Category Archives: Counseling

Seminar — True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin (Podcasts)

Below are presentations from a live event for “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin. For the various counseling options available from this material visit http://www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

  • The True Betrayal seminar is also available in video format.

The complementing study “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery” is also available in a video and podcast format.


If you know a marriage affected by infidelity or pornography, download this resource.
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NOTE: Many people have asked how they can get a copy of the seminar notebook referenced in this verbal presentation. You can request a copy from Summit’s admin over counseling at counseling@summitrdu.com (please note this is an administrative account; no individual or family counsel is provided through e-mail).

STEP 1.
PREPARE yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually to face your suffering.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-1?theme=white

STEP 2.
ACKNOWLEDGE the specific history and realness of my suffering.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-2?theme=white

STEP 3.
UNDERSTAND the impact of my suffering.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-3?theme=white

STEP 4.
LEARN MY SUFFERING STORY which I used to make sense of my experience.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-4?theme=white

STEP 5.
MOURN the wrongness of what happened and receive God’s comfort.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-5?theme=white

STEP 6.
LEARN MY GOSPEL STORY by which God gives meaning to my experience.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-6?theme=white

STEP 7.
IDENTIFY GOALS that allow me to combat the impact of my suffering.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-7?theme=white

STEP 8.
PERSEVERE in the new life and identity to which God has called me.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-8?theme=white

STEP 9.
STEWARD all of my life for God’s glory.

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/true-betrayal-step-9?theme=white

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Adultery” or “Favorite Posts on Pornography” post which address other facets of these subjects.

Source: Seminar — True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin (Podcasts)

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What to Do When Singleness Lasts Longer than You Expected

The Suffering of Singleness

Singleness brings its own suffering, a kind of misery many married people simply don’t understand anymore. I wonder what the hardest days are for you? Maybe it’s been a breakup (or several). Or maybe it’s been that nothing’s ever gotten that far. There’s never been a real boyfriend or girlfriend who might break up with you. Maybe you gave up and started experimenting sexually—in relationships or online—looking for love, pleasure, and control, and instead finding shame, regret, and slavery. Maybe you’ve wanted to be a mom or a dad since you were old enough to know what one was. You’ve dreamed and dreamed about having little boys and girls of your own. You love your friends’ kids, but bitterness creeps in sometimes. Maybe you’re just longing for friendship or companionship, someone to laugh and cry with.

More people probably want to be married because of loneliness than because of sex and children combined. That’s my guess anyway. Maybe married people have made a few too many insensitive comments, encouraging you to enjoy “dating Jesus,” or reminding you how great it is to wait, or trying to hook you up with their uncle’s daughter’s friend’s sister. Maybe it has nothing to do with dating or marriage for you. Maybe it’s your parents’ relationship or divorce, or losing someone you loved too soon, or getting diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-altering condition or disease. Like everyone else, every not-yet-married person will experience pain, but pain will be magnified in some ways by singleness.

From Where Does Joy Come?

The pain of disappointment we feel in the not-yet-married life falls from trees filled with our expectations. Our dreams grow and get more beautiful over years and years in our young imaginations, and then reality reaps a harvest, almost indiscriminately plucking fruit that we want to taste for ourselves. I felt that way, anyway, after years of wanting marriage. We tend to define our life based on our perception of our progress. Am I where I thought I would be at this age? Have I achieved what I thought I would? Are my dreams more or less real today?

Our plans and dreams can become idols. Marriage is a good gift and a terrible god. Most of my grief in my teenage years and even into my twenties came from giving more of my heart to my future marriage than to God. It’s easy to anchor our hope and happiness in a wife or husband and to define our growth, maturity, and worth by our marital status. And when we worship love, romance, sex, or marriage—and not God—we welcome the pain and disappointment.

If we are married in this life, it will only be for a brief moment, and we won’t regret that brevity ten thousand years from now. We really won’t. No one will say, “I really wish I was married,” much less, “I really wish I had been married for five or ten more years.” Those years will seem like seconds compared with all the gloriously, thoroughly happy time we will have after every marriage ends.

We need to think about that as we weigh the intensity of our desperation to have it now. We need to ask if we have made marriage a qualification for a happy and meaningful life. Am I undone and miserable by the prospect of never being married? Do I think of myself as incomplete or insignificant as an unmarried believer? These questions might reveal red flags that warn us marriage has become an idol. Ultimately, we will all be single forever, and it will be gloriously good. Marriage truly is a small and short thing compared with all we have in Christ forever. And I’m writing that as someone who spent more than a decade longing for the temporary this-life experience.

