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

4 Examples of the Exposing Essence of Suffering


The realities of suffering are often approached with questions in the form of why. This is understandable, especially when you consider how alone and uncertain one can feel when they are in a place of hardship. While asking questions as to the why of suffering is not wrong, to stay in that place misses the opportunity to seek the face of the Lord as to the what. What are you trying to show me God? What are you trying to reveal in me God? What is it you have in store with this God? Questions like these align our hearts with God’s purposes in suffering. He is revealing our hearts and exposing where we have trusted creation above the Creator.

Consider several realities that are consistently revealed in suffering.

1. Suffering exposes the heart.

Deuteronomy 8 provides incredible description and insight into God’s purposes for the suffering of His children during the 40 years in the wilderness. Verse 2 says, “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart.” It wasn’t as if God did not already know what was in their hearts. He used trial and suffering to expose their hearts so that they might see them the way He did. While walking them through trials he also specifically cares for their physical needs (verse 4). This is an incredible picture of God’s mercy and grace for His children.

2. Suffering exposes need.

When an unrealized need becomes realized it divulges misplaced dependency. Matthew 19:23-24 puts it this way, “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.’” Where there is no lacking there is no recognized need. The rich person Jesus is speaking about has need, but due to their wealth they do not recognize their need therefore, keeping them from seeing a need for a savior. God has created us as dependent beings whose needs are perfectly met through him. Suffering brings hidden needs to the surface and places them next to our greatest need in Christ.

3. Suffering exposes where our treasure is.

Luke 12:34 says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Trials can bring about a sense of great loss and it is in this loss we see where we have placed our allegiances. Our heart is described as a well-spring. What Jesus describes here is the certainty that what we value most we give our heart to. Loss that comes through suffering and sorrow reveals what matters most to us. God uses this suffering to draw our hearts towards the reality and longing for the greatest treasure—Jesus Christ.

4. Suffering exposes where we are not humble.

Richard Sibbes, in his work The Bruised Reed, describes suffering as the bruising God uses to show us our deep need for Christ. He says, “This bruising makes us set a high price upon Christ. Then the Gospel becomes the Gospel indeed: then the fig leaves of morality will do us no good.” In its essence, the prideful heart always looks for salvation and deliverance outside of Jesus. Suffering often times turns our self-sovereign world upside down in such dramatic ways that we quickly see how small and unable we are to do much of anything. In 2 Corinthians 12 we see God use suffering to humble Paul so that in his weakness his strength would be in Christ alone. God uses suffering to bring about humility and dependency up Himself and reveal where are hearts are prideful in not looking to Him. He draws us in through brokenness and struggle so that our strength can be solely found through Him.

Followers of Christ have to get to the place in their pursuit of the Lord where suffering is not looked upon as wrath but rather as a redemptive pursuit of our hearts. God draws near to the brokenhearted. Suffering exposes the ways in which we drift from God and His unceasing pursuit of our hearts; suffering shows God’s desire to draw us to preserver with a strength that can only be found in Him.

Join the Conversation

In your life and ministry, what has suffering exposed?

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

Worthless Physicians: Avoiding the Mistakes of Job’s friends


Hardly a week goes by that I don’t talk with someone who is experiencing significant pain and suffering. Providing help and counsel to people in crisis is challenging. Navigating these conversations and relationships is difficult. The landscape is filled with hidden pitfalls that can ensnare those who are trying to offer help and hope.

The book of Job offers much insight into the nature of suffering, God’s role in it, and how to (and, sadly, how not to) serve those who are in the midst of it.

Job: A Man Who’s “Suffering Was Very Great”

It may have been a while since you’ve read Job, so here’s a quick summary of the story.

Job was a righteous man, and he was greatly blessed by God. But Satan accused God of rigging the system. He said Job’s righteous living was motivated purely by the fact that he’d received great blessing in return. Satan said that if God removed the blessings from Job, he would curse God and depart from his life of integrity.

God agreed to allow Satan to remove most of God’s blessings from Job. Job lost all of his flocks and herds; he lost his sons and daughters; and he lost his health. Even his wife advised him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9).

But Job refused. Soon after, three of his friends (Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar) showed up “to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). After weeping, tearing their clothes, and throwing dust on their heads as a sign of their grief, they sat in silence with Job for a solid week. At first, they offered nothing other than their presence, which was likely a great comfort to Job.

Before we get to the ways in which Job’s friends were a negative example of caring for someone who is suffering, let’s not miss this great and challenging example: when someone is hurting, it’s ok to say nothing, and just to be present.

The Unhelpful Counsel of Job’s Friends

In providing care for their suffering friend, Job’s friends’ first step was helpful. However, after Job began his lament by cursing the day he was born, he and his friends quickly entered a vicious cycle of argument and accusation.

Job’s repeated complaint can be summarized in these terms: “I am blameless and full of integrity. I want a hearing with God to prove that I am being treated unjustly. I am a victim, and God is holding out on me.”

