Biblical Counseling

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If You Love Me…

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15 (NIV)

The Lord expects us to display our love for Him, and it is to be a daily demonstration in the life of the Christian.

Those who believe Jesus is the Christ are born of God, and those people will love God and love their fellow believers. It is impossible for an unbeliever to truly love God, because they are not capable of it.

One of the displays of our love and affection toward God comes in the form of obedience. Obedience is one of the things God commands of His children. We know it is important because the command to obey the Lord and His Word appears more than 30 times in the New Testament alone! When we love Him we will obey His commands to respond in love toward Him and also to love others.

If you are like me, you struggle with obedience. I have a really hard time obeying in every incidence, even when I know I should. I suspect there are times I allow my emotions to rule over my theological understanding, and so I decide to do what I want to do, rather than following the Scriptures. Those are decisions and choices I think we face multiple times a day! In fact, there are times when disobedience becomes habitual and my heart becomes calloused in a particular area. It is for this reason that regular self-examination is needed.

There is nothing like a time of self-examination to bring humility into my life. Sitting with the Lord and asking Him to open my heart before Him as David did:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way. Psalm 139:23-24 (NASB)

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind Psalm 26:2 (NASB)

I also take time to consider my interactions with others; has a friend commented on something I said or did as not being very Christ-like? Did I react or did I respond with gracious consideration? I am bound by my love for God to consider if those who rebuke or correct me are acting as “Nathan’s” in my life (2 Samuel 12). Are they God’s mouthpiece in those moments?

If you are unsure if someone has pointed out sin or their preference, go to the Word for clarification. It is important to note that we are not bound to obey someone’s extra-biblical expectation, but to obey God’s clearly laid out commands in the Bible.

Perhaps your conviction is heavy by this point in your reading. I don’t mean to add to your burden, but to reveal it and to help you to lighten your load (Galatians 6:1-2). It is so important that we confess our sin to God, and that our known sin is confessed prior to partaking in the communion elements. We must not make light of the sacrifice of the Lord’s sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:27-30), so agree with Him where sin is present in your life. Take that opportunity to move forward in the grace that He provides.

All of these are disciplines of the Christian life and should be a regular part of your sanctification journey. If you are having a “dry spell” in your spiritual life, you are slipping into old behavior patterns as a result or if the fires are burning low, ask the Lord to examine your heart for disobedience.

With confession and repentance, you will find you have a renewed desire to love, serve, and obey the Lord. You may experience a passionate ignition for the Word and for righteousness as a result. He is faithful to reward those who seek Him.  Spend some time today in self-examination, and remember to express your love for Him.

Finding Hope in Hopeless Situations

My daily meetings with women make it clear that many of you are living with circumstances that you believe are beyond your ability to tolerate.

My goal is to give you hope. Hope is at the center of the gospel story! Hope is found in the resurrection. We must always remember to give hope to people in desperate circumstances. A lack of hope is the reason people commit suicide. They can see no way out, and no change looms on the horizon, so they choose a permanent solution to what they do not understand is truly a temporary situation. I am not being insensitive here, but suicide is not God’s will or His way of handling any situation, no matter how hopeless it appears.

We face many things that feel hopeless; abuse, rape, drunkenness, and so on. Even in these horrible circumstances, hope can be found. One woman told me that her sexual assault was what brought her to Christ, another said her family history of drunkenness and being shuffled to relatives all around the country is what exposed her to the gospel.

Last week I wrote an article about how means all things for the good of the Christian. He allows things for the purpose of our being conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). What a source of hope and security these two verses are! No matter what challenge, pain, or hurt we face along the way, we can be confident that God is using it to prosper us in some way. It is for this reason that I can say with confidence that God is concerned with how we go through things. This is an anchor in the storms of life to know that God is at work for our ultimate good and the fulfillment of His good promises.

When we find security in the God we know and love, we also see with eyes of faith beyond the sorrow and suffering we are experiencing.  We can see the Father who never forgets His child, His plan, or His purposes.

When we take our eyes off the Lord and focus on the present hurt or circumstance, the result is insecurity. We forget the big picture of sanctification and are swallowed up by the fears and fantasies of our minds. This brings hopelessness and even panic. We lose sight of the God of the universe as sovereign and omnipotent, and we begin to think of Him as confused and impotent!

If you have lost your focus begin by returning to the Word and diligent prayer. Suffering and hardship cannot bring our lives to a grinding halt; we must adjust and move on. We must take the initiative and do whatever we can do humanly speaking as well, and then leave the rest to the Lord.

