Category Archives: Counseling

Jesus Is Not Ashamed of You

Hebrews 2:11 contains one of the most surprising statements in the New Testament. It says Jesus is not ashamed to call us His siblings. Why does the Bible make this statement, and how can it possibly be true? Before we answer those questions, we need a basic understanding of shame.

Webster’s Dictionary defines shame as a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. A second definition of shame is “a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute.” In her mini-book, HELP! I Feel Ashamed, Sue Nicewander provides a biblically-based definition.

…shame is “a painful [guilty] feeling due to the consciousness of having done or experienced something disgraceful … the feeling of being caught doing something bad or … of being seen while sinning.” Dr. Ed Welch describes shame-consciousness as “being exposed, vulnerable, and in desperate need of covering or protection. Under the gaze of the holy God and other people.”

Before Adam and Eve sinned in the garden there was no shame. They were “naked and not ashamed.” There were no other humans to hide from and there was no reason to hide from God. They were in perfect fellowship with Him. But then they sinned…and shame entered their world. As descendants of the first man and woman, shame is part of our world.

Shame generally takes two forms.

Nicewander says shame often occurs in two forms.

  • “I am bad because of what I have done.” In this case, personal sin produces guilt, and out of guilt may come feelings that biblical counselors typically call “sin shame.”
  • “I am bad because of what other people have done.” The sins of other people hurt you in ways that may cause feelings that biblical counselors often call “provoked-shame.”

In other words, shame may follow our own sinful actions, from accepting blame or failure, or it may be provoked by the sins of others against us. Regardless, feeling ashamed often results in feeling inferior or unworthy—beneath others, never worthy of their love.

Shame has good purposes.

Three purposes quickly come to mind.

  • Feeling ashamed over our own sin can be used by the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance and genuine change. This was true of King David. Listen to his confession in Psalm 51.
  • Shame may also deter us from sinning in a certain way again. In Romans 6:21, the apostle asks the believer, “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.”
  • A desire to not be ashamed at the Judgment Seat of Christ is often a fuel to our perseverance and faithfulness. See, for example, 2 Timothy 2:15 and 1 Peter 4:16.

But shame may be used against us.

Shame is a gift from God, but it may also be a tool of the devil to defeat and cripple us, and a means for ill-willed people to manipulate us. Men and women who have experienced various forms of abuse usually experience this when they assume the guilt of those who abused them. They somehow believe their abuse was their fault and, therefore, carry at least some of the guilt. This is often untrue, but the power of shame still controls them. Another example is when you have been betrayed. Perhaps you dared to trust a friend or two with your secret thoughts or struggle, only to have them turn out to be a Judas or a gang of Pharisees who then used your transparency against you, to make you feel ashamed, to control you, to exalt themselves over you, to hurt you, or even destroy you, so that your shame would no longer be an embarrassment to them.

But all of this leads us to again ask, “Why does the Bible say that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters?” If we are ashamed of our past actions or sins we are guilty of in our present, or carry the weight of the shame others have imposed upon us, then why would Jesus not also be ashamed of us?

In the same Hebrews passage, we are told that Jesus had to be made like us in every respect (flesh and blood) in order to make propitiation for our sins and to become a merciful and faithful high priest, one who understands our temptations. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb. 2:18). Let us for a moment consider the temptation to let shame control you, or your sins and failures define you. Does Jesus understand this temptation, and how does His work remove our shame?

How does Jesus deal with our shame?

The redeeming work of Jesus deals with our shame in three ways:

  1. Jesus died for the sins that we are guilty of and, therefore, has taken our shame away. Peter wrote: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Peter 2:24). For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Peter 3:18). The Son of God paid the penalty we deserved for our sins.
  2. Jesus experienced the worst possible shame. Though completely sinless, He was treated as if He were the ultimate sinner. He was put to shame in our place. The Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted the shaming of Jesus. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3). The author of Hebrews exhorts us later in his letter to keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2). Jesus despised the shame—OUR SHAME. He took our shame upon Himself, despised it, paid for it, endured it, and has taken it away!
  3. God continues to forgive us based upon the sufficiency of the death of His Son. The promise of God’s ongoing forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus is one we most likely turn to every day. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Does Jesus understand YOUR shame?

Yes, He does! Because of His mercy and grace, God accepts your heartfelt confession of sin, repentance, and faith in Jesus as your Sin-bearer and Shame-bearer, and welcomes you into His family—as an adopted son or daughter—and as a brother or sister of Jesus. And Jesus is not ashamed to call you His brother or sister.

Have you brought your sin and shame to Jesus? Have you been set free from its prison? If not, Jesus stands ready to welcome you with open arms if you will turn to Him today. And when you do, He will not be ashamed of you.

