Parenting the Old Fashioned Way

A few years ago I was taking my then 3-year-old grandson down to the lake to fish. A man approached me from our condo association and struck up a conversation that went on for about twenty minutes. My grandson patiently sat down on the grass and uttered not a word other than to say hello to the man and tell him his name. At the end of our conversation the man commented on my grandson’s patience. I replied that he was being trained to not interrupt and to wait patiently until the adults were finished talking. The man marveled that it was even possible to train a three-year-child patience and to not interrupt.

Sadly, the man’s comment reflected what many parent’s seem to believe today about parenting. Instead of devising a methodology of child discipline parents today seem to gravitate to psychology or screaming to get their children to obey.

All that and more came to mind as I discovered an ad in the July 27th, 1918 issue of The Literary Digest. The ad is titled, Mistakes Parents Make-How to Avoid Them.

The ad encourages parents to send a coupon  in order to receive a free 24 page book titled New Methods in Child Training by Professor Ray C. Beery.

From what I could Google, I discovered that Professor Beery was part of a group called the Parent’s Association. I also discovered via Amazon that some, if not all of Beery’s books on parenting are still available in reprint form. The twenty-four page free offer which appeared in many magazines and newspapers of the time was obviously designed to get parents to order and pay for the larger volumes which totaled four in number.

The intriguing part of the ad that was designed to “hook” the parent is titled, “Do you know how…”

  1. …to instruct children in the delicate matters of sex?
  2. …to always obtain cheerful obedience?
  3. …to correct mistakes of early training?
  4. …to keep child from crying?
  5. …to develop initiative in child?
  6. …to teach child instantly to comply with command, “Don’t touch”?
  7. …to suppress temper in children without punishment?
  8. …to succeed with child of any age without display of authority?
  9. …to discourage the “Why” habit in regard to commands?
  10. …to prevent quarrelling and fighting?
  11. …to cure impertinence? Discourtesy? Vulgarity?
  12. …to remove fear of darkness? Fear of thunder and lighting? Fear of harmless animals?
  13. …to encourage child to talk?
  14. …to teach punctuality? Perseverance? Carefulness?
  15. …to overcome obstinacy?
  16. …to cultivate mental cultivation?
  17. …to teach honesty and truthfulness?

Judging from the ad and the reprint book descriptions on Amazon it seems clear that Professor Beery and the Parent’s Association wished to help parents develop moral character in children.

It’s easy to see that the items on the above list are biblically derived.  Professor Beery believes a child can be trained out of a bad habit or behavior. In fact, Professor Beery blames the parents if they are not.

    “When a child is straightforward, obedient and willing—when it is courageous, generous, and fine in every way, it is that way because the parents made it so. And the reverse is equally true. When a child is untruthful, selfish and disobedient, it is not the fault of the child but of the parent.”

The ad has some limitations from a Christian perspective although it should be pointed out the author doesn’t claim to come from a Christian perspective. I think most people of the time would simply have assumed he was coming from a Christian perspective.

Nevertheless, the first limitation is the absence of the gospel as the motivation for the necessary inner change. God changes us from the inside out. Beery’s principles stress behavioral change that is certainly vital in parenting small children (who do not yet understand the gospel) but less effective in teens who may simply conform to stay out of trouble.

The second limitation that I’d comment on is that while I do believe parents are to blame for not training a child,  I’d hasten to add that children are responsible for their own sin and that of course is related to the gospel. Professor Beery simply believes that if parents are diligent and intentional in their parenting chances are good the children will turn out responsible. Perhaps he had Proverbs 22:6 in mind.

Recently our Senior Pastor taught extensively on parenting and biblically derived principles to be used in child training. The series harkens back to a time when most parents would have assumed a Christian approach to parenting.

The series can be found here under The Drama of Parenting…

Why Marriage Fails

I am writing this on the occasion of my wife’s and mine 42nd wedding anniversary.

By today’s standards we married quite young.  She was 19 and I was barely 21.

We have one son and daughter-in-law and three precious grandchildren.  God has blessed us beyond measure, yet at one point in our marriage we nearly divorced.

The circumstances that led up to the “almost divorce” are largely irrelevant because they amounted to the single most important reason marriages fail, that of self-centeredness.

