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Biblical Counseling Coalition: Grace & Truth

How to Go On American Idol without Becoming One

HowToGoOnAmericanIdol

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog by Keri Seavey was originally posted at Midwestern Seminary’s blog site: For the Church. We post it today with the permission of Keri and of Midwestern Seminary. You can also read the original post at the For the Church site here.

How Can You Redirect Misdirected Worship?

My son has recently been given a mic through the reality talent competition called American Idol. This type of moment does not come often and it surely does not come cheap.

One of the biggest challenges we have faced through this season is figuring out how not to become an American idol while doing American Idol! I mean, seriously: How can you do American Idol without becoming one?

Or, to ask it another way:

How can you redirect misdirected worship?

We are worshippers by nature. We were created to see beauty all around us. We appreciate beauty in people, music, wonders, gifts, abilities, art, at stadiums, in arenas, in the stillness and sweet sounds of nature, standing before the blazing glory of a sunset. We were created to be beauty-chasers, to crave the experience of awe! We so easily bore from what seems commonplace.

As I watched girls stand in line to take selfies with my son, some in tears (a recent phenomenon that always makes me uneasy), it struck me: we cannot stop worshippers from worshipping. But we can redirect their gaze to the One who is truly worthy of worship.

You see, we all have a nasty track record of exchanging glory, of worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (Romans 1:23-24). It’s wholly inappropriate and vain. We often set our sights on people to satisfy our longings. Yet, if you believe God’s Word, it reminds us by word and example that people have been wrecked and broken by the fall. Redeemable, yes; but broken, nonetheless.

It is vanity to look to people to complete your joy. It’s useless to worship the creature rather than the Creator. It eventually leaves you unfulfilled. Broken relationships and divorce rates make my point.

Mere humans cannot sustain the weight of worship. We are not fit for the task of being praised. For the one being worshipped, as tempting as it is to be praised, it creates idolatrous expectations and pressure to be inhuman, beyond all else, God-like. I would never want my son destroyed by the crushing weight of this kind of pressure.

The worshippers don’t fare well either. They are set-up for disillusionment and disappointment. Never satisfied. Always moving on. Always searching for the next “idol” to be in awe of. At the end of the day, my son is just like you and me. You will be sorely disappointed if you expect from him what he has not been created to deliver.

It’s All about Him!

Don’t get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe that my son is beautiful and has beautiful gifts. I love his sweet face and the beautiful music that comes out of him. We all have been created beautiful. We all have been given beautiful gifts. We are those made in the image of God. While on the set of American Idol, I saw and heard some of the most beautiful things coming from those made in His image. We are beautiful, yet broken. We are lovely, yet limited. We can be radiant, yet only in reflections of the One who is pure, untarnished Beauty. Only He is worthy to receive worship. Only He is able to sustain your joy in gazing at and praising His glory. Only He is beyond all else, uncreated, fit to receive awe.

We ought to appreciate beauty in itself, even in those made in His image, yet, with a knowledge that the beauty we see here can be used to point us to the One who is truly Beautiful. If you have been given a mic or a brush or a pen—whatever you’ve been given—steward your gifts wisely! Do your thing beautifully. But if you feel the idolized look in someone’s eyes turn to you in worship, gently nudge their chins in the direction of the One who is truly worthy of worship. Allow the beauty He gave you to point to the beautiful glory of Christ.

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

Scared to Death!

ScaredToDeath

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the fourth of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, Sherry Allchin discusses fear and faith in Scared to Death! You can also read Part 1, by Pastor Pat Quinn, at The Divine Remedy for Anxiety, Part 2, by Dr. Tim Lane, at How Does Jesus Talk to Worriers? and Part 3, by Dr. Ed Welch, at For the Fearful and Anxious.

A Flight, Fear, and Faith

Recently my husband Ron and I were on a flight home from ministry that was delayed because of weather at our destination. As we took off, we were just glad to be going home! It wasn’t long into the flight, however, that we understood why the delay, and that perhaps it should have been a cancelled flight. In our many years of flying, that was the roughest flight we have ever experienced. As the plane creaked and tossed to and fro, several ladies began to cry, one rather uncontrollably. Children were crying. Some of us were praying or reading, but calm.