[This post is adapted from a recent sermon by the same title preached at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]


An Open Letter to Those Frustrated by Their Progress in Sanctification

Dear friend,We all love it when life leaps into forward gear and we make all kinds of progress. Problems just seem to fall away. Perhaps in your life you’ve had a season like that, a season when your life seemed to shine and flourish. Maybe it was when you first became a believer or during some period when you were very well nurtured by good community and wise input.Then there are those seasons where things go very slowly. You wonder, “Is this all there is? Why do I keep struggling with the same old things? I keep losing my temper, or feeling anxious, or being clumsy in relationships . . . ” What vision does God give us for what our lives are supposed to look like, especially when we’re dealing with the long, hard struggle part of being a Christian? Let me say two things.

First, often when we hear the words sanctification, growth, and transformation, we have an idealized image of what that might look like. Though each of us may picture slightly different things, I doubt for most of us that the image includes three quarters of the book of Psalms which portray life where faith and hope happen in the midst of honest struggles—hard struggle, a sense that “I need God to hear me.” Psalm 28, for example, says, “If you don’t hear me, God, I will die!” It is not unusual for life to be difficult. We bump up against things in the world around us that are intimidating or overwhelming or discouraging. We see things within ourselves that we wish would change, but we keep failing in some way. The Psalms are about that. They’re about struggle with hard things in our world and in ourselves. And the Psalms are a window into the heart of Jesus Christ himself. If sanctification means becoming like Christ, then the way we struggle is as much a part of our sanctification as some idealized image of what we hope that we would become. Struggling honestly, actually needing help, is what the Psalms are about.

The Lord is enough. You can go through hard things and not lose your faith.

Second, there are particular kinds of growth and strength that may be happening in our lives that we don’t even see. Jesus’s first four Beatitudes are about needing help: feeling your need, grieving the wrong in the world, submitting to God’s will, hungering for all wrongs to be made right. Living such weakness doesn’t necessarily feel like growth. And the second half of the Beatitudes can also happen in ways that you’re not always aware. The fifth Beatitude says that the merciful are blessed because they’ll receive mercy. In your life—in part because you struggle, in part because you know God’s mercies to you—your heart may be becoming more generous to other people. You have less of a sense of me, me, me, of my rights and prerogatives, what I want to accomplish, that I need to own this piece of turf, need to get credit. You have a growing sense that other people really matter. You can be gracious to them in their shortcomings and their heartaches. Are you gradually decentering off yourself?

And think about the sixth Beatitude, about the pure heart. That means that you go into conversations as less conniving, less fearful, less manipulative, less comparative, less performance oriented. You’re able to simply be truer to what it actually means to care for others. You look out for their interests as well as your own.

Or think about being a peacemaker, the seventh Beatitude. You are less prone to leap into conflict, less prone to be defensively self-righteous when someone criticizes you. You may be changing into a more gracious person, and others see it in you more than you see it in yourself.

And, finally, consider the final Beatitude, about persevering and having courage in the face of suffering and difficulty. You’re able—in a deep-down way—to say “It’s okay that life is a long, hard road.” You don’t have to always get your way. Not everybody has to agree with you. You aren’t living for your dreams and your bucket list. The Lord is enough. You can go through hard things and not lose your faith.

Now none of those things—becoming a more generous-hearted person, having more simplicity in the way you approach people, being the one seeking to solve conflict instead of instigate it, and having courage and perseverance—are splashy transformations. They’re just good, quiet, strong, steady fruits of the Lord working in our lives.

I do think that if you add these two things together—realism about the ongoing struggle that makes you actually need the Lord and then contentment with these quiet, unspectacular graces that are about living a human life that’s worth living—then sanctification can, in fact, go forward even when you’re going through a hard patch in life.



“You were a mistake.” “You are good for nothing.” “You are one big disappointment.” These unkind, hurtful comments are spoken so that the person receiving them feels a sense of shame. The experience of shame comes as a result of thinking that one is a failure. In other words, the message is conveyed that there is something inherently wrong with the person and that he or she will never be able to meet the standards that others expect. This means that the person is, by nature, inadequate. Continue reading

3 Ways We Judge Wrongly

Jesus instructed His disciples to judge righteous judgment (Judge 7:24), but He also said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matt. 7:1). Is this a contradiction? No. We are called to use biblical truth and wisdom to discern rightly, but foolish when we make judgments based on  appearance or only one side of a story. We are called to maintain a balance of grace and truth, but avoid a judgmental attitude. This bad attitude is, as Matt Mitchell defines it, “a heart disposition meant to be condemnatory and censorious.

So, where do we go wrong? When does judging become sinful? Mitchell explains three ways.

