are we. And the object of this war is not nebulous. The Person against whom the war is raging is quite clear. Paul helps us understand this when he writes:

“For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot (Romans 8:7-8, ESV).

The passions at war against the soul (as mentioned by Peter) are in hostile revolt against God (as explained by Paul). Not only that, but to try and contain them in our own strength or with simplistic methods will guarantee ultimate defeat. Paul tells us we cannot submit to the law of God in our own flesh. He also rages against the idea that methods can ever free us from the yoke of slavery called sin (Galatians 5).

This is why we are desperate for a Redeemer. Techniques are important. Practical methods to assist others in their struggles with sin and suffering are a significant part of people-helping. Medical assistance for the person addicted to a chemical substance is wise and good (to protect him or her from dangerous, even fatal complications from withdrawal).

However, we must always remember we are not applying such techniques and services to a neutral being, therefore specific techniques will not always be equally effective for everyone. We are applying these methods to a person (just like ourselves) who is daily visited by dark, deceptive, convincing, luring, forceful passions that shape the visible components of the battle.

So, while methods are a vital part of what we do, we must be careful that it is not in them that we foster faith (either as counselors or in those we serve). Methods will never change the heart. Methods are impotent to overthrow the passions that wage against us. It is on this point that we have the glorious opportunity to visit and revisit the gospel narrative and consider how it applies to even the most complex of situations or intimidating diagnoses.

As counselors, we must be careful not to insult the work of Jesus Christ by seeking to combat the flesh with a gospel substitute. We are in a war, and we have a King whose:

“…power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4, ESV).

This power comes through His finished work upon the cross.

May we seek to be diligent students of God’s Word so that we may effectively employ and teach these truths to our fellow soldiers of battle. If it is indeed true that in Christ and by His power we have everything we need, then we want to be careful never to relegate this truth of truths to the dark corners of our counseling philosophy and methods. May God help us to always be mindful of Him!

References

Powlison, D. (2003). “Idols of the heart and ‘vanity fair.’” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 13(2), 35-­ 50.

Powlison, D. (1999). “X-ray questions: Drawing out the whys and wherefores of human behavior.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 18(1), pp. 2-­9.

Tripp, P.D. (2000). War of words: Getting to the heart of your communication struggles. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

Welch, E. (2003). “Why do I do the things I do?” The Journal of Biblical Counseling, pp. 48-­56.

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

Can I Become a Biblical Counselor?

CanIBecomeABiblicalCounselor

A Word from Your BCC Team: This blog was first posted at Julie Ganschow’s blog site and is re-posted today at the BCC with Julie’s permission. You can also read the original post at Julie’s site here.

What It Takes to Be a Biblical Counselor

And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another (Romans 15:14, NASB).

I am frequently asked how a person can know if they have “what it takes” to be a biblical counselor. The first thing I say is you must be a committed Bible-believing Christian who takes the Word of God seriously. Instruction must be covered in prayer and faithful to the chosen text of Scripture. Be wary of the “what it means to me” method of Scripture interpretation.

You are “qualified” to be a biblical counselor if you have a desire to help people. There is undoubtedly something different about people helpers. Many are described as having gifts of mercy, encouragement, discernment, and compassion. Others are servants and givers, and still others are truth tellers who desire to redirect the sheep that have wandered off the path.

There are some personal requirements for those who desire come alongside other people. Teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness, and restoration must be done with affectionate admonition because included in the greatest imperative of Jesus Christ was to love one another. Our love is to be sacrificial for those we counsel.

Our counsel must be presented in a spirit of meekness, with a kind and patient heart. Many of the people we meet with have never heard this kind of biblical truth before. While what you say will be plain to you, it may not be to them. Keep in mind that much of the church is very psychologized and is accustomed to weak theology that does not emphasize the disastrous role of sin in our lives. Patience is required as you may explain the same truth over and over as you help them to grasp the truth.

There is occasionally a temptation to become angry or impatient with them, especially if they tend to make the same errors repeatedly. There are other more productive steps to take in this case that will reveal the true issue behind the repeated failures. You will see that it is usually not worth it to rebuke this counselee in anger or display a harsh attitude toward them.

