Association of Biblical Counselors


Association of Biblical Counselors

The Association of Biblical Counselors (ABC) exists to encourage, equip, and empower people everywhere to live and counsel the Word, applying the Gospel to the whole experience of life.

Encourage: ABC provides a fellowship of believers committed to life transformation through the Living Word.

Equip: ABC promotes training in biblical counseling and points to resources that deal biblically with all of the issues of life.

Empower: ABC provides excellent materials for growth in Christ and for use in effective biblical counseling.

To find out more, visit the Association of Biblical Counselors website.

7 1/2 Minutes to Courageous Family Communication

by

7 ½ Hour vs 7 ½ Minutes

We rarely hesitate to send our children to public school for 7 1/2 hours every day. After all it is required by law that we educate our children!

As a homeschooling family, I admit, we didn't always spend a full 7 1/2 hours in formal educational exercises, but we probably spent more than 7 1/2 hours every day in formal and informal educational activities combined. Our children were with us all day, every day, and every moment became a teachable moment. Because we were homeschooling we were used to sitting down in a classroom or formal type setting to teach our children and we had the blessed privilege of beginning with Scripture and teaching everything—from language and grammar and law and science and medicine and history—based on the foundation of God’s Word. In addition, we read the Bible together every day of the week. 

But for most families, sitting down for formal teaching and training as a family could feel uncomfortable and unnatural. How many days a week does your family sit together (not in front of the TV or with video games and iPhones in hand!)?

The 7 ½ Minute Challenge

What if your family spent 7 1/2 minutes every day sitting down together at the kitchen table and offering instruction, guidance, encouragement? What if you read seven Bible verses to each other during the 7 1/2 minutes? What if you used these 7 1/2 minutes to cover very important topics for the health of your family? 

After all, you are commanded to keep His statutes and commandments; to love God; and to teach His ways to your children!

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Deuteronomy 6:6–7

What do your children need? 

Spending 7 1/2 minutes around the table and asking them what they need will provide you with the materials or with the subjects that you need to be teaching your family. 

Beginning with Scriptures will keep you focused on pleasing God first and honoring Him in everything you teach your children each day. 

Try this for 7 1/2 days, for 7 1/2 weeks, or more!

A RHEMA Counseling TOOL to Guide You  

These are seven dimensions of wellness of the family that could be addressed during the 7 1/2 precious minutes. What does God teach us in His Word about honoring him in these areas?

BELIEFS:

B is for body – Does anyone in the family have special physical needs this week? Do you all need to implement a walk together to get more exercise?  (1 Corinthians 3:16–17 & 6:19–20—your body is a temple; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Corinthians 9:27)

E is for emotion – Is anyone depressed or anxious about anything? How can you introduce humor and laughter into your time together? (Proverbs 15:18 – be slow to anger; Philippians 4:6–7; Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 10:5; Proverbs 15:13)

L is for livelihood – What do Dad and Mom do for a living? What do all of the kids want to do as adults? (Exodus 20:8–11, Deuteronomy 5:12–15—God commands us to work; Philippians 4:8-9; Proverbs 16:28; Hebrews 13:18; Colossians 3:23—work as for the Lord; Proverbs 13:4; Philippians 4:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:10–12; Proverbs 14:23)

I is for intellect – How is everyone doing in school? Does anyone need help studying? (Proverbs 1:5—increase in learning; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 10:17; Proverbs 18:15; 2 Peter 1:5—faith, virtue & knowledge; Philippians 1:9–11; Daniel 5:14)

E is for environment – Is there any way to change or improve the home environment to accommodate the needs of all or to provide a more peaceful and comfortable setting? (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 1:1–6; 1 Corinthians 4:2—be found trustworthy; Luke 12:27-30; Psalm 127—the Lord builds the home & verses 3–4—children are a heritage from the Lord... a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior....)

F is for family and friends – How can your family open their home and arms to others to promote lasting and exhorting relationships? (1 Timothy 5:8 provide for your family; Ephesians 6; Genesis 2:24; 1 Corinthians 13; John 15:13; Ecclesiastes 4:10; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 17:17)

S is for spiritual and soul issues – Can you as parents/leaders enhance the spiritual growth of your children by enjoying Scripture reading or Devotional studies together? (1 Thessalonians 5:23—spirit, soul, and body; Grow—Colossians 1:9–10; 1 Peter 2:1–25; Matthew 5:6; Psalm 1:1–3; 2 Peter 1:5–8)

Have conversations about and ask questions of one another based on these 7 dimensions for 7 ½ minutes!

Let us know what you learned from this short experience. 

Experiencing Some Resistance?

Will there be grumbling and mumbling? Of course there will be because this is not common practice in your family. It feels unnatural and awkward. And sensitive subjects will sometimes arise that need to be addressed during these precious moments. But remember your children don't always want to take a math course or reading or writing course at school. They don't always want to arise early in the morning and get dressed and be ready when it's time to walk out the door. 

Right to Ask / Commanded to Teach

You have as much right to ask them to join with you in this exercise that they are not comfortable with at home, as you do to ask them to do exercises that they don't want to do at school and sports, and at church and in the community.

After all, you are commanded to keep His statutes and commandments; to love God; and to teach His ways to your children when “sitting, walking, lying, and rising”!

“Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Deuteronomy 6 (English Standard Version, ESV) (Also Deuteronomy 11:11–25)

A wise Pastor once said to our congregation, “Now, if you can find a time when you are not supposed to be instructing your children in God’s ways; when you are not sitting, walking, lying, and rising, you let me know!”

May God Bless you and your family in this endeavor!

Karen Lindwall-Bourg, MA, LPC-S, FT / Rhemacounseling.com


Finding Joy in God: Human Pride and the Praise of Men

by Steve Clay

What do you love more than anything else? What is it that you are convinced will make you happy? These questions form a basis for what we live, whether we are aware of it or not. All of us live for something... something we treasure, hope in, and in which we find pleasure. 

