Category Archives: counseling

A Great Site for Free Biblical Counseling Resources

As I’ve said before, all Christians are called to counsel (or admonish) one another (Colossians 3:16-17).  The question is not “Should you counsel?”, but rather “What kind of counsel will you give… good counsel or bad counsel?”  You do not need to sit across a desk from someone in an office or have them lay on a couch in order to give them counsel.  We can give counsel in a ten-minute conversation in the parking lot or over coffee at Starbucks.  The place is not important, nor the degree of formality or informality.  What’s important is whether the counsel is biblical.

To that end, our senior pastor, who is also over our counseling ministry at CBC, led us to a ministry with a wealth of free biblical counseling messages online for download.  The ministry is called the Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship (IBCD).

Click here for a direct link to hundreds of counseling messages covering a variety of issues (Anxiety, Communication, Depression, Forgiveness, Marriage, Parenting, Singleness, Stress, etc.) from speakers like Dave Harvey, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Lou Priolo, and Ed Welch.

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Scriptures to Fight Anxiety

If you haven’t visited Paul Tautges’ blog, Counseling One Another, you should click on over and take a gander.  He often points to great resources and great Scripture texts to use in fighting the sins that frequently entangle us.  Such is the case with yesterday’s post where he lists a number of passages that are helpful in battling the unbelief of anxiety.  Here they are along with some of Paul’s instructions on how to use them:

  • Proverbs 18:10. “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” When overcome with anxiety, speak to yourself the names of God. Think upon His glorious attributes.
  • Isaiah 43:2. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.” Just meditate on this amazing promise. Receive the help of His presence (Ps 42:5).
  • Matthew 6:25-34. This passage of Scripture directs us to shift our focus from ourselves and all our earthly worries to the goodness and faithfulness of God to provide for all our needs (not our “greeds”). Beholding the wonders of creation encourages us to meditate on God—the only One who can truly relieve our fears.
  • 1 John 4:18-19 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.” This Scripture teaches us that the antidote for fear is love. Anxiety, especially in the sin-form of insecurity, is self-centered. As we die to self and live for others we overcome our fears.
  • Philippians 4:6-8. Thankful prayer, in which we cast all our cares upon the Lord because He cares for us (1 Pet 5:7), stands as a century at the door of our heart, refusing to allow anxiety to re-enter.
  • Matthew 11:28-30. Jesus invites us to yoke all our worries to His strong shoulders. He alone can carry the burden for us. In Him we find true rest.

 

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A Guide to Help You Ask and Grant Forgiveness

In our counseling ministry at Calvary Bible Church, we’ve seen a great need for believers to pursue biblical reconciliation in their relationships.  A major part of this process is what we call transactional forgiveness, wherein the offender asks the offended party to forgive them and the offended party verbally grants forgiveness.  Our senior pastor developed the following conversation as a model in guiding people through this exchange.

1. Offender: Confess the sin you committed in a contrite and biblical manner.

  • Be sure to use biblical terms like “I became sinfully angry,” or “I was self-willed,” or “I lied” or “I was lazy,” or “I was unforgiving,” or “I was rude.”

2. Offender: Explain how you believe it must have hurt or offended the one you sinned against.

  • For example: “It must have been humiliating when I spoke sarcastically to you in front of our friends” or “When I raised my voice, you must have felt personally attacked,” or “I realize my behavior gave you cause to distrust me.”

3. Offender: Ask if your assessment of the other person’s thoughts/ feelings on the matter is correct?

  • For example: “Is that how I made you feel?” or “Am I in the ‘ballpark’ about what you were thinking at the time?” or “Is this a fair assessment of how my words/actions affected you?”
  • NOTE: Putting this in the form of a question invites the offended party to explain his/her perspective on the sin. This is important as the offender often lacks the capacity to fully understand the effects of his sinful behavior upon others.

4. Offended: Answer the offender’s question with loving truthfulness.

  • In other words, this is not a license to retaliate against the offender’s sin. It is an opportunity to bring about reconciliation through biblical communication. In answering the offender’s question refrain from rehearsing the past (unless there is a pattern of sinful behavior that has yet to be revealed) or projecting into the future. Remember to “attack the problem, not the person.”

