Monday, February 28, 2011

Plotting and Planning for the Future

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise God will reveal that also to you.  Phil.  3:13-15

I am a planner by nature. I prefer to chart a course and lay out all the steps along the way, attempting to ensure that I have all the bases covered. This way I can "be sure" that I won't be surprised by anything  that would derail my carefully laid plans. (haha this is where dreaming begins!)

Anyone who has been around the Lord long enough understands that we can plan and plot, but the Lord is the one who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9). An essential part of any good planning is to set goals. There are many different kinds of goals people set for themselves; weight loss, financial, personal, relational just to name a few of them. Regardless of the goals you have there should be one primary and overriding goal for each day; that is to become more like Christ.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:29 (NASB)

All of our experiences of daily life should be leading us to become more like Jesus. The people, places and activities of living here are designed by God to chip away at the rough edges of who we are and reshape us into the image of God. We tend to want to avoid those things, the "sandpaper" people who we see as annoying or overly difficult to deal with when in fact, they are the very instruments the Master Surgeon uses to conform us.

This process demands work and diligence. Change is not a passive activity, you must put forth the effort necessary in each day you are given on this earth. This is part of what Paul called pressing on toward the goal. Some of the changes are long-term projects and these tend to be most discouraging for us. We would like to see immediate change, instant Christ-likeness and this is not possible for those areas in which our idolatrous desires are deeply entrenched.

Sometimes my counselee's express concerns that things aren't happening fast enough and they worry about God becoming frustrated with them. Others will tell me they feel like a failure because they continue to strive to overcome and find themselves failing time and time again. They can't wait for the day when they have reached the end of that time in their life. Living in the day is the biblical approach even when having change and conformation as your goal.

What I say is that the journey is part of the process, and God is faithful! He will consistently present you with opportunities to succeed and demonstrate the changed heart through your actions.

I also know the importance of forgetting what is behind. Each of your failures is a part of the tapestry of your life that God is creating. Maybe you have had a significant time of struggle, perhaps you have failed many times in a particular area and you are greatly discouraged. The reality is that there is nothing you can do about those past failures except learn from them. Examine them in the light of figuring out where you went wrong and then make a plan for a new direction to take the next time you are confronted with the situation again.

As each year rolls by, you should be able to detect growth and change within and without. Others should be able to see areas in your life in which conformation has taken place. When this is your overarching goal, change will take place and God will be glorified. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

All You Cannot Lose

In the midst of unemployment we look at all that we do not have, cannot buy, and might possibly lose.

May I suggest that a change of focus is helpful?

2 Corinthians 4:7- But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves; we are afflicted in every (many) way; but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken' struck down, but not destroyed;always carrying about the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in you.

The Word of God was so helpful to my soul. It was balm to my heart and my mind. Its richness and completeness minister to my soul as only God could.

Ask yourself some tough questions; is God desiring to remove all the worldliness from your heart that you might be better used for His glory? Might God be asking you to divest yourselves of the attachments of this world in order that you would be free to serve Him to the fullest extent?
Is God calling on you to consider all this "garbage" so that you can focus on all that cannot be lost?

In spite of the importance the world places on owning a home, having a 401k, and all that in the heavenly economy it means nothing. Stewardship of the resources God has given you is an important biblical principle that must be obeyed, but I do believe we place far too much emphasis on things that are perishable. The saying "You never see a u-haul behind a hearse" is a good one because it reminds us that we are not supposed to be placing our hope and security in the stuff of this world.
  • One thing that is imperishable is the grace God extends toward us. Nothing can take that away and we do nothing to earn it or keep it. (1 Peter 1:23)
  • Our victory is imperishable (1 Cor 15: 54-57)
  • God's love for us is imperishable (Psalm 136; 1 Cor 13)
  • Our salvation is imperishable (John 10:28)
And this is only a smattering of our imperishable promises. Nothing can take them away.
Most importantly, Jesus Christ cannot be taken away from you. He is walking with you every step of the way in this trial. He is holding you, loving you, preserving you, and is your only way through this crisis you now face. Cling to Him.

Now I realize that when the money is not there, and there are bills to pay that none of this changes that- but what I want you to see that not focusing on these things doesn't change any of it either. You cannot wish anything into existence and focusing on all that is wrong will not help you grow and change or bring glory to God in the midst of your present circumstances.

Take some time today with your Bible, a notebook and a pen and write down all that you know cannot be taken away in this trial!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wherever You Go, I Will Go...

Today is a very, very important day in my life. 20 years ago today I married my best friend.

He is my perfect counter balance and is strong where I am weak, wise where I am foolish, sensible when I am not. He has been completely devoted to us since before we married, knowing he would be accepting two children from my former marriage as his own. He did so joyfully and without reservation.

He has demonstrated the love God has for each of us, even adopting those two little boys at the first opportunity he received. He did so without hesitation, giving them his name and full rights to all that was his. They were never his adopted kids or step children; they have always been his boys.

As I struggled through my pregnancy with our only biological child, he prayed over me and brought me to the elders for anointing with oil. When our child was born he was excited to help care for him and raise him in to the godly young man he is today. He has been a wonderful father to all our children; instilling in them morals and values, showing them how to treat a woman, modeling what it means to cherish her.

My husband is a tower of strength and he leads his family with quiet, firm wisdom. In spite of sometimes insurmountable obstacles he has remained true to the calling of a godly man and a faithful husband. He has made difficult decisions in leadership, including moving us far away from everything and nearly everyone we ever knew. He has prayerfully undertaken difficult challenges knowing everything of worldly value hung in the balance.