I am amazed at how much we (me included) crave the approval and praise of people, believing it is essential to personal well-being and happiness. This craving for praise is an infectious disease that leads us in a direction opposite than that which engenders faith and joy. With the self-esteem movement making its impact on our culture, it seems that most of us have come to believe that to think well of ourselves—or more accurately, to be thought well of by others—is of paramount importance. Why is this and what is the result?

The account of the tower at Babel in Genesis 11 gives us an opportunity to see what people, steeped in human pride, caught up in their own praise, do.

Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. 2 It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. 4 They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."

The inhabitants of the land of Shinar had made the decision that it was in their best interest to disobey God, who had told them to “fill the earth” (Genesis 9). Instead, they had decided to put down roots. What were they seeking to do? Looking at verse 4 we see their intentions.

It was their goal to build a city in order to settle and not be scattered, and to build a tower in order to make their name great. In other words, their disobedience in failing to spread out over the earth was driven by a love for the praise of themselves (“make for ourselves a name”) rather than a love of praise for God, and their quest to find security was found in their own means and methods (“build for ourselves a city”), rather than in obedience to God. The quest to find happiness outside God’s clear intentions was their desire, as was the source of original sin in the Garden. What is the fuel for this strategy but human pride. In our pride we want to make a name for themselves.

The longer I live, the more apparent it becomes to me (and is confirmed in scripture) that loving men’s praise is a futile effort for attaining anything of value. In fact, praise-seeking fuels and stokes the fire of flesh that already burns wrong in us. Joy will never be found in the praise of men. It is fleeting at best. Joy will only come in being found in Christ and in knowing and praising God. And security won’t be found in what we build, in our accomplishments and reputations, but rather in God and in what He has done. Humble obedience flowing out of an intimate knowledge of God—that is the pathway to joy and security.

I might also note that the Tower of Babel follows the flood, in which God destroyed the world because of rank and worldwide sin. However, we can see that Noah’s descendants did no better. The problem was not solved in the flood. Sin’s power was still in man after the flood. Acting independently of God, seeking his own way and pleasure apart from God, is the DNA of sin in the heart of every human. This is the lot of mankind apart from the redeeming grace of God.

Those who know Christ by means of the gospel, and find their identity and happiness in Him, have much for which to be thankful. It is He Who has blessed us beyond measure, to Whom belongs all of our praise, and in Whom is our very security! His redeeming grace is the only means by which we change from loving the praise of men to loving the praise of God, and by doing so have a sure source of happiness, contentment, and security.


An Amazing Conversation

by John Henderson

Then the Lord said to Cain… (Genesis 4:6a)

The Scripture provides a wide range of case material packed with truth and meaning for counseling ministry. The story of Cain offers a prime example (Genesis 4:1-16). While we don’t have access to the details of Cain’s childhood, we can probably learn a few things from what Scripture teaches. It’s probably safe to assume his home life was a mix of good, bad, and difficult. His parents were both sinners.

They were dependent on the grace of God. Marriage started off well for Adam and Eve, but it took a rough turn in the Garden of Eden. Life with God started beautifully. Then it went wrong. Sin twisted, fractured, and broke everything. Cain’s parents probably wrestled with guilt, regret, frustration, exhaustion, fears about death, and a host of other troubles.

After sin entered the world, day-to-day work filled with toil. There was value and meaning in his work, but Adam had to agonize for it. Bearing children was painful for Eve, but also a delight. They battled fatigue. They battled sickness. Their marriage suffered from tensions and conflict, just as God said it would (Gen. 3:16).

God promised help. The Lord had provided atonement and covering through sacrifice (Gen. 3:21). He promised a Seed to come who would crush the Serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). Even though pain and toil could be found in their home, there was also hope. There was sin and repentance - moments of alienation followed by periods of reconciliation. Cain and his brother Abel grew up in this environment, an environment basically familiar to each of us.

At some point Cain focused on working the land. His brother focused on working the animals. One vocation was no better than the other. Both men chose good and honest labor. God strengthened their hands and blessed their work. Somewhere along the way Cain and his brother learned how to bring sacrifice before the Lord in order to worship and enjoy Him.

The Scripture tells of a day when these brothers brought their sacrifices to the Lord (Gen. 4:3-5). God regarded the sacrifice of Abel, but God did not regard the sacrifice of Cain. In other words, the manner in which Cain brought his sacrifice was unacceptable to God – he approached without faith or humility or thanksgiving in the Lord. The faith and humility by which his little brother drew near was acceptable to God. “So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.” (Gen. 3:5)

I think Cain felt a bit humiliated – outplayed, in his mind, by his “favored” little brother. He probably stewed in anger and bitterness. Rather than ask God for help, he likely thought about ways to even the score. The Lord invited Cain into conversation and offered him counsel. The Lord provided a way of restoration and warned Cain of sin’s danger. Cain didn’t care. Cain didn’t heed. In fact, Cain lured his brother into the field and murdered him.

Once more God drew near to Cain and started a conversation. He invited Cain to confess and seek help. Rather than face the situation, Cain lied. Rather than repent of his sin, Cain tried to conceal it. Of course, the Lord confronted his hostility and lack of care. After all, God wasn’t asking questions to which He didn’t already know the answers.

The consequences came. “Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.” (Gen. 4:11) When Adam sinned, the ground was cursed. In Cain’s case, he was cursed from the ground. Even with toil and effort, Cain’s farming would no longer yield fruit. This meant he would wander and find food in the wild. Like a cow grazing from pasture to pasture, Cain would need to keep moving to find food.

The consequences upset Cain. “My punishment is too great to bear!” he cried out. He didn’t say, “My sin is too great to bear.” Nor did he say, “Father, please forgive me, I have offended you and treated my brother with evil!” At no point in the conversation will Cain grieve his iniquity and seek forgiveness. No, he’s much more concerned with preserving his physical life. “Whoever finds me will kill me.” (Gen. 4:14) The worry seems especially ironic and inappropriate since he just murdered his brother.