  1. Rush to Judgment – To form a conclusion about a person based upon hearsay, without going to him to hear the other side, is utterly foolish and destructive. It is folly and shame to answer before listening, to rush to judgment about another person without loving them enough to take the initiative to start a conversation (Proverbs 18:13). Instead we should believe the best about the other person, rather than assume the worst.
  2. Prideful Judgment – The deeper problem behind and beneath judgmentalism is pride. Pride is the elevation of oneself not only above other people, but above God’s law (James 4:11). But there “is only one Lawgiver and Judge,” and it’s not us. When we rush to judgment, we play God; “we act as if we are omniscient when we are not.”
  3. Unloving Judgment – “The opposite virtue is called charitable judgment. “Charity” is the old word for love (1 Cor. 13:4-8), which compels us to believe the best about another person. Therefore, Mitchell counsels us well with these words: “If you and I are loving people with this kind of charity, we won’t sinfully judge or gossip about people. We won’t delight in the evil that we hear has befallen someone else. We won’t believe the worst about others. We will always hope for something better. Love is tenacious. Love does not pretend that all is well and sweep things under the carpet, but it does hang onto hope for others and believe the best.”

Instead of sinfully judging others and then tearing them apart through gossip, we should put on love, which bonds everything together perfectly in harmony (Col. 3:14).

As we continue to work through the book, Resisting Gossip, please consider reading and growing along with us. Previous posts include: The Best Definition of Gossip and 5 Types of Gossiping People.

Source:  3 Ways We Judge Wrongly

Why the Bible Compares False Doctrine to Gangrene

False doctrine has the power to undermine faith and damage believers if we are not discerning and, consequently, allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate our churches and thus redirect the eyes of believers off of Christ, and onto self. That which common man may consider good psychology may in fact be nothing more than bad theology. We must discern.

Poison in the Spiritual Bloodstream

Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys spiritual health. False doctrine kills the church from the inside out, whether it is preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the “counseling room.” The apostles warned of these “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18). Gangrene is a deadly disease. As it spreads throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Sound Theology is Oxygen for Believers

Consider this analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out. Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek “is literally ‘hygienic’ and health-giving.” It cleanses the mind and feeds the growth of the spirit.

Therefore, we must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our ministry. When believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think of everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting: “A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology.” Therefore, if we are committed to biblical ministry, we must take theology seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

The Apostle Paul’s model for counseling, as explained in Colossians 1:28-29, includes the high priority of teaching doctrine so that disciples learn to think theologically. This, of course, is an echo of the indoctrinating aspect of Jesus’s command to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all [He] commanded” (Matt 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” The noun form simply means “doctrine.” Acts 2:42 indicates that doctrine was a high priority in the early church. These believers were “continually devoting themselves to … teaching,” that is, doctrine. They were being instructed in God’s Word to the extent that their lives began to model truth to a dying world (beautifully illustrated in the church at Thessalonica, 1 Thess. 1:6-7).

No Theology, No True Ministry

Sadly, few evangelical churches today have the same priority. Instead, there is a noticeable shift away from theology toward therapy, which is having disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. The rock-solid foundation of the Word is now actively replaced by the shifting sand of man’s philosophy, and believers are being washed out to sea. This swing away from a love for, and adherence to, absolute truth is documented by David Wells in his discerning critique of modern evangelicalism, No Place for Truthor, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? He says in his introduction,

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant.

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to one based on experience. One case in point exposes the church’s preoccupation with self and therapy. This evaluation comes at the end of a thorough study of thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly the column “A Layman and His Faith”:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness.

As people’s perceived psychological needs become more important than believing right doctrine, and feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. In fact, it is indispensable to the disciple-making process because of the power of doctrine to protect, build up, nourish believers, and stimulate spiritual growth (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

[Excerpted from Counsel Your Flock]

Source: Why the Bible Compares False Doctrine to Gangrene

10 Top Biblical Counseling Bloggers

Where do you go when you want to learn more about biblical counseling in the Christian blogosphere? Here are the top 10 biblical counseling blogs from individuals that I read and recommend—in alphabetical order.

Kevin Carson: Pastor Kevin’s Blog

Pastor Kevin Carson, a biblical counseling professor and a caring pastor, writes with wisdom and compassion about daily Christian living and biblical counseling. You can read Kevin’s blog here: Pastor Kevin’s Blog. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Dave Dunham: Pastor Dave Online

Pastor Dave not only writes insightful blog posts, he crafts excellent book reviews. Read Dave’s materials here: Pastor Dave Online. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Julie Ganschow: Biblical Counseling for Women

Julie Ganschow is a leader in the biblical counseling movement. At her blog, you’ll not only read her posts, but frequent guest posts from other biblical counseling leaders—especially female biblical counselors. Learn and grow here: Biblical Counseling for Women. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Brad Hambrick: A Counselor for the Church

