The church and church leaders have a biblical responsibility toward the vulnerable and children. This session author Chris Moles will discuss both social and theological considerations of the impact of domestic violence on children.
In this session author Chris Moles will define domestic violence, explain the motivations and tactics of perpetrators and discuss the various manifestations of domestic violence including physical, sexual, emotional, economic and psychological abuse.
What practical things should we do in situations where the problems are circular and there never seems to be any change? How should we feel when people don’t take our counsel? In this episode IBCD Executive Director Jim Newheiser joins Craig Marshall to answer a listener’s question about feeling stuck as a counselor.
Craig Marshall’s talk with Zack & Jessica Eswine continues with a discussion of another one of Zack’s books, Spurgeon’s Sorrows. This book looks to the life of Charles Spurgeon to glean biblical insight into depression. Understanding the relationship between depression and sin can be very confusing and divisive. How should we think about their relationship? What language does Scripture give us for these heavy feelings?
Earlier this year at the Ministry Weekend, Craig Marshall sat down with Zack & Jessica Eswine to talk about their life and Zack’s book, The Imperfect Pastor. As opposed to a quick fix, Zack maintains the importance of recognizing our limitations and learning to slow down in the midst of difficult seasons.
How should we think about a case where a person appears to have strange voices speaking through them? Is there merely something wrong physically or could a spiritual problem be at work? IBCD Executive Director Jim Newheiser joins Craig Marshall to answer a listener’s question about spiritual warfare.
Guys, as you hear that and especially this idea of verbally abusive, what comes to mind of how we should approach it?
To begin, God’s word is not silent on the topic of verbal abuse, emotional abuse. In proverbs 12:18 it says, “There’s one who speaks rashly like the thrust of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” In proverbs 11:9 it says, “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.” God is well aware of the severity of verbal abuse and he likens it here to the effects of physical abuse. If you talk to women who’ve been legitimately verbally and abused over the years they’d said, “Rather he hit me than to put me through this kind of thing.”
God is well aware, but I think the church can grow and mature and be much more aware of how to handle these things. We can handle the typically marriage issues and we can handle the physical abuse, but there is lots of room for growth in the area of handling verbal and emotional abuse. God knows and God’s words are efficient for it, we just need to develop that area. It is happening, people are speaking on it, there’s a book out called The Heart of Domestic Abuse by Chris Moles and it is an excellent resource for this very topic.
I think when you are addressing abuse of all kinds, a good place to begin is in Matthew 5 where Jesus says, “If you hate your brother, you’re a murderer. If you call him a name you deserve the punishment for a murderer.” As Tom said, the Lord takes these sins very seriously, and yet, there is a degree, there’s a spectrum of how bad this is. It’s like in the very next section Jesus said if you’ve lusted you’ve committed adultery. A man who has literally committed adultery, or worse, raped somebody or something, that’s one absolute end of the scale. The guy who was walking down the street and saw a girl with shorts on and glanced and looked away, he was still in that range but it’s a much different degree.
Yeah, part of my goal has been with this has been that people would watch this and see these struggles, they’d get a little better grasp on how the scriptures can relate to them, and then also how the Lord can use his people to take what we know and move towards those who are struggling and walk with them in the midst of it rather than having to either push them aside or think it just needs to be fixed, but to see this huge place to enter in with it. That’s the beauty of the church when we are shouldering the load together. The Lord’s glorified in amazing ways.
Ellie, any thoughts for you on this project and what would be helpful?
Yeah, I think you said it really well that I’m hoping that this project really starts the dialog. I think everyone wants to be able to help people and having an answer for them is … You feel really helpful when you can provide an answer and list off and those easy answers are pat answers that just might not work in all situations. I think that these videos have done a good job of confirming that it is a medical diagnosis, that it’s not just something that is maybe a spiritual condition that just needs fixing with prayer. While we all definitely need to pray and there’s all spiritual issues connected with it, there’s other medical issues that go along with it.