Job’s friends’ repeated response sounded like this: “You are suffering because of your sin. God is a wise judge who knows you are wicked and foolish. He is disciplining and punishing you. Repent before Him, and you will be healed.”

Job’s friends are accusatory, listing off the specific sins of the wicked who experience the judgment of God. They repeatedly berate and browbeat their friend, emphasizing the wisdom and justice of God.

Not surprisingly, Job found little comfort in their counsel.

Job ended up saying, “As for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all” (Job 13:4). Some translations call them “quacks”!

Job’s friends got off to such a great start! They sat in silence with their hurting friend for a whole week! But soon after, Job ends up calling them “worthless physicians.” What happened? Where did they go wrong?

We begin to discover their errors when, after several rounds of arguments, another of Job’s friends, Elihu, entered the conversation. Elihu “burned with anger at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong” (Job 32:3). Then, after God addressed Job “out of the whirlwind,” God said to Job’s friend Eliphaz, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

Avoiding the Mistakes of Job’s Friends

So, according to Elihu (Job 32:1-5), and to God (Job 42:7-9), Job’s friends made three mistakes:

1. They offered Job no solid answers or counsel.

2. They didn’t refute Job’s objections.

3. They misrepresented God’s character and nature.

How can we avoid making the same mistakes as we are providing shepherding and counsel to those who are suffering?

God’s Sovereign Goodness

First of all, we can remind those who are suffering of the sovereignty and goodness of God.

Elihu (Job 36-37) and God (Job 38-41) both remind Job of humans’ extremely limited ability to understand all that God is accomplishing in a given situation. God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). He is majestic, mysterious, and He is in control.

But their extended monologues also emphasize the goodness of God. God, in all of His infinite and mysterious wisdom, laid the foundations of the earth; causes the sun to rise and set daily; provides rain for the earth; feeds lions, wild donkeys, ostriches, and horses; and humbles the proud.

In this way, Elihu and God confront the idea that Job is suffering because of his sin. And isn’t that thought present in the minds of many believers who are in painful circumstances? They often ask, “What have I done to deserve this? Why is God punishing me?” The truth of His sovereignty and goodness reminds the hurting person that very often, they are not suffering because of their sin, but that God has a plan, and that His plan is good.

We need to be reminded that God is sovereign—He really does have a plan; He really is at work even in the midst of our suffering—and that He is good—He is at work accomplishing something good for us. This is good news, a solid and helpful “answer” to the angst of the sufferer! It’s an invitation to take our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances, and put them back on God and His trustworthy character.

Our Need for Humility and Grace

Secondly, we can remind those who are suffering of their need for humility and grace.

Job is self-righteousness: “I’ve done all of these good works!” Job has a victim mentality: “I’m being treated so unfairly!” Job is demanding, arrogant, and prideful: “Oh, if I could only give God a piece of my mind!”

But in 33:19-26, Elihu reminds Job that although God uses pain to discipline, He also provides “a mediator,” “a ransom for man’s soul,” “healing,” and “acceptance.” What an amazing foreshadowing of the work of Jesus for us! And all of this is evidence of the great mercy and grace of God.

In serving those who are suffering, we cannot miss the call to humility and grace! The call to humble ourselves before God is repeated countless times in Scripture (see especially 1 Peter 5:5-7).

Encouraging a person who is suffering to humble themselves might sound like this: “You are not suffering because of your sin, but you are also not a sinless victim! You are a sinner in need of God’s grace at all times. He is not punishing you, but He is also not treating you unjustly. Don’t come demanding; come humbly, acknowledging your need, and relying on the grace and mercy of God.” Oh, how Job needed to hear this! It’s a solid refuting of his complaint and a beautiful reminder of the character of God.

Humility and grace confront both the idea that we suffer because of our sin, AND the idea that we are victims when we suffer. Therefore, hurting people need to be reminded of the grace and mercy of God. Failing to do this will leave those who are suffering either in a place of self-righteous defense or of hopeless, shameful despair. We can encourage those who are suffering to avoid the victim mindset by acknowledging their need for God. We can also remind them that God is full of grace and mercy, and He is not punishing them for their sin but is willing to forgive when we call on His name.

If we are going to look more like the Great Physician than worthless physicians, we are going to need the Holy Spirit to guide and empower us. May He lead us to care for others in such a way that we avoid the pitfalls of Job’s friends.

Join the Conversation

When you are suffering, which is your tendency: to view yourself as a victim or to be wracked with guilt?

How is the grace and mercy of God good news for you when you are suffering? How is it good news for people you are caring for who are suffering?

What are a few of the attributes of God that are especially encouraging for you when you are in the midst of a painful season?