Brad Hambrick is prolific. He reminds me of myself when I was twenty years younger—and had five times the energy I have now! Brad not only posts excellent biblical counseling blogs, he also provides scores of in-depth resources. Visit Brad at: A Counselor for the Church. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Charles Hodges: Good Moods Bad Mood Blog

Dr. Charles Hodges is the author of, you guessed it, Good Mood Bad Mood, a book about biblical counseling and mood disorders. At his blog, Dr. Hodges provides up-to-date research and insight on depression, anxiety, emotions, and biblical counseling. Read Dr. Hodges here: Good Mood Bad Mood Blog. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Bob Kellemen: RPM Ministries/Changing Lives

I’m not going to say a lot about this guy, since he’s me! I blog, craft book reviews, post free resources, and also offer guest blog posts at: RPM Ministries/Changing Lives. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Tim Lane: Institute for Pastoral Care

Tim Lane is a trusted author, biblical counselor, and leader of the biblical counseling movement. Read his blog and benefit from his resources here: Institute for Pastoral Care. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Lucy Ann Moll: Counseling Hope to Your Heart 

Lucy Ann Moll is a creative, compassionate blogger, ministering online at: Counseling Hope to Your Heart. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Mark Shaw: Truth in Love

Pastor Mark Shaw has a special focus on biblical counseling and addiction issues, but his training, experience, education, and writing go well beyond just this important area of addictions. Learn from Dr. Shaw at: Truth in Love. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Paul Tautges: Counseling One Another

Pastor Paul Tautges is another prolific writer, speaker, and blogger. He writes with winsome wisdom at: Counseling One Another. If you want to send the link to others, here it is:

Extra! Extra!: 6 Top Biblical Counseling Organizational Blogs  

The preceding 10 blog sites are from individuals, not organizations. The next 6 blog sites are from biblical counseling organizations that I read and recommend—in alphabetical order.

Join the Conversation 

What biblical counseling blog sites—either written by individuals or by organizations—do you read and recommend? post 10 Top Biblical Counseling Bloggers appeared first on RPM Ministries.

How to Find a Biblical Counselor

Where do you turn when you or someone you care about is hurting?

Finding a biblical counselor who will minister God’s truth to you in Christ’s love is vital. If you are searching for a biblical counselor, I recommend that you visit the following biblical counseling organizations.

  • ABC (Association of Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of vetted biblical counselors that you can find at The Biblical Counseling Network.
  • CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation) can be contactedat for information regarding CCEF trained biblical counselors. You can also visit their Counseling Services page to get counseling through CCEF directly.
  • IABC (International Association of Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of certified biblical counselors. Their list is searchable by states and includes 8 countries. You can visit it at Find a Counselor.
  • The ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) maintains a list of certified biblical counselors. Their list is searchable by zip code. You can visit it at Find a Counselor.

You can find these lists and additional information about finding biblical counseling help at the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Find a Biblical Counselor Page.

While ABC, CCEF, IABC, and ACBC work diligently to screen any ministry or individual in their list:

  • It is important for you to personally research the church, ministry, or individual listed.
  • If you search these recommended links and find a biblical counselor in your area, please exercise due diligence and contact them with pertinent questions.
  • The Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Confessional Statement is a good starting place as you seek to find a qualified biblical counselor who is a good match for your convictions.
  • I also recommend the ABC’s document: Questions to Ask When Choosing a Counselor.

Source: How to Find a Biblical Counselor

The Seven Fears Controlling Controllers

Although controlling/authoritarian/obsessive people often seem intimidatingly strong and confident, at heart they are insecure people who are controlled by a number of fears.

Fear of things going wrong: Hyper-conscious of all that could go wrong in life, they are trying to protect themselves against every possible risk.

Fear of being found out: They put a protective skin around themselves, often shunning relational intimacy, because they are afraid that if people see more of them, they will see their inadequacy.

Fear of trusting: Trust entails risk and vulnerability. It means depending on other people and therefore the possibility of being let down, betrayed, exploited, etc.

Fear of needing someone else: The closer they get to someone, the more they come to need him or her, which unnerves them.

Fear of being exploited: Results in a tendency to be excessively guarded about giving, lending, or spending money.

Fear of uncertainty: The norm is excessively detailed long-term planning and a phobia toward changes.

Fear of not knowing: They tend to be obsessed about knowing every little detail about everything because the more they know the more they feel in control.

Alan Mallinger offers a few remedies for some of these fears in Too Perfect: When Being in Control Gets Out of ControlThey include:

  • Remind yourself that no one and nothing can be one-hundred-percent dependable.
  • Stop thinking in extremes. For example, just because it would be unwise to share every intimate detail of your life, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t share any. There is a middle ground
  • Practice letting down your guard in one or two small ways to gain confidence and begin to build the habit of releasing control.