I hope that within the church, within the church community, the idea of shying away from people with mental illness or shying away from the topic … Maybe not the people themselves, but just the topic of psychology or mental illness. I hope that these videos help start that dialog that there is actual medical conditions, it’s a very complicated situation on all levels for the individual involved as well as the people around it. I’m really hopeful that these videos will do something like that.
Are there ever valid reasons for a couple to separate? What should counselors do if a couple is already separated and considering divorce? In this episode IBCD Executive Director Jim Newheiser joins Craig Marshall and Tom Maxham to answer a listener’s question about separation and divorce.
It seems like there could kind of be one of two extremes that probably aren’t helpful. Sometimes in the church it could be, “This is different,” and we stay away. Then there can be this naïve just jumping in of just listening to the person, not checking with the family, not realizing the depth of probably what’s going on and starting to come to understand some of the complexities of this, for sure.
Right. It’s very complex. For somebody to say, “Oh, I want to help you.” In some sense, you really got to know what you’re even … Just educate yourself and even just whether or not you can actually have the time to help. What’s really interesting I feel like with a lot of mental health cases is that my mom is convinced that she’s doing a lot of what she’s doing because she wants to help us. Her attention is on us and her attention is on other people, and she’s trying to help other people. But she fails to realize that if she really helps herself then she’s helping the whole family. A lot of times, too, it’s understanding that their intentions in their heads, they’re really good intentions. It’s just learning how to communicate with them and navigate through them and bring them back to what is reality, I guess.
This idea of training future ministers, training people who are interested in ministry, this isn’t a new one for you, right? This has been part and parcel of your whole ministry experience. I’m wondering if you both could tell us just a little bit about how you’ve sought to care for men and women who are interested in pursuing ministry together. How was that unfolded in your years together? Caroline, why don’t you tell me some about how you sought to do that at least?
Caroline Newheiser :
Jim started training people in ministry when we were living in Saudi Arabia and we had to open up many house churches which didn’t have teachers so he developed a program there which is a stepping stone to what he’s doing now. Through the years we’ve had the intern program here at Grace Bible and we’ve even had men live with us, students live with us off and on different times. God has equipped us I think for this step.
Caroline has made a lot of effort both in terms of hospitality and having some cases. I think back to having single Mike Kruger, Greg Welty, these guys are now seminary professors. Many people are now missionaries and pastors but having them or having them and their wives into our home, she’s been especially in recent years making some delivered efforts to mentor the seminary students’ wives and prepare them for what it is going to be like one day.
What is your paradise? What are your conceptions of heaven? Do you long for a place that is not this world? In this episode Elyse Fitzpatrick talks with Craig Marshall about her newest book Home, in which she wrestles with these questions and addresses how a healthy desire to be with Christ can give us hope during our trials right now.
Good, so we can really step back and check our hearts. What are some ways that you think, instead of calling down fire on someone, what are ways that we think people need to be punished and we often carry that out?
In general, when people wrong us, our gut reaction is to respond in judgement or tempted to respond in anger. That can be saying hurtful words, expressed in that way. It could be ignoring them or doing other unkind things. We become tempted to really detach ourselves from the gospel, somewhat as these disciples did. What we need to remember is both God’s grace to us and also our calling to be messengers of mercy, which was at that time the calling for those disciples. Furthermore, as we are messengers of mercy, I often think of Romans 2:4, that it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. If our hope is when we see evildoers and even when they do evil to us, it’s God’s grace and God’s kindness being reflected through us that, or the means by which God most likely will bring them to repentance rather than our judgmental anger.
This seems to intersect for me with something we hear a lot in marriage counselling. If a spouse is sinning, a lot of times the other spouse thinks it’s their job, almost to call down fire on that spouse, to make them pay for the wrongs that are being done to help them see the error of their ways. How do we change the heart of that spouse so that they’re not making the same sin here as the disciples?
I’m about to start crying again. I did cry a few times when I watched your observation videos.