Why the difference in response to the same circumstance? Why is one person afraid of flying while another experiences the time of their life sailing through the air at top speed?

The ladies in the first scenario had a belief system that controlled their fearful responses to death or suffering or to the unknown. Perhaps they believed that the plane could or would crash and they might suffer or die. Their belief in turn determined their response…crying out in fear and experiencing panic.

I well remember the fear I used to feel at take-off and landing. My belief at that point was that the plane might crash and that would be the most probable time. My heart pounded and I prayed. But in flight, I relaxed. Same plane, same pilot, same God, but two different reactions!

How Can Fear Be Controlled?

Since God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7), I decided to use my sound mind to overcome anxiety. I began to think differently about flying.

But I also began to think differently about my God. I realized my anxiety was really a trust issue. My God is good, and He is trustworthy. He has an appointed time for each of us to die and that appointment will be exactly on His timetable. No storm, no pilot, no evil can change that date. It is set. I do not need to be afraid (Psalm 23) because He will guide me through the valley of the shadow of death at exactly the right time. I need not fear judgment because the debt has been paid, and I stand in His righteousness (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 8:1).

As I came to peace with death, I soon came to peace with flying. I could read through the storm while others cried because death has lost its sting. My power was in trusting God and His Word.

My love for God enabled me to focus on His purpose for my life rather than my own. My sound mind could reason that take-off or landing was no closer to death that the relaxed flight in between! The storm had no more power than the calm. The night has no more fear than the day. This sickness has no power that my good God hasn’t given it.

I now rest in peace that as long as God has a plan or purpose for my life on this earth, I will live to His glory. And when my time comes, I pray that I will also die to His glory! Death has no grip on those whose hope is in the Lord. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain! (Philippians 1:21).

How Can We Help Others to Overcome Fear?

As biblical counselors, this is the hope we must proclaim, helping those who struggle with anxiety to experience peace and calm in the midst of the storm. I wanted to get up out of my seat in that storm and tell the crying lady about Jesus and the storm He calmed on the Sea of Galilee.

He told His disciples to row to the other side of the lake, but a fierce storm threatened their calm about half way across. They cried out in fear, “Lord, don’t you care that we perish?” Their belief at that moment was that He had abandoned them and would let them die in the storm. But had He not just told them to go to the other side? Did He really have a plan for them? They learned a powerful faith lesson on that sea that day, that Jesus’ word meant exactly what He said…go to the other side! No storm could hinder that. He was their peace in the midst of the storm, and He calmed the waters immediately to prove it!

On another trip, I sat next to a young man who was breathing heavy, sweating, and racing through pictures on his phone trying to calm himself. I kept noticing pictures of his dog, so I began to talk to him about his dog. Then he opened up about his fear of flying. As we talked on a three-hour flight, he shared his story of how he and his dog travel everywhere in his truck because he had a very negative flying experience about fifteen years earlier and had not flown since, until the necessity of this flight. His family didn’t know about his fear when they arranged his flight home, and he was too ashamed to tell them. As we talked, he calmed down and showed me amazing pictures of his dragon lizards and his dog!

Then I was able to share my faith with him to help him understand how distraction had worked to calm him down initially (cognitive-behavioral approach), but that a trust in Christ would calm his fear of death or his fear of life’s bumps to make a lasting calm in the storms of life. The Lord has repeatedly told us that we have no need to fear when we trust in Him, when we are certain about our eternal destination. He was certain his mother was praying for him to consider his faith, and he was confident he could make it to his final destination after our divine appointment.

Beliefs determine actions, resulting in feelings that either escalate or calm. When our counselees shift their trust from themselves and what they believe they can or cannot do, to what the Lord has already promised to do (to never abandon His own nor fail to love and care for us, to help when we call out to Him in times of trouble) then faith takes the fainthearted through the storms of life and through the valley of the shadow of death. They will no longer be scared to death!

