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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Picture Perfect: The Root (Part 2)

Picture Perfect - The Root (Part 2)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 2 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. You can read Part 1 here. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

The Perfectionist’s Self-Assessment

Yesterday, we met Taylor, a perfectionist whose high expectations create pressure and stress for everyone around her. And while Taylor causes stress in everyone around her, what you might not realize is that she too feels unrelenting stress every time she approaches a new task and she knows she places tremendous pressure on herself to avoid failure.

The fear of failure can easily consume her, often causing her to lay awake in bed at night thinking about everything she needs to do so that she won’t mess up. Her fear of failure often pushes her toward irritability, and those around her would probably describe her as controlling, inflexible, and impatient. But even though Taylor invests heavily in not failing, she rarely feels as though her investment has yielded a high return. When she’s done with her latest project, whatever it may be—from cooking dinner for company or launching an initiative at work—Taylor is hardly ever satisfied. For every one thing that went well, Taylor can usually identify twenty things that weren’t right. When Taylor perceives she hasn’t lived up to the perfection she demands of herself, she then beats herself up as a complete failure and berates herself as a loser who can do nothing right.

Taylor has learned several defensive maneuvers to try to cope with all of this stress. Her fallback strategy is to try harder, believing that more effort will allow her to achieve her goal. But, although she doesn’t realize it, this puts her in a repeating loop with no acceptable exit. Her desire to be picture perfect means that she is always trying to reach her goal through her performance. When she falls short of the high standards she has erected, she concludes she is a failure and wallows in misery. This ends with a resolve to try harder, greater effort on her part, falling short, more misery, and a renewed resolve to try harder. Because she never reaches the perfection demanded by the performance-driven standards she has erected, she has no way out of the loop other than to quit.

Many perfectionists do end up quitting in some, if not all, areas of life. When you can’t keep your home as spotless as you would like, you might quit by abandoning chores and allowing things to pile up. If you can’t get all “A’s” you might just drop out of school. If a job becomes too demanding or you make a mistake at work, quitting might seem like the best option. Or, you may procrastinate on projects out of fear of failure—putting them off because you don’t think you can get it exactly right. Taylor however usually just keeps looping back through the cycle.

A Distorted Perfection

Yet with all the tension that accompanies her perfectionism, Taylor is reluctant to abandon it. She still desires to be picture perfect. In a distorted sense, Taylor’s desire reflects her original purpose. She was created to display “perfection.” From the very beginning, God’s purpose has been that men and women would reflect his image, that they would radiate the glory of a perfect God, their Creator and Friend. Sadly sin has turned what was once a glorious mission into a source of tension. Sin has also caused us to come up with our own definition of perfection, a man-centered definition that often focuses on performance and outcomes that glorify us, not our Creator.

Why would wanting perfection leave you angry, frustrated, discouraged, or hopeless? The obvious answer would seem to be because others don’t share your standard or because you fail to achieve the perfection you desire. But if we go beyond scratching the surface, this answer no longer makes sense.

If we truly valued perfection, we wouldn’t quickly become angry and frustrated; those aren’t “perfect” responses. Nor would we be controlling, inflexible, and impatient. Those aren’t right or perfect responses either. So there’s got to be something more going on than simply a desire to do things perfectly.

We’ve got to start asking questions, “What do I mean by perfect or right? Why do I want these things done perfectly? What makes perfection important to me? Where does God fit into all of this?” These won’t necessarily be easy questions to answer. Uncovering desires can often be difficult. It’s also difficult because the answers aren’t the same for everyone. But wouldn’t you like to be free from nitpicking, paralysis, self-hatred, and irritation? Wouldn’t you like to be free to enjoy and accept others even though they don’t do everything right? Wouldn’t you like to be free to move forward despite your own mistakes and fears of not being right? God can change those things in you, but it doesn’t happen by magic. Change begins by looking closely at what is going on under the surface of those feelings and behaviors. It all starts with what we want—our desire life.

Because of sin, good desires become warped and twisted. When you look closely, you can often see that wanting to be excellent doesn’t come from a heart that longs to show others the beautiful perfection of God. Instead that desire shrinks and the focus becomes self-centered. You find you want to do all things with excellence because you want others to think highly of you; you want to look good to others or feel good about yourself. You want to have things under control so that nothing can hurt you.