Incredibly, God shows mercy. Rather than turn Cain into a pile of ashes, He actually hears his concern. God placed a sign on Cain for his protection. Anyone who found Cain would know not to harm him. The story draws to a close with Cain leaving the presence of the Lord in order to settle toward the east.

The story of Cain provides a clear, beautiful, and tragic example of counsel being graciously offered by the Lord God, and stubbornly refused by a man. We can see God graciously pursuing a hardened sinner. We get to listen over their shoulders and learn from their interaction. I think we should be amazed by the conversation.

The Location and Nature of Our Problem

What’s actually wrong with us, and where may our deepest trouble be found? The story of God and Cain starts to develop an answer to these two questions. In the midst of their conversation the Lord begins to locate our deepest problem.

Namely, our primary danger begins with our hearts, not our behavior. The main problem comes out of us, not out of our environment. Suffering can come from many places, but suffering never ruined anyone’s soul. The crops Cain brought to the Lord weren’t the source of the problem. Abel wasn’t the location of the problem. Cain’s parents weren’t the key issue. The standards of God weren’t the problem either. The source of the trouble was Cain’s soul. The conversation between God and Cain makes this clear.

The basic nature of our problem also becomes clearer. It’s firstly a worship problem, not a psychological or emotional problem. God responded to Cain on these grounds. Cain did not approach God with a heart of humble worship. Abel did. The psychological and emotional troubles came as a result of, not a cause of, Cain’s worship problem. I think Cain’s response to God’s counsel brings this to light. His “countenance fell.” In other words, Cain became angry and dejected. Psychological and emotional troubles are clearly present, but as symptoms, not causes.

God counseled Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7) God isn’t pointing to external circumstances or problems, but to the affections, desires, and attitudes of Cain’s heart and their effect on his countenance and behavior.

The Progression of Sin and Sin’s Consequences

We can also learn something about the nature of human sin from the story, and how it changes over time when there’s no repentance or sincere cries for help. The progressive nature of sin comes into full view.

After all, Cain isn’t eating forbidden fruit, but murdering his brother, in cold blood, without remorse. He goes further into sin than ever before. After disobeying God, Adam and Eve experienced shame and guilt. The experience of shame and guilt isn’t even mentioned with Cain. He seems calloused in his heart and hardened to what he has done. He expresses great grief over consequences, but no grief over his sin, or the death of his brother, or the offense to God.

The depth and complexity of sin’s consequences develops. A man was physically murdered. Cain’s conscience seems to deaden and resist truth. Cain’s relationship to God completely dissolves, “then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen. 4:16). Fellowship with his parents, we must assume, shatters. With every selfish attitude and action, Cain’s life becomes more complicated, confused, and dark.

The Patience and Wisdom of God in Action

Like many of the interactions between God and mankind in the Scripture, the story of Cain puts the will and work of God on display.

The patience of God shines brightly with Cain. The care and compassion with which he handles Cain is breathtaking. Once more, I think we should be amazed at the conversation. God doesn’t just smite Cain and bury his body. God talks to him. God listens to him. God reasons with him. God provides a way for Cain to address the trouble, face the consequences, and receive grace.

The wisdom of God drives and shapes a restorative conversation. At no point in the narrative do we see God speaking recklessly or acting punitively. When things start to fall apart, He enters the scene and draws near to people. He asks carefully crafted questions. He confronts dishonesty and transgression directly and gently. He “speaks truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). His words and efforts are full of mercy, yet unwavering and righteous. All His activities display His holy, gracious nature as He moves toward Cain in gestures of reconciliation. Of course, we never see Cain soften and reconcile to God. The Lord’s words provided an opportunity for restoration, but we never see it happen.

What Now?

When I slow down and take the story of God and Cain to heart, a few areas of conviction and encouragement come to mind:

  1. I am humbled by the grace, mercy, and care of God with this man, especially when I consider my impatience and lack of care with people, even people far less stubborn than Cain.
  2. I am struck by how poignantly and drastically my greatest problem (sin, pride, selfishness, and faithlessness in my heart) harms and complicates everything else in my life with God and others. I am my central danger. The grace of God in Jesus Christ stands alone as my central need.
  3. I am encouraged and bewildered by the fruitlessness of God’s counsel with Cain, especially when I consider how I measure the wisdom and goodness of counsel by it’s positive effects, rather than by it’s God-exalting, people-loving substance. The Lord’s counsel was perfect, but rejected – the results of our counsel will always be in His hands. May the Lord have mercy!

Reflections on Broken Hearts and Closed Ears

by Brad Hambrick

Exodus 6:9

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

We might ask ourselves why this note of commentary is included in the Exodus narrative. By this point in the book of Exodus, it has already been mentioned several times that Israel was suffering immensely at the harsh hand of Pharaoh.

To answer our question, we would have to consider when the book of Exodus was written. Most likely it was written well after the actual events along with the other books of the Torah (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) either during the 40 years of wilderness wandering or close to the time when Israel was going to enter the Promise Land (finally).

In order to understand this particular verse, we need to understand the purpose of the Torah as a whole. Moses was writing to re-establish a national identity as God’s chosen people for a nation that had been in slavery for 400 years. They were trying to learn who they were and what it meant to be a free people under God’s reign.

Just before verse 9, God had appealed to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 6:8). Israel needed to be reminded of their heritage and (more importantly) of God’s faithfulness. However, that is the whole point of verse 9; they needed to hear these things, but their hearts were too broken to embrace the message their ears received.

This passage is revelation of the understanding of God and the pastoral heart of Moses. Israel received this text long after the actual events transpired. Their current need was not to have hope in the midst of Pharaoh’s oppression (that season of their life was over), but, rather, to be prepared to trust God the next time their spirit was broken (and that would be many more times).

How you remember your story is important. Taking time to see God’s faithfulness is encouraging. However, it can be equally edifying to reflect on the times when (because of our frailty or doubt) we were unable to rest in God’s faithfulness. When we see (retrospectively) God’s faithfulness in the moments of our greatest fear and hurt, we come to realize that God will truly never leave us or forsake us (despite what our heart may say in the present or about the future).