There were pieces of it where I cried, not when Danielle was crying but I just cried at the bitterness of my heart because I knew that hardness was real and it’s sad to watch. It makes me pray for my girls very hard on a daily basis that we can have open relationship to talk. I would hate for them to have that hardness but I also trust that if that’s what the Lord takes them through whichever way that maybe they’re going to have their own struggles and that the Lord uses that for his glory so I’ll let him use whatever he wants to use. That hard heart is really ugly.
From that video I will say Caroline and I have gotten very close and that’s been a huge blessing that was something that was unexpected. She was always just the pastor’s wife and you say hello to them in the hall and they know your name because they know everyone’s name. That was a real sweet blessing that came from it is that we got to be much closer.
Honestly I think that’s a really experience that I think real counselees find as well is that when they do open up to someone rather than pushing someone away, they gain a relationship or friendship.
In this episode, Craig Marshall sat down with dynamic writer and teacher Elyse Fitzpatrick. Spend some time learning more about Elyse’s unique history and passion for Biblical Counseling. She will also share her thoughts on ‘Screen Addiction,’ a topic she will be tackling at the upcoming Summer Institute 2017.
Having been someone who’s gone through the struggle in real time, real life, and then now as you watch yourself on the videos do you feel like you and Caroline, do you feel like it is an authentic representation of that process?
Yeah. Especially in cutting it down into three different sessions and trying to work with the time lapse in between them and still tie in the first session to the second session. I do think it’s a pretty good picture of what it could look like. The timing, it depends on the willingness of the counselee on how willing they would be to do the homework that was assigned and how the lord changes the heart ultimately. I do think it was pretty true to form in terms of the motions that are felt. When somebody feels like they really can be honest in front of someone and bear their soul and say things that they don’t want to say to anybody else because they’re embarrassed about them or they think are wrong I think you can really get down to the heart of the issue. I think Carolyn just portrays a person that’s very safe to be with. I would imagine that in one of the end of the sessions she says that she just prays for a connection, especially with the younger counselees that only the Lord can really draw a connection between her and the counselee if the counselee is going to feel safe enough to really be open with them. I think that was real in the videos that Danielle felt safe with Caroline. That she could be honest with her.
You start out at the beginning not wanting to be there. Watching it it’s almost uncomfortable watching you give that attitude to your councilor. Were you ever surprised by what you said or how you came off to her.
No. Watching it I almost feel like realistically that would have played out longer if we had had lots of sessions to go through. Me personally going through my eating disorder and people encouraging me to go to counseling that I didn’t want I was not kind for many sessions. It’s a pride issue and it’s an embarrassment issue about not wanting to admit that I have an issue that I cannot fix on my own. You want to go in and say, “I can fix everything on my own and that I’m choosing willingly to do these things and they’re not really as bad as what everyone around me is saying that they are.” Yeah, realistically if it could have been longer I would have been worse longer. Transitioning into bearing worse and then slightly softening at the end to move onto the next session, that was a little bit of an adjustment from a normal setting. It played out all right.
I’ve been really sadden by how often in the context in even solid evangelical churches these cases have come out. It’s very grievous. I guess if you would have taken thirty years ago, I would have never imagined that I would be having this experience. I don’t think that it’s because it’s gotten that much worse in thirty years as much as it as an ordinary church member I didn’t see as much as there was. In terms of the various ways counseling comes to me, adultery cases are a large percentage of what we have to deal with, and it’s heartbreaking.
Do you think that is increasing among the church, or do you think it’s just more that you get hard cases?
Yeah. I’m sure there are people accumulating statistics, and you see as the culture becomes more corrupt that we’re in Corinth, and so it’s not surprising that there’s more Corinth-like behavior or even people coming in with a past. They go back to those old sins sometimes, just temporarily. I would think it’s increasing just as the cultures become more corrupt sexually. What I have seen increase is more people talking about homosexual sin, but in terms of adultery, it’s always gone on. You go back to King David. You go back to the page of scripture, sexual sin has always been an issue. Both in terms of actual adultery, lust, and wandering hearts.
