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

Lamentable Confessions


Confessions are usually healing for both the offended and the offender. Most of the time, confessions are heartfelt expressions of the repentance that God has granted. A healing confession is redemptive in that it has the power to “buy back” a lost or broken relationship.

But… sometimes something is missing. Every now and then, a confession seems less than heart-felt. The offender knows he did wrong, but the acknowledgement of wrongdoing falls short.

Healing Confessions

A confession is not the same as an apology.

An apology is an expression of sorrow. It is the, “I’m sorry for what I did, and I’m sorry I hurt you” acknowledgement that is a necessary ingredient of confession. Without the apology piece, a confession lacks “heart.” Yet, by itself, apologies often cause greater damage to relationships. How is that possible?

Apologies say so little.

When little is said by the offender, much must be inferred by the offended. Confessions include apologies, but say so much more than apologies. When the “I’m sorry” is offered, many questions come to mind as the injured party contextualizes the apology. “Is he only sorry because he got caught?” “Are they sorry that they are facing consequences?” “Is she expecting me to let her off the hook?” “Do they really know what they did that hurt me?” “How will I ever trust again?” “What will he do differently to avoid repeating this behavior?” “Does she want me to excuse her or forgive her?”

Apologies are important and necessary, but are not meant to stand alone.

When we truly repent of the things we did that we should not have done, or the things we should have done that we did not do, we are able to express our repentance by confessing our D-E-E-D-S. The components of a full and complete confession include:

  • D: Describe specifically your actions and their impact without excusing yourself.
  • E: Express sorrow for your actions as well as a willingness to do whatever you can to help make things right.
  • E: Encourage the offended party to share more deeply or ask for anything they need to be restored.
  • D: Define change by describing what you should have done differently if you could do it over again and what you intend to do differently in the future.
  • S: Seek forgiveness by asking for it.

Each of the ingredients of a healing confession are powerful—when they occur together.

Why are so many of our confessions unhelpful?


A misbelief is a wrong or false belief. One of the most common false beliefs that contribute to weak confessions involve the valuing of intentions over impact: “Since I did not intend to hurt you, I am not responsible.”

The offender who focuses on their own good intentions fails to recognize the extent of human fallenness. Sinfulness is a category of fallenness, but human fallenness is far broader than sin alone. It is from our fallenness that we fail to remember our spouse’s birthday, fail to pay attention to the car in front of us, and fail to follow through on the promise we intended to keep. Many relationships have died on the altar of good intentions.

The offender who points to a lack of sinful intent fails to understand that human beings are responsible even for a failure to do good. “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them” (Jas. 4:17). Full and heart-felt confessions for unintended injury go a long way in healing damaged or broken relationships.


Disbelief is evident when we are unable or unwilling to accept that something is true or real: “You are making a mountain out of a mole hill.”

Despite the tears and the words of pain, the offender dismisses and disregards the injury experienced by the other person. They are hardened to pleas to be heard and understood. An unwillingness to accept the reality of how our words and actions impact others is rooted in a refusal to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Confessions by offenders who believe their own version of reality are insincere and a veiled request for the hurt person to “just get over it.”


Unbelief is an absence of faith. A weak confession is often rooted in a lack of gratitude for the redeeming message of the gospel: “You hurt me more than I hurt you.”

Many offenders have been hurt in the past by the person they have now injured. When the “offense measuring stick” is applied to the list of growing offenses on both sides, and the current offender determines that they have been injured more than they have caused injury, an unforgiving spirit draws the sinner away from the truth of the gospel.

Anyone who has put their faith in the saving work of Christ has been forgiven for all their sins—past, present, and future. As recipients of God’s grace, believers do not get what they deserve, they instead get what they can never deserve—a reserved seat at the banquet feast. Believers who fail to deeply believe the gospel offer flippant confessions.

Grieving and Lamenting

When it comes to conflict, sometimes the misbelieving, disbelieving, and unbelieving offender has failed to grieve and lament the realities surrounding the conflict and the unreconciled relationship. God has provided these two often overlooked ways to heal hardened hearts… and lifeless confessions.

Grieving expresses loss and pain.

Grieving is meant to be done in the presence of loving people willing to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Perhaps the reason that the Apostle Paul places the instruction to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16) immediately after the admonition to “mourn with those who mourn” is because relational harmony is often born out of effective grieving. Too often, however, grief remains unexpressed and shows up as anger and hardness of heart.

Lamenting is putting words to loss and pain in a conversation with God.

The lament is an expression of grief to God for the realities experienced in this lifetime. Few realities are more grievous than relational conflict. Yet, even the darkest lament is an expression of faith when made to the God who can even when he refuses.

Heart-felt confessions flow from hearts that grieve and lament the loss and pain of living as fallen sinners in a broken world. Grieving and lamenting set the heart free to believe more deeply and trust more fully the God who calls us to sorrow for sin while at the same time rejoicing in our freedom from it.

Join the Conversation

How fully do you confess your D-E-E-D-S?

What are the reasons your confessions lack redemptive power?

Do you regularly grieve and lament the relational losses in your life?

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

Personally Ministering the Word of God


God created us and knows everything about us. He knows our needs, our weariness, our fears, our insecurities, and our longings. God ministers to us through His Word. When we minister the Word of God to one another, we can do so with confidence, knowing God gave us His Word not only to reveal Himself to us, but also to care for us.