God’s desire for Taylor is much different (and so much better) than what she wants for herself. He wants to make her like his beloved Son (Romans 8:29). He wants her to have rich, full relationships where she shares with others the grace and mercy she has been given as a dearly loved child of God.

As Taylor begins to understand that the frustration and discomfort in her life comes not from the failures of others or even herself, but from her response to those failures, she can turn to God with her true failure: replacing God at the center of her life with her own desires for perfection and control. As she turns away from her own desires and turns toward God, he will begin to help her function as he originally designed humans—to display his image and his glory. This will be a process and there will be many failures along the way, but God will not desert Taylor. When he begins a good work, he carries it on to completion. He will do the same for you.

The Rest of the Story

In Part 3, we’ll discuss the remedy: exchanging a heavy burden for a light one.

Join the Conversation

How could you use this root analysis of perfectionism in your life and ministry?

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

Picture Perfect: The Problem (Part 1)

Picture Perfect - The Problem (Part 1)

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Amy Baker on perfectionism. These posts are adapted by the author from Picture Perfect: When Life Doesnt Line UpCopyright © 2014 by Amy Baker. Used by permission of New Growth Press.

I Love Perfection! I Hate Perfection!

Taylor could feel her frustration level rising. This was the fourth time she had taken the car to the dealership to get the damage corrected. Before purchasing the car, a hailstorm had created multiple dings in the car’s surface. As a condition of the sale, the dealership had agreed to remove all the damage at no cost to Taylor. While almost all the dings had been removed, one stubborn ding remained. Taylor had returned the car to the dealership four times now to get it removed. Each time she had brought the car in, the dealership had said they had the problem fixed. Now the service manager was acting like Taylor was making a big deal over nothing.

Taylor’s husband told her to quit being so picky. He kindly pointed out that the remaining ding was practically unnoticeable and that the dealership had done a good job on the car. From his perspective, the dealership wasn’t obligated to do anything else.

Taylor didn’t think she was being too picky. For Taylor, it was simply a matter of doing things right. The car dealership should remove every last ding because they said they would do that for her. And, if they said they would do it, they should. They shouldn’t act like it was the customer’s fault when they didn’t live up to their promise. What was wrong with wanting things done right?

Taylor doesn’t just expect this of the car dealership; she expects it of herself as well. She expects to deliver flawlessly when she commits to something. Flawlessly! No shoddy work. No half finished product. No neglected detail. Picture perfect. If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I’ve been there. Taylor’s story could be (and often is) my story. Perhaps you’ve been there too.

Taylor doesn’t really think there is anything major about her life that she needs to change. She wishes a whole lot of other people would change. In fact, although she wouldn’t say this out loud and may not even realize she feels this way, Taylor wishes others would be more like her. If others would change, life would be better. If the people at the dealership would just be more committed to doing things right (like Taylor) she wouldn’t be having this problem.

From Taylor’s perspective, she cares about doing things right, even perfectly, while others don’t seem to have the same commitment. In Taylor’s eyes, a whole lot of problems would be solved if other people would just do things right.

Perfectionism’s Trademark Characteristics

How about you? You don’t have to be exactly like Taylor to have a struggle with perfectionism. Do you want things done right? Does it annoy you that others seem so easily satisfied with what appears to be mediocre performance? Do any of the following “perfectionistic” tendencies resonate with you?

  • You want to be the best in everything you do.
  • You have very high expectations for yourself and others.
  • You are very upset with yourself if you make a mistake.
  • You feel guilty for relaxing. You feel like you are never doing enough.
  • You’re very particular about the details of tasks.
  • When you perform well, you analyze your performance for the weak spots and quickly gloss over the things done right.
  • You want something done right or not done at all.
  • You are perceived by others as a role model.
  • You feel like others are never satisfied by your performance.
  • You compare yourself to others. If you perceive someone is better than you, you analyze that person to see how to measure up.
  • You don’t attempt things you know you can’t complete with excellence.
  • You are frightened by the thought of failure.
  • You procrastinate.
  • Your relationships are often strained or difficult.
  • You feel like you won’t ever be perfect.
  • You rarely experience joy.

The list identifies some traits that are positive, but it also points out characteristics associated with perfectionism that are clearly troublesome. Traits that make it hard to love God and to love others.

A Source of Tension

Would it surprise you to learn that Taylor is often frustrated and unhappy? One barely noticeable ding has become a source of strain in Taylor’s relationships. Her high expectations have resulted in conflict.

