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.

Lying to Self by Misinterpreting the Facts (Matthew 7:1-5,12)

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10 ESV)

This was my passage one morning some time ago in my devotional. In the author’s commentary (Tabletalk Magazine) on the passage he said this:

“Each of us is prone to different sins, but if there is one transgression that we all have committed, it is the sin of lying…The great man of letters Mark Twain was surely on to something when he said, ‘A man is never more truthful than he acknowledges himself a liar.”’

I found this to be an alarming statement since I consider myself to be an honest person. This is not to say I’ve never lied. Certainly I have, I just don’t remember when. Or do I? Oh yes, there was that time back in 1977 when I told this whopper. Or was it in 1971 when I was bragging about something?

If you are like me, and you are, then you’ll minimize your lying to a few select occurrences way back in your past and like me, consider yourself an honest person. We’re so blind to the depth of our sin and so anxious to appear righteous that we are hopeless minimizers of our own problems. Here’s what the commentator said next:

“Twain’s statement, no doubt unintentional on his part, captures an essential biblical truth: ‘All men are liars’ (Psalm 116:11) Born in Adam, we come into this world with a view of truth that winks at the twisting of facts for the sake of personal benefit.”

Think about that for a second-we will wink at the twisting of facts for the sake of personal benefit. Ouch!

We like to confine those kinds of tactics to politicians but the fact is we all do it!

Each of us lives out our lives not on the basis of facts, but on how we choose to interpret facts. In other words, our perception of the facts becomes our reality. Consider an example with tragic consequences:

I once counseled a couple where the woman was convinced her husband was cheating on her. The situation was complicated by the fact that early in the marriage (some 25 years before) he had done so. He had repented she had forgiven him when it had happened.

Fact: The husband cheated on his wife 25 years prior.

Fact: The husband had repented.

Fact: The wife had forgiven him.

They both agreed to the facts and until the last year or two the incident seemed to be regulated to their distant past.

What happened is that this poor gal began to interpret various current circumstances as evidence that he once again was cheating on her.

When he worked overtime, it was because he was with another woman. Never mind his check stub showed overtime and he could produce witnesses that he indeed was at work when he said he was.

When something was out of place in their home it was because some other woman had been there to mess things up. The husband’s denials fell on deaf ears.

The woman would not listen to their adult son who told his beloved mother she was acting irrationally.

judgingIn this woman’s mind all types of circumstantial “facts” led her to conclude the husband was cheating on her again. She really believed she had figured it all out and had become a prosecuting attorney determined to be proven right.

The poor woman had worked herself into“suspicion frenzy” and was driving herself crazy and her husband as well. There was nothing the poor guy could do to prove his loyalty or put her mind at ease. Her perception was her reality. Her interpretation was the only interpretation.

“Born in Adam, we come into this world with a view of truth that winks at the twisting of facts for the sake of personal benefit.”

I felt a great deal of sympathy for them both. The one time victim of adultery had become the victimizer with a heart of bitterness that blinded her to alternative interpretations of circumstances.

What she wanted; what she desired, no demanded, in her heart was an absolute guarantee that her husband had not cheated again and would not.

The husband even produced a hand written statement repenting again of the first offense, swearing he had not repeated the offense and committing himself to her alone.

She wouldn’t accept this and did not accept my counsel that at some point she just had to trust God explaining to her that we all are fallible and that speaking in absolutes from a human point of view does not recognize the weaknesses of our own hearts-even hers.

I further explained that we are so messed up we do not realize that even when we have facts we will twist the interpretation of those facts for the sake of our own benefit.

The poor woman did not understand this. She did not recognize that she had turned herself over to serving an idol of security. The normal desire to want security from her husband had turned into an absolute demand fueled by his long-ago infidelity. She could not or would not grasp that she had become a slave to her idol and looked to that idol as “her savior.”

Jesus dealt with the issue of judging righteously in Matthew 7:1-5:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)

Sadly, the poor woman would not apply this passage nor any other and left counseling convinced that I was involved in the conspiracy.

