Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Excusing offenses and sin because of circumstances is done because we see a person is in the midst of difficulties. When I was in the thick of caring for my mom before she passed on to glory I was frequently stressed and tired. I tended toward being irritable and short tempered with my family after a long day sitting at doctors offices and my parents house. My family tended to excuse my sinning toward them saying, "Mom is stressed because of caring for Grandma, so I won't hold this against her." They thought they were being gracious toward me, and indeed they were, but how did they help me? How was righteousness upheld? Was God glorified in my sin going unconfessed and unrepented of?
Furthermore, when excusing sin becomes a pattern of life it is the perfect breeding ground for bitterness and anger to take root in the heart of the person being sinned against. Excusing the sin is based on circumstances and our "good nature" from day to day. Excusing sin is not the same as forgiving sin.
A child who has been abused by their parent can rationalize that their parent abused them because they were abused as children and they learned this behavior and passed it on. The rationalize that their parent did not learn the right way to discipline or control their anger and so they determine not to hold it against them. However, this does not free the abused person from the anger and bitterness they are feeling in their heart toward their abusive parent. Only the application of biblical forgiveness can relieve that burden.
When we forgive, we are transferring the responsibility for punishment over to God. We are releasing our abuser from our debt and refusing to take vengeance on them. We place all those desires in the hands of God and we trust that He will deal justly with them at some point. This is understanding that God may choose to lavish His rich and wonderful grace upon our abuser as He has done on us, or that the deed done to us may appear to go unpunished throughout this life.
When we forgive rather than excuse we are admitting that the offense done to us really was that bad, it really was sin. It was not a "mistake" or "an accident" or "a bad day."
Be careful not to gloss over the sin of others by excusing it. You are not helping them to repent and change and you are not helping yourself either.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
When fellow Christians confess their sin to one another it does not erase the hurt and it does not automatically fix the situation. The offender must understand that being granted forgiveness may not and in some cases should not automatically return everything to normal.
That is not to say that the person who has done the forgiving continues to hold the offense over the former offender, but if trust has been destroyed or violated it will take time to in essence prove that change has taken place.
There are consequences to every action and the sinful actions sometimes bring serious consequences. A thief must commit to a schedule of repayment, a liar must submit to being examined for truth, and an adulterer must accept that their spouse will be checking up on them and be willing to be accountable for their time and in some cases their money.
Few people who are in the position of receiving the consequences enjoy this period of reconciliation. Many would rather just skip it altogether and make declarations about "going forward." I assure you, this is going forward!
There are times when along with confession and the asking for and being granted forgiveness that restitution may be necessary. The thief must repay what she has stolen.
The person who has repented and asked forgiveness must begin to demonstrate a changed heart by changed actions. It is right to question the sincerity of a person who cannot demonstrate any change of heart. Of course, we do not expect perfection from anyone and any progress is welcome and should be viewed as movement in the direction of righteousness.
It becomes the responsibility of the church (this means you) to teach and train in righteousness a person who has been corrected. We are to take seriously the admonition of restoring the fallen brother or sister.
Monday, September 28, 2009
One of the women in the study was deeply offended by my statement and confronted me about it. After discussion with our pastor I determined that because she was offended I needed to ask her forgiveness. I was very clear that I was not confessing that what I said was wrong because it was not wrong; I was asking forgiveness for offending her.
There is a distinct difference between asking for forgiveness for sinning against someone and asking forgiveness for offending them or hurting them.
If I am angry at you I may just ignore you as I walk past you. I don't want to speak to you, and I want you to know it! I am giving you the cold shoulder and that is sinning in my anger. I am holding bitterness and manipulating you by my silence. In this case, I need to confess my sin to you and ask your forgiveness.
If I am preoccupied with something as I walk past you and I don't speak to you I am not sinning against you, but I may be offending you. In this case there is no actual sin, I am just distracted. I still need to ask your forgiveness once I realize I have hurt you simply because of our relationship in the family of God.
Our flesh continues to live on even after we have been crucified with Christ and we are still very capable of saying hurtful things, being unkind, self- serving, and thick headed. In our flesh and fallen nature we offend without realizing it and we hurt others deeply at times.
I think another reason we struggle with these issues because so many people are holding us up to their standards and often times their standards are unknown to us until we violate them!
Regardless of our understanding, we are obligated to make it right with those we have offended as well as those we have sinned against. This goes such a long, long way toward preventing bitterness from growing in the hearts of our friends and family members!