Taylor’s relationship with her husband has been strained, even though he only disagreed mildly with her. Other people in Taylor’s life have had to listen to her complaints. Their concerns have been minimized while Taylor’s have been maximized. At the dealership, the service manager has begun to view Taylor as unreasonable. He is no longer interested in keeping her patronage because who wants a customer like her? Who wants to do business with someone who can’t be satisfied?

On the flip side, Taylor isn’t interested in giving the dealership her patronage. It’s an easily broken relationship, just one of many in Taylor’s life—relationships strained or severed because of unmet expectations for perfection. That story has been repeated hundreds of times in Taylor’s life. She has wanted things done to a high standard and others haven’t delivered.

There is nothing in and of itself wrong with Taylor’s desire to have things done right. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with asking dealerships to honor their promise. There’s no law against having great-looking landscaping, keeping your car washed and shiny, putting your shoes neatly in the closet, having an organized desk, making sure you always use your blinker when changing lanes, looking your best, living by a strict budget, preparing sharp-looking reports, avoiding junk food, etc., etc., etc. Most people would agree these are good things.

What creates the frustration and unhappiness that comes with perfectionism is what lies under the surface and drives these behaviors—the motives, beliefs, desires, fears, anxieties, and goals that live in and rule the heart and mind. These beliefs and desires interfere with loving relationships with God and others. Happily, our beloved Savior offers to rescue us from these passions that create so much tension in our lives, and offers us instead joy and peace that are given in such abundance that they overflow.

The Rest of the Story

While that may seem almost unimaginable, the God of truth is ready and willing to give us this beautiful gift. In the next posts, we’ll take a closer look at making the most of this present from God. In Part 2, we’ll take a look at Taylor’s thoughts about her own performance. In Part 3, we’ll discuss exchanging this heavy burden for a light one.

Join the Conversation

How has perfectionism—in your life or those you love—impacted your life and ministry?

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

Weekend Media Resource: Pastor’s Conference Call with David Powlison

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we often highlight one of our many free resources. This weekend we highlight the Pastor’s Conference Call with David Powlison.

This is an audio recording of a conference call with several leaders in the biblical counseling movement. Today’s phone conversation centers around a phone interview that Pastor Deepak Reju did with author and CCEF Executive Director David Powlison. In addition to sharing his own personal testimony, Dr. Powlison addresses various topic including the nature of biblical counseling, lay/local church counseling, and the current state of the biblical counseling movement. Other participants include Garrett Higbee, John Henderson, and Robert Cheong.

Popout Audio Player

NOTE: The following blog is mentioned in this interview: Why We “Care” Instead of “Counsel” One Another.

Topics: Audio, Interview, Pastoral Resources, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , ,

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

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.

Drowning in Distortion: Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah”

The Christian blogosphere has been all abuzz about the new “Noah” movie, with opinion varied. Al Mohler provides an insightful review from an Evangelical perspective. You can read it at Drowning in Distortion:  Darren Aronofsky’s “Noah.” 

Biblical Counseling and Theology Proper—God the Father

Paul Tautges has been blogging about theology and biblical counseling. In this post, he focuses on what systematic theologians call “Theology Proper”—the doctrine of God the Father. Learn how the biblical understanding of God the Father impacts our approach to biblical counseling in The Fatherhood of God.

Missional Motherhood

Being “missional” is an “in” word these days—and a good one. In this post at Desiring God, Gloria Furman shares practical, insights into how mothers can be gospel-centered. Read her thoughts in Missional Motherhood.

7 Things a Good Dad Says

Here’s a very practical, heart-felt, biblical post by Tim Challies on 7 Things a Good Dad Says.

Leaders in the Church

Spence Shelton of The Summit Church, shares:

“The only way real growth is going to come to our churches is by leaders dreaming impossible dreams for their people, risking themselves to advance God’s kingdom. Will you be among them? What risks will you take? What dreams will you dream?”

Read the rest of Pastor Shelton’s thoughts in Leaders in the Church: Listen to God’s Pep Talk.

Join the Conversation

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

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

Must We Argue Again?

Must We Argue Again

Many women have told me they don’t want to keep arguing with their spouse or child, yet they continue arguing. It almost seems the mouth goes on auto-pilot, but God’s Word is clear that the words of our mouth really come from the heart (Luke 6:45). At that moment, what seems most important is getting what we want, even if we have to sin in order to get it.