Let’s look at an example of how we can minister the Word in personal and powerful ways.

Some Background

Kim, your old college roommate, calls to ask if she can meet for coffee. She sounds anxious and heavy hearted. When you meet, she pours out her heart and shares she has been struggling with debilitating shame and fear. As you sit and listen to her story you are overwhelmed first by her struggles but also honored by the privilege of journeying with her during her time of need. After an extended time of listening and drawing out her heart, you begin to help her see how God’s story redeems her story of suffering. You also remind her that God is pursuing her with His love, inviting her to experience and participate in the unceasing worship and love of Father-Son-Spirit.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

You ask her to read one of your favorite psalms, a passage God has used to comfort and strengthen you countless times throughout your life. She agrees and begins to read Psalm 23 out loud…

1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
—Psalm 23

When she reads the first verse, you notice a puzzled look on her face. Her posture changes as she reads verses 2-3. You sense a growing resolve within her as she slowly reads verses 4-5. Tears flow down her cheeks as she reads the last verse. She looks away and her eyes gaze upward as she starts to weep.

You sense the Spirit of God working in beautiful and powerful ways. You sit silently as she reflects upon what she just read. Kim tentatively makes eye contact with you. You offer her a reassuring smile.

With loving curiosity, you ask her what she experienced as she read the psalm. She admitted that she was hesitant to read the psalm since God seemed distant, leaving her apathetic toward Him and His Word. She doubted God could ever love her, given all she suffered. But as she slowly read each verse, she was overcome with emotion as she sensed God inviting her to come to Him for rest. She was surprised by the progressive comfort she experienced as God reminded her of His present and pursuing love.

You feel like you are standing on sacred ground as you witnessed the Holy Spirit work powerfully in Kim as she received God’s living Word.

A Second, More Personal, Reading…

As you sense the leading of the Spirit, you ask if you can read the psalm to her, but this time read it in such a way as if God is speaking to her as His beloved child. You explain that God’s truths and promises should be received as if He has spoken them directly to us as His people. She agrees with some hesitation, not knowing what to expect.

You give her freedom to follow along with you or to just sit back and rest, allowing God to wash her with the water of His Word. She closes her eyes with anticipation.

Before you begin reading Psalm 23, you reiterate that you, as her sister in Christ, will read the passage as if God is speaking directly to her.

Kim, I am your shepherd. I can satisfy you unlike anyone or anything else.

I want you to lie down in my green pastures. I am leading you beside quiet waters. Come and drink deeply from my fountain of living water that quenches your thirsty soul.

I am restoring your weariness and restlessness as I guide you along my righteous path, where I want you to see and experience my glory as I make you more and more beautiful in Christ with each step of faith.

I know the darkness you are facing in your shame and fear, I am with you always, my rod and staff will guide and comfort you. Even in the midst of your fears and doubts, I am pouring out my blessings over you so that your cup overflows.

My goodness and love pursues you everyday of your life. I am your God and you are my daughter. My Spirit dwells with you and you dwell with me in my love. Rest, enjoy as I delight in you.

As you spoke God’s Word over her, you incorporated some of the details of her story and some of her responses she shared as she read the passage. By doing so, you helped her to experience her God in deeply personal ways, helping her to know her God with both her head and heart.

She sits motionless for a minute, her eyes glistening with tears of joy. You ask her what she experienced as you read God’s Word over her. With her chin up, she says with a quiet confidence and an undeniable peace that she experienced God’s love as He reminded her of His constant presence and pursuit of her as His child. You both sit back relaxed, as you rest and rejoice in Christ.

Join the Conversation

What do you long to hear from God from His Word in this moment or in this season of life?

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

Will a Better Sex Life Keep Porn at Bay?


A Word from Your BCC Team: The following post first ran at the Covenant Eyes site and we are reposting it with the permission of the Covenant Eyes team and of the author, Brad Hambrick. You can also read the original post at Will a Better Sex Life Keep Porn at Bay?

Whose side am I going to take?

  • The defeated husband who feels like his unresponsive wife is hanging him out to dry with his temptation or the betrayed wife who feels like she’s being blamed for her husband’s sinful choices?
  • The single person who “knows” sexual temptation will be less intense when there is legitimate sexual outlet or the married person who thought that would be true but feels more isolated by their sin because it is now against someone they love (not just God)?
  • The biblical literalist who believes I Corinthians 7:5 is a promise for how God intends to extinguish sexual burning or the pragmatist who says real sex will never satiate a fantasy sex appetite?

Before going further, begin by acknowledging where you are and where you have been for each of those questions. Chances are you’ve been on both sides of at least one of them—probably more than one if you’re married.

  • Feeling Defeated and Abandoned vs. Feeling Betrayed and Blamed
  • Single Hoping for the Marriage Fix vs. Married and Frustrated Marriage Didn’t “Fix It”
  • Claiming Biblical Advice as a Promise from God vs. Being a “Realist” and Thinking We’re Talking About Apples and Oranges

What do we gain from this reflection?

We realize neither side is satisfying. One side may better capture what is true, but doesn’t really tell us what to do.