Also remember to consider yourself as you teach, rebuke, correct, and train others. Some of the best counseling that takes place in my office is happening to me! Galatians 6 tells us to be very careful about this business of discipling others because it is so very easy to become prideful in the process. Think about pastors and other church leaders who were involved in counseling and are now divorced or have scandal attached to their names because of falling into immorality. They said it could never happen to them, they would not, could not ever sin like the others! The reality is that you and I are only one thought away from acting on the worst of sins.

We must examine ourselves honestly in the light of Scripture. If you have a tendency to be critical, it will serve you well and hurt you as a Biblical Counselor. Discernment is of course crucial, but beware that you don’t become strictly a fault finder. If you are blunt or pointed in speech, it is easy to be misunderstood as harsh and uncaring. Endeavor to be loving in dealing with people.

Be prayerful, be intentional in forming relationships, and be the hands and feet of Jesus. In doing these things, you will become an excellent biblical counselor.

Join the Conversation (Added by the BCC Team)

What do you believe the Scripture teaches are the qualifications to be a biblical counselor?

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

BCC Weekend Resource: 9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse

A Word from Your BCC Team: On weekends we often highlight resources for your life and ministry. Today we highlight a resource from Justin and Lindsey Holcomb: 9 Ways to Protect Your Children from Sexual Abuse. The resource is part of their new book, God Made All of Me. You can also read this resource at their site here.

9 Ways to Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse

We are asked lots: “What are some practical things parents can do to protect their children from sexual abuse?” We ended our children’s book, God Made All of Me, with a note to parents and caregivers answering this question. Here are the 9 practical things you can do to protect children.

1. Explain to your child that God made their body. An explanation can look something like, “Every part of your body is good, and some parts of your body are private.”

2. Teach proper names of private body parts. 
It might be uncomfortable at first, but use the proper names of body parts. Children need to know the proper names for their genitals. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked, and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.

Clearly identify for your child which parts of their anatomy are private. Explain to your child that “some places on your body should never be touched by other people—except when you need help in the bathroom or are getting dressed or when you go to the doctor.” You can do this with young children during bath time or have your child dress in a bathing suit and show them that all areas covered by a bathing suit are “private.” The bathing suit analogy can be a bit misleading because it fails to mention that other parts of the body can be touched inappropriately (like mouth, legs, neck, arms), but it is a good start for little ones to understand the concept of private parts.

3. Invite your child’s communication. Let your child know they can tell you if anyone touches them in the private areas or in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable (even areas not covered by the bathing suit)—no matter who the person is or what the person says to them. Assure your child they will not be in trouble if they tell you they’ve been touched inappropriately—rather, you will be proud of them for telling you and will help them through the situation.

4. Talk about touches. Be clear with adults and children about the difference between touch that is OK and touch that is inappropriate. To your child say something like: “Most of the time you like to be hugged, snuggled, tickled, and kissed, but sometimes you don’t and that’s OK. Let me know if anyone—family member, friend, or anyone else—touches you or talks to you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Teach little ones how to say “Stop,” “All done,” and “No more.” You can reiterate this by stopping immediately when your child expresses that they are all done with the hugging or tickling. Your reaction is noteworthy for them as it demonstrates they have control over their bodies and desires.

If there are extended family members who may have a hard time understanding your family boundaries, you can explain that you are helping your children understand their ability to say no to unwanted touch, which will help them if anyone ever tries to hurt them. For example, if your child does not want to kiss Grandpa, let them give a high five or handshake instead.

5. Don’t ask your child to maintain your emotions. Without thinking, we sometimes ask a child something along the lines of, “I’m sad, can I have a hug?” While this may be innocent in intent, it sets the child up to feel responsible for your emotions and state of being: “Mom is sad . . . I need to cheer her up.” If someone wanted to abuse a child, they might use similar language to have the child “help” them feel better and the child might rationalize it as acceptable if this is something they do innocently with you.

6. Throw out the word “secret.” Explain the difference between a secret and a surprise. Surprises are joyful and generate excitement, because in just a little while something will be unveiled that will bring great delight. Secrets, in contrast, cause isolation and exclusion. When it becomes customary to keep secrets with just one individual, children are more susceptible to abuse. Perpetrators frequently ask their victims to keep things secret just between them.

