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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

Helping a Family Member Struggling with PTSD Symptoms, Part Two—Biblical Wisdom

Helping a Family Member Struggling with PTSD Symptoms, Part Two—Biblical Wisdom

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Two of a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Greg Gifford on a biblical perspective for understanding and helping a family member struggling with symptoms of what our society labels post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can read Part One here.

Dealing Wisely with Difficult Circumstances and Memories

In the beginning of your ministry to a family member struggling with symptoms of PTSD, it will be imperative to avoid circumstances that prompt flashbacks. You will want to identify what circumstances trigger PTSD symptoms and seek to contain exposure to them as best as possible. It would be inconsiderate to constantly expose a person to circumstances that conjure up symptoms of PTSD. Yet, it would be equally terrible to never expose them to the circumstances that plague their memories.

Moreover, certain circumstances cannot or should not be avoided. For instance, one individual suffered with painful memories of a childhood that was extremely abusive—both physically and sexually. (See Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert, eds., Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture, 39.) Her flashbacks were typically triggered when she would enter the kitchen or take a shower, which are both places that she had to visit. Therefore, the counselor could not tell her to avoid these places, but rather to observe the patterns of her flashbacks and how they relate to these places.

Do these places or circumstances conjure up the painful memory and what about the circumstances does this? Is it a smell, the lights, the noise level, or the people? What associates this place with the place that their painful memory occurred? Once you have connected this dot, then you can wisely approach a plan of thinking and doing, principles of being a truth-thinker, and other related efforts that orient your loved one back to reality.

For the circumstances that you can avoid (e.g., the market, the home, the woods, etc.) seek to wisely abstain from visiting these locations at first. You will want to counsel and disciple your loved one in preparation for visiting such places or types of circumstances. Secular psychology would term this exposure therapy, but it is nothing more than wisely and lovingly introducing the circumstances that stimulate the painful memories of a person’s past. Your goal is to teach them how to approach these circumstances, and then to live out that instruction in the midst of their difficult environment.

Yet the aim is not behavior modification. Behavior modification says, “Avoid those type of circumstances and all is well.” However, true and authentic heart change orients itself towards God’s purposes in the middle of those environments. For example, to avoid a place with a large crowd may be wise initially, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, a person can learn to trust God and believe He will not leave them even in large groups. There is an enormous importance in being wisely reintroduced to environments that stimulate those painful feelings so a person can grow in those regards. To avoid the circumstance completely is only wise in a few instances and behavior modification in most instances.

Dealing Wisely with Known Stimuli

Likewise, recognize the stimuli in a person’s life. If you know that a person struggles in a loud environment (as most with PTSD symptoms will do) then seek to keep the noise down. This is a manifestation of the golden rule (Luke 6:31) and Philippians 2:2-5; consider their interests as more important or simply how you would want to be treated. Be careful not to slam the door or play a certain song. Ensure that you do not yell in the house or touch them in a certain way. The idea is that you know these stimuli so as not to tempt or incite painful memories unnecessarily.

Here are some questions that could be helpful in identifying these stimuli:

  1. When do episodes tend to flare up? Is there a certain time of the day? Is there a certain event? Is there a certain context? Were you inside or outside? Was it close to a mealtime?
  1. What was happening? What were you doing? What were they doing? What were others doing around them (i.e., the kids running around the living room)?
  1. Where were you? Were you at home? On a car ride? In a shop? Eating out?
  1. How was the person acting before? Were they tired? Were they irritable? Were they distant? Were they brooding? Were they in deep thought? Were they manic? What was the person acting like before the symptoms started again?

These types of questions can easily be logged so you can look for themes within your loved one. And in a very real sense, you may observe what they do not. They may not see that when they are hungry they are more susceptible to flashbacks. They may not notice that when they are in deep thought with much free time, they have more flashbacks. These areas will be very important as you seek to understand your loved one and help them grow in their walk with Christ.

A warning is necessary here: even though a person may have a certain stimuli now does not mean they are sanctioned for ungodliness and unrighteous responses. Be gentle and gracious here by not exacerbating them, but also calling them to grow in this area. If your spouse really struggles to be calm and control their anger when the kids are yelling in the house, there is a two-fold obligation. The first is to address the kids and call them to be kind, considerate, and die to their own desires to be loud and rambunctious. Next, there is an obligation to call your spouse to grow in this area. Even though the kids are screaming like wild banshees, your spouse has an obligation to honor God in that moment. (This may also be a great opportunity for the family member to show their loved one the biblical teaching that a person’s circumstances does not determine their heart attitude but only reveals their heart attitude.)