 My husband married a strong and opinionated woman and he has always accepted that in me. I am not easy to live with haha! He has challenged me, encouraged me, corrected and rebuked me when necessary. He has been an integral part of the many changes that have taken place in my heart and life.

He was the one who "suggested" I go to counseling all those years ago. That therapy is what led me down the path toward biblical counseling and is in part the reason I am involved in it today.

He has been completely supportive of the thousands hours I have spent in ministry service, encouraging me, standing both beside me and behind me. He has given me courage to step out in ways I would never have had the guts to do alone. He is my biggest cheerleader and my greatest “fan.”

This man completes me. He is truly a part of me, flesh of my flesh. When he hurts I hurt, when he rejoices I rejoice.  I love pretty much everything about him! His humor brings out a side of me I tend to squelch. He makes me laugh.

He says love is sacrifice. He demonstrates his belief every single day he breathes. Each day he sacrifices of his time, his sleep, his comforts, himself...for me. Each and every morning for the past twenty years he has brought me tea in bed. I have only to mention a want, a need, and he is figuring out how to make it possible. I am beyond blessed by this man. 

He is my lover and my best friend. I am so thankful to God for bringing him into my life, for giving us to each other. I would not trade one moment of any year we have spent together.

So there you have it. I surely hope and pray this special kind of love is a part of your lives.  It is God-given and irreplaceable.

Happy Anniversary, my wonderful husband! Here's to another milestone, another touchstone on our way to eternity. We have passed every test, and climbed every mountain together. I am thankful to God for you, my love. Our next milestone will be the celebration of a quarter-century together. I look forward to seeing how God will use us and how our love will deepen over the coming years.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Just As He Is

When I counsel a woman whose husband is basically a difficult man, my goal is to teach her how to live with him just as he is. To help her accept there is no changes she can effect without his desires to change, and there is nothing she is going to force on him about her faith. 

If you are one who has been regenerated since your marriage I encourage you to look at what has happened from your husband's viewpoint. Who you once were, you no longer are. The woman he married was most likely not regenerated. You may have drank, swore, and been very worldly. Now, you spout Bible verses, go to church and Bible study, and are striving to be godly. He is still the same unregenerate man you married and he may not understand what has happened to his wife! This is cause for much discord in the home.

He may pick at you, make fun of your beliefs and try and goad you into sinful responses.  He may belittle you or speak to you in a condescending manner in front of the children. Worse yet, he may become verbally abusive to you. What do you do? 

All your dignity and pride rises up within you and you badly want to reply in kind. You really want to strike back and tell him he is being a jerk. What do you do? 

Sometimes women wake up to find the man they married is not who they thought he was. Take the case of the couple who married young; prior to marriage he was a great communicator, they had much in common and spent time together when they were not working. When the children arrive, your husband suddenly turns into a man who is unavailable. You find you now love a man who is supremely selfish and who thinks only of himself. How do you cope with this?  

In each of these cases, it is important that you do not sin in your responses to him. You are responsible for your actions and you are responsible to demonstrate Christ likeness and to be kind, and loving and respectful toward him even when he is less than kind to you. 

However, it is never acceptable to remain in a place that is dangerous to your safety. I am not saying you are to stay in a marriage where your husband is beating you, so save the hate mail! You are always responsible to confront sin, and physical abuse is sin. Anytime a woman or her children are abused she must involve the authorities (Rom. 13). To hold him accountable is not sinful, it is honoring to God and submissive to His Word. 

My goal in the counseling process is to help a woman see her own sinful issues that need work. No one is sinless, so there will undoubtedly be heart-work to be done in her life. The areas I look for problems are in the realm of anger, bitterness, a lack of forgiveness, hatred, malice, gossip, coveting, and jealousy just to name a few. Very often, the woman is full of pride in her heart as she holds herself up as a better person than her husband. Surely this is not something many women seek to begin to practice, but the flesh is strong and the heart is deceptive above all things (Jer. 17:9). We are so easily self-deceived that it is easy to think the best of ourselves and the worst of others who are not living up to the standards we have set in place. 

It is for this reason that very often women have told me that once their eyes begin to open through the counseling they receive that they can see their own sin in the relationship. They see that their husband is not the only one who is acting unbiblically and repentance and biblical change is needed in their hearts as well. 

As the Lord convicts, there must be a change on the thinking level about your husband and this will ultimately change your actions and responses to him.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Unrepentant Husband

As I have met with many women in difficult and unhappy marriages over the years one thing has been very clear; patience is important. There must be a willingness to wait and watch God work in your husband. 

I understand it is wearying and the road is long and the years have been painful. Can I promise you that your spouse will change and repent? No, I wish I could. Sadly, even after many opportunities and every gracious attitude that you display, rebellious spouses still refuse to repent and change. In spite of this, please do not give up. Keep praying, keep hoping, keep trusting! God is a changer of hearts and there is no heart that is beyond His grasp. 

When a believing husband refuses to repent and change for the glory of God the steps of church discipline (Matt 18:15-20) should be enacted. (Any church that refuses to deal with the sinning brother or sister biblically is not a church that is truly biblical.)

When church discipline goes into effect the urge to rejoice can be overwhelming as you finally see the  end (of some kind) in sight. While this is a human response, it is also of the flesh and is not in keeping with walking worthy (Eph.4:1) What can you do during this time? Pray. Pray for repentance. Ask for God’s heart toward your spouse. Surely you know that God hates destroyed marriages and broken covenants. It would glorify God greatly if you would continue to pray for your spouse and refrain from thinking things like how you are almost free of this misery.

At the end of the discipline process for her unrepentant husband, one woman said this: “I feel sorry for him. I pity him. To be so self-righteous and refuse to believe he is wrong and everyone else is right…that is to be pitied.”