Join the Conversation

How do you move from fear to faith? How do you compassionately help others to do the same?

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

For the Fearful and Anxious

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A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the third of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, For the Fearful and Anxious, Dr. Ed Welch takes us to two passages that remind us that God is always with us. You can also read Part 1, by Pastor Pat Quinn, at The Divine Remedy for Anxiety. And you can read Part 2, by Dr. Tim Lane, at How Does Jesus Talk to Worriers?

God Is Not Silent

When fearful or anxious, we typically feel alone and think that God is silent, which is ironic given that He is just the opposite. In fact, Scripture—God’s communication to us—gushes with words and promises spoken to fearful and anxious people. Like a mother who keeps talking to her child during a long walk through a dark place in order to assure the child of her presence, so our Father says to us, “Listen to My voice,” and He keeps talking and talking. Our dilemma is not His silence; it is how to pause on one or two of the hundreds of passages that He speaks to us.

Here are two places to pause. The first passage is for when you need direction immediately. The second will take prayer and practice.

When You Need Something Right Now

In emergencies, when fears and anxieties are loud and relentless, consider these words through the Apostle Peter.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

“Humble yourselves”—those are the arresting words. God is God and we submit to His sovereign control. We don’t try to figure out our circumstances; we simply trust Him.

Habakkuk captures it nicely:

“The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).

These words are potent enough to interrupt the anxious heart and quiet the proliferation of doomsday scenarios.

When You Want Hope and Long-Term Direction

The next passage speaks to the partial blindness that accompanies most of our fears and anxieties. Fears see only in part. They see that we might lose something dear to us, such as our money, our health, or the health of someone we love. They see the potential for loss with microscopic acuity. But they don’t see God’s presence, they don’t see His faithfulness to His promises, they don’t fixate on unseen realities, but they are dominated by what is merely seen with the naked eye (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Elisha gives words to our prayer, “LORD, please open my eyes.”

“When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ He said, ‘Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17).

This kind of seeing is called faith. It is nurtured over time through feeding on Scripture, praying and asking for prayer, learning from others whose sight is a bit more acute, and knowing Jesus. Rarely does faith-sight come all at once, as it did with Elisha’s servant, but that is just as well. With quick cures we miss the benefit of day-to-day persistence and the wisdom that accrues from it.

These two passages have been personally helpful, and I recommend them, but there are scores of others that might fit you better. Our task is to listen for these words now, to hear them, and meditate on them, to talk about them with our friends. Then, when fears and anxieties seize us—and they will—we hear our God talking and talking and talking.

Join the Conversation

What passages does God use to speak to your heart when you struggle with fears and anxieties?

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

How Does Jesus Talk to Worriers?

HowDoesJesusTalkToWorriers

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the second of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, Dr. Tim Lane biblically and compassionately demonstrates How Jesus Talks to Worriers. You can also read Part 1, by Pastor Pat Quinn, at The Divine Remedy for Anxiety.

Our Cares and Worries

I am not sure about you, but I struggle with worry all the time. I worry about what people think of me; whether I am setting aside enough for retirement; what life trajectory my children are on; how long will I enjoy good health; will my wife die before me. I know, it’s pretty self-centered. The list can be rather big depending on the time of day or year.

Statistics say that nearly 1 in 5 Americans will struggle with some degree of anxiety this year that will impede their ability to function. That’s nearly sixty-five million Americans in one year.

Jesus Cares about Our Cares

In the past, I would look to the Bible for some direction and hope in times of distress. When I did, I would bump into passages where Jesus emphatically says, “Do not worry!” To be honest, at first glance, those words were downright depressing. Then I would feel guilty for feeling depressed. I knew something was not right, but I did not know what it was.

About a year ago, I started looking at those passages again. I came to them with fresh eyes and the help of the Holy Spirit. I also came with a deeper sense of need. As I pondered Jesus’ every word, some interesting things began to emerge.