God’s Better Story

Is the life you’re currently living the one you always wanted for yourself? Did you think you’d be married by now? What about your job—not what you hoped for? Do you feel like your gifts are being wasted? Do you dream about doing something different with your life? Maybe you wish you were living somewhere else. You long to be closer to home (or farther away).

The reality is that all of us can imagine something better for ourselves than our circumstances today. The greater reality is that if you love and follow Jesus, God always writes a better story for you than you would write for yourself. The “better” is based on this: God himself is the best, most satisfying thing you could ever have or experience, and, therefore, fullness of life is ultimately found not in any earthly success, relationship, or accomplishment but in your proximity to God through faith.

The dark side of this good news is that you may have to walk through pain, disappointment, rejection, and suffering for seven or eight (or seventy or eighty) years. The brighter (and prevailing) side says God never makes a mistake in choosing good for you. Everything you experience—expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, pleasing or painful—is God’s good plan to make you his own (John 10:27–29), to give you himself forever (Ps. 16:11), and to use your life to reveal himself and his glory to the world around you (Isa. 43:25; 1 Cor. 10:31).


Marshall Segal (MDiv, Bethlehem College & Seminary) serves as the executive assistant to John Piper and is a popular contributor to desiringGod.org.

This post is adapted from Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness and Dating by Marshall Segal. Originally appeared on Crossway.org; used with permission.

Check out the infographic based on a survey sent to 7,000 readers highlighting some common trends when it comes to how singleness, dating, and marriage is viewed today.

Source: What to Do When Singleness Lasts Longer than You Expected

Counseling Parents about Smart Rules for Smartphones (And All Social Media)

Smartphones are everywhere and it is common to see very young kids playing on a tablet or to see older kids texting at every intersection. As counselors or parents, how do we navigate the inevitable conversations, develop reasonable rules, and lay down age-appropriate guidelines regarding smartphones? I hope to lay out some ways you can help those you counsel be smart about smartphones and other social media.

The use of tablets, the internet, and social media in general is an important topic for any parent. My wife Tammy and I have three kids: 17, 15, and 9 years old. We have been thinking through this for several years. We have made mistakes and found greater success as we adjusted our approach based on biblical principles through trial and error.

We have to help parents think about how well they model responding to prompts from their phones as well as how and when they spend time in front of a screen. We can’t ask our kids to be self-disciplined about their screen time if we are not. To be honest, at one extreme we have been lazy at times, allowing our kids to binge on games or text during homework time. On the other extreme, we have taken month-long fasts from electronics as a family to spend more time reading, playing games, and enjoying family time. Neither extreme is realistic or healthy long-term. That is why we have been working on guidelines that are reasonable and sustainable, helping our kids use their devices wisely. Whatever you decide, it is best to agree as a couple or be consistent as a single parent in order that what you say should happen actually does happen.

So, when do you let your child use the family cell phone? Looking at your phone under your supervision could start quite early, but what they watch and how long they have the phone is important. We typically let our 9-year-old have the phone (or iPad) for 30 minutes on weekdays and for an hour on weekends. Both our teens were assigned a family phone they call their own at age 15. That means it is our phone, not theirs, but they can carry it, use it to contact or text us throughout the day, or do homework, play a game, or text friends during certain hours of the day.

While there are filters for the web and restriction on apps, my kids’ showing responsibility in handling these things well was very important in our decision as parents to give them access. I would have waited even longer if I had not seen that pattern of responsibility in school, at home, with friends, and with social media on the computer. Boundaries can always be broken and your kids showing responsibility is the litmus test for access and continued use. We would suggest that you research safeguards that limit access to certain sites, games, and what is age appropriate for your child before you grant any access.

What I’m proposing to you here is not the hard and fast rule of exactly what is best for your child and situation. Whether your child should have access to a phone or other electronic device is an important decision that should not be made without prayer, counsel, and conversation with your child.

I believe waiting until your child is 7-years-old or above to even begin to interact with electronic games or age appropriate entertainment is a good start. By seven, most kids have developed both cognitive and moral reasoning well enough to understand right and wrong. Most will also have enough self-control to understand how to view their use as a privilege.

