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Posts Tagged ‘Counseling’


I became a Christian in the 1980’s. Soon This Present Darkness became a popular book in evangelicalism. While Peretti was writing fiction, some took it as reflective of reality. Some people’s focus shifted from Jesus to a fear of demons.

We do see an outbreak of demonic activity with the Incarnation of the Son. Some try to normalize those events and come up with formulas, rites and whole taxologies of demons. We’ve gone too far in many ways.

Safe and Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual BattlesYears ago David Powlison wrote the now out of print Power Encounters to address this erroneous focus among Christians. Prior to his recent death, Powlison wrote another book , a shorter book, on the subject called Safe & Sound: Standing Firm in Spiritual Battles. This little book is a gift to the church if we’ll listen.

Unlike Power Encounters which serves as a corrective, Safe & Sound is more instructive. It has a different approach or focus. At times he notes how others have gone far beyond Scripture, but the focus is more positive and instructive. Yet, as he notes, the Christian life is lived in the fog of war.

The heart of the book is Ephesians 6. In the first part of the book where he defines spiritual warfare, he shows us how to see the passage in context with expanding circles of context (I claim this phrase as my own and will use it if I ever write a book on preaching). He looks at the text in the context of the Letter to the Ephesians, the context of the New Testament and then the context of the whole Bible. This itself is instructive to people.

“At the center of spiritual warfare is not the devil. It’s Jesus Christ.”

Context of the Letter

Powlison wants us to see that ultimately all of the letter is about spiritual battles. Jesus has rescued us from the Prince of the Spirit of the Air. Church growth, numerically and spiritually, is a spiritual battle. Sanctification is a spiritual battle. Family life is a spiritual battle. All of these involve battles with identity, guilt & shame, truth & lies, the struggle of allegiance between the two kingdoms. Anger, for instance, can give the devil a foothold when it persists and when we sin in our anger.

“All of Ephesians is about our conflict with darkness- within ourselves, with other people, and with the spiritual forces of evil. … Ephesians is about union and communion with Christ and union and communion with each other in Christ. Spiritual warfare is against the forces that would divide an break our fellowship with Christ and one another.”

Context of the New Testament

This is where this book can sound more like his earlier book. He is addressing the accounts of demon possession in the Gospels and Acts. If we pay attention, we see those power encounters connected with the Incarnation are very different than much of what passes for power encounters today. Only once Jesus asks the name, because usually He’s telling them to shut up. Demons are not connected with particular sins ( the demon of lust, greed or idolatry). In addressing sin people are called to faith & repentance, not the casting out of demons.

Image result for miracle maxAdditionally, spiritual warfare is often seen as defensive. Powlison wants us to see spiritual battles as offensive. He addresses this in both the immediate and NT context. It is not intended to be the Battle of Helm’s Deep as we retreat to a defensive position before an advancing demonic horde. It is more like Miracle Max reminding us to “have fun storming the castle.” As we move forward we encounter resistance, so we need the armor of God. This is also seen in the OT as the people of Israel engage in conquest of the Promised Land. They are on the offense, and God is clearing the way for them in many instances.

“When we are in the grip of anger and bitterness, James says that there is a demonic aspect to us (James 3:13-18). We resemble the liar and murderer in how we exalt ourselves and judge and damn others.”

Context of the Whole Bible

Image result for gladiatorPowlison notes that most expositors connect the armor with Paul being surrounded by Roman soldiers. He brings us to Isaiah and Psalms to see the armor of God there. Jesus shares His armor with us. Jesus shares His power & might with us. Jesus gives His Word of truth to us. Through the OT connection, we also see the centrality of Christ in our spiritual battles.

As a counselor, Powlison writes with an eye on counseling people. After his discussion of the whole armor from Ephesians 6, he addresses different kinds of counseling situations in Part 2 of the book. He addresses personal ministry, the triad of anger, fear and escapism, death, the occult (keep in mind Ephesus was filled with the occult as seen in Acts), and Animism. He reminds us that the focus is on the person before us, not a demon. The final chapter, like the Introduction, is quite personal. In the Introduction he spoke of his conversion. In the final chapter he speaks of his diagnosis and then-impending death.

“One of the goals of pastoral counseling is to restore to people the awareness of choice in situations where they don’t feel like they are choosing.”

The Appendix briefly summarizes Power Encounters and helps us to see the shift from Jesus’ extraordinary ministry (which involves love to needy people, reveals Jesus as God Incarnate and prompts people to faith) to our more ordinary ministry involving love to people in need to reveal Jesus as God Incarnate and which calls them to faith and repentance. Sadly, we love the spectacular and fail to recognize that ministry is ordinary faith expressing itself in love.