It is the heart’s desires that drive passionate arguments (James 4:1). We want something that conflicts with what another wants, so we fight and quarrel until we get it, or get mad because we didn’t get what we wanted, or got what we didn’t want! Idolatry is the biblical term for wanting something so bad we sin to get it, or sin by our words, attitudes, and reactions when we don’t get what we want.

Choose to Think Like Christ

So why does anyone keep arguing when we know it is wrong, and it is counter-productive? Titus 3 begins with a discussion about authorities and respect for them, about being peaceable, gentle, humble instead of hateful, self-centered. Is it not our selfish desires that become the dictators, telling us what to argue for and to keep going until we get what we want? We set ourselves up as our own authority, our own little god, determining what is valuable for us to attain. Other human authorities (parents, spouse, or boss) and even God, are disregarded. Pride rules.

At that moment when we are tempted to argue, we must change gears in our thinking, allowing gentleness and humility to point us to peace so we can quit arguing. We must see that whatever we desire in no way compares to the abundant mercies and grace of our Lord and the life He has given us. Our thinking must focus on eternal values and Christlikeness if we are to change and develop the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5-11). It is the put off /put on principle, replacing our old way of responding (arguing for what we want) with humility and gentleness, that will help us to change permanently.

Replacement thinking must begin long before an argument begins, because in the heat of the moment, we tend to toss all godly reasoning out the window to welcome instead an idolatrous desire. By daily renewing our minds in the principles of the Word, change begins to shape our thoughts and desires into those of Christ (Romans 12:1-2). We begin to desire humility and wisdom rather than conforming to the culture around us which daily bombards us with anger, rebellion, selfishness, arrogance, and rights. Growth and maturity take time, so we should seize every opportunity to practice gentleness and humility and to renew our minds in Christlikeness.

Choose to Talk Like Christ

We must choose to talk and act in His character instead of reacting on our flesh’s desire, which only destroys relationships (James 4:1-12). We may not literally kill the other person, but our arguments may kill the marriage or friendship! They always hurt the other person. Our angry words never lead to a righteous end (James 1:19,20). All words have either the power of life or death (Proverbs 18:21), so they can build up and encourage another person, or tear down and destroy that person (Ephesians 4:29-30). It grieves the Lord when one of His kids tears down another one of His kids because HE loves them both, and at that moment one or both are totally disregarding His character and His commands using words for selfish goals or to destroy the opponent. There is a righteous way to address problems in love and honesty (Ephesians 4:15, 25), with a goal to help the person and to solve a problem.

Words that we speak are so important because they directly reflect our heart’s desire. They expose whether we desire to honor the Lord or to get what we want. They declare who is really the Lord of our life, Christ or self. We should pray with David, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Only the Holy Spirit has the power to convict us of our words and to help us replace them with acceptable words!

Choose to Act like Christ

We can choose to act in His character as heirs of His grace and mercy, living out the good works he calls us to do (Titus 3:1-9). This passage ends with an admonition to avoid foolish disputes, worthless argument. That is a reflection of a heart change where the words and actions change to match the New Creation in Christ Jesus. Acting in kindness and forgiveness rather than continuing the angry arguments (Ephesians 4:31-32) become the new way of life that honors the Lord.

Practical Homework Assignments for Change

  1. Study all the passages in the article above and compare how your communication matches what the Word says about your words. If repentance is in order, go to God and to the others you have offended with your words to ask forgiveness and to commit to a better way to communicate.
  1. Study Proverbs and over the next few weeks and write out every verse that relates to how you communicate to others. Choose the verses to memorize that are most applicable to your words and put the verses into practice to improve.
  1. Journal specific temptations to argue and how you handled the temptation. Did you give in to the argument or did you communicate with gentleness and humility? What could you have done or said in a better way?
  1. Make a list of the issues you find yourself arguing about. Is there a common theme? What does your heart repeatedly desire? Is there an idol of comfort? Pleasure? Acceptance? Security? Ease? Someone’s approval? Etc.?

Join the Conversation

How can you use there biblical principles to address an argumentative spirit?

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

Cultivating Gospel-Centered Friendships

Cultivating Gospel-Centered Friendships

“Taking a break from our friendship.” That was the title in the subject line of an email I received from a dear friend. My jaw dropped and my heart sank. It felt weird—like a boyfriend breaking up with me in grade school.