  • Pout in self-defeat until your wife wants to have more sex.
  • Force yourself to passionately engage sex as a form of relational self-protection.
  • Keep telling yourself this will all go away when I get married.
  • Live in disbelief that marriage doesn’t eliminate lust and the desire for self-centered pleasure.
  • Expect just one approach to resolve something as multi-faceted as arousal.
  • Refuse to do what you can do until a holistic approach is understood, agreed upon, and engaged.

Do any of those options sound appealing? No, and that’s the problem.

The title of this article is a truth-question (what to believe) but we ask it to get a procedural answer (what to do). When the former doesn’t lead to the latter, we feel stuck, betrayed, or abandoned. It’s not that the former isn’t important. What we believe is vitally important. But it’s often not what we’re after. There is no need to throw away your fork just because you need a spoon at the moment.

So the better question becomes:

“What should we do when we are tempted by pornography (or any other form of lust)?” 

We immediately recognize that this question is larger and not as neat. That is good, because it fits the life challenge in front of us better than a question that can have a yes-no answer.

The suggestions that I make below are not meant to be exhaustive; instead they are representative of a healthier way to think about the relationship between a healthy sex life and temptation towards pornography.

For married couples and singles:

  • Realize real sex will never compete with fantasy sex.If you have an appetite for read-your-mind, on-demand, narratively-diverse sex with a sound track, marriage will not provide that. Your spouse is not an actor and you do not get to be the script-writer for their desires and response to you.
  • Realize a real spouse can’t compete with a professional sex athlete; that is what a porn star is. You can’t introduce a camera, which implies an audience, and a sliding compensation scale based on the demand for your work and sex remain intimacy. At that point sex is a performance (a.k.a. collective prostitution). That’s not what marriage provides.
  • Pornography is relational debt; all short-term fun with no relational equity.The more you engage, the more you want until you realize you’re bankrupt.
  • We must also accept that pornography is not a thing to be deserved; meaning a sentence beginning with “I just need” cannot legitimately end with “pornography.” Porn is a liability not an asset. Until we make this fundamental perspective change about pornography, our logic regarding pornography will be incoherent. Our ability to have a productive conversation will be non-existent; whether we are married or single.

For married couples:

  • Begin with a distinction between marriage enrichment (practices to make a good marriage better) and marriage restoration (actions taken to fix something broken in a marriage). Most often the “will better sex fix porn” question confuses enrichment with restoration. If we do what we should have been doing all along, then we don’t have to address what we shouldn’t have been doing, right? Wrong.
  • The spouse engaging in pornography needs to take full responsibility for his-her actions. Anything that “shares” responsibility for personal sin is blame-shifting (if asked for) and codependency (if accepted). A relationship is only “safe” if this is understood. Being a co-sinner does not mean being co-responsible for a particular sin.
  • The spouse engaging in pornography has two primary goals: (a) purity of self and (b) protection of spouse. If personal satisfaction usurps either of these goals, then the mindset that made pornography seem acceptable is gaining a foothold again. This means obtaining the level of accountability and guidance necessary to provide your spouse with peace of mind, even if it is costly to your personal reputation.
  • In response, the battle of the other spouse is to resist defining your spouse by his-her sin. When “what you’ve done” becomes “who you are,” then romantic interest is stifled. This is one important aspect of what it means to forgive. This is a vital part of seeing your spouse as the “person” you fell in love with instead of the “action” you detest.
  • The interim period between restoration and enrichment is a time for sex to be restored to its more accurate level of importance. When we are willing to sin in order to get something, it has become too important. When something is too important it cannot satisfy. In order for sex to be satisfying in a way that offsets temptation, it must become less important so it can be more satisfying. Until we recalibrate the value we place on sex, increasing the frequency of sex will not have the temptation-alleviating effect we desire.

For singles:

  • Resist the lie that marriage fixes lust. Look at the number of sexually-broken marriages and realize this is only a plausible lie. It makes sense why we believe it. It’s just not true.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for feeling sexually frustrated. That only makes temptation more difficult. The increasing gap of time between puberty and marriage makes for more sexual frustration.
  • Remember a bad marriage is not better than good singleness. Talk to anyone who’s been in a bad marriage and they’ll bring this to life for you. The moral freedom to have sex didn’t revolutionize their life.
  • Remember that over-valuing physical intimacy will make courtship more difficult. When sex becomes the reward for non-singleness, then we rush physicality and wind up creating more emotional connection-commitment to someone than our knowledge of their character would merit.
  • Accept the sexual frustration. This is different from feeding it or admitting defeat. God doesn’t think, “You shouldn’t feel this way.” God is honored when you trust him in the storm. At the time of Jesus’ death, he was a middle-aged single man. He gets it.
  • Distinguish “burning” (objectifying and visually violating someone’s body) from “yearning” (desiring companionship and closeness). Fight burning lust; it will never serve you well or honor your future spouse. Be patient with yearning; it will lead you to folly if unrestrained, but can serve friendships and marriage well.
  • Commit to choosing the paths that lead to life in the midst of your frustration. The ability to make wise choices in hard times is what builds character and makes you a trustworthy person. This struggle will not be wasted; while the alternative to struggling wisely will undermine the development of the kind of relationships that could actually fulfill your desire.
  • Spend more time pursing God-honoring things that you enjoy than fighting temptation. Put in wise safeguards and have quality accountability-friendships. But, after that, have a lot of fun doing the things God gave you a passion for with people who are also passionately pursuing God.