As you read the Word, you will begin to think as He thinks. You will begin to desire what He desires and this will lead you to Christ-like responses.

If this seems impossible to you, I would ask you to consider the type of input that may be affecting your attitude. If you spend more time watching television and reading books and only a few minutes (or no minutes) reading the Bible, you will not see God’s purpose or plan for you. It’s just not possible to respond with a godly response when you have little to no godly input.

Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday… Psalm 37:4-6 (NASB)

Commit your life to Him, not only on Sunday or when it is convenient; do it every day of your life. Trust God to take over your world, your home, your children, job, and anything else that you have and do. When you actively and joyfully do this, He will direct your thoughts, plans, and dreams for the day. Yield to Him all that He has graciously allowed you to have and be a steward over. He is completely trustworthy, and loves you deeply.

Yielding also means being flexible. Pray, and submit your plan to God for His approval. Remember that He is the Author of your days, and if He changes your plans seek to see His hand in the new plan and submit to His will. It is not important why God does this, just graciously submit to His will with thanksgiving.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

Julie is the Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

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Be Encouraged to Persevere

Life in this sin cursed world can be downright difficult at times. One of my favorite go-to verses on these occasions is Psalm 42:11, “Why are you in despair O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” “Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him” are words to cling too! There will, in the future, be cause to rejoice even though my soul is, at the moment, grieved to the point of despair. The last part of the verse says:  the help of my countenance and my God” – the God who gives us hope even helps our countenance!

When you were a child, did you ever play with those colorful magnetic letters? I did. I decided to put them to use again when I became a mom. Growing up my dad used to remind me, on a regular basis, that I needed to preach to myself. We are blessed, as a church, to have a pastor and elders who do the same thing for us. Our emotions can’t be trusted, they are so easily effected by our circumstances, but God’s word can be trusted!  It needs to be our focus, our meditation, our trust, and our confidence so we can persevere. “Persevere” is a word I have on my refrigerator, written in magnetic letters, as a reminder that I must keep pressing on and “keep believing” as Pastor Tim so often reminds us. “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9). Verse 10 goes on to say…”so then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith”(Galatians 6:10). When we are doing good things for others, especially our fellow believers, it helps us take our eyes off our circumstances. This in turn reminds us that it is the Lord Christ we serve (Colossians 3:24) and in serving others we serve Him.

As Christians we are engaged in a battle. Paul reminds us of whose strength we fight in, of our armor and the importance of prayer in Ephesians 6:10-18:

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of the wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”

Paul then reminds us of what prayer can accomplish in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”  Our battle is waged in the mind! In Romans 8:6 we are told, “the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” and in the book of Isaiah 26:3-4 we see that “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for in GOD the LORD, we have an everlasting Rock.”

I find singing and meditating on hymns that contain sound doctrine is another way to focus my mind on the truth of God’s word. Two of my favorites are Solid Rock by Edward Mote and He Giveth More Grace by Annie Johnson Flint. The second verse of He Giveth More Grace says…”When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength has failed ere the day is half done, when we reach the end of our hoarded resources, our Fathers full giving is only begun.”

Let us keep our minds fixed on the white part of the rope which extends throughout eternity and not the small red part which represents our short life here on earth. (In case you missed it, check out Pastor Tim’s Easter Sunday sermon on Sermon Audio)., so that we can one day say with the Apostle Paul:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

“Now may the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.

 

Jackie Rebiger is a member of FCC.  She and her husband, Scott, have ten children and five grandchildren.

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You Are Never Boxed In!

By Garet Halbert

All believers battle sin. We all struggle to be and do as we ought in Christ because the desires of the old nature still linger in deepest recesses of our inner being. Whether you have been a Christian for a day or five decades, the Christian life of holiness is always a battle (though it does get easier the longer you’ve been fighting).

So in this struggle with sin, there will be times when we fall short of the desires and expectations He has for us. And in those low moments of sin, we tend to dwell on the causes of our sin. Often when we fall into sin and are either confronted by a fellow church member or convicted by the Spirit of God, the first thing we do is we justify what happened. What I mean by this is that we explain the events leading up to the sin and justify that our actions were caused by those circumstances. Maybe you are struggling with a porn addiction and you are thinking “I wouldn’t look at porn if I was (married, my spouse wasn’t so distant, or whatever your circumstance might be).” Maybe you are struggling with bitterness and covetousness towards others. “ I wouldn’t be so bitter if she would just admit she’s wrong” or “I wouldn’t be so covetous if I could find a job that pays more.” Whatever your struggle might be, the problem that we have is that we justify our sins.  Often we are more concerned with the circumstance than the sin itself. In a word, we act as though our sin happened because we were boxed in and had no other option than to do what we did (or maybe what we are doing even now).