First, she stated how much she appreciated our friendship; then proceeded to explain why she needed to take a break. She expressed her understanding of how busy I was with my daughter, work, etc., but felt that I had been “rude” and “flaky” about planning to spend time together and then cancelling due to other conflicts.

Although I was offended, she was right. At the end of the email, she left open the possibility to continue our friendship “at another time or season in life that is maybe less busy.” It was clear what she needed from me; however, life got busier and I wasn’t able to give to her what she was asking. I received that email a year ago and my heart still aches over it.

Friendships play an important role in our lives. From early childhood, children naturally gravitate toward forming bonds with other children. This tendency continues into the teens years and adulthood. God created us as relational beings. He put the desire for friendship in our hearts. Just as God instituted marriage in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, He instituted friendship. However, just as Adam and Eve marred God’s purpose for marriage, the Fall marred God’s purpose for friendship.

A Friend of God

Webster defines friendship as a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. God’s illustration of friendship goes a lot deeper. He demonstrated a depth of intimacy when He spoke to Moses “face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). God expressed such grace and kindness to Moses on a deeper level than a master to a servant. He entrusted Moses with a greater revelation of Himself. Imagine having a relationship with God like that! Yet the fact is we do have that kind of friendship with God through Jesus Christ: “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15).

Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection has given believers extraordinary access to the heart of God making us His friend for whom Christ laid down His life (John 15:13). Everything we have in Him, He wants us to give to others. God gives the gift of friendship. This type of friendship is gospel-centered. Our relationship with Jesus Christ is the bedrock on which gospel-centered friendships are based. The gospel is the power of God that transforms our earthly friendships. It frees us to be the kind of friend people need.

Characteristics of Gospel-Centered Friendships

Christ-centered

Gospel-centered friendships are centered on Christ. They are chosen by God. Jan was a new employee. When I first saw her, I was immediately drawn to her. I knew I had to meet her. A few weeks later, I approached her to introduce myself. Right away we became instant friends. To my delight, she was a Christian. We both had great love and affection for Jesus Christ. We encouraged each other in Christ, enjoyed discussing Scripture and spoke from a Christian worldview. Our friendship grew based on that common ground.

We became kindred spirits and prayer partners. We took our workplace frustrations and walked the parking lot in prayer. We experienced God’s great power in answer to our prayers. Everyone at work knew we had a special friendship so that when she announced that she was moving, my coworkers approached me with sympathy. Now we only communicate occasionally. God had a purpose for our friendship for a season. Although we don’t talk everyday like we used to, she is my gospel-centered friend for eternity.

Redemptive

Gospel-centered friendships are redemptive. Linda and Nancy had a friendship that was thirty-years deep—until Nancy’s betrayal. Linda was unable to attend the women’s bible study for several weeks due to personal painful circumstances. Linda found out that Nancy told several women in the bible study about her situation. Linda dropped out of the bible study and avoided Nancy at church. They didn’t speak for two years. Linda heard from a mutual friend that Nancy was battling cancer. Linda’s heart was broken for her friend. God used Ephesians 4:32 to convict Linda’s heart—“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Linda laid aside her resentment and chose to forgive Nancy. God restored their friendship.

Sacrificial

Gospel-centered friendships are sacrificial. They are an investment of the heart. After my husband left our marriage, I went through a three-year depression. Somewhere in the midst of that depression, I was talking to my dear friend on the phone who lived an hour away. I can still picture it. I was sitting on my bedroom floor sifting through a pile of bills and paperwork. I have no idea what I said or sounded like, but my friend told me that she was driving down to take my little daughter to the Mall so that I can have some time to myself. (I think she felt sorry for my daughter being cooped up with a sad mommy!)

God used that time alone with me to get my attention. Through many tears and wrestling with God, a decision was made in my heart to release the pain and embrace Him. I began to come out of my depression. Thanks to my friend’s sacrificial love and investment in our friendship, I was able to connect with God again. She is truly a friend that loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17).

Cultivating Gospel-Centered Friendships

Gospel-centered friendships must be cultivated. They are like gardens needing continuous attention to nurture the vegetation and to keep out the weeds. In order to keep your friendships saturated with the gospel, you’ll need to pay attention to the nurturing and quality of your friendships. Weeds love to germinate in blind spots and weaknesses.