Identify an Advocate

One of the common associations of PTSD symptoms is domestic violence, especially for military members suffering from PTSD. There is much research that needs to be conducted as to why certain demographics are more prone to violence than others, but do note that violence may be an issue that you need to consider. Part of that consideration is who to call alongside of your family for help. At this point, Dr. Garrett Higbee has introduced the idea of an advocate (see Lambert and Scott, p. 172).

Although Dr. Higbee uses the idea and its implementation in a different context, there are huge implications for the person struggling with PTSD symptoms. An advocate is simply a person from the counselee’s local church who attends some of the counseling sessions with the counselee and helps them to implement in their daily living what is being taught in the formal time of counseling.

In the instance of a person struggling with PTSD symptoms, it could be helpful to identify a person who could also function as an advocate. This advocate would function in the same capacities but would be on call for help with their loved one. For instance, if your husband is having flashbacks again and now his anger is quickly escalating and he is threatening, hitting walls, and throwing things, it would be a good time to call the advocate. The presence of another person who is outside of the immediate family can have cooling effects to the circumstance, but also having someone who can ensure that people are not being physically or verbally abused.

Avoid Significant Free Times

Because PTSD symptoms very much include a battle of a person’s thought life, be careful to help them to ration free time well. Meaning, look at the hours in a day and see where the gaps are in your loved one’s schedule. When are they going to have a lot of free time? When will they be prone towards introspection?

Seek to help them to positively engage those times and fill them with fruitful and helpful things. Encourage them to start new hobbies, seek out new opportunities to serve the church, find some books that would be great to read, exercise, invite friends over for dinner, and other ways that will be a fruitful way of engaging this free time.

The idea is that they will not have the time to sit around and rehash the painful memories. While this is not an end in itself, it is a very appropriate means to an end. In fact, introspection must be done in proportion for all of us, not only those suffering with PTSD symptoms. So help them to guard their time well as you help them to shepherd their thought life.

Fulfill Daily Responsibilities

One of the chief concerns you should have with your loved one is whether or not they are completing their daily responsibilities. Are they going to work on time? Are they going to school? Are they completing the responsibilities they have? Some of this will tie back into helping them to learn to manage their free time, but also seeking to help them to fulfill their responsibilities. Employers will only be gracious for so long. Schools will only be gracious for so long. If your loved one is consistently failing to fulfill their responsibilities it will snowball into a very difficult situation quickly.

Moreover, be willing to ‘check-in’ on them. This is not a mild form of enabling, but rather a form of accountability. Try things like going by their work to drop off a surprise coffee or asking them if you can come eat with them at lunch break. Take them to work and pick them up. Go by their house and help with some of the chores, and also review homework and contact teachers to ensure that your loved one is fulfilling their obligations.

The best policy is to be very straightforward with your loved one and tell them that you want to serve them and help ensure that they are fulfilling their obligations, whether they want you to or not. You do not want to breach their trust in an attempt to serve them, but you can be very candid as to why you would like to serve them in this way. And even if they would prefer that you not come by their work or school, be creative and wise as to how you can fulfill that intent in a different manner (e.g., ask a co-worker, look at pay stubs, etc.).

The principle is, however, that they must be fulfilling their daily responsibilities even in the middle of their struggles with PTSD. God has provided sufficient grace to do so and to neglect their responsibilities is only going to make matters worse. Your close accountability may seem like police work initially, but it just might prevent the downward spiral of PTSD to joblessness to drugs or any other combination.

Remain faithful as you see your loved one suffer. In a very real sense, they have experienced some of the most heinous events a person can experience. They are sufferers. Yet, don’t let them stay there. Graciously call them and prompt them towards a posture that engages their suffering and uses it to grow in Christlikeness and to glorify God. And in the process, you will see that God is working in them to will and to work His good pleasure.

Join the Conversation

What additional suggestions do you have for wise help that avoids the extremes of enabling a person struggling with PTSD symptoms or of abandoning/ignoring/pretending that the person’s symptoms are not real or do not require understanding, compassion, and assistance?

Topics: Anxiety, BCC Exclusive, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Stress | Tags: , , ,

Helping a Family Member Struggling with PTSD Symptoms, Part One—Biblical Understanding

Helping a Family Member Struggling with PTSD Symptoms, Part One—Biblical Understanding

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part One of a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series by Greg Gifford on a biblical perspective for understanding and helping a family member struggling with symptoms of what our society labels post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Help for Family Members

The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is here—to stay. It was once rare and used to describe combat veterans, but it is now working its way into the limelight of DSM-V disorders. Consequently, we are to be a people who wisely listen and engage what those with symptoms of a PTSD experience, particularly those within our own families.