I know these women pray diligently for their husbands over the years and endure the emotional roller coaster over and over again. Through it all they prayed their husbands will repent and grow spiritually in ways they could never fathom.

As you pray you "let them go." What I mean by that is you don't nag, plead, beg, or wheedle them. There is no "coincidental" leaving of Bible tracts, books on marriage, or anything else, you pray and leave them alone for God to work on his heart. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Married To A Difficult Man?

A woman who is married to a difficult man wonders where it all went so wrong. She may ask, "How did I miss these obvious signs he is a control freak?", "How did I not see how selfish she is?" She wonders what mood he will be in today, and if the fighting will start right away when he gets out of bed. They tip-toe around their husband to avoid getting them angry and upset. They long for a nice day without an argument, a meal without a complaint. These women cringe when they see the signs they have come to know so well that husband is sporting for a fight. Sometimes wives use sex or alcohol or sleep to manipulate the situation or avoid them.

Women married to difficult men often tell me they feel like a doormat or they feel like his maid and servant. They battle within themselves to be good and godly wives and mothers and struggle with the indignity of their position in the home.

One woman told me that her husband does not talk to her. Theirs was once a loving marriage and over the years they became distant and now he barely speaks to her at all. It is so bad that she found out about a family function via email and did not think she was invited because her husband never told her about it! They take separate vacations now, he goes on a cruise, she visits family. Still, she is provided for. All her material wants are there, she does not work outside the home, but she is desperately lonely. She lives in an emotional vacuum.

Loving the difficult husband means holding them accountable for their sin, even while you fear their retribution, retaliation and rage. It means that you reverence God, and fear Him so much you cannot allow these sinful behaviors to continue without confrontation. This is an act of sacrifice on your part. Because many times it means that you bear the brunt of their anger after the fact. Often there are threats issued from this person to withhold financial support (“You better start figuring out a way to support yourself” “If you do that, then I won’t allow the kids to attend Christian school”) emotional support, (“I am too busy to listen to you.” “I don’t have time for your constant whining about this, you make a big deal out of nothing.”) They may threaten to move out, or pack your things and leave them on the porch or throw them on the lawn for all the neighbors to see.

When you love someone enough to hold them accountable for their sin, they will usually express indignation and self-righteousness often shifting the blame for their sinful actions onto you. There is fear on your part as you really don’t know if this will accomplish anything that is good, while upsetting things on a monumental scale.

One of the most difficult aspects of the church’s involvement is the time that it takes for this to play out. You have already been living in this difficult situation for quite some time, and when the church leadership becomes involved we mistakenly think this hastens the process. Usually this is not the case.

If you are the spouse of a very difficult husband, and have brought this to the attention of your church leaders I would ask you to be patient with them. While you have been dealing with the moods, the lies and deception, and angry outburst and unrepentant heart for a long time, this may be the first your leadership has heard of it. They need to gather the facts in your case. There may be individual counseling that takes place with your spouse and couples counseling also. 

Because the goal of all church discipline is restorative, your spouse will be given every opportunity to repent and turn from his or her sin. This may seem like an agonizingly slow process for you. I would encourage you to remember that the timing is in the hands of our loving, sovereign God who knows the end from the beginning. His desire is that your spouse repents, turn from his or her wicked ways and begin to walk worthy of the calling they have received.

The counseling should be directed at heart change, not simply behavior change. What God desires is change that lasts, and this is only possible with change in the inner man, what the Bible calls the heart. To be satisfied with simple behavior change is to stunt the process of true biblical change and is a guarantee that the former behavior will return one day.

Many spouses we counsel want results from the church leadership in a matter of weeks. It is unrealistic to place such a burden on them. They are charged with a holy obligation to sort out the facts in each case, listen to both sides of the story, and help you both in assigning your own responsibility for the failures in your marriage. Only then can you both see where change needs to take place in your own heart.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wives of Men Who Won't Lead

Some men simply refuse to lead no matter what opportunity is presented to them. Often they are unbelieving men who married unbelieving women who have since converted.

In such cases, my counsel to the women is to have as reasonable a discussion as possible with their husband on this topic. When presented with facts, an unbelieving husband may agree to relieve his wife of some of the responsibilities in the home and for the family.

If the husband is a believer and still chooses to abdicate his responsibility it does not change the fact that God has placed him in charge and he is in charge. You must obey God first, and that means you treat your husband as the leader he is.

This does not mean you constantly nag him and remind him that he is the leader, it means you simply subjugate yourself to the second chair, and defer to him in matters of leadership.

For example: A wife who patiently explains that the children are disrespecting her, and that she sees a need for a fatherly influence may win him over to take a more active role in disciplining the children. But a word of caution is needed her ladies; if you are set on having your husband lead, you must stay out of the way and let him do it! Many a man has come to a counseling session complaining that his wife begged and nagged at him to take more of a role in the disciplining of the children only to criticize him and step in to reverse his decisions when he did something she did not like. If you do this I promise you, he will stop participating and you will have little to no hope of him trying again.

Some husbands are not interested in watching over the finances of the home, they prefer to have their wives do it. It may be that you are better with figures than he is and if this is something he wishes for you to take care of, there is no harm in doing it providing he is involved every step of the way. For example, telling him that a certain number of bills need to be paid and how much the total will be is important. Asking him if he wishes for you to overpay or pay only a minimum is also important. Consulting with him before you purchase something for you or the kids, especially if it is an unplanned purchase or an extra item is also a way of recognizing his headship over your family.

Demonstrating this to your children will send a loud and clear message to them that dad is in charge even if he doesn't want to be, because God says he is in charge.