People also talk about emotional affairs. Just as we’re kind of laying the ground of thinking about adultery, how do you classify those or think about those, either as situations are brought to you or as someone throws out that label?
Have either of you in your experience with biblical counseling gone down the road with somebody where you’ve been pointing them to the scriptures, working with them and somewhere down the road what you discovered is that there is an underlying medical issue that you weren’t aware of that the person had that they were struggling with maybe? We’ll talk about this a little bit later but as it pertains to their diet or an actual disease that they have. Have either of you experienced that, saw that we have a physical problem here that needs to be dealt with before we can begin addressing where they’re even at spiritually.
Yeah, that’s not an uncommon thing. I think probably the most common one that I run into as a physician is with sleep deprivation. I could probably look out across this crowd and say, “How many of you slept eight hours last night raise your hands.” Anybody out there? One, two, a couple back up there. Good for you. Most Americans are sleeping six hours or under right now and that is by definition sleep deprivation. I think that’s a reasonable thing to inquire about and would come to your attention. If they can’t resolve it by turning the television off and going to bed a little earlier then you would want to move them on to a doctor.
We’ve seen cases before where a doctor would later say, “Well this person’s thyroid level is off.” That would be a factor. I think sleep has also been huge, where people go nuts when they’ve been sleeping almost none. A couple things I would add, one would be these are influences, they’re not determinative. Just like you’d want to know about a person’s life history, something happened to them, they were abused as a child, that’s relevant but it doesn’t turn them into something. Someone may have something going on physically or even with their brain that that’s an influence and you want to be aware if you can become aware. Sometimes you’re trying to help people and you’re getting nowhere and you might want to send them to a doctor because maybe there’s something going on here, I can’t figure out, some influence I’m not aware of.
So, what is biblical counseling? First of all, biblical counseling is God-centered. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, “In all things, we want to be pleasing to him.” He writes also that whatever you do should be done for the glory of God. And this is a real break we would make with secular psychology. When someone comes to a secular psychologist, kind of like what can we do for you? What is your goal in our meeting with you? And the counselee would set the agenda. I had a woman come to me one time who was an exotic dancer living with a Muslim boyfriend, and she wanted me to help her get along better with her Muslim boyfriend. By the way, later I’ll mention I do not counsel women alone; there’s one reason why. Her goal, and there might have been some communication techniques or problem solving techniques you could have told her that should could get along better. And that would have been what she wanted.
But my job as a biblical counselor is what would God have to say to this woman. And first of all, if she professes to be a Christian, there are things about her life that she needs to repent of. And to come in subordination to God. She certainly doesn’t want to be yoked to nonbelievers. She doesn’t want to be involved in fornication of tempting others. So, it’s not about the happiness of the counselee. It’s not about the counselee achieving in life what he or she wants.
Instead of just, “Wow, we tried counseling, focused on that specific problem, now that problem’s back again. What do we do?” It’s kind of zooming out and saying, “Let’s look at it from a different angle and make sure we really pour resources into their walk with Christ personally. “Yes. I can say, in concrete terms, I can think of a couple where different ones of us have tried to meet with them. You think you solved the problem in that the crisis ended. They’re smiling a week or two later but then it keeps coming back. It’s like, “You didn’t finish the antibiotics and so the bug is never killed and it keeps coming back.”
The most recent approach has been much more intensive discipleship. Not firefighting with marriage crisis or even marriage problems, but just growing in Christ as believers with the fundamentals of the faith. Some have been using a book by Jerry Bridges called The Discipline of Grace. It’s not a marriage book, it’s a living as a Christian book but I’ve seen far better results with this couple from having spent months in that book just to grow in Christ than I did with all the firefighting efforts that proceeded it.