While we are not responsible for how people "hear" what we say we are completely responsible for our part in reconciliation once we realize we have offended someone. I know some people are very reluctant to ask forgiveness for how their words are interpreted or understood (I was!) but once I took the words of Matt 5:23 seriously my attitude changed on this.
It is more important that God be glorified by a reconciled relationship than my pride be upheld by standing in my perceived righteousness. Let us be women of grace and confession. Let us be women of reconciliation.
Friday, September 25, 2009
The usual method of confessing your sin against another and asking of forgiveness goes like is:
- "I'm sorry about the __________."
- "I'm sorry you feel hurt about ________________."
- "Say you are sorry right now or ________________"
- "I'm sorry you were offended/hurt by what I said/did"
- " I'm sorry I said/did (blank) but you..."
- "I apologize"
- "I SAID I WAS SORRY, OK?!"
- "Awww, I'm sorry. Forgive me?"
When making an apology, a person must first admit their guilt or failing. The confession must be specific to the offense and the confession must be as great and wide as the scope of the offense. For example: you are at women's Bible study one morning and you repeat something you heard about someone being diagnosed with an illness. You mean it as a prayer request, but you had no right to share it with anyone. When you realize what you have done, you must go to the woman whom you spoke about and confess your wrong to her. "Friend, I want to tell you that I told the women in my Bible study about your diagnosis. I shared it as a prayer request."
You must also tell the women in your Bible study what you did that was wrong. "Ladies, the other day I told you about a woman who has been diagnosed with an illness. I shared it without her knowledge or permission and that was gossip. I wanted to tell you that what I did was wrong."
When you are specific about what your sin you leave no room for doubt in the minds of the people you are confessing to. You leave no room for questioning what you said or did when you are specific about your sin or wrongdoing.
Once you confess you must take that next step and ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness is more than just assuming you are forgiven because you have admitted your wrong. It is also very specific. "Will you please forgive me?"
So a correct way to admit sin and ask forgiveness would look like this:
"Ladies, the other day I told you all that a woman has been diagnosed with an illness. I shared this as a prayer request. I was wrong for telling you that because I did not have her permission to do so. I am sorry for gossiping about her. Will you all please forgive me? I have also confessed this to her and asked her forgiveness. "
It is important that you receive a response to your question too. Either "yes" or "no" is an acceptable response, and be sure you get one or the other!
The reason this is so important is because it keeps your accounts clear with people and it prevents bitterness and hostility and division among us. We all sin against each other without meaning to, and it is so vital that we are humble enough to confess our sins, one to another and ask and receive forgiveness.
Think of how wonderful our churches would be if everyone practiced this principle of peacemaking! There would be no factions and divisions and splits over silly things and hurt feelings, but the sweet unity and harmony that God desires for us to have with each other.
Ladies, can I encourage you to begin to implement this into your lives? Personal peacemaking does not end with these things we have looked at this week, it begins there!
If you have never read Ken Sande's The Peacemaker I strongly urge you to do so! Once you read it begin to practice what you have learned in your own relationships. Like a pebble thrown into the center of a pond, your actions will ripple outward and affect everyone in your life.
God Bless you all as you worship this weekend!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
There can be no reconciliation without the stage of confrontation for sin. By its very nature being reconciled means that something has been torn apart! Perhaps the love relationship between a husband and wife, the fellowship of two good friends, or the unity of the church as a member causes division in the Body. Personal sin brings consequences and when we begin to act as though we believe that we will begin to take Peacemaking seriously enough to go through the steps that lead to reconciliation.
bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:13 (NASB)
Reconciliation is centered around bringing glory to God. When that is the goal, then personal feelings are irrelevant, and desires like revenge or self-righteousness are not in play. Our motives are pure and our heart is focused on how we can best represent Christ. The unsaved people in our lives are always watching us to see how we handle things and these kinds of things are an opportunity for us to put Jesus Christ on display!
So often those outside the church see us as harsh and critical and vindictive because we did not follow up our rebuke with reconciliation! We take the steps of confrontation and rebuke and do not pursue the person for restoration with the church or the person they conflicted with. They get angry and leave the church and we gladly wash our hands of them and the whole situation and move on. This should not be!
In each of these steps of Peacemaking, we are to pursue and pursue in love with care and concern keeping the cross of Christ in view. Jesus went after the most lost of sinners, how can we not go after one of His own?
Yes, these conflicts are very painful but to allow a Believer to languish outside our fellowship without being reconciled is a crime and it is unnecessary. We must pursue reconciliation with those who are at odds with us and or with the church for the sake of Christ.