End Note: When you read the Torah remember that it is not just a narrative with lots of laws and sermons at the end; it is also a pastoral work. Moses is writing the history of a people learning to be free after generations of oppression. Moses is walking Israel through the process of remembering who they have always been and the implications of trusting God during this monumental transition. I believe this will help you in making application of books that we too often view as “just history.”


The Deceitfulness of Self-Hatred

by Leslie Vernick

I was speaking at a large women’s event in Texas. During the break, a woman asked if she could speak with me.

“I need to know if there is hope for me,” she asked. “I’m a narcissist, and from what I’ve read online, there is little hope for me to ever get better.”

Curious, I asked her a few more questions about what led her to think she was a narcissist. She said, “I’m selfish and self-centered.”

“Give me a few examples of what you mean,” I asked, wanting to see where she was going.

“I don’t want to babysit my grandchildren like my daughter wants me to,” she said. “I don’t always want to put other people’s needs first. I try, but I end up feeling resentful.”

By now tears were streaming down her face, and it was obvious she was distressed exposing her very human character flaws.

This woman’s problem wasn’t excessive self-love and desire for admiration (which narcissists never notice about themselves anyway), but rather destructive shame and self-hatred. In our brief conversation, I learned that she lived by an internal script that dictated that she should be better than she was. She failed to live up to her idealized image of herself as a selfless person, and after numerous attempts at change, she felt hopeless.

People who are perfectionists may not demand perfection in every area of their lives and often have a hard time admitting that they think they should be perfect, but deep down that’s what they crave. And when they fail to live up to their own idealized standards, they grieve deeply. Their internal shame, self-hatred, and self-reproach can be lethal.

These individuals rarely feel happy because although they might achieve a moment of perfection, it’s entirely unsustainable. Eventually they mess up, can’t do something, aren’t all-knowing, fail, make a mistake, or put their own needs or desires ahead of someone else’s.

This woman was not my client, and we weren’t in a session, but I had something to offer her in that moment that provided a real solution to her pain. I had the privilege to show this hurting woman a glimpse of what God is like and surprise her by the good news of the gospel of Christ.  

Isn’t that why we do what we do? Isn’t that what makes Christian counseling Christian? We offer real hope to people’s pain not merely through good counseling or proper theology, but through the person of Christ. He is the answer to this woman’s pain because he gives her what she cannot give herself. Real forgiveness, radical acceptance, grace, peace, hope, love, and true truth.

John Fawcett, as quoted in Leanne Payne’s book Restoring the Christian Soul says,

Some who are afraid of the appearance of narcissism in the language of self-acceptance veer dangerously close to self-hatred in their antidote to it, as if a deeper introspective gaze upon our own guilt and sin could bring us to fuller freedom in Christ. But self-hatred is not the opposite of narcissism; rather, it is egocentrism under a different guise─the same mirror of self viewed from another angle. The discovery of the true self encompasses the denial and crucifixion of the flesh, but it is far more than a negative process. We find our true selves positively in relation to God: hearing His loving, affirming Word, we are freed to celebrate the new self He makes. We become enamored not of our own accomplishments nor of our unworthiness, but of the beauty of Jesus. Through his Spirit he descends into us that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (Ephesians 3:17), transforming us into His image, from glory to glory (2 Corinthian 3:18).

What I said to that woman at the conference was something similar to what Jesus said to the rich young ruler who asked if he was good enough to inherit eternal life. (See Luke 18:18-27 for the story.)

I pulled her to the side, wrapped my arms around her and whispered, “You could never do enough, love enough, give enough, or be selfless enough to earn God’s forgiveness or his love. It’s not up to you. It is a gift. Now go, and thank and love the giver.”

Later on in the day she caught my eye and her countenance was transformed. She believed God and found hope.

Reference

John Fawcett, quoted in Leanne Payne, Restoring the Christian Soul (Grand Rapids: Baoker, 1991), 234.


5 Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart

by Leslie Vernick

As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn’t perfect, and full of weakness and sin.

I think one of the reasons we don’t “see” evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can’t imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.

The Bible clearly tells us that among God’s people there are wolves that wear sheep’s clothing (Jeremiah 23:14; Titus 1:10; Revelations 2:2). It’s true that every human heart is inclined toward sin (Romans 3:23), and that includes evil (Genesis 8:21; James 1:4). We all miss God’ mark of moral perfection. However, most ordinary sinners do not happily indulge evil urges, nor do we feel good about having them. We feel ashamed and guilty, rightly so (Romans 7:19–21). These things are not true of the evil heart.

Below are five indicators that you may be dealing with an evil heart rather than an ordinary sinful heart.  If so, it requires a radically different treatment approach.

1. Evil hearts are experts at creating confusion and contention.

They twist the facts, mislead, lie, avoid taking responsibility, deny reality, make up stories, and withhold information. (Psalms 5:8; 10:7; 58:3; 109:2–5; 140:2; Proverbs 6:13,14; 6:18,19; 12:13; 16:20; 16:27, 28; 30:14; Job 15:35; Jeremiah 18:18; Nehemiah 6:8; Micah 2:1; Matthew 12:34,35; Acts 6:11–13; 2 Peter 3:16)

2. Evil hearts are experts at fooling others with their smooth speech and flattering words.

But if you look at the fruit of their lives or the follow through of their words, you will find no real evidence of godly growth or change. It’s all smoke and mirrors. (Psalms 50:19; 52:2,3; 57:4; 59:7; 101:7; Proverbs 12:5; 26:23–26; 26:28; Job 20:12; Jeremiah 12:6; Matthew 26:59; Acts 6:11–13; Romans 16:17,18; 2 Corinthians 11:13,14; 2 Timothy 3:2–5; 3:13; Titus 1:10,16).

3. Evil hearts crave and demand control, and their highest authority is their own self-reference.

They reject feedback, real accountability, and make up their own rules to live by. They use Scripture to their own advantage but ignore and reject passages that might require self-correction and repentance. (Romans 2:8; Psalms 10; 36:1–4; 50:16–22; 54:5,6; 73:6–9; Proverbs 21:24; Jude 1:8–16).