What now?

Does this article answer all your questions? No. Then, what is its value? Its value is the next conversations you have.

If you don’t talk about this article with anyone who knows you well, it will have little value; likely it will further sour your attitude that there is hope because good counsel “didn’t work for you” again.

If, however, you begin a conversation with your spouse (if married), a solid Christian friend, a pastor, mentor, or counselor, then there is great opportunity for growth. One of the linchpins of pornography’s power is privacy. When we break through privacy with meaningful relationships, we begin to fight pornography on God’s home turf—Christian community.

You need someone to help you think through how to best apply these concepts to your context, to help you when you get lost in your own questions, to encourage you on your journey, to implore you when you want to quit, and to laugh with you so life doesn’t feel so weighty all the time. These are the things that real relationships provide that are more effective at quelling the temptation of pornography than even a “better marital sex.”​


Topics: People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Pornography, Sexual Purity, Temptation | Tags: ,

Not as Free as We Ought to Be?


I’ve been studying the idea of freedom for a book project. It’s a hot topic these days. Recent court decisions seem to be encroaching on what have always been understood as settled religious liberties. Immigration debates, right to access to confidential information, free speech in social media, decriminalization of marijuana, abortion rights, and a number of other moral, social, and political issues are tied in some way to how we understand the idea of freedom.

The World’s Song of Freedom

As part of my research, I put together a streaming playlist of songs about freedom. By the time I was done collecting, I had about 200 songs. After listening to them in the background of my study, I’ve composed a little free verse poem from the lyrics that have bored into my brain over the past few months. Maybe we can get a handle on the meaning of freedom—at least what pop/rock/hip hop/country/reggae/folk/punk/metal tell me freedom means. It goes something like this.

It’s a great day for freedom.
Freedom comes in a flash. It comes in a fight. It comes in a bottle.
It comes if we wait for it. It comes if we grab it when we can.
Freedom tastes like reality. It feels like a bluebird flying by me.
Freedom shouts from the mountaintops. It’s an open sail on a distant shore.
Freedom is marijuana trees blowing in the breeze.
Freedom is a road and a truck to drive on it. Or a drive on the freeway of love in a pink Cadillac.
But if you’re looking for the devil he’s out on Freedom’s Road.

Freedom is a simple song the whole world should be singing.
It’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
People got to be free. Find the cost of freedom.
Stand your ground and ring the bells of freedom.
Gaze upon the chimes of freedom flashing.
Watch the flags of freedom flying.

Did I tell you I just want to be free?
Your love will free me. But if you love somebody, you’ve got to set them free.
I’ve got to break free from love.
I’m free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free.
I’m free and easy. I’m wild and free. I’m running free. I’m free falling.
I won’t stop till I find my freedom.
I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.

The Word’s Song of Freedom

As Christians we must wrestle with the meaning of freedom. We aren’t far off from experiencing cultural opposition (if not persecution) for doing things society used to applaud us for, like evangelism, promoting family values, and faithfully preaching the Bible. But there are other freedom fights we face as well. How will we stand with those whose freedom is denied by oppression in other parts of the world? In what ways does being a disciple of Jesus clash or contend with being a patriotic American? And, maybe closest to home for each of us as individuals, what is the practical, down to earth, daily grind impact of the words of Jesus: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)?

There is one unexpected thing I’ve discovered in my study. The words of my free form poem above are often much more in line with my day-to-day definition of freedom than the words of Scripture. My theology grounds me in confidence that the work of Christ on my behalf as held forth in the gospel has freed me from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ. But turning that gospel reality into daily reality is met by a lot of culturally supported fleshly opposition. I’ve learned that while my culture increasingly opposes the religious freedoms I hold dear, at the same time it supports the fleshly freedoms I hold dear as well. My quest for freedom needs to begin in my own heart. I want my freedom cry to be the words of Peter:

“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).

True Freedom

The words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones are worth pondering as we consider how to live as the free servants of God in this world.

“The Christian is a (person) whose every action should be performed in the light of this intimate relationship to God. He is not, as it were, a free agent. He is a child of God, so that everything he does, he does from this standpoint of being well-pleasing in His sight. That is why the Christian, of necessity, should view everything that happens to him in this world entirely differently from everybody else” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 20).

Join the Conversation

What is your everyday experience of freedom? When you think about freedom what first comes to your mind? What cultural voices have a shaping influence on how you think about freedom?

If someone asked you, “What does the Bible say about freedom?” would you know how to answer? What shapes your view of how you exercise personal freedoms in your life?

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

Weekend Resource: Biblical Counseling and the Church


A Word from Your BCC Team: On October 1, 2015, Zondervan will release the BCC’s third book, Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care through God’s People. You can request to be placed on a list to order Biblical Counseling and the Church at 40% off by emailing us at: and placing in the subject line: Pre-Order. To order either of our first two BCC books (Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling and Scripture and Counseling), visit our BCC bookstore. Keep reading to learn why leading pastors, counselors, and educators believe you should read Biblical Counseling and the Church.