5. Offender: Express sorrow and ask forgiveness.

  • Saying “I’m sorry” can be an appropriate and helpful expression of sorrow in the process of reconciliation when accompanied by true transactional confession. For example: “I’m so sorry for hurting you the way I did. I have sinned against God and against you and I need to ask your forgiveness. Will you forgive me?
  • NOTE: Regardless of what else you may say, if you never get around to asking the question “Will you forgive me?” it is not biblical (transactional) forgiveness.  Saying “I’m sorry” is not the same as asking for forgiveness, nor is the statement “I apologize.”  Neither expresses the reality of being guilty before God and man and so cannot affect biblical reconciliation.

6. Offended: The only biblical response to this questions is, “Yes, I forgive you.”

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So… You Want to Give Better Counsel?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Is “Counseling” Just Another Word for “Discipleship”?  In it I addressed the reality that because we have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word,  all Christians are counselors regardless of whether we make formal appointments with people or hold counseling office hours.  The truth is that if you are a follower of Christ, you have everything you need to counsel people biblically.

Today, I want to suggest a simple practice that will enable you to wield the truth of God’s word with more precision in the counsel you give to others.  The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) has published a series of booklets (which they are continuously adding to) that give biblical counsel to a variety of specific issues people often struggle with.  The booklets are about 20 to 35 pages long and CCEF currently has 75 of them in print.  My suggestion for you is to read these booklets one at a time, marking them up and making note of the Scripture texts that are used.  In doing this, you will begin to hone your skills as a counselor and more readily make connections from God’s Word to your heart and the hearts of those you are seeking to help.

You can order the booklets individually or in variety packs of 17, 27, or 43.  Here are some of the different titles available:

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How to Help Suffering People Without Being Annoying

We live in a sinful world where all of creation is distorted by sin’s devastating effects, so until we die or Jesus returns, we will have much opportunity to serve those who are suffering.  As you know, from the times when you have suffered, we Christians need each other in the midst of pain, but because the pressure of suffering is so strong, emotions are heightened and sensitivity is paper-thin.  Therefore, we must take great care in helping our suffering brothers and sisters persevere with hope and faithfulness.  How do we do this without being insensitive or annoying?  Here are some suggestions.

1)      Show up, listen, and pray – You’ve probably heard this before, but your initial step in helping should be to just be there.  Listen as your friend pours out his/her heart, and don’t be afraid of long pauses and silence.  Then, take a few moments to pray for them in their presence.  This communicates so much more love than we realize.  I have a problem with wanting to fix a problem as soon as I hear of it, but people aren’t Buicks and if we immediately pop open the hood and begin unscrewing things, we will likely lose the opportunity to be of much help to the people we are seeking to serve.

2)      Give a God-focused book by someone who has suffered greatly – Though we have all suffered, many of us have suffered little in comparison to others, so giving counsel to someone in the depths of pain can often be met with thoughts of “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say”.  So on your second or third effort in ministering to a suffering Christian, give them a book by someone like Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic for more than forty years.  There is much more credibility in her words than mine… and frankly, because of her suffering, she knows Jesus better than I do.

Here’s Joni’s perspective on her suffering:

My quadriplegia is not a jigsaw puzzle that I’m supposed to solve.  No, it was not a quick shocking jolt to get me back on the right track.  My paralysis is a long, arduous, delightful adventure into intimacy with my Lord Jesus Christ because he permits what he hates in order to accomplish all that he loves (To Know Christ, Now, and Forever, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2004).

Here are some books of hers that you may want to have on hand to give away:

3)      Read the book yourself and follow-up with its content – After giving the book, allow the person some time to read it (or at least part of it).  Suffering people need time to work through God’s truth in view of their pain.  A good God-centered book can be a great counselor because a person can pick it up whenever they need it or whenever they are ready.   After a few weeks, invite them to coffee for some discussion.  If you discover they haven’t read any of the book, that’s okay because you have and you’ll be able to speak to some of its main principles.  At this time, though sensitivity is still required, you are most-likely primed and ready to give compassionate counsel and instruction.