There seems to be a rather large contingent of men who leave all the outdoor yard work to their wives. Not because the wives likes it, but because the men simply won't do it. Gardening is one thing, mowing and shoveling, and heavier work are quite another. I know, some of you enjoy that kind of thing and if you do, that is fine. However, I think we must keep the Scriptural principles in mind when approaching some of these chores. Is is loving for a man to sit inside watching sports while his wife mows the lawn, simply because he does not enjoy doing it? It is righteous for him to heave all the chores upon her so he can "relax" on Saturday? There is something to be said for treating others the way we want to be treated, and a man loving his wife the way Christ loves the church- sacrificially.

A believing husband who refuses to lead his wife and children even after prayerful requests from you and numerous appeals, needs to be given notice that you will be speaking to the leaders of your church about this. Your husband needs to be confronted biblically by the men in your church because this is a matter of biblical disobedience! And, I might add here that his response to this information will be shine a bright light on his heart!

This is the purpose of Matt. 18 which is intended to be for the purpose of restoring the sinning brother. Please, please do not look upon this precious passage of Scripture as "kicking him out of the church!" These verses are intended for restoration.

Sometimes, each of us needs a reminder that love is a verb, and love means sacrifice, and love means there are just times we do things we simply do not want to do for the sake of obeying God. We also need reminders that we are to not live for ourselves, when we are married there is another person to consider. Even an unbeliever gets that.

If your husband is not a believer, and has plain old refused to take any leadership role in the home, then you must accept that God has sovereignly allowed it to be this way in your marriage. You would then fall under the 1, 2 Peter category of suffering for righteousness sake. I would encourage you to do everything to commit these sweet books of the Bible to memory. You can continue to present him with leadership opportunities, but realize that his heart is darkened and he does not obey the same Lord as you do. Pray for him daily and be a good and loving wife to him in spite of, no, because of his unredeemed state. You may be the only representation of the Lord Jesus Christ he has ever known.

Love him like Jesus.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why Men Don't Lead Part 2

continued...
A man who will not lead is difficult to live with, and those marriages are fraught with discord. It is too much pressure to be under to do his job and ours in marriage, home, and child rearing. A man who will not lead is often considered weak and lazy by his wife. She resents his unwillingness to step up and "be a man." 

Often the man has been conditioned by culture to be conciliatory and to not lead his wife and family. The feminist movement has taken care of that for the past 40 years. Men were taught to be "partners" and not leaders, sensitive and consulting men who willingly allowed their wives to do and be anything the pleased- often at the expense of the family.

Now before you get all upset at me, please sit back and look at the result of all this "liberation" on our society. Do you think it is any coincidence at all that divorce rates have skyrocketed, children are on psych meds along with their parents, and society as a whole is worse off than in the 1950's? I don't.

I believe in the order God set in place in the Bible for the family- God, husband, wife, children. Most Christian women do as well and live that way to varying degrees.

Too many husbands are content to let their wives lead in the home however. They are passive in discipling their children, and in other aspects of discipline. They place the financial burden of bill paying and financial decisions on their wives. Often, the man views his only obligation to be that of a co-bread winner, leaving the rest to his super-human wife. This is NOT God's plan for marriage. It places us in a position of power that we both love and hate.

A part of us wants leadership and oversight and direction, and honestly, the other part of us hates it much of the time and loves the seat of power. The latter is our curse to bear (Gen. 3) for we want to rule over our husbands. But ruling over the family is not God's desire or plan.

He causes us to ache for that leadership and headship over us and once we realize this, a change takes place in our thinking. It no longer is go great to be in a position of power and control in the marriage. we realize it is too much pressure to be under to do his job and ours in marriage, home, and child rearing.

A man who will not lead is often considered weak and lazy by his wife. She resents his unwillingness to step up and "be a man." As a result these marriages are fraught with discord. Especially when we begins to "encourage" him to take the mantle that is rightfully his. The truth is, many, many women desire to be led by their husbands in marriage.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Internet Radio Interview

Listen TODAY to Julie Ganschow being interviewed on internet radio at 1 PM central time. She will be speaking on the topic of anger.

Please click on the link below:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/cwa-radio/2011/02/15/sisterhood-of-beautiful-warriors

Why Men Won't Lead

Occasionally it seems prudent to revisit an important topic and the topic of abdication of leadership in the home would be one of those critical issues that needs to be revisited.

How is a wife supposed to live submissively with a man who refuses to lead? Doesn't that automatically place the woman in the position of leadership? After all, someone has to make decisions!

Let's take a look at the first failure in leadership for some background, God's first man, Adam.

When Adam and Eve were created and placed in the garden there was no reason to disagree about anything because there was no sin. Adam was set up by God as the leader of his household and was to guide and direct his wife in the ways of the Lord.

They both had a great advantage because God walked and talked with them personally. They did not need a prophet or a scroll to read from to understand what God wanted or required from them because God told them audibly. God walked with Adam and Eve in that garden on a daily basis. Amazing!

Adam was given a clear set of instructions by God that he passed on to Eve regarding the tree in the center of the garden. The fruit of that tree was as good as fruit on the tree next to it but God had forbidden them to eat of it lest they understand evil and sin. It wasn’t the fruit; it was the command and if they chose to disobey the command their eyes would be opened to the knowledge of good and evil because they would have committed the sin of disobedience.

Eve was seduced by the serpent into believing lies about what God truly did say regarding that tree and the fruit. Scripture informs us that Eve was not alone with the serpent as she was tempted. Genesis 3:6 tells us that Adam was there as the serpent twisted God’s Words, and interacted with Eve. There is no record that Adam attempted to correct the serpent’s lies or to drag Eve away from the situation, he was right there listening. He did not refute the lies or distortions. She was deceived and ultimately disobeyed her husband and God and ate of the tree. Her act was not one of flaunting rebellion; she was seduced by the great Deceiver! HHHHHn er protector, Adam, was not protecting. Her leader, Adam, was not leading. In fact, Adam followed his wife into sin and ate the fruit she gave him.