What Others Are Saying about Biblical Counseling and the Church

Biblical counseling should be a natural and vital component of discipleship within the covenant community that the Bible calls the body of Christ. It should also be a means of reaching out beyond the community to minister redemptive grace to the nations. This is a book, written by 34 committed biblical counselors, that will equip a church to do both. I am happy to commend its widest reading and use.
—Daniel L. Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC

In an age when too much of the care and cure of souls takes place outside the church, this book offers a clarion call to embed counseling ministry within local congregations. It provides not only the biblical-theological rationale for this interpersonal ministry of the Word, but it also draws upon the multifaceted experiences of many authors to describe specifically what counseling/discipling looks like in the trenches of church life. Whether you are a pastor tasked with the shepherding of God’s flock or a layperson who takes seriously the one-another passages of Scripture, you will be further motivated and equipped to be a conduit of God’s care.
—Michael R. Emlet, M.Div., M.D., Faculty and Counselor, the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF); Author of CrossTalk 

To say that there is a lot of trouble in the world today would be simply to state the obvious. Trouble is everywhere…but it’s not just in the world “out there;” it’s in the church “in here.” The question facing every pastor today is, “How can I possibly help all the people whose lives are overflowing with troubles, conflicts, emotional problems of every kind, and relational breakups?” If that’s the question you’re facing today, this book will help provide you with the answers you need. The Lord of the church has gifted the church with all we need to minister to those within our walls who are suffering through all kinds of trouble. The authors of this book are all seasoned, wise counselors who are committed to the local church and to the sufficiency of the Word of the church’s Lord. I highly recommend it.
—Elyse Fitzpatrick, Author of Counsel from the Cross 

Biblical Counseling and the Church is packed with the wisdom of today’s leaders in biblical counseling. This book will greatly assist in moving the care of souls out of the exclusive realm of the counseling office into small groups and every aspect of church life! I am excited to watch as this book revolutionizes how we connect counseling and the church!
—Julie Ganschow, Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center; Author of Seeing Depression Through the Eyes of Grace

Since my first counseling class in seminary, I’ve aspired to preach like a counselor. Jesus preached as a counselor, and those who heard him felt like he knew everything about them. To apply the gospel—full of grace and truth—to the multifaceted brokenness in people’s lives is the essence of Christian ministry. The authors of Biblical Counseling and the Church demonstrate that gospel-centric counseling is not just for a select few, but the responsibility of every believer. If you want to help people progress in the gospel in meaningful ways, you need to read this book.
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., Pastor The Summit Church, Author of Gaining by Losing and of Jesus Continued

How can biblical counseling shape the week-by-week work of ministry? What effect should our approach to counseling have on small groups, church discipline, evangelism, and more? Throughout this book, seasoned ministry practitioners articulate clearly and practically the impact of biblical counseling in every area of the local church’s life and work. A much-needed resource for church staff!
—Timothy Paul Jones, C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry at Southern Seminary; Author of PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace 

This is the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s best and most compelling book to date. The authors are pastors and counselors who know their craft. They have developed a thriving culture of biblical counselors and formal counseling ministries that not only help but also “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). If you believe the church should set the standard for compassionate, life-giving counsel and that making disciple-makers is part of the Great Commission, this book will both inspire and equip you to do it better.
Dr. James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel; Author of Act Like Men and Vertical Church;

It is rare for me to read a book and have it be all that I hoped it would be. I wanted a big, bold vision for biblical counseling in the church. That is what I got. This book is a treasure trove because time and time again my heart soared as the authors held up the Bible as the Book above every book for the church of Jesus Christ.
Jason C. Meyer, Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church

Treacherous, painful, and lengthy are words and moments I’d typically rather avoid. Counseling can be an emotionally devastating work for the faithful and feeling elder. But counseling in the church isn’t optional. In fact, counseling is a gift to us who live under the curse of sin and a means of grace to bring growth and health to the church. This collection of authors take God’s Word out of the abstract and into the concrete for God’s people. Ministry practice without sound doctrine is a disaster. Buy this book and wear it out for the love and care of the church.
Daniel Montgomery, Lead Pastor of Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY; Founder of the Sojourn Network; Author of Faithmapping and PROOF. 

The church is a place of real life change. Central to that vision and hope is the specific connection between what the Bible teaches and how to help people change. I’m grateful for Biblical Counseling and the Church—a powerful resource that identifies how any local church can become a culture of life change through biblical counseling in all aspects of the ministry. This book is practical, needed, and important.
Mark Vroegop, Lead Pastor, College Park Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Local Church 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.

An Update from David Powlison

Anyone familiar with the modern biblical counseling movement knows that one of the leaders of that movement for decades has been David Powlison, now the Executive Director of CCEF. In this post, Dr. Powlison provides A Ministry and Life Update.

Whatever Became of Sin

Jeremy Lelek, President of the Association of Biblical Counselors, writes,

“The inhumanity of Planned Parenthood’s marketing and selling of baby brains, livers, and limbs, the psychopathic murder of two reporters in Roanoke, VA, by a man so disturbed that he chronicled the entire tragedy via his own cell phone camera, and the unprecedented celebration of gender confusion and sexual reassignment all beg the question, ‘Whatever became of sin?’”

You can read his answer as it relates to secular psychology and to biblical counseling in Whatver Became of Sin?

Author Interview on Gospel Conversations

Dr. Bob Kellemen, the founding Executive Director of the BCC, and currently the BCC’s Resource Director, has authored thirteen books. Zondervan has just released his newest book, Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ. At Bob’s RPM Ministries site, he has posted an Author Interview on Gospel Conversations.