Some of this might be – with ongoing problems – maybe what we have in our mind is that intensive Biblical counseling should solve the problem and if it doesn’t, we’ve done the counseling wrong, something’s wrong with the people. It seems like I get questions like that quite a bit of, “We’ve tried this, it’s not fixed. What do we do?” Has your perspective of that changed, as you’ve counseled over the years, in what it takes to really help people grow?
To close out season 2 of the Care & Discipleship Podcast, Craig Marshall sat down with Jim Newheiser (Director of Biblical Counseling at RTS Charlotte) and Tom Maxham (pastor of Grace Bible Church, Escondido and staff counselor at IBCD) to discuss the tenuous situation of dealing with domestic abuse when counseling a couple. This episode is a response to a listener question and addresses a very relevant issue in the church today. The counselors discuss how to respond not only to physical abuse but also how to think through verbal and emotional abuse. They detail the various ways in which churches tend to make mistakes regarding verbal and emotional abuse and articulate a proper response. They also engage with the book The Heart of Domestic Abuse written by Chris Moles who will be speaking on the issue at the 2017 Summer Institute and Pre-Conference.
This Fall we released our 6th observation video featuring Dr. Charles Hodges counseling a couple struggling with the complexities of Bipolar Disorder. Recently, our host Craig Marshall sat down with the real-life Aaron and Ellie to talk about the experiences that have given them a unique perspective on this particular medical diagnoses. Listen in as they continue their discussion and hear their real-life stories about dealing with Bipolar Disorder and the people who “try” to help. Their hope is for these videos to further the conversation about this and other medical diagnoses and give people a framework for caring for families with similar struggles. This is the second episode of a 2-part interview with “Aaron & Ellie.” You can listen to Part 1 here.
This Fall we released our 6th observation video featuring Dr. Charles Hodges counseling a couple struggling with the complexities of Bipolar Disorder. Recently, our host Craig Marshall sat down with the real-life Aaron and Ellie to talk about the experiences that have given them a unique perspective on this particular medical diagnoses. They also offer practical advice for how Christians can come alongside individuals and the families of those with similar struggles. This is the first episode of a 2-part interview with “Aaron & Ellie.”
We can’t be clueless anymore, we need to be aware of what’s going on, and know how to vote intelligently, and biblically, so that would be one thing. Also, churches need to be aware of how to protect their own ministries, so that they don’t become broiled in litigation that they don’t need, and yet they still want to be an outreach to the community.
Yeah. Is there any one particular area, one or two, that you say, “I find that most churches maybe might be ignorant of protecting themselves in this way.” If you had the opportunity to speak to church leaders you’d say, “Here’s one or two things that, if you’re not protected, or if you’re not aware of, you should have these things in place.”
Well they need to have well written governing documents, and written policies. For example, for the use of their facilities. A church might want to invite people from the community in for their wedding ceremonies and receptions. If you’re going to do that, there needs to be a religious fence around it, so that you’re not hosting a ceremony that conflicts with your religious doctrine. Counseling, I mean it’s wonderful to minister to the community, and I know Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, Indiana, Steve Viars, they have a wonderful outreach, I mean it just blows me away to hear about it. The important thing there I think is distinguish between the people who represent your ministry, and the people who are potential beneficiaries of your ministry.
This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Our guest Debbie Dewart spoke at the conference on effectively ministering in a world with a rapidly changing legal landscape. In this episode host David Wojnicki talks with Debbie about her choice to pursue both law and seminary degrees, including how those two worlds overlap in her work as an attorney writing briefs for the Supreme Court. They also discuss the need for churches to be aware of various laws and how they can work to protect themselves and their ministries from possible litigation.
Counseling brought us together.
Counseling brought you together. I think that’s actually a great jumping off spot. Because as I sit here today biblical counseling in many ways is part of the Christian culture. It’s relatively accepted. You both were there, the pioneers in the early days. The first question I’d like to ask is, what did the landscape looked like when you first became engaged in biblical counseling? Really maybe even before that for each of you individually, who got on board first with this concept of biblical counseling?