I was especially drawn to Luke’s account of Jesus teaching on worry in Luke 12:22-34. After He commands His disciples not to worry, He says something in verse 32 that gives you a clue about the tone of His voice as He utters His command. Jesus says:

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

Do you hear that? A command followed by a tender description of His hearers. Two little words, “little flock,” radically altered the way I understood and heard Jesus’ command. He calls His worrying disciples, you and me, His “little flock.” Isn’t it just like Jesus to pack so much in two words. And isn’t it just like us not to hear them.

Many years ago, when my children were very young, occasionally they would be awakened in the night due to a bad dream, a nightmare, or a terrible storm. They would wander through the dark house to our bedroom, sometimes in tears, crying and filled with fear and anxiety.

How do you think my wife and I would respond to their fears and tears? Do you think we would say in a harsh voice, “Don’t be afraid! Go back to bed! Your mother and I are trying to get some much needed rest after taking care of you all day!”

Of course not. We would not scold or shame them. We would jump out of bed and put our arms around them, kiss them, and say, “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. Mommy and Daddy are here. We love you and we are going to protect you. Now just come up in my lap and relax and go back to sleep.”

Casting All Our Cares on Him

The other day I was preoccupied with something and was struggling with that gnawing feeling in my gut. I was beginning to experience what I now know is anxiety. This time, I heard a very different voice speaking to me. It wasn’t the shaming harsh words I was expecting, but the tender words of a Savior who knows that we are but dust. He knows how broken this world is, and He knows how weak we are.

I heard Him say:

“Tim, don’t be afraid. I am committed to you. I love you and am going to take care of you. I am with you. I have given everything, including My own life, to secure your safety and well-being. I am Your Savior and King.”

What about you? How do you hear Jesus’ command, “Do not worry?” Do you add or leave off the next two words, “little flock”? Those two words make a world of difference. Those two words are spoken by a King who bids us to live life in a very different kingdom than our own. A kingdom where He rules as King in your behalf.

For More Help (Added by Your BCC Team)

For more practical, biblical help with anxiety struggles, your BCC team is pleased to recommend Dr. Lane’s new book, Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace.

Join the Conversation 

What does it mean in your life to cast all your cares on Jesus because He cares for you?

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

An Overview of ACBC Certification

 

 

ACBCOverview

A Word from Your BCC Team: The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is the leading biblical counseling certification organization in the world. In today’s post, as we often do on weekends, we are using our BCC “megaphone” to highlight and overview ACBC’s certification process. You can also view this video, which we are re-posting with the ACBC’s permission, at the ACBC’s site here.

For nearly 40 years, the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) has been certifying biblical counselors to ensure doctrinal integrity and to promote excellence in biblical counseling. Are you interested in ACBC Certification? This short video walks you through the 3 Phases of Certification.

For more information about ACBC certification, visit the ACBC certification webpage.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Megaphone Post, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Video | 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.

Want to Be a Better Communicator?

Julie Ganschow shares biblical principles of other-centered communication in Want to Be a Better Communicator? 

17 Posts on Character

Brad Hambrick has collated direct links to his Favorite Posts on Character.

Avoid Hasty Conclusions

Strong words of counsel about our counsel from Pastor Paul Tautges:

“If, in our attempt to be peacemakers, we reach conclusions and make judgments without taking time to practice biblical love, by seeking out and listening to both parties involved, then we are not wise counselors at all, but very foolish. Instead of helping the people we claim to care about we do more damage by becoming part of the problem rather than the solution; instead of serving God as a so-called peacemaker, we serve the flesh and do the devil’s work.”

Read Paul’s entire post in context in One Sure Way to Be Unhelpful to Others.

20 Lessons from 20 Years of Pastoral Ministry

Pastor Brian Croft is completing his second decade of pastoral ministry. Reflecting back he shares Lessons Learned after 20 Years of Pastoral Ministry.

God’s Story Is a Page-Turner

David Powlison shares his story of coming to Christ and of ministering at CCEF in God’s Story Is a Page-Turner.