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

Helping the Sluggard


Counseling involves several issues different from the presenting problem. Secondary issues add complexities that challenges the counselor to make wise decisions regarding the best course of action to help struggling counselees. Most of the times, it is wise to keep the main thing in focus. However, there are times when it is necessary to deal with secondary issues as fast as you can.

Laziness is a common secondary issue that aggravates any presenting problem. Laziness is not secondary because it is not a sin, but because it is rarely the presenting problem. Usually, counselees are not seeking help because they are lazy and want to change. However, laziness becomes a powerful, aggravating issue. Laziness hinders true change because it keeps the counselee away from God-given sources of change.

Therefore, we need a biblical understanding and a Christ-centered solution for a common issue in counseling that aggravates any presenting problem. This is not a systematic approach on how to counsel the sluggard, but a biblical introduction to the matter.

Identifying the Sluggard

The Bible clarifies who is the sluggard. There are three main categories to identify a sluggard in the book of Proverbs. Note how laziness is going to hinder your attempt to counsel on each one of the categories below.

1. By What He Does

  • Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15, ESV).
  • As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed” (Proverbs 26:14, ESV).
  • The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4, ESV).

Proverbs pictures the sluggard as someone who loves his sleep and has many cravings. None of his cravings is satisfied because the sluggard does not work on them. The sluggard might be honest about the desire to see changes, but this desire is not leading his heart. The sluggard loves his pleasure and comfort, even to the point of remaining in his sin. The sluggard admits that changing would be a good thing, but not at the expense of comfort and pleasure.

2. By What He Does Not

  • Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth” (Proverbs 12:27, ESV).

The sluggard does not do his work. He is someone driven by comfort, not diligence. When this is true of your struggling counselee, he is not seriously engaging spiritual disciplines. Counsel is going to fail because laziness disconnects the counselee from the true source of change: God’s Word written and incarnated.

3. By What the Community Says

  • Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him” (Proverbs 10:26, ESV).

Eventually, the community is going to recognize the sluggard. Laziness is not a personal issue alone, but also a community problem. Laziness affects those who are around the sluggard.

The Heart of the Matter

  • The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!’ As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth. The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (Proverbs 26:13–16, ESV).

Proverbs helps us to see what the heart of laziness is. Pride is at the core of a lazy heart. Excuses given are masks of a prideful heart who knows it all. The sluggard does not wash his dishes because they are going to get dirty in the next meal. He does not make his own bed, because he is going to mess it again at the end of the day. He does not read a book, because he knows that he is not going to understand all of it. He does not work on his spiritual disciplines because he knows that a week later he is going to drop it anyway! Why bother? The sluggard is certain that he heard the roaring of the “lion in the road”!

The Hope for Change

1. From Creation

  • Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6–11, ESV).

Laziness is not a neutral character issue, but a sinful habit that affects the person as a whole. Confessing and repenting are the immediate responses for real change. If pride is the issue, Solomon humbles the sluggard with a humbling example: ants. Solomon humbles the sluggard with appropriate irony: “how long,” “when.” Solomon admonishes the sluggard with long-term consequences to short-term decisions.

2. From the Creator
There is sufficient hope on seeing the book of Proverbs in light of the big picture of the Gospel. The bad news of sin finds the good news of the Gospel for real change. The path of wisdom is a requirement that all failed. We are all born foolish in sins. However, we find our hope in Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

Sin on top of sin robs the hope that counselees need for real change. Therefore, there might be occasions when secondary issues are going to take priority. It might be a good idea to stop a little bit to observe some ants in order to continue to grow and change. Little ants picture the diligence of their Big Creator. It is through the sacrifice of the most diligent One, Jesus Christ, which we might encounter the power to change from laziness to diligence.

Join the Conversation

People do not have just one problem (the presenting problem). How do you prioritize what you are going to deal during the course of your counseling? Do you see the need to stop and deal with secondary issues in order to continue to help your counselee? What are some of these issues?

Do you see laziness in your counselee? How are you responding to “vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes”? Are you showing loving patience or irritation?

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

The Joy of Eternity


We’ve all heard the conversation in one way, shape, or form—when expectant parents are asked whether they are hoping for a boy or girl. The stock answer?” It doesn’t matter, as long as our baby is healthy.”

Have you ever wondered how that vignette sounds in the ears of a parent of a child with special needs or worse—the ears of the child himself? So frequently the attention is focused on what is bad, what is wrong, or what is lacking.

“I Will Give You Rest”

I suppose that is understandable to a point. Being a child with special needs or being blessed with such a child as a parent has its attendant challenges to be sure. But on the other end of the equation stands a compassionate Savior who says: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

My wife Kris and I have experienced that dynamic with our twenty-two-year-old son, Andrew. His list of disabilities is long including blindness, hormone deficiencies, seizures, etc. But it is interesting and instructive to me that in the providence of God, I was asked to write this article on our Andrew’s spiritual birthday. Several years ago on this very date, while sitting on the bank of our favorite fishing pond, Andrew in his child-like way, asked Jesus Christ to be His Lord and Savior.