“Born in Adam, we come into this world with a view of truth that winks at the twisting of facts for the sake of personal benefit.”

This is an important truth. Jesus summed up what our attitude should be when interpreting the facts:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 ESV)

Biblical Counseling Training 2015 Attendee Feedback – Part 4

Between February 8th and 13th, 2015, eight members of Missio Dei Fellowship, besides me (P. Bruce Roeder), attended the biblical counseling training conference in Lafayette, IN at Faith Baptist Church.

For some of the people this was a first time experience and for others their second or third time. All are either members of our small group ministry or leaders of one of the groups. Our goal is to train as many people as possible in our small group ministry in the basics of biblical counseling.

I’ve asked those who attended to write some of their thoughts regarding the training. I told them that if lengthy enough I would publish to my Counseling is Discipleship blog that Missio Dei Fellowship publishes.

Below are the thoughts Sherri S., a second time attender of the training at Faith Baptist Church. Sherri will be pursuing certification with the ACBC.


Cross-and-BIble2-300x200Like last year, I was reminded that anything God shows me must first be diligently applied to my own life, before I can ever hope to be helpful to another struggling person. This year’s conference brought a renewed passion to be fervent in prayer for all things, not just a difficult trial.

Every session I attended this year was helpful.  The two that went hand-in-hand for me were:

“Desperate parents make the best parents,” and “Prayer:  Tapping into the Real Power for Change”

I began to see how similar biblical parenting is to biblical counseling.  The premise is the same:  We are called to be faithful to teach God’s Word to our children (and our counsels), and call them to walk in His Ways.  Yet, if God doesn’t move, there will be no power or change.  We were reminded that:

  • It is our human and sinful nature to try to boil everything down to just a few principles.  We want some kind of system or check-list that will put us in control and allow us to operate without God.
  • In parenting (and counseling) your weakness will not keep you from effectiveness if you believe the Gospel. Your delusion of strength will.
  • Fervent prayer is evidence of my desire for real change, (in myself, my children, and my counsels) and also shows my awareness that prayer is the means to receive the grace and power for change.
  1. When we are desperate, we are driven to cry out to God in prayer.
  2. It is good to pray for specific traits or characteristics [i.e. to be willing to stand alone, for sin to be found out quickly, to make the Bible the authority in life, to be humble and teachable, to hunger and thirst for righteousness and holiness]
  3. It is good to pray about specific sins and weaknesses [i.e. pride, stubbornness, unteachable spirit, deceitfulness/exaggeration, laziness, living for pleasure/money]

God doesn’t waste our trials.  He uses them not only to refine us, but often to move us from the place of “prayer”…… to fervent prayer.   We need to pray and pursue a passion for Christ, which is the missing ingredient in our fight against sin.

Idolatry by Another Name – Part 2

John MacArthur attacked the problem of incorrectly classifying addictions and compulsive behaviors as diseases over twenty years ago in his book The Vanishing Conscience:

Perhaps the most prevalent means of escaping blame is by classifying every human failing as some kind of disease. Drunkards and drug addicts can check into clinics for treatment of their “chemical dependencies.” Children who habitually defy authority can escape condemnation by being labeled “hyperactive”or having ADD (attention deficiency disorder). Gluttons are no longer blameworthy; they suffer from an “eating disorder.” Even the man who throws away his family’s livelihood to pay for prostitutes is supposed to be an object of compassionate understanding; he is “addicted to sex.”

These days everything wrong with humanity is likely to be explained as an illness. What we used to call sin is more easily diagnosed as a whole array of disabilities. All kinds of immorality and evil conduct are now identified as symptoms of this or that psychological illness. Criminal behavior, various perverse passions, and every imaginable addiction have all been made excusable by the crusade to label them medical afflictions. Even commonplace problems, such as emotional weakness, depression, and anxiety are also almost universally defined as quasi-medical, rather than spiritual, afflictions. MacArthur, J., F. Jr. (1994). The Vanishing Conscience (Electronic ed., pp. 23–24). Dallas: Word Pub.

