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

What Changes for a Church when Counseling Becomes Formal?

What Changes for a Church when Counseling Becomes Formal

BCC Staff Note: Today’s blog was first posted by Brad Hambrick at his blog site and is used by permission. You can read Brad’s original post here.

One-Another Ministry and Formal Counseling Ministry

What does it mean for a church to have a “counseling ministry”? It is one thing to say “we all do counseling every day when we hear each other’s struggles and seek to offer comfort or guidance from the Bible” and another thing to say “our church has a counseling ministry and we would be happy to help you schedule an appointment with a member of our counseling team.”

Most churches and pastors can intuitively sense a difference in these two statements, but have a hard time articulating the difference… and an even harder time understanding the implications. This is a primary reason why churches most often avoid doing anything that is called “counseling.”

A significant transition does occur when we move from one-another ministry to formal counseling. One-another ministry happens organically—helping conversations emerging from a naturally-paired relationship.

  • People get to know one another because they are in the same small group, serve on the same ministry team, or have kids the same age.
  • Conversation begins with the day-to-day events of life and moves towards confiding the struggles of life.
  • Trust is established on the basis of shared-life and respect for how each other approaches life.

Formal counseling, by contrast, occurs as a result of an “artificial pairing.” A struggle in life causes an individual to seek out a helper with particular qualifications. Key markers for a church to be aware of (both for liability and good member-care reasons) about this change are:

  • A request for counseling is made by the helpee.
  • The church assigns or recommends a helper who would not otherwise be a part of the helpees life.
  • The helpee comes to the helper with the expectation that counsel will be provided on the basis of helper’s training, role, or experience.

When a church facilitates a counseling-related artificial pairing it has a responsibility to both the helper and the helpee. To the helper (those they enlist as volunteer lay counselors or those they refer to for professional counseling) the church should ensure:

(1) There is a reasonable opportunity for success on the part of the helper, and

(2) That the helpee comes with accurate expectations of type of help being provided.

A church should know the scope of care possible by a given ministry or individual and only refer individuals to that ministry who are a good-fit for what that ministry provides.

To the helpee the church should provide clear information about:

(1) The type of care a given ministry or counselor provides;

(2) The level of training a counselor or ministry leader has completed;

(3) The type of curriculum or activity that will be involved in the counseling process; and

(4) An estimate of the duration of the helping relationship.

When these ministries are provided through the church, this requires clear information on a church’s website, a well-informed receptionist who fields call about counseling inquiries, and quality intake forms.

The question could be raised,

“If one-another ministry is counseling, then why treat formal counseling more stringently?”

A parallel with missions is helpful. Every Christian should live missionally by seeking opportunities to share the gospel and advance the cause of Christ. However, almost every church or missions agency screens formal missionary candidates to make sure they are a good fit and properly equipped before sending them to do mid-term or career mission work.

In this sense, the words of Stephen Neil about missions would be applicable to counseling, “When everything is mission, nothing is mission.”[i] Passing out communion or being a positive influence in a community sports league is different from taking the gospel to an unreached people group.

Similarly, when everything is counseling, nothing is counseling; the word “counseling” loses any meaning as an activity distinct from “doing life together.” The immensely beneficial interaction of a small group to provide an experience of safe relationships is different from someone understanding how to guide another through the traumatic effects of childhood sexual abuse. A friend listening to the chaos of a marital argument is different from guiding a couple through a decision about separation during an ongoing affair when children are “taking sides” in order not to lose contact with the less involved parent.

But that does not in any way downplay that essential nature of one-another ministry. The sexual abuse survivor needs a small group in which to experience healthy relationships while learning how to cultivate them. The couple recovering from adultery needs friends to call when they’re discouraged, tempted, or confused. However, without the training and formality of higher levels of competence, these situations could overwhelm the small group and friends to the point that the one-another ministers withdraw.

When counseling does involve an artificial pairing, the counselor should seek to return or involve care from natural pairings as early as possible. An excellent model to allow for this is the advocate system developed by Garret Higbee.[ii] When this is not possible, then part of “graduating” to formal counseling should be a discussion of how to best involve the counselee’s one-another relationships to solidify the progress made in counseling.