Hopefully the thought of eternity motivates and encourages each of us every day. But having a son like Andrew heightens that awareness. We long for the day when he sees with new eyes, thinks with a new mind, and walks in a new body. All of this is possible because of our Savior’s finished work on the cross. Yes we sometimes become weary, but Christ gives us rest. His yoke lovingly teaches us because He is gentle and humble in heart.

I understand that not every child with special needs has the mental capacity to make such a decision for Christ and others may choose not to. Parents who find themselves walking those paths can find their rest from Jesus in other ways. But by God’s grace, our family has special reasons to long for eternity. Romans 8:18–19 is never far from our gaze where Paul said; “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”

I wish you could hear Andrew pray. I wish you could hear him sing worship songs in church. I wish you could hear him ask forgiveness. He’s special all right. But not in ways you might immediately think. Jesus has given him, and us, rest.

So the next time you hear the “are you hoping for a boy or girl” question, consider gently interjecting with—“it doesn’t matter, because Jesus will give us rest.”

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

BCC Weekend Megaphone Post: Columbus Biblical Counseling Conference 2015

A Word from Your BCC Team: On weekends, we often like to highlight upcoming biblical counseling conferences. This weekend we are using our BCC “megaphone” to make you aware of the October 16-17, 2015 Columbus, Ohio Biblical Counseling Conference 2015 The conference is being hosted by Fellowship Baptist Church of Dublin, Ohio. Dr. Bob Kellemen and Pastor Jim Stevanus are the keynote speakers.

Gospel-Centered Counseling: How to Care Like Christ

Life is hard and if you sense an easy stretch presently, the road bends just ahead. And in the world of struggle and hurt, a maze of philosophies abound to help you deal with life. Unfortunately, most fall short of the finish line and at best, only help you limp along for a time. What do you say and how do you respond when a friend or neighbor or a coworker shares his or her crisis with you? What insight do you provide?

Instead of simply offering condolences or glib phrases, you can do something far more. The Bible asserts this amazing declaration:

“His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

We have the sufficiency of God’s Word to help impact others for God’s glory. It alone has the eternal answers we need to not simply exist or get by, but to live victoriously.

Join us for this weekend of counseling workshops, October 16-17, 2015, intended to assist you in helping hurting people, not to mention provide you with biblical tools to handle life in a God-pleasing way. Make the investment as you look to the Scriptures for answers to life’s problems.

Learn Biblical Answers to 8 Ultimate Life Questions: Gospel-Centered Counseling


Together, we will learn what God’s Word says about life’s 8 ultimate questions.

  1. Ultimate Life Question # 1: “Where do we find wisdom for life in a broken world?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 2: “Whose view of God will we believe—Christ’s or Satan’s?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 3: “Whose are we?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 4: “What’s the root source of our problem?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 5: “How does Christ change people?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 6: “Where can we find a place to believe, belong, and become?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 7: “How does our future destiny impact our lives today as saints who struggle against suffering and sin?”
  1. Ultimate Life Question # 8: “How do we become like Jesus?”

Learn 4 Biblical Compass Points for Caring Like Christ: Gospel Conversations


We’ll also learn together how to put into practice 4 biblical compass points for caring like Christ.

  1. Sustaining: “It’s Normal to Hurt”—Sharing Christ-Like Comfort
  1. Healing: “It’s Possible to Hope”—Sharing Christ-Like Encouragement
  1. Reconciling: “It’s Horrible to Sin, But Wonderful to Be Forgiven”—Sharing Christ-like Care-Fronting
  1. Guiding: “It’s Supernatural to Mature”—Sharing Christ-like Empowerment

Conference Speaker: Dr. Bob Kellemen

BobKellemenBob is the VP for Institutional Development and the Chair of the Biblical Counseling department at Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is also the Resource Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and the Founder & CEO of RPM Ministries. He earned his B.A. in Pastoral Studies from Baptist Bible College, Clarks Summit, PA; his Th.M. in Theology and Biblical Counseling from Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, IN; and his Ph.D. in Counselor Education from Kent State University, Kent, OH.

Bob is a nationally-known speaker, writer, consultant, educator, and counselor. He’s the author of thirteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling and Gospel Conversations. He has equipped thousands of lay people, pastors, and counselors in churches, para-church groups, and educational institutions. For seventeen years he served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. Bob has pastored three churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-four years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and two granddaughters, Naomi and Penelope.

Conference Speaker: Pastor Jim Stevanus

JimStevanusThe host pastor, Jim Stevanus, is a member of ACBC and teaches high schoolers, adult students, and missionaries in biblical counseling. After graduating from Penn State, he came to Christ while working in accounting in Alaska. He has his Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, PA.