Your family is the counseling room and you will be a counselor of some kind. What will you say? How will you respond? Here are some practical steps for your family’s ministry to your loved one suffering from symptoms of PTSD.

Understanding Biblical Change and Their Struggles

All effective ministry happens in the context of understanding (Proverb 18:2, 13). First, one of the best things a family can do is to understand the process of biblical change as they seek to walk their loved one through that process. Ephesians 4:22-24 enumerates that process with the overarching principles of “putting off, being renewed in the spirit of your minds, and putting on the new self.”

Second, your family needs to seek to understand what your family member is going through. Watch what situations elicit responses such as flashbacks, negative thinking, irritability, and anger. What circumstances seem to be difficult for them? Is it car rides? Is it large crowds? What really sets off your loved one or what really tempts them towards PTSD symptoms?

Look and listen. You have a story line unfolding before your eyes and only when you take the time to observe and note what are the struggles and weaknesses of your family member can you help them. They are not a walking diagnosis or a personification of the DSM; they are real people with idiosyncrasies.

Exhibiting “Demanding Patience”

Paul Tripp notes that:

“The grace that adopts me into Christ’s family is not a grace that says I am okay. In fact, the Bible is clear that God extends his grace to me because I am everything but okay” (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, 158).

We must exhibit the “demanding patience” that Christ exhibits towards us. We endure, we forbear, we are longsuffering, but we seek growth—true growth. This growth is none other than a willingness to submit to the will of God and His purposes for their life (Philippians 1:16). He has started something in their life, if they are a believer, and has promised change will happen: they must be growing into the image of Christ.

Remember that there is no “timeline” for recovery and “recovery” is not the goal: honoring God is the goal and growth into the image of Christ is the goal. Do not measure their progress by how much they struggled with PTSD a year ago, but by their growth in Christ. Your patience should be a patience that calls them to growth.

The Help of a Medical Doctor

Seek out the help of a wise medical doctor, preferably a Christian medical doctor. You will need their insights to help observe biological influences to your loved one with the symptoms of PTSD. While the Bible never teaches a deterministic model of biology, it does recognize the relationship between the inner man and the outer man (cf. Psalm 51). Therefore, we do not want to minimize that relationship either.

In addition to a medical doctor, seek to speak with a nutritionist and a sleep specialist. There are often vast improvements for people who simply practice good nutrition and ensure that they are resting adequately. These are both biblical ideas of stewarding our bodies as temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells and they are very wise to consider.

A typical symptom of PTSD is hyper-agitation that prevents good sleep therefore insomnia ensues. Once insomnia has set in, there will be a compounding effect of the symptoms of PTSD. Therefore, preventative maintenance is very ideal, even if this means some type of sleep aid. Remember that stewarding the outer man well has significant influences on the inner man.

But whether or not you do visit a nutritionist or sleep specialist, you must be extremely mindful of sleep patterns. If your loved one is not sleeping enough, you will have to intervene very quickly. Insomnia is one of the dominant characteristics of PTSD, and it is a very real and dangerous aspect of PTSD. You cannot take insomnia flippantly or lightly.

Therefore, be cognizant of their sleep patterns. Note how many hours they are sleeping within the context of how many they would sleep before. If necessary, log their hours for your own records, but keep a watchful eye to ensure that your loved one is getting the proper amount of rest.

If they are not resting well then consider a myriad of factors: how much caffeine are they eating or drinking? How close to bedtime are they eating? Are they watching television or searching the Internet right up to bedtime? How are they winding down a part of each day? Some of these unknown habits are contributing to their sleeplessness and need to be discarded until your loved one has established proper sleep patterns.

The Rest of the Story

In Part Two, we’ll explore some practical counsel—wisdom principles—for helping loved ones who are struggling with symptoms of PTSD.

Join the Conversation

When it comes to diagnostic categories first established by the world, what should Christians do: ignore those categories, redeem those categories by redefining them biblically, use those categories as they are, or something else? Why?

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

Free Resources from the Biblical Counseling Coalition

Free Resources from the Biblical Counseling Coalition

The BCC exists to multiply the ministry of the biblical counseling movement by strengthening churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions through promoting unity and excellence in biblical counseling.