4. Evil hearts play on the sympathies of good-willed people, often trumping the grace card.

They demand mercy but give none themselves. They demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust. (Proverbs 21:10; 1 Peter 2:16; Jude 1:4).

5. Evil hearts have no conscience, no remorse.

They do not struggle against sin or evil—they delight in it—all the while masquerading as someone of noble character. (Proverbs 2:14–15; 10:23; 12:10; 21:27,29; Isaiah 32:6; Romans 1:30; 2 Corinthians 11:13–15)

If you are working with someone who exhibits these characteristics, it’s important that you confront them head on. You must name evil for what it is. The longer you try to reason with them or show mercy towards them, the more you, as the Christian counselor, will become a pawn in his or her game.

They want you to believe that:

1. Their horrible actions should have no serious or painful consequences.

When they say “I’m sorry,” they look to you as the pastor or Christian counselor to be their advocate for amnesty with the person he or she has harmed. They believe grace means they are immediately granted immunity from the relational fallout of their serious sin. They believe forgiveness entitles them to full reconciliation and will pressure you and their victim to comply.

The Bible warns us saying, “But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord (Isaiah 26:10). 

The Bible tells us that talking doesn’t wake up evil people, but painful consequences might. Jesus didn’t wake up the Pharisee’s with his talk nor did God’s counsel impact Cain (Genesis 4). In addition, the Bible shows us that when someone is truly sorry for the pain they have caused, he or she is eager to make amends to those they have harmed by their sin (see Zacchaeus’ response when he repented of his greed in Luke 19). 

Tim Keller writes, “If you have been the victim of a heinous crime. If you have suffered violence, and the perpetrator (or even the judge) says, ‘Sorry, can’t we just let it go?’ You would say, ‘No, that would be an injustice.’ Your refusal would rightly have nothing to do with bitterness or vengeance. If you have been badly wronged, you know that saying sorry is never enough. Something else is required—some kind of costly payment must be made to put things right.”1

As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change. Proverbs says, “Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips” (Proverbs. 25:19). It’s foolishness.

The evil person will also try to get you to believe

2. That if I talk like a gospel-believing Christian I am one, even if my actions don’t line up with my talk.

Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13–15). He knows more true doctrine than you or I will ever know, but his heart is wicked. Why? Because although he knows the truth, he does not believe it or live it.

The Bible has some strong words for those whose actions do not match their talk (1 John 3:17,18; Jeremiah 7:8,10; James 1:22, 26). John the Baptist said it best when he admonished the religious leaders, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8).

If week after week you hear the talk but there is no change in the walk, you have every reason to question someone’s relationship with God.

Part of our maturity as spiritual leaders is that we have been trained to discern between good and evil. Why is that so important? It’s important because evil usually pretends to be good, and without discernment we can be easily fooled (Hebrews 5:14).

When you confront evil, chances are good that the evil heart will stop counseling with you because the darkness hates the light (John 3:20) and the foolish and evil heart reject correction (Proverbs 9:7,8). But that outcome is far better than allowing the evil heart to believe you are on his or her side, or that “he’s not that bad” or “that he’s really sorry” or “that he’s changing” when, in fact, he is not.

Daniel says, “[T]he wicked will continue to be wicked” (Daniel 12:10), which begs the question, do you think an evil person can really change?

[1] Tim Keller, Jesus the King, page 172


Resolving Conflict in Relationships Biblically

by Biblical Soul Care Harvest Bible Chapel

When it comes to conflict in relationships, Ken Sande says there are really only three kinds of people: peace-fakers, peace-breakers, and peace-makers.

Peace-breakers are prideful and power up. If they don’t get their way, they blow up, escalating conflict like gas on a flickering flame.

Peace-fakers avoid conflict or clam up trying to shove conflict under the rug out of fear.

Neither way is glorifying or healthy.

Peace-makers see conflict as an assignment, not an accident. They approach the problem with humility, reasonableness, and seeking wisdom from God (James 3:17-18). They do not intimidate, but they also do not hide. They expect conflict, embrace the opportunity to resolve things biblically, and have an urgency to keep unity in the midst of hard times.

Recently, I considered the relational landscape of my life. I have not ignored the conflict in my life, but am I doing everything, as far as it has to do with me, to keep the peace with others (Romans 12:9-21)? What would it look like to be a peace-maker in those situations and relationships?

Is there anyone in your life you are bitter toward or someone you have offended deeply? I want to challenge you to get your eyes off another’s sin and turn your focus inward with a vertical orientation (Psalm 139:23-24).

But the Bible never treats the symptoms alone… we have all tried to control our anger or appease someone else’s with a moment of kindness—but it goes deeper. Sometimes the only way to heal what is sick or broken is to get to the source, to seek true healing, to go vertical.

The Source of Conflict

Don’t you love it when God answers our most profound questions?! Hey, why do we fight anyway? Why can’t we just get along? Consider this passage from James 4:1-12, which gets to the heart of the problem.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?…

What Can We Learn about Conflict from This Passage?

The Word of God presents some very clear reasons why we can’t seem to lay down our agendas or get along well with others who differ from us.

  • The enemy is within us: We see early in this passage that conflict is internally motivated before externally manifested (your selfish passions are what you fight about most… even good desires have a way of morphing into demands!)
  • It’s not just what we want, its how much we want it: where are you coveting?

Fill in the blank: "If I only had ___________, I would be happy?" That is the beginning of constructing an idol. So, think about these four escalating steps of selfish desires:

I. I want it too much – it could be a good desire or an evil desire (not always sinful… God may still be in the picture, but kingdoms begin to collide).

II. I need it now – it now owns you (leads to sin because looking to someone or something to fulfill only what Christ can… God can’t meet this need or won’t… so I will).

III. I deserve it – it now controls you (sinful entitlement creates murderous thoughts and feelings if desire is blocked… God wants me to be happy or is an afterthought at best).

