Category Archives: Counseling

95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Counseling

Luther’s 95 Theses for Salvation and the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s 95 Affirmations for Sanctification 

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his now famous 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany. In doing so, Luther was launching a reformation in how the church understood the gospel of Christ’s grace for salvation.

In 2010, over three dozen biblical counseling leaders gathered together to launch theBiblical Counseling Coalition (BCC). Over the next nine months, they crafted ten drafts of what became the BCC’s Confessional Statement. In doing so, they were seeking to capture in summary form how the church understands the gospel of Christ’s grace for sanctification and one-another ministry—applying the gospel to daily Christian living.

In September 2017, New Growth Press released my book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life. As I explain in the book:

“Martin Luther not only reformed theology; his understanding of the gospel reformed daily Christian living, biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, one-another ministry, and soul care.”

So, it seems only natural for me to combine my appreciation for Luther’s pastoral counseling and my involvement in facilitating the BCC’s Confessional Statement into this document: 95 Affirmations for Gospel-Centered Counseling.

In this document, I’ve taken the BCC’s Confessional Statement and divided it into 95 positive affirmations or thesis statements. My prayer is that you might find these summaries to be a helpful presentation of what it means to apply Christ’s grace to daily living through the personal ministry of the Word—gospel-centered biblical counseling.

Note: One of my fellow BCC Council Board Members, Dr. Heath Lambert, recently released his 95 Theses for an Authentically Christian Commitment to Counseling. I’d encourage you to read Dr. Lambert’s work. 

Preamble: Speaking Gospel Truth in Love—A Vision for the Entire Church 

  1. Gospel-centered counseling focuses on a central question: “What does it mean to counsel in the grace and truth of Christ?” (John 1:14).
  1. Gospel-centered counseling flows from our calling to equip God’s people to love God and others in Christ-centered ways (Matthew 22:35-40).
  1. The vision for gospel-centered counseling is for the entire church to speak gospel truth in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
  1. Gospel-centered counseling is dedicated to developing the theology and practice of the personal ministry of the Word, whether described as biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, personal discipleship, one-another ministry, small group ministry, cure of souls, soul care, spiritual friendship, or spiritual direction.

Introduction: In Christ Alone 

  1. The goal of gospel-centered counseling is spiritual, relational, and personal maturity as evidenced in desires, thoughts, motives, actions, and emotions that increasingly reflect Jesus (Ephesians 4:17-5:2).
  1. Personal change must be centered on the person of Christ (Colossians 1:27-29). We are convinced that personal ministry centered on Christ and anchored in Scripture offers the only lasting hope and loving help to a fallen and broken world (Colossians 2:1-9).
  1. We confess that we have not arrived. We comfort and counsel others only as we continue to receive ongoing comfort and counsel from Christ and the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-11). We admit that we struggle to apply consistently all that we believe. We who counsel live in process, just like those we counsel, so we want to learn and grow in the wisdom and mercies of Christ.
  1. All Christian ministry arises from and is anchored in God’s revelation—which is both the written Word (Scripture) and the living Word (Christ). This is true for the personal ministry of the Word (conversational and relational ministry which our culture calls “counseling”) and for the various public ministries of the Word. In light of this core conviction about Christ-centered, Word-based ministry, we affirm the following central commitments as gospel-centered counselors. 

Confessional Statement # 1: Gospel-Centered Counseling Must Be Anchored in Scripture

  1. We believe that God’s Word is authoritative, sufficient, and relevant (Isaiah 55:11; Matthew 4:4; Hebrews 4:12-13). The inspired and inerrant Scriptures, rightly interpreted and carefully applied, offer us God’s comprehensive wisdom.
  1. We learn to understand who God is, who we are, the problems we face, how people change, and God’s provision for that change in the Gospel (John 8:31-32; 10:10; 17:17).
  1. No other source of knowledge thoroughly equips us to counsel in ways that transform the human heart (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). Other systems of counseling aim for other goals and assume a different dynamic of change. The wisdom given by God in His Word is distinctive and robust. God comprehensively addresses the sin and suffering of all people in all situations.
  1. Gospel-centered counseling is an insightful application of God’s all-embracing truth to our complex lives (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:6; Philippians 1:9-11). It does not merely collect proof-texts from the Bible. Wise counseling requires ongoing practical theological labor in order to understand Scripture, people, and situations (2 Timothy 2:15). We must continually develop our personal character, case-wise understanding of people, and pastoral skills (Romans 15:14; Colossians 1:28-29).
  1. When we say that Scripture is comprehensive in wisdom, we mean that the Bible makes sense of all things, not that it contains all the information people could ever know about all topics.
  1. God’s common grace brings many good things to human life. However, common grace cannot save us from our struggles with sin or from the troubles that beset us. Common grace cannot sanctify or cure the soul of all that ails the human condition.
  1. We affirm that numerous sources (such as scientific research, organized observations about human behavior, those we counsel, reflection on our own life experience, literature, film, and history) can contribute to our knowledge of people, and many sources can contribute some relief for the troubles of life. However, none can constitute a comprehensive system of counseling principles and practices.
  1. When systems of thought and practice claim to prescribe a cure for the human condition, they compete with Christ (Colossians 2:1-15). Scripture alone teaches a perspective and way of looking at life by which we can think biblically about and critically evaluate information and actions from any source (Colossians 2:2-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Continue Reading 