More information to help your church mobilize an effective counseling ministry will be available at the following conference:

COUNSELING IN YOUR LOCAL CHURCH:
Understanding the Liabilities & Possibilities of Lay Care Ministries
Date: Friday January 23, 2015
Time: 9am to 5pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek Campus
Address: 2335 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: $99 / person (lunch provided)
RSVP and Find More Information Here


 

[i]Stephen Neill, Creative Tension: The Duff Lectures, 1958 (London: Edinburgh House, 1959), 81.

[ii]Excellent resource to help churches pair formal care with informal care to allow for this transition is Garrett Higbee, Uncommon Community (available at www.store.harvestbiblechapel.org) .

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Conference, Local Church Ministry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , ,

What Does the Biblical Counsel God Is “Into” Look Like?

What Does the Biblical Counsel God Is Into Look Like

In a previous post entitled, Is God Really Into Biblical Counseling, I considered the relevance of the idea of “biblical counseling” to God’s plans and purposes for the church. There is great wisdom in stepping back from time to time to survey the course we have set, to be sure that it isn’t an aberrant trajectory.

The mere existence of the Bible along with how the Bible speaks about itself (see Psalms 1, 19, 119, and Jeremiah 17:5-8, and many other places) gives us insight into God’s heart and intent for His Word to intersect with our every day lives. The Bible is God’s revelation of His glorious self to people who were created to be like Him so that we would know the way back to the glory we lost in the Garden of Eden.

From its pages, we can learn that it is relevant when we are depressed, discouraged, afraid, in conflict, confused, and in any other struggle we might experience. At times the Bible addresses the reader of all generations, in all cultures. At other times, we get to peek into intimate exchanges He has with specific people. In either case, we can be assured that God’s explicit purpose for the Bible’s existence is so that He might speak into the lives of His image bearers—yes, to counsel us—as we navigate life in the world He created.

Furthermore, God makes it clear in His word that His book is not only a source for guidance in life. It is the source (Psalm 1; Jeremiah 17:5-9); that any time we settle for less than His wisdom, we will suffer debilitating consequences. In the words of Jeremiah we will be like a tree in the wilderness that is fearful and fruitless when the heat comes.

The Bible Is the Source; What Does It Look Like?

A survey of the Scripture for an answer to this question is revelatory and wonderfully freeing. When we consider how God counseled people, we find innumerable variations. He confronted and exhorted Cain. He comforted and cared for Elijah. He challenged Esther’s faith and used a story to expose David. He disciplined, pled with, and punished the Israelites.

The New Testament offers more of the same. When Peter challenged Jesus, He reprimanded him, but when he had failed in his commitment to remain loyal, Jesus reassured and restored him. He convicted Saul of Tarsus of his sin, and He completely reoriented Peter and Cornelius. The bottom line—He engaged with people—knew what they needed—shaped His words according to the need—always moved by a deep love to see them live in light of His glory. Not only do we learn this by observation; Paul instructs us in this precise manner: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak …” (1Thessalonias 5:14).

Ah! But Here’s the Catch

When Jesus was commissioning His church (a great place to begin when we are thinking about how we are to live as the church), He instructed us as to how we are to counsel each other (He was giving us counsel regarding counsel). The role of the church is to make disciples by teaching them all that He commanded us. As we seek to guide people as to how they will navigate life, we will look to wisdom that has already been spoken and written down and demonstrated in His life. It is not up to humanity to come up with something new. The wisdom needed has already been given.

For further insight we can look to John’s detailed record of Jesus’ last address to those closest to Him. It is intimate and infused with deep emotion. As the reality of His ‘leaving’ begins to take root in their understanding, He seeks to comfort them with this truth: it is actually to their advantage that He go away because when He does, He will send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to indwell them. (John 16:7) His role would be to bring to their minds all that Jesus had taught. (John 14:26) The inference of course, being that what He taught needed to be remembered. The words He had spoken in their midst were not just helpful; they are God revealed; essential for life in the world He created.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus was challenged by His listeners when they were astonished with His teaching. In His response, He contrasted those who speak from themselves and those who seek God’s glory (John 7:15-18). Let that sink in. The contrast is … we speak from ourselves … or … we seek God’s glory.