Adam abdicated his position of authority as Eve’s headship, and his leadership over his wife. When their sin was “discovered” by God, Adam blamed God for giving him Eve as though it were her fault he disobeyed. He knew the truth for God had told him personally. He also blamed God for his own sin claiming God had erred in giving him this particular woman.

Adam abdicated his leadership position and failed to protect his wife from sinning. For this sin, Adam is held responsible for sin entering into the world.

Many, many ladies desire to be led by their husbands in marriage. A part of us wants that leadership and oversight and direction, and honestly, the other part of us hates it much of the time. That is our curse to bear (Gen. 3) for we want to rule over our husbands. It is not God's desire or plan that we do so He causes us to ache for that leadership and headship over us.

continued tomorrow...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Redeeming Technology

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Colossians 4:5 (NKJV)


We are living in the midst of wonderful technological expansion. More than any previous generation, we have become comfortable with and even dependent upon the advances technology has brought us.

Recently I have heard from several of my friends who are taking a techno holiday and signing off their internet accounts for weeks or months. The reason they give for doing so is the massive amounts of time they realized they had been spending reading and posting on various sites. They say that it had begun to consume their lives and led to discontinuation of other previously enjoyed activities. 

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17 (NASB)

It seems everyone from toddlers to octogenarians has some form of electronic device that connects them to the internet and its abundance of information and entertainment. This is both a good and bad thing, for we are most certainly aware of the heartaches that result from misuse of the internet. Young boys and girls "sexting" pictures of themselves from their cell phones, and the ready availability of pornography are just two of the negatives technology has brought us. Virtual relationships are now the norm for teens and many adults. Social networking sites allow people to connect with long lost friends and family; unfortunately this has begun to replace face to face conversation and interaction.

The results of technology is not all bad, there are many positive uses for all of our gadgets too.  By God's grace and with wisdom and discernment we can redeem these things and use them in ways that glorify God rather than bring Him dishonor. 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 (NASB)

It takes discipline to determine to use your Facebook account to only post things that are edifying. I confess I struggle with this, because sites like these allow a person to spew whatever thought is in their head at the time. It is so easy to post foolishness and become completely self-absorbed through this media. As much of a thrill as it may be, it is not necessary to post every thought or pictures of every waking moment in Twitter.

I find that it is too easy to allow my fingers to reveal the sinfulness of my heart. Before you decide to press "post" do you read your comments as though you are seeing them through the eyes of someone else? Do you consider how your posting will be perceived by unbelievers or those who are struggling or need encouragement?

Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23 (NASB)

It requires wisdom to know how what you intend to say on Twitter will impact those who read it. Will  your Tweet make much of Christ? Will those who read your micro thoughts know that Jesus is your Lord as well as your Savior?

You see, I strongly believe we can use all of these tools for the promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and use them to become biblical touchstones in the lives of people we may never meet. However, to do so we must show ourselves to be people who not only say we are Christians, but present an accurate picture of what that means through the social media. This requires honesty and carefully chosen words on our parts. It also demands that we are immovable in our commitment to glorify God in what we do and say. Examine your most recent posts and tweets and see how yours measure up against the immovable standard of God's Word. If you realize that you come up short (you see sinful things in your postings etc.) confess, repent and make a decision to go in a direction that reflects Christ in you, the hope of glory!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Biblical Counseling Coalition


I want to make you aware of a new resource that is coming your way.  The BCC is a new coalition formed of a group of godly men and women who are united in their desire to bring to biblical counseling a connectivity through relationships with one another. 
I am proud to be a part of a working group in this organization. 

 Promoting Personal Change Centered on the Person of Christ
Ephesians 4:11-16
 Leaders Unite to Launch the Biblical Counseling Coalition

During the past year, over two-dozen leading pastors, biblical counselors, and Christian educators have been prayerfully discussing whether the time is right to launch a new coalition of organizations, leaders, and participants in the biblical counseling movement. Those leaders are excited to announce the official launch of the Biblical Counseling Coalition (www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org).

Pastor Steve Viars, the President of the BCC Board of Directors, captures the BCC’s purpose.

“The BCC is all about promoting relationships and providing resources. There are many tremendous organizations and individuals involved in the biblical counseling movement. The BCC seeks to connect such men and women in a way that creates a natural and healthy synergy. We believe that together we can accomplish more.”

The coalition’s Mission Statement further focuses the BCC’s vision.

The BCC exists to
strengthen churches, para-church organizations, and educational institutions
by promoting excellence and unity in biblical counseling
as a means to accomplish compassionate outreach and effective discipleship.

The BCC wants to be a catalyst further strengthening and unifying already-existing biblical counseling ministries, churches, and schools committed to biblical counseling. The BCC is a bridging ministry keeping people connected to and informed about conferences, blogs, resources, and classes offered by other biblical counseling ministries.

The BCC’s Executive Director, Dr. Bob Kellemen, highlights the three-fold audience to which the BCC seeks to minister.

“We want to strengthen the biblical counseling movement by ministering to people who offer care, people who are seeking care, and people who train care-givers. For example, on our site and in links to other sites, people will find blogs, book reviews, videos, and resource articles on a topic such as depression. Some of those resources will be written for those who offer care—pastors, biblical counselors, lay spiritual friends. Some will be written to help the person who is seeking care for depression to find biblical hope and wisdom. Some will discuss depression from a theological perspective so that those who train care-givers can be stretched through the iron-sharpening-iron process.”