7. Clarify rules for playing “doctor.” Playing doctor can turn body parts into a game. If children want to play doctor, you can redirect this game by suggesting using dolls and stuffed animals as patients instead of their own body. This way they can still use their doctor tools, but to fix and take care of their toys. It may take some time for them to make the shift, but just remind them gently that we don’t play games, like doctor, with our bodies. If you find your child exploring his or her own body with another child, calmly address the situation and set clear boundaries by saying, “It looks like you and your friend are comparing your bodies. Put on your clothes. And remember, even though it feels good to take our clothes off, we keep our clothes on when playing.” [Dialogue from Stop It Now! tip sheet: http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids]

8. Identify whom to trust. Talk with your kids about whom you and they trust. Then give them permission to talk with these trustworthy adults whenever they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused about someone’s behavior toward them.

9. Report suspected abuse immediately. You’ve read these steps, now consider yourself an advocate against childhood sexual abuse. Report anything you know or suspect might be sexual abuse. If you don’t, it’s possible no one else will.

GodMadeAllOfMe

Pre-order our new children’s book, God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies.

*This post summarizes some portions from two Stop It Now! Tip sheets: “Don’t Wait: Everyday Actions to Keep Kids Safe” (http://www.stopitnow.org/dont_wait_everyday_prevention) and “Talking to Children and Teens” (http://www.stopitnow.org/talking_to_kids).

«Pre-Order God Made All Of Me

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Megaphone Post, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sexual Abuse | 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.

PTSD

Brad Hambrick addresses 5 Ways to Establish an Environment of Safety in Which to Address PTSD.

Josh Duggar and Biblical Counseling

Julie Ganschow writes that:

“This week has brought more heartbreaking news for the popular Duggar family (19 Kids and Counting). Yesterday it was revealed that Josh Duggar paid for several accounts on an internet adultery site. My heart aches for his wife and family at this revelation. Sexual immorality is at epidemic levels, even in the church.”

Read the rest of Julie’s perspective in Anna, Ashley, and Josh: Adultery Unmasked.

Heath Lambert and the ACBC

Read the recent ACBC press release on Heath Lambert, their Executive Director, who will be staying at ACBC while also taking on a vital new local church role.

9 Parenting Truths from John Piper

Tim Challies summarizes 9 Parenting Truths from John Piper.

Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online

Last week, hackers released millions of email addresses related to the Ashley Madison site that fosters adulterous affairs. Tim Challies reflects on this in Ashley Madison and Who You Are Online.

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: Adultery, Christian Living, Grief/Loss, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Would You Rather Deal with An Angry Bear or a Drug-Seeker?

AngryBearDrugSeeker

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at the blog site of Faith Church, and it is used by the BCC with their permission. You can also read the original post on their site here.

A Fool in His Folly

I often meet with people enslaved to their addictions in varying degrees. Sometimes the degree of enslavement is extreme—so much so that the following proverb comes to mind:

“Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).

Hiking in the mountains of Montana recently, I learned a lot about bears. I even carried bear spray in case we were approached in a hostile manner by a black bear or a grizzly bear. Bear spray stuns a bear and doesn’t permanently harm the bear which gives you time to run away—and I mean run! Facing a bear is a frightful idea when all you have is a backpack with hiking snacks and bottled water, so I was grateful for the bear spray, though it was still no guarantee of safety.

As our group hiked through the mountains, we noticed many animals with their young. We saw a mama mountain goat with two babies. People who got too close made that mama goat nervous and she moved away with her young ones, but it was apparent that she might charge us with her horns facing out if we got too close. She was aware of everything going on around her and mindful of her two kids (baby goats are called kids which is why I don’t like calling my children kids, by the way). Which got me thinking about a mama bear and this proverb cited above and again here:

“Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).

Bears eat most of the day and seek after campers’ and hikers’ food, but imagine if you met on your hiking path, an angry she-bear recently robbed of her cubs whose maternal instincts of anger at the loss were fresh on her mind! You wouldn’t have time to use bear spray and that might not scare her away! Again, it’s a frightful thought especially when we read how the Lord used two bears to deal with 42 boys mocking God’s chosen servant Elisha:

“Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!’ When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number (2 Kings 2:23-24, NASB).

Worse Than a Bear Robbed of Her Cubs

And yet the Bible says there is something worse than meeting a she-bear robbed of her cubs according to Proverbs 17:12: “a fool in his folly.” What does this mean?