Our mission is to foster collaborative relationships and to provide robust, relevant biblical resources that equip the Body of Christ to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth through the personal ministry of the Word.

Today, we want to make you aware of just some of the 1,000s of our relevant biblical resources. Check out these links and share them with others.

We have 1,000s of free resources for you and your ministry—articles, blogs, chapters, charts, audios, videos—all related to biblical counseling, Christian living, and local church ministry. You can direct people to the BCC Resource Page with this shortened link: http://bit.ly/BCCResources

How do you know whether a book is valuable and trustworthy or not so much? Our team of BCC book reviewers have crafted nearly 200 book reviews, book interviews, and book audios/videos—all related to biblical counseling, Christian living, and local church ministry. You can direct people to the BCC Book Reviews page with this shortened link: http://bit.ly/bccbook1

The Biblical Counseling Coalition hosts this biblical counseling job board to help church and para-church organizations and people seeking biblical counseling positions who fully subscribe to our Doctrinal Statement, Confessional Statement, and Mission Statement to connect with one another in filling biblical counseling ministry positions. We do not offer placement services. Nor can we fully vet the groups that participate or the positions they list, or the individuals who are seeking a position. We simply hope to serve the biblical counseling community by providing a forum for posting ministry positions in the field of biblical counseling. You can direct people to the BCC Biblical Counseling Job Board this shortened link: http://bit.ly/BCJobBoard

Finding a biblical counselor who will minister God’s truth to you in Christ’s love is important. We’ve linked to leading biblical counseling organizations so that in one place you have direct links to certified biblical counselors. You can direct people to the BCC Find a Biblical Counselor Page with this shortened link: http://bit.ly/BCCFindBC

Of course, one of our primary offerings is our Grace & Truth blog site where you receive daily blog posts from over 60 leading biblical counselors from around the world. Additionally, we have frequent “megaphone” posts where you here from additional biblical counselors and Christian leaders. You can direct people to the BCC’s Grace & Truth blog site with this shortened link: http://bit.ly/bccblog1

The Biblical Counseling Coalition launched the BCC Partners to create a pathway toward connection with the BCC. BCC Partners have the opportunity to show support of, benefit from, and participate in our mission of collaborative relationships and robust resources. You can direct people to the BCC’s Partner Ministry Page with this shortened link: http://bit.ly/BCCPartner

Topics: BCC Exclusive, 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.

Don’t Get Too Familiar with the Bible

At the Desiring God website, Peter Krol writes:

Beware the deceptive wiles of familiarity — that sweet but double-edged virtue that makes you feel at home in the word of God. Familiarity of the tender variety persists in reminding you of the gospel and deepening your communion with Christ. But if you’re not careful, cold-hearted familiarity will betray you with kisses, poison your wineglass, and watch impassively while your life slips steadily away. You might not even realize it’s happening.

Unexamined familiarity will prevent you from looking at the Book. Because such familiarity crowds out curiosity, it imperceptibly stiffens necks, hardens hearts, and deafens ears. Familiarity may lead us to assume things that are not in the text, and it may blind us to things that are.

Read the rest of Peter’s words at Don’t Get Too Familiar with the Bible.

Newsweek on the Bible: So Misrepresented It’s a Sin

Dr. Al Mohler exposes the lies behind Newsweek’s cover article on the Bible. Read Mohler’s insightful review of the Newsweek article in Newsweek on the Bible: So Misrepresented It’s a Sin.

A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media

Michael Kruger also responds to Newsweek’s article. Read his in-depth analysis and critique in A Christmas Present from the Mainstream Media: Newsweek Takes a Desperate Swipe at the Integrity of the Bible.

What Are You Looking Forward To?

With the New Year upon us, Jay Adams asks and answers from a biblical perspective, the question, What Are You Looking Forward To? 

Redeeming Theology

At Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Whitney Woollard reminds us of the biblical purpose and value of theology. Read his thoughts in Redeeming Theology.

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: , , , ,

Bible Reading Plans for 2015

Bible Reading Plans for 2015

As we start the new year at the Biblical Counseling Coalition, we want to encourage you to develop a consistent Bible reading and application plan for 2015. We also want to equip you to do that by offering you the following direct links to several Bible reading plans.

 

 

Join the Conversation

What Bible reading plans have you found helpful in your life and ministry?

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

A Puritan Prayer for 2015

A Puritan Prayer for 2015

O Lord,

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
with Thee, O Father as my harbour,
Thee, O Son, at my helm,
Thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to Thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me Thy grace to sanctify me,
Thy comforts to cheer,
Thy wisdom to teach,
Thy right hand to guide,
Thy counsel to instruct,
Thy law to judge,
Thy presence to stabilize.