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, Communication, Five To Live By, Local Church Ministry, Marriage & Family, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers | Tags: , , , , , ,

The Divine Remedy for Anxiety

ADivineRemedyforAnxiety

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the first of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, Pastor Pat Quinn diagnoses the spiritual root causes of anxiety and then offers God’s remedy for anxiety.

Anxiety Is Pervasive and Complex

In my own counseling ministry, anxiety is one of the “big three” issues I deal with most frequently (along with depression and marital counseling/conflict resolution). The pervasiveness of anxiety in our country is well documented. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. According to studies, 40 million adults over 18 are reported to suffer from anxiety disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

Helping people who struggle with anxiety is challenging because it often develops from multiple influences such as genetic predisposition, family and social relationships, traumatic experiences, and spiritual problems. While we always need to keep biological and social influences on the table, let’s think about some possible underlying spiritual contributors to anxiety and then look at a passage that points to a divine remedy.

Level 1 Spiritual Influences on Anxiety

While the specific influences and manifestations of anxiety vary greatly from person to person, I have found a few common spiritual issues that often underlie problems with anxiety. We’ll call these three issues level one influences.

  • Idolatrous desires: As biblical counselors we are all familiar with how God-substitutes (Jeremiah 2:13; Ezekiel 14:1-6; James 4:1-10) can lure the heart away from the Living God and replace love of God and neighbor with false worship and manipulation of others. It is also true that these heart idols often fuel fear and anxiety. I have seen people shake with terror in my office or describe panic attacks because they either feared they wouldn’t attain what they craved or might lose the dream life they had.
  • Unbelief in God’s character and promises: When our hearts defect from an active trust in God’s wise and loving sovereignty over our lives, many of us become control freaks manipulating everyone and everything to seek our own “way, truth, and life.” The underlying, anxiety-fueling, false belief seems to be, “I don’t sense God doing much for me so it’s up to me to pursue my own happiness and keep all the plates spinning…but I can’t!”
  • Prideful self-righteousness: Attempts at self-justification often lead to anxious striving, fear of failure, defensiveness, inability to rest in Christ’s righteousness, and feelings of inadequacy and condemnation. Self-righteousness is the default mode of the human heart (Romans 10:1-4) and can lead to anxious questions like, “Is my faith strong enough?” “Have I done enough?” “Is God pleased or disappointed with me?” “Am I genuine or phony?” “Will all this end well?”

Counseling Question: What other underlying spiritual influences on anxiety have you discovered in yourself or others?

Level 2 Spiritual Influences on Anxiety

It’s obvious that these three level one issues are forms of false worship. And false worship inevitably leads to what I’m calling level two—the deep hidden fear of the wrath of God.

Romans 1:18-32 shows how this plays out in three parts. First, we suppress the truth about God, exchange the truth about Him for a lie, and worship God-substitutes. Second, in His wrath God gives us up to lusts of the heart, dishonorable passions, a debased mind, and evil behavior. Third (and most relevant to anxiety), Paul says we instinctively know that all this deserves death.

This means that underneath all our other fears and anxieties and all their various causes, deep down we are terrified of God’s condemnation and sentence of eternal death. Even non-religious people who don’t consciously fear God fear death. Author Jack Kerouac wrote:

“I am young now and can look upon my body and soul with pride. But it will be mangled soon, and later it will begin to disintegrate, and then I shall die, and die conclusively. How can we face such a fact, and not live in fear?”

Believers know even more terrifying truth: death is “the wages of sin,” is “the final enemy,” and leads to “the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.” John summarizes this succinctly by writing, “For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

Counseling Question: How can we clearly and winsomely help people see the relationship between anxiety and the fear of judgment?

The Divine Remedy in 2 Timothy 1:1-10

Now we will look 2 Timothy 1 to see God’s remedy for the misplaced desires, unbelief, self-righteousness, false worship, and fear of death that fuel anxiety.