However, these are fairly basic and limited remedies. At the root of most sinful controlling is lack of submission to God’s perfect control. The sovereignty of God has to be the foundation of any lasting deliverance from these fears. I can release control if God is in control.

God’s sovereignty means that even if things do go wrong, they are not out of control but under God’s control, and He will work it together for our good.

God’s sovereignty means that even if people find out I’m not what my public persona portrays, He can still provide me with friends and loved ones who care for the real me. Indeed, God’s sovereignty means I can stop pretending and start trusting Him with the real me.

God’s sovereignty means that He will never let us down, and even if others do, he can still overrule even the greatest betrayal for good.

God’s sovereignty means that we can depend upon him for the big things, and through that learn to depend upon others for smaller things.

God’s sovereignty means that even if we are exploited and conned, that he can make it up to us as the cattle on a thousand hills are his, as are the millions in Merril Lynch.

God’s sovereignty means that His plan is certain and that nothing is uncertain to God. We don’t need to make detailed long-term plans because God has made an every-hair-on-my-head plan that covers time and eternity.

God’s sovereignty means we don’t need to know everything, because He already does.

God’s sovereignty means we can abandon perfectionism and embrace His perfection.

God’s sovereignty means we can repent of authoritarianism and trust His authority.

God’s sovereignty means we can release control into God’s control.

Previous posts on Perfectionism and Control: Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7.

Source: The Seven Fears Controlling Controllers

Rebuilding Trust After a Deep Hurt

Rebuilding trust takes time when someone–husband or wife, or a close friend–has deeply hurt you. Do you fear forgiving the one who hurt you? This post by Donna Hart, PhD, a staff counselor at Biblical Counselor, appeared first here at her website and is used with permission.

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When we forgive a person who has sinned against us it means that we will no longer hold the sin against the offender. It does not mean that the relationship returns to where it was before.

Often a husband or wife may fear forgiving their spouse who has committed adultery, thinking that forgiveness means they have to immediately trust the spouse again. Trust will take time to rebuild, and the adulterous spouse will have to live out the consequences of their sin with patient endurance, persistently demonstrating trustworthiness.

God Calls You to Forgive

In the meantime, God calls the innocent spouse to forgive. He knows the spouse is not going to feel like forgiving, but our forgiving another is based on God’s forgiveness of us (Matthew 6:12, 14). God does not wait for us to be trustworthy before He forgives us.

He is aware of the sin that is deep within all of our hearts and knows it would be foolish to entrust Himself to us. He moves toward us in the middle of our guilt and shame offering us forgiveness. In the same way, we can move toward others before we feel safe, before we trust, and before there is proof of change.

Forgiveness: One Part of Reconciliation

Forgiveness is not the end of the process, but a part of the larger process of reconciliation that aims to restore the broken relationship. If we forgive someone but say we don’t want a relationship anymore, then there is no process underway.

How would you feel if God said, “I forgive you, but I don’t want a relationship with you?”

When we repent of our sin, accept Him as Savior, and ask for forgiveness, God forgives us and makes us His beloved children. We belong to Him as children who owe Him an enormous debt of love. God’s forgiveness leads to relationship – not away from relationship. The forward-looking goal of forgiveness is to have a goodwill attitude toward the offender, to avoid alienation, and make a future relationship with restored community.

The goal in forgiveness is reconciliation, not separation.

When to Delay Reconciliation

We are called by God to forgive those who sin against us and we must be ready and willing to do so, but pursuing reconciliation is complex and not automatic. There are, however, situations and sins that call for a delay in reconciliation or even an intentional separation from one another.

If the offender has not repented or acknowledged their sin, and does not seek forgiveness, we can still grant forgiveness, but reconciliation is not warranted.

It may be wise to delay reconciliation because of exceptional circumstances – such as situations of immediate danger or harm – to bring the offender to true repentance. In certain circumstances, not creating and maintaining separation may facilitate and assist a person’s sin.

Separation can be purposeful and must be done with a desire for God to rescue a loved one from a particular sins such as child abuse, chronic deceit/lying, physical or sexual assault, adultery, drunkenness, persistent verbal and emotional cruelty, a gambling addiction, and things like these. Constructive loving kindness means saying “no” and waiting for genuine change.

When trust is broken, restoration can be a long process determined by changing attitudes and actions of the offender. Words and tears are not enough and will never restore trust. When an offender genuinely repents, there is an acceptance and understanding that rebuilding trust will take time.

Restoration in these situations requires clarity of confession from the offender, authentic repentance, taking responsibility and providing restitution as appropriate.

Joseph Learned to Trust Again

The story of Joseph in the book of Genesis 42-45 gives us a picture of someone who has forgiven his brothers for their severe sins against him. Joseph wisely withholds reconciliation until his brothers have acknowledged their sin and demonstrated true remorse.