Forgiveness must be sought and granted or we bring the cross of Christ to nothing. We are to live at peace with everyone to the best of our ability (Rom. 12:18) and to love at all times. These are the qualities you will find in the members of a really good church, a church that practices personal peacemaking in its relationships.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 (NASB)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I finished the other day reminding you (and me) about the wonderful lavish grace we receive through being united with Christ. This grace should cause us to run joyfully to the Lord and others to confess our logs/sins and bask in that mercy and forgiveness that is ours. We are to encourage others to do the same.
There are times when after we have done our own examination and confession (gotten the logs out of our own eye) that we are in a position to confront another about their specks. Genuine love for another person does require that we do so (Matt. 18:15)! Some think that we have no business in confronting another Christian about their sin and they frequently misuse Scripture that tells us not to "judge" one another. Those people are quick to also point out that we are sinners too and have no business pointing out the sin of another person. However, I do not find anyplace in Scripture that my sinfulness removes my responsibility to help my fallen brother or sister in Christ to see their sinfulness and lead them to repentance.
Biblical confrontation is motivated by love. First, the love of Christ compels us to do so, and the love for each other also drives us toward taking such a risk.
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:1-2 (NASB)
What is the "Law" of Christ?
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NASB)
There is no law above the law of love for God and Man. Part of our loving others is confronting them about their sinful patterns that have developed in their lives. Few Christians set out to get caught up in sin, and the word "caught" in the Gal. 6 verse indicates that the person is surprised or unaware they were heading into dangerous territory. Like a fish that takes the bait thinking he is getting an afternoon snack and instead he gets caught on the hook.
Sadly, when we see a Christian that has been lured into sin and taken the bait our usual response is to tell others how much of a sinner that person is. I have to say ladies, we are such terrible offenders here! Why is it that we are more comfortable telling others over coffee about Mary or Betty who has been drinking on the sly, but we are unwilling to help her? Why do we think we are so righteous, and why do we prefer to be so proud and condemn her rather than reach out to her?
Our response ought to be to surround her with love and assistance! Disciple her, care for her, love her with the compassionate love of Christ for the good of "Mary or Betty" and the glory of God!
Our purpose must never be to look holy, or righteous to others. We should really not "enjoy" such confrontation but rather look upon it as a sober obligation to a family member. If you are anxious and excited to confront a sinning Christian I suggest you check your motives!
While anytime someone confronts us about a sin there is discomfort and even hurt feelings, you have to realize that is really okay. Sin hates exposure and your flesh may desire to deflect the confrontation but resist those desires of the sinful heart.
The wise words of Paul who had occasion to write a scathing letter to the Corinthian church ring true in our modern age as well.
For though I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it—for I see that that letter caused you sorrow, though only for a while— I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10 (NASB)
Our goal in confrontation is to restore the fallen brother or sister in Christ.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Today I am posting some Q & A with my colleagues Dr. Bob Kellemen and Susan Ellis. They are the authors of the new book:
Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith
Uncover the Buried Treasure of Women’s Soul Care and Spiritual Direction
For far too long, we have silenced the voices of historic women believers. Sacred Friendships fills this void by giving vote and voice to our female forebears in the faith. It listens to their voices communicating the unique shapes and textures of their practice of soul care and spiritual direction. Sacred Friendships assists female and male lay people, spiritual friends, spiritual directors, pastoral care-givers, professional Christian counselors, and students of all races to become more spiritually aware and skillful by deriving modern implications from these recovered resources.
- Why do you think the historic voices of women have been silenced in church history?
Bob: Honestly, because men have typically been the writers of church history. And as men, we tell our story our way. That’s one reason that co-authoring Sacred Friendships as a male and female co-authoring partnership was so vital.
There’s also a sin element involved that we can trace all the way from Genesis 3 to today. Read Genesis and see all the “texts of terror”—the passages where men demean women, where men fail to protect women. Sacred Friendships is one salvo in the war against Satan’s despicable lies about women.
Sacred Friendships lets history speak. In some ways, Susan and I are not so much co-authors as co-editors. We don’t tell our story. We let the lives of women speak for themselves. The great cloud of women witnesses, though dead, their lives still speak to us today.
Susan: To put it simply, I think women have been blamed for just about anything you can think of since Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit and for some people, trying to keep women quiet solves the problem.
- To what extent do you think the voices of women are still being silenced in church ministry today?
Bob: That’s a broad question and certainly it varies from person to person and ministry to ministry. I think in general we see some overall improvement.