Because we both were self-centered, there was plenty of sin where I sinned against her and she against me. Sin complicates everything and we learned that the hard way.

At the time, we would not have called it sin. We knew of God, but we did not know God simply because we had not been born again (John 3:3-8). I doubt either of us thought we’d ever fight, much less contemplate divorce, and the pre-marital counseling we had (in the church in which we married) simply wasn’t realistic nor did it prepare us for much of anything.

14095972_10208989877137463_3172001838895308492_nSo, why did we stay together?

I would say the first thing was recognizing we took vows, the traditional kind; you know, the good times, bad times, sickness and in health kind of vows.

Somehow, even though we did not know God, those vows mattered and we grasped, perhaps vaguely that divorce was somehow wrong. We see it now as God’s grace working in our lives even though we did not know him in a personal, applicable way.

The crisis of considering divorce was actually another sign of God’s intervening grace working in our lives because it led us to him.

There came a time through various means that we both realized we had been born again. We also began to realize being born again meant much more than salvation and it had a bearing on our marriage and parenting. We began to understand that the gospel is of first importance and (1 Cor. 15:3) that it has application beyond salvation.

For the first time it mattered what God’s Word said about sin, marriage, children, finances, conflict, sex, and most importantly, worship. We learned, not all at once, that you cannot worship yourself and worship God at the same time.

If you worship yourself, you are bound to be self-centered and be all about your needs, your wants, and your desires. If you worship the God of the Bible, you will be more concerned about what He wants and what He says in his Word about what your priorities should be. You will, if you are sensitive to the Holy Spirit, obey God even when you do not feel like it.

When God and his Word become central in a marriage the worship of self is weakened, though not fully destroyed this side of heaven. When the worship of self is weakened the worship of God is strengthened, as is the marriage relationship, because now what God says in His Word is more important than my needs, wants, and desires.  It’s not any more complicated than that and this leads to a marriage that can be relatively conflict free and even happy.

Christian marriages fail and marriage counseling fails because either one partner or both can never quite get over their self-centered worship disorder.

I’m happy to say, today, that I am grateful to God for the crisis He brought my wife and I, because it led us to him and a very happy marriage even after 42 years.

Don’t Be a Wackaroo

Have you ever been so angry you threw something against a wall or smashed it on the floor?

Sadly, I have and most of you probably have as well.

It’s a human problem that dates back to the days of Cain and Abel. Cain was so jealous and angry with Abel that he killed him, probably with a rock or club to the head.

Some of you may be saying there is a big difference between smashing something against a wall and killing someone.

You would be right; there is a big difference…in consequence.

Both outbursts are types of violence. In the first case, the violence is acted out on an inanimate object and in the second case, violence is acted out on a human being.

What the two types of violence have in common is that the same emotion drives both actions. The emotion is anger or wrath.

Anger is also energy. The anger takes hold; sometimes suddenly and the energy explodes in an unthinking way. The emotion and energy attached to it serves to tear something or someone up.

The process was called venting and still is.

Back in 1941 psychologists recognized what anger was and rationalized that is was better to release the energy of anger by tearing up an object rather than a person.

Some clever marketer back in 1941 recognized there probably was money to be made off of anger and, so, invented the Wackaroo (pictured below from Life Magazine, 1941).

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The Wackaroo was a plaster cast in the shape of a human head with two little hands where the ears would be. The idea was to grab the Wackaroo when angry and smash it against something. In this way the energy of anger is released or vented and the person calms down. It was far better to smash the Wackaroo than a piece of fine China. It sold for 50 cents. For someone with an anger problem it could probably get expensive!

Ponder this for a moment. The Wackaroo is shaped like a human head. Perhaps if Cain had a Wackaroo he would not have smashed Abel’s head in with a rock or club.

Venting anger is the best the world has to offer. There is a certain pragmatic logic to smashing a plaster cast rather than a piece of fine China or, worse yet, a human being.

Psychology usually omits God and ignores the human heart condition that leads to sin. There are desires within the human heart that trigger violence. They usually revolve around not getting what we want or getting something we don’t want.

The last time I remember smashing something in anger I threw a clipboard that in turn smashed a coffee pot that belonged to my first shift co-worker. My outburst was tied to the fact I resented that I had to do some work the first shift didn’t get to.

