Tag Archives: Christian

Dealing with controversies amongst believers? Does Acts 15 give us any help?

Find 3 Christians and you will likely hear 4 passionate opinions! And give it time, and they’ll probably start 5 different denominations. Joking aside, since the beginning of the Church, Christians struggle to know how to handle differences in theology and the key questions of each era.

The World Reformed Fellowship has posted a blog I wrote on the question of how we are to handle significant differences in doctrines.

Ever wonder how the arguments might have sounded when the Council of Jerusalem took up the issue of circumcision and whether those uncircumcised (namely Gentiles) could be part of the new church?

“It has always been taught this way since God covenanted with our father Abraham. How can we reject such a central tenet of our faith? Did not God command circumcision for every Jew and every foreigner in our house? And did he not call it an ‘everlasting’ covenant (Gen 17:13)? How can we just drop something like this?”
While such debates are not surprising, I find the council’s response to be quite so.

Check out the res of the post here.

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Filed under Biblical Reflection, conflicts, Doctrine/Theology

When all you see is brokenness…what then? A thought from Jeremiah 29

As a counselor and a Christian it is easy to see that the world is breaking. Suicides. Shootings. Affairs. Cancer. Addiction. Corporate Greed. Abuse. In addition, we hear about

  • Christian leaders who either perpetrate abuse or fail to protect when they hear of it
  • rampant immorality
  • political corruption

When we face these kinds of things, it is easy to fall into one of two unhelpful patterns. For some of us, we fight. We try harder. We attack others with sarcasm. We lay blame at the feet of others. While fighting harder to correct injustice is a good thing; while pointing out blame where it should lie is not a bad thing, the pattern of fighting may reveal a dangerous value system: if I can control my little corner of the world, things will get better. Sometimes this is true but most of the time, the “getting better” motif is an illusion. The wrong kind of fighting usually leads to embitterment.

Others of us choose a pattern of giving up.We stop trying to make a difference because it won’t. We turn down the volume on suffering. We avoid others who are obviously suffering. We move towards embittered discontentment. Now, it is not wrong to turn off the 24/7 “news” and to not read up on every tragedy. It is good not to fill our brains only with brokenness. But, giving up can sometimes lead to lamenting that the “good ole days” were better.

Enter the Prophet Jeremiah

In chapter 29, he writes to those who are experiencing brokenness. Israel is no more. A mass of Jews have been carried off into captivity. They live in a land that is not theirs as foreigners and likely without rights, privilege or land. They have lost connection with the promised land, with family, with language, with custom. Around them would be idol worshippers and a society not built on the Torah. There are some individuals who have been prophesying that in 3 years they will return home to Israel in triumph.

Jeremiah says, “Not so fast. No, you guys will die in captivity.” Well, no, he doesn’t exactly say that. He says it will be 70 years and then you (meaning your children and/or grandchildren) will get to return to the Land.

Nice. Jeremiah responds to their suffering and says, “Yup, it’s bad. And it is going to stay that way.”

But read on because he tells them God has a message for them to hear: (in Phil’s loose translation)

Obey me [the Lord, not Jeremiah]. Because I love you dearly, I will protect your soul. I will be blessing you even though there are dire consequences happening to you. Here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Look for the blessings I am sending you NOW. Don’t overlook them. They are really there for you to find.
  2. Live holy lives, not out of fear, but in confidence that I am keeping my promises to raise of a kingdom for my people.
  3. Live. Don’t put your life on hold. Build houses. Plant gardens. Harvest. Marry. Have kids. Help your kids get married. Enjoy your grandchildren. Be present and rooted where you are at. Live. Enjoy it.

Notice that to live, you have to move, act, have impact, even as you are accepting that you cannot avoid the consequences of living in a fallen world. I think this can be helpful for us in a season of much brokenness. Without denying the suffering that is everywhere, we can also choose to notice the little and the big blessings. We can simplify our lives to, “What do you want me to do today?” We can be mindful of the small activities of life. The grocery store is drudgery. Laundry is never-ending. And yet, we have the opportunity to act in our world and to pray for the peace of the city (as Jeremiah gives encouragement to do).