3 Ways to Prepare for a Funeral

Pastor Brian Croft shares his practical shepherding insights on 3 Ways for a Pastor to Prepare His Heart Before Conducting a Funeral.

The Gospel of Insufficiency

With empathy for women who do not receive godly, compassionate, wise biblical counseling, Julie Ganschow explains and describes the marks of The Gospel of Insufficiency.

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, Death/Dying, Five To Live By, Gospel-Centered Ministry, Grief/Loss, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Psychology and Christianity, Sin | Tags: , , , , , ,

When Culture Feels Scary


A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s post first appeared at Tim Lane’s blog site and is used by the BCC with Tim’s permission. You can also read the original post at Tim’s site here.

A Biblical Perspective on Culture

When you reflect on the past month in the US— the recent SCOTUS rulings, racial tension, and debates over immigration policy, to name a few—do you find yourself pessimistic and fearful or optimistic and hopeful? Depending upon where you stand on particular issues, a wide variety of responses can be seen. For some, it may evoke celebration. For others, deep sadness. Some, anger, and for many, a great deal of fear.

Yet, looking at our particular zeitgeist in comparison to what believers in the Old Testament and the New Testament faced has a way of providing helpful clarity as well as deep optimism. Yes, I said optimism! I am talking about deep biblical optimism, not pollyannish optimism.

In order to get some perspective, let’s consider one example from the life of the Apostle Paul. In Acts 18, we learn that he is near the end of his second missionary journey. He is leaving Athens and heading to Corinth. That, in and of itself, is worth considering. Paul’s time in Athens bore little fruit as far as we can tell. There was no successful church plant there that we are aware of. As Paul leaves Athens and arrives in Corinth, he says this:

“I came to you with great fear and trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3).

Prior to his time in Athens, Paul had experienced significant persecution for his work of spreading the gospel. The bottom line is this:

Paul is struggling with fear as he faces opposition.

He is a minority in the cities where he moves and preaches the gospel. He is outnumbered. People think he is crazy and narrow-minded. He is an outcast. His values are at odds with the culture he is moving and living in. Corinth, itself, was a challenging city. Not unlike many of our modern cities in the world.

A Game-Changer

It is within this context that Jesus speaks to Paul in Acts 18. Listen to what Jesus says and how it is very relevant for believers today.

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”11 So Paul stayed in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God.

The last phrase in verse 10 is a game changer as we ponder how we relate to our culture as Christians. Paul certainly hears words of encouragement that bring new strength and resolve to his efforts. Jesus promises to protect him and be with him in the midst of his work in Corinth.

But Jesus goes another step. It is a positive statement that changes Paul’s perception of those he will encounter as he goes about his gospel work.

Jesus says that many of Paul’s present adversaries will be his future brothers and sisters in Christ. Not all of them will. Paul will experience ongoing persecution and rejection. That comes with the territory as we follow the King of a very different kingdom. Yet, as Paul relates to his current enemies with a tone and posture of grace, conviction, humility, and tenacity, people will find hope and grace in the One whom Paul knows and proclaims.

How are we doing as a church in the 21st century within the context of our culture? Are we pessimistic or optimistic? Do we live in fear or in hope of the advancing kingdom of God; a kingdom of grace, mercy, forgiveness and joyful repentance?

What about your particular church? Do we see the cultural challenges of the day as opportunities for pastoral apologetics; a winsome and persuasive display of God’s kindness and call to a changed life?

What about you? Do your family members, co-workers and neighbors enjoy your company or hope you don’t show up due to your strongly held opinions and the way you express your convictions? Are you fearful and self-righteous?

Paul’s tone and demeanor shifted radically upon receiving Jesus’ counsel. It is the same counsel that you are receiving today. The King is on the move rescuing folks just like you and me. In fact, He wants to use folks just like you and me. We have an opportunity to be the church and represent our gracious King. This starts by building bridges and connecting with people; especially with those whom we may disagree.

Sound scary? If so, know that you have the same promises and encouragement from Jesus as Paul did as he moved to Corinth.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Faith, Fear/Worry, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , ,

The Verse on My Door


A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s very personal, very powerful, very Christ-honoring post was originally crafted by Pastor Paul Tautges for his blog site. With Paul’s permission, we are reposting it for your edification. You can also read the original post at Paul’s site here.

A Note from Paul: The following is adapted from a brief testimony that I shared at my installation service on August 16, 2015, at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. I share it with you in hopes that it will encourage you to hang on to the promises of God by faith.

A year and a half ago, when the Holy Spirit led me to take a break from pastoral ministry, we began to finish off a room in our basement that I could use as a place to think, pray, read, and write. As the room came close to completion, I found a picture that had been given to me as a gift when I received my master’s degree in 1998 and decided to hang it on the outside of my study door. I hung it there because I needed to see it every time I entered the room; I needed to consciously cling to a truth about my God. It contains the following verse from the book of Ephesians.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

This verse is a benediction I took hold of as a promise from God, which became an anchor for my weary soul. It is a key truth that my feeble faith gripped and would not let go of. Another promise that I clung to is found in Psalm 37:23, which had been displayed on one of my bookshelves for 22 years:

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way.”