“We must learn how to fight well, how to put on Jesus Christ himself, wearing the weapons of light with which he defeats the powers of darkness.”

This is a very good book in that it consistently points us to Jesus and calls us to ordinary ministry in some difficult circumstances. There is no fat to trim in this book. Powlison gets to the point and stays on point as he does in the other books he wrote in his final days. As a result, these are good books for busy elders and lay ministry leaders. He points us to the gospel and ordinary means of grace, not encounters with demons, as we engage in spiritual battles. This is a helpful addition to a toolbox, particularly for those without the time for Gurnall’s classic work on the armor of God.

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11001532_10206025186488500_1318611866669102824_oMy mother has Alzheimer’s. She was diagnosed in the Fall of 2013, if I remember correctly. That’s because I went to visit my parents in the summer of 2014 and she was to the point that she didn’t know who I was.

I never got to say ‘good-bye’, at least so she’d know what was happening. It is hard to see a person who looks like your mother, but who doesn’t remember the last 60 or so years of her life. She doesn’t know who my father is, and calls him “The Boss”. The woman I knew is gone.

She lives in fear. She’s always been a fearful person, but there is less of a capacity to deal with her fear. When I visited with the kids she nearly panicked if they were even remotely near the road. But having them play outside was better than having her not letting them play inside (as happened on a previous visit).

It is tough to consider her life. In many ways she had a hard life as a kid. In some ways this made it difficult for her to be a mother, and to be her son. Nothing like Mommie Dearest, but difficult.

She was born in 1936, shortly before WWII. She was the eldest of 9 kids, and the only girl. That had to be difficult. I think that she, as a kid herself, raised some of her brothers. In some ways I’m not sure she had a childhood, or really knew how to be a mature parent. She did the best she could.

That was actually her understanding of life: God expected you to do the best you could. At least that is what she told the Mormon missionary who came to our door when I was a young Christian. I wish this were so since she was a nominal Catholic who did her best to raise us in the Church. I, her last son, was the only one to be confirmed. Having fulfilled her commitment, I was now free to choose whether or not I went to Mass. I didn’t.

As a teenager I felt like the Gerry Cooney of our family- the last Great White Hope. All my parents hopes seemed to be set on me. That is only my perspective. They never said that. But I was the one who went to college. I am the one with advanced degrees.

She also carried secrets. When I graduated from high school we all went out for dinner. She had a little too much wine, and the next thing I knew I heard about a miscarriage. The woman who had 8 brothers, and at the time had 2 sons lost a little girl. If that girl had been born, I wouldn’t have. I know of a few more, but who knows how many secrets she carried until she lost them all.

I struggled as I fell into the family’s sins. There was warning, but no apparent capacity to help me untangle myself from those sins. One of those sins was her sin- she was an angry person. At times my friends and I took a hellish delight in provoking her to anger.

My real struggle was with her apparent lack of boundaries, or at least her inability to respect mine. She thought she was being helpful. I thought she was being intrusive. I loved her, but I wanted her to realize I was an adult. I think she figured that out by the time I got married, when I was 36.

I think this desire to still parent kids drove her for years. She would baby sit for teachers at the school down the street.

Oh, there were positives. She was the saver in the family. She tried to pass that frugality on to us. She made me save my money from the paper route to pay for driver’s education. When I had it all, she only made me pay half of it. That was a bit frustrating, since I could have taken driver’s ed earlier.

Relationships with parents can be complex. As I tried to sort ours out, I didn’t always handle it well. As a young Christian I wanted something better for them than “doing their best.” I wanted her to know the freedom of forgiveness, to stop having to protect those secrets. I was probably disrespectful. At times I pushed. I didn’t understand how authority affects evangelism. They probably had not idea what to do with me. Thankfully they didn’t cast me out after my conversion like a few of my friends did.

Later, while in a counseling degree program I was angry. I withdrew. It was my relationship with my eventual wife that changed it. Family is important to her. I also knew I had plenty of baggage and I didn’t want her to suffer for the sins of others. I began to address my own anger. I began to realize that my parents didn’t have the capacity to understand or own up to certain things. I couldn’t wait for an apology before forgiving them.

I think CavWife was the only daughter-in-law she liked and respected. I think. It was hard since she really didn’t reach out to CavWife. I’m glad she got to hold her granddaughter. I’m glad she got to visit us here in AZ. My kids did not get her sense of humor. Oh, well.

I still deal with the debris, but I’m choosing not to hang on to things.

Another incremental step in her decline presses in. I’m not sure the best path for my father to take. I’m not sure how to support him from 2,000 miles away.