Joseph strongly desires to be reunited with his family, but refrains from restoring relationship until they bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8). The fruit is seen in changed attitudes, new desires, and self-sacrificing behavior for the benefit of others.

Is your heart willing to move toward another after forgiveness has taken place? Take some time to analyze your heart and the reasons for your actions.

Use the following questions to probe your thinking:

  • Can you think of some ways you have avoided true reconciliation with someone you have been called to forgive how could you start to pursue true reconciliation with that person today?
  • How do you know you have truly forgiven a person even though reconciliation is delayed?
  • How can intentionally create distance in that relationship be motivated by a desire to reconcile?
  • Are you willing to be patient and wait on the Lord through whatever time it takes for the person to bear fruit of a changed attitude, desire, and care for another?

The post Rebuilding Trust After a Deep Hurt appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

Bible Versus Psychological Theory

The Bible is God’s written Word–without error and able to transform people. Psychology proposes man-made theories to handle life’s problems. In this provocative article, Julie Ganschow spells out some of the differences and concludes that many people diagnosed with a mental disorder are soul sick, not brain sick. Julie is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center. Her article appeared first here and is used with permission.

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In the realm of counseling, there are many standards used to evaluate and determine the health and well-being of a person. Some of the standards are medical ones and can be supported and proven by solid scientific testing.

The case for this is made, for example, when a person is suffering from depression. All medical potentialities must be eliminated from the equation before the psychological diagnosis of “depression” can be applied.

Most of the standards applied to counseling are not built on solid scientific methodology but in reality are pseudo-scientific studies of behavior and mental processes, and the behavior of organisms. The truth about psychology is there is actually little that is scientific about how behaviors and mental processes are conducted, and little that is scientific about the psychological approach to studying organisms.

Serious questions must be raised about the reliability of these standards, for many of them use data reanalysis, (which is often faulty to begin with), field trials, combining data from separate studies, and the use of unpublished data sets. These are all methods used in the pseudo-scientific approach

Psychology Theorizes

Psychology relies upon various theories of personality to help people with the problems of life. Psychologists propose biological theories that suggest genetics are responsible for personality, and promote behavioral theories that suggest personality is a result of interaction between the individual and their environment.

These theories emphasize the influence of the subconscious mind and childhood experiences on personality and they promote humanistic theories that emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality.

The authors of each of these types and sub-types of personality theories have decided what their standard for normal and abnormal are based on their criteria.

What Is Normal?

In our present day, much of what is considered “normal” is based on current social norms. For example, there was a time not too long ago when homosexuality was considered abnormal and those who behaved in this manner were considered mentally ill and deviant. This is no longer the case because the standards for acceptable behavior have changed. Because all their data is subjective–without any hard scientific data–these theories can be changed at any time.

The use of subjective data such as logging of human emotions, feelings, and behavior is not good science. These things are all open to interpretation and the observation will be slanted or colored by the person doing the observing. We apply human logic to what we see and then speculate as to why they are doing what we see them doing.

Furthermore, psychologists believe emotional and behavior problems have either an organic (physical) or an emotional (mental) basis and, as such, are not related to the spirit or spiritual causes.

God’s Absolute Standard

This is why God has imposed His Word as the absolute standard for right and wrong, normal and abnormal. It is the perfect, irrefutable, and unchangeable standard by which mankind can live.

When Jesus was presented with people who were convulsive, violent, and self-destructive, He did not diagnose them as manic depressive or schizophrenic. These people were determined to be in deep spiritual trouble! Jesus did not consult a theory of personality; He knew that the issues of man were spiritual ones and He counseled them accordingly.

The Bible does not present a theory of personality, but it is clear on God’s viewpoint on man. Contrary to humanistic thinking God has an entirely different opinion of us. His Word reveals to us why it is pure foolishness to look at man for the problems we face.

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’  Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

The Bible is its own authority, and it always supports itself as being the truth. The Bible gives us numerous insights regarding how intimately God is involved in the emotional and mental life of His people.

Nothing escapes God’s notice—no thought, belief, desire, want, or perceived need—and He is the one who restores us to health and wholeness when we are ill in any way. Most often, people who are diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder are soul sick, not brain sick.

In Conclusion

How do we know right from wrong? The Word of God is our guide, and it lays out clear standards for righteous behavior versus the secular therapist who uses cultural determination as his standard.

The post Bible Versus Psychological Theory appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

Forgiveness Sets You Free

Forgiveness is something we often don’t feel like doing. It’s hard to forgive someone who has hurt us. Yet, we know it’s the right thing to do. This reassuring article by Donna Hart, PhD, a counselor at Biblical Counseling Center, appeared first here on her website and is used with permission.