But here’s my concern: when we silence the voices of godly women today, we end up with insights, decisions, and conversations that exclude the feminine imago Dei. God created us in His image, male and female, in body and in soul, for a reason. The Body of Christ functions best when all parts do their work and all parts are honored.
Of course, none of this at all implies that there are not different callings and different roles for men and women. The women of Sacred Friendships were not anti-male nor were they interested in usurping males. However, within their understanding of their God-ordained calling, they ministered powerfully, effectively, and lovingly; and the Church was healthier because of their voiced involvement.
Susan: That’s hard to say. It partly depends on what part of the world and what cultures we’re talking about. It still exists no matter where you are, but it’s more prevalent in some areas than in others. The sad truth is that we will always have some people who have a bias against other groups of people and women happen to be one of the target groups, even in the church.
Certainly, in the US we still have room to grow, but we’ve also seen a great deal of improvement. Anne Judson paved the way for women in missions. Henrietta Mears opened doors and increased the level of respect for women in Christian education. Scores of women have demonstrated the value of women in the social action area of church ministry.
One of my hopes and prayers is that no matter where someone falls on the issue of a woman’s role in church, they will see that women are a vital and essential part of church ministry; that women were also created in the image of God and have been uniquely designed and equipped to be a part of God’s plan for building his Kingdom. Sacred Friendships demonstrates that women have been effectively ministering to and with men and other women since the onset of Christianity.
- Dr. Kellemen, as a male, what was it like to research and write a book on the history of women’s soul care? How has the experienced impacted you?
I’d like to think I’ve always respected women. I’d like to think I’ve always tried to honor my Mom, wife, and daughter, for example. But I do have to admit that I understand now that in the past I’ve evaluated women through the eyes of our culture. I have a renewed and ever-growing respect for women, for . . . the feminine soul.
I saw strength in story after story. I’ve always been aware of the tenderness of the feminine soul. But now I have a new appreciation for the persistence, resilience, and perseverance that are central to how God designed women. I think of Macrina, who nurtured three generations of Christian leaders, passing the torch of faith to her daughter and then to her three grandsons, two of whom we know as Fathers of the Church. Macrina endured great suffering and ongoing hardships, yet she modeled perseverance. Researching and writing Sacred Friendships has motivated me not to quit when the going gets tough. I’ve not faced half of what these courageous women endured.
- Susan Ellis, what was it like to research and write a book on the history of women’s soul care? How has the experienced impacted you?
It was great. I was so encouraged by the godly strength and courage of the women we studied. But perhaps even more than that, I was inspired to see the way they infused feminine grace and gentleness with their strength and courage. Many of these women were faced with strong opposition and challenging circumstances and yet, somehow, they never seemed to lose their femininity. It’s impressive to see how great an impact these women had even during times when women were much more stifled than they are today.
One of my biggest take-aways from this experience is that we don’t have to try to be like anyone else. We don’t have to do the things other people are doing. We simply have to do what God is asking us to do. When I was researching Anne Judson, the first female missionary from the US, I felt so inadequate. The only missions trip I’ve ever been on was like an extravagant vacation compared to the life she chose. And, not only did she choose it, she had to fight to get it.
But as I continued my research, I came to internalize what I knew in my head to be true. God has designed each of us differently and uses us to impact His Kingdom in different ways. Our children and next door neighbors need to know Christ just as much as the people living in the most remote and dangerous parts of the world.
How I minister will also look different from how someone else ministers and that’s ok, too. As you read about the women in Sacred Friendships, you’ll see commonalities. They all spoke the truth in love, for instance, but they did it differently. That’s very freeing.
- What was the experience like to co-author a book on women, as a male and female co-authoring team?
Bob: Susan and I have known each other for over a decade now. First, she was a student and I was her professor. Then we were co-workers at Capital Bible Seminary in the counseling department. And then we were co-authors.
Through all the different roles we have been friends—spiritual friends, sacred friends. So working on the book was simply one more extension of our connection in Christ. We learned from each other. We encouraged each other. We benefited from each other’s different perspectives. Co-authoring can be hard and tense at times, but we really never experienced a negative blip. So, it was fun. It really was!
As far as the nuts-and-bolts, Susan read every word that I wrote and provided feedback on every sentence. I did the same for Susan. So every chapter is co-written/co-edited. In particular, we jointly crafted chapter 1, and then I was the primary writer on chapters 2-12, and Susan was the primary writer on chapters 13-15. My guess is though, that if I had not mentioned that, most readers would not be able to tell. Our co-authoring process really allowed us to blend and mingle our styles throughout.