It still makes it difficult to process her absence because it was a complicated relationship. As a result my desire to mourn seems complicated too. And not just because she is here but also isn’t. I reach for thoughts and words but they seem so slippery.  I’m left with memories, conflicting and confusing (at times) memories.

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This weekend I read Zack Eswine’s short (140+ pages) book Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression. I wasn’t depressed, but I was preaching on Psalm 42-3 on Sunday. I had been meaning to read this book earlier, but other volumes always seemed to jump to the front of the queue. So, with a long weekend, the time was now.

I had already done much of my preparation and even written the sermon when I started the book. I added a few things as a result of the reading I’d done by Saturday night. I also changed my introduction.

“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” Charles Spurgeon

What I discovered is that many people have never heard a sermon on depression. That is depressing. Just about everyone struggles with depression at some point, but for some it is commonplace and debilitating. The Psalm in question is one of the places where we learn that godly people can be downcast. It is no sin, but a manifestation of living in a fallen world.

Eswine’s book is written, or seems to be, with the depressed in mind. The chapters are short since often their attention spans are short. This is no tome, but meant to encourage people and let them know they are not alone in suffering from this malady. He also points us to Jesus who knew such negative emotions as the Sin-Bearer.

“Broken hearted one, Jesus Christ knows all your troubles, for similar troubles were his portion.” Charles Spurgeon

There are three main sections of the book: Trying to Understand Depression, Learning to Help Those Who Suffer from Depression, and Learning Helps to Daily Cope with Depression.

Old SpurgeonThe first section helps some to name their experience. That may sound strange, but let me explain. For years I would get bad headaches and would want to sleep. These were different from what I was used to. One day someone told me they were migraines. I never would have imagined that I had migraines. Other people get those, not me. This is how many think of depression- that’s for other people. Eswine takes some of the mystery out of depression by reminding us how common it can be, and various ways depression is experienced (just as the Psalmist seems to do).

He brings us often to Spurgeon who struggled with depression all of his adult life. This is important for us to see that being depressed itself is not a sin and that real Christians can and do get depressed. There are also a variety of causes of depression: body chemistry, spiritual problems and circumstances. These interact with one another, and all are traced back to Adam’s sin in Eden. We are embodied spirits, so there is interaction between physical and spiritual realities. Not every depression is caused by spiritual problem, but every depression will have spiritual consequences. Because some have a genetic predisposition to depression means that they have a weakness, not that they are weak people. We all have weaknesses. But we don’t want to point a finger and condemn those who suffer as weak.

“Our misery has poisoned us with a tragic arrogance. Our pains have deluded our reasoning.”

In the second section he notes that diagnosis is not the same as a cure. There is no magic bullet for depression. It doesn’t take away the struggle, but helps us to understand some of the dynamics of depression. We can start to analyze ourselves and say “That’s the depression talking.” Depression obscures reality. It even lies to us (“It will never get better.”) and we struggle to sort out fact and fiction, like Peeta in The Mockingjay we have to ask “Real? Not real?”

He reminds us that not all who seek to help are helpful. Sincere people can do harm while they seek to help. We are also reminded of the Man of Sorrows who is able to help because He has experienced these cruel realities.

The third section is largely about coping with depression. He discusses feeding hope, one of the spiritual realities depression robs us of. Pouring out our soul, and filling it with truth is important. But it isn’t a cure-all. He mentions other ways we can care for ourselves in depression: rest, laughter, medication etc. Taking medication doesn’t make you weak or weird. You are not a 2nd class kind of Christian. It is the use of appropriate means, particularly when combined with other means like counseling. The medication helps you to function so you can talk, work and relate to others. I recommend keeping DVDs and books that make you laugh. They can serve as another life preserver when you feel like you are sinking down. These things are not substitutes for Jesus unless you use them to avoid Jesus.

“Our way of fighting is to hide behind Jesus who fights for us.”

There is also the dark reality of suicidal thoughts. Many in deep depression consider ending the deep, unending pain they feel. It doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians. It just means their suffering is incredibly profound. Eswine handles this wisely.

There are benefits that come from such sorrow. These are not reasons to choose depression, but the good God works out of our depression which we might not experience any other way. We are able to exhibit more empathy with those who suffer. We are also better able to understand our weakness and profound need for Christ in all things.

“Perhaps, nothing in life reminds us that we are not God, and that this earth is not heaven, like an indescribable distress that sometimes defies cause and had no immediate cure, or no cure at all.”