The Biblical Counseling Coalition seeks to serve the entire church. Pastor Garrett Higbee, who serves as the Treasurer of the BCC Board, explains that:

“More than counseling, the vision of the BCC is for the entire church to speak God’s truth in love. We want to motivate and equip folks at the most basic levels of self-counsel, one-another ministry, small group leadership, and intentional discipleship. We want counseling with truth and love to become viral in the church and to be a foundational part of every discipleship-based ministry.”

Learn more about the BCC’s robust, relational vision of biblical counseling by visiting the Biblical Counseling Coalition (www.biblicalcounselingcoalition.org). At our “under construction” website you’ll find:

·       The BCC’s Confessional Statement
·       The BCC’s Doctrinal Statement
·       The BCC’s Mission/Vision/Passion Statement
·       A Welcome from Pastor Steve Viars, the President of the BCC’s Board of Directors
·       A Welcome from Dr. Bob Kellemen, the Executive Director of the BCC
·       Bios of the BCC’s Board of Directors and Council Board Members
·       Testimonials: “Why We Need the BCC”
·       Coming Soon: A Listing of Resources the BCC Will Be Offering

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"In vain do you worship me"

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ Matthew 15: 5-7

In both the teaching and practice of biblical counseling we are careful to guard against merely rearranging the flesh of the counselee. In other words, we are not behaviorists.

A behaviorist is one who is interested in changing the behavior without dealing with the root sin.  Jesus addressed this issue many times with the Pharisees as we see in the Gospels. The Pharisees were the religious men of the age. They were the teachers in the synagogue and the religious leaders of the Jews. They looked holy and righteous, and were very concerned with obedience to religion. Jesus and the disciples were questioned numerous times about their behaviors if they didn't fit with what the Pharisees taught. One particular incident involved ceremonial hand washing which was a tradition of the elders. When confronted Jesus does not beat around the bush! Jesus got to the heart of the matter.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain;

The issue with the worship of the Pharisees was that they were about their own glory, not Gods. It is the same with the perfectionistic and behavioristic person. Yes, change can happen on the surface, we can look good and holy. And we may feel good and holy too, but the result is glory of self. I made the change, I made it happen. By my own actions I have made myself holy. There is no need for God and no room for God in behaviorism.

Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisee's were far from Him. They were religious people who were worshiping the wrong God! Their hearts were hard and far from Him. They had self-righteousness, not God's righteousness!

Jesus told them that the basic problem is on the inside, not the outside (Matt 15:11). It is what is on the inside that is corrupted and what is being revealed by our behavior is the filth from within. Good behavior on the outside does not prove that good is within. Many people who are evil are capable of doing good things but that does not make them pure at heart.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children..." Matthew 7:11 (NASB)

 The Pharisees were offended by what Jesus said to them, and when I talk with some people about the need for change at the heart level they are offended with me! Very few people are overjoyed to hear that their heart is deceptive and full of sin. We do not want the problem to be "us." It is much easier to blame others for our problems; the mother who didn't love us, the father who abandoned us, the spouse who cheated on us...

It is also preferable to blame God for our problems. If God would have given me a better mom or dad I wouldn't be this way. God is the one who made me with "mental illness" so I can't help how I am. It is so much easier to foist all the responsibility on something or someone else for our behavior and our sinful responses.

Psychology ignores that there is something far more insidious to our sinfulness in fact, it does not even recognize sinfulness as an issue! Even the religious psychologist is often more about the believer being a victim who is in need of therapy rather than the victorious all conquering Christian of Romans 8. I find this terribly, terribly sad. I cannot imagine why a person would prefer or choose to believe they have an illness or are deficient in some organic/material way when presented with the issues of sin and the need for heart change, thereby locking themselves into a world that has no hope to ever get better or ever recover and live a normal life.

This is why we are so adamant that this thing we call biblical counseling must be about heart change! Heart change brings wonderful, glorious HOPE! The worship disorder must be corrected from the inside to the outside. This is why we believe that heart change- not simply behavior change- is what brings life change. A change in who is being worshiped has to take place in the heart before it will ever be seen in the life.

Worship is the central issue in biblical counseling, and I pray you are not worshiping in vain.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Debunking Depression

As a biblical counselor, I get calls every week from people who want counseling for depression and other “mental illnesses.” Most of these people already have been through some other form of counseling and are usually taking psychotropic medication (drugs that act on the mind). The world and its “experts” tell us that depression is an illness, a sickness that can be treated only by a “qualified expert.” The DSM-IV classifies depression as a mental illness. Various organizations and web sites on depression concur. Consider the following quotes:

Depression.com states, “Depression is not something you can just ‘snap out of.’ It’s caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals, along with other factors. Like any serious medical condition, depression needs to be treated.”

“Depression has no single cause; often, it results from a combination of things. . . . Whatever its cause, depression is not just a state of mind. It is related to physical changes in the brain, and connected to an imbalance of a type of chemical that carries signals in your brain and nerves.” 2

The National Institute of Mental Health says, “Some types of depression run in families, suggesting that a biological vulnerability can be inherited….

