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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.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Brother

Will you sit with me in the ashes?

Can you wait it out; be silent,
As I wonder what comes next?

Will you hold my hand and squeeze it,
Fearless of the tears that come?
Will you hold me up and ceaseless pray
Until this day is done?

Will you dress my wounds with Scripture,
Doing all you do in love;
Taking my hand gently to help me stand back up?

Will you sit with me in the ashes?
And proclaim God’s character to me;
Remind me of His endless grace
And boundless love for me?

Will you stand firm beside me, and not grow weary or lose heart;
Encourage and point me to the One, who knows my walk is hard?

Will you sit with me in the ashes?
Until this day is through,
And my God has brought me through this,
Using all that you did do?

Svea Goertzen

Amidst trial, I sought solace in the book of Job. I ultimately landed on these verses in Job 2. . .

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. 12 And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. 13 And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.

. . . and I ultimately landed at the same campground that Job found himself when his friends showed up to comfort him. I was struck by the fact that Job’s friends were just that—friends. They cared about him; came to comfort him; wept for him; and, finally sat down with him on the ground silently, “for they saw that his suffering was very great.” Then, each, in turn, opened his mouth and put his foot right in. It occurred to me that, like the Israelites, they can become easy targets—it’s easy to point a finger and judge these men who ultimately failed their friend with their words, but, just as quickly, I find myself doing the same thing. I guess what drives this home is just the sort of trial where a longsuffering friend sits down beside me in the ashes.

So, I set about to prepare a litmus test (for me too), of what a suffering brother or sister in Christ needs from me—according to what I saw in the verses above. The words I wrote above are a pleading for that kind of friend; an exhortation to be that kind of friend; and, finally, a grateful heart—for there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are uniquely qualified to be that kind of friend—and they are a dear provision from God.

 

Svea Goertzen is a member of FCC and works for Faith Christian Academy. She and her husband, Steve, have two daughters.

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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.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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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.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Reclaiming Psychology for the Church

By Julie Ganschow

Several of the staff from our counseling center recently spoke at a Biblical Counseling Conference in Sarasota, Florida. The focus of the conference was on living a life of faith in the face of the problems we face today. Each speaker presented on how it is possible to face adversity with trust in our faithful God.

What we and the other speakers believe is that the Scriptures and ministry of the Holy Spirit are enough for solving the common to man (1 Cor. 10:13) problems of life.  Rather than using man’s methods and worldly wisdom we believe that changes in the thoughts, beliefs and desires of the heart are what bring about changes in one’s life.

We do this in the process that is commonly called biblical counseling or intensive discipleship. It is very important that you understand that biblical counseling is really discipleship; getting involved in the lives of others in a people-helping manner.

The goal of our Biblical Counseling is heart change for life change. We believe that God’s Word contains all we need for life and godliness. We have seen and experienced the reality that when the Word of God is applied to the heart of man we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and internal changes result in life changes!

Biblical counseling is committed to the position that Scripture provides the only authoritative guide for what we are to believe and how we are to live (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We do not base our counsel on man’s wisdom, opinions, experience, or concepts of behavior, but we seek to bring the full range of biblical truth to focus on the counselee’s need. 

Our focus in an intensive discipleship relationship is the importance of change at the heart level. Understanding the need for heart change for life change is at the core of everything you will learn in counseling with one of us or in our training classes. The foundational and fundamental presupposition is that the Bible is true and our only source for God’s truth.

When most people speak of the heart, they link it almost exclusively to our emotional component. A phrase like, “speak from the heart” means to say something about how you feel. A phrase like, “follow your heart” means follow your feelings. We live in a culture that is dominated by emotions or feelings.

When the heart is not being referred to as the physical organ that pumps your blood, it usually means “feelings.” “Feelings” have become the dominion of the secular therapeutic world. People go to counseling because they “feel bad” or “feel sad” or “feel depressed.” They seek a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist because their emotions are out of balance, and their moods are destabilized.

For a time in the history of the church it was easier to send problem people off to the doctor to discuss their problems then it was to really put the time and effort into discipleship and assisting them learn to deal with life and problems biblically.