Susan: Working on the book with Bob was a blast, but I can’t honestly say that I thought too much about us being a male and female co-authoring team. We’ve worked together for years so it seemed like a natural extension of what we already did. There were certainly times that we helped each other see something from a different perspective, but how much of that was personality and how much of it was gender is hard for me to say.
I suppose that in itself says something about the environments I’m accustomed to as well as who Bob is. Over the years, I have often found myself in male dominated environments and thankfully, have, for the most part, been treated with a great deal of respect. It’s also very much in Bob’s nature to build bridges and give a voice to the voiceless. Everyone who works with Bob or who has been his student has seen that so it didn’t strike me as unusual or different.
- How can people get in touch with you and how can they learn more about your ministry and about Sacred Friendships?
I can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A free sample chapter of Sacred Friendships is available at: http://bit.ly/1S1haj
Sacred Friendships is on sale at 40% off for $12.99 at: http://bit.ly/MG1l5
To learn more about RPM Ministries, please visit: www.rpmministries.org
Monday, September 21, 2009
The most difficult aspect of Peacemaking is in examining your own heart, and asking God to do the same.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)
To be vulnerable enough before God that you are willing to have God examine you in your heart is a brave and terrifying prospect! However it is necessary when you are a part of a conflict.
Before you can point to the faults of the person you are in conflict with, you have to clean out the logs in your own eye/heart. What sin have you brought into the situation? What have you said or done that has contributed to the issue at hand?
In conflict I am more likely to focus on my "opponent" and their wrongs and sins than I am willing to look at my own heart. Sadly, for many people this becomes a way of life and over time they come to believe the lies of their heart. They become blinded and unable to see things as they really are.
Their personal righteousness becomes an idol to be worshiped and the mere thought or suggestion that they could have any culpability in the conflict brings rage and disbelief. The closest this person will come to any admission of guilt or logs in their own eye is to say things like, "Everyone sins, everyone is guilty" without admitting personal failure and sin. When a person gets to this point their sight is distorted and they may be blinded to the truth and reality.
None of us want to find ourselves described in the above paragraph! We run from idolatry and self-deception as women of God, or we ought to! Each of us is completely responsible before our Lord to open the eyes of our hearts through the truth of the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We are to willingly lay our hearts bare before Him and rejoice as He brings His cleansing through our thoughts, beliefs, and desires. He is so faithful to make clear to us our own sin that we might confess and repent of it as an act of loving obedience to Him.
In examining ourselves for logs in our own eye we may experience the pain of realizing the depths of our own sinfulness in the situation. We tend to like to minimize this because it is easier for us to point at the sticks and specks in the eyes of the other person. We are uncomfortable with our weakness and our pride takes a pounding as we understand that we too still need the cross of Jesus Christ each day, every moment...Don't you like to think at times that you have it all together outside of the cross and the grace of God? That is our ever-present downfall.
My Friends, because of the cross you and I are free to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9) admit we have failed and receive the lavish grace that is ours in Christ. We are fully accepted by God in Christ and as our Advocate He defends us before the throne day and night. Because of the cross we can face the ugliness within us knowing that in Christ we are fully accepted and loved by our merciful God.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Because of the pervasive attitude of “therapy” often counselee’s assume we are here to listen to them vent and that we are their sounding boards to bounce things off of.
While talking is our methodology, we do not encourage or even tolerate venting. If a counselee tells me something and it contains unbiblical thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes I will challenge them.
We are not therapists, we are conduit. Our goal is to help the counselee to understand what needs to change is their heart and then help them to implement changes that apply to the wrong behaviors and attitudes.
If you wish to counsel biblically, you must be confident in God’s Word. You must truly believe that God’s Word is enough to change the heart and life of a person. You must believe that it has the answer to every single problem man faces.
You must believe that God’s Word is the only unchangeable source of material we have written by an infallible Author. There are certainly times we will be tempted to go to a secular source, but we will find no answers there that are long lasting.
Also, the counselee has most likely already tried to go to a secular source for answers and found none and they may be nearly hopeless from that encounter. They come here deeply desiring something different and something that will actually work!
I have had counselee’s tell me they went to “Christian counseling” and the counselor never opened their Bible! These counselors used psychological theories and jargon and the counselee walked away as empty as they arrived.
Do not apologize for making the Word of God your standard. His Word is all we have that is concrete and applies across the board. It does not discriminate.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
If you are going to call yourself a biblical counselor you had better take sin seriously. Please don’t label sin as sickness.