I didn’t want to do the work and wanted to sit on my butt instead. What controlled the outburst was what I’ll call the idol of laziness.

Here’s what the episode looked like in detail.

  1. My desire was to sit on my butt rather than work. (This is what I wanted.)
  2. I resented the fact I had to do something left over from the first shift. (This is what I didn’t want.)
  3. The combination of not getting what I wanted (sit on my butt) and getting something I didn’t want (a little extra work) resulted in an explosion of anger-an action of violence taken out on a coffee pot.

The Bible never tells us to vent our anger. It tells us to put off our anger, and you don’t put anger off by venting or smashing a Wackaroo or coffee pot.

Consider this….

For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. (Col. 3:6-8, NASB)

“These things” refers to the preceding verses.

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Col. 3:1-5, NASB)

The apostle Paul was aware of our human condition; even the human condition that has been changed by being in Christ.

Paul is saying you now belong to Christ so set your mind on heavenly things (renewed thinking) because Christ is supposed to be our life. The old selfish self has died so we need to consider (reckon) all the things that amount to idolatry dead as well.

After identifying “these things,” he reminds us that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (those not in Christ) and that we, too, were just like them. Then Paul says to put aside those things that belong to the old nature.

When I smashed that coffee pot I renewed my mind by confessing my anger to God. Second, I confessed to the gentleman who owned the coffee pot and purchased a new one for him.

Then I had to deal with the heart issue of idolatry. I named it laziness and committed myself to avoid such outbursts in the future by repenting of the idolatry, recognizing that laziness was in competition to Jesus as to whom or what would rule my life.

Friends, the Scriptures never tell us to vent our anger by smashing a Wackaroo of any type. The Scriptures encourage us to put aside the old nature and service to idols and put on the mind of Christ instead.

It’s not only a better way; it’s the best way to honor our Lord and Savior.

Do Not Worry

tumblr_mxzps1v6d11r0un19o1_1280Three times in 10 verses Jesus tells us not to worry. (Matt. 6:25-34)

So, why do I worry from time to time and what do I worry about?

Furthermore, if Jesus tells me not to worry, then I have to believe there is a way to avoid it.

First, let’s define the kind of worry Jesus is speaking of.

Worry is synonymous with anxiety.

An online dictionary defines anxiety like this: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

From this definition we can make some observations.

  1. Worry or anxiety is defined as a feeling (emotion) that makes a person nervous or uneasy.
  2. According to the definition a person experiences nervousness when then think about an immanent event or something that has an uncertain outcome.

Ok, so, what do I worry about, or what am I thinking about when I experience the emotion of anxiety?

In late 2012, my wife was diagnosed with lymphoma. We both experienced anxiety to a greater or lesser degree because it was difficult not to think about the diagnoses and we were obviously uncertain as to what the outcome would be.

Her treatment was successful although there is no guarantee with this type of cancer that it won’t come back.

When I think about it now, the question that pops into my mind is, “what if it comes back?” The more I think about it and the more I think about the possibility of life without my dear wife the more anxious I get.

Yet, Jesus tells me not to worry.

There is more than one reaction I can have to that command.

  1. I can get angry. How dare Jesus command me not to get angry because I’m concerned with my wife and the possibility of life without her?
  2. I can seek medical attention because the anxiousness seems chronic meaning I must have some sort of disorder.
  3. I can look at the rest of Jesus’ teaching on the subject to discover how not to worry.

Reaction #1 indicates a lack of submission to Jesus. I may not articulate my anger toward him, but by being angry with others who give me biblical counsel, I indicate I’m really angry with God. Bad plan.

Reaction #2 holds some promise if my goal is to simply feel better. Perhaps some medication will do the trick and I’ll no longer think about lymphoma and the possibility of losing my wife. After all, if I have a medical disorder, a chemical imbalance of some sort, then correcting it with meds is simple common sense.

Reaction #3 is a bit of a challenge because it seems to fly in the face of a normal human reaction (#1) and medicine (#2). Nevertheless, I’m a Christian and I do want to follow Jesus, so I’ll study what he has to say on the subject.