Jay Adams, in his book Competent to Counsel, tells a story of a woman who has an irresponsible husband, struggles as a mother, and ongoing financial stress. In her struggle, she essentially shuts herself off and begins to neglect her responsibilities as a wife and mother. In counseling, the woman says, “ I can’t go on; I can’t take it any longer—I’m in a box and I can’t get out.” Here we see a woman heavy ladened with familial struggles, and she goes numb to her family because she feels she’s “in a box” and has no other choice and cannot go on. Though a tragic situation, the truth is she’s justifying what she’s doing by the circumstance she’s in. Maybe you are just like this woman. “I was boxed in…I wouldn’t have made that choice if weren’t for ________(fill it the blank).” We’ve all been there.

The problem with this thinking, as Christians, is that we are never boxed in. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” [emphasis added]. As Christians, one of the greatest promises God has given us concerning temptation is that there will always be a way of escape.

Brothers and Sisters, we are never boxed in! As Jay Adams said, “she needed to understand that God provides ‘a way of escape’ with every trial.” And he went on to say, “Christians are never in a box. God can make the walls of the box fall flat like the walls of Jericho; he can open the lid and reach down with his mighty hand and support one through the test; or he can make the bottom fall out. Whatever way of escape God may provide…we may trust that the way out will come as surely as the problem itself.”

What Dr. Adams said in this counseling session is something we all need to hear in light of our struggles. We can be sure temptation will come, but we can also be sure that the way of escape will be there too.

Now to some, telling a struggling wife and mother that she shouldn’t be acting the way she was regardless of her circumstances, is not the right way to address her. That by correcting her you are going to discourage her. There is some truth to that. There is a good chance the woman would be discouraged at this correction, but in all honesty, to confront her wrong thinking by telling her she is never boxed in as a believer is more encouraging than anything else you could tell her! Though the words “we shouldn’t let our circumstances dictate our actions” might seem like cow prods, in truth, they are the most healing words you could ever hear. You are not controlled by the things around you! You don’t have to sin when you are in those situations! Christian, you are never boxed in!

So next time when you are struggling and you think you have no other choice than to sin, remember that way of escape is as sure as the temptation itself. Your God is faithful and He will provide for you, that you may endure whatever comes your way. There is much hope in the fact that as Christians, we are never boxed in when it comes to struggles and temptations. Let the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 be with you next time you feel boxed in by your circumstances, for as Christians we never truly are.

Garet Halbert is a member of FCC and serves as an Elder in Training. He and his wife, Heidi, have two little girls, Selah and Sophia.

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What Is Biblical Counseling?

By Julie Ganschow

I think people in the church often have the wrong idea about what discipleship counseling is. At Reigning Grace Counseling Center, we use the term “biblical counseling” more for those outside the church than in it. Because we live in such a therapy-minded society, the word “counseling” is attractive to those in our community, giving us an appeal to those who are looking for spiritual answers and guidance. However, biblical counseling and discipleship is nothing like secular therapies or even so-called “Christian counseling.”

Biblical counseling is a term that is often used for intensive biblical discipleship. The original phrase was “nouthetic counseling,” from the Greek verb noutheteo which means “to admonish, to warn, to teach or to counsel.” That term was coined by Dr. Jay Adams in the 1970s when, thanks to him, soul care began to return to the church. The word is found in numerous passages of Scripture and describes the manner in which we are to counsel and help other Christians.

I am afraid there is a great misunderstanding about the role of the biblical counselor in our larger church world. What we do is biblical discipleship – mentoring! We develop relationships based on Romans 15:14, 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Galatians 6 and numerous other passages of Scripture. These are relationships in which two people sit down together and engage in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training each other in righteousness, that they may be complete and holy before God. It is a mutual edification process.

Sometimes discipleship is general and takes place in an informal manner, like meeting in a coffee shop or over lunch. Perhaps a woman just needs to know how to handle a simple or maybe not so simple issue that she’s dealing with. The person who is called a biblical counselor is trained for that. Other times the issues people face are very large and complicated and require a more formal meeting in the office. The biblical counselor is also equipped for that. In addition, we also meet with couples who are facing a particular area that is troublesome in their marriage, and we help parents know how to biblically disciple their children. We use targeted studies, and teach them how to make personal application of biblical materials that are designed to address particular issues in life. Our training is in the skillful use of the Scriptures applied to the heart, and we know that is what brings about change in a person’s life

I will say it again; Biblical counseling is discipleship! Discipleship is biblical counseling! There are times I wish the word counseling wasn’t even used. I know people in the church are fearful of coming to see us because there is a stigma that goes along with seeing “The Counselor.” Other’s don’t come because they don’t think their problem or concern is bad enough to see “The Counselor.”