  • Paul reveals God’s promise of life and offer of grace, mercy, and peace through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:2). The fact that God promises life through the “appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:10) gives good reason for counselees to fight fearful unbelief and trust in the character and promises of God, which are all “yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The gospel of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension is historically reliable, theologically clear, and practically powerful. The truth that God’s sovereign care for us begins “before the ages” (2 Timothy 1:9) and leads to “immortality” (2 Timothy 1:10) give good reason to surrender control and rest in God’s steadfast love. If He is sovereign over eternity past and eternity future, He is certainly able to work all things in our present lives for good (Romans 8:28).
  • Our idolatrous desires are targeted by God saving us and calling us to “a holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9). The connection between a holy calling and the deep satisfaction and joy we crave may not be immediately clear. Our craving for joy and life often leads us to believe we cannot be satisfied by Christ alone but need to supplement Him with various worldly pleasures. We have already seen that this often leads to anxiety about gaining and holding on to what we believe we can’t live without. This is remedied by seeing how the holiness God calls us to and our ultimate happiness in Him are related. Jonathan Edwards helps us see this connection: “He imparts of his own beauty….They are partakers of God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:10). So God communicates to his people of his own happiness(quoted by Dane Ortlund in Edwards on the Christian Life, p. 30). I love the connections between God’s holiness, beauty, and happiness and how He communicates these to us through the gospel. This means that we and our counselees can learn to be satisfied in that what we need and desire the most we can never lose—Jesus Christ. The resulting joy and security are great antidotes to anxiety.
  • Much anxiety is connected to the nervous striving of works-righteousness. We fear that our good deeds don’t outweigh the bad, that we never seem to measure up, that we’re not as spiritual or successful as others, and that our shabby lives may one day be exposed and condemned. How liberating are Paul’s words that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Our salvation and hope do not depend primarily on our own performance but on the grace of God’s eternal election and Christ’s perfect performance on our behalf. We can answer the anxious questions, “Have I done enough? Am I secure?” with, “No, I haven’t done enough, but Christ has—in my place. I am eternally secure in the grace, mercy, and peace of God.” Then, in the freedom of our eternal election and perfect justification, we can get on with loving God and others. And John tells us that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
  • What about the final enemy—the fear of judgment and death? This rightly makes us tremble. But the trembling of fear can give way to the trembling of joy as we hear Paul tell us that by His appearing Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Our worst problem—the wrath of God toward our sin—has been finally and irrevocably solved. Jesus abolished death through the cross and brought eternal life in the Spirit through His resurrection. In their song See What a Morning, Keith and Kristin Getty proclaim:

And we are raised with him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with him,
For he lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

So, Peter exhorts us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). In the light of this glorious gospel, casting all our anxieties on Him makes wonderful sense.

Counseling Questions: What other passages apply gospel grace and truth to anxiety? How do you connect remedy to reasons?

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

Homosexuality: A Matter of Orientation

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A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at the Association of Biblical Counselor’s website and is re-posted with their permission. You can also read the original post at their site here.

Almost daily we encounter evidences of the current moral revolution occurring in this country; and it is happening at a blistering pace. At the forefront of this discussion is the topic of homosexuality. Depending on which side of the fence you fall, you might consider this an evolution of morality, or you might see morality devolving before our very eyes. Sexual orientation has been a hot topic for some time; and for many, even many professing Christians, the practice of sexuality outside of the traditional heterosexual covenantal relationship of marriage has been seen as progressive.

Sadly, much of this debate is devoid of any real interest in God’s perspective. Sadder still, there is much twisting of what God has to say about it all. This speculation is unfortunate. God’s Word is clear. Homosexuality is sinful and is rebellion against God’s creative design. This increasingly counter-cultural stance on homosexuality will no doubt bring the church to the forefront if we hold fast to this truth. This blog is not an attempt to make an argument for or against homosexuality, but instead to deal with the heart of the matter. And that starts with us, the church.

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good character let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be very disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).