Since I’ve decided to study what Jesus had to say about worry I looked at the context of his words in Matthew 6:25-34.

The passage is roughly in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and the thrust of the sermon is how to live in the kingdom now. In other words, how is a Christian characterized in the kingdom of God and how should they live in the kingdom now?

This realization leads me to understand that when Jesus gave the teaching on worry there was no such thing as a medical disorder for anxiety.

Instead, there was a total reliance on God and his sovereignty in all situations.

This is made clear in how Jesus taught his disciples to pray:

9 “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’ (Matt. 6:9-13, NASB)

Verse 10 is pertinent to my worry. It declares that God is at work and His kingdom (has come) and will continue to come. God is in control for he is absolutely sovereign. Furthermore, His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.

This is a reminder to me that we live in a sin cursed world and as a result we suffer. We suffer because of our own stupidity and sin and we suffer because others sin against us, and sometimes we suffer simply because everything breaks down including our bodies.

I have come to realize that my wife’s cancer diagnosis was God’s will. I further realize that if it returns then that is his will as well.

I can reject that and get angry with God (and others), or I can humbly accept that God is Holy (perfect); sovereign (He can do what he wants for his purposes) and rejoice in the fact that my wife received Christ and belongs to Him, and thus if cancer takes her she will be with Christ forever.

There is more, but right away I see my thinking changing. Verse 11 hammers home the point we are dependent on God for everything including our daily bread and thus every day we live is a gift from him.

My study of Matthew 6 reveals that verses 25-34 are set up by verses 19-24.

After Jesus tells his disciples not to store up earthly treasures he says:

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 (NASB95)

This verse is sometimes called the treasure principle. What do I treasure most? What I treasure most will direct my life. If my treasure is something other than Jesus then that treasure will dominate my thinking and my emotions.

In verse 24 Jesus gives the example of wealth as a person’s master.

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24 (NASB95)

The prior verses (verses 22-23) indicate that which I focus on, think about, worry about is that which will dominate me. Wealth is Jesus’ example and symbolic of  our quest for security. Yet, Jesus makes it quite clear that our love for wealth means it is our master (idol) and not him!

That is a scary thought especially as we realize that idolatry can take other forms.

For example, my love for my wife can be greater than my love for Jesus. I can make her an idol in my worry about her. I can treasure what she means to me and what she has meant to me more than I treasure Jesus and my salvation found in him!

By the same token, I can elevate my son and his family (wife and g’kids) to a position of idolatry.

For example, I worry about the kind of world my grandkids are growing up in-a world that increasingly anti-Christian and anti-gospel. I can treasure them more than I treasure Jesus as I give way to a hundred “what if” type of scenarios in my mind.

In verse 25 Jesus says “for this reason” and that is a reference that goes back to verse 24 about which master will control my thoughts. Will it be some sort of idol or will it be Jesus and Scripture as a whole?

For this reason-don’t worry…because worry accomplishes nothing (vs 27) and it won’t add a single day to my life or my wife’s life or my son and his family’s lives.

Again, God is in control and absolutely sovereign. The only question is whether or not will I trust him even “IF” my wife’s cancer comes back or something happens to my son and his family?

Job, who lost everything including his family told his less than helpful friends, even though he slay me yet do I hope in Him (Job 13:15). How can my attitude be anything less?

As I further study the passage, I come to realize that in my worry I’m not thinking theologically. What I am doing is reacting emotionally to the things I fear; loss of family-indeed an emotional train wreck if I give in.

When Jesus says, “do not worry” I believe this to be a gentle rebuke-a pastoral rebuke from my Savior who loves me and understands my human weaknesses and is sympathetic. (Heb. 4:15)

Jesus wants me to repent from a me-centric view of life to a God-centric view of life. (Matt. 6:33)

Jesus assures me that God will take care of my needs (according to His will, Matt. 6:10 and not necessarily my desires) and then points to my essential problem when I worry-a lack of faith (vs 30b).

When I see Jesus reminding me of my main problem I imagine him looking at me in the eye, perhaps with his hand on my shoulder and as he says I have little faith he encourages me to have more faith in him and our Father in heaven. The only question is, will I hear his voice and listen to his counsel?