 
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Is “Counseling” Just Another Word for “Discipleship”?

If you are a Christian, the reality is you are called to counsel other Christians.  Yes, that’s right, “counsel”.  No, you don’t have to have “Dr.” in front of your name or know anything about psychology in order to do this… you just need the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.  Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (15:14).  He didn’t write this verse to some elite group of super Christians who had received special, personal revelations from God and graduated from Paul’s honors program.  This letter was written to the entire church in Rome, so he is telling all of the Christians in that church that are able to give each other godly instruction for godly living… whether or not they had an office at the church.  So, this principle applies to every believer.

Don’t get lost in the semantics, the word “counsel” sounds so clinical and professional when it really is just another word for “discipleship”.  Jesus commanded all believers, “make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).  That last part of the Great Commission encompasses all of the Christian life.  We are to be helping each other obey all that Jesus commanded and Jesus gave commandments that focus on every aspect of our lives – our hearts (desires, will, emotions), our heads (knowledge, thoughts), our actions (outward obedience), and our relationships (both with believers and unbelievers).  You may be thinking, however, “Yeah, but I know some Christians who have some pretty jacked up problems, don’t they need professional help?”  To that I say, what problem do they have that do not fall into the realm of discipleship?  Yes, there are biological problems that we don’t have any control over that may require medication, but even those are in a Christian’s life for his/her good so that they will become more like Christ as they trust him with those problems and respond in obedience (Romans 8:28-29).  Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:17 that Scripture is given so that Christians may be “equipped for every good work”.  Does every mean every, or not?  The Bible is sufficient to give us everything we need to live a life that is pleasing to the Lord.  If you have the Spirit and the Word of God, then you can give help to your brothers and sisters in Christ, even if their problems are deeper than you are comfortable with.

Yes, there will be occasions when you will need to point a person to someone who knows the Word better than you, but we shouldn’t be so quick to go there.  We can often give up our responsibility to disciple other Christians too easily.  Even if you aren’t sure what to say to a brother or sister who needs help, why not take it as an opportunity to do some study and find out what the Bible says on the issue, so you’re better equipped to render spiritual aid.  The perspective and practice of the body of Christ counseling the body of Christ is something we only stand to benefit from as the church seeks to build itself up in love (Ephesians 4:16).  While it may be a bit more intense, counseling is essentially discipleship, and that’s something every Christian can and should be practicing.

 

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God’s Cure for the Post-Holiday Blues

As humans we have a tendency to look forward to the next big thing.  This is what happens for many of us from Thanksgiving through the end of the holiday season.  We spend a month in preparation and anticipation, looking forward to the big day, Christmas, and all the festivities that go along with it.  But then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over and we look forward to the next big thing… New Year’s is just a week away so we don’t have to wait too long for more celebration.  But then, just like that, it’s over, and this time there’s nothing but real life to look forward to for the next few months.  This is when the post-holiday blues set in because there’s nothing very big for us to hang our hope for happiness on until summer vacation.  How do we kick this depression that so many of us slip into during this time of year?

The problem with the post-holiday blues is not that Christmas and New Year’s is over, it’s what place we gave Christmas and New Year’s in our hearts.  Each year, we treat the holidays as if they will fill some kind of void inside us, but as soon as the holidays pass, so does our happiness.  We treat the holidays as if they have the capacity to hold our hope for fulfillment and joy, but they don’t.  It’s like believing that a paper cup will hold your weight if you stand on it.  It’s not the job of the holidays to fulfill us, that job is reserved for Jesus alone.  As Solomon says in Ecclesiastes, God “has put eternity into man’s heart”, so we must conclude that only the One who is eternal can satisfy our heart’s longing (3:11).

What do we do with this information?  Well, when you find yourself looking forward to the next big thing, don’t stop at Christmas or New Year’s or summer vacation or graduation or marriage or kids or the promotion or retirement.  Instead, push your mind and your heart beyond this life to the time when you will be with God in his fullness… the time when the dwelling place of God will be with man and “he will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning no crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

 

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