I just think that this is really one of the most practical and helpful conferences that there is. IBCD itself is just a treasure trove of resources. You can go to the website there’s … You know you can just … You’re dealing with something, you can have people listen, you can listen yourself, and so I love what you guys do and, of course, love what George and Jim have built into this over the years. I personally have profited from it. People in our church have profited from it. We’ve done levels one and two for Sunday school, for the care and discipleship. I just see this as really just sort of a hands on equipping type ministry.
Thanks so much for your contributions to that content as well. Having you come and speak and the way you open the word on these topics. I know it’s always, it’s fun for me as we think about a conference theme and then you and I talk a little bit and what aspects need addressed and you’re always willing to tackle something and see what the scriptures have to say about that, especially with the pastoral one another component of it. That’s really helpful.
Then your writings, Viewings In Faith and Spiritual Warfare, they’ve just been really helpful in pastoral counseling settings. Really appreciate having you on the team that was as well. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’ll be talking about at this year’s conference?
Well, if you remember rightly, Craig, I tried to bow out of actually doing anything this year, but our mutual friend brought a little pressure to bear. The breakout session is going to be on pastoral lessons on dealing with addictions. Basically when you and I had talked about that as a workshop I though “Oh well that’d be great.” Well, then I started trying to put it together and it was really hard because there’s a lot of stuff that you realize we did that wrong, we did that wrong. So what I decided to do to kind of help prepare for this is three people that had been in drug or alcohol addiction that had, all three had been under church discipline. All three, or two of the three had actually been excommunicated. They ended up being restored, repented and restored to the church.
I sat down with each of them and just asked them a series of questions, just interviewed them. You know, how did you get into it, all the questions dealing with the sin itself to what did the church do that was helpful, what did the church do that was not helpful. Once I started to put that together and see the way that these answers were sort of jelling, then it became a little more clear as to the direction that I would take.
What are some of the things you come up against most frequently that they’re seen differently? What are some of the most common things, especially for people listening who just aren’t familiar with all the ins and outs of those dynamics?
The way that the world counsels is therapy and medicine. That’s what their hope is in and that, somehow, you’ll magically find the answers within your own self. We know the answers come from God’s word and by his spirit. That’s what changes one’s heart, motives, and desires.
They just believe that you help the girls, you get them on medicine, and you create a safe environment for them, which we want that, as well, but then their method of change is not one that brings, really, any lasting hope. It labels them. It gives them medicine. It keeps them, I think, from finding the freedom that’s available in Christ.
We’re going to do counseling. The world says do counseling. We’re going to do it in a Biblical way and offer them anger management skills, but do it in a Biblical way. Everything that the world has to offer, we can offer in a Christ centered, gospel-centric way.
I had a question. I’ve actually had the opportunity to supervise people who are your interns, I think, or one who’s your intern at Vision of Hope. One thing that impressed me is, those people are working … I gave the analogy, “You’re not working the maternity ward, you’re working in the trauma unit.” I would assume you’re dealing with addictions, you’re dealing with the really hard cases.
I guess I’d have two questions. One would be, how do you keep yourself and others encouraged, because I’m sure there are a lot of cases where people continue in their sin, which is not your failure, but how do you keep people going? What kinds of successes are you seeing?
Yeah, the first one is tricky, because we kind of ebb and flow. Whenever a resident leaves the program, whether they leave in rebellion or we have to dismiss them, and dismissals are usually for reasons where they’re not safe, or they’re not helping keep other people safe, they’re putting them in danger … Whenever someone leaves, it’s always a dagger to the heart of the girls that I supervise. It is tough.
We have a weekly staff meeting, which I think is as important for relationship and encouragement as it is to cover the business of the week. We communicate well. You have to stay on the scriptures. You have to understand that some people get more connected to certain counselee in our place than others.
I think that’s my role, is to shepherd this group of ladies to help them to not take it so hard when someone leaves or there’s a failure. We do see a lot of that. We do have about a 30% graduation rate, which is great. I compare that … The world’s graduation rate, there’s a 45% success rate for 90 day programs. Typically, our girls are in our program 18 months or so, so we’re talking about a year and a half versus three months and we have a 30% graduation rate.
We think that’s a tremendous success rate and we’re thankful for that, but you do have to encourage each other. Hebrews talks about that, encouraging one another every day, exhorting one another daily. I think that has to happen in an environment like you described, because you nailed it on the head. That’s exactly what we deal with.