As I noted in my blog post titled, “Are Addictions Diseases”, it should not surprise us that the world uses medical sounding language for addictions and bad habits. The world starts with the theories and ideas of men and arrives at the forgone conclusion that addictions must be diseases. Recovery programs of varying sorts then become the abuser’s best hope.

It should surprise us that the church often starts with the same presuppositions as the world does rather than to look at addictions and life dominating sin through the lens of Scripture.

Mark Shaw in his book, “The Heart of Addiction” gives us the biblical names for chemical addiction and substance abuse:

Chemical addiction problems and excessive substance abuse really have two biblical names: one is a general name and the other is more specific. In general, “idolatry” is the proper biblical name for substance abuse problems whether you consider yourself a drunkard, binge drinker, drug addict, substance abuser, or whatever name you wish to call it. The problem is biblically labeled as the sin of idolatry and it is a heart problem from within one’s sinful nature. Webster’s Dictionary defines “idol” as “a person or thing too much loved, admired or honored.” The substance abuser seeks to please himself with his “god of choice” above pleasing God… Shaw, Mark E., (2008), The Heart of Addiction-A Biblical Perspective (pp. viii-ix) Bemidji: FOCUS Publishing

Shaw writes from the perspective of a biblical counselor with a great deal of expertise in the field of drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, in the Scriptures the definition of idolatry is anything a person is enslaved too and not just drugs or alcohol. Idolatry may feel like a disease beyond a person’s control but in reality it’s slavery; it is slavery to a person’s god of choice whether it be pleasure, comfort, control, affirmation or anything else craved and worshipped other than the one true God.

Addictions1The person is so enslaved they believe they can control the idol because they get something they want from the idol (pleasure, control, affirmation, and power, to name a few) but in reality the idol controls them in a vicious cycle.

There are four examples of the word “idolatry” in the ESV version of the Bible in the New Testament:

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:14 ESV)

Much could be said about verses 1-13 as to why Paul concludes this particular line of thought as to why the Corinthians should flee from idols but perhaps verse 11 offers the best reason why:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV)

In verses 1-13, Paul makes reference to Israel’s wandering in the wilderness and despite the fact that Christ was with them in spiritual form (vs 4) their cravings were their undoing and God was not pleased with them and all but a few perished in the wilderness. The idols were not the ones made of stone or wood but rather the idols that reside in the heart or inner man.

Paul’s warning to flee from the gods that can enslave us via our own cravings (James 1:13-15) is hard hitting. Paul is telling New Testament Christians to not follow the example of the people who perished in the wilderness. Calling an addiction disease or any other life-dominating sin a disease does not serve the person because it creates a victim mentality that says, “I can’t help it.”

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, [20] idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, [21] envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV)

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists idolatry as a “catch all” for the types of things that enslave us. He makes it clear in verse 21 that a person who is enslaved to these things he lists will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s a significant warning and it does not serve a person to classify their idolatry as a disease simply because it may feel like a disease and thus believe they cannot control their cravings whatever they might be. Paul is clear that if we are controlled by idols via our own desires (James 1:13-15) we will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. [6] On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:5-6 ESV)

Each one of the sins listed takes place in the heart before they become behaviors. A good example is Matt. 5:27-28 in Jesus’ warning against adultery. He identifies the issue primarily as a heart issue rather than “a change the behavior” issue. The person who refuses to repent of their controlling idols has more in common with the unbelievers who do not know the true God and whom will experience God’s wrath.

In each of the three verses cited above the use of the word idolatry conveys a significant warning. By calling controlling idols “diseases” and giving life dominating sin a medical sounding label gives the person a false sense of security that simply is not biblical. That Christian churches often take the psychology route and use the world’s terminology to soften sin and turn it into a disease should concern anyone who belongs to such a church. Do not soft pedal that which God condemns.