Well, one application that I think of immediately in addiction counseling is a person enslaved to their foolish pursuit of an idolatrous desire for an illegal substance. I have been privy to firsthand information where witnesses saw theft, rape, brutality, and murder—all due to a bad drug deal and what comes from that lifestyle. It’s a treacherous situation for sure to be caught up in the world of drug addiction, and Ephesians 5:18 reminds us that it is debauchery and dissipation (or “utter ruin”) to live that lifestyle: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…”

In other words, living that life of drug addiction leads to dissipation, or harsh, ruining consequences like jail, prison, and even death. It is a path to avoid and one that is in stark contrast to being filled with the Spirit and under the control of the Holy Spirit.

While I believe that the local church is the steward of the only message that sets the drug-addicted captive free, I also believe that the local church has to recognize when it is dealing with a foolish rebel who is acting in that moment more dangerously than a bear robbed of her cubs. No one is beyond repentance and we must always share the gospel in the most loving way possible understanding that some will reject the message because they love their unrighteousness more than Christ (Romans 1:18ff).

The Heart of Addiction

At Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana, we are offering a new Faith Community Institute (FCI) class this fall entitled “The Heart of Addiction” based upon the book by the same name. The class is targeted to help those struggling with addiction who want help and are willing to change though it may seem nearly impossible to do so. God offers freeing truth and eternal hope in His Word and this FCI class will accentuate those principles.

So, the next time you run into someone caught up in an addiction of any type and unwilling to turn away from that idolatrous lust, you might think of the fool caught in his folly and that it would be better for you to be dealing with an angry, grizzly she-bear robbed of her cubs than trying to deal with the drug-seeking person pursuing an idolatrous desire more than Christ. Use discernment and pray for wisdom as you seek to help those that cross your path!

Join the Conversation

How can you pray for someone struggling with an addiction?

How can you exercise wisdom when dealing with someone who is unrepentant and immersed in their sin?

What are the ways the local church can help someone addicted? How can you offer hope in your local church?

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

Why Should You Pursue Higher Education in Biblical Counseling?

WhyPursueHigherEd

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the final post in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Higher Education. In today’s post, Professor Kevin Carson of Baptist Bible College of Springfield, Missouri,asks and answers the question, “Why Should You Pursue Higher Education in Biblical Counseling?” You can read Part 1, by Dr. Howard Eyrich here, Part 2, by Dr. Robert Jones here, and Part 3 by Professor Lilly Park here.

A Great Question

Often I am asked why someone should pursue higher education in biblical counseling. Great question. I believe there are several reasons why one would choose either an undergraduate or seminary education in biblical counseling. Certainly there has never been a greater time of need. Culture is complicated. Relationships are complicated. Problems are complicated. Diagnoses are complicated. Yet, we know that God’s Word is sufficient and up to the challenge of all these complications.

Exegetical and Theological Excellence

The foundation of biblical counseling is the Bible. Our ability to live or speak the Bible either enhances or limits our capacity to counsel others. As those who are in union with Christ, the Bible functions as the lens through which we engage life. As we interact with others in conversational ministry, our capability to accurately understand this person as an individual in a complex situation as it relates to God depends upon our exegetical and theological underpinnings.

As you contemplate higher education, you will want to pick a program if possible that offers classes such as hermeneutics, biblical languages, biblical and systematic theology, and biblical exposition. Consider the importance of each: hermeneutics provides you the basis for understanding the biblical text at the meaning level. All Bible knowledge and wisdom flows out of well-developed exegetical skills. It is imperative for the biblical counselor to be able to say, “This is what this passage means.”

Related to biblical languages, good exegesis takes into account the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax of individual passages primarily from Greek and Hebrew. Gratefully, there are many tools to help us in this pursuit. However, the more background you have in the languages, the easier and more profitable the tools become.

Biblical and systematic theology are the fruit of the hermeneutical process. As you learn individual texts, your ability to put together that body of knowledge into a unified whole at the book level and overarching level deepens. Systematically, this is where you classify the knowledge gained through your individual passages and book studies into helpful categories or doctrines (i.e., Bible, God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Man, Sin, Salvation, Church, Last Things, among others).

Finally, in biblical exposition classes you learn the ability to move from the text to the counselee with skill. Special attention is given to communicating the truth of the passages clearly through well-stated and exegetically-driven outlines. Furthermore, you learn how to create clear implications from the text that engage the counselee’s life with corresponding homework as well.