The basis for this was the understanding that the Dictionary defines psychology as, “The science of the human soul; specifically, the systematic or scientific knowledge of the powers and functions of the human soul, so far as they are known by consciousness; a treatise on the human soul.”[i]

For many years the church stood silently by, as secular theories were woven in with Scripture and called Christian Counseling or Christian Psychology. The result of this was that medical professionals hijacked the right to address the needs of the human soul away from the church. Or is it that we gave up?

What has happened is the church bought into the medical model and as a result, anti-God, pro-sin individuals are now in the multi-billion dollar business of deciding what sin in many cases is now sickness. The emphasis of psychology migrated from soul-care and became humanistic and anti-God(If you have never heard that before, or do not agree, I ask you to consider the fact that Freud and all the other major players in framing psychology were anti-God and evolutionists.  They were secular humanists).

Proponents of secular psychology want us to believe we do not need God and that we have the power within ourselves to change. Psychology’s premise is that man is a higher evolved form of animal. If this is the case, than man does not have a soul or a spirit and thus a secular approach is the only possible method for helping him appeal to the basic drives he possesses. If he is an animal than there is no God-consciousness, and no possibility to redeem his soul because it is not necessary—he has no soul.

The Christian psychologist believes and promotes the scientific beliefs of their secular counterparts. They will often use the same terminology, and are usually licensed professionals who are approved by insurance companies to bill for their services.  In some cases, maybe most cases, the Christian psychologist will follow the teachings of the disease or medical model in counseling their clients, but will also integrate Scripture where appropriate to give the client hope and to minister to their feelings and emotions. They believe that the Bible has something to offer their client, but is not sufficient to address the mental illness or medical diagnosis of that client.

There is a new wave of Christian psychologists who accept the science of what is proven medically but tend to reject the medical model for treatment of what is called mental illness. They prefer instead to help the counselee to see their spiritual problem and their medical illness from a biblical perspective.

They believe in many cases that there are biological or genetic links to some of the maladies that since Jay Adam’s brought nouthetic counseling back into the church have been discounted as sin, or sinful responses to the problems of life.

This group of Christian counselors strongly believes the church and biblical counseling must re-claim the word psychology for the church. They believe it is our word and we have a right to use it. Personally, I don’t care about the use of the word; I care about the condition of the heart of the people I minister to.  Our counseling center believes that words like “transformed” and “forgiveness” and “redemption” are more important in our lives. We do not discount the legitimate medical issues that people face, but we are not physicians in charge of caring for the medical needs of the body. Instead, we are soul physicians who are charged with addressing how all aspects of a person, including their medical issues, affect the immaterial part of them. This immaterial part is what the Bible calls the soul, or the heart.

So in biblical counseling we are much more concerned with how a counselee responds to life’s challenges. We know that God is not impressed with our worldly or human wisdom about people and their problems; contrary to humanistic thinking we believe that God is actively involved in the lives of His creation.

We know from Scripture that God has an entirely different opinion of us than our secular counseling counterparts.  We know from Scripture that many of the problems people face every day are specifically mentioned in the Bible, and that many other problems are inferred throughout the text.   His Word reveals to us why it is pure foolishness to look to man for the solutions to the spiritual problems we face.

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)   “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Critics of biblical counseling say that we discount feelings and emotions, that we are all about blasting people with the Bible and are sometimes harsh and lack love and even condemning of them. I do not believe that a person who looks to the example of Christ as our Wonderful Counselor and follows His example could be accused of this.

Christ was loving, truthful, honest, confrontational, discerning, wise, and a host of other things. He did not excuse sin; He called people to repentance, and He expected change in the hearts and lives of those who heard the truth. He understood the emotional component of a person and how emotions can sway their actions. He challenged them not to live by their feelings, but to live in obedience to His commands. And He gave the Christian the Person of the Holy Spirit to enable them to do that.

 

[i] psychology. Dictionary.com. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psychology (accessed: June 13, 2008).

 

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There Is No “Me” in Marriage

By Julie Ganschow

Much of the counseling we do at our center has to do with marital problems. In one respect or another it comprises 50-75% of our counseling.

 

I doubt you will be surprised to learn that Christian marriages have just as many problems as non-Christian ones which is a shame. The good news for us is that we have the answers in God’s Word that unbelievers do not have, we have the resources for change that they don’t have and the ability to change they don’t have.