I would recommend Zack Eswine’s book to pastors and counselors. It is not technical but is written quite simply so the former can understand depression if they haven’t experienced, and helps the latter to communicate about it simply. It is also a good book for those who suffer. They will remember they are not alone, but always upheld by One who was acquainted with sorrows. He draws much from the words of Spurgeon, as well as William Cowper and others.  It is not an academic treatment, but a very heart-felt one.

P.S. If you leave a comment about how depression is demonic, I will delete it.

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Where I live now isn’t like where I lived immediately before this. It isn’t about geography, or the population. There are many differences between here and there. One significant difference is its view of homosexuality.

There homosexuality was still in the closet. We knew someone whose son is a homosexual in a long term relationship with another man. Everyone pretty much knew, but they were considered “friends” for the sake of other family members. I really don’t recall seeing any homosexual couples expressing affection while I lived there.

Where I live now is known, so I’m told, as a popular place for lesbians to live. In the last month I’ve seen 2 different couples expressing affection. First, I was picking my family up at the airport and 2 reunited women had a few kisses. I was hoping my kids didn’t notice because I’m not sure I’m ready to have that conversation that HGTV wants to make me have. Last night 2 younger women made out briefly in the restaurant I went to.

In some communities, particular lifestyles are still closeted. In others, people are quite open. In the church, some sins are still closeted. Peter Hubbard considers this question after realizing that in all the years of testimonies he’d heard, he couldn’t remember anyone including SSA as part of that testimony.

Hubbard has a few theories in the first chapter of Love Into Light: The Homosexual and the Church. He also refutes each of these theories with the gospel.

Possibility #1: Homosexuals are not like us; they are “abnormal.” The church has often made this argument. We shouldn’t wonder why people don’t want to confess this particular sin in our congregations. They are (often for good reason) afraid they will be rejected.

“He couldn’t wait any longer for me to reject him, so he rejected himself for me.”

I’ve had people admit to having an abortion, giving up a child to adoption and addiction to pornography. Not homosexual porn however. I’ve had women admit to me that they’d been sexually abused. But no men (at least with me as their pastor).

I have had a few people admit to profound sins. One recognized at the end of our counseling session that they had crossed the Tiber so to speak. Fearing I’d never look at them the same way, and always have questions about them, they left the church. Right there, right then. One hung around for awhile, but I wonder if they were trying to get me to reject them in the months that came. Or perhaps they assumed I was rejecting them as a result of that confession when other issues were in play. People expect to be rejected and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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The next of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to spend too much time on hurting people and not enough time developing future leaders. Dave Kraft is not the only one to warn of this propensity. It comes up in The Trellis and the Vine.

He isn’t saying churches, and leaders, should not care for the hurting people in the congregation. He is saying that you need to make sure you spend time cultivating future leaders too. The hurting can often demand your time. The hungry usually aren’t calling you to set up appointments.

“If all the leader’s time is devoted to shepherding and counseling hurting people to the exclusion of nurturing hungry future leaders, the ministry cannot continue to grow as God would desire.”

So it can be easy, particularly as a smaller church pastor, to focus too much energy on the hurting.

I suspect some of this has to do with gifting. The more priestly pastors are highly empathetic. They will spend lots of time working with the hurting. They will not place as high a value on the future. They won’t be preparing future leaders as much as a pastor with a strong prophetic or kingly gifting.

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One of the more difficult things in pastoral ministry is the keeping of secrets. Not our own, but the hearing and bearing of others’ secrets.

We hear all kinds of things in pastoral counseling. We hear how people have been sinned against, and how they have sinned. It is difficult to hear the dirt on someone. There is no one to tell.

Some of those secrets are more ordinary- unfortunately. Sad to think that hearing about sexual abuse is old hat. But sometimes there are stories that strike you deep because they are that powerful. I hadn’t heard too many of those in years past. But I have had two of those this year. It takes its toll precisely because there is no one you can tell. These are things you don’t even tell your wife. It wears on your soul.

This is one of the side benefits of going to General Assembly. You see trusted friends who know no one in your situation. You can share some of those burdens without any collateral damage. They won’t look at anyone differently. They aren’t going to visit your congregation and wonder. They are completely disconnected from the situation.

I feel for the guys who don’t have such opportunities. They probably need to talk to a counselor periodically. Sin is a great weight, and we can’t carry it alone. Jesus doesn’t tell us to bear it alone (Gal. 6), but to bear one another’s burdens. I am grateful I have a friends who can bear those with me, and whose burdens I can bear. Guys who don’t go to counseling or implode. If you are one of those guys, find someone safe to talk to. Fast.