Before we speak as to what God says regarding homosexuality we need to hear from God ourselves. We need to check our own hearts. Do we enter debates to win or in the confidence that, in Christ, we have already won? Our selfish ambition will result in every disorder and we will be shown lacking wisdom and ultimately foolish. But if our hearts are pure it will be expressed in our conduct, we will be peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

As we move to the topic of homosexuality we need to approach it with sensitivity. I have had the great privilege of walking alongside several men compelled by the gospel to come out of a homosexual lifestyle. Our church is full of men and women who are experiencing redemption in Jesus Christ. Many of these still wrestle with homosexual temptations while others have experienced healing to such a degree that they are now happily married, joyfully expressing their sexuality within heterosexual marriage or have the desire to do so.

I have come to understand that no two stories are the same. Some clearly feel that they were born with homosexual tendencies and others can see clearly the development of homosexual thoughts and behavior’s through experimentation or abuse.

I want to dispel one of the arguments used in the culture to justify homosexuality: The idea of being born this way. This assumes that we are born without distorted desires. You hear things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” The assumption is if I was born this way, it must be His design.  The truth is that we are born in a fallen state, sinful, and therefore this argument for homosexuality falls flat. Equally invalid is any argument that implies it is God’s design that one express sexuality through innumerable heterosexual encounters.

I think labeling homosexuality a matter of “orientation” is a great point of engagement. What is meant by this term culturally is: Am I personally (as a man) sexually oriented around men (homosexuality), women, (heterosexuality) or both (bisexuality), animals (bestiality), children (pedophilia) or some object (fetish), etc.?

But the conversation must move beyond the horizontal orientation and, instead, must be oriented vertically in terms of our relationship with God. Through the fall of mankind, in addition to having distorted desires, we have become disoriented from God. This means that we are inevitably lost—looking to the culture to define us while simultaneously seeking to have our desires met through creatures for what only He can ultimately provide.

Homosexuality is rarely about sex. It is always about worship. It is about offering myself to the one who is providing what my heart desires and/or receiving the worship of another in exchange for what their heart desires. This, by the way, is true in all sexual immorality regardless of whether it is homosexual in nature or not.

At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, I will give a couple of examples of how people I have known came to practice homosexuality, the counterfeit redemption it offered them, and the superiority of the gospel in resolving the underlying issues.

A young man I counseled grew up in a Christian home. He was perceived culturally as “effeminate,” because he was slim, sensitive, and artistic. His father was perceived culturally as “manly,” because he was strong, liked to hunt, fish, and work on cars. As a boy he identified more with mom. Dad was somewhat disinterested and looked past him. The boy longed for the attention and acceptance of his father. He began to wish he were different, that he was more “manly.” He began to be jealous of the boys who looked more like his dad. He lusted for these things that seemed unattainable.

In his adolescence, one of these young men began to show interest in him. The association gave him the sense that he had gained what he was looking for. As the relationship became sexualized he attached himself in a covenantal act by offering himself in worship to the one who possessed what he was lacking. He became “one flesh” with this young man and this gave him a sense of possessing what he longed for. At the most basic level this is no different than someone who feels they are “important” because they hang out with important people.

Similarly, I have known a woman for some time that was abused by her father and later by her husband. Disoriented from God and done with men, she sought to have her desires met through the gentle nurturing of a same-sex relationship by offering herself to another woman sexually.

These counterfeit forms of redemption pale in comparison to the ultimate redemption found in Jesus Christ. These counterfeits are just twisted replicas attempting to mar the real thing, robbing us of life rather than give it. Through the gospel we find the acceptance of our Heavenly Father. He has not overlooked us in sending His son. His perfection makes up for where we are lacking. In offering ourselves to Him, we receive all that our hearts have longed for. We are nurtured in Him. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and the covenant is sealed. Our value and worth comes through our association with Him. We are given a new heart, which leads us to love and practice the things that He loves and despise that which profanes His name.

If we merely stand on the outside judging whether homosexuality is right or wrong without taking the time to move beyond the behavior to come alongside and know a person, we will never have the opportunity to show how the gospel is applied in satisfying the deepest longings of the heart. Without condoning sin we must enter in.