Well for me, it was, I was at a seminary. Was so ignorant to guys who say, you are a Armenian. Like a Armenia, Italy. I mean, I was totally ignorant. I was a jock. I got to seminary unconverted and partly, part of the conversion was seeing Jay Adam’s counsel and use the scripture and see people’s lives actually transformed. For me, it was part of my conversion and coming to grips with who I was with the seminar, it was more as a guilt trip. Kind of an interesting, it was a long story. That was for me the introduction to biblical counseling and so that shaped my whole Christian experience as well as ministry per se.
This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Our guests George and Eileen Scipione recount how they found each other at the beginning of the biblical counseling movement, share their unique perspective on developing the role of the female counselor and offer advice and wisdom gleaned from 45 years of marriage. George is the founder and former Director of IBCD (formerly CCEF West). He currently serves as Director of the Biblical Counseling Institute for Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.
In the realm of biblical counseling we find that people come and they’ll sit across from us and emotions are very much on the forefront of at least people’s dispositions if you will. What is some of the encouragement or counsel that you would give to somebody who’s a biblical counselor who is potentially dealing with somebody who’s in an emotionally charged situation? What are the things that you’d say hey be aware of this, be cautious of this? Is there some practical insights that you might give just right off the top of your head?
Yeah. I would say that as a biblical counselor, one, we can’t afford to ignore the way people end up feeling. Whether you’re dealing with somebody that needs to forgive somebody or you’re dealing with a person that has uncontrolled anger, the fact is that the emotions play a significant role. You have to be aware not just of faulty thinking patterns or sinful behavior patterns, but how are the emotions at play here? Are they driving the person, which is often the case.
I would say then secondly that we need to be very much aware of the relationship between the way that we think and the way that we feel. At least in my perspective, one of the burdens of biblical counseling is to get people thinking biblically which in turn, I think, helps realign their emotions.
This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Our guest is Brian Borgman from Grace Community Church in Minden Nevada. In this episode our host David Wojnicki and Brian Borgman discuss his book Feelings and Faith and how emotions play an important role when counseling. They also spend some time on Pastor Borgman’s other book, After They Are Yours: The Grace and Grit of Adoption, and discuss how to be compassionate to parents of adopted children. They finish the conversation with Brian expressing his desire for biblical counselors to be engaged in and equipped to address issues regarding same-sex attraction in love and gentleness.
No, I know. It’s just me and the Bible and God. I just latched onto that and that was like, “This is what I’m suppose to be doing.” Now, when I thought about that, I thought just in my little church. I had no clue that what would happen did happen.
Along that line, as you’re looking at Titus 2 and thinking of women who are now empty nesters and understanding Titus 2 are supposed to be pouring into these younger women but maybe they feel like they’re not prepared enough. They haven’t set down when they’re 33 and thought, “This is the trajectory I’m going.” What would you say to them as they find themselves hearing that passage and thinking about their particular stage in life?
I think several things. A godly, mature woman need to understand Bible doctrine and be able to explain it. She needs to, of course, be able to explain the gospel. Just basic doctrine. She also needs to know the specific verses for the women and children and then in the context and how to explain those. Then she just needs to not be selfish. These empty nesters, like me and I’ve been en empty nester for quite a while, they tend to be selfish and they won’t get involved. They’re only playing with their grandchildren or they’ve gone to aerobics. That’s where they are. They’re just not obeying the Lord. I did write a book about this and it’s called Becoming A Titus 2 Woman. It’s for all women: young, single, married or old. They need to be thinking in these terms. I tried, in the book, to tell them how, by God’s grace, that they can practically develop this godly character and then what it looks like to teach and exhort the younger women.