Nothing substitutes for knowing your child and adjusting rules to their maturity level. Our kids need to know we want them to succeed and our protection is in their best interest. It is rare for any child to wisely exert their intellect, moral reasoning, and/or self-control without close parental supervision and wise guidelines. As I share what we have tried, let me make a distinction between hard and fast rules and wisdom guidelines. Think of rules as tall fences (“Don’t text and drive!”), and guidelines as speed bumps (“No phones at the dinner table.”).

Here are 10 rules and 10 helpful guidelines I would suggest, with the caveat that some may be different in your home.

10 Rules for Smartphones and Social Media (Violation Means Restricted Use for Days or Weeks)

  1. Never text while driving a car.
  2. Never write a text or send a photo that you wouldn’t want your mom or dad to see.
  3. Always ask before you forward a text or photo.
  4. Never post your cell phone number anywhere.
  5. Turn off location services and never broadcast your location.
  6. Never respond to numbers you don’t recognize.
  7. If someone asks you to send an inappropriate photo, say “No!” and talk to your parents about it.
  8. If you receive an inappropriate photo, delete it immediately and tell your parents; block the sender.
  9. Don’t download apps without your parents’ permission.
  10. Don’t use social media or electronic devices to bully or gossip.

10 Smart Guidelines for Smartphones and Social Media (Violation Means Restricted Use for Hours or Days)

  1. Demonstrate you have a life beyond your smartphone (you are not addicted to it).
  2. Turn in phones at a certain time each night (different times based on age).
  3. Kids must leave phones at a charging station in a public room in the house at night.
  4. No cell phones at the dining room table.
  5. No cell phones out of your backpack while you are in class.
  6. Don’t text someone in the same room. Talk face to face.
  7. Don’t wear your cell phone on your body (jury is still out but those waves can’t be good for you).
  8. No Snapchat-type apps that allow you to erase history.
  9. Parents can look at phone or take phone at any time.
  10. If you break, it you buy it.

I hope these rules and guidelines are helpful to you as you discuss them with your spouse, children, and others concerned with your children’s welfare. I would suggest a contract be developed, especially with teens. Have them read it, ask questions, and sign it. From Parenting 101, remember this: don’t make a rule you don’t plan to enforce, and don’t implement a guideline that you can’t keep yourself. Ask God for courage and consistency as you implement your agreement or contract. If your kids are like mine, they will say no other parent is as strict as you, but your kids will be better off (and might even admit it once in a while) and you will sleep much better at night too.  Be wiser than your tech-savvy kids and smarter than their smartphone by proactively getting on this today.

Source: Counseling Parents about Smart Rules for Smartphones (And All Social Media)

Biblical Resources on Pornography

Pornography is a serious sin, and one that increasingly affects Christian families. Ladies, if you, your husband, or your child are viewing pornography, it’s time to stop, repent, and flee from that sin. If you need help and support, set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling, even if you are the only one who will go. Here are some additional biblical resources which may help:

When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography Theology Gals, Episode 22 with Vicki Tiede (be sure to check out all of Vicki’s links under “Episode Resources”)

How to Stop Looking at Porn from When We Understand the Text

When We Understand the Text Q&A on Pornography (23:13 mark) with Gabriel Hughes

Hey, Porn Addict: Stop It by Gabriel Hughes

What Does the Bible Say About Pornography? at Got Questions

Dealing with Private Sins by John MacArthur

Pornography Resources from Wretched Radio

God Over Porn

Should Christian Couples Watch Pornography Together?

Covenant Eyes: Internet Accountability and Filtering

Support Groups Have No Place in the Church at No Compromise Radio
(Not specifically about pornography, but important points to consider if you’re thinking about a church support group or accountability partner related to pornography usage.)

Source: Biblical Resources on Pornography

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.]

Source:

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.

David


Shame

“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:https://pastorkevinsblog.com/

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: https://pastordaveonline.org/

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: http://bc4women.org/blog-2/

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:http://www.bradhambrick.com/

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:http://www.goodmoodbadmood.com/blog

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: http://www.rpmministries.org/blog/

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: http://timlane.org/blog/

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:http://www.lucyannmoll.com/blog/

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: http://www.histruthinlove.com/

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: http://counselingoneanother.com/

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?

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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 intake@ccef.org 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

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