You can continue reading the rest of these 95 Affirmations and download the entire document here: 95 Affirmations for Gospel Centered Counseling.

If you would like to share the link to the PDF with others, you can use this shortened link: http://bit.ly/95Affirmations

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14 Free Resources for Counseling Under the Cross

Counseling Under the Cross Releases Today!

Today, September 11, 2017, is the official release date by New Growth Press of my latest book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

Martin Luther not only reformed theology; his understanding of the gospel reformed daily Christian living, biblical counseling, pastoral counseling, one-another ministry, and soul care.

Through Counseling Under the Cross, learn how Luther richly, relevantly, robustly, and relationally applied the gospel to suffering, sin, sanctification, and our search for peace with God.

Through lively vignettes, real-life stories, and direct quotes from Luther, you will be equipped to apply the gospel to yourself and others—finding hope and help in Christ alone.

Counseling Under the Cross guides pastors, counselors, lay leaders, and friends toward a rich understanding of the gospel that will directly impact their personal ministry to others.

14 Free Resources for Counseling Under the Cross 

You can download all of the following resources here. If you want to send this link to a friend, here’s a shortened version: http://bit.ly/LutherResources

  1. Read and download 95 Martin Luther Quotes of Note (PDF Version)
  2. Read and download 95 Martin Luther Quotes of Note (Word Document Version)
  3. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on The Sufficiency of Scripture/Sola Scriptura
  4. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Comforting the Suffering
  5. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Looking at Life through the Lens of the Cross
  6. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Preaching the Gospel to Yourself
  7. Read and download 15 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Growing in Grace
  8. Read and download 20 Martin Luther Quotes of Note on Salvation by Faith Alone/Sola Fide
  9. Enjoy 15 Q&A Responses by Author Dr. Bob Kellemen on Counseling Under the Cross
  10. Download PowerPoint Slides: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Suffering (PowerPoint Presentation from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  11. Download Outline Notes: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Suffering (Lesson Handout/Notes from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  12. Download PowerPoint Slides: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Sin and Sanctification (PowerPoint Presentation from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  13. Download Outline Notes: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Sin and Sanctification (Lesson Handout/Notes from Wittenberg Germany on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation)
  14.  Read Endorsements for Counseling Under the Cross. 

Enjoy Your Autographed Copy at 25% Off

You can purchase an autographed copy of Counseling Under the Cross on sale at 25% off for just $14.99 at the RPM Bookstore.

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Biblical Preaching and Biblical Counseling: What Makes Them “Biblical”?

My friend, David Murray, wrote a piece for The Gospel Coalition in 2012 that was re-posted this past week: How Biblical Is Biblical Counseling? In it, David shares the following analogy about what makes “biblical preaching” “biblical.”

Take, for example, “biblical preaching.” “Biblical” here does not mean we only use the Bible in sermons. Biblical preaching expounds the Bible, but it also draws from non-biblical sources—some of them authored by unbelievers—such as syntactical, grammatical, lexical, and textual guides and commentaries. We often incorporate historical, geographical, sociological, and cultural research. We regularly draw from current scientific findings and the modern media to teach, explain, or illustrate a point. Even the form and communication style of most modern sermons has been derived largely from ancient and modern philosophical and political speech forms. However, although some of the content and form of biblical preaching is drawn from outside the Bible, we believe that God has provided a Bible that is up to the task of filtering out the false and admitting the truth of God that he has graciously placed in the world.