So, what does biblical counseling look like? It looks like any and all of the ways God has spoken into this world but it will ‘look like’ God.

I can’t help but see this in light of Adam and Eve’s experience in The Garden—so much liberty— one prohibition. What does the biblical counseling God is into look like? It looks like Him in all of His many characteristics because, as His people drink deeply from the well of Living Water and eat the Living Bread, He will be the life flowing out from us.

We will know not to look to any other source of wisdom because our ways and thoughts are immeasurably inferior to His (Isaiah 55:8). But neither will our counsel be stifled by specific methodologies or steps. It will be expressed in real relationships, through real love and understanding. We will listen to understand and speak the wisdom of God into each other’s lives and God will be glorified and He is definitely ‘into’ that!

The counsel God is “into” will look like Him. His truth. Offered in love. With speech tailored to the needs of the moment.

Join the Conversation

What is your answer to the question, What Does the Biblical Counsel God Is “Into” Look Like?

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

What Is “Tough Love”? Part 2

What Is Tough Love--Part Two

BCC Note: You’re reading Part 2 of a two-part post by Dr. Mark Shaw on Tough Love. In Part 1, Dr. Shaw contrasted the world’s definition of “tough love” with the Word’s definition. Today in Part 2, Dr. Shaw explores the role of “tough love” in biblical counseling. You can also read Mark’s post at the Faith Church website here.

Where Is the Place of “Tough Love” in Biblical Counseling?

Helping someone become more like Christ, thereby glorifying God, is never easy. In biblical counseling sessions we are tasked with the assignment of ministering the Word of God in the love of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and the correction needed to become Christ-like. Then, it is up to the counselee to respond in a way that would please God. Some who have patterned their responses to life’s circumstances in a fleshly-driven way may not recognize our counsel from God’s Word as love, but some will, and will praise God and rejoice in the process.

The counselor’s ministry of the Word to the counselee may bring conviction if needed, encouragement if needed, strength if needed, wisdom if needed, discernment if needed, comfort if needed, and discipline if needed. Notice the “if needed” wording because it is the work of the Holy Spirit and not the counselor’s own skill set that provides what is needed though a counselor must pray to be skillfully led by the Spirit of God to counsel in a wise and gentle manner. God truly knows what the counselee needs. The counselor’s duty is to faithfully minister the Word of God and deliver His message of truth accurately.

The counselee’s response does not hinge solely upon the counselor’s ways. All of us are flawed, sinful men and women, so we cannot take the praise for the counselee’s progress, nor can we take the blame for the lack thereof. For example, when I counsel, even if I do not speak in the most winsome manner possible (though I would hope to), the counselee is ultimately responsible to respond to the biblical counsel given in a way that honors God and overcomes evil with good (Romans 12:21). It is the responsibility of the counselee to see God in the situation and to listen to the Word of God whether or not the messenger has offended the counselee. Obviously, I want to reiterate that I hope nothing in how I offer counsel would be sinful, angry, or hurtful, but the reality is that I am not nearly as loving and genuine as Jesus who counseled by speaking the truth in love to others.

The Response to “Tough Love” in Jesus’ Ministry

Look at the historical account recorded in Mark 10:21-22 when Jesus gave wise, loving counsel to the rich young ruler:

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

The man’s response to what he might have mistakenly viewed as tough love from Jesus was not one of immediate repentance, thankfulness or joy. Instead, his response was to give up, which is what “disheartened” means. He lost heart. Not only that, but he was full of sorrow and sadness.