I would like to discourage the idea that biblical counseling is “only for people who have serious problems.” Yes, we do crisis counseling but don’t wait until it gets that bad! History has shown us that if people would seek us out for mentoring or discipleship before things got to a crisis level, they would find things are 1) more manageable 2) there are less complicating problems, and 3) take much less time to address or resolve. Waiting until an issue hits critical mass is never recommended in any area of life. The old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is certainly true when it comes to issues in our lives.

People who do biblical discipleship counseling care about others. We want to help. We are a resource! People sometimes get the idea that because there are small costs associated with visiting a biblical discipleship counselor that we are professionals. One of my favorite lines was spoken by Dr. Heath Lambert who is the executive director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselor’s at a conference that I attended a year ago. He said to us, “Brothers and sisters, we are not professionals.” While every biblical counselor strives to be as knowledgeable as he or she can be, our role is primarily ministerial. We minister to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and we evangelize the lost.

It is true that everyone of us has specialized training, and I think you want that! You want someone who knows how to rightly handle the Word of God, and you want them to know how the Word addresses your problem. And more than that, you want them to be able to show you how the Bible addresses your problem, and how to change. We have been trained in theology and methodology that enables us to help people apply Scripture and biblical principles to the problems, concerns, and issues that we all face in life. We help people to realize that Scripture applied to the heart is what brings about changes in a person’s life.

Some people don’t think it’s right that discipleship counseling has any fees at all. Every one of us has been through years and years of training. All of it at our own expense. The Bible says that a worthy laborer is worth his wages, and anyone who does biblical counseling and discipleship will tell you that they are not getting rich off what they are doing. Those biblical counseling centers’ that have fees don’t exist for profit, they have fees because they would not be able to provide ministry if they didn’t! Very few are supported by their church’s budget. Many times the fees they charge are not paid to any salary but go toward expenses from running an office. If they can’t keep the lights on or pay the rent, they won’t be of much help to anyone.

So, what is biblical counseling? It is a one-to-one discipleship relationship where one Christian comes alongside another, using the Word of God to help them with issues and problems they are facing in their lives. If you could use some help navigating the storms and swells you are in the midst of, We would be glad to help.

Julie Ganschow is a member of FCC and Director of FCC’s counseling ministry, Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

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How Can I Change?

by Julie Ganschow

As a counselor, most people who come to me for help are looking for a change. Those in relationship counseling are usually looking for the other person to change. Those in individual counseling are often looking for their circumstances or feelings to change, and they don’t know how to make that happen.

In 1 Corinthians 6:9 and Galatians 5:19-22 we find lists of ugly issues that are typical as presenting problems in a biblical counseling relationship. (These, of course, are not the only two places in the Bible we find sinful habits listed). While you may want to believe that your particular sin is new or unique, the Bible does cover all of the heart-level sins known to man. We vary in how each of us acts out our sin, but honestly, there is no new sin under the sun. This is excellent news for sinners! The problem you bring to the table can be completely different, yet the cause of sin is identical.

Battling Besetting Sins

Every one of us can become habituated to one or more kinds of sin. Another way of thinking about habitual sin might be found in an older term: besetting sin. Our sinful habits develop when we do something so frequently that it becomes an automatic, comfortable pattern of living. It becomes an automatic behavior, such as the woman who habitually overeats chocolate or cake when she is feeling sad or lonely.

There’s no machine for heart change.

She is told by well-meaning people that she has a disease such as Compulsive Overeating. She might be prescribed an anti-depressant and told to attend a self-help group. These responses remove her responsibility for her actions and steal her hope. However, identifying these behaviors biblically can give her tremendous hope when she learns that her eating too much of the wrong kinds of food have become habits that can be unlearned. Taking medication will not help a person put off a sinful habit, but by employing the process of biblical change, with practice, she will change and restructure her life in a manner that glorifies God.

It is important to realize that such habits did not develop overnight, and new habits will not become automatic overnight. Biblical change takes time and practice. It takes time for someone who is habituated to a particular sin to transform and begin to consistently demonstrate new attitudes and actions.