IV. You will give it to me or I will punish you – it now betrays you (even hurt those you love if your demands are not met… is God even in the picture at this point?).

Here are three more truths from this passage:

  1. We need to get our eyes on our own sin! (where are you trying to change someone else?) If she only would…. if he quit….
  2. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble: Godly humility makes a world of difference (where do you need to repent, mourn, and stop contributing to the fight?)
  3. Keep walking in repentance not judgment (where has resentment or bitterness crept in… and made you a judge not a keeper of the law?)

That sets up the problem well, but there is more grace! The second half of the chapter teaches us to truly repent and turn to the Lord so we can be a peace-maker in the situation. Consider verses 7-10 as the way out of your side of the conflict and into the graces of God.

Seven Steps out of this selfish cycle of personal conflict:

1. Submit to God – what are you holding away from Him?

2. Resist the devil – what are you giving over to Him?

3. Draw near to God – where are you hiding or running from Him?

4. Cleanse your hands – what outward behavior needs to stop?

5. Purify your heart – what inward attitude needs to change?

6. Be wretched mourn and weep – where do people need to see godly sorrow?

7. Humble yourself – where do you need to admit you’re wrong and ask forgiveness?

Remember, those who are in Christ are called to be peace-makers. That requires for us to be intentional with how we deal with conflict.


Homosexuality: A Matter of Orientation

by Michael Snetzer

Almost daily we encounter evidences of the current moral revolution occurring in this country; and it is happening at a blistering pace. At the forefront of this discussion is the topic of homosexuality. Depending on which side of the fence you fall, you might consider this an evolution of morality or you might see morality devolving before our very eyes. Sexual orientation has been a hot topic for some time; and for many, even many professing Christians, the practice of sexuality outside of the traditional heterosexual covenantal relationship of marriage has been seen as progressive.

Sadly, much of this debate is devoid of any real interest in God’s perspective. Sadder still there is much twisting of what God has to say about it all. This speculation is unfortunate. God’s word is clear. Homosexuality is sinful and is rebellion against God’s creative design. This increasingly counter-cultural stance on homosexuality will no doubt bring the church to the forefront if we hold fast to this truth. This blog is not an attempt to make an argument for or against homosexuality, but instead to deal with the heart of the matter. And that starts with us, the church.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good character let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be every disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13–18)

Before we speak as to what God says regarding homosexuality, we need to hear from God ourselves. We need to check our own hearts. Do we enter debates to win or in the confidence that, in Christ, we have already won? Our selfish ambition will result in every disorder and we will be shown lacking wisdom and ultimately foolish. But if our hearts are pure it will be expressed in our conduct, we will be peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

As we move to the topic of homosexuality we need to approach it with sensitivity. I have had the great privilege of walking alongside several men compelled by the gospel to come out of a homosexual lifestyle. Our church is full of men and women who are experiencing redemption in Jesus Christ. Many of these still wrestle with homosexual temptations while others have experienced healing to such a degree that they are now happily married, joyfully expressing their sexuality within heterosexual marriage or have the desire to do so.

I have come to understand that no two stories are the same. Some clearly feel that they were born with homosexual tendencies and others can see clearly the development of homosexual thoughts and behavior’s through experimentation or abuse. I want to dispel one of the arguments used in the culture to justify homosexuality: The idea of being born this way. This assumes that we are born without distorted desires. You hear things like, “God doesn’t make mistakes’. The assumption is if I was born this way, it must be His design.  The truth is that we are born in a fallen state, sinful, and therefore this argument for homosexuality falls flat. Equally invalid is any argument that implies it is God’s design that one express sexuality through innumerable heterosexual encounters.

I think labeling homosexuality a matter of “orientation” is a great point of engagement. What is meant by this term culturally is am I personally (as a man) sexually oriented around men (homosexuality), women, (heterosexuality) or both (bisexuality), animals (bestiality), children (pedophilia) or some object (fetish), etc. But the conversation must move beyond the horizontal orientation and, instead, must be oriented vertically in terms of our relationship with God. Through the fall of mankind, in addition to having distorted desires, we have become disoriented from God. This means that we are inevitably lost - looking to the culture to define us while simultaneously seeking to have our desires met through creatures for what only He can ultimately provide.

Homosexuality is rarely about sex. It is always about worship. It is about offering myself to the one who is providing what my heart desires and/or receiving the worship of another in exchange for what their heart desires. This, by the way, is true in all sexual immorality regardless of whether it is homosexual in nature or not.

At the risk of sounding overly simplistic, I will give a couple of examples of how people I have known came to practice homosexuality, the counterfeit redemption it offered them, and the superiority of the gospel in resolving the underlying issues.

A young man I counseled grew up in a Christian home. He was perceived culturally “effeminate”, because he was slim, sensitive and artistic. His father was perceived culturally “manly”, because he was strong, liked to hunt, fish and work on cars. As a boy he identified more with mom.  Dad was somewhat disinterested and looked passed him. The boy longed for the attention and acceptance of his father. He began to wish he were different, that he was more “manly”. He began to be jealous of the boys who looked more like his dad. He lusted for these things that seemed unattainable.

In his adolescence, one of these young men began to show interest in him. The association gave him the sense that he had gained what he was looking for. As the relationship became sexualized he attached himself in a covenantal act by offering himself in worship to the one who possessed what he was lacking. He became “one flesh” with this young man and this gave him a sense of possessing what he longed for. At the most basic level this is no different than someone who feels they are “important “because they hang out with important people.

Similarly, I have known a woman for some time that was abused by her father and later by her husband. Disoriented from God and done with men, she sought to have her desires met through the gentle nurturing of a same sex relationship by offering herself to another woman sexually.

These counterfeit forms of redemption pale in comparison to the ultimate redemption found in Jesus Christ. These counterfeits are just twisted replicas attempting to mar the real thing, robbing us of life rather than give it. Through the gospel we find the acceptance of our Heavenly Father. He has not overlooked us in sending His son. His perfection makes up for where we are lacking. In offering ourselves to Him, we receive all that our hearts have longed for.  We are nurtured in Him. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and the covenant is sealed. Our value and worth comes through our association with Him. We are given a new heart, which leads us to love and practice the things that He loves and despise that which profanes His name.