After many years of fruitful ministry in Indiana, God led him and his family to become the senior pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in 2002. Jim is married to a wonderful, godly woman, Jacquie, and they have been graced with four children: Jessica, Austin, Caroline and Joelle…oh yeah, and a dog named Lexi.

When and Where

The conference begins Friday, October 16, 2015 at 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM Friday evening. It continues on Saturday, October 17, 2015, at 9:00 AM and concludes at 3:30 PM on Saturday afternoon.

The conference is hosted by and at Fellowship Baptist Church, 6720 Shier Rings Road, Dublin, OH 43016.

Register Now

To learn more about the conference, click here.

To register, click here.

The cost for the full two-day conference is just $55.00.

For more information, contact Teri Haynes, Fellowship Baptist Church, 614-792, 7775,

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Conference, Discipleship, Equipping, Gospel-Centered Ministry, 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

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.

17 Quotes on Worship

Pastor Paul Tautges collates 17 Quotes on Worship.

What Are the Most Common Struggles of a Regular Pastor?

Pastor Brian Croft at his Practical Shepherding site, addresses the question, What Are the Most Common Struggles of a Regular Pastor?

A Powerful Practice for Prayer

Tim Challies acknowledges what would be wise for all of us to admit: maintaining a consistent prayer life is difficult, yet vital. He provides a succinct word of counsel for addressing our prayer lives in A Powerful Practice for Prayer.

2 (Glorious) Truths About God’s Wrath

Pastor J.D. Greear writes, “There is little question that in today’s society, the wrath of God is the most offensive doctrine imaginable.” Then he writes, “as much as we hate to think about wrath, it’s actually a good doctrine—something that when we understand it, leads us to know, love, and worship God. A god without wrath would actually be a god without goodness.” Pastor Greear develops his thinking in 2 (Glorious) Truths About God’s Wrath.

Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

At the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, they are producing Truth in Love podcast. They have also now begun providing complete transcripts of those podcast. Go to this link to read the transcript of Is Same-Sex Attraction Sinful?

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: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Five To Live By, Love, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Prayer, Worship | Tags: , , , , , ,

5 Wonderful Truths about Biblical Confession: Counseling from the Book of Ezra


Our Familiarity with “Confession”

Confession is a word that shows up in many places. Just recently I was standing in line at a store to check out and noticed the magazines were filled with stories of confession. Heading after heading said things like, “So and so confesses to secret love; so and so confesses to secret abuse; so and so confesses to fantasy life; etc.”

But confession is not just found on the magazine racks. I once heard about two separate companies who, for a price, will assist you in confession. One company will allow you to talk to one of their telephone personnel and confess whatever you want to confess. Another company will actually go and confess or apologize to someone on your behalf.

In addition to magazines and phone companies, you can also find several websites that are set up to provide a confessional online. Added to the list are T.V. shows, movies, and books that have the theme of confession running through.

I think it is safe to say that “confession” is a word we often hear.

The Bible & Confession

As Christians, if we want to understand confession, we must turn to God’s Word, the Bible. There we find clearly what God has to say to us. In both the Old and New Testaments, God gives us the truth about confession. We are told not to hide our sin, but to confess it (Proverbs 28:13). David struggled through this as he dealt with his sin (Psalms 32 and 51). We are told to confess our sin to God (I John 1:9), as well as to one another (James 5:16).

Those are just a few of the truths from God about confession. They remind us that confession is not something we see in the world, but it is part of the Christian life. And underlying all of those reminders of confession, whether from the culture or Scripture, is a sense of shame and guilt. People realize they have failed, and they sense a need to clear it up.

And that forces us to ask some questions:

  • What does true confession look like?
  • How would you know if the person you are counseling or discipling is doing more than just getting the issue off their chest and feeling better about things?
  • How does true biblical confession work? What do you say? Who do you say it to? Is it done privately or publicly or both?
  • Is there anything a person does that shows they have genuinely confessed?

Confession: A Broken Heart Before a Merciful God

In the book of Ezra, we find God’s people, who have been in captivity and are broken over their sin, now returning to their homeland to rebuild the temple. God has been abundantly merciful to them and worked His sovereign purposes to restore them. He has provided, through some incredible and unthinkable people like a pagan king, all that they needed to return to both their land and their God.

As I was recently teaching through the book of Ezra, I was reminded of what takes place when God, in His abundant mercy, restores His sinning people. One of those things that takes place is confession. As you study Ezra 9-10, you discover 5 wonderful truths about confession. The first 3 have to do with the “private” side of confession, and the last 2 deal with what takes place “publicly” in confession.

These truths have provided a framework for me to help those I’m pastoring and counseling. They have guided me to make sure confession is being done in a biblical way. In this blog I can only briefly list these things. I hope you will take the time to look up the text beside each point, and I pray they will be helpful in guiding you through the issue of confession as you further develop them and guide those you are counseling.