Grace-filled

Gospel-centered friendships live by grace. Unrealistic expectations have no place in this kind of relationship. Friendships cross the line when there are feelings of dependence. If a friend withdraws slightly and you feel like there’s been a death—that is bondage. Grace frees us from having to perform or walk on egg shells to keep a friendship. Grace recognizes that we are sinners who can’t save ourselves. We need to walk in grace for our friends and ourselves because we will fail each other.

Edify

Gospel-centered friendships are edifying. They build up one another in Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). Friends who suck the life out of people are not centered on Christ. That kind of friend seeks to fulfill their lives in relationships. Our fulfillment is found in Christ alone. A gospel-centered friend drives others to God and not to herself. That means making room for her to develop friendships with others. We must encourage our friends to embrace others who are spiritually beneficial.

Speak the Truth in Love

Gospel-centered friendships speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). This requires humility. Self-righteousness speaks truth that is demanding, judgmental, and condescending. Friends focused on Christ seek to serve the interest of others rather than their own interest (Philippians 2:4). It is frustrating to see a friend walking in sin. It is unloving not to speak the truth to her. However, this truth must be spoken with much grace and kindness in humility. A humble spirit softens the blow when confronting a friend’s sin issue keeping the love relationship intact.

Remember that Christians are unique; therefore our friendships are unique. We are still sinners, but how we respond and relate to each other is different. Friendships that are gospel-centered demonstrate grace, mercy, compassion, love and forgiveness. Let these truths change your perspective on how you are being a friend. Let the gospel of Jesus Christ transform your friendships.

Join the Conversation

What type of friendships are you cultivating? Do you drive your friends to God or to yourself? How has this blog topic changed your view of friendships?

Topics: Christian Living, Friendships, Gospel-Centered Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

A Mother’s Guide to Raising Pharisees

A Mother’s Guide to Raising Pharisees

While raising children is not solely the mother’s responsibility, when it comes to child rearing much of the daily influence will come from mom. As a mother of three teens, I know the temptation in parenting to create an appearance of what I want my children to be when it comes to spiritual things. It is a noble and right thing to want them to grab on tightly to the baton of faith as we teach them to run this race. However this desire can easily be turned into a recipe for an external religion that seeks to please people and not our redeeming Savior.

The Pharisees, though justly earned, get a bad rap. I know for myself it is easy to think of them as those hoity toity ne’r-do-wrongs that had no concern for anything other than their own spiritual goodlookingness. But could it be that Pharisees had good intentions?

They were the upholders of the sacred law of Moses and they oversaw religious practices. These spiritual fathers devoted their lives to the keeping of the law. There is some nobility in this. The law was given and expected to be kept. They were doing just that. The problem was that they missed the purpose of the law. Instead of discovering their inability in the law they found their identity it. Before we jump down their holier-than-thou backs, it is here that I pause and reflect on how my role as a mother can sound like a Pharisee training officer.

It is a temptation beyond measure at times to find my own identity not only in how I am behaving, but sometimes even more so how my children are behaving. Before I know it, I am actually training them to set their focus on the external accoutrements that Jesus spoke so harshly against. Isn’t this sounding like the cleansing of the outside of the cup that Jesus warned against (Luke 11:38)?

Ways to Raise a Good Little Pharisee

While our intentions may start out right they can easily get derailed and the focus shifted to external behaviors. After all, those are much easier to see than the motives of our hearts. There are many ways this can subtly take place. Here are a few ways moms (and dads too) can raise a good little Pharisee.

  • Make them always feel like they can do a little bit better. Make sure you accompany all your praise with a side bar lesson on how to improve things next time. Want to take this to a higher level? Limit your praise of them to be only when they are doing what you want them to do. Slather it on when they are finally giving you what you want to see. With hold it otherwise.
  • Make spiritual things obligatory. I am not saying that you let your child run the show when it comes to spiritual disciplines. We should encourage our children to have a personal walk with God. Modeling this is a great place to start. But I am talking more about the mandatory approach to spiritual things. Creating an environment of “you are a good Christian boy or girl if you…” is so easy to do. (Insert rewards and sticker charts for Bible reading or godly behavior.) So instead of demanding spiritual things, help them to delight in them instead. Also, understand them when it is not so delightful. Haven’t you been there? What helped you in those times?
  • Blast their achievements so as to create a personal identity they must maintain. I am as guilty as the next mom for filling my Facebook and Instagram with my kids receiving awards or accomplishing some major feat of childhood saintliness. There is a balance we need to be careful of; be proud of your children and share it with your friends and family but if the only time you are blasting out information about your kids is when they are “accomplishing” be aware of the message you are sending them. Try just appreciating them in their “normalness.” Let them see that you are totally impressed with more than just their outward achievements.