You will learn over the course of your reading here that this is one of my favorite topics!
Sickness can be medically qualified as sickness or disease because it brings about document able, measurable changes in the body’s structure or cells or physiology. The flu is an illness, diabetes is an illness, cancer is an illness, tumors and abnormal growth can be the result or the cause of an illness. In any of these cases, we treat the illness, remove the tumor, and destroy the cancer.
But emotions are not organs, feelings are not tangible, thoughts are not made up of cells and do not have physiology. These things cannot become sick in the medical sense of the word. Do not get intimidated into labeling sin as sickness!
Society is at the bidding of psychopharmacology and, makes no mistake; their goal is to label sin as sickness. They have already mislabeled and relabeled bad feelings, bad or dead emotions, and sinful thoughts as illnesses or diseases.
This has been done without any scientific proof that is measurable, reproducible, or reliable. These are theories being presented as fact even though they cannot be substantiated in any way scientifically.
As biblical counselors we do not deny the existence or organic brain disorders or emotional problems that are brought on through various means such as head injury or trauma, drug use, chemotherapy, or resulting from true abnormal physiology.
It would be foolish to deny that there are true medical abnormalities that have as a side effect emotional problems. The approach in this case is to treat the cause of the abnormality and then the resulting emotional issues that were brought on by that abnormality will be resolved as well.
We have many counselee’s that come to us with a diagnosis code for an emotional or mental disorder. What we have found is that when the counselee understands and believes what the Bible says about their thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behavior and then they put into practice the appropriate changes, these supposed illnesses go away.
Don’t be afraid to treat sin as sin, regardless of the diagnosis code or medical terminology they come in with. Even with a legitimate mental illness the counselee will benefit from heart change and mind renewal.
We are qualified to counsel when we have high expectations of our counselees for change. We expect that they will be active and implement the changes we suggest. This applies to you and me too.
It is good for us to know and teach the Word, but we must also live it.
Monday, September 14, 2009
If we wish and intend to counsel others, our attempts to restore must be presented in a spirit of meekness, with a kind and patient heart. Many of the people we meet with have never heard this kind of truth before and while what you say will be plain to you it may not be to them. Much of the church is very psychologized and is accustomed to seeker driven theology that does not emphasize the disastrous role of sin in our lives. Patience is required as you may have to explain the same truth over and over as you help them to grasp the truth.
There is occasionally a temptation to become angry or impatient with them, especially if they tend to make the same errors repeatedly. It is usually not worth it to rebuke this counselee in anger or display a harsh attitude toward them.
Also remember to consider yourself as you teach, rebuke, correct and train others. Some of the best counseling that takes place in my office is happening to me! Galatians 1 instructs us to be very careful about this business of discipling others because it is so very easy to become prideful in the process. Think about name brand pastors who were involved in counseling and are now divorced or have scandal attached to their names because of a hard fall. They said it could never happen to them, they would not, could not ever sin like the other guy! You and I are only one thought away from acting on the worst of sins.
We must examine ourselves honestly in the light of Scripture. If you have a tendency to be critical it will serve you well and hurt you as a Biblical Counselor. Discernment is of course crucial, but beware that you don’t become strictly a fault finder.
If you are blunt or pointed in speech it is easy to be misunderstood as harsh and uncaring.
We have to be loving in our dealing with people. Remember that you are as liable to sin the very same sin as they are! If you were in the other chair, how would you want to be spoken to? What would prick your conscience? If you were looking and listening to you what would you as the counselee see? Angry face, clenched teeth, rolling eyes? Remember that the counselee is gathering data on you too as you speak to them!
Sometimes your counselee will hit a nerve with you. Or their problem will be one that you know you have but have not dealt with.
God is gracious in that while we pray, and prepare to minister to our disciple we are also preaching to ourselves. How good are you at preaching the truth to yourself? As a counselor people will see you as a light for the blind and as a leader.
I know there are some people who believe that leaders should be bullet proof, that they should never show weakness or be vulnerable. I disagree with this idea. I think it sets us up as somehow superior to the people we minister to.
People will respond much better to counsel when they know that I am a real person, with real problems, just like them! I do not ever want to present myself as a person who has it all together or has no problems.
I hope my counselee’s understand that I have burdens in my own life to bear and deal with. This comes out as I gain involvement, in talking and connecting on a peer level with them. This is an advantage we have to not being “professionals!” We are encouraged to connect with them on their level and to meet them at the level ground at the foot of the cross.