Counseling Competence and Skill

Higher education helps the biblical counselor grow deeper in the key elements of biblical counseling: data gathering, discerning the problem, gaining involvement, providing biblical instruction, giving hope, discipleship, and personal accountability. You also gain the knowledge and understanding of historical and contemporary counseling philosophies and methods. Additionally, you both observe and engage in supervised biblical counseling.

Pertaining to the counselee, the student learns how to hear and articulate key areas of suffering and sin. Higher education provides the opportunity for special focus on various areas such as medical issues, abuse, and various disorders. Suffering and sin both impact key relationships inside the home, workplace, and church. Further, you learn about human motivation (the heart, inner man issues) and how worship (including idolatry) plays out in daily living.

Your educational experience provides a controlled environment where you learn alongside others. The professor provides guidance as the student strives to piece together new insights from the Bible, new counseling content, and new challenges to communicate it in conversational ministry.

Characterological Maturity

Exegetical and theological excellence plus counseling competence and skills only go so far in higher education. The key component of higher education is characterological maturity. One of the most important differences between biblical counseling and all other forms of counseling is the intense focus on the personal growth of the biblical counselor. In writing to Timothy, Paul encouraged him to pay special attention to his own heart and behavior. “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all people. Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this, you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:15-16).

Whereas in other systems of counseling the personal life and growth of the counselor may matter little, in biblical counseling, the personal life and growth of the counselor is paramount. The counselor’s life is proof-positive to the truth of the gospel message. The counselor’s life cannot contradict the authoritative Scriptures that he or she so eloquently counsels. A necessary part of preparation for the counselor is personal growth toward Christlikeness for God’s honor. The need and process of personal self-counsel are taught and practiced as the counselor matriculates through a program.

So What Is It Worth to You?

What a privilege to do conversational ministry! Just to think that God trusts us to be His voice to His children to help them respond in God-honoring ways to the complications of life—amazing! On many levels, the stakes cannot be higher. As we engage people around us at home, church, work, and play, we steward those moments to both help the one to whom we speak as well as our own hearts. God graciously provides for us the opportunity to help another person take the next step for Christ. In the process, God uses those same interactions to help us grow as well.

Higher education in biblical counseling becomes a perfect fit for both men and women who desire to serve the church in a variety of contexts both formally and informally. You learn to counsel from a position of strength. Your better understanding of people, circumstances, and God provides you the opportunity to speak truth that fits the occasion in love and with wisdom. By God’s grace through the work of the Spirit and the Scriptures, you become the conduit of grace and truth another person needs in his or her time of need.

Join the Conversation

What are some specific areas of training where you would have liked to have received additional training or still would enjoy better training?

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

Pursuing a Biblical Counseling Degree as a Woman

PursuingBCDegree

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the third post in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Higher Education. In today’s post, Professor Lilly Park of Crossroads Bible College discusses Pursuing a Biblical Counseling Degree as a Woman. You can read Part 1, by Dr. Howard Eyrich here. And you can read Part 2, by Dr. Robert Jones here.

Pursuing Our God-Given Passion

It’s not unusual for a counseling class to be filled mostly with female students. I’m often asked, “What can I do with a biblical counseling degree?” It’s a practical and important question. If you’re asking similar questions, could I encourage you to consider this question:

“What is my passion?”

This question seems to focus more on what God might want us to do in life. God has created each of us with different gifts, interests, and passions. Maybe it’s working with youth, helping people with drug addictions, teaching children, or teaching women.

Perhaps it’s simplistic, but why not pursue our passion and trust God to provide the opportunities. Here are a few stories.

Real Examples

I’ve met women who were passionate about teaching the Bible to women. A counseling degree not only equips them in biblical/theological knowledge, but also in counseling skills to help women with complicated problems. Courses on teaching could also be added for electives. What a practical combination!

More recently, I’ve had a discussion with a woman who has a passion to minister to widows. While completing her counseling degree, she is gaining counseling experience at church and initiating outreach events to single moms and widows. She has a full-time job in another field, but she’s pursuing her passion by completing this degree and discussing opportunities with her church leadership.

A recent graduate had no job prospect in counseling at the beginning of her degree. By the time she graduated, her church offered her a counseling position. It was an unexpected but sweet surprise from God.

The stories continue. The point of these stories is that these women pursued their passion and trusted God to provide meaningful opportunities in His perfect timing.