Related to this analogy, David writes:

For some in our family, “biblical” means “Bible only.” For them, biblical counseling could be more accurately renamed “Bible counseling.” In principle, it means they use only the Bible in counseling people; nothing else is helpful, and anything else is compromise.

The Ministry of the Word 

In the spirit of friendly dialogue, I’d like to follow-up on David’s analogy. I don’t believe his analogy captures the concerns of biblical counselors. Before I make that analogy, consider a comparison: both biblical counseling and biblical preaching are ministries of the Word.

  • Biblical Preaching: The pulpit ministry of the Word, the public ministry of the Word.
  • Biblical Counseling: The private ministry of the Word, the personal ministry of the Word.

When the pastor preaches from the pulpit, he focuses on relating God’s truth to life. When the pastor shares in interactive, conversational ways in the pastoral counseling office, he focuses on relating God’s truth to life.

The question I want us to consider is, “Should extra-biblical worldviews have a role in biblical preaching or biblical counseling?”

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the Content, Foundation, and Worldview Are 95% Secular?

Here’s the first analogy that biblical counselors would use. Some counselors say they are doing Christian counseling when they open and close in prayer and perhaps sprinkle in one verse during the 60-minute meeting. To use the preaching analogy, is it biblical preaching if the content, foundation, and communication of the message is composed of 95% secular worldview with an opening and closing prayer and one verse mentioned but never developed? If 95% of the message contains the viewpoints of 20th Century atheistic philosopher Bertrand Russell, and Gandhi, and liberal theologians, is it biblical preaching?

This is the concern of biblical counselors: is the authority basis for the Christian life built upon biblical theology? Or, is the authority basis for the Christian life built upon the theories of secular philosophy, secular psychology, and secular sociology? The key word here is theories—worldview, the source of understanding of people, problems, and solutions.

Now, some may say, “You’re using an outlier, Bob. No Christian counselor would be 95% secular.” I recently read a major Christian Integrative Counseling text. The index of sources was multiple pages—with the majority of those sources being secular. The Scripture index consisted of 3 verses—covering over 750 pages of text. I love my Christian Integrative Counseling friends, but I would humbly encourage them to consider if sometimes there is a lack of theological richness and biblical robustness.

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the World’s Authority and Wisdom Are Placed Over the Word’s Authority and Wisdom?

But let’s assume the first analogy is an outlier. Here’s a second question: “Is it biblical preaching if the secular worldview holds sway over the Bible’s worldview?” Both are quoted in a sermon (the world’s wisdom and the Word’s wisdom), but when there’s a discrepancy, the world’s wisdom trumps the Word’s wisdom. How many of us would attend a church where an entire 12-week series placed the world’s authority over the Word’s authority?

And yet, some models of integrative counseling do that. This is where biblical counselors are concerned. The analogy is not about syntax, but about worldview and the source of authoritative wisdom for life.

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the World’s Authority and Wisdom Are Seen as Equal to the Word’s Authority and Wisdom?

Again, David or others may say, “But the committed, well-trained Christian Integrative Counselor is not going to place the world over the Word.” So, let’s ask another question. “Is it biblical preaching if the world’s authority and wisdom are seen as equal to the Word’s authority and wisdom?” Both are quoted an equal amount. Both are seen to have areas or spheres of authority. Bertrand Russell’s secular worldview is given equal credence in matters of faith and practice as Peter, Paul, James, John, or Jesus.

How many of us would listen to sermons for 12 weeks when worldly wisdom for living is given equal footing with the wisdom of the Word? How many of us should attend 12 counseling sessions where the counselor gives worldly wisdom for living equal footing with the Word’s wisdom for living?

Is It “Biblical Preaching” If the Word’s Authority and Wisdom Are Seen As Superior to the World’s Authority and Wisdom, Yet the World’s Wisdom for Living Is Still a Major Foundation and Component of the Preaching? 

Again, David and others may say, “Wait, Bob. The Christian Integrative Counselor uses God’s Word as the grid by which anything from the world is evaluated.” I would respond, “Remember, we’re not talking about syntax. We’re talking about worldview. We’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain people—humanity, anthropology, who we are, and how we are designed in our souls in relationship to God.”

I’d continue, “And we’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain sin—the fall, hamartiology, what went wrong, how our souls are in rebellion before God and lack shalom.”

And I’d keep going, “We’re talking about whether a fallen world has comprehensive wisdom to explain solutions—salvation, reconciliation, sanctification, recovery from suffering, victory over sin, who God is, who Christ is, what the gospel is and how it makes a daily difference.”