In today’s terminology, he became clinically depressed, gave up his pursuit of knowing God, and walked away from Jesus after this message of truth—it was an unrighteous response. This rich young ruler wanted to quit after hearing the hard truth about the one thing he lacked and what he could do to inherit eternal life—which was his original question to Jesus in Mark 10:17. He asked the question, but he was unwilling to receive the true answer, and less willing to respond to it righteously.

Jesus was being very gracious to him by telling him the truth and His counsel revealed the ruler’s heart to serve self rather than God and the poor. The rich young ruler failed to love his neighbor in failing to love the Messiah.

As a fallible biblical counselor, why would I ever think that I could be more loving and kind than Jesus? I cannot be. I can’t convince every heart to turn to Him by my own ideas. Why would I think that anyone would ever receive what I have to say more readily than they would receive what Jesus had to say?

Do I sometimes wrongly decide how much truth a person can hear and can bear so I withhold truth so as not to offend my counselee? But in those moments, I now see that instead of being loving, I am actually being unloving and even borderline hateful to fail to speak the whole truth in love to someone regardless of how I think they might respond! How arrogant to think I know the outcome and how selfish to think I want to avoid rejection! In those moments, I am not thinking about my relationship with God and His calling upon my life to deliver His message no matter what the circumstances.

I become an editor of God’s message of the Gospel rather than a messenger of it.

How sad for me to think I know better than the Lord. How sinfully prideful, also. My duty is to be faithful to God and to view myself as a biblical counselor who delivers His message to a counselee regardless of whether they are viewing it as tough love or not. It is love, plain and simple, because it is the message from God. The response of the counselee must never motivate my ministry of God’s Word.

God’s Love

Tough love is tough on the giver and the receiver, humanly speaking. No question about it. As a human, it’s tough to give tough love because it’s speaking the truth of God’s Word in the love of the Holy Spirit while recognizing how sinful I am. I must approach every counseling session with great humility in my personal need for a Savior and forgiveness of my sins. I need the Holy Spirit to speak through me as a counselor and minister of His Word.

And as a counselor, I must remember that I do not decide what truth is or how much I think a counselee can handle though I do want to exercise caution not to push my own agenda when counseling. One skill of counseling is knowing how and when to say the hard things that the counselee needs to hear so I am not excusing poor methods. I am simply to be a faithful steward of the Gospel which is offensive and often viewed as foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18-19).

As a human, it’s tough to receive tough love because it means I must need a correction; I must see that I am doing something wrong. My pride makes tough love tough to receive.

But from God’s perspective, it’s not tough to give tough love. In fact, there is no such thing as tough love from His perspective because everything He is and everything He does is perfectly loving as 1 John 4:8-9 reminds us:

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

God’s love—manifested most powerfully in sending His own Son into the world to die a cruel and bloody death—models how sacrificially He loves and how we are to love others, too. While I might struggle with the reality of tough love in this life as a human being, I am glad that tough love from God’s perspective is simply the love that He knows I need!

Join the Conversation

What is the place of “tough love” in biblical counseling?

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

What Is “Tough Love”? Part 1

What Is Tough Love--Part One

BCC Note: You’re reading Part 1 of a two-part post by Dr. Mark Shaw on Tough Love. In Part 1, Dr. Shaw contrasts the world’s definition of “tough love” with the Word’s definition. You can also read Mark’s post at the Faith Church website here.

God’s Indispensable, Infinite Love

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, we read:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…”

Most believers are familiar with this passage because God is love and these verses are an encouraging description of God’s love of flawed, fallen people. On my best day, I need God’s patient, kind, and non-irritable love; how grateful I am for His grace and mercy. This passage describes love to us in a way that is reassuring to sinful humanity.

Here at Faith Church we’ve been learning how to love our neighbors in practical ways through an expository sermon series through several passages of Scripture including the book of 1 John. This year’s theme at our church, Loving Our Neighbors, reminds us of God’s love to us and how we are to manifest that love to others without compromising the truth of the Word of God. Difficulties arise within our own sinful hearts as we heed the call to love our neighbors, and so I have been challenged recently to ponder the concept commonly called tough love.