We All Need the Cross Daily

I don’t want to load my children with burdens too difficult to bear (Luke 11:36). Instead I want to come beside them in their walk of faith and teach them that with the call to a godly life there is grace and mercy. We all need the cross daily. As we lead them to the place where they see their righteousness for what it truly is (dirty rags) be sure to remind them of the powerful reality that if they trust in Christ, he is their righteousness and that is enough. We do not need to improve on it or add to it.

Dazzle them with who God is and what he has done for them. Let them live in that reality and let it be there joy. They don’t have to make the mark. Christ already did. What a joy what a delight. Teach them the truth about what God, through Christ, has provided for them. Teaching our children to understand that through Christ we no longer need to look good enough keeps the focus on the gospel. They don’t have to attain righteousness because Christ is their righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). They can stand before God because of that alone. What joy!

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Psalm 43:3-4).

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How can grace reign in your parenting?

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Grace, Parenting, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: , , ,

Cutting to the Heart of Self-Injury

Cutting to the Heart of Self-Injury (revised)

Rebekka, 15, wore a hat, long sleeves, and jeans to our first counseling session. Not so unusual for a teen, except it was a hot August afternoon and the temperature outside was 101 degrees.

As I got to know Rebekka, I learned she was sent to see me because she was self-harming. She had no eyelashes or eyebrows and her hat concealed large bald spots where she had pulled out her hair. I eventually saw the dozens of scars on her arms and up and down the length of her legs, where she had repeatedly cut herself and picked off the scabs. She also bore numerous burn marks from cigarettes and lighters. Cutting and burning are the most common forms of self-injury we see among teenagers in our counseling center.

Why Do People Self-Injure?

The teenage years (when self-injurious behaviors commonly begin) can be traumatic times. This can be especially in our culture, where children are presented with decisions and choices they are not mature enough to handle.

Our teens have greater pressures than at any time in history. College preparation now begins in the 8th grade for many students, as they have to make choices about Advanced Placement classes. Many high school students work 20 or more hours per week to save for college, in addition to at­tending classes and doing AP homework.

At school, teens receive mixed messages about relationships and sexual orientation. Sexual behaviors are taught in graphic detail and promoted in the popular media. Our children are pressured to be sexually active long before they are emotionally and physically ready. They are thrust into many situa­tions they are not ready to deal with! Some deal with the heartache of a broken home, spend­ing alternate weekends with each parent, and the pressure that comes from being in the middle of divorce.

These are only the “normal” stresses and do not cover the extreme cases, such as sexual abuse by a parent or step parent; drug or alcohol use in the home by par­ents; out of control siblings that raise tension in the home; same-sex unions, sexually transmitted diseases or abortion.

Many children and teens come to believe there is little they can count on and nothing that is stable. Who can they talk to besides each other? Who can they really trust? All these factors feed into the world of self-injury, and it becomes their method of dealing with indescribable pain and loneliness.

Like other self-injurers, Rebekka reported that she felt empty inside, stressed, and unable to express her feelings. She struggled to tell me she was lonely, not understood by others and fearful of intimate relationships and adult responsibilities. Self-injury was her way to cope with or relieve painful or hard-to-express feelings.

What Can I Do to Help?

There is no quick fix, no systematic formula to follow in helping a teen counselee who self-injures. I encourage parents to follow biblical principles rather than going the route of psychotherapy and secular coun­seling. Secular reasoning is contrary to biblical methodology. The self-injurer doesn’t have an illness that can be medically diagnosed; what she has is a faulty coping mechanism that has become a sinful habit.

Whenever possible, I involve the parents in the counseling process. We teach the parents how to disciple their child through this turbulent time in life. God entrusted Mom and Dad to care for their child and I am there to support them in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training their child in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

The biblical perspective on self-injury is that it is primarily a heart issue (Matthew 15:11; Matthew 15:17-20; Luke 6:43). Like other self-injurers, Rebekka had an overall focus on herself: her pain, loss, feelings, her wants, and her de­sires.