The 3 Private Elements of Confession: This Is Between You and God

  1. We ADMIT Our Sin: Ezra 9:3-7, 10-12; cf. Ezra 10:2 “We have been unfaithful.”
    The mark of false confession is to downplay sin, to excuse it, and blame it on others. The mark of true confession is to fully own and accept that we, regardless of our circumstances or the influence of others, are responsible for our sin. So, make sure that those we counsel are not offering any excuses for their sin or are just simply acknowledging they have done wrong. If so, guide them to fully accept and admit they are responsible for what they have done.
  1. We Are APPALLED by Our Sin: Ezra 9:4-6 cf. 10:1 “Wept bitterly.”
    When it says that Ezra was “appalled” by sin, it means he was horrified, shocked, astonished. He was moving beyond just being upset or disappointed with himself. He is so grieved he is pulling his hair out. That doesn’t mean we should do this when we grieve over our sin, but it does show us that true confession should reflect some serious struggles over the sin that we are admitting to God. Though the culture we live in encourages people to not be too hard on themselves, we must remind them that this is a part of confession, and it prepares them for the next element.
  1. We Are AWARE of God’s Grace That Is Greater Than Our Sin: Ezra 9:8-15; cf. Ezra 10:2 “Yet now there is hope…in spite of this.”
    In these verses the focus shifts from the faithlessness of God’s people to the faithfulness of God. Because they are admitting their sin, and are appalled at what they have done, they are in a place to see and experience God’s grace and to encounter the overwhelming mercy and kindness of God! This step in confession reminds us though we have sinned we should be looking to God, rather than ourselves, and celebrating His mercy and undeserved grace to us. So, at this point you should ask those you counsel if they are occupied with their sin or God’s grace.

The 2 Public Elements of Confession: This Takes Place with You and Others

  1. We Take ACTION to Forsake Our Sin: Ezra 10:1-17; cf. v. 4 “Be courageous and act.” At this point the evidence of the private side of confession becomes public. This 4th element reflects how deep and true the first three things are in a person’s confession. If they have applied the first three things, then they will make a plan to deal with their sin. If you read this section of Scripture, you will see that what the Israelites were called to do, put away their wives and children, was an extremely difficult thing. And when it comes to putting a plan of action into place, it can be very hard for those we are counseling. So, at this point make sure they have a specific plan of action to forsake their sin, and don’t downplay how difficult it may be to make change.
  1. We Establish ACCOUNTABILITY to Help Us Deal with Our Sin: Ezra 10:18-44. One of the interesting things about that long list of names in these verses is that it put them in a place of public accountability. By having their names written down, others are aware that they said they would make this change. What is accountability? It is the way that we carry out the “one another” passages of the New Testament. There are at least 59 of these things that we are to do in our relationship with each other. Our brothers and sisters in Christ become one of God’s means of grace in our lives. We need them to help us make changes. From James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:23-25, which cover two of the “one another” things we do, I’ve discovered some important things we need when it comes to accountability. I need to “meet together” with a fellow believer, honestly “confess” my sin to them, find the “encouragement” they can offer me through the Word as they walk with me to the throne of grace “in prayer.” So, as you conclude with this 5th element of confession you should ask your counselee who would best help them carry out this type of accountability.

Join the Conversation

So, what have you discovered from God’s Word about confession?

Do you know of any helpful resources that would help us as biblical counselors further develop the elements necessary for guiding our own souls, and those we counsel, through biblical confession?

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

Post-Adultery Reconciliation in Marriage


It Will Never Be the Same

While devastating and heartbreaking, infidelity in a marriage can be worked through to a successful reconciliation. Because of Jesus, we have the ability to forgive as we have been forgiven. The Word of God is sufficient to instruct both the counselor and counselee on the various heart issues the couple will encounter in the reconciliation process.

When the adulterer repents, and both parties are willing to do the hard work of talking through and addressing the underlying sin and relationship issues that led to adultery, wonderful and amazing things can happen! The couple can stay together and can truly find love again. However, it will never be the same.

It is helpful to understand that the marriage affected by adultery is in a sense dead and gone. I don’t mean the couple is no longer married, but that the covenant was broken and the vows of fidelity were sacrificed. The one-flesh union was violated by introducing a third party into the most sacred aspect of marriage. This is why adultery is considered (by many) to be an acceptable reason for Christians to divorce.

Couples who do not accept that adultery has led to the “death” of their marriage may be in for a rough road. These couples act as though it is possible to carry on as though nothing has changed when in reality everything has changed. In fact, for the reconciled marriage to flourish, both husband and wife must welcome change into their union. Things cannot go back to the way they were pre-adultery, because both people are profoundly and permanently changed as a result of the adultery and working through the issues in their marriage and within themselves.

Trust Is Shattered

Because adultery is accompanied by deception, the complete and total trust once shared between the husband and wife is shattered. Even in cases of successful reconciliation, where the injured party is willing to provide opportunities for trust to be rebuilt, the trust level may never be the same. There may be remnants of doubt and fear that linger even years into the restored relationship.