The last use of the word “idolatry” is found in 1 Peter 4:3:

Cross-and-BIble2-300x200Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, [2] so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. [3] For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.(1 Peter 4:1-3 ESV)

It’s interesting that in two of the Scripture examples the word “passion” or “passions” is used. In Scripture the word always means something bad as opposed to how we use the word “passion” or “passionate” as in, “he or she is passionate about his or her work.”

We use the word usually in a positive sense while Scripture equates the term with evil desires, cravings of the heart or otherwise in a negative sense.

All desires are not evil. They become evil when they become demands.

For example, the person who is passionate about their work may be craving affirmation and if they don’t get it they may act out angrily or vindictively. By the same token a person who is passionate about the work may be perfectionistic and may hold others to an unreasonable standard if they are in a position of authority over them.

In the passage, Peter simply calls the little gods that can control our hearts examples of “lawless idolatry.”

Lawless obviously means “without law” or lack of restraint. A biblical writer never equates life dominating sin with kid gloves and infers some kind of mental illness or sickness.

Instead the Bible calls for repentance and victory over life dominating idols:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [10] nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

Verse 11 gives genuine hope from that which can enslave us while the disease model can only offer coping devices. The consequences of ignoring what the Bible says about idolatry and issues of the heart are too terrible to contemplate. A person should know where their church stands on these issues for it reveals what the leadership really thinks about the Bible and the sufficiency of Scripture to deal with idolatry and the issues of the heart.

Biblical Counseling Training 2015 Attendee Feedback Part 3

Between February 8th and 13th, 2015, eight members of Missio Dei Fellowship, besides me (P. Bruce Roeder), attended the biblical counseling training conference in Lafayette, IN at Faith Baptist Church.

For some of the people this was a first time experience and for others their second or third time. All are either members of our small group ministry or leaders of one of the groups. Our goal is to train as many people as possible in our small group ministry in the basics of biblical counseling.

I’ve asked those who attended to write some of their thoughts regarding the training. I told them that if lengthy enough I would publish to my Counseling is Discipleship blog that Missio Dei Fellowship publishes.

Below are the thoughts of Elizabeth R.
Elizabeth R. is a small group member, women’s ministry leader, and my wife. This was her third experience at the Faith Baptist Church training.

Pastor Bruce


Cross-and-BIble2-300x200It had been a number of years since I attended training in Lafayette. God had thrown me a few curve balls in the last few years and it wasn’t possible for me to attend the training (Elizabeth is a cancer survivor.). I have a desire to disciple women and with our new counseling ministry getting started at MDF, Offering Hope to the City; I thought this would be a good year to go.

Besides, it was a long, hard winter and I was in desperate need of some spiritual refreshment, but God had so much more for me. I needed some reinforcement from what I had learned in the past, so I decided to retake Track 2 and I was not disappointed. I had the privilege of sitting under some of the most gifted biblical counselors from all walks of life. I was taught how the Bible is sufficient to help our brothers and sisters in Christ with such problems as anger,  eating disorders, bipolar disorder, pornography, homosexuality, and those suffering from sexual abuse, postpartum depression and infertility.

What I heard over and over again is that Christ and the Gospel has to be central in all our counseling and discipleship. The Gospel isn’t just for salvation and taking us to heaven, but for the “in-between” time of just “living life.”  Pastor Steve Viars did a (taped) session on counseling and our union with Christ. Using one of his former counselees as a case study, he explained how we need to make a person’s union with Christ the main emphasis. We need to avoid the 2 extremes in counseling: the purely behavioral model which only focuses on the put ons and put offs by slapping a bible verse on it, and the purely introspective model that only looks at the heart and has no application.