In some families, major depression also seems to occur generation after generation. However, it can also occur in people who have no family history of depression. Whether inherited or not, major depressive disorder is often associated with changes in brain structures or brain function. People who have low self-esteem, who consistently view themselves and the world with pessimism or who are readily overwhelmed by stress, are prone to depression. Whether this represents a psychological predisposition or an early form of the illness is not clear.” 3

“The causes of clinical depression are likely to be different for different people.” 4

“Today, we are able to treat depression much more effectively because we have a better understanding of the causes of clinical depression. Many people begin to feel depressed as the result of some recent, notable event or events, which occurred in one’s life. We also know that family history and genetics play a part in the greater likelihood of someone becoming depressed in their lifetime. Increased stress and inadequate coping mechanisms to deal with that stress may also contribute to depression. We know that there are biological and psychological components to every depression; it is not a purely biochemical or medical disorder.”5

Not all quotes are stated as conclusively. Clinical psychologist Bruce Levine writes, “No biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for attention deficit disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol or drug abuse, overeating, gambling, or any other so called mental illness, disease, or disorder.” 6

Elliot Valenstein, University of Michigan neuroscientist, writes, “Contrary to what is often claimed, no biochemical, anatomical, or functional signs have been found that reliably distinguish the brains of mental patients.” 7

Joseph Glenmullen, M.D., clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, says, “A serotonin deficiency for depression has not been found. . . . Still, patients are often given the impression that a definitive serotonin deficiency in depression is firmly established.” 8

Maurice Victor, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Neurology at Dartmouth Medical School; and Allan H. Ropper, M.D., Professor and Chairman of Neurology at Tufts University School of Medicine, agree: “At
the present time, it must be conceded that there is no reliable biologic test for depression.” 9

The Bible records the thoughts of a depressed psalmist:
“Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. I am bent over and racked with pain. My days are filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh. My heart beats wildly, my strength fails, and I am going blind. My loved ones and friends stay away, fearing my disease. Even my own family stands at a distance.” Psalm 38:3-11 (NLT)

How do we reconcile the conflicting opinions of those who say depression is an illness, others who say that claim has no basis in fact, and the words of the Bible regarding the causes and cures of depression?

In my quest to understand this complex issue, I sought out materials written by medical professionals; medical doctors, neuroscientists, neurobiophysicists, and psychiatrists who have done extensive research on the theories about this prevalent physical and emotional state. I have quoted them extensively above. Some medical professionals radically disagree with the proponents of the theories of mental illnesses. At this writing, there is no consensus in the medical field on the cause of depression and other “mental illnesses,” nor is there a cure. Treatment includes manageability of behavior and symptoms through medication but no cure. There is great confusion and disagreement within the medical and scientific communities about depression and other mental illnesses, yet theories are being presented as scientific fact.

My goal is to expose you to the alternative legitimate viewpoint on what the world calls depression and mental illness. Like my colleagues, I am greatly concerned and alarmed about the onslaught of these diagnoses. Entire segments of the population (e.g., lonely housewives, drunkards, those enslaved to sexual sin or anger, undisciplined children) are being diagnosed as mentally ill on a daily basis. The National Institute of Mental Health surveyed more than 9,000 U.S. adults and concluded that about half of all Americans will develop a mental disorder at some time in their lives! 10

How did we get to such a place? How can it be that in the last 40 years, the world has seemingly (pardon the pun) gone mad? My assessment is that because of the influence of evolution, psychiatry, and social liberalism, our society has effectively eliminated God, standards of morality, and absolutes. Behaviors once considered deviant and immoral are being redefined as medical conditions and illnesses by the psychological professionals. You can find them in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV).

1 “Take Charge of Your Health 1 Step at a Time,” GlaxoSmithKline, http://www.depression.com, 1997-2006.
2 “Causes of Depression,” GlaxoSmithKline, http://www.depression. com/causes_of_depression.html, 1997-2006.
3 Margaret Strock, “Depression,” NIH Publication No. 00-3561, National Institute of Mental Health, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/publicat/ depression.cfm, 2000.
4 Prentiss Price, “Causes of Depression,” http://www. allaboutdepression.com/cau_01.html, 1999-2004.
5 “Depression (Unipolar),” MentalHelp.net, http://mentalhelp.net/ poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=438&cn=5, Oct. 24, 2001.
6 Bruce E. Levine, Commonsense Rebellion: Debunking Psychiatry, Confronting Society: An A to Z Guide to Rehumanizing Our Lives (New York: Continuum Publishing, 2001), 227.
7 Elliot S. Valenstein, Blaming the Brain: The Truth about Drugs and Mental Health (New York: The Free Press, 1998), 125.
8 Joseph Glenmullen, Prozac Backlash (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000), 197-198.
9 Maurice Victor and Allan H. Ropper, Adams and Victor’s Principles of Neurology - Seventh Edition, (New York: McGraw-Hill, Medical Publishing Division, 2001), 1616-1618.
10 Ronald Kessler, et al. “Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication,” Archives of General Psychiatry Vol. 62, No. 6 (June 2005), 593-602.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Worship Disorder

Have you noticed that it seems that everyone today has some sort of a disorder? Psychology and psychiatry have become adept at assigning a diagnosis to just about every behavior you can think of. I think in one sense they are right, we all do have a disorder. However, I differ with them as to what that is.  Every person has the exact same psychological disorder- a worship disorder.

If it were not for the grace of God we would be doomed to remain idolaters and we would remain in bondage to the sins of "self." Even though we are redeemed we can still fall prey to idols of the heart and I think this is because we underestimate our tendency for the sin of idolatry. I think we truly do not see that our own desires, passions, lusts, perceived rights and beliefs are often geared toward having our own way.  This is because we grossly underestimate our own sinful hearts.

The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9 ESV)

Pastor Tim Keller says, "Our worship disorder is the very heart act of refusing to have Jesus Christ as our heart's functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear, and delight (security, contentment, and joy).

This is why we are easily led astray and are easily bent on having our own way, living life for our own pleasures and having "me" at the center of my universe. This is why it is not enough to just deal with the person's actions. We are entirely capable of helping a person function better in her rebellion against toward God thus encouraging a further hardening of the heart. This approach only entrenches sinful patterns of the heart.