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In the first part I examined the fact that all pastors will have to talk about sex from the pulpit because the Bible talks about sex- often. But how often a pastor needs to talk about it will differ according to the needs of the congregation. John MacArthur probably doesn’t have to talk about sex often. I’m not sure I’d want him to talk to me about sex, that would be like talking about sex with my father-in-law. Just doesn’t seem right. Mark Driscoll, who pastors a church filled with young converts, will have greater need to address the subject.

How should a pastor speak about sex? That is the topic I want to pick up now. Just because you should talk about it doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind.

When I was taking classes for my counseling degree we had a course on sex. I know you won’t believe me, but sex comes up often in counseling situations. One day we spent time on an exercise. We split up into small groups of both men and women. We had to practice saying “penis” and “vagina”. It was incredibly funny for me because one of my classmates was really struggling to say them in mixed company. That was so far out of her comfort zone. But when you try to do this, it can be weird for anyone.

We were trained to use the proper terms for things, not slang. We called oral sex just that- not a Lewinski or any number of other terms.

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There has been lots of sex talk by pastors lately, and a lot of push back from other pastors and lay people. This whole thing has produced lots of heat, and not nearly as much light. Some of it simply reeks of sensationalism, like Ed Young’s bed on a roof stunt. Some of it has been pastors trying to pastor their people.

The push back is that pastors shouldn’t talk about sex, or write about sex. And I’ve seen quite a few people say Mark Driscoll is obsessed with sex. I don’t remember any push back to Lauren Winners’ book about sex, Real Sex. Any any number of Christian therapists’ books about sex. Perhaps it is that people just expect pastors to say “don’t do it”. They are uncomfortable with pastors, who speak to mixed audiences, talking about it positively beyond “it’s okay if you are married”. But there is no reason that pastors need to surrender this topic to counselors. But, let’s slow down.

In my advanced years, I’m less reactionary. So I’ve been pondering this. I want to explore a few things. First, why pastors need to talk about sex. Second, how should pastors talk about sex. And lastly, how pastors should help their people think thru sex. I’m anticipating three posts on this. I’m sure to offend someone. That is not my intention. I’m going to try to bring my experience as a pastor who does some counseling (yes, I have an MA in Counseling) to bear on this.

Why Pastors Need to Talk About Sex

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Entering Mexico was sort of like entering a worm hole or something.  What a difference a few hundred yards makes.  This is revealed in so many ways. I mentioned the crazy drivers, right?  Since the speed limit was very low, on some roads 35 kmph you could often be passed by someone on the left or right in the invisible lanes.  There are no such things as parking spaces.  You’ll find cars parked at all kinds of angles as not one seems to care about anyone but themselves.  It’s like Lord of the Flies or something.  The main roads are paved, but often with huge ruts in them.  Side streets might be paved, and might not.

I’m not sure why we worried about safety.  It’s a police state.  You have the city police everywhere.  The federal police are also on the streets.  And the state police come through the area.  We saw a few impromptu checkpoints on the way to the church.  They said they were looking for drunk drivers, but at really strange times.  Either way, it is disconcerting to see police with automatic weapons asking you to stop.

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Yesterday, as all of us who don’t live under rocks know, was Father’s Day (or is it Fathers’ Day).  In a fallen world, such a day is somewhat tricky.

I now view this day from 2 vantage points.  I view it as the son of an imperfect but pretty good father.  I also view as the imperfect father of children.  There are dangers on every side.

I probably struggled with my relationship with my father the most after graduating with my decree in counseling.  Fancy that, huh?  I did have to take an honest look at my father, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  But if you get stuck there, you become bitter.

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I’ve written on modesty recently.  It is not a popular topic.  It is an under-addressed topic, including among Christians.  The issue was driven home to me the other day while checking the Fox News website.  Under their style section, there was an article on how to best present your “girls”.  I did not click the link since I didn’t need to see “well presented” breasts.  My calling is to satisfied with the breasts of the wife of my semi-youth.  Most men want to see them, but this is meant to be part of the exclusivity of marriage- I am to enjoy my wife’s, and not those of another.  This is not so easy with many women wanting to display theirs for all the world to see.

In his book Undefiled, Harry Schaumburg has a number of appendices.  One of them is on modesty.  In light of 1 Timothy 2, he says that one of the male issues tends to be “anger or quarreling.”  This is painful to hear, but you see it all the time.  Too many times I hear such quarreling come from my own lips, including with my wife.  I can be a contrarian at times.  I am not immune.

The female issue Paul addresses in that same text is modesty.  “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness- with good works.”