Biblical Process of Change

The key to real and lasting change is found in the biblical process of putting off and putting on presented in Ephesians 4:22 – 24. As you read through the Bible, you will find a number of verses that inform us in one way or another about disciplining ourselves for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7; Colossians 1:29; 1 Timothy 6:11). Part of the process that I would recommend is found in 2 Timothy 3:16 which instructs us to teach, rebuke, correct, and train in righteousness. We all need to know more about God and how to bring Him glory by how we live our lives, right? Sit under sound biblical teaching. We must be willing to accept a reproof or a rebuke for our ungodly behavior and attitudes, and then correct them by putting on a biblical response, and finally, to be trained in the particular righteous behaviors that we must put on.
The idea of training means to practice it over and over, very much like a gymnast practices the same routine to the point that the moves she makes on the balance beam or the floor are identical time after time. Rather than learning physical moves, we replace the thoughts, beliefs, and desires of our heart that we currently practice (Galatians 5:19 – 20), with those that honor and glorify God (Ephesians 4 – 5, Philippians 2, and Colossians 3).

Biblical Change vs. Behaviorism

Some verses in the Scriptures talk about re-habituation. Hebrews 5:13 and 10:25 are among them. Our goal is not merely to change behavior, putting off and putting on; we must realize and understand the importance the heart plays in putting off those old habits and putting on righteous ones. Because our behavior comes from our immaterial part, or what the Bible calls the heart, the changes to put off and put on must originate there. The sinful thoughts, beliefs, and desires that bring us into counseling arise in the heart. As the heart submits to God’s authority, and the Word of God renews the mind, new behavior patterns will form. To leave out the critical component of heart change for life change makes the biblical counselor a mere behaviorist, and this type of counsel is sure to fail.

Ephesians 4:22-24 can be misused to become rote behaviorism. Behaviorism is a danger with some forms of counseling. The critical component in this passage is the renewal of the mind. The mind is equal to the heart and must be biblically informed (Romans 12:2) about how to change. This is why reading and meditating on the Word of God is so critical to this process of biblical change. We must know what the Word of God says about the attitudes and sins of the heart. The new response (putting on) ideally will flow from a heart that now sees our sin as grievous to God.

Julie Ganschow is a member of FCC and Director of FCC’s counseling ministry, Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

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Welcoming the Broken

By Julie Gancshow

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 5:13–16 (NASB)

How do you decide who to minister to? What are your criteria for those to whom you will reach out a helping hand? Does your church have an open hand toward people who have troubled pasts or are known to be emotionally unstable or undergoing treatment for psychiatric disorders?

Unfortunately, many pastors and church leaders hesitate to embrace those suffering with emotional problems or those labeled as problematic people. It has become accepted to send them to the local secular counselor rather than take an interest in rendering aid to them.

Because there is little to no teaching on this subject, the church people don’t know what to do with these souls either, so they do nothing other than sadly shake their heads and offer to pray.

For the most part, people with emotional problems or psychiatric diagnoses are simply avoided in our churches. It could be because of fear of exposure, as though they think a psychiatric diagnosis or emotional problem is contagious like the flu or a cold. It could be because they are unsure of the stability of such people, or they fear some violent outburst.

I am sorry to say that I have also seen these people discouraged from attending church at all! There are simply some individuals who don’t want that kind of a person in their church. As a result, they are marginalized and pushed out of the very place they need to be to find healing for the soul.

May I challenge you today to look for possible ways to minister to a person who would otherwise be a “hopeless case?” There are many of them out there! They are the people psychology has written off and cast out of the system with nothing more than a prescription for medications. They have been fed diagnosis codes and stripped of hope to ever be considered “normal.”

These people are the most helpless and broken among us, and they are also fertile ground for the hope and help that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. As biblical counselors and disciplers we bring the message of complete sufficiency of the Word of God and the miraculous love of a Savior who heals. God specializes in broken people; in fact, He prefers us that way.

We do not shy away from accepting what would be considered the tough counseling cases, and we believe the love of God and the truth found in His Word can penetrate the most difficult circumstances. It may require that you get a little dirty in the process and maybe even reach out to other organizations and people for help in ministering to this population.

Become the place of refuge for those hurting souls who desire to look at their problems from the Word of God. Ask them if they are interested in seeing what the Bible has to say about their troubles. Many are willing but have not had anyone take an interest in them before.

If you adopt this mindset and begin to reach out of your comfort zone, our church will become known as the place for hurting people to go. We will develop a reputation in the community as caring and compassionate people who live what they believe and are shining lights of hope in a very dark world.