Admittedly, biblical counseling positions are not as available as other ministry positions. A biblical counseling degree, however, is useful for a variety of roles and positions. Often, I find students limiting their job prospects because they focus on finding a “biblical counseling” position. Instead, I encourage them to broaden the job search by focusing less on the title or position and more on the experience. (In my own life, this approach has been so helpful in expanding my ministry experience.)

Be Careful of Over-Analyzing

Repeatedly, if I allowed rationality to rule my thoughts, then I probably would not have gained the blessed and challenging experiences thus far. For instance, I left a consulting job at a large firm to pursue a degree in biblical counseling. Most people would have considered it irrational. I was in my early 20s, so it was easier in some ways, but it was still hard in many ways.

When I completed my counseling degree about ten years ago, I didn’t think I could find a job in biblical counseling. (Since then, the biblical counseling field has grown!) I figured it would be easier for my male classmates because of pastoral positions. I was wrong. God provided a full-time position in a biblical counseling ministry.

I could go on and share how God has provided one experience after another. Sometimes, the title or position was not directly related to counseling, but I was able to incorporate my counseling background or develop my counseling background in ways that I could not have known…if I was fixated on the job position alone. Be flexible. Be open to new experiences.

Loosely Hold Onto Your Future

Plan your future, but hold onto your plans loosely. One of my go-to passages when I’m facing crossroads in my life is Proverbs 16. It immediately reminds me of at least three important truths: 1) I should plan well; 2) God knows what is best for me; and 3) I can trust God with the future—no matter what happens.

Sometimes, God may provide a job related to our passion at a much later time. Meanwhile, we can still try to find jobs indirectly related to our passions. Of course, there are times when we simply need to find a job as soon as possible. Be encouraged though. God could use what seems like unrelated jobs or tasks to prepare us for other long-term purposes.

Our days on earth are short, compared to eternity with God. How do you want to use your counseling degree to make a difference in this world for God’s glory? For some of us, we’ll serve in formal counseling positions, but for most of us, I suspect, we’ll use our degree in positions without the word “counseling.” Remember, that doesn’t mean you’re not using your counseling degree.

Join the Conversation

How has God allowed you to use your counseling degree or certificate in unexpected ways?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, Education, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: , , , , ,

8 Reasons Why Theology and Theological Training Matter

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A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second post in a four-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Higher Education. In today’s post, Dr. Robert Jones of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary discusses 8 Reasons Why Theology and Theological Training Matter. You can read Part 1, by Dr. Howard Eyrich, here.

TTBCrs

Why did I leave a happy, nineteen-year, lead pastor ministry in 2004 to become a seminary professor? One reason rose above others: to train pastors, church planters, and vocational Christian workers to counsel people biblically. Those receiving theological training need biblical counseling training—to know how to take that Word they study and to learn to apply it in practical situations to help struggling people.

But the opposite is also true. Biblical counselors need theological training. Why? Because theological training in a school committed to biblical counseling gives people maximal opportunity to master their Bibles so they can use God’s Word to minister confidently to people. We want to produce a generation of theologically-trained biblical counselors (TTBCrs).

Let’s consider eight categories of theology that directly pertain to our counseling theory and practice. These are not only questions that seminarians wrestle with, but also questions that every Christian counseling approach—however “biblical” or “integrationistic” it claims to be—implicitly answers in some way, rightly or wrongly. We can use these eight categories to fortify our own counseling, but also to assess other approaches that purport to be biblical or Christian.

1. The Bible

What is the source of truth for a counselor? In any particular counseling approach, is the Bible used at all? If so, how? To what degree? Is it interpreted and applied accurately, according to standard methods of exegesis? TTBCrs believe that Scripture itself teaches that all Scripture is God-breathed, inerrant, authoritative, sufficient, and superior to all other sources of knowledge. We believe that the Bible actually drives not merely controls our approach—that biblical counseling theory and practice emerges from the Bible, not merely somehow fits with the Bible.

2. God

How do we understand and present the triune God, especially Jesus Christ? When TTBCrs read the pages of the New Testament, we behold a Messiah who is the crucified Sin-bearer and risen Empowerer of His people. We see a reigning, interceding High Priest and a returning Savior, Judge, and King over all humanity.[1] Is this the Jesus we see in contemporary Christian counseling? Does the typical Christian therapy book require a personal Redeemer who must die for sinners and then be raised to enable us to live?