Paul hits displays of wealth.  It is immodest to display one’s material wealth.  It can quickly establish sinful barriers in the body of Christ.  Men can be guilty of this, no doubt.  But women are especially vulnerable to this.  One of the things that drew me to CavWife was the absence of flash.  Of course, she was not wealthy.  But aside from a few earrings, she did not wear jewelry or much make-up.  Her concern was with inner beauty.

It is also immodest to display one’s physical assets with plunging necklines, short shorts, miniskirts and the like.  It is a heart issue.  Such people (men can also do this, and as pathetically comical as it sounds I did).  In our hearts we want to be desirable, found to be attractive.  And so, out of this messed up heart comes the flaunting of the physical and material so that people will notice us and find us attractive or important.

Schaumburg quotes Carolyn Mahaney regarding this:

“If we earnestly apply his word in our hearts, it will be displayed by what we wear.  When it comes to selecting clothes to buy and wear, however, we can often feel lost and confused.  Which items are seductive and immodest and which display a heart of modesty and self-control?”

I understand that sometimes this comes from a place of sexual brokenness, a lack of appropriate boundaries due to abuse.  I remember one group I led with a female friend.  One of the women in the group often wore revealing clothing.  I was not sure how to address that, and should have talked with my co-leader.  But one day it became clear.  She announced that the janitor at work has placed his hand on her breast.  She asked us, “is that okay?”.  She thought she was community property, and by her dress he sinfully thought so too.

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Total Church moves from the outward focus to the inward focus that sustains the outward focus.  I like that they started with the outward focus.  Churches, just as C.S. Lewis said about sinners, tend to be curved inward.  Rare is the church that is to outward focused.  Most struggle against being ingrown, housebound and narcissistic.

They seek to maintain that dual fidelity to the gospel word and the gospel community as they seek to teach one another to obey everything Jesus has commanded.  This is the essence of discipleship.

“The means by which sinners are evangelized, the gospel word and the gospel community, are the means by which sinners are discipled.  We continue to “evangelize” one another as Christians because it continues to be the gospel message with which we exhort and encourage one another.  The good news that gives life is the good news that transforms, while the community that incarnates the gospel truth for the sinner is the community that incarnates gospel truth for the saint.”

I could not have said this better.  While we usually affirm the necessity of the gospel word, we often neglect the need for the gospel community.  Our churches often, intentionally, become too big for meaningful relationships.  Our gospel communities should look to begin new gospel communities through church planting to maintain quality life-on-life relationships.  They quote Chesterton:

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My friend has been busy reading.  I am filled with envy and must repent.  She read another book by Joe Dallas.  This one was When Homosexuality Hits Home: What to Do when a Loved One Says They’re Gay.  Here’s what she says:

When Homosexuality Hits Home: What to Do When a Loved One Says they’re Gay was written by Joe Dallas, the author of Desires in Conflict.

In this book Joe Dallas speaks to parents or loved ones of someone who states they are gay. In the first chapter he likens finding out about the loved ones struggle to the process after a death or major traumatic event in our lives. We go through 5 general stages or phases of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. And in this case it is the death of assumptions.

[This is what I was thinking about a week before I picked up this book. I’m stuck in the anger phase and starting my depression.]

Assumptions of how I, as a loved one, expected his life to be.

There is a chapter for parents, one for other family members with varying ranges of relational contact with the SSA relative, and one for when homosexuality hits a marriage.

Joe Dallas uses the prodigal son from Luke 15:11-32 to show how family members may be feeling when one ‘comes out’. Also this verse from Jeremiah 31:16-17 hit home with me;

16 Thus says the Lord:
“Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears,
for there is a reward for your work,
declares the Lord,
and they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
17 There is hope for your future,
declares the Lord,
and your children shall come back to their own country.

Joe says you can’t miss the three fold message here:

God sees. He sees both your beloved daughter and son, and He sees your tears.

God preserves. He continues His efforts long after human effort has exhausted itself.

God holds out hope, for both you and your children.

This book gives practical advice from the heart, Joe tells of the 3 most common arguments for the pro-gay position. And he also asks us to walk a mile in the shoes of the gay loved one. To see what the son or daughter has been thinking, for how long they have been thinking it and what they might have to endure in their lifetime.

You will discover what to say and not to say, how to handle family visits, maintain balance and how to strengthen not weaken your relationhip.

On a personal note: my son is struggling with SSA and he still lives at home, we home school and go to church. He is struggling with his faith, his identity, and his sexuality. Being so close constantly puts a strain on our relationship and I, as his mom, have a very hard time keeping my mouth shut. I need to be constantly reminded that God loves him much more than I and God is in control of his life, I’m not. I need to be constantly reminded he is and always has been my son, whom I love more than life itself.