So, yes, a preacher might quote from a movie—but illustratively to help describe a biblical principle. But if that preacher, even if he talks about the authority of the Word over the world, builds the thesis of his sermon from the movie, or builds major points of his sermon from a liberal theologian’s understanding of life, or builds components of his sermon from a secular philosopher’s worldview—for 12 weeks in a row—how many of us would keep attending that church?

This moves us to the heart of the issue. Do we have confidence that God’s Word has robust, rich, relevant, relational, profound wisdom and insight for the soul issues we face every day? Or, do we believe that the fallen world, in rebellion against God, has robust, rich, relevant, relational, profound wisdom and insight for the soul issues we face every day?

Biblical Counselors and Biblical Worldviews 

Biblical counselors are concerned about a biblical worldview—about building our understanding of people, problems, and solutions from a rich, robust, Christo-centric, gospel-centered, God-glorifying foundation. We are “Bible only counselors” when it comes to biblical worldviews about people, problems, and solutions—living whole, healthy, and holy lives in a fallen and broken world.

Biblical counselors are not “Bible only counselors” when it comes to understanding medical science, neurological research, or descriptive psychological research. (For a robust presentation of the biblical counseling view, see the Biblical Counseling Coalition book Scripture and Counseling, and for a summary statement see the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s Confessional Statement). A couple of examples might help—first, neuroscience. Dr. Charles Hodges, an MD and a biblical counselor, wrote the book, Good Mood Bad Mood where he quotes many neuroscience articles. They were all placed under a biblical grid. Neuroscience, when it “stays in its lane” of doing neurological research, is not a “worldview.” There’s a worldview behind it (often an evolutionary one) that must always be considered. But neither Dr. Hodges nor I would have a problem with a legitimate neurological finding being shared with a counselee. That may be more like the syntax analogy that David Murray uses.

What about psychological research? Again, even worldview perspectives creep into how one does research. Yet, biblical counselors have expressed openness to descriptive psychology—a description of what happens, not a diagnosis of why and not a prescription of what to do. When descriptive psychology “stays in its lane,” I could potentially use a finding under the authority of Scripture. For example, in God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I briefly introduce one descriptive model of the grief process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. It’s one way of describing how people stereotypically respond to loss in a fallen world. It is not prescriptive. In the rest of God’s Healing for Life’s Losses, I explore what the Bible’s wisdom communicates to us about a Christ-centered way of moving through grief—prescriptive, theoretical, theological biblical counseling. The description comes from research. The diagnosis and prescription comes from the Word.

The Takeaway

Biblical counselors do not want to integrate a biblical worldview with a secular worldview. Neither does a biblical preacher. That’s the central analogy. That’s the central message of Colossians 2:8:

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

Biblical counselors do not want to integrate biblical counseling theory with secular counseling theory—ideas about people, problems, and solutions—because those are fundamentally theological issues—yes, biblical issues. In theory-building (theology-building), yes, biblical counselors are “Bible only” without apology. Just like preachers who build their messages on the exegesis of the text of Scripture and on a comprehensive biblical worldview are “Bible only” preachers—without apology.

Join the Conversation 

So, what do you think—what makes biblical preaching and biblical counseling biblical? 

Note: As my post was going “live,” I noticed that David also has a more recent post on this topic: Do We Need More Than the Bible for Biblical Counseling? I think his argument in this more recent post is similar to the analogy David used in his 2012 TGC post.

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Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, Sola Scriptura, and the Sufficiency of Scripture

In Biblical Preaching and Biblical Counseling: What Makes Them Biblical?, I dialogue with my friend, David Murray. My focus in that post is on how biblical counselors use God’s Word to build the foundation for our counseling model—our biblical counseling worldview, our theology and theory of people, problems, and solutions. It is from God’s Word that we find foundational wisdom for life for building our way of thinking about helping hurting people in their daily lives.

Talking with a Counselee 

But what about the practice of pastoral counseling? When I’m sitting across from a hurting person who is struggling either with an issue of suffering in a fallen world, or with an issue of sin and sanctification, what is the relative role of Scripture in our conversation? Does Scripture only control my thinking about understanding the person, diagnosing the problem, and interacting about wisdom-based solutions?

Or, can and should God’s Word play a central role in our actual conversation? Am I confident as a pastoral counselor in the power of God’s Word in the counseling conversation? Am I competent as a pastoral counselor in using God’s Word to comfort and encourage the hurting and to reconcile and guide the person struggling against sin?