3. People

How do we think about people? TTBCrs view people as an essential unity consisting of both outward and inward dimensions—a material (physical body) and an immaterial substance (heart, spirit, soul, mind). We are embodied spirits/souls. Whatever bodily problems doctors prove or presume, we must always address our counselee’s soul. Moreover, we believe that God created people in His image, with active hearts inescapably connected with God. Whatever past or present hardships people have suffered (and many of these make us weep), their active hearts are always in some measure responsible and response-able to turn toward or away from God. This perspective alone yields hope (you are not doomed!) amid various forms of victimization people face.

4. Sin

What is the problem that humans face? Why do people sin? Why do people suffer? How did evil enter this world? TTBCrs understand that all human problems ultimately began with the Fall and continue because of both original sin (the sin nature that reigns in unbelievers and remains in believers) and actual sin. Yet we do not hold a simplistic view of sin. As David Powlison puts it,

“Sin, in all its dimensions (for example, both motive and behavior; both the sins we do and the sins done against us; both the consequences of personal sin and the consequences of Adam’s sin), is the primary problem counselors must deal with.”[2]

We deal with both the sins our counselees commit and the suffering they experience from the sins of others. We deal with sin as both our inborn condition and our behavior, as both unbelief and rebellion, as both desiring forbidden things and desiring good things too much, as both internal (concealed) and external (revealed), as both commission and omission, as both rational and irrational, and as both degenerative and self-contained.[3]

5. Motivation

Why do people do what they do? What should motivate them? Flowing from our view of people as divine image-bearers, TTBCrs recognize that people are ultimately and always driven by the desire to please, worship, obey, and trust in God or in some thing(s) or person(s) or allegiance(s) other than God. Moreover, we don’t believe that human motives are best explained as inaccessible psychodynamic drives but by the flesh, idolatry, false treasures, and spiritual adultery—inner realities that God’s Spirit and God’s Word bring into the light.

6. Change

How do people actually change? What is the best mode of counseling therapy? TTBCrs see Christ-centered change occurring through a process of renewing our minds and affections, putting off sin, putting on righteousness, prayer, Scripture reading, serving, worship, etc. In other words, change comes as God’s Spirit progressively uses His public and private means of grace in each counselee’s life.

7. Our Goal

What does the ideal person look like? If all counselors exist to help people to change (in some definition), then what standard do we hold forth for the counselee? When therapists use terms like mental illness, abnormal behavior, and psychological disorders, what does mental health, normal behavior, and “ordered” psyches look like? TTBCrs answer with two words: Jesus Christ. We want people to think like, desire like, talk like, and act like God’s Son, into whose image all of God’s redemptive work aims.

8. People Helpers

Who are the people God uses as His instruments? What do these people do to help people change? TTBCrs grasp the centrality in Scripture of both pastors and godly laypeople in helping people grow and change. We see the church as God’s designed agent and setting for mutual care. Not apart from the God’s Spirit and God’s Word, but as men and women empowered by His Spirit, wielding that Word with grace and wisdom.

Biblical counselor, do you want to grasp and apply these eight scriptural categories more deeply and practically? Then consider basic or advanced theological training.[4]

For biblical counselors, theological matters intensely matter.

Join the Conversation

Why do you think that Christians who want to counsel people biblically should study theology (either formally or informally)?

What dangers do we risk if we counsel without a sound grasp of the above theological categories?


[1]See Robert D. Jones, “The Christ-Centeredness of Biblical Counseling,” chapter 6 in Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World, eds. Bob Kellemen and Jeff Forrey (Zondervan, 2014).

[2]David Powlison, “Biblical Counseling in Recent Times,” chapter 2 in John MacArthur and Wayne A. Mack with the Master’s College Faculty, Counseling: How to Counsel Biblically, (Thomas Nelson, 2005), 28

[3]See Robert D. Jones and Brad Hambrick, “The Problem of Sin,” chapter 9 in Christ-centered Biblical Counseling: Changing Lives with God’s Changeless Truth, eds. James MacDonald, Bob Kellemen, and Steve Viars (Harvest House, 2013), 139-152.

[4]At the seminary where I teach, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC (www.sebts.edu), we offer specialized, fully accredited Certificate, MA, M.Div., D.Min., and Ph.D. programs in Christ-centered biblical counseling.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, Education, Equipping, Five To Live By, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Theology | 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.