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Forgiveness is powerful and transformative, and yet at the same time, can be complex and slippery. It is not something we feel like doing. It is something we do because it is the right thing to do; it is a decision and a promise we make to release a person by canceling the debt they have with us.

God Models Forgiveness

It is modeled after God’s forgiveness of us. Ephesians 4:32 says,

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.

We forgive by watching what God does and following His example.

It is difficult at best to follow the model God sets before us. We have all been in the place where we let the offenses of another stew resentfully in our minds, and that creates toxic hearts. We continually play the wrong in the background of our minds, letting it steal our peace, as we stay focused on ourselves.

Forgiveness is not intended primarily for our personal gain; it’s not about us. It is about God because it must always start with God.

Part of Our New Life in Christ

Forgiveness flows out of our relationship with God and is a crucial aspect of our new life in Christ. It is a natural daily token of our gratitude to God for our salvation and is the expected outcome of all Christ-followers who have been forgiven by Him.

Scripture makes it clear “…and forgive our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6: 12, 14-15). It is less about our emotional peace and moving forward, and more about our relationship with God.

Choosing to forgive reflects our heart attitude toward God and the person who sinned against us. Since forgiveness flows from our relationship with God and reflects the condition of that relationship, we are called to forgive those who sin against us even before they request it or take responsibility for what they have done.

Mark 11:25 says,

Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone.

2 Parts to Forgiveness

There are two parts to forgiveness: attitudinal and transactional.

We are to wrestle before God in prayer with the “attitude” of sin in our hearts that harbors bitterness and resentment before we “transact” forgiveness with another person. Attitudinal forgiveness paves the way for transactional forgiveness and gets the heart ready to fight the temptation to bitterly rehash a person’s sin against us.

Aiming for a forgiving attitude means working to forgive those who have sinned against us, preparing our hearts to offer mercy to the offender if and when asked, and being ready to forgive, even if reconciliation does not happen at that time.

Take some time to think about how your heart responds to the thought of knowing that forgiving others is to be modeled after God’s forgiveness.

What is the purpose of God’s forgiveness? Why does God forgive? Think through the implications and risks to your heart if you wait to “feel ready” to forgive someone.

The post Forgiveness Sets You Free appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

What Is Your Self-Identity? – Biblical Counseling Center

Self-identity: With all the talk of self identity and gender nowadays, you may think this article is about bathroom choice. It’s not. Guest writer Joshua Waulk of Baylight Counseling in Tampa, FL, zeroes in on the “I am” statements we Christians often make about ourselves and suggests a better self-identity. His article appeared first here and is used with permission.

BCC logoI am ADHD.

I am bipolar.

I am depressed.

I am an addict.

I am [fill in the blank].

Within the context of counseling, it’s common to hear people use these types of phrases to describe themselves. To be sure, there’s a sense in which they’re simply using a modern style of communication in order to say that they struggle, actively, with this thing or that thing.

Self-Identity: Do Your Words Describe or Define?

But, my concern is that, too often, embedded deep within the heart of the person, is this subtle notion that, in fact, the thing they’re describing defines who they are. In other words, my concern for some people I meet with in counseling is that their language is not merely descriptive, but is definitive.

My concern is even greater when working with followers of Jesus.

One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible is found in John 8:58. There, Jesus said to the religious rulers of the day, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am [emphasis added].” This statement enraged the men who were persecuting Him, because they understood that Jesus was hearkening back to God’s self-identification in Exodus 3:14

Jesus wasn’t simply identifying himself with God, but was defining, or declaring himself to be God.

When we pause to listen to our own “I am” statements, and compare them with the words of Christ, might we reconsider how we use these seemingly self-defining statements? Do we mean to say, when we use them, that who we are is all that the thing, or the struggle, or the condition is? If not, then perhaps we ought to abandon our use of this language altogether.

How Does Jesus Define You?

The point is, in light of who we are in Christ, it would be helpful to temper our use of  “I am” statements, especially those used in connection with our particular sin or suffering. Too often, they simply do not square with our new identity in Christ according to Scripture, but find their roots in the disease models of secular psychology.

As Christians, as people who have died with Christ, and through whom Christ presently and  actively lives, we are no longer defined by the sins and struggles of this world alone, even though we continue to be affected by them.

If Paul’s words are true when he says in Galatians 2:20,

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And again in 2 Corinthians 5:17,
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Then we should carefully inspect how we make use of descriptive language.
How we define and describe ourselves should always be in keeping with Scripture. Sometimes, there will be tension. For example, it would be true for me to say, “I am a sinner.” But, because of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, I cannot leave the conversation there.

Because of Christ, I am no longer defined by my sin or suffering, but am defined by Him. I am a sinner, yes, but I am also eternally forgiven, justified, and redeemed (1 John 1:8-9).