What Is Tough Love? The World’s Definition

Where does one go to discover the definition of tough love? Well, I went to Wikipedia, which is not always the most accurate source of truth because it’s written and edited by almost any willing Internet volunteer around the globe. However, I deemed that this is precisely the place to obtain a fairly accurate picture of what our culture thinks of the concept of tough love.

The Wiki definition is:

“Tough love is an expression used when someone treats another person harshly or sternly with the intent to help them in the long run. The phrase was evidently coined by Bill Milliken when he wrote the book Tough Love in 1968… In most uses, there must be some actual love or feeling of affection behind the harsh or stern treatment to be defined as tough love. For example, genuinely concerned parents refusing to support their drug-addicted child financially until he or she enters drug rehabilitation would be said to be practicing tough love.”

If you are familiar with many of my publications, you will not be surprised that I find it interesting that the first example of tough love they mention is addiction-related!

What Is Tough Love? The Word’s Definition

Let’s take a look at this definition through biblical eyes. A person receiving tough love is being treated “harshly” or “sternly,” but note that this can only apply to human love since God is never harsh in His love to His children. Another note is that this definition is based purely upon the human perception possessed by the recipient of tough love. If we Christians believe that humanity is sinful from head-to-toe, then we understand that while humanity may perceive harshness in the love of God through discipline, however, that perception is not true since God’s love is anything but “harsh.” According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, love that reflects God’s love is patient and kind, not harsh or stern.

Here’s an encouraging thought:

God’s children will never experience His wrath directly since that righteous wrath was poured out on Jesus at the Cross for our sins.

I am grateful that the Lord is never harsh toward me—whether I realize it or not. Though God’s discipline of me may seem unpleasant in the moment, according to Hebrews 12:11-12:

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees…”

Do we see what God’s Word is exhorting His children to do here? We are not to be discouraged (evidenced by drooping hands and weak knees) when disciplined by the Lord because He is loving us by practicing what the world calls tough love—albeit, tough as defined by the one who is being disciplined and in the moment views it as painful.

The “long run” goal of those described in Wikipedia’s definition of tough love is to “help the person” being disciplined while God’s long-term goal when disciplining His children is for them to be trained to yield peace and righteousness. Ultimately, through the trying, unpleasant moment of tough love, God’s goal is always to glorify Himself as that person becomes more conformed to the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 12 warns God’s children not to incorrectly view His sometimes painful discipline as “harsh.” While the phrase tough love may be an accurate way to describe a form of human love (like when parents set tough limits on a person who is killing herself with a drug habit), it simply conveys the human perspective of the one either doing the disciplining or being disciplined. It’s tough because of how unpleasant it seems at that moment for both human parties. Yet the worldly concept of tough love only describes human love and falls woefully short as a description of God’s love since His agape love is never sinfully harsh and is always constructive.

Join the Conversation

How would you compare and contrast the world’s definition of “tough love” and the Word’s definition of “tough love”?

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

BCC Weekend Resource: Sanctification: Help and Hope in the Midst of Overwhelming Hopelessness

The BCC Weekend Resource

BCC Staff Note: On weekends we like to highlight for you one of our growing list of free resources. This weekend we highlight a resource audio from the 2014 IBCD Summer Institute. For a complete list of speakers and messages, visit the IBCD Summer Institute 2014 home page.

In this resource, George Scipione addresses Help and Hope for You and Your Counselees in the Midst of Overwhelming Hopelessness. How do we respond as biblical counselors when our counselees come to us in a state of despair? This resource offers not only practical counseling suggestions, but heart-focused, gospel-centered hope for both the counselor and the counselee.

Popout Audio Player

Topics: Audio, Doubt, Hope, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification | 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.

Scripture and Counseling

Dr. Bob Kellemen, our BCC Executive Directive, shares a two-part Author Interview regarding Scripture and Counseling: God’s Word for Life in a Broken World. Enjoy Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

The Danger of Dread

Ed Welch at CCEF reflects on The Danger of Dread.

What’s Medical About Mental Illness?