My one piece of advice now to anyone reading this would be to watch your words. Think before you speak, try to see your loved one the way God does. Remember you need the same grace they do, the same grace God freely gives.

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Here is another guest post on the subject of homosexuality.  This time my friend reviews  Desires in Conflict, Hope for Men Who struggle with Sexual Identity by Joe Dallas.

The updated version of this book was written in 1991 but the message stands true still. As the subtitle states, the book gives hope for men who struggle with sexual identity. If you are not one of those men, then this book is not for you.

Joe Dallas [click for his counseling website] also wrote When Homosexuality Hits Home, What to Do when a Loved One says They’re Gay. This book offers up step-by-step advice on how to deal with the emotions family members deal with when they learn of a loved ones homosexuality.

But back to Desires in Conflict. Joe Dallas tells his story, guides men on what to expect when dealing with their particular issues.

Homosexuality is no different. Like all sinful tendencies, homosexual attractions need not rule you or continue to be a predominant force in your life. Specifically, you can expect change to occur in one or all of four ways.”

Here is the list:

1. Change in behavior

2. Change in the frequency of homosexual attractions

3. Change in intensity of homosexual attractions

4. Change in perspective

Nowhere do we see in that list that homosexual attraction disappears.

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There is a new book out, Get Outta My Face: How to Reach Angry, Unmovtivated Teens with Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne, that offers assistance to families, ministers and counselors.  WTS Books has this book for 65% off , an introductory price of $4.88, until January 24, 2009 at noon.  Then it will be the customary 30% off, not a bad deal either.  [ WTS Books sold out, but received 500 more copies of the book.  When they are gone, so is the special price!]

Here is what some other authors have said about this book:

“Rick Horne has invested in teens his whole life. He has learned that he is more like them than unlike them. From years of first hand experience, he knows how to talk with them and his is not afraid of the tough ones. What you will read here is the wisdom of a man who has experienced the courage and hope that transforming grace can give to you and that hard teenager God has chosen for you to be near. This book is a call to action with biblical perspectives and practical steps that God can use to change the teenager and you as well.”  Paul David Tripp, author of Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, co-author of How People Change among other books highly recommended by Cavman.

“Rick Horne knows teens the kind that won’t talk and those that won’t stop talking. If you have a teenager, you need this book. In fact, don’t wait for the teen years! Arm yourself now with the timeless truths from this book that counsels moms and dads with gospel-hope for teenage trials.”  Dave Harvey author of When Sinners Say “I Do”.  (Highly recommended by Cavman)

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In Galatians 1-2 one of the dominant themes is the fear of man.  Paul, in lovingly yet boldly confronting the Galatians, and exposing the false teachers was living in the fear of God rather than the fear of man.  He was not accomodating the gospel to please anyone, recognizing the divine origin of that gospel.

On the other hand you have the account of Peter in Antioch.  He, again, succombs to the fear of man (his besetting sin, and lest you’re too hard on him- you’ve got some too!).  He shrunk back from fellowship with Gentile Christians and hypocritically followed the dietary laws out of fear, not conviction.  And Barnabas joined him.  Two important Christian leaders fell victim to this sin- and Paul displayed gospel boldness by confronting Peter publicly.

While not referring to these events, Milton Vincent talks about gospel boldness in A Gospel Primer for Christians.

“Boldness is critical.  Without boldness, my life story will be one of great deeds left undone, victories left unwon, petitions left unprayed, and timely words unsaid.  If I wish to live only a pathetically small portion of the life God has prepared for me, then I need no boldness.  But if I want my life to bloom full and loom large for the glory of God, then I must have boldness- and nothing so nourishes boldness in me like the gospel!

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I was pondering counseling yesterday.  It was a nice, quiet morning at the house.  I was considering why I was foolish enough to not pursue a license after getting my Master of Arts in Counseling.  I was single at the time, and it would have been easy to spend my day off seeing clients.  Such a license could possibly provide additional income while I am between church positions.

But then I remembered that counseling is for those with extra cash, and lots of people don’t have extra cash these days.  So, perhaps my little counseling practice wouldn’t really help.  This got me on a different train of thought.

I had a phone interview this week.  We were discussing my experience with leading small groups.  One thing I learned during my counseling coursework was about processing thoughts and feelings.  Some people who “talk too much” in a small group process thoughts externally.  They are not necessarily sinfully trying to dominate the discussion or show off (though that is a possibility).  They might have to “think out loud.”  Similarly, those who process information internally, tend not to talk in a small group.  It is painful when you’re leading a group of people who process internally.