Maybe your joy is pretty tiny these days. That is okay. Just find it and savor it as a gift from God for the few minutes you have. Not all is broken. In a few days, hours, years, God will indeed put all to rights. Every heartache will become untrue. Still, even now, hang on to the signs of life and growth.


Filed under Biblical Reflection, Christianity, Depression, Despair, Meditations, suffering

2nd Post: Can Your Body Make You Sin?

Over at Biblical Seminary’s Faculty Blog you can read my second of two posts on the topic of bodily weakness, sin, and culpability. I conclude with the realization that there is something more important in this conversation than ascribing blame or parsing fault.

I’m curious about your thoughts. How much does culpability really matter when determining your response to those whose bodies seem to cause them to sin?

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Filed under counseling, Doctrine/Theology, Psychology, Uncategorized

2 Reasons Why Every Church Needs an Abuse Response Plan

We all know that we shouldn’t wait until our house is on fire to purchase insurance on our home. We all know that a will is necessary before we die. But, do you know that most churches do not have any plan to deal with an allegation of child or adult abuse? While no plan is foolproof and almost every abuse allegation contains unique features requiring difficult decision-making, a basic plan usually contains directions for who will make sure plans are carried out and how the church will handle both victim and offender.

Why Don’t Churches Have a Plan?

Maybe one of the reasons many churches fail to have a plan is that they aren’t really convinced a plan is central to the work of the Gospel–as central as a doctrinal statement or the preaching of the Word. Maybe such a plan is seen as a necessary evil like unto car insurance, something you know you should have but are annoyed to pay such a large bill even though you haven’t needed to use the benefit.

2 Better Reasons!

Read my faculty post here  over at www.biblical.edu for 2 Gospel reasons why every Christian organization needs an abuse response plan.


Filed under Abuse, biblical counseling, christian counseling, church and culture, counseling, pastors and pastoring, Psychology

Must Read: Diane Langberg on “Trauma as a Mission Field”

My supervisor, mentor, and colleague, Dr. Diane Langberg has been telling us for some time that “trauma is the mission field of our time.” Recently, however, a few Christian NGO/Missions leaders have heard this line in one of her talks and have become electrified by it. I cited it last week in a board meeting at Biblical as I was trying to make the case that developing postgraduate trauma training at Biblical fits our mission: following Jesus into the world.

But, some of you have not heard her give one of these talks. For you, I point you to the World Reformed Fellowship website so you can read a report she made on June 5 regarding the problem of trauma and the opportunity of the church to have a hand in healing this man-made scourge. Below is an excerpt of that short report. Do go to the WRF link and read it in its entirety. The report is not long but it is powerful and includes a couple of specific comments from two leaders in Africa.

We are the church. That means we are the body of Jesus Christ and He is our Head. In the physical realm, a body that does not follow its head is a sick body. That is also true in the spiritual realm. We are His people and I believe with all my heart He has called us to go out of ourselves and follow Him into the suffering of this world bearing both His character and His Word. And we do go – we send missionaries and the Scriptures; we provide food, clean water, education and jobs for many. And we should. We have rarely, however, seen trauma as a place of service. If we think carefully about the extensive natural disasters in our time such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis and combine those victims with the many manmade disasters – the violent inner cities, wars, genocides, trafficking, rapes, and child abuse we would have a staggering number. I believe that if we would stop and look out on suffering humanity we would begin to realize that trauma is perhaps the greatest mission field of the 21st century.


Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, Congo, counseling, counseling skills, Diane Langberg, Great Quotes, missional, Missional Church, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rwanda

Trafficking and Abuse Conference: Next Steps?