 

It is great news for us that the Bible addresses the specific causes of marriage problems. God’s Word also has much to say about marriage and how it is to be conducted. Because sin or a sinful response is the root of all problems in marriage we can find the causes and the solutions in the spiritual realm rather than in psychological methodology.

 

There are some really obvious reasons we get marital counseling cases, and there are other reasons people tend not to think of until we bring them to the forefront. For instance, could the problems stem from the reality that you really don’t know what is expected of you in marriage?

 

If a young couple doesn’t get good premarital counseling they are not going to know or understand the roles of the husband and wife in marriage. If they got saved after marriage they also won’t know what is expected of a godly husband or wife. By getting some good teaching and discipleship they will not only learn some new expectations but unlearn some old ones. If one or both people have not had good modeling at home they may not have a clue as to what is expected in a Christ-centered marriage. It is entirely possible in our culture that their only references for relationships are soap operas, MTV and bad movies. So the reasons may vary, but the end result is that husband and or wife may not know what is expected in marriage.

 

Do you know what is expected but don’t know how to do it? I have heard this many times in counseling. There is a breakdown in the transfer from understanding to action.

 

Because our country has emasculated our men, many of them have no idea how to be leaders of their families. Many young boys today are being raised by women so their only strong role models are women. They don’t know how to be men because no one ever taught them!

 

Another negative influence on our boys and men is that rap gangster culture so objectifying women and abusing them often also needs to be undone.

 

Overall, men are fearful of taking the headship role because they fear being accused by the feminists of holding women down. Sometimes it is because the man is just too lazy to learn how to lead.

A wife may have heard about submission and have no idea how to submit to her husband, even if he is a good leader. She may know about the external behaviors but not understand that it is a heart issue before it is a behavior. 

 

Is the cause that you do know what is expected but you are refusing to do what is right?

 

I wish that the usual reason for marital trouble was not knowing what is expected or how to do it, but unfortunately that is not the usual scenario. Often the cause of trouble in marriage is that one or the other knows what is expected of them but is refusing to do what is right. Willful disobedience to God and His commands for husbands and wives is a major problem in marriage.

 

Is the cause that you are struggling to overcome a sinful habit and you are not being successful?

 

Sometimes instruction in doing what is right is not enough and a person needs more intensive discipleship. It is very important to this process of change to understand that some people just need more time and attention than others. They may have the understanding of what to do, but not truly understand how to make it come to life. 

 

In my counseling and discipleship ministry I usually get the marriages that are in trouble. People don’t come when things are good. Typically, things have disintegrated to a point where one person may even be contemplating divorce. There are a plethora of reasons for marital discontent and I am trying to address a few of the common ones here.

 

In this “me” generation everyone is concerned with themselves. How can my needs be met? How can you please me? How can you serve me? Too many women go into marriage with the wrong believe that he is going to make them happy. When she realizes he is only human and a sinner just as she is and oh my word he is truly NOT concerned about meeting her needs all the time (because he is concerned about his needs being met) trouble brews quickly!

 

If this describes you, the first thing to understand right now is this: you are not obligated to receive but to provide for him. You are expected to be the giver of affection, grace, mercy, kindness, love, service, and everything else. The good news is that God requires the same thing of your husband toward you.

 

Your obligation in marriage is to provide for your spouse. A common complaint in difficult marriages is that he or she is not meeting my needs. What they are saying in part is he/she doesn’t spend time with me! Ladies, as gently as I know how I want to tell you that this is not a choice. Marriage is an act of live where you vow to meet each other’s legitimate needs for life.

 

We all have legitimate needs. We expect that when we marry that our spouse will love us and care for us and provide for us. We expect they will be our life-long mate and will be there when things are going wrong or we need help.

 

When you agree to marry someone, you are committing yourself to do these things for the rest of your life. This is not something to enter into for the supremely selfish. The problem for the marrieds we see is that maybe no one ever told them that! Each person goes into the marriage with an “it’s all about me” attitude and is unwilling to be the initiator in giving.

 

Contrary to popular belief, marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. It is a 100/100 relationship. Each of you has to be willing to give it all away. You have to give it all away and expect nothing in return. You do it because you agreed to in the beginning, and because doing it glorifies God.