If we merely stand on the outside judging whether homosexuality is right or wrong without taking the time to move beyond the behavior to come alongside and know a person, we will never have the opportunity to show how the gospel is applied in satisfying the deepest longings of the heart. Without condoning sin we must enter in.


New Year's Resolutions

by Paul Tripp

Well, it's that season once again. It's the fodder for blogs, newspaper articles, TV magazine shows and way too many Twitter posts. It's the time for the annual ritual of dramatic New Year's resolutions fueled by the hope of immediate and significant personal life change.

But the reality is that few smokers actually quit because of a single moment of resolve, few obese people have become slim and healthy because of one dramatic moment of commitment, few people who were deeply in debt have changed their financial lifestyle because they resolved to do so as the old year gave way to the new, and few marriages have been changed by the means of one dramatic resolution.

Is change important? Yes, it is for all of us in some way. Is commitment essential? Of course! There's a way in which all of our lives are shaped by the commitments we make. But biblical Christianity - which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at its heart - simply doesn't rest its hope in big, dramatic moments of change.

Living in the Utterly Mundane

The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process than it is a series of a few dramatic events. Personal heart and life change is always a process. And where does that process take place? It takes place where you and I live everyday. And where do we live? Well, we all have the same address. Our lives don't careen from big moment to big moment. No, we all live in the utterly mundane.

Most of us won't be written up in history books. Most of us only make three or four momentous decisions in our lives, and several decades after we die, the people we leave behind will struggle to remember the events of our lives. You and I live in little moments, and if God doesn't rule our little moments and doesn't work to recreate us in the middle of them, then there is no hope for us, because that's where you and I live.

The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they're the little moments that we live in and that form us. This is where I think "Big Drama Christianity" gets us into trouble. It can cause us to devalue the significance of the little moments of life and the "small-change" grace that meets us there. And because we devalue the little moments where we live, we don't tend to notice the sin that gets exposed there. We fail to seek the grace that is offered to us.

10,000 Little Moments

You see, the character of a life is not set in two or three dramatic moments, but in 10,000 little moments. The character that was formed in those little moments is what shapes how you respond to the big moments of life.

What leads to significant personal change?

  • 10,000 moments of personal insight and conviction
  • 10,000 moments of humble submission
  • 10,000 moments of foolishness exposed and wisdom gained
  • 10,000 moments of sin confessed and sin forsaken
  • 10,000 moments of courageous faith
  • 10,000 choice points of obedience
  • 10,000 times of forsaking the kingdom of self and running toward the kingdom of God
  • 10,000 moments where we abandon worship of the creation and give ourselves to worship of the Creator.

And what makes all of this possible? Relentless, transforming, little-moment grace. You see, Jesus is Emmanuel not just because he came to earth, but because he makes you the place where he dwells. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

His Work to Rescue and Transform

And what is he doing? In these small moments he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness. By sovereign grace he places you in daily little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom and grace so that you will seek the help and hope that can only be found in him. In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again - exactly what each one of us needs!

Yes, you and I need to be committed to change, but not in a way that hopes for a big event of transformation, but in a way that finds joy in and is faithful to a day-by-day, step-by-step process of insight, confession, repentance and faith. And in those little moments we commit ourselves to remember the words of Paul in Romans 8:32

"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us, how will he not also with him freely give us all things."

So, we wake up each day committed to live in the small moments of our daily lives with open eyes and humbly expectant hearts.


Peace and Goodwill on Earth

by Susan Thomas

It’s Christmastime! Many of us love this time of year as we prepare to celebrate with family and friends. The twinkling lights, the beautifully decorated trees, the sights and sounds and the smells of our favorite baked goods come together to paint the picture that all is well on the earth.

Yet, we know otherwise.

Many of us crave the image in our head of family coming close, friends getting together, and joy and peace marking each moment; yet the reality often looks very different. There is a gap between the ideal we have in our heads and the reality played out in our lives. Far more often there are struggles in relationships, bickering in families, loneliness in our hearts, and chaos in our schedules.

Yet, a baby came to earth and was laid in a manger. Angels announced his birth in a cry from heaven saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:14, KJV

How do we experience this promise that was given? Why do we often feel the opposite? Our hearts are hurting. Our budgets are lacking. Our families are fighting. Our minds are reeling. Our bodies are aching. Why? One simple, yet complex answer resounds.

S-I-N.

In Genesis 1–2, life was good. Things were beautiful and clean. We were made in the image of God and our God is 100% perfection. We were perfect, because he is perfect! But in that tragic Genesis 3 moment, we responded poorly to God’s gift of choice. We chose our way and rejected the God who made us. Instantly, sin crashed into our DNA twisting and marring everything in its path. Our rejection ushered in imperfection that was never meant for us. Yet, in His mercy and unfathomable love, God decided to save us!

God knows our broken situation. It was because of our bruised and messed up state that he sent Jesus in the first place. He knows that our sins run deep like a disease of the soul invading every healthy space and replacing it with sickness. We are unclean. We are stained.

However, sin always requires retribution. There must be punishment for the crimes committed. There must be payment to cover what is owed. This is the reason God sent His son, born in a manger. To grow up and one day die on what should have been your cross! My cross! When Jesus came as that baby, it was a RESCUE MISSION that would come at a GREAT price.

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NLT

Redemption did not “just happen.” Someone had to pay for all the sin. All the wrong. The offender was all of humanity including you and me. And, by God’s decree, total bloodshed was the price tag.

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.

Romans 3:25a

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.

Ephesians 1:7, NLT

Freedom was purchased! Forgiveness is available! A perfect, merciful, and loving Savior made the sacrifice required. All we must do is accept the gift. Believe in faith. Receive him as Lord of our lives.

“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.