May Thy fear be my awe,
Thy triumphs my joy.

Length of days does not profit me except the days are passed in Thy presence,
in Thy service,
to Thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,
that I may not be one moment apart from Thee,
but may rely on Thy Spirit
to supply every thought,
speak in every word,
direct every step,
prosper every work,
build up every mote of faith,
and give me a desire to show forth Thy praise;
testify Thy love,
and advance Thy kingdom.

From a collection of Puritan prayers in The Valley of Vision.

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

Reaching In and Reaching Out

Reaching In and Reaching Out

A Note from the BCC Staff: You’re reading Part 2 of a BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on our recent Biblical Counseling Coalition Leadership Retreat. You can read Part 1, by Ernie Baker, here (embed link). Each year, our entire BCC Board of Directors and Council Board convene for three days of mutual iron-sharpening. Our theme this year focused on building mutually respectful relationships within the biblical counseling movement and building missionally robust relationships outside the biblical counseling movement. Today’s post provides reflections on the retreat from BCC Council Board member, Julie Ganschow.

New, But Warmly Welcomed

In December, I was among those who attended the Annual Retreat for the Biblical Counseling Coalition as members of the Council Board. It was my first time, and I thought I would share some of my experience with you.

First, you should know that many of the men in attendance have helped shape my biblical counseling philosophy through their books and teaching at conferences. I was going to be spending time with people known only to me as Doctor, Professor, and author of that great book on some biblical counseling issue! To say I was struggling with fear of man issues going into this 3-day retreat would have been an understatement.

As one of the few women in attendance, I was a minority in this group. One of the goals of the BCC is to bring more women as well as international biblical counselors onto the Council Board. The board recognizes the importance of including us in this process, as the majority of counselees are female, and we bring an important perspective to the direction of the biblical counseling movement.

I was a new face to almost everyone, but I was warmly welcomed. Because I was new, I was determined to be more of an observer than a participant, to lay low, and sit quietly throughout the three days we would spend together. Those of you who know me know how difficult a task that would be for me (and you know I failed)!

A Working Retreat

This was a working retreat, and each day after excellent devotional times led by several different men and group prayer time, either Bob Kellemen or Garrett Higbee guided the large group discussions based on the theme of the retreat. The BCC desires to minister both internally and externally, reaching out to those who differ in practice, reaching in to expand our influence among our fellow biblical counselors, and reaching up with the ultimate goal of honoring and glorifying God and magnifying the name of Jesus.

After each large group interaction, we broke into small groups for discussion of questions such as, “How are we becoming and how can we continue to be a collaborative catalyst for the biblical counseling movement?” and “How can we be missional in our relationships to those currently outside the biblical counseling movement?”

One of our desires is to develop a voice that is more compelling and winsome as we address broader themes such as mental illness, medication, or psychiatric diagnosis. There are still many who misunderstand our movement, they are uninformed about what biblical counseling is and is not. In addition to discussion of the questions, we prayed for one another, and greatly encouraged each other.

An Incredible Personal Blessing

The retreat was clearly designed for interaction, reflection, and engaging in deep, meaningful conversations, and it was there I found the greatest blessing. Several of those who attended are in the midst of life-altering trials, their pain evident on their faces. Watching men confide in each other and comfort one another, heads bowed as they came together before God was a stirring sight. I am accustomed to women doing that, and yes, we too unburdened our hearts to each other, prayed together, and gave support as we listened, hugged, and counseled one another.  The atmosphere was full of caring, compassion, and hope.

As a result, any fear or insecurity I had at the beginning of the retreat quickly melted away. When I said goodbye to them at the airport, I was not bidding farewell to Doctor, Professor, or the author of that great book; I was hugging Dave, Bob, and Sue. What an incredible blessing to be a part of this group of faithful men and women.

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

Endeavoring to Keep the Unity of the Spirit

Endeavoring to Keep the Unity of the Spirit

A Note from the BCC Staff: You’re reading Part 1 of a BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on our recent Biblical Counseling Coalition Leadership Retreat. Each year, our entire BCC Board of Directors and Council Board convene for three days of mutual iron-sharpening. Our theme this year focused on building mutually respectful relationships within the biblical counseling movement and building missionally robust relationships outside the biblical counseling movement. Today’s post provides reflections on the retreat from BCC Council Board member, Ernie Baker.