Forgiveness Does Not Equal Trust

Forgiveness is granted, but trust is earned. Trust is not an automatic given in reconciliation; it develops over time. This is often a great relief to the injured party and a big bummer to the one who is repenting. The repentant spouse is often eager to show how much they have changed and expects to be treated as though nothing treacherous has taken place. They don’t expect to be challenged or to be accountable for their actions and time away from home. Very often, what they do expect is to be believed and trusted—now; and they become angry when they realize it is just not going to be that easy. Trust is very difficult to rebuild in a marriage broken by adultery. More so if the unfaithful person was very good at deception.

The injuries caused by adultery can take a long time to heal. If you are in the process of reconciliation due to adultery, it may help you to remember that the injured spouse believed in you, and trusted you enough to share the deepest parts of their soul with you. Sometimes they denied what they saw or suspected because they believed in you so completely. The thought of adultery was absolutely ludicrous—until it wasn’t. Re-establishing trust is a risk for the injured spouse and that has to be taken into consideration as the couple progresses through reconciliation.

Fear of…Everything

The emotional backlash from adultery is extremely difficult to overcome. It is important to understand this does not mean forgiveness has been withheld or that there is bitterness lurking in the heart. As much as the injured person wants to wholeheartedly give themselves to their repentant spouse, there is fear in doing so. Because they were so completely fooled, there is a great desire not to be made a fool again.

The injured person doubts their ability to be discerning. Everything becomes suspect, which is why complete transparency is needed. Unfortunately, cell phones and the internet do little to assuage fears and do a lot to increase anxiety in such cases. Some spouses become obsessed with checking email accounts and electronic devices in an attempt to assure themselves their spouse has truly repented. While such obsessions are not healthy, the repentant spouse should welcome the accountability. When repentance is real, there is nothing to fear. Accountability will prove that.

The injured spouse will struggle for a long time with the inner brokenness that adultery brings. Fears over their own inadequacies will haunt them long after restoration is completed. The repenting spouse may be plagued by guilt and shame as he or she observes the consequences of their actions ripple down into every facet of daily life.

There Is Hope

Even with all of this going against them, the couple can create a new and better marriage than the one demolished by adultery. Through effective biblical counseling, the heart issues (lust, greed, selfishness, idolatry, pride) that charted this course of action will be identified and the adulterer called to repentance and change.

The offended spouse will also have to deal with their own heart issues (anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, self-pity, fear) so that the new marriage commitment can begin on solid ground. There is no room for looking for specks in each other’s eyes; this is a long-term logging contract done on themselves. Willingness to confess sin and ask forgiveness, humility, openness, and demonstrations of sacrificial love will move the couple toward reaching the goal of reunification. It is important for the couple to remember that despite the hardships along the way, there is great blessing and reward in pursuing reconciliation. It is the most beautiful example of Christ-likeness when both husband and wife are willing to forgive and restore the marriage relationship.

Join the Conversation

What challenges have you encountered in post-adultery reconciliation counseling?

Topics: Adultery, BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Trust | Tags: , , , ,

The Union of the Trinity and the Implications for a Husband


In the Beginning

In the beginning, God gave man work, a warning, and then a woman (Genesis 2:1-24). God had order, structure, and process for man to follow. God’s order, structure, and process are revealed throughout Genesis 1 and 2. God created, and the world and mankind exist. From the beginning, God has been giving direction for how mankind is to operate in life and in marriage.

It is through the evaluation of the Trinity that a husband can learn some key ways by which he can develop in genuine relation with his wife. Let’s explore one aspect of the Trinity that we can use to guide a husband into building a God-honoring relationship with his wife.

God Is an Inseparable Union within the Three Persons of the Trinity

“The Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence so completely united as to form one God.”[1] Each person of the Trinity is called God, thereby affirming their essence as God. Each person of the Trinity works in unity with one another. The Trinity operates in subordination within their community. God the Father is the head. God the Son submits to the Father. God the Spirit submits to God the Son. However, this does not take away from their equality and oneness. This is the way God has chosen to operate and relate within their community and to creation.

God Intended for a Marriage to Be an Inseparable Union

God intended for a husband to stay in union with his wife on earth until death (Matthew 19: 3-6). Jesus proclaimed that a husband and wife were joined by God and should not be separated by man.[2] As God is an inseparable union within the three persons of the Trinity, so should man be inseparable from his wife. As a husband sees the inseparable relationship within the community of God, he must seek to nurture, protect, and care for his marriage, so that his marriage will be a union that is inseparable and unbroken like the Triune God.[3]

A Husband Must Work on Maintaining the Inseparable Union

In order for a husband to build a marriage that is inseparable, he must understand the nature of his covenant with God and his wife. According to Genesis 2:24, marriage was intended to be an exclusive and permanent bond between a man and woman entered into before God.[4] Therefore, a husband must view his marriage in terms of exclusivity and permanence. Then he will be able to operate within his marriage as God operates within the Trinity.