He showed us in Romans 6 how because of our union with Christ (being in Him) we have been:

– baptized into Christ

– baptized into His death

– buried with Him

– so that as Christ was raised

– so we too might walk in the newness of life

– if we have become united with Him

– we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection

In Christ, we have been given a new position and focus in life–we’ve been given a new hope.  Because of Christ’s death and forgiveness of our sins, we’ve been given the gift of  repentance. We have the power to change and can move on from our sins because there is no condemnation in Christ and we can never be separated from His love for us.  Because of the Holy Spirit working in us, we now have the power to offer forgiveness to others because we have been forgiven much. Instead of craving acceptance from the world and man, our joy is in His acceptance of us. But biblical change doesn’t stop there. Because of our union with Christ, we need to start living life serving others and not serving self. As Romans 12:2 states: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

Biblical Counseling Training 2015 Attendee Feedback Part 2

Between February 8th and 13th, 2015, eight members of Missio Dei Fellowship, besides me (P. Bruce Roeder), attended the biblical counseling training conference in Lafayette, IN at Faith Baptist Church.

For some of the people this was a first time experience and for others their second or third time. All are either members of our small group ministry or leaders of one of the groups. Our goal is to train as many people as possible in our small group ministry in the basics of biblical counseling.

I’ve asked those who attended to write some of their thoughts regarding the training. I told them that if lengthy enough I would publish to my Counseling is Discipleship blog that Missio Dei Fellowship publishes.

Below are the thoughts of Lauren S.
Lauren is a small group member, a relatively new Christian and this was her first experience at the Faith Baptist Church training.

Pastor Bruce


Cross-and-BIble2-300x200I am going to be cliché in my writing and start this off with a quote I spent the week hearing repeatedly: “A good counselor first makes a good counselee”. The first couple times I heard this, I understood the logic behind the statement. I understood that working with the bible meant that I would come under convictions, and I understood that this meant there will be times I am going to need to repent after rebuke. The first couple times I heard it though, I couldn’t bring my mind past the logic of the statement. It wasn’t until I came under some strong convictions while at the conference that I understood what this statement truly means. Despite the fact that I had gone to the conference to learn how to help others in a biblical manner, I found that I was repeatedly confronted with areas where I need to grow. I quickly learned that this conference was going to require a level of self-examination that I am ashamed to say I haven’t done in a while.

So what does it mean to be a good counselee before being a counselor?  It is the constant reminder that as a counselor, I will never be anything more than a starving beggar who is pointing another starving beggar to the source of food (I want to avoid plagiarism by saying this is not my quote – one of the dark haired pastors first said it, but I can’t remember which one). With this in mind, it becomes impossible to see myself as being a better follower of Christ than a person who reaches out to me for guidance. Not one type of sin is more vile than another kind; sin is sin and all of it is equally vile. I am first a counselee – a sinner who is running the same race as a brother or sister in Christ. As a counselee I am learning how to run that race alongside those who are struggling to fight the same desires of the flesh that I fight. The “counselor” title is nothing more than running the race with the bible as my hydration and pointing other weary runners to the same source of replenishment. If that doesn’t put the importance of community and fellowship into perspective, I don’t know what does.

If anybody is looking for a way to squash some pride that has been lingering in the heart – go to this conference. I want to challenge any person who claims Christ as Savior to sit through one day of sessions and see if you can make it through without being confronted on the absolute depravity we have apart from God. Thankfully, we have a God who is full of love of mercy and this was continually pounded into the teaching with the common idols of the heart. The hope we have of being brought out of that depravity is more than sufficient to show why biblical counseling is so important. Praise God for the hope we all share in Christ.

Biblical Counseling Training 2015 Attendee Feedback: Part 1

Between February 8th and 13th, 2015, eight members of Missio Dei Fellowship beside me (P. Bruce Roeder) attended the biblical counseling training conference in Lafayette, Indiana.

For some of the people this was a first time experience and for others their second or third time. All are either members of our small group ministry or leaders of one of the groups. Our goal is to train as many people as possible in our small group ministry in the basics of biblical counseling.

I’ve asked those who attended to write some of their thoughts regarding the training. I told them that if lengthy enough I would publish to my Counseling is Discipleship blog that Missio Dei Fellowship publishes.

Below are the thoughts of Mike S.  Mike is a small group leader and this was his first experience at Faith Baptist Church. 