Follow this link and you’ll be able to view Dr. Charles Hodges’ plenary presentation at the ACBC conference on What’s Medical About Mental Illness? 

Husbands Are Imperfect Mirrors

The Bible, of course, calls husbands to love their wives with a Christ-like love. Paul Tautges reminds us that even the most loving of Husbands Are Imperfect Mirrors.

Worship on a Bad Day

Everything changes when we know how the story ends. Matthew Westerholm of Desiring God applies that to Worship on a Bad Day.

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: , , , , , , , ,

The Fight Is On! Am I Ready?

The Fight Is On! Am I Ready?

I would expect that if someone was going into battle to fight for our country they would have the proper equipment. I would know they would have the proper camouflage clothing and footwear and the necessary head gear. I would be certain they would have the proper weapons for the battle they were facing. I would also be sure they had been properly equipped for the task that lay ahead of them. And I would hope they took their training seriously because to them or a comrade it could mean life or death.

Why is it that as followers of Jesus who are in a war for our very souls we are so lax in our battle preparations? We take life so lightly that when trouble comes we duck and run or hide or our reactions are so out of character for a Christ follower it would almost seem we were on the wrong side. We often live as though we have no arsenal at our disposal.

Our Enemy

Recently I learned that when a bear is wounded or shot he has the ability to lower his heart rate to slow the flow of blood and thus prevent himself from bleeding out. It means he can still be on the attack. It makes him unpredictable and meaner and more aggressive.

As believers we know another who also has lost his battle. And he knows it. That makes him meaner, more aggressive, and more unpredictable. Satan moves around slithering, sometimes very subtle and quiet and other times right in your face as he hurls things at you. He has been described as a roaring lion and also a snake. Both have the ability to come at us out of nowhere.

But why are we surprised? We are in a war zone. Every day we fight little battles that have the ability to give us victory or defeat.

Satan has already lost for all eternity, but he continues to launch mortar against us every day. If he can keep us from living like Christ, then our neighbors won’t see Jesus and won’t desire Him. Our families won’t come closer to Him because the way we are living is not endearing others to Him because we aren’t really living out His character. Our co-workers, those in the grocery line, or countless others we touch every day won’t see Jesus.

We are sometimes so oblivious to living in a war zone that we are not thinking that what comes out of us is saying something about Who we follow. We don’t see the little daily irritations as places where we reveal who we are really fighting for and so we excuse or justify our behavior.

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

We need to be reminded that the battle belongs to Lord (1 Samuel 17:47). And we need encouragement: “Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Yes the battle is God’s battle. He promises to train us, equip us, and go ahead of us. And sometimes I am convinced He defeats the enemy I am not even aware of, but other times the children of Israel are instructed in how to fight. God is our Captain. He leads the charge. Every moment of our day has the potential to be a war zone. Are we following close to our Commander?

Christ Has Already Defeated the Enemy

Romans 8:38-39 reminds us: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Nothing can separate us from God. No one has the power to change the outcome. How glorious and freeing! Satan has lost and yet…we are exhorted to be alert and dress for battle (1 Peter 1:8; 1 Samuel 17:34). Why? Satan desires for us to live a joyless, defeated, hopeless life. Satan desires for us to live a life that won’t give testimony to Christ’s goodness, love, and mercy.

Here are the instructions from our Commander from Ephesians 6:10-18.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).

How can we be strong in the Lord? “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).

Why do we need God’s armor every day? “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 4:12-13).

What are we to wear? “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 4:14-18).

Going Prepared

Going into battle prepared with the entire arsenal that God through Christ Jesus has provided means we don’t fight alone, and we don’t fight in our own strength but in His truth with His Spirit. It means the Word is part of our daily life giving direction, instruction, and encouragement. Going into battle prepared means my emotions, my thoughts, and my deeds are protected with righteousness and truth. I have protected my mind from being too self-absorbed; I have protected my emotions and my heart so I practice godliness. I persevere because the battle has really been won!