Isaiah 1:18, NLT

Come now, let’s settle this! God says our sins are like scarlet. The Good News for all those who receive it is that every scarlet sin is covered by Christ’s scarlet blood! Red covers red!

Red + my best efforts = still red

Red + Christ’s RED = WHITE!

We need Christ’s red to cover our red. His red, his innocent blood is the payment for our sins. His bloodshed opens the door to a restored relationship with our Creator and an eternally redeemed life.

THIS IS WHY WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS! We have hope! We do not have to live condemned, unclean. We can experience God’s peace and goodwill eternally and now.

This Christmas, let’s settle this! So many of us are unsettled in our souls. God reaches out to settle the matter. We no longer have to live in our unclean, broken state. We cannot clean ourselves. We must receive the gift of our Savior who washes us white as snow. We must be eternally settled as we receive the gift of our Savior and Lord. And we must walk daily settled as we remain close to our Lord with every breath we take and thought we think. Walking with our Savior brings peace to our minds. Remaining in the love of Christ pours out blessings and goodwill with each step we take. Together, let us commit our hearts and dedicate our lives to the Savior who came and is alive today. And may this be the BEST CHRISTMAS YET.


The Danger of Forgetfulness

by Paul Tripp

We all do it, probably every day. It has a huge impact on the way we view ourselves and the way we respond to others. It’s one of the main reasons we experience so much conflict in our relationships. The scary thing is: we barely recognize that we’re doing it.

What is this thing we all tend to do that causes so much harm? We forget the generosity of God.

In the busyness and self-centeredness of our lives, we sadly forget how much our lives have been blessed by and radically redirected by the generosity of God. The fact that he blesses us when we deserve nothing (except for wrath and punishment) fades from our memories like a song whose lyrics we once knew but now cannot recall.

Every morning, God’s generosity greets us in at least a dozen ways, but we barely recognize it as we frenetically prepare for our day. When we lay our exhausted heads down at the end of the day, we often fail to look back on the many gifts that dripped from God’s hands into our little lives.

We don’t often take time to sit and meditate on what our lives would have been like if the generosity of the Redeemer had not been written into our personal stories. Sadly, we all tend to be way too forgetful, and there are few things more dangerous in the Christian life than forgetfulness. 

Forgetfulness is dangerous, because it shapes the way you think about yourself and others. When you remember God’s generosity, you also remember that you simply did nothing whatsoever to earn his blessing. When you remember his generosity, you’re humble, thankful, and tender. When you remember his generosity, complaining gives way to gratitude and self-focused desire gives way to worship.

But when you forget God’s generosity, you proudly tell yourself that what you have is what you’ve achieved. When you forget his generosity, you take credit for what only his blessings could produce. When you forget his generosity, you name yourself as righteous and deserving, and you live an entitled and demanding life. 

When you forget God’s generosity and think you’re deserving, you find it very easy to withhold generosity from others. Proudly, you think that you’re getting what you deserve and that they are, too. Your proud heart is not tender, so it’s not easily moved by the sorry plight of others. You forget that you are more like than unlike your needy brother or sister, failing to acknowledge that neither of you stands before God as deserving.

...[W]ill you remember to remember the generosity of God? Remembrance produces upward worship, inward humility, and outward generosity. Give thanks, be humble, and be generous, because the blessings you receive from the Lord are not what you deserve.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

  1. How has God been generous to you [this year]? List at least 10 examples.
  2. Look at your list. Which of those 10 examples are you tempted to take personal credit for? Why does God deserve all the credit?
  3. How have you been arrogant and self-righteous about blessings when you should be humble and grateful?
  4. How have you failed to extend generosity to others [this year]?
  5. How can you be generous to others as an expression of your humble gratitude for the undeserved blessings you have received as a result of the generosity of God?

Unlocking Your Lament

by Brandon Thomas

Every one of us wrestles through the realities of a very broken world. Government is sometimes dysfunctional, seemingly beyond repair. Laws can be unjust, penalizing the innocent. Communities discriminate against people because of the color of their skin or their zip code. Chronic pain may be your unwelcome friend, visiting you each day. 

This world is not without its troubles.

How does the Christ Follower deal with his own downturns? How do we handle troubles that are not a direct result of our own poor choices?

Some options:

Just put on a BRAVE FACE!

Let’s just not talk about that…. Let’s dwell on the good things.

I must have done something to deserve this….

Throughout the pages of the Bible, we see another path:

Unlock Your Lament!

Entire Psalms are given to the LAMENT (ex., Psalm 69, 102, 137).

God gives us an entire book of the bible dedicated to Lamentations.

When we wrestle through large-scale brokenness, here’s how to lament.

First, Express Yourself.

Tell God how you feel. Authentically express your emotions.

God, it looks like this _________.

God, I’m wrestling through this _________.

God, I don’t understand this _________.

God delights in our honest communication with him. It’s not wrong to wrestle with God; it’s wrong to stop wrestling with God.

Boldly Pray, “God, Change This!”

You’re not wrong to ask God to deliver you from a storm.

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:8 NLT)

Sometimes the greater miracle happens when God delivers us through a storm rather than from a storm. But that should not keep us from asking for deliverance!

Reaffirm the Relationship.

This element of your lament is crucial. In the midst of your prayer, reaffirm your enduring relationship with God. As you stare down the dire circumstances in your life, keep an eye on the character of God. Discipline yourself to restate the grace, goodness, and compassion of your creator. Allow him to comfort you in the midst of the struggle.

However you answer, God, I’m here. I’m going nowhere. I love you and know you have a plan beyond this pain, even beyond this life.

Finally, Rest in the Bigger Picture.

Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them (Revelation 6:11 NLT).

God is exercising far greater patience than us! Every moment God allows our broken world to exist, it is a testimony to his compassion toward us.

God has a plan beyond this sinful world. God has a plan for you in this midst of this sinful world. God has a larger plan!

Could God be preparing you to be a priest to a world in pain? Might your suffering qualify you to lead others to an eternal life in Christ? Is it possible that our Christian hope would enact large-scale, generational change?

Unlock your lament!