This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Martha Peace joined our host Craig Marshall to discuss her journey to become a biblical counselor, the message she wants to express in her books, and the need to have a high view of God. Martha Peace is a ladies’ Bible teacher and biblical counselor to women through the Faith Biblical Counseling Center located at her home church, Faith Bible Church, Sharpsburg, Georgia. She conducts seminars for ladies and is the author of seven books including The Excellent Wife and Damsels in Distress and co-authored with Stuart Scott, The Faithful Parent. Her latest book co-authored with Pastor Kent Keller is Modesty: More Than a Change of Clothes. Martha worked for eight years as a counselor to women at the Atlanta Biblical Counseling Center. She is currently an adjunct faculty member of The Master’s University. She and her husband, Sanford, have two grown children and twelve grandchildren.
Do you see a danger in having an under-realized eschatology or that this could be taken in that way? How you encountered many people who just throw up their hands and say, “I guess I’m just weak and will always be like this,” type idea?
There is an under-realized eschatology and there are people who make it, yeah, who make it sound as if, “Well, there’s no need to try. Just let go of everything. God has taken care of everything,” and that’s wrong. Again, it doesn’t fit with scripture. You have all of these passages in the Old Testament, New Testament that urge us to try hard, but they’re all wrapped up and intertwined with passages reminding us that it’s God who’s at work in us, and He’s going to complete that work, and that God is sovereign over that process.
One of the key truths in helping people understand God’s work in sanctification is, as you talked about, the imputed righteousness of Christ and the fact that he sees us clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Barb, I know one of the statements you made in Extravagant Grace is “God is not disappointed in you. He cannot be disappointed in you.” How do you explain that, especially in light of passages that are talking about, like 2 Corinthians 5:9 is talking about, “We make it our aim to please God.” You hear that passage and it sounds like the flip side of that would be displeasing God and how does that square with His disappointment or not disappointment?
One point to make in beginning is that in order to be disappointed in someone you have to be naïve. You have to think that they are able and willing to do something they’re actually not able and/or willing to do. The heart of disappointment is naivete, and God is not naïve. God knows our sinful, foul, nasty hearts better than we do and that heart, even though we are a new creation, is still in us. God doesn’t remove that naughty heart when He saves us. God is not naïve about the depths of sin that we are capable of getting into, and neither, and I don’t know that I have time to unfold the whole work of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit works in us, but if God is orchestrating in advance the moments when He’s going to cause you to will and to do according to His good pleasure and then the times when He’s going to not do those things, you’re going to stand in obedience, you’re going to fall when you’re left to yourself.
If He’s orchestrating all of that there’s no room for Him then to be disappointed when He leaves you to your sin. Again, we’ll go back to the Prodigal Son story. Is the father disappointed in the son? Well, I’m sure he’s not happy. He knows exactly what the son is going to do when he gives him the money. One way to decrease the number of sins in the universe at that moment would have been to not give him the money maybe. The kid would have had to stay home and sin in other ways I suppose. You don’t see disappointment and you don’t see anger in the father. You see a very calm leaving of that son to his sin for a period of time and then waiting on the horizon and rejoicing when he comes back.
This interview was recorded live on-site at the 2016 IBCD Summer Institute entitled Disordered Desires: Bringing Grace to Modern Sexuality. Our guest, Sam Allberry, is a pastor and author based in the UK. He is a speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an editor for The Gospel Coalition, and is the author of Is God Anti-Gay?, James For You, and Why Bother with Church? In this episode our host, David Wojnicki, talks with Sam about how he became a pastor. Sam also explains how he can be described as a Christian who experiences same-sex attraction but not be defined by that description. He articulates the need to converse about homosexuality in the context of a gospel framework of repentance and faith. He also explains how the church must provide true family and community for those who are struggling with same-sex attraction and turning from a homosexual lifestyle.
One other quick thing, if I may. The other part of the conversation that has to happen is not just what is the correct sexuality to come in to people, but what do we need to do as a church to make that sexual ethic or viable lifestyle, and to easily, we’re saying to people in a lot of churches that I see, if you’re same sex attracted, you need to be celibate. Actually, in our church, that means you’re going to be really, really lonely. I kind of feel like saying to churches, you can’t call people to celibacy unless you are providing the kind of family and community that the Bible says churches should be.