Posted at the conference website are a list of “Top Ten” next steps you can do following the conference. The point is not to be hearers only but also doers. Most of us aren’t going to be in the rescue business like IJM and probably most of us won’t be doing 10 years of intensive therapy with complex trauma victims. BUT, we all can do our part. So, even if you didn’t attend the conference…you can do something. As Bob Morrison said…”if you have no experience, no money, and no time…then you are perfect to be doing something about the problem of trafficking.”

DVDs can be purchased here.

The conference ended with a panel discussion. I was the emcee and collected a large grouping of questions. I won’t list them all here but let me give you the categories:

1. Victim questions. How to help as a counselor? As a pastor? What to do if you have been one and never came forward?

2. Church questions. Best policies to deal with offenders and victims? How to sensitize male leadership? How to address the problem of spiritual abuse?Aren’t victims who have sex with the pastor responsible, at least in part?

3. Spouse questions. What if you didn’t abuse your wife but she cannot tolerate intimacy? What is the best way to help as a spouse?

4. Offender questions. Can offenders be restored? What should the church role be? Are there any Christian offender programs out there?

Interesting set of questions. Good discussion. You can see the answers to some of these on the DVD.


Filed under Abuse, Biblical Seminary

Christian anxieties?

In light of the holiday stresses and anxieties, I bring you a couple of thoughts regarding “Christian” anxiety.

Everyone faces anxiety at times in their life (unless you lost your amygdala) But some anxieties are unique to evangelical Christians:

1. What if I am out of God’s will? What if I make the wrong choice?

2. What if I committed the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

3. What if I am missing out on the blessing of God? What does it mean if I don’t feel thankful?

4. What if God wants me to stay in this awful situation? What if my situation is God’s punishment for previous sins?

5. What if I’m not sure I believe? Am saved? Have faith?

6. Is God holding out on me because I have weak faith?

I’m sure there are more you could list (feel free to add to this!) that are unique to Christians.

When working with someone struggling with these kinds of intrusive spiritual fears (aren’t all fears intrusive?), I have noted that they often

  • struggle with frequent guilt
  • are comforted by voices around them telling them that they are okay…but the comfort doesn’t last very long as cognitive efforts to convince them they are wrong fail
  • work very hard to do Christian service–sometimes to the point of compulsion

If you or someone you love struggles with these fears consider the following recommendations

1. Listen for the deepest concern. What if’s are almost always present in anxiety. What if I’m not saved? What if God isn’t going to give me my desires? Instead of responding to the surface fear, listen between the lines for deeper concerns (without debating them). For example, fears about not being sure about faith may really be a deep sensation of guilt and or failure to be perfect.

2. Validate AND encourage re-evaluation of the meaning of the fears. Always begin with validation—communicating that (a) it is clear the counselee has a real problem that needs attention, (b) such concerns are painful, BUT—and this is important—, (c) it might be possible that they have mis-identified their spiritual problem. Fear tends to deceive the mind and misdirect attention away from more important matters (e.g., a worry about germs focuses attention on cleanliness but away from underlying fears of being out of control).

3. Counter fear with STOP and MEDITATE techniques. Most people have their self-soothing techniques. Unfortunately, some of these can add to the anxiety. For example, repetitive “Lord save me” prayers will only lead to more belief that you may not be saved. Look for these repeated responses to fear and try to stop them–even if they seem rather religious in nature. Instead, look to meditate on some other part of the bible or of the character of God–something completely out of the orbit of the fear.

4. Develop alternate goals. Most anxious people would like not to be so. Who can blame them? But eliminating anxious spiritual thoughts may not be a good goal. And, the efforts to do so may only increase the spiritual angst. Yes, medication and preceding efforts may reduce anxiety, often the fears remain active in the background. An alternate goal might include (a) resisting the old dialog that engages the fear as important, (b) choosing to use the stimulus of the fear to focus on a specific person in need (a shut-in who needs a call, praying for someone else, etc.). These alternate tasks will reduce the anxious person’s thoughts about self…and thus reduce their anxiety.

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Filed under Anxiety, christian counseling, christian psychology, counseling, counseling skills, Uncategorized