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

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Forgiveness After Sexual Sin in Marriage

By Julie Ganschow

I have often heard it said, “I can forgive anything except adultery.”  There is nothing quite as difficult as forgiving intentional sin, so when a wife is asked to consider forgiving sexual sin the challenge factor goes up astronomically.

Adultery and other kinds of physical sexual sin violate the most closely held tenants of marriage and are among the hardest to forgive. For a woman to deal biblically with the fallout of the sexual sin in which her husband has been involved, she will have to understand what it means to forgive him biblically and how to do so.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12—13 (NASB)

I am not sure I can forgive

When it comes to forgiving sexual sin, one of the major reasons a wife may not want to forgive is because she believes the hurt and betrayal are just too big to get past. Sexual sin is the unforgivable sin in marriage in the minds of many people; however, is that what the Bible teaches?

Many people struggle to forgive in general because they are not clear about what forgiveness from the heart really is; they do understand and look for reasons or make excuses not to forgive.

The Bible teaches us that the greatest need we all have is to be forgiven for our sin. Without the forgiveness of sin we are all destined for hell and eternal damnation (Romans 6:23). You don’t have to be Bible a scholar to figure out that if God forgives us, He has the expectation that we will forgive each other on the basis of the forgiveness we’ve received.

To refuse to forgive will add to the internal misery and woe she will experience. The unforgiving person is the one who suffers the most. When a woman informs me she chooses not to forgive, I can guarantee she will become bitter. In choosing this path, the sins of bitterness and unforgiveness enslave her and will ruin her life. She may think that by refusing to forgive her husband will “get his,” but that is not so. In refusing to forgive, she will be the one who suffers even greater misery than she experienced as a result of his sexual sin.

 

I have also been told by a wife that she can’t forgive her husband until she forgets what he did. This is backward thinking and is indicative of someone who is holding on to the wrong that has been done to them. Each time she chooses to dwell on the offense and the hurt she has experienced, she engrains it a little deeper in her mind and heart.

The truth is that every time she rehearses the ooffense it only serves to exacerbate the pain which in turn leads to bitterness. She will not forget until she learns to forgive. When she forgives the wrong done to her, she releases it and then, in time, she will begin to forget the pain.

Some wives remain angry and unforgiving because their spouse has not asked to be forgiven. They say, “I’ll forgive when he says he is sorry.”

Jesus teaches on forgiveness

The Lord addresses this with Peter in Matthew 18. Peter thought he was being very generous by boasting that he would forgive the same man seven times. The Lord Jesus revealed his heart by instructing him to forgive 70 times seven!

The same instruction was given in Luke:

Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him. Luke 17:3—4 (NASB)

At first glance it appears that granting forgiveness is conditioned on the person actually asking for it first. Sometimes a woman is reluctant to forgive because her husband has not asked her for forgiveness nor has he repented of his sexual sin.

This suggests that unless someone asks for forgiveness, you can never really forgive them because without them asking, there isn’t any taking ownership of their sin as one would when repenting to God. This is true as far as it goes. Unless a person asks, obviously there is no admission of sin; however, that does not that mean we are free to withhold forgiveness.

The first thing a wife must understand is that forgiving her spouse is not an option for the Christian; it is required.

The level ground on which she stands

She must understand that her position before God is exactly level with that of the worst sexual sinner, because the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There is nothing exceptional about her or any non-sexual-sin sinner; this is because we are all sinners and all in need of God’s grace and mercy. She must choose to forgive her husband on the basis of what God has forgiven her.

God intended to forgive her of her sin before she asked. In fact, He did forgive her at the cross, which was long before she was born. How then can she withhold forgiveness from her husband for his sin?

By forgiving her husband she chooses to release him from the sense of debt she believes she is owed because of the hurt he caused. It’s like saying, “Husband, you do not owe me anything, nor will I personally punish you for what you did to me. I choose to forgive you this debt just as I have been forgiven my enormous debts by God.”

This takes big faith! In order to exercise big faith, she must believe that she serves a big God who is able to work in all circumstances of life.

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling and a member of Faith Community Church.

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Freedom from Bondage

By Julie Ganschow

The Members of Your Body

“And do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13, NASB).

Offering the members of our body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness takes many forms. Anytime we indulge the flesh to the point of “addictions,” we become a slave to whatever we are worshiping.