Reflections on the BCC’s 2014 Leadership Retreat

All too often we hear of disheartening disunity in the Church. As one who does marriage counseling and consults on church conflicts, this is often the story of my life (or at least my inbox!).

A refreshing difference, which ministered to the depths of my soul, was the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s annual leadership retreat. You would think that if you put 50 leaders from various Evangelical schools, ministries, and theological perspectives into the same room, that it would be ripe for disunity, or at a very minimum, some tension. I rejoice in the Lord to report that this was not the case. In fact, it was the opposite.

So what made the difference? It’s easy to understand actually. Our group has a very high view of Scripture that takes its principles seriously among which are the one another commands. When you combine this with a robust view of the power of the gospel to change lives and love for the Lord it can result in respectful but in-depth dialogue. Being unified around a common set of beliefs, as expressed in our doctrinal statement, and beliefs about biblical counseling, as expressed in our confessional statement, gives us a breadth of commonality that make respectful and in-depth communication possible.

Even though we represented Southern Baptists, Presbyterians, Reformed Baptists, and Non-Denominational churches, as well as numerous schools, our focus was on the larger cause which is central to our movement: the sufficiency of Scripture to address personal problems. The depth that the gospel has to address issues, and the living principles of Scripture that radically change lives, are the glue that hold this diverse group together.

Respectful but In-depth Dialogue

Our conversations were not fluffy. We discussed not only what has led to disunity in the past, but also how to dialogue on our differences in the present. We also dialogued how to discuss biblical truth with those who do not agree with biblical counseling.

Camaraderie in the Lord

Our small group times of prayer were particularly meaningful. We not only had great discussion, revolving around the themes of the retreat, but also “bore one another’s burdens.” The question of, “Who ministers to the pastors and other leaders?” was answered—other pastors and leaders. Often it is not safe for leaders to share their concerns; here it was. We prayed about family issues, personal issues, ministry issues, and spoke encouragement according to the need of the moment (Ephesians 4:29).

Deep Theological Discussion

Another highlight of the retreat, and maybe the most important to me, was the in-depth theological discussion I had with other colleagues. We had a delightful dialogue on the role of the affections in the inner person in the change process. In fact, it was one of the best theological discussions I have ever had. There was give and take, and even respectful pushback. The discussion spilled over after the retreat for almost 2 hours on the bus trip back to the airport.

So, have hope! It is possible for the church to love one another and to even discuss serious topics as long as you believe and practice the principles of Scripture. After all, we are the Biblical Counseling Coalition!

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, 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.

Desiring God: Top 14 Posts of 2014

What were readers of blog posts at Desiring God most drawn to in 2014? Find out at Top 14 Posts of 2014.

Julie Ganschow on Christ-Centered Counseleing

Julie Ganschow reviews Dr. Bob Kellemen’s latest book, Gospel-Centered Counseling. In part, she writes:

As a biblical counselor, I believe my counsel should flow from the Gospel. Therefore, I was very excited to read Dr. Bob Kellemen’s new book, Gospel-Centered Counseling. I love his writing anyway, and this book provides so much robust and relevant counsel for the counselor that I had difficulty putting it down. I found this book to be warm and comforting, like having a conversation with a friend. The tenor of the book reflects the heart of a Pastor/Teacher/Counselor who longs to impart loving, biblical truth to the reader.

Read her entire review here.

Evangelism Today

At the Gospel-Centered Discipleship site, Pastor Jonathan Dodson equips us for Culturally-Literate Evangelism.

Let’s Rethink Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs

Russell Moore encourages us to Rethink Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs.

Dear Suicidal Friend, There Is Hope

Dr. Paul Tautges writes:

In his excellent mini-book, HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal, police chaplain and pastor Bruce Ray, writes, “There is ultimately only one reason why people commit suicide. Most of them have not lost their minds, but all of them have lost hope. They have developed tunnel vision and cannot see any other workable options. Suicide is the only choice left that makes sense – i.e., the only option that to them seems reasonable.

Read more here.

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 Christmas Story

The Christmas Story

The Biblical Counseling Coalition wishes you a joyous Christmas.

Our gift to you this Christmas Eve: Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus.

The Birth of Jesus Foretold Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[c] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Mary Visits Elizabeth: Luke 1:39-45

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

Mary’s Song: Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

The Birth of John the Baptist: Luke 1:57-66

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”

61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song: Luke 1:67-80

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69 He has raised up a horn[d] of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.

The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels: Luke 2:8-20

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[e] the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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

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