Those who process ideas externally tend to process emotions internally.  Likewise, those who process ideas internally tend to process emotions externally.  I think out loud, which can drive some people nuts.  I have a need to talk through what I’m studying.  This is on reason I blog- not many people here in Winter Haven enjoy talking about the books I’m reading.  But I need to be alone to process my emotions.  After a disagreement, I often need to be alone to figure out what I’m feeling and why.  Drives CavWife nuts.

This connects, trust me.

Those most likely to seek counseling are those who process emotions externally.  Most counselors will look for affect- emotion- and most people go to a counselor to work through emotions they have not been able to process.  They have tried, but their friends were unable to walk them through the process.

Of course, there are cognitive-behavioral therapists.  They will attract those who process thoughts externally. The counselors will probably be uncomfortable with lots of emotion, preferring to help people process thoughts & actions.

This makes so much sense now: counselors choosing a theory or style based on how they process information & emotions and counselees choosing a therapist, in part, based on the same principle.

Why wasn’t I told this?  Am I the only one silly enough to think about this?  Perhaps I just have way too much time on my hands. 

This also explains why I’ve felt like such a lousy counselee.  I’m thinking I should be processing my emotions with the counselor when I actually process my thoughts.  I thought I had to be someone I was not in order to make the counselor’s job easier.  How’s that for neurotic?

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Tara Barthel did some live blogging of the recent CCEF Conference.  She has both the live blogging and the quick summaries of each presentation.

Preconference

Plenary

Workshops

 

Friday Round Table quick summary

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With my current gig as pulpit supply meaning I have to prepare a new sermon, currently on Nehemiah, each week my reading has dropped off significantly.  Addictions: A Banquet in the Grace- Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward Welch has been in process for well over a year.  I started reading it some time ago and other matters would distract me.  I have finally finished it.  The fact that it took me well over a year to read it should not reflect poorly on the book.  In fact, I found it quite helpful.

If you read books on addictions you tend to get the medical model (addiction as disease).  As a result, the gospel seems less helpful.  Welch’s position is much like my own- it has physiological aspect and spiritual aspects.  As embodied spirits, our idolatry affects our bodies as well.

Within this framework, you begin to see how addictions operate as functional saviors, and therefore as idols.  We seek life from our object of addiction, but it can only give us fleeting pleasure that results in death.

Welch is also helpful in reminding us that we cannot make sobriety the new idol.  As Thomas Chalmers says, the human heart “must have something to lay ahold of.”  We cannot and will not extinquish our desire unless we replace them with a greater affection to cast them out.  We must worship Christ instead of the object of our addiction.  We must love Him, focusing on His work for us as the ground for His work in us.  As we meditate on His work for us, we will grow in our affection for Him thereby loosening the bonds of our addictions.  We begin to choose Jesus instead of sex, alcohol, food, or whatever our heart worships.

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Dan Allender’s The Healing Path is just what the doctor ordered for me.  I am finding my own current struggles being played out in its pages.  After a huge disappointment you often can’t put words or labels on things.  So this has been helpful for me to understand all that is churning in my heart and my head.

Looking for a new job is an exercise in powerlessness.  You can make yourself available and try to make contacts.  This fulfills our responsibility.  But you can’t make anyone respond to you.  Here is the powerlessness and loss of hope.  I felt so much of that last week.

I decided to use my sermon on Genesis 17:1-8, which addresses Abram’s powerlessness and God’s almighty power this past Sunday.  I needed to hear it, and I think this smallish, older church needed to remember who He is too.  [sadly, it was not recorded.  I made what I think were improvements to the sermon.  Can’t control that either.]

“God’s desire is to use our powerlessness to send us fleeing back to him.  Evil wants it to send us reeling to rely on ourselves with even greater intensity.  We unwittingly follow evil’s plan when we attempt to escape our powerlessness through martyrdom, rebellion, or disengagement.”

I have a better idea of how I tend to escape this sense of powerlessness.  I’m crying out for God to rescue me and my family.  I’m remembering that He is ultimately in control, and that He loves me.

This weekend someone approached me about a job.  Could this be that last second deliverance that God specializes in?  I don’t know.  I really like what I’ve seen thus far.  Perhaps this is the place He has been preparing me for.  There is hope- and, boy am I conflicted about that.  And in the chapter I was reading Saturday night Dan addressed his own conflict with hope during their move to Seattle.  Would he dare to hope after a big disappointment?  Would he be let down again? 

But I’m finding that I can’t help but hope.  It is a sign that I am spiritually alive and have tasted the goodness of the Lord.  I am powerless regarding the outcome of this prospect.  I am responsible to respond and participate in the process.  And to pray.

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