I’m glad that you mention that because I know that you’ve written on a wide variety of topics. You’ve written on the book of James and then you’ve also, you wrote about the Trinity. I didn’t want this to go by without talking a little bit about that for a minute. Community and the trinity and what that means for life of the Christians. For those that are listening, tell them the name of the book that you wrote, what the theme of that book was and why you wrote it.
The book is called Connected Living in the Light of the Trinity, I think. Yeah that sounds right. I wrote it because I was looking for a book to recommend to people at church on the Trinity that didn’t have any Latin words in and couldn’t find any at that point. I thought, “I’ll write one.” What I was trying to do was to show how understanding that God is Trinity, makes the world of difference to your daily Christian life. It is such a good thing to know and it shapes so much of who we are as His people. Anything we learn about God is going to help us understand ourselves a lot better, because he made us. To know that God is trying, actually that is going to have huge implications for the kind of universe we live in and what discipleship and church life and all these things are going to look like. I was just trying to show how actually this makes a practical, joyful difference day by day to understand these things. It’s not obscure and irrelevant.
I’ll just push it deep. Could you give us one example of something when looking at the triune nature of our God that you said touches the Christian on a day to day level? Or should, at least.
The guy, he teared up and he said, “If what you’re saying is true, I would so love God. I’d go crazy for him.”
I think that’s the rub that the Gospel of God’s grace, his forgiveness for us who are unworthy of that, to really let that in and believe it. If we did let that in and believe it, it sets our hearts ablaze, but it’s actually hard to believe, and once believing it, to then wake up the next morning still believing it, after maybe you failed in some way. It’s like Martin Luther said, he had to beat the doctrine of Justification into the heads of his congregation. That’s what I feel like I need for me in my ministry to others, because it’s tough to believe from a human standpoint. Only God gives us the power to believe it, but then someone you’re talking to may believe it today, but then tomorrow afternoon, they’re not believing it for whatever reason and you got to preach it to them again.
Hearing that answer, that illustration of that couple, I mean, that really gets at the heart of it in so many ways of what the gospel can ignite in a heart when it’s truly understood.
My approach would be first to just let me help you from the bible. That’s what I’m equipped to do. I can use the bible to help you with your spiritual struggles. Then often it’ll be the counselees saying, “You know, maybe I don’t need these anymore.” I would say, “Well, tell your doctor that, ask your doctor if it’d be possible for you to cut back or to go on a process of getting off of the med under his supervision, and do that as a test case to see if you’re okay without it.” I’ve had people who have done that and have gotten off of the meds. The doctors aren’t always thrilled, but it’s not my decision, it’s the counselees decision. Then sometimes they may be afraid to get off of the med, and while in my opinion maybe I wish they’d try, I view that as a matter of their liberty to make that decision.
I just had someone that I was working with the other day who there are lots of marriage struggles that we’d been wrestling with, and kind of having worked through some of those. Then the question came up of, “Hey, I’m on these meds, and they help me with this, but the side effects are this.” Realizing he and his wife kind of never had really talked through that. So it seemed like my role was a lot just to help them think through wisely the pros and cons of using those and the hard issues behind it. Do you think does that seem like a reasonable approach or …?
Sure. There are cons. We’ve already mentioned the side effects. Many of them are undesirable, and some of them go beyond the emotional side effects, the physical side effects. But I would do it in a way where it’s interactive, not, “Get off of this,” but, “How do you feel about this? What do you think about this? How does it affect you?” I would try to point them more also to, “As you grow in learning to trust God more, as you grow spiritually, do you think that some of what you may be causing you to use this may diminish so that you could consider trying without it?”
As we finish out Season 1 of our Care & Discipleship Podcast, Craig talks with Jim and Caroline Newheiser about their move to Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. They discuss what their ministry will look like, how they came to this decision, and about this exciting stage of growth for IBCD. Season 2 of our podcast will launch in August with many great interviews with our speakers from the 2016 Summer Institute.