In light of this practical issue, I thought it might be instructive to consider Martin Luther’s practice of pastoral counseling. What did sola Scriptura—Scripture alone—look like as Martin Luther interacted with parishioners?

Luther and The 14 Consolations 

One of Luther’s benefactors and protectors, the Elector Frederick the Wise, was seriously ill. Frederick’s chaplain asked Luther to write Frederick some words of consolation. They have come down to us as The 14 Consolations. In the superstition of the day, a shepherd had claimed to see a vision of 14 saints. As a result, sick Christians began praying to these 14 saints.

Luther took the motif of the number 14, and moved it from superstition and saints to Scripture and the Savior. He presented the Elector Frederick the Wise with 14 scriptural images—7 images of Christ crucified and 7 images of Christ resurrected.

Luther kept Jesus on every page of his counseling.

The English version of The 14 Consolations is 45-pages long. In those 45 pages, Luther quotes 169 passages. The average small book today is about 5 times that size. So, had Luther written Frederick a small counseling manual today, he would have quoted, developed, and discussed nearly 850 passages!

This is not to say that Luther’s focus on Scripture means he would have ignored science—see below on that. It is simply to say that sola Scriptura and sufficiency of Scripture played a central role in Luther’s actual practice of pastoral counseling.

Luther’s words of pastoral counsel were Word-saturated.

Luther was confident in the power of God’s Word. Luther always pointed people to the Word of God as their ultimate hope and primary help in suffering, sin, and sanctification. The Scriptures, for Luther, were sufficient to comfort the hurting, confront the sinning, and cheer the saint.

Luther and the Sufficiency of Scripture for Comforting the Suffering 

Consider just a few examples from Luther’s various writings, where he highlights the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling the hurting.

“You have the Apostle Paul who shows to you a garden, or paradise, which is full of comfort, when he says: ‘Whatever was written, was written for our instruction, so that through patience and the consolation of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4). Here he attributes to Holy Scripture the function of comfortingWho may dare to seek or ask for comfort anywhere else?[I]

“Comfort yourself with the Word of God, the pre-eminent consolation.”[ii]

“It is thus very true that we shall find consolation only through the Scriptures, which in the days of evil call us to the contemplation of our blessings, either present or to come.”[iii]

“I have learned by experience how one should act under temptation, namely, when any one is afflicted with sadness…. Let him first lay hold of the comfort of the divine Word.”[iv]

“Christ heals people by means of his precious Word, as he also declares in the 50th chapter of Isaiah (verse 4): ‘The Lord hath given me a learned tongue, that I should know how to speak a word in season to the weary.’ St. Paul also teaches likewise, in Romans xv 14, that we should obtain and strengthen hope from the comfort of the Holy Scriptures, which the devil endeavors to tear out of people’s hearts in times of temptations. Accordingly, as there is no better nor more powerful remedy in temptations than to diligently read and heed the Word of God.”[v]

“Those who are tempted by doubt and despair I should console in this fashion. First, by warning them to beware of solitude and to converse constantly with others about the Psalms and Scriptures.”[vi] 

Luther and the Sufficiency of Scripture for Overcoming Sin and Temptation 

Consider just a few examples from Luther’s various writings, where he highlights the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling people dealing with sin and temptation. 

Nothing helps more powerfully against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts than occupying oneself with God’s Word, having conversations about it, and contemplating it.”[vii]

“Therefore, whenever any one is assailed by temptation of any sort whatever, the very best that he can do in the case is either to read something in the Holy Scriptures, or think about the Word of God, and apply it to his heart.”[viii]

“If you now attempt, in this spiritual conflict, to protect yourself by the help of man without the Word of God, you simply enter upon the conflict with that mighty spirit, the devil, naked and unprotected.” Such an endeavor would be worse than David against Goliath—without God’s supernatural power helping David. You may, therefore, if you so please, oppose your power to the might of the devil. It will then be very easily seen what an utterly unequal conflict it is, if one does not have at hand in the beginning the Word of God.”[ix]

“Let us learn, therefore, in great and horrible terrors, when our conscience feels nothing but sin and judges that God is angry with us, and that Christ has turned His face from us, not to follow the sense and feeling of our own heart, but to stick to the Word of God.”[x] 

“No man should be alone when he opposes Satan. The church and the ministry of the Word were instituted for this purpose, that hands may be joined together and one may help another. If the prayer of one doesn’t help, the prayer of another will.”[xi]

“For one has to instruct consciences that the comfort of the gospel is directed to each individual particularly; therefore, as you people who understand these matters know, the gospel has to be applied through the Word to each individual particularly, so that each individual in his conscience is tossed about by the questions whether this great grace, which Christ offers to all men, belongs to him too.”[xii]

“So we also labor by the Word of God that we may set at liberty those that are entangled, and bring them to the pure doctrine of faith, and hold them there.”[xiii] 

Scripture for the Soul, Medicine for the Body 

Luther’s doctrine of sufficiency was robust enough to make room for the appropriate use of medication.