It means we have the ability to respond differently when darts are thrown at us. When life happens unwanted and unexpected, we have One who goes ahead of us as well as One who equips us for the day.

Join the Conversation

What do you need to do to prepare for battle each day?

Do you recognize the bear?

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Christian Living, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Sanctification, War | Tags: ,

Marriage Is Death

Marriage Is Death

“I love my spouse; I’m just not ‘in-love’ with him/her anymore.”

This is a statement I have heard pronounced in the counseling room many times by couples. Both women and men have said it. It is usually said in the context of a marriage counseling session scheduled because the couple has reached a crisis state, and in many cases, the one saying it is also declaring their desire to leave the relationship.

To Love and To Be in Love

What does it mean to love or be in love and is there a difference? If you spend any time wading through the murky bog of the world’s messages as portrayed in movies, TV shows, and music you might come up with a definition like this.

Love is good-looking, emotionally exciting, and never boring. Love is always interested and supportive of my hobbies, and is never tired or discouraged. Love makes me feel good about myself. Love is sexually in sync; love is totally into me.

So, when a relationship, and for our particular focus—a marriage—becomes dull there can be a temptation to believe that you are not in love. How can you be in love if there is no passion left? How can this really be love if desire for the relationship has fizzled? Is there hope for a relationship when it has reached this state?

To recover passion you must focus on the right things. As a famous preacher once said, “You have to focus yourself away from yourself.” Building a marriage around your felt needs is a recipe for disappointment and is contrary to Scripture. Focusing on you is counterproductive. It may seem like it would help if your marriage met your needs, but the unintended consequences are that you become the center of attention and the center of focus. This is a big problem. The relationship is no longer the point, but you and your needs are. The natural consequence of this is when you feel like your spouse is not meeting your needs, you no longer want the relationship. You may not initially leave, but you begin to check out.

The Scriptural Purpose of Marriage

Scripture speaks of a very different purpose for marriage. You get married to forget about yourself, to set yourself aside, to lay your life down. To die.

I will often bring up this point when doing premarital counseling with a couple. It is sometimes a bit humorous to see the look on the face of the dreamy-eyed couple as I tell them that marriage is death.

Marriage, in essence, is an “other-centered” relationship. When you begin to focus on yourself and your needs you begin the deconstruction of the relationship.

For anyone playing the devil’s advocate, I am certainly not talking about essential needs for life and survival. Any time a person is in a marriage that is threatening their safety or well-being it is absolutely appropriate to get away from that relationship and seek help.

Loving Your Spouse

The death that we are called to in marriage is the laying down of your life described in Scripture as the mystery of marriage which points to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:32).

How do you know you love your spouse?

  • Are you living in your marriage in a way that reflects the relationship that Christ has with his Bride?
  • Are you willing to become obedient to the point of death; the death of your own interests and preferences?
  • Are you willing to humble yourself and think of your spouse’s interests more than your own?
  • Are you willing to count your spouse as more significant than yourself? This is death (see Philippians 2:3-11).

The reality is this; in marriage you die daily. Every day is an opportunity to die and in dying you love.

So, what can you make of the original question of what it means to love or be in love? If you have lost that loving feeling, you need to build a new foundation of what love is and what it means. It means you get yourself out of the way. This can only be done as you focus on your Lord. To love your spouse means that you look to Jesus and learn from Him what love is. “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.” (Ephesians 5:2) To love and be in love requires you give yourself up, to die.

Join the Conversation

What does it mean to love or be in love and is there a difference?

What difference does it make in marriage to see marriage as a call to die to self and to live for Christ as you love your spouse?

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

2015 National Conferences: ACBC and CCEF

The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s mission is to multiply the ministry of the biblical counseling movement. One of the ways we seek to do so is by being a “megaphone” for biblical counseling organizations. Today we want to use our megaphone to make you aware of two national biblical counseling conferences in 2015.