 

Cross-and-BIble2-300x200What was my reason for attending?

  1. I have not done a decent job of spiritually guiding my family and that is a reflection of my own spiritual growth in Christ.
  2. My wife has turned from the faith and is in extremely serious sin of which I am woefully under prepared to counsel her because of my own immaturity in the word in certain areas.
  3. I love the Lord and do not want to  walk any longer in blindness simply because of laziness, bitterness, self-pity or lack of faithfulness in seeking, knocking, asking Him for wisdom.

What one thing have I taken away from the training?

  1. The word of God has every answer to man’s condition of sin and its effect on our thinking. It can speak into any condition of man and our counseling of ourselves and others must emerge directly from the word and no other place.

What did I learn about counseling?

  1. I  must be a good counselee first before I  can even begin to counsel another meaning we must be students of the word, applying it to our own lives, confessing sin, true repentance and turning away from sinful desires and to God. We must be doers and hearers of the word.
  2. We must understand the Bible and how it applies to each situation, when counseling there needs to be a building up of loving involvement, a sharing of biblical hope, gathering of relevant data and then a biblical evaluation of where a person needs change first and the most.
  3. We need to encourage people to want to imitate our Savior Jesus and the change has to be in the heart and not on the outside.

I am excited and have already begun to quietly counsel my family by applying biblical responses as situations arise. It is a slow process and I need to faithfully seek His guidance and be patient. I am looking forward to attending the conference next year for track 2.

Here is a link to counseling training link found on the Faith Baptist Church website.

Idolatry by Another Name: Part 1

After I posted Are Addictions Diseases and received some feedback, I was curious as to how many bad habits are listed as addictions and therefore diseases if you follow the popular medical model of addictions.

I found a website (http://www.addictionz.com/addictions.htm) out of British Columbia that listed addictions. I was stunned by the number listed and even more stunned when I read on the website that the list was only partial.

The list is organized alphabetically and within it you can find the usual addictions we’ve become accustomed to, like alcohol, drugs, sex, porn, shopping, tobacco and caffeine.

The list is so broad you can also find coin collecting because according to the website coin collecting is; usually a nice hobby but any hobby can become a compulsion in the hands of a multiple addict.

Here are some more samples from the website that I bet most people never thought of:

  • Art
    • Getting high to produce better art is common. Also the lifestyle of an impoverished artist can be addictive.
    • Collecting art one cannot afford may create adrenalin like compulsive shopping or gambling.
  • Imagination
    • A good characteristic in most cases, but a luxury for an early recovering addict … and a self-destructive minefield for a practicing addict.
    • Living in “your head” is common amongst all addicts
    • One statistic is that addicts do approximately 80,000 words of self-talk per day – so this addicted ‘ head ‘ is a very busy place
    • One saying in 12 step programs is that the head is like ‘a dangerous neighborhood, do not go there alone’
    • The lack of reliable structure in today’s daily life leaves a lot of room for imaginative research
  • Religion
    • It is wise to examine ones attitudes in all areas.

Clearly the authors of the website are willing to list everything and anything as being addictive or compulsive.

junkie1

The use of the word compulsive (under the subtitle of Art above) is revealing because the word compulsive means “compelling” as if the person has little or no choice. Furthermore, the word compulsive leads us to a minor distinction between addiction and compulsive behavior.

The Oxford Dictionary defines Compulsive this way:

1. Resulting from or relating to an irresistible urge, especially one that is against one’s conscious wishes: “compulsive eating”

Synonyms: irresistible · uncontrollable · compelling · overwhelming · urgent · obsessive · obsessive · obsessional · addictive · uncontrollable

2. Irresistibly interesting or exciting; compelling: “this play is compulsive viewing”

Synonyms: fascinating · compelling · gripping · riveting · engrossing · enthralling · captivating

Both definitions use the word “irresistible” while the first definition uses the synonym “uncontrollable.” Both words are self-explanatory and imply that a person has no choice.