I may struggle with this thing or that, but that struggle no longer defines me. Like all things of this world, they are passing away, and who God is making us to be will one day be revealed in Christ (1 John 2:17; Hebrews 10:14).

Join the Discussion

  1. What is your self-identity?
  2. How have your own “I am” statements affected your understanding of who you are in Christ?
  3. Can you think of any adjustments you need to make to better reflect a biblical understanding of your identity in Christ?


The post What Is Your Self-Identity? appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

You Need Transformation NOT Recovery – Biblical Counseling Center

Transformation: To please God you need heart transformation. Recovery doesn’t work for the long haul. Here’s how to transform! This article by Dr. Donna Hart, PhD, appeared first on her website and is used with permission. 

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In our culture today, nearly every common behavioral problem is seen as a disorder or disease. It could include things like overeating, excessive spending, alcohol, drugs, or shopping. The heart of the problem can feel like a disease that has attacked you.

This can happen to me on my way home from a long day.

I am driving along and all I can think about is the chocolate ice cream in the refrigerator. I am thinking that I have had a hard day and I just need to reward myself with that chocolate ice cream. I have had dinner a couple of hours prior and I am not even hungry. I might even be dreaming about how much better I would feel if I had one of those Dairy Queen blizzards. I feel like I am being attacked by the chocolate disease.

This chocolate disease is a not a disease but a problem with my heart. In these moments, am I having a problem with what I am worshiping? If we are to define worship, we find it is a reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power and any thought, word, and act then becomes worship.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Do You Worship Your Idols?

When I say idolatry what is the first thing that comes to your mind?

Idolatry is defined as the worship of a physical object as a god or immoderate attachment or devotion to something. It is in the “immoderate” that leads to extreme thinking and behaving. It is an attachment to a physical object for the purpose of worship.

Who do you worship?

Everyone worships either a physical object, themselves as “god,” a false religion’s god, or the one true God: The Lord Jesus Christ. The word “idolatry” can be applied to any pleasure that becomes so excessively desired that it replaces the desire to worship God. Can both the love of pleasure and the avoidance of pain or escape fuel any addiction?

Two Paths: Which Do You Choose?

There are two paths for us to travel in life.

The first path is to follow the flesh and its desires to seek pleasure and avoid pain. One who walks down this road is living to please self. Theologians call this type of lifestyle “idolatry” and the worship of self.

The second path is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. One who travels down this road is living to please the Lord. This type of lifestyle could be called “Christianity” and a proper understanding of “worship.” It leads to transformation.

The Bible does not view man as born good. The Bible shows that all people are born with a selfish sinful nature. The focus of the sin nature is to please self.

As people with addictive behaviors and habits, must we have our hearts changed? We cannot change our own hearts. Only God has the power to change someone’s heart.

God Changes Your Heart

God changes the idolatrous hearts of Christians by making their hearts to want to do the right thing.

Willingness is the essential starting point. When God changes your heart, then you can begin to replace your stinking ungodly thinking with the perfect, joyful, and righteous thinking of God himself.

If you find yourself as a Christian struggling with addictive and idolatrous habits and have had a heart change and yet you find yourself still struggling with an addictive habit, do you then need a complete “transformation” and not just a “recovery” of your “old self?”

All Christians have three primary responsibilities in the “transformation” process (Ephesians 4:22-24)

  • Put off the old habit patterns of the flesh.
  • Renew the mind with God’s Word.
  • Put on godly habits of the Holy Spirit.

Rather than temporary change you require a complete “transformation” from your old self, old way of thinking, addictive habits, and old manner of speaking.

Your “new self” must now live in a way that pleases and glorifies God. It is not a “recovering” process of forever grappling with a more powerful foe with no real hope of overcoming it. Instead, it is a “transformation” process and by God’s grace you will become a new creation in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I would love to hear from you and how the Lord is transforming your life.

The post You Need Transformation NOT Recovery appeared first on Biblical Counseling Center.

Ego and the Story of Who We Are

Happy Living!

egoWe often interact with others through old, unconsciously held, and limiting beliefs that generate shame. As we have seen, each starting gate position has a distinct type of core belief that drives their particular dance around the triangle. These core beliefs combine into unconscious stories. We believe these descriptions of ourselves and others without ever questioning them. Left to run unabated in the mind, they generate all sorts of painful feelings, including worthlessness, inadequacy, and defectiveness. We reinforce and perpetuate these beliefs by moving around the triangle.

The ego is that part of us that manufactures and believes these limiting stories. The ego is totally identified with the stories it tells and wants to keep us identified with them as well. The ego uses the triangle to strengthen these painfully, limited identities of who we are.

When I think of our relationship with ego, I am reminded of the…

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