My Story

For example, I used to worship the idea of being thin, and so I abused my body to make it that way. I thought I was in control of the situation, but I quickly learned that if I wanted to be thin I was going to have to play by the “thin rules.” Those rules included not eating or not eating much beyond diet soda and popcorn, not cooking, not making foods I knew others would enjoy because I would eat them too and that would violate the “thin rules.”

I thought I was exercising control over my life, and in actuality, I became a voluntary slave to being thin. My days and activities were constantly dominated by “don’t.” Don’t eat this or that, don’t go here or there because they could have food. Don’t go out to lunch with your friends because you will eat. You can’t eat because then you won’t be thin!

This way of life took over my life. I had no freedom or control because what I once controlled was now controlling me!

Our Story

The person who wakes up on their face in the driveway one morning, all foggy-brained from the drunk or high they went on the night before may not understand their slavery. The young woman who rushes to the bathroom many times a day to vomit up her food intake does not understand her slavery either. The young man who clicks on pornography in his bedroom in the dark, seeking harder and harder porn thinks he is only looking for the next thrill. The man or woman who takes the house payment to the casino for one last try at making it rich doesn’t understand what drives them, or that they are no longer having “fun” at this anymore.

Each of these people is real. They are our friends and neighbors, family or co-workers. Maybe one of them is you.

God’s Story

There is only One who can free us from such bondage. We bring His message of hope and truth to the hurting people surrounding us.

The reality about sin is that the Lord is not going to swoop in and take away all our sinful desires. It is going to take the hard work of a changed heart to bring about the changed life we so deeply desire.

At some point, we are going to have to be willing to knock whatever we worship off the altar. Be forewarned: knocking it down will be painful. We cannot expect to claim it in Jesus’ Name and walk away healed and free; that is foolishness. We have built a system of belief and a system of worship around this thing and it colors and influences how we “do” life.

While there are no “easy steps,” there are biblical principles we each must pursue.

  • We must begin with prayerful determination to no longer be a slave to whatever has us bound (Romans 6).
  • We must enlist the help of those around us and make ourselves accountable to them for change (Galatians 6:1-2).
  • We must learn where our pitfalls are, what sets us off, what makes us run to that old comfortable idol.
  • We must make a plan to run somewhere else—like into the throne room of the Almighty God (Hebrews 4:16). It is there that we will find grace to help in our time of need.

There is a reason that Ephesians 4:22 tells us to throw off our old fleshy selves, our old desires, our old objects of worship. It is because they capture us, enslave us, and they grow more and more powerful in our lives. They corrupt us further and further until we believe we are beyond hope.

But we do not have to go back to the grave. In and through Christ we have been set free!

How can God’s story of being set free in Christ empower you to find Christ’s victory over the things that enslave you?

Julie is the Directory of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

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“Let the bones you have broken rejoice.” Psalm 51:8

By Julie Ganschow

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil that plagues our bodies and souls, referred to in believing circles as our “sin nature.” Because of this ingrained sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrong doing. We often justify that wrong doing by excusing our sins and calling them something other than what they are. We assign them different names, diagnoses’, or designations to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves. But we can take heart – in that God has provided us a Helper, in the Holy Spirit who’s work is the conviction of sin. Paul David Tripp refers to this conviction of sin as “violent grace” in his book, “Whiter Than Snow.” Violent grace is God’s way of crushing our sin out of us. It’s His way of refining us – as the potter does the clay, in molding it to the perfect shape. This perfect shape is that of Christ-likeness.

This is consistent with God’s overall character throughout the canon of Scripture. We must remember Deut 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they chose to rebel in sin: “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” God loves all His people enough to chastise and chase us (Hebrews 12). He is willing to crush our pride, and leave us in the wilderness in order that we might desire Him and run to Him. He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly, because He loves us dearly. Because King Jesus desires to instill biblical character (Gal 5:22-25) within us, this in turn, conforms us to look more and more like the image of Christ – which is the calling of the Christian life!

Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions: are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ in your life? Do you see Him working in and around you? Do you see Him forming and reforming you—breaking down the walls of sin that we all build around us? Are you fighting back, or submitting humbly?

Please allow me to encourage you—embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the desire, and from desire, willingness to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

Pray. Ask the Lord to encourage you to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change. Ask Him to instill in you the desire to embrace grace – violent or not, as the means of growth He’s striving to cause.

Julie Ganschow is the founder and Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center (ACBC, IABC, AABC Certified Training Center) and Biblical Counseling for Women.

 

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Living with Chronic Pain

By Julie Ganschow

But I am afflicted and in pain; may Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.
Psalm 69:29 (NASB)

This is a topic for which people commonly seek counseling.