Now let’s look at WIKI’s definition of compulsive behavior:

Compulsive behavior is defined as performing an act persistently and repetitively without it necessarily leading to an actual reward or pleasure. [1] Compulsive behaviors could be an attempt to make obsessions go away. [2] The act is usually a small, restricted and repetitive behavior, yet not disturbing in a pathological way. [1] Compulsive behaviors are a need to reduce apprehension caused by internal feelings a person wants to abstain or control. [3] A major cause of the compulsive behaviors is said to be obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). [2][4] The main idea of compulsive behavior is that the likely excessive activity is not connected to the purpose it appears to be directed to. [1] Furthermore, there are many different types of compulsive behaviors including, shopping, hoarding, eating, gambling, trichotillomania and picking skin, checking, counting, washing, sex, and more. Also, there are cultural examples of compulsive behavior.

Now let’s compare the WIKI definition of compulsive behavior with the WIKI article on addiction derived from the DSM-V:

Addiction is a state characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli, despite adverse consequences;[6] it can be thought of as a disease or biological process leading to such behaviors.[1][7] The two properties that characterize all addictive stimuli are that they are (positively) reinforcing (i.e., they increase the likelihood that a person will seek repeated exposure to them) and intrinsically rewarding (i.e., they activate the brain’s “reward pathways”, and are therefore perceived as being something positive or desirable).[1][2][5] ΔFosB, a gene transcription factor, is now known to be a critical component and common factor in the development of virtually all forms of behavioral and drug addictions.[8][9][10]

alcoholism

And…

Potential addictions can include, but are not limited to, exercise addiction, food addiction, drug addiction, computer addiction, sex addiction and gambling addiction. Currently, only substance addictions and gambling addiction are recognized by the DSM-5, which uses physical dependence and the associated withdrawal syndrome to identify an addictive state. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addiction)

And…

The official list of addictions can be found in the DSM-5, psychology’s Bible (http://www.myaddiction.com/addiction_categories.html) where the following are addiction classified as medical disorders:

Alcohol Addiction, Ambien Addiction, Amphetamine Addiction, Benzodiazepine Addiction, Caffeine Addiction, Cocaine Addiction, Crack Addiction, Eating Disorders, Ecstasy Addiction, Gambling Addiction, Heroin Addiction, Hydrocodone Addiction, Internet Addiction, Marijuana Addiction, Meth Addiction, Nicotine Addiction, Opioid Addiction, Percocet Addiction, Oxycontin Addiction, Pornography Addiction, Prescription Drug Addiction, Ritalin Addiction, Sex Addiction, Shopping Addiction, Smoking Addiction, Sugar Addiction, Teens and Addiction, Video Game Addiction, Work Addiction, Xanax Addiction

From these definitions one can deduce the psychology community and the vast majority of Americans believe there are addictions (compulsions) that are behavioral and addictions that are chemical (addicted to drugs or alcohol) and result in physical dependence. The commonality is the perceived “reward system.” In other words we do these things habitually because there is a pleasant pay off even if the consequences can be quite negative.

(In a 1990 survey 87% of Americans believed the disease model of addictions.)

We can also observe there is some level of debate between those who believe certain behaviors are genuine addictions and others who categorize the same things as compulsive behaviors and would therefore fall under the heading of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder rather than a genuine addiction.

The DSM-V is the latest edition of the DSM and in each upgrade the list of disorders and addictions has multiplied. This accounts for the assumption of what is called the medical model of addictions and compulsive behaviors. What that means is if I have a behavioral addiction or a chemical addiction the critical component is: ΔFosB, a gene transcription factor, is now known to be a critical component and common factor in the development of virtually all forms of behavioral and drug addictions.

In other words, addictions and compulsive behaviors are connected to DNA via gene transcription factors.

I should point out that even within the psychological community there is some level of disagreement between those who emphasize choice (minority) and those that emphasize the disease model.

What is the Bible-believing Christian to make of this trend that classifies everything as an addiction or compulsive behavior and is treated as a disease? I’ll discuss that issue in Part 2.