In other words, Jesus forces us to look at him in our anxieties. He reminds us that he came to take care of our biggest problem and that he will eventually restore all of creation and reverse the curse that causes cancer and fills the world with every kind of danger.

Jesus is right. My faith is weak. I need to strengthen it. My worries and anxieties are opportunities to do so and the only way I can do that is to train my mind to think theologically when I’m reacting emotionally to the things I fear the most.

Two links to helpful sermons on the subject of worry and anxiety on Sermon Audio:

Jesus’ Remedy for Worry & Anxiety

Treasure & Anxiety

Pharaoh or Cyrus? The Cure for Unrighteous Anger & Anxiety

Our pastor one recent Sunday made reference to social media and the presidential primaries of this year.

He pointed out that many evangelical Christians seem to have placed all their hopes on one of the candidates.

His goal was the remind our church that no matter who wins, our hope must be in Christ. No matter who wins the presidential election, we will always be let down because sin-flawed people are running the country.

He also said we need to be good citizens and vote in the primary for the person who best represents our values. In other words we should do what we can, but do not stress over the results of the election. [Read more…]

Impatience-The Respectable Sin

“This is getting annoying” said a woman to a female friend. Both were standing behind me in a lunch line at a training conference we were all attending. Our training track was the advanced one and most of the attendees were certified biblical counselors like me.

The woman was referring to the length of the lunch line and the short distance she and her friend had to travel from their seats to get to the line.

She was also referring to an incident that happened the previous day.

The person giving the announcements had made an honest mistake when dismissing the group for lunch. As a result one lunch line was much longer than the other so one group needed more patience than the other. I happened to be in the shorter line that day so the mistake didn’t affect me in the slightest but it clearly annoyed her given her complaints to her friend.

9781600061400My thought was this gal should know better especially because she was a biblical counselor trained to help people biblically deal with their impatience and short anger fuses, lack of forgiveness and complaining hearts.

On the same day but later, I was supposed to meet my wife at the other campus where she was in a different track with friends. We were supposed to go to a store for something during a break and then get back to the training before the night session started. [Read more…]

Lying Can Be a Good Thing?

“Lying is nothing unusual in small children. In fact, it’s a sign of healthy mental growth.”

So states an article titled Children’s Lies Are a Sign of Cognitive Progress in the Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps the key paragraph is this…

“Child-rearing trends might seem to blow with the wind, but most adults would agree that preschool children who have learned to talk shouldn’t lie. But learning to lie, it turns out, is an important part of learning in general—and something to consider apart from fibbing’s ethical implications. “

The article is written from standpoint of psychology research. The clear drift is that children that lie are more successful in life and lying is a skill–something to consider apart from fibbing’s ethical implications as stated above.

So parents, when little Jimmy or Jenny start lying let’s recognize “the good” and be happy they are well on their way to success in life by learning an important cognitive skill.

Don’t be concerned about ethics, the self-centeredness inherent in lying, the manipulation involved or the victimization of others in lying to get what they want. These are minor concerns compared with the larger picture that your children are learning an important skill in how to read others. [Read more…]

Is Biblical Counseling Applicable for Everyone? {Part 2}

(Biblical Counseling Basics Series)

Part One in this series, Is Biblical Counseling Applicable to Everyone, covered the topic of Salvation. In order for Biblical Counseling to be effective, the person has to believe the gospel and be in right relationship with God through Christ alone.

If a person does not truly believe the gospel of grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone then biblical counseling cannot be effective and any principles drawn from the Scriptures becomes nothing more than “take it or leave it advice.”

Here is an example of why getting the gospel right matters.

A very sweet Catholic lady had heard of my ministry at a former church and requested counseling for her and her husband for marriage issues. Her comment to me was along the lines of, “I like how you Protestants use the Bible.”

I thanked her for that but explained that “we Protestants” had major differences with official Catholic teaching on what the Gospel is. She said she knew that but never-the-less wanted to meet because she still thought the principles were valuable.

I agreed in the hopes that the Holy Spirit would lead the couple into the true understanding of the Gospel.

After a few meetings it became clear that what this sweet Catholic woman really wanted was for her husband to apply biblical principles to his life; in particular loving his wife as Christ loved the church and what that meant in her mind.

unshamed-of-the-gospelIn other words she wanted the Bible to be relevant to him; Her not so much.