No one wants to live in pain. Our society spends billions of dollars annually on methods of avoiding pain of all kinds. We refuse to have emotional or physical pain continue for more than an hour if we can help it! At the first sign of a headache many will run for the over-the-counter pain reliever and expect that ingesting 2 or 3 pills will make it stop. When their pain persists for another hour they become cranky and out of sorts and will sometimes take more pain reliever in an attempt to rid themselves of the pain.

When over-the-counter pain relievers fail or only serve to dull the pain, people turn to their physician for help. They ask for something stronger, longer lasting, or more effective than what they have been taking. If that does not take away the pain, they are referred to a Pain Specialist, a doctor who specializes in managing chronic pain of all kinds. Often, a visit to another kind of clinician is also arranged to help the patient “deal with their depression” or other emotional response living this way has brought about.

In short order, many patients become medicated zombies whose lives are ruled by what time the next pill is to be taken, and the management of the multiple side effects of all the medications being ingested. In some cases there seems to be no option except to take many medications to lower the pain to a manageable level for working or functioning in daily life.

While the medical profession is making gains in many areas, the causes of chronic pain are still often elusive. It is not as easy to understand as it looks! There are multiple systems of the body in play when a person has pain. The feelings of pain are realized when the sensory nerves in the various parts of the body send a message to your brain that you are hurt. If I am hit on the hand with a stick, the sensory nerves in my hand would send a message into my spine and my spine would relay that message to my brain. My brain would get the message, “OUCH!” and tell me to move away from the source of the pain.

The realization of pain is not only physical, it is also realized emotionally. You and I could both be hit by the same stick in an identical manner and we would feel it differently; we would respond differently.

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

What is not elusive is the effects of pain on the lives of the people who suffer.

Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? Jeremiah 15:18 (NASB)

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

I am often asked to counsel women who are in chronic pain, and I see the effects of it on lives every day.

Like everything else, pain will reveal what is going on in the heart of a person. If the heart of the sufferer is on themselves rather than on God, how they respond to the affliction will be very different than when the heart is focused on glorifying God in spite of the pain.

The heart that is fixed on “self” will make relief from pain its focus. The person’s whole identity can become wrapped up in their pain and seeking relief. They live life through the perspective of being a victim. It would be common to hear them utter phrases like:

  • I must have relief from my pain
  • I must feel better
  • I deserve to feel better
  • I don’t deserve to be hurting like this
  • I will spare no expense to be pain-free
  • No one understands my pain
  • I can’t do (blank) because of my pain

As difficult as it is to understand, a person who is focused on relief from pain has become an idolater. It is idolatry because there is no room for anything in the heart other than “relief” and seeking relief becomes the object of worship. There is little to no room for worship of God in their heart.

It would be highly unusual for a person to knowingly seek out this type of idolatry, but remember, the heart is deceptive and wicked (Jer. 17:9) and often we deceive ourselves. A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires will reveal what the heart is focusing on.

If you are a chronic pain sufferer, I would challenge you to prayerfully examine your heart in light of Scripture. What thoughts do you think with respect to the pain you live with? Do you believe that God does not know how much you hurt? Do you desire relief more than you desire to glorify God in spite of your pain?

If you now understand that you have become an idolater there is hope for change! Jesus has come to forgive sin, and your release from the sin of idolatry begins with confession and repentance.

Jesus experienced every human suffering you and I do, and more. He suffered because we suffer; He hurt because we hurt; He grieved because we grieve; He has gone before us in suffering and pain that we might be encouraged in suffering and pain. He is also the answer to our suffering and pain.

The suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross have made it possible for our miserable pain and suffering to one day end. It has also made it possible for us to endure pain and suffering in the present. You see, the joy that was set before Christ (Heb 12:2) was our freedom from the curses of Genesis 3! Freedom from pain for all eternity in our future life!

This reality must become the lens through which we endure our present sufferings. Our pain today while not pleasant is purposeful. God is working in the midst of every painful episode you have today. Sadly, we disbelieve these truths because our experiences tend to dictate our reality. We believe that if something feels bad, it must be bad. If something hurts me, it cannot be good!

This is entirely backward from how the Christian is to respond as it is unbiblical. Regardless of how something looks or feels to us, God’s Word always trumps our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Scripture must become our measuring stick; we must search the Word and allow those truths to reframe our painful experiences.

The unbelievable reality is: pain has a purpose in your life and its purpose is good.
Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

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