“Accordingly a physician is our Lord God’s mender of the body, as we theologians are his healers of the spirit; we are to restore what the devil has damaged. So a physician administers theriaca (an antidote for poison) when Satan gives poison. Healing comes from the application of nature to the creature . . . . It’s our Lord God who created all things, and they are good. Wherefore it’s permissible to use medicine, for it is a creature of God. Thus I replied to Hohndorf, who inquired of me when he heard from Karlstadt that it’s not permissible to make use of medicine. I said to him, ‘Do you eat when you’re hungry?’”[xiv]

On the other hand, when convinced that an issue was spiritual in nature, Luther did not hesitate to call for spiritual, rather than medicinal cures. Scripture is God’s prescription, God’s choice medicine, for soul sickness. Luther writes to his friend John Agricola concerning John’s wife:

“Her illness is, as you see, rather of the mind than of the body. I am comforting her as much as I can, with my knowledge. In a word, her disease is not for the apothecaries (as they call them), nor is it to be treated with the salves of Hippocrates, but by constantly applying plasters of Scripture and the Word of God. For what has conscience to do with Hippocrates? Therefore, I would dissuade you from the use of medicine and advise the power of God’s Word.”[xv]

Note: The preceding quotes from Luther came from my recently-released book,Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

[i]Luther, LW, Vol. 49, p. 16.

[ii]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 63, emphasis added.

[iii]Luther, LW, Vol. 42, p. 124.

[iv]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, pp. 175-176.

[v]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 179.

[vi]Tappert, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, p. 117.

[vii]Luther, The Large Catechism, p. 187, in Krey, Luther’s Spirituality.

[viii]Nebe, Luther As Spiritual Adviser, p. 178.

[ix]Luther, Commentary on Romans, pp. 179-180.

[x]Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.

[xi] Luther, LW, Vol. 54, p. 78.

[xii]Luther, LW, Vol. 50, p. 77.

[xiii]Luther, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 333, 126.

[xiv]Luther, LW, Vol. 54, pp. 53-54.

[xv]Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 402.

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Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, and Mental Illness

A Word from Bob: It is vital that we minister with love and wisdom in all situations related to mental illness and the church. For an expanded look at this issue, please download my free resource Mental Illness and the Church. This resource explores how God calls us to compassionate, comprehensive care for those struggling with deeply distressing and chronic emotional and mental health concerns.

The Gospel and Mental Health 

In my previous post, we examined Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, Sola Scriptura, and the Sufficiency of Scripture. We might think:

“Well, sure Luther could use Scripture for the easy, spiritual stuff. He didn’t have to deal with modern issues that we would now label mental illness. Had he done that, then he would not have found gospel-centered counseling to be sufficient.”

Let’s take a look at the historic facts…

Luther’s Compassionate, Competent, and Comprehensive Pastoral Counseling

Winfried Schleiner examined 500 years of the treatment of schizophrenia, psychosis, and melancholy from the Renaissance through the Reformation. Schleiner concluded that “medical writers of the period rarely show any sympathy for such delusive conditions.”[I]

Renaissance doctors delighted in mocking psychotics (persons thinking themselves other than they were—a clay jar, a cock with flapping wings). They were considered comic fools. “The sense of ridicule overcomes pity. Of course the pain and inhumanity resulting from unsympathetic attitudes towards psychotics have mostly gone unrecorded.”[ii]

Schleiner set as his task finding some source whose treatment and healing methodology might be more compassionate.