After a few meetings it became clear that a person could accept a biblical principle yet not embrace the power behind the principle.

In this dear lady’s case she would not accept the gospel of grace and stuck to a gospel of good works. She understood that Scripture could be relevant to their marriage but saw it through the lens of her husband doing good works. She and her husband viewed principles connected with the gospel as a series of do’s and don’ts rather than the very power to change in order to be like Christ. They left counseling after a few meetings because I had to return to the Gospel.

A person must, first, believe the true gospel, and second, then believe the Bible is relevant and authoritative. There is no other way.

Too often we conservative Protestant believers get the gospel right but counseling wrong because we really don’t believe the Bible is neither relevant nor authoritative and prove it by opting for one psychological model or the other.

Nevertheless, the Bible makes important claims about its relevance and authority.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Here Paul makes the basic claim the Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired) and is profitable (more than simply useful) for teaching (doctrine) reproof, for correction and training in righteousness.

The end result of taking Scripture seriously is maturity (completeness) equipping the person for every good work. The Scripture is therefore about life and because the Scripture is about life, it’s also about counseling.

Kevin Carson in, Chapter One, The Richness and Relevance of God’s Word, Scripture and Counseling, puts it this way:

“We live in a broken world where life is teeming with difficulties, pressures, concerns, and really tough circumstances.” [i]

The Catholic couple mentioned above wanted help with their marriage. The Bible speaks to all what biblical counselors call these presenting issues.

The Bible speaks of the biblical roles of men and women. The Bible speaks to conflict and anger. The Bible speaks to sex. The Bible speaks about parenting. The Bible speaks to forgiveness. The Bible speaks to sin; the obstacle in any marriage. The Bible speaks to finances; an issue mentioned in 50% of all divorces.

In other words, the Bible speaks to life in all these circumstances and more!

The only question is: does the believer see what the Bible says about these things as commands to be obeyed and/or principles to be applied to life as a RESULT of the Gospel working in their lives?

The Catholic couple can be excused for not “getting it” for the Holy Spirit has not yet opened their eyes to the Gospel of Grace. We Protestant believers do not have that excuse and the only question is: do we trust the Word of God to be relevant, sufficient and authoritative in our lives (2 Peter 1:3)?

[i] Scripture and Counseling, Bob Kelleman General Editor, pg. 30

Is Biblical Counseling Helpful for Everyone? {Part 1}

(Biblical Counseling Basics Series)

I became interested in biblical counseling while serving in my first church as an associate pastor. The church in question was of the integrationist model (late 1990s) meaning that psychology was integrated into the Bible. I was unfamiliar with the concept of biblical counseling in its purest form because the Bible school I had attended was also integrationist in its approach to Scripture.

A controversy arose at the first church and through the controversy I began to investigate the claims of Jay Adams and other pioneers within the biblical counseling movement.

Some of the critics of biblical counseling raised the question, does biblical counseling work for everyone?

It was and is a loaded question since no type of counseling works unless a person really wants to change.

A far better question would be is the methodology of biblical counseling applicable to anyone?

The answer to that question is no and my response was a person must be a biblical Christian.

All this came to mind as I re-read Professor Stuart Scott’s book, Biblical Manhood-Masculinity, Leadership and Decision Making.[i]

Before Professor Scott discusses masculinity, leadership and decision making he makes it clear what it means to have saving faith. Professor Scott states that saving faith involves:

  • Acknowledging the true reason for our existence and God’s full right to our lives and how we live them (Matt. 16:24-26; Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20).
  • Coming to God in humbleness. Recognizing you have nothing to offer God in your defense (James 4:6)
  • Asking Him for his mercy and forgiveness, instead of what is deserved (Lk. 18:9-14)
  • Believing in who Christ is and His payment for your sin (1 Cor. 15:3)
  • Believing that Christ rose from the dead as Lord overall and sits at the right hand of the Father pleading the case of all who believe (1 Cor. 15:4; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 7:25) [ii]

These truths are pre-requisites that must be fully embraced by a person in order for counsel that is biblical to be effective.