During time away from pastoral ministry, I had met with our pastor several times. The first time he and I met for coffee he encouraged me to write down the characteristics of the next church that I would want to pastor when the Lord’s timing was right. He firmly believed that if and when the Lord would lead us to a new ministry, both my wife and I would know it. As a result, I came up with 7 characteristics of a church that not only I would want to pastor, but more importantly, a church that I believed would be good for my family. I jotted them down on a legal pad, which then got buried in one of the piles on my desk.

In January 2015, when my personal commitment to take a minimum of one-year to rest, evaluate, calibrate, and focus on specific needs in my family came to a close; I was not ready to intentionally search for a new ministry role. Many of my brothers in Christ encouraged me to get my resume out there, but I was not comfortable with that approach. There wouldn’t have been anything wrong with doing that, and many of my friends had been led by God through that means, but it was not how the Lord had led my wife and me in our past. Previously, He had gone before us each time and opened a wide door for ministry when we were not looking for it, when we did not expect it, and I believed He would do that again—in His time—if it was His will. And He did.

On January 21st of this year, Pastor Armand Tiffe and I both received the same email from a mutual friend at the Master’s College in California, Dr. Bob Somerville. Armand had contacted Bob concerning the senior pastor role that would be opening this summer at Cornerstone. Bob responded by introducing the two of us via email, affirming his belief that we would work well together.

Unbeknownst to Bob, I had just met Armand two months before, at a conference in Kansas City. Unbeknownst to Armand, Bob had become a friend and counselor to me over two years before. Bob was a brother who had suffered through a deep valley of depression and was helping other men, like myself, who found themselves in the same valley. And unbeknownst to me, Armand Tiffe and his wife had talked on their way home from the conference about how they each had separately thought that I would be an ideal fit for Armand’s successor at Cornerstone. That email from Bob got the discussion going, which led to a lengthy evaluation, interview, and candidate process with the elders and members at Cornerstone Community Church.

This past May, as I was packing up my library in our Wisconsin home, I found that legal pad with the traits of the church that I believed our family needed and that I would want to pastor. This is what I wrote. It would be a warm fellowship—a Bible-teaching, Christ-following, God-exalting, gospel-announcing, grace-dispensing, loving, and forgiving community of believers who desire to grow in Christ, together.

When I found that legal pad, I realized God had indeed kept His promises. Not only had He led our steps according to His good and sovereign plan, but He had also done exceedingly abundantly above all that we had asked for or thought possible.

I’m simply an unworthy slave of Christ who longs to one day hear the Master say, “Well done.” I am a sinner who has been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, reclaimed by God for His purposes. My wife and I are so thankful for the faithfulness of the Lord in our lives and look forward to serving Him as part of the Cornerstone Community Church family.

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

Medication, Biblical Counseling, & Depression: What’s New in Treatment?


A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part Two of a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Medication, by Charles Hodges, MD. You can read Part One here: Medication, Biblical Counseling, & Depression: What’s New in Serotonin? 

Treating Depression

It is no secret in medicine that the medications for depression available in the United States today do not work well. Research tells us that between 80% to 90% of those taking these medications gain no more benefit from them than they would from taking a placebo pill that looks like but does not contain the active drug.[i] In yesterday’s blog, we saw that the reason for it is simply that medical science has been working with a theory about the cause and cure of depression that is most likely not valid. So what can we do to help?

Today we are going to look at research from this year that is really encouraging for those who struggle with depression and sadness and do not want to take medicine. The first article comes from the Journal of Family Practice and is titled “Treating Depression: What works besides meds?”[ii] It is a novel thought, but there are patients who do not want to take medication. And, for those patients, the authors suggested counseling, exercise, and dietary supplements. All three categories are considered to be effective evidence-based treatment options by physicians. Let’s look at them for a moment.

3 Non-Medical Treatments

If you are interested in dietary supplements, I will let you look up the article and take it to your family physician since I do not want to be practicing medicine in print.[iii] But, I will say that the supplements listed are important and helpful. Before using any supplement, a patient should discuss with their physician how it fits into their total health care.

On the other hand, exercise is a favorite of mine. I have been running 30 miles or more a week for the last 46 years. And, at times, running has been one of the things that helped me when I’ve faced problems that have made me struggle. So, I routinely send sad and depressed counselees out to walk as long as their general health will allow it. The research in the article tells us that it does help. In some studies ,it helps just as much or more than medication.[iv] Many who struggle with depression and sadness will become physically inactive and a two-mile walk does them good.

The article goes on to explain how research evidence also tells us that counseling helps those who are struggling with depression and sadness. The authors relate that cognitive behavior therapy is the most used form of counseling in the medical arena. When comparing CBT to control groups (people who are on the waiting list and have not been seen) this form of counseling does appear to help.[v] It involves helping the patient change how they think about their problems and what they are doing about them.

None of this should be much of a surprise to those of us in biblical counseling. The Bible has real answers for the losses of life that often make people normally sad. As the writer of the letter to the Hebrews said:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16, NASB).

Christian Counseling

I found one last piece of interesting research this week published in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease titled “Religious vs. Conventional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depression in Persons with Chronic Medical Illness.”[vi] The research compared two groups of persons who considered religion important, one which received counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy) without any religious reference and another group that had religion integrated into the counseling. Usually the religion was Christianity.