If, then, a certain kind of psychotic case tended to attract medical ridicule and …did not lead to serious consideration of therapy, we may have to look elsewhere in the Renaissance for a glimpse of what has become so strikingly obvious in our times: that a knowledge of the patients’ histories, empathy with their condition, and endeavors to understand their particular thought processes are important in the treatment of psychotics, whose suffering and pain are beginning to be fully recognized.[iii]

According to Schleiner, “one must look to theologians…to find sympathetic treatments of the condition” (of schizophrenia).[iv] Only in Luther did he find someone manifesting “an encompassing sympathy for the psychotic.”[v]

Redemptive Relationships 

Schleiner’s work bears examination because it highlights what was so important to Luther—personal encounter or cure by redemptive relationships. He called Luther’s cure, the cure by charity and company—“societas.” Schleiner summarizes his findings by noting that compassionate care was a major part of the cure in Luther:

“Indeed it can be said that this sense of caring becomes a vehicle of therapy.”[vi]

And Schleiner notes that “clearly human company is the essential ingredient in the cure of the melancholic.”[vii]

3 Difficult Cases 

What sort of strugglers does Luther interact with? One was a “melancholic who refused to eat and drink and hides in a cellar. He rebuffs any charitable helpers with the words ‘Don’t you see that I am a corpse and have died? How can I eat?’”[viii] Here is a person who is both depressed and psychotic—thinking he is dead.

In a second case, Luther dealt with an individual who thought he was a rooster “with a red comb on his head, a long beak, and a crowing voice.”[ix]

What was Luther’s care and cure for these two individuals? Schleiner says the two elements common in every one of Luther’s cases were “the consideration of the psychotic’s past and the role of societas (company, relationship) in re-integrating such a person into the community.”[x]

Reintegrating the soul through compassionate relationships was an essential element in Luther’s soul care. He used his personal relationship as a way of encountering another person on behalf of God so that the other person’s image of God and relationship to God could be altered in ways which brought integration to their personality. In fact, Schleiner even labeled Luther’s approach “compassionate reintegration.”[xi]

In his conclusion, Schleiner writes:

Luther shows none of the dehumanizing amusement that often animates even learned physicians when they report certain kinds of cases. The “cure” is brought about not by trickery but by friendly persuasion, by appeal to common humanity, by company. The entire story is informed by a strong sense of sympathy for a patient who becomes stigmatized by society.[xii]

Luther believed that spiritual wholeness or integration was achieved through personal encounter. This was true in his ministry to others and in his openness to being ministered to by others. After reading 1,000s of pages of first-hand accounts of Luther’s interactions, August Nebe said of Luther, “He never regarded himself as all-sufficient, nor as highly lifted up above all others; humbly and urgently he besought help in hours of trial.”[xiii]

Schleiner discussed a third case that Luther addressed. This person was labeled a “voluntary retentive”—someone who refused to urinate. In most Renaissance cases like this, no history was taken or given. Not so with Luther. In talking with this person, Luther traced the beginning of this disorder to a sermon this person heard about works-righteousness. The person came to believe that if he could perfectly control his body and soul, that he would be accepted by God.[xiv]

Having gleaned this history, Luther then gives an etiology or cause as he calls this person a “iustitiarius”—someone attempting to justify himself by works rather than by faith.”[xv] His cure was redemptive/gospel-centered—pointing the person away from works of righteousness to the righteousness of Christ. His interactions with the voluntary retentive person helped him to see that his behavior was rooted in the pride of self-sufficiency. Luther also helped this man see that he must put on renewed images of God in Christ as a God of grace.

This vignette is one of many examples of how Luther encouraged his followers to reinterpret life by exegeting it from a gospel perspective. He cared for souls by promoting the curative attitude of spiritual insight into the redemptive meaning behind events and experiences: cure through looking at life through the lens of the cross of Christ.

Note: I excerpted the preceding material from Chapter 7 of my recently-released book, Counseling Under the Cross: How Martin Luther Applied the Gospel to Daily Life.

[i]Schleiner, “Renaissance Exempla of Schizophrenia: The Cure by Charity in Luther and Cervantes,” 157-176.

[ii]Ibid., 159.

[iii]Ibid., 158.

[iv]Ibid., 163.

[v]Ibid., 163, 165.

[vi]Ibid., 163.

[vii]Ibid., 163.

[viii]Ibid., 173.

[ix]Ibid., 166.

[x]Ibid., 172 .

[xi]Ibid., ibid.

[xii]Ibid., 172.

[xiii]Nebe, Luther as Spiritual Advisor, 13.

[xiv]Schleiner, 164.

[xv]Ibid. 164.

The post Martin Luther, Pastoral Counseling, and Mental Illness appeared first on RPM Ministries.