I’d like to have a follow-up question, Ed, because sometimes ordinary counselors like ourselves, where they go, this is the guy that’s written all the books, he’s at CCEF, so probably all of his cases at least goes well as you just described. But I would guess that there might be some cases that don’t go as well, and how do you handle that?
That’s a nasty question, Jim.
But you said his questions were nice, and now mine is nasty.
Yeah. It’s … Yeah, that’s a great question. I have a drawer that I lock that has a lot of files in it from people that I’ve seen. I do different things with that file cabinet. One is sometimes I’ll call people, if I have a few extra minutes, people I haven’t seen for a couple of years I call just to see what’s happened, and more often than not, you see him who began this good work has continued it.
Yet, at the same time, there are a lot of files there where people I’ve seen once or twice and didn’t come back or people I saw for a longer period of time and they didn’t go back. It becomes an opportunity to pray for frankly lots of people. I couldn’t give you percentages of how that goes, but that’s certainly … I should say my particular counseling, there’s two different ways I do counseling. One is in the context of my church where it’s pursuing people, it’s having them over for a meal, it’s getting together for coffee, it’s getting together before church or after church. The other counseling is the actual more professional, people are paying. And you would think when people are paying to come, they would be fairly eager to really do something, and they’re coming to a Christian counseling center, but that’s not necessarily the case.
Going back to what I said before about how there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being encouraged by seeing the spirit and moving somebody’s life, there’s probably not a day that goes by without me being weighted down by a person who’s unmoved by the truth of Christ and persist typically in a habit of blaming everybody else around them.
I’m intrigued as well by you talking about batting average. And I’ll sometimes tell people that even one blade of grass on the moon is a miracle. And even one person like this transformed from a person of anger and judgment to becoming a person of grace and love is a miracle. So tell us in terms of what kind of positive results do you see? I don’t know if you have percentages? Or instances of … How have you seen this happen since a lot of us probably haven’t seen many cases where it’s happened?
So I think you’re going to look at a few different things. So let’s just do the statistical rubrics which don’t tell us a whole lot about the heart. But interventions, statistically, has a higher or I should say a lower rate of recidivism. So a man convicted of a crime who completes a course similar to ours in anything, even biblical or not, has a lower rate of recidivism. Even self-reflection helps the behavior.
But as far as transformation, that’s something that is observed over time. So one of the passages I like to use when I’m talking with pastors about this because one of the things in biblical counseling is that, I think, some of us have been pre-programmed to, “Well, if this takes longer than eight weeks, then it’s not worth my time.” And this type of work is not an eight week work.
I mean I tell pastors, when we’re doing consulting stuff, that we should plan for at least a year of work. That’s really a conservative estimate. Because I like to use Ephesians 4, the idea of, “When’s a liar no longer a liar? When’s a thief no longer a thief?” Paul communicates that, for instance with the thief, he’s no longer a thief when he has a job and he’s become generous. That doesn’t happen after a couple weeks of counseling, right? He’s got to build an income. He’s got to be demonstrative in his generosity so over time, people can see it. I think the same’s true in our work.
So we can look at recidivism and say, “Okay, it works that way.” We can look at behavior change and say, “Okay, he’s not as violent and people at home seem to be safe.” But the really filter has to be transformation. In order to see that, we have to watch over time, as you just said a second ago. Has he moved from a person of violence to a person of gentleness? Has he moved from a person who exercises privilege as a husband to somebody who exercises leadership as a husband? And that’s only going to be observable over time.
I think those are the marks of transformation, is giving him every opportunity to succeed and then holding him accountable when he doesn’t.
One problem I’ve seen in cases of angry and violent men is worldly sorrow too.
Where you get enough pressure and for a period of time, the behavior will change but it’s only the Spirit who can move someone from the deeds of the flesh to the fruit of the spirit.
That’s a good observation. So two things there. One as I’m doing training, I often talk about the pivot point of repentance. We tend to like that in the Church when someone says, “Yes, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.” And we can be guilty of then dropping the ball there in saying, “Oh good, everything’s good.” But that’s just the turning point and we need this eventual, observable repentance, that fruit of repentance over time.