In addition, in order for the husband to build a marriage that is inseparable, he will need to spend time learning his wife and developing in companionship with his wife. [5]A husband will not know how to nurture his wife if he has not come to understand what his wife needs to function as God has designed. Nor, will he be able to care for and protect his wife and the marriage if he has not come to understand her fears and insecurities. Therefore, a husband must seek to live with his wife in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). Moreover, seeing the marriage as exclusive and permanent can lead the husband to reject the idea of divorce or extra-marital affairs. As a husband builds a marriage that is inseparable he will embrace the marriage as exclusive and permanent, seeing his wife as the first and only option in relation to all aspects of marriage ordained by God.

Join the Conversation

What aspects of the Trinity will you consider and pursue to reflect within your marriage?

[1]Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Ill: Moody Press, 1989), 199.

[2]Andreas J. Kostenberger, God, Marriage and Family (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2004), 62.



[5]Lou Priolo, The Complete Husband: A Practical Guide to Biblical Husbanding (Amityville, NY: Calvary Press, 1999), 17-18.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Marriage & Family, Men/Husbands, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Women/Wives | Tags: , , , ,

A Bible Reading Plan for the Counselee (and Me)


Bible Reading Is Invaluable

Bible reading is a most important part of the counseling process. Since “the Word of God is alive and active,” the counselor prayerfully chooses passages of the Scriptures for the counselee to read and study that will be most helpful to the counselee. Then the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) uses the Scriptures since “it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) to transform the counselee to be like Christ. Those of you that have been involved in intentional discipleship for any time have had the wonderful privilege of seeing the hand of God use His Word in a counselee’s life.

Bible Reading Has to Continue

A challenge with regard to Bible reading comes toward the closing of the counseling process. During the counseling, you have been most diligent in assigning Bible reading “Projects for Growth” (also known as “Homework,” but only kids do homework). But now what will the counselee do for Bible reading for the rest of their lives? A well-intentioned counselor may kindly say, “Now that you have the habit of reading the Scriptures each day, continue this most valuable discipline for the rest of your life even long after you have forgotten my name.” But where do they read? Up to now, you have told them where to do it. After counseling, some counselees fall off the wagon with regard to Bible reading, because they have gone from a time of intense structure to “you’re on your own.”

May I propose for your consideration a most simple, straight-forward, and easy plan that will keep them in the Word of God until they develop their own pattern? One that I have found helpful is simply called “Reading the New Testament this Year.” For over 30 years, this has been a principal means that God has used in my life for ingesting His Word (Matthew 4:4), for communing with Him through His Word (1 John 1:2-4), and for cooperating with His transforming work in my life (Romans 12:1-2).

A Method

How this plan is followed is even simpler than the name. Basically, you read somewhere between a chapter of the New Testament each day to five chapters a week. That’s all there is to it in terms of complexity. No charts to follow or dividing the reading in the middle of chapters. The plan works since there are 365 days in a year but just 260 chapters in the New Testament. So there are many more days to read in a year than chapters to be read. Actually, only five chapters need to be read each week. If five chapters are read each of the 52 weeks of the year, then a total of 260 will be read. This is exactly how many chapters there are in the New Testament. So if a day or two of reading is missed in a week or a reader desires to linger in a chapter for an extra day, the plan accommodates this perfectly.

The most direct way to start this adventure with God is to just begin reading Matthew chapter 1 the first day. Then read the 2nd chapter of Matthew the second and so on until the Gospel of Matthew is complete. After that, begin reading the second book of the New Testament, Mark, and continuing through all 27 books as they are laid out in the New Testament. This is certainly the most direct and easiest way to proceed through the New Testament.

Life of Christ Throughout

To provide a regular reading about the life of Jesus throughout the year, there is another way of ordering the reading. The above outlined method has the Gospels read all at once in the beginning of the year. This has its value, but there is merit to reading of the Gospels throughout the year. To do this, begin reading the Book of Matthew as outlined above. Once Matthew is complete, then proceed to reading the Book of Acts and then on through the rest of the New Testament with periodic Gospel readings that evenly divide the New Testament. To accomplish this, after reading through Romans, read Mark. After Ephesians, read Luke. And finally after Hebrews, read John, and then complete the reading of the New Testament on through Revelation.

With this plan of reading, the counselee (and me) are soon reading in Revelation and eager to begin the New Testament over again, along with readings from the Old Testament added as well. In practice, near the end of our counseling time, I assign this plan as part of their Bible reading so as to make sure any bumps are worked out before they’re on their own. By following this simple plan, your counselee will be able to stay on track, constantly reading the Word of God even when your time of intentional discipleship has come to a close.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sufficiency of Scripture | 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.