An Open Letter to those Suffering with Depression

Recovery took longer than I expected or wanted and I was surprised at how many different components were involved in my healing. But have hope: if you are patient and use all the different means God has provided, you will most likely be among the 95% of people who do get better. You’ve already taken the first and most important step: you’ve admitted you have a serious problem and you’ve begun to reach out for help. 

The female version of Reset (RHB) is just about to be published. It’s my wife’s first book and is called Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Overwhelming Demands (RHB). In it, Shona tells about her own battles with depression and anxiety and shares many of the lessons God has graciously taught her along the way. Here’s an open letter she wrote to those suffering with depression.


My dear friend,

I’m so sorry to hear that you are suffering with serious depression. Although you feel hopeless and helpless, I want to assure you right up front that there is hope and there is help. I’ve been there myself and I’ve felt the same despair and darkness that you feel. But God, in his great mercy, brought me out of it and I trust and pray he will also bring you into the light.

Recovery took longer than I expected or wanted and I was surprised at how many different components were involved in my healing. But have hope: if you are patient and use all the different means God has provided, you will most likely be among the 95% of people who do get better.

You’ve already taken the first and most important step: you’ve admitted you have a serious problem and you’ve begun to reach out for help. That’s huge. If you checked out the symptoms of depression on WebMD, you were no doubt helped to see how many of these symptoms you have and that you’ve already had some of them for a worryingly long time.

The next step is to share this with three people: a close family member (like your spouse, if you’re married), your pastor, and your doctor. You will need family support throughout, and the earlier you involve them the better, as they will have a lot to learn in the next few months. They may not understand initially, but encourage them to support you as you talk to your pastor and doctor.

Your pastor is key as he will help you to discern whether there are any spiritual causes behind your depression. Even if there isn’t a spiritual cause (and there often isn’t) there will be spiritual consequences and you will need your pastor’s prayers and guidance throughout. I’d caution you against announcing this as a prayer need in your church. Not everyone understands depression, and some people might say some cruel and hurtful things about you and even to you. It’s better just to share this with people you can be sure will sympathize with and pray for you.

When you visit the doctor, tell him everything—don’t hold back, don’t minimize, don’t play it down. Just explain exactly how you are feeling. You may get quite emotional opening up for the first time like this, but the doctor is very used to this and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.

You can expect your doctor to help clarify whether you have the symptoms of depression. He should also be able to do some initial examination of possible physical causes. He may order some medical tests, and he may ask you about your family history and about your life over the past 6–18 months. He’s simply trying to figure what might be some of the contributing factors to this depression. He’s also working on possible cures which, depending on the seriousness of your condition, may include medication or some counseling.

If he does prescribe medication, be patient with it and give it a few weeks to really begin to work. Ask God to bless his provision of these medications, and that he would direct them to the right places in your body. Also, don’t think that all you need to do is pop a pill. I’ve never seen anyone cured by just taking meds. They can work very well, however, if taken as part of a holistic package of care.

Regarding counseling, your pastor should be able to give you basic advice and biblical counsel, but you may also wish to consider a Christian counselor, especially one who has some expertise in CBT (cognitive behavior therapy). That will help you to retrain your mind and thinking patterns for long-term recovery. But keep your pastor involved and informed throughout.

Read the rest of this post containing six pieces of practical advice at Crossway’s blog.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.

The post An Open Letter to those Suffering with Depression appeared first on The Aquila Report.

Seminar — False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery (Podcasts)

Below are podcasts from the presentation of “False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery.” For the various counseling options available from this material visit http://www.summitrdu.com/counseling.

  • The False Love seminar is also available in video format.
  • The complimenting study “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin” is also available in a video and podcast format.

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.
ADMIT I have a struggle I cannot overcome without God.

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

STEP 2.
ACKNOWLEDGE the breadth and impact of my sin.

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

STEP 3.
UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin.

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

STEP 4.
REPENT TO GOD for how my sin replaced and misrepresented Him.

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

STEP 5.
CONFESS TO THOSE AFFECTED for harm done and seek to make amends.

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

STEP 6.
RESTRUCTURE MY LIFE to rely on God’s grace and Word to transform my life.

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

STEP 7.
IMPLEMENT the new structure pervasively with humility and flexibility.

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

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

https://player.pippa.io/g4-addiction/episodes/false-love-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 this subject.

Source: Seminar — False Love: Overcoming Sexual Sin from Pornography to Adultery (Podcasts)

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.
Click To Tweet


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)

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.]

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