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

“What’s in Your Training Plan?”

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If you watched any of the “March Madness” college basketball, you are familiar with this advertising line, “What’s in your wallet?” For us today, let’s change that line slightly to, “What’s in your training?” Let’s talk together about some plans for instruction.

As for Grace Fellowship Church in Florence, Kentucky, we are grateful for the privilege of offering Counseling and Discipleship Training again this coming fall. This Training is a robust time of practical instruction about how to live life in a way pleasing to God and, therefore, good for us. From start to finish, it is based on principles from the Scriptures. So as to tailor for personal learning, participants can choose from 3 Tracks of instruction.

3 Tracks to Choose From

Track 1, “Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling,” provides foundational training needed for a believer’s own personal growth and ability to counsel others biblically. How to deal with trials, suffering, guilt, repentance, forgiveness, anger, worry, fear, sexual sin, and depression are just some of the topics covered.

Our Pastor, Brad Bigney, teaches a lion’s share of these 30 hours of instruction. So as not to impose on the Monday through Friday workweek, this training extends over 3 weekends spaced a month apart: one weekend in September, then one in October, and the final weekend in November. Extending the training over 3 months also minimizes mental overload. Additionally, this instruction fulfills the Basic Training Course requirement for Counseling Certification through the Association of Biblical Counselors, ACBC.

Track 2, “Family Life and Parenting,” provides hope and help for biblical living through deep family messes including those compounded by unrepentant adult children. For example, one teaching is entitled “Parenting is More than a Formula” and another is “You Never Stop Being a Parent: Dealing with Our Adult Children.” This training takes place for just the one weekend in September that Track 1 is being held.

Track 3, “The Theology of Biblical Counseling,” covers the many theological topics and truths that impact Biblical Counseling. Those considering becoming ACBC Certified Counselors will benefit significantly since the content covers the theology portion of the ACBC Exam. This training is for just one weekend in October, which is the same weekend that Track 1 is being held.

Value

This training is of great value to us as a church. First, we encourage all our people of Grace Fellowship to take Track 1. This gives them tremendous insight into the hope and help that God provides in His Word for us to live lives pleasing to Him. Second, the material in Track 2 changes every year. Each year there is something new for participants to digest and apply to their lives and ministry. This is especially helpful for our Small Group Leaders and Counselors who are asked to attend this Track each year as a major component of their ongoing equipping. Third, hosting this training is a way our church can serve the greater kingdom of God. Actually, more people attend this training from other churches than from our own. To our surprise and delight, attendees usually come from at least 8 nearby states.

“What’s in Your Plan?”

All this about the counseling training at our church is not about us singing, “how great we art,” but to encourage all of us to think about, “What’s in your training plan?” How about you and your church? Are you getting the on-going training you need this year to continue to grow in Christlikeness and to help others do the same?

At present, there are a number of churches and organizations that offer this kind of training, such as ACBC, ABC, CCEF, Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana, and many others. As a church leader, are you taking your people with you to training? Even as a small church plant meeting in a school, more than 40 of our people were taken for many years to this kind of training. What a blessing that training was for our small congregation in having our servants thoroughly equipped “for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12).

Join the Conversation

So, “what’s in your training plan” this year?

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

The Importance of Biblical Counseling Certification

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A Word from Your BCC Team: The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors is the leading biblical counseling certification organization in the world. In today’s post, we are re-posting, with the permission of the ACBC, their interview with Dr. Nicolas Ellen on the vital importance of being ACBC Certified. You can also view this interview at the ACBC site here.

Why ACBC Certification?

Why should you consider ACBC certification? Nicolas Ellen shares why in this Interview on the Importance of Being ACBC Certified.

For more information about ACBC certification, visit the ACBC certification webpage.

Topics: Biblical Counseling, Equipping, People in Need of Care, People Who Offer Care, People Who Train Caregivers, Video | 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.