She learned to examine her heart in light of Scripture (Jeremiah 17:9). The Bible reminds us that per­manent change requires a change of heart brought about by a renewal of the mind (Romans 12:2). We had to identify the root cause of her behavior so true healing could take place.

Run to God with the Pain

I encouraged Rebekka to go to God in prayer and lay down the burdens of her heart.

The LORD hears the needy and does not despise his captive peo­ple” (Psalm 69:33).

Directing Rebekka to the Psalms brought comfort and insight about crying out to God in distress. She was reminded that God cares about her, and the weight of guilt, shame, failure, anger, and rejection she carries. She was greatly comforted in realizing the Lord Jesus Christ was intimately acquainted with every sorrow and pain she had.

Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me, For I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart have enlarged; Bring me out of my distresses! Look on my affliction and my pain, And forgive all my sins” (Psalm 25:16-18, NKJV).

In biblical counseling, Rebekka learned the necessity of repentance. She learned about the sovereignty of God, people pleasing, and how to deal biblically with anger, hurt, and bitterness. As her mind was renewed, she began to under­stand the role idolatry played in her behaviors. She realized how worshiping her idols only led to guilt, shame, and deception and that, in reality, self-injury didn’t help with her pain after all.

Initially she experienced many failures and would still revert to cutting or burning herself, but Rebekka persevered in righteousness. She was determined to glorify God and worked very hard to stay in the Word, put the behavior off, renew her mind, and put on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24). She made life application of what she was learning and denied her fleshly desires. Six months later, she had eyebrows, eyelashes, and the bald spots on her head were covered with hair. The real triumph came when she gave her parents her “treasure box” of razor blades and burning materials.

Today, Rebekka is free.

So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free (John 8:36, NLT).

Join the Conversation!

Do you believe the Word of God is enough to address even the “hard cases” in counseling?

Topics: Cutting and Self-Harm, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Suicide, Violence/Physical Abuse | Tags: , , ,

The BCC “Megaphone”: The ABC’s National Conference

ABC 4014 Conference - Restoration

BCC Staff Note: Part of the BCC’s mission is to be a “megaphone” for the biblical counseling world. This weekend we use our megaphone to announce the Association of Biblical Counselors’ 2014 National Conference: Restoration: Redeeming Ministry; Redeeming Marriage.

This year ABC’s Conference is designed to:

Equip Counselors:  Providing practical help to biblical counselors, group leaders and pastors to assist in advancing their skills to provide quality biblical care to couples in need (Tracks 1, 3, & 4).

Encourage Couples:  Offering rich biblical insight and application to couples desiring to become more Gospel-centered and God-glorifying in their marriages (Track 2).

Enlisting Pastors: Connecting the transforming power of the Gospel to the heart, life, and ministry of the pastor. (This day of the conference is intended for all attendees, not just pastors.

When

May 15th, 2014 8:00 AM   through   May 17th, 2014 12:00 PM

Where

Christ Chapel Bible Church
3701 Birchman Avenue
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Learn More

Learn more about speakers, topics, times, schedule, and more here.

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

Friday’s 5 to Live By

Friday's 5 To Live By 2014-2

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.

4 Ways You Should Pray for Your Pastor

Pastor J.D. Greear shares Four Ways You Should Pray for Your Pastor.

The Art of Forgiveness

Randy Alcorn explains that “God takes our failure to forgive seriously!” Read his thoughts on The Art of Forgiveness.

The “Why?” Before the “What?”

Trevin Wax shares what he hears many church leaders saying:

“We can’t seem to recruit and hold on to the volunteers we need.”

“We keep trimming our budget, but our people give less and less.”

“We’ve launched some great programs, but no one seems passionate about them.”

Then Trevin asks:

“Do comments like this sound familiar to you? Almost every pastor and church leader admits how difficult it can be to cast vision and create passion among the congregation. What can be done? “

To learn what Kevin thinks can and should be done, read The Why Before the What.

Grumpiness and the Gospel

Tim Challies applies the gospel to the sin of grumpiness in How to Beat That Bad Mood.

Counter-Culture Reflections

Julie Ganschow reflects on a biblical counseling conference focused on being counter-cultural. Read her thoughts in Counter-Culture Reflections.

Join the Conversation

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

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

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.