The second thing that I like to say is that pithy little statement, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” And then I say, “But you can’t feed him crackers.” We can’t force anyone to do anything and that worldly sorrow can come by pressure along. But Godly sorrow comes only after a man is thirsty enough to see not just the how dastardly his choices were in the past, but how amazing the opportunity is in the future. And so I want to see men become so thirsty to be the type of man that God’s designed him to be that they abandon that old way and they embrace the new way. So yeah, that’s a wonderful observation.
And the key to that in many ways, is time and then avoiding hoops for an individual to jump through. So we don’t just want things to check off the list when we hold men accountable. We want concrete measurable, observable steps in spiritual development.
So yeah, he might be a Bible scholar now because he’s reading his Bible every day but is there a gap between that as practical theology? Evaluating that, and again guys, this comes back to how positioned biblical counselors are at this. We’ve been doing this with other things for so long. We’re really positioned to speak into this maybe better than any other field I know.
We should go back to where it begins, study how Christ leads you and how Christ loves you, and the visual picture of Jesus washing the disciples feet is very important. Many men have a horrible misconception of what it is to lead, as if lead means I can be selfish and she can’t do anything about it that is anti-Christ-like. It’s a disgrace that men think that’s what Christian leadership is and it gives those of us who believe in a male headship and the wives submitting, gives us all a bad name that there are men out there who think leadership, “I’m the boss and everybody else has to do what I want.” Leadership is making sacrifices. Again, leadership is losing what is best to the glory of God, for the good of your family, not I get what I want. Again, that’s why needs to go spiritual that he has a passion for the glory of God.
Sometimes, leadership will be leading your family in a direction your wife may not take as a her first choice but you are not doing it because that’s what you want. You are doing it because that’s how you believe you can best serve God and serve your family, to make that concrete, maybe your wife would really love to have a new car of a certain kind but you believe based on Biblical principle it would be financially irresponsible to do so, you may have to deny her that. Maybe the church you think the family should be going to isn’t the one she does but you have reasons why doctrinally or practically you think this is the better option, what would be ungodly would be to say, “I’m going to buy myself the fancy new sports car and you are going to drive around in the piece of junk.” That’s what many men treat as leadership. Sometimes leadership is, as best I can tell, I need to do this. Again, the motivation is for the glory of God, to follow the scriptures, not an act of selfishness which is an anti-Christ-like act.
A follow up related to this is, how can this husband help his wife understand that it’s not okay to belittle him in front of the children? It sounds like there is some criticism that’s coming out in front of the children, maybe in front of others. How do you deal with that lovingly as a husband?
The passages that come to mind are in Matthew 7 where Jesus says, “You need to get the log out of your own eye before you take the splinter out of your brother or your sister’s eye.” I would, if I were talking to that man I would ask him what are the log’s that you need to get out?” Jesus says, “When you’ve got the logs out, go get her splinter out as best as you can but what is she saying, even her criticism, even if she’s doing it in an ungodly way in front of the kids or in a sarcastic or unkind way, if there is truth, it’s between you and God and it’s sin and you need to do it with her. Maybe there are other issues that she’s not bringing up in front of the kids. First, repent before God then confess that to your wife and actually make a commitment as God helps you to change and then you can go to her. Matthew eighteen also gives an example, if your sister or your brothers stand against you, you first go to them.
Galatians 6 says you go gently for the purpose of restoring them. It’s not like I’ve had it with you criticizing me in front of the kids, and you criticize her back in front of the kids or you vent your anger to her privately so the kids hear you yelling through the door. It’s a matter of she has fallen into sin by doing this, probably she knows she’s sinning. If you come alongside and say, “I know I’ve sinned against you in these ways, I know that’s been very hard for you and I need your forgiveness.” I think you probably know you shouldn’t have done that in front of the kids. I would like you to ask you to forgive me for mine but also would you please in the future if you have a problem let’s talk privately and I admit that, I don’t know the details. There are a lot of situations, the wife says, should be, “I’ve been trying to tell him privately and I got so upset I couldn’t control myself.” For the spirit self-control that’s not an excuse but that is the way she lived it.
Have you been listening, have you tempted her to this? Then, you said, it, “I love you, I want our relationship to be better, I realize I’ve contributed to this and I want to forgive you,” to restore the relationship and not just to … One thing about the question is there is not really anything in the question that says, “This person sins,” their sin is being an important part of the problem.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”