There were two interesting observations by the researchers. First, the use of the “clients’ religious beliefs to identify and replace unhelpful thoughts and behaviors,” did not reduce the effectiveness of the counseling given. Second, for clients who were “highly religious” the counseling with religious content was more effective than the counseling without.[vii]

These conclusions are a long way from what Peter had to say about the subject when he told us that God “…granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him…” referring to Jesus. (2 Peter 1:2-3, NASB) At the same time, it is encouraging to know that there are researchers who are willing to ask what role religion may play in counseling and then answer it.

[i]Good Mood Bad Mood, Charles Hodges. Shepherd Press, Wapwallopen, PA. p.69.

[ii] Michelle M. Larzelere, PhD, et al. “Treating depression: What works besides meds? Managing Depression without Medication,” The Journal of Family Practice, p. 454.

[iii]Larzelere, p.456.

[iv]Larzelere. p.455.

[v]Larzelere, p.455

[vi]Harold G. Koenig, Michelle J. Pearce, Bruce Nelson, Sally F. Shaw, Clive J. Robins, Noha S. Daher, Harvey Jay Cohen, Lee S. Berk, Denise L. Bellinger, Kenneth I. Pargament, David H. Rosmarin, Sasan Vasegh, Jean Kristeller, Nalini Juthani, Douglas Nies, Michael B. King. “Religious vs. Conventional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Major Depression in Persons With Chronic Medical Illness.” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2015; 203 (4): 243 DOI:10.1097/NMD.0000000000000273

[vii] Wolters Kluwer Health: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. “’Religiously integrated’ psychotherapy is effective for depression.’ ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 March 2015. <>.

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

Medication, Biblical Counseling, & Depression: What’s New in Serotonin?


A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading Part One of a two-part BCC Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Medication, by Charles Hodges, MD. Return tomorrow for Part Two: Medication, Biblical Counseling, & Depression: What’s New in Treatment?

New Research

A good deal of new research has been published this year that is really interesting to anyone involved in medicine and biblical counseling. Some of it takes commonly held ideas about the cause and treatment of depression and turns them upside down[i]. Other articles give some encouragement about the role of biblical counseling in helping those who struggle with sadness and depression. Let’s start with serotonin.

For the last 30 years, we have been told that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance that includes a low serotonin level in our brains and that medication is the solution. In an article published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews[ii] the authors challenge both ideas. In the article, “Is serotonin an upper or a downer?” the writers make three interesting observations.

Their first is that serotonin is not low in depression and in fact may be elevated in many forms of depression. Second, antidepressants that are supposed to help depression by raising serotonin[iii] may not help at all in the first two weeks of treatment and make many patients feel worse. Finally, the improvement that may come from taking antidepressants that are supposed to raise serotonin may not come from the increase at all.

The authors state that the human brain will automatically respond to the increase by working to regulate the serotonin level back to normal.[iv] They speculate that the process the brain goes through to bring the serotonin back to normal is the cause of the improvement. After 30 years of being stuck in an unprovable chemical imbalance world, it is exciting to see medical science doing research that aims at a better explanation for things we see clinically.

Anyone in medicine or counseling involved in the care of those labeled as depressed in the past three decades has been aware of the two-week delay phenomena. Most of us have seen patients who struggle with symptoms of anxiety, nausea, and other side effects of the SSRI antidepressants. This research does two things for us in medicine and counseling.

First, it turns medical researchers away from the fixation on low serotonin as the explanation for everything wrong with human emotions. Now, we are free to look elsewhere. In the words of the authors, “Understanding the true relationship between serotonin and depressed states will be important in understanding the etiology of those states and developing effective treatment.”[v]

I have written along with many others that depression in the United States is amazingly over-diagnosed. Perhaps 90% of those labeled depressed every year are simply normally sad over loss.[vi] That does leave 10% who have many medical problems including some who have disordered sadness for no apparent cause. The current crop of antidepressant medications do not work well even for those in that ten percent. It would be great if this research sends medical researchers looking for a better answer for the cause and cure for the struggles of those in the 10 percent who may have a medical reason for their sadness.

Second, this research reminds those of us in biblical counseling that we are not obligated to counsel people according to labels or theories that have no credible scientific evidence to support them. This is especially true when those theories conflict with Scripture. The good news has always been that the answer to prolonged normal sadness can be found in the pages of our Bible. And even those who struggle with disordered sadness or depression with a medical cause can find the same comfort and encouragement in the Scriptures that anyone with a chronic disease can find.

There is more interesting research news to share. In tomorrow’s blog we will look at some encouraging ideas for those who struggle with sadness and depression.

[i]McMaster University. “Science behind commonly used anti-depressants appears to be backwards, researchers say.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2015. <>.

[ii]Paul W. Andrews, Aadil Bharwani, Kyuwon R. Lee, Molly Fox, J. Anderson Thomson. Is serotonin an upper or a downer? The evolution of the serotonergic system and its role in depression and the antidepressant responseNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2015; 51: 164 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2015.01.018

[iii] SSRI antidepressants, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, are supposed to work by raising serotonin in the human brain.

[iv] Andrews et al. p. 166-167, 175.

[v] Andrews, et al. p. 181.

[vi] Good Mood Bad Mood, Charles Hodges. Shepherd Press. Wapwallopen, PA, p. 66-69.

Topics: BCC Exclusive, Biblical Counseling, Depression, Medication, 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.