2015 National Conferences--CCEF

CCEF: Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love

The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation’s (CCEF) 2015 National Conference is entitled: Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love. It will be held in Virginia Beach, Virginia, from October 16-18, 2015. Here’s the CCEF introduction to the conference theme:

“A ​vibrant ​church ​community ​is ​dependent ​on ​us ​being ​both ​needy ​and ​needed. ​So ​we ​want ​to ​grow ​in ​how ​we ​ask ​for ​help ​and ​how ​we ​give ​help. ​This ​conference ​is ​designed ​to ​guide ​us ​in ​those ​skills, ​with ​a ​focus ​on ​how ​these ​work ​in ​everyday ​friendships. ​Even ​in ​our ​professional ​culture, ​God ​is ​pleased ​to ​use ​needy ​people ​and ​ordinary ​conversations ​to ​do ​most ​of ​the ​heavy ​lifting ​in ​his ​kingdom. ​It’s ​the ​perfect ​system. ​If ​God ​used ​only ​experts ​and ​people ​of ​renown, ​some ​could ​boast ​in ​their ​own ​wisdom, ​but ​God’s ​way ​of ​doing ​things ​is ​not ​the ​same ​as ​our ​own. ​This ​conference ​is ​for ​ordinary ​people ​who ​need ​help ​and ​want ​to ​grow ​in ​giving ​help, ​and, ​as ​we ​grow, ​we ​hope ​to ​contribute ​to ​the ​ongoing ​transformation ​in ​our ​local ​churches.”

To learn more about CCEF’s 2015 national conference, visit: Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love.

2015 National Conferences--ACBC

ACBC: Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counsel for Struggling People

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors’ (ACBC) 2015 National Conference theme is Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counsel for Struggling People. It will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, from October 5-7, 2015. Here’s the ACBC’s introduction to the conference theme:

“The Christian community cannot only be known as the people who understand that homosexuality is wrong. It is a matter of urgent concern that we also be known as the people who move towards people struggling with homosexuality with the love, grace, power, and hope of Jesus Christ and walk with them through the door to real and lasting change.”

To learn more about ACBC’s 2015 national conference, visit: Homosexuality: Compassion, Care, and Counsel for Struggling People.

Join the Conversation

If you’ve attended past CCEF and/or ACBC conferences, what testimony would you share about their impact on your life and ministry?

As you read the overview of the CCEF and ACBC conference themes, what encourages and excites you about these two conferences?

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

Biblical Counseling for the Great Commission

Biblical Counseling for the Great Commission

BCC Staff Note: The following blog was posted at Desiring God by John Piper. You can read the entire post at the Desiring God blog site here. It is Pastor Piper’s plea for those of us committed to biblical counseling to see biblical counseling as a way to fulfill the Great Commission.

Biblical Counseling for the Great Commission

This is a simple plea that those of you whom God is calling to be biblical counselors consider your counseling as a way of reaching the unreached peoples of the world with the life-transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. In Ephesus Paul said, “A wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1 Corinthians 16:9). Might biblical counseling be a wide door for some of you into the greatest cause in the world?

I was prompted to write this because of my recent trip to Japan. For three days Don Carson, Michael Oh, and I spoke sequentially and simultaneously in Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo, each of us taking a day in each city. This extraordinary round-robin conference was sponsored by Christ Bible Institute in Nagoya. It was called Love Japan. The bullet trains and the grace of God made it possible.

Gospel Words for Wounded People

It is well known that Japan has historically not been very responsive to the gospel. The Joshua Project estimates .6% evangelical out of 127 million people. But the leaders we were with sense fresh winds blowing; and the response to Love Japan was very encouraging.

In talking to Brett Rayl, who is part of the executive leadership team at CBI, the conversation turned to biblical counseling. He said there is virtually nothing of this kind functioning in Japan for the good of the Japanese people. The counseling we are talking about is not for missionaries. It is for the Japanese people.

Brett believes, as do others, that the social dynamics, and the growing stresses of family life in Japan (what is left of it), are of such a nature that many desperate and wounded people would turn with thankfulness to a loving and listening person with some competence in helping them cope with the brokenness of their lives.

Read the rest of the post here.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Cross-Cultural Ministry, 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.