We do not want to teach a person how to function best ignoring the goals that God has for them, we want to teach them how to honor the Lord as God and to give thanks (Rom 1:21).  Anything that falls short of that is deficient and cannot be called true biblical discipleship. We are charged with teaching our counselee a proper view of life and the world that we live in. We have to teach her to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and we have to teach her how to do that.

Yes, we must be practical but we cannot be pragmatists. We cannot endorse the rearrangement of the flesh and consider that to be "biblical counseling." Too much of what is currently considered to be Christian counseling stops before dealing with the root sin and exists only on the level of behavior, or on the victim level. 

Biblical Counseling/Discipleship must be about the change of heart to correct the worship disorder. This is why worship is the central issue in biblical counseling- who or what are you worshiping today?  This question must be answered if we are going to get at the heart of the presenting problems the counselee brings to the table of discussion.

                                                                                     Special thanks to my friend and fellow counselor Pastor Bruce Roeder. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Living the Legalist Lie

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.  2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NASB)

I have been thinking about the topic of legalism in the Body of Christ.  I see legalism as one of the most difficult issues to help a counselee to understand in the counseling process. When I meet with a woman for counseling I can hear legalism embedded in the language she uses even though she may not realize she is a legalist.

I become very clued in to this issue as I hear the counselee tell me about her successes and failures and those of the people in her life. Her disclosure will typically reveal that she has various "benchmarks" for those she considers to be Christians. You see, she has established rules that she bases loosely on her understanding of the Scriptures and she also has extra-biblical standards that she follows and expects those around her to follow. If the rules are followed you are considered to be a "good Christian" and should you fail to measure up to her line of acceptability she will judge you are "backslidden"or unregenerate. An invisible spiritual measuring stick is held up to everyone she knows.

I am aware of a case where a wife had copied a list from the family Bible that contained "evidence of being a believer in Christ."  The wife presented the list as evidence that her husband was not a Christian because he did not follow the list! This belief ruined the marriage as the wife proclaimed she could not live with a man who was not more spiritual than she was.

A person who is a legalist is invariably also full of pride and self-deception. Pride, in thinking they "have arrived" spiritually and have the Christian life all sewn up; and self-deception as they believe their good deeds are garnering them favor with God. The believe that they are somehow more spiritual and completely sanctified in comparison with the rest of us.

I meet many women who grew up in homes that fostered such thoughts, belief's and actions. It was expected that family members exhibit Christian perfectionism, and failure was met with swift condemnation. Legalism has been their way of life since childhood and I want to stress they truly believe that how they are living is right.

However, Paul says that legalism kills. It kills relationships of all kinds from friendships to marriages and parent-child relationships.

In addition to the interpersonal relationship problems, these women often express to me they are simply miserable. They are angry and frustrated with themselves for not measuring up to their own standards, and because they live under constant self-condemnation for their failures.They are also exhausted from watching every internal working and external action to be sure it follows the rules. This is not what God intends for us! He does not expect us to live perfectly, or by a set of do's and don'ts that are intended to gain us His favor!

The legalist has to learn and understand that sanctification is a process that is life-long. No Christian "arrives" prior to leaving this earth, and to think or believe otherwise is revealing a heart of incredible pride.  All of us remain nothing more than sinners saved by the grace of God. His continuing action in our lives is the process of sanctification as He changes us from sinful self-centered people into people who desire to honor and glorify Him. This will not happen by following a set of self-righteous do's and don'ts, but instead it happens in part by God working in and through our failures.

God promises that He will complete what He has begun (Phil. 1:6) so rest assured, one day you will be made perfect. Even this is not of yourself, it is the Lord finishing His working in your life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Am Driven

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.  Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

I am driven. Let's get that out there right from the start. I am a woman driven by a desire to bring biblical counseling and discipleship to you. I am driven to provide excellent education to those who are interested in learning how to do intensive discipleship, and to help them attain their certification in one of the excellent organizations that exist for that purpose.

I am driven to build an organization in my area that will become known as the place to be trained and that turns out very capable and qualified counselors. I am driven to excel.

I am driven to minister to and serve the people in my local church along side my pastor and elders in helping fellow Christians to understand that heart change means life change. To really grasp and internalize that critical truth that without the heart change that first comes through the saving grace of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9) and then flows from the living Word of God into the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of each of us (Romans 12:1-2), no lasting change can or will take place.

I am driven to meet with women after a long and busy workday to help them understand the process of biblical change and unravel the fruit and root issues that make up the common to man problems (1 Corinthians 10:13) that they bring to the table.

I am driven to devote my life to this work. It is what occupies my thoughts and my desires as I go through my daily activities and it burns like a fire in my heart. This is not of my own making, or of my own original desires. If left to myself, I would never have chosen this course for my life! But God had other ideas and here I am, somewhat of a fish out of water. A woman with different desires than most women. I have been called a Deborah (Judges), and Truth Telling Woman by those who know me. There are also less flattering names that have been uttered from time to time from those who have been intimidated by a woman with such desires.

There is joy in this, for sure! I am joyful and content when I am serving, but that is not my goal. My goal is to bring glory to God by what I do with this life that He has given me. This is not about me, it is all about Him.

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NASB)

Oswald Chambers says, "Paul’s words have to do with our being made servants of Jesus Christ, and our permission is never asked as to what we will do or where we will go. God makes us as broken bread and poured-out wine to please Himself. To be “separated to the gospel” means being able to hear the call of God. Once someone begins to hear that call, a suffering worthy of the name of Christ is produced. Suddenly, every ambition, every desire of life, and every outlook is completely blotted out and extinguished. Only one thing remains—“ separated to the gospel  .” Woe be to the soul who tries to head in any other direction once that call has come to him."