Scott goes on to say that many people are self-deceived because they made a profession of faith via a decision for Jesus sometime in their life. He says that a prayer said or profession of faith in a person’s past is not assurance of salvation (although that is frequently implied by those encouraging a person to make such a decision with the add on of once saved, always saved).

Instead Scott emphasizes does the person have saving face NOW!
unshamed-of-the-gospel

Professor Scott puts it like this: “Are you believing now? Is it an ongoing (obedient and persevering) belief that demonstrates that you are a child of God. Christ offered this warning to all who would listen, ‘Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 7:21a)

For this reason Dr. Scott always starts out with a person seeking counseling with the Gospel. He wants to be sure that they have fully embraced the truths that are essential to salvation.

A person must first be in a right relationship with God in the first place to be in the second place in a position where God can change them. The process of change is called sanctification.

The Doctrine of Salvation is not the only doctrine that must be fully embraced before effective biblical counseling can take place. Another doctrine that must be embraced is that the Bible is true, that it has authority and that it is sufficient to change a person who truly desires biblical change. Part Two will cover the relevance and authority of Scripture in the believer’s life.

[i] http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/resources/authors/stuart-scott

[ii] Link to Amazon Biblical Manhood

Why is Life Hard? – A Biblical Counseling Basic

Romans828Why is Life Hard?
(A biblical counseling basic)

Over the years that I’ve been a biblical counselor I’ve had the “why is life hard question” asked of me a number of times. The context is usually the person is going through some significant trial and/or struggling to change a circumstance they have little control of.

The answer is simply sin and The Fall.

When Adam fell, life became hard; not only for Adam and Eve but for every person that came after (Gen. 3:16-19).

I think this truth is empirically obvious. Natural disasters, wars, rumors of wars, starvation, disease, conflicts of every sort since man could record history, point to a deeply flawed planet populated by deeply flawed people. No exceptions.

The fact that our bodies start breaking down the minute after we are born is further proof that everything breaks down over time and is corrupted in some way (Rom. 8:20-22).

For example, at the time of this writing I still face two surgeries out of the four recommended. The doctors tell me that I have genetic bone problems in my feet and knees and that over time the bone structure has broken down to the point where I need “hardware” to firm up bone structure or replace bone entirely. While I can contribute to my pain with a poor diet the basic issue (genetic) is the result of The Fall.

I tell the people who ask me the question “why is life hard” that we live in a sin cursed world and because we do, things happen to us that we are not directly responsible for. We get cancer, have accidents, catch colds and at times our home may burn down because of a lightning strike. We live in a broken world despite its beauty. If you think about it you will realize there is much in life beyond our control.

I further tell the person we are sinners; including us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord. We cannot escape the fact we sin (1 John 1:8) against God and others. Furthermore, others sin against us.

The consequences of our sin and of others sin makes life hard.

People ask the “why is life hard” question because they are tired and/or because they have lost hope. If they are Christians they have lost sight of the Savior and of the Gospel.

The gospel brings hope. The gospel brings hope because it already solves our biggest problem–the problem of sin. While we still sin, we fight forgiven sin if we belong to Christ.  Jesus paid the price for all of our sins: past, present and the ones we have not gotten around to yet.

Thinking about that should bring us hope. Our suffering is temporary. Christ will return one day and make all things new, including the broken creation.

Once more, we are no longer slaves to sin and are instead slaves to righteousness in Christ. Even in the midst of a severe trial we bear testimony to a risen Savior who loves us and is with us in every trial.

In Christ we have a new identity and a new power to resist sin (Rom. 6:14) which makes change not only possible but inevitable if we seek to apply change from the inside out (Eph. 4:22-24). The principles of change apply even in the midst of great suffering. In fact, it is in the midst of great suffering that the greatest change is possible.

In Christ we come to realize that there are no accidents and nothing is beyond our heavenly Father’s control. It is not a cliché to say that… “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28, ESV

Note that the passage does not say all things are good; only that all things work for good for those called according to His purpose. That is hope for those that take the time to contemplate how God sees beyond our circumstances.

Why is life hard? Answer: Sin and the consequences of it.

Where can hope be found? Answer: In Jesus who is the gospel and its chief messenger. Our goal is to apply the gospel in our sufferings and trials.