 

Fundamental question: How can I glorify God and please Him?

 

You will glorify God by rightly pleasing your spouse. Sacrificial living for your spouse glorifies God. I have told women I counsel that to serve their husband (no matter how ungrateful and selfish he is) brings God glory. Both husband and wife are to look at serving each other as though they are serving Christ.

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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A Few Things Learned Through Trial

By Elizabeth New

A few things I’ve learned since my life changed unexpectedly two years ago…
• Trials in life force us to face countless tough decisions and realities. Though most trials are not easy or enjoyable, God can use them to refine us, as if removing impurities. Having experienced hardship of any kind makes you more sensitive to the needs of others.
• Suffering creates stark contrast between what is important and what is not.elizabeth-jimnew
• It is possible (and biblically commanded) to experience great heartbreak simultaneously with immeasurable joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3
• Frequently I have been humbled by the generosity, thoughtfulness, selflessness and support of innumerable people. I am so grateful my girls have witnessed friends offering to walk alongside us to share our journey. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
• Grief is intensely exhausting–emotionally, physically and mentally. The brain fog, memory lapses and time warp are very real. Be gentle and forgiving with people experiencing grief.
• Triggers for grief can be unpredictable, unwanted and unmanageable. Tears are an expression of love for someone you miss…unspent love that escapes from the corners of your eyes.
• Never underestimate the smallest kindnesses you can extend to others. It is appreciated by recipients and can be encouragement needed to get through that day. Love for and service to others requires sacrifice. “…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
• I am convinced that, as I walked through the darkest valleys, I was sustained by the Lord’s provision of strength, wisdom and comfort, and by the prayers of His saints. Even the days I did not “feel” the Lord’s presence, I knew the Bible’s promise that He would never leave or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) And at the end of each of the worst days, I knew I always had something to hope for and to be thankful for. “…but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalms 147:11
• Life is beautifully fragile and precious. Choose carefully how and with whom you will spend your time. Regrets can be painful consequences of unwise decisions.

 

Elizabeth New is a widow and mother of three beautiful little girls. She is a member of FCC.

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The Members of Your Body

By Julie Ganschow

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 your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness takes many forms. Something to keep in mind is anytime you indulge your flesh to the point of “addictions” you have become a slave to whatever you are worshiping.

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!

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 your friends and neighbors, family or co-workers. Maybe one of them is you.  There is only One who can free you from such bondage. We bring His message of hope and truth to the hurting people surrounding us.  The reality about sin is, the Lord is not going to swoop in and take away all your sinful desires. It is going to take the hard work of a changed heart to bring about the changed life you so deeply desire.

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

You must begin with prayerful determination that you will no longer be a slave to whatever has you bound (Romans 6). Enlist the help of those around you and make yourself accountable to them for change (Galatians 6:1-2). Learn where your pitfalls are, what sets you off, what makes you run to that old comfortable idol and then make a plan to run somewhere else – like into the throne room of the Almighty God (Hebrews 4:16). It is there that you will find grace to help you in your 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 and enslave us and they grow more and more powerful in our lives and they corrupt us further and further until we believe we are beyond hope.

Do not go back to the grave dear friends. You have been set free!

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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Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings

By Julie Ganshowfeelings-nothing-more-than-feelings

In the 1970’s there was a very sappy song entitled “Feelings” sung by some sappy guy who moaned his way through his song while he was trying to forget his feelings of love.

In this article we are going to take a brief look at feelings and emotions and where they come from.  Our society has become almost completely feeling oriented and I think this is very bad. The students in our counseling classes have heard me say that it seems that we have lost the ability to think, and reason.

It is rare to find someone who is willing to risk sticking their neck out for a belief or a thought.  Feelings apparently exist on sacred ground for few dare to challenge how a person feels.

Feelings and emotions are the physical expressions of our thought life.  They are the body’s response to thoughts that either please or displease us. The reality is, we experience billions of thoughts each day, and often our thoughts provoke emotional responses that relate to what we call happiness, hope, well-being or sorrow, despair, fear, or anger.

Feelings and emotions are chemical reactions in the body brought on by thoughts in the inner man which the Bible calls the heart. The heart is the “control center” of each person, and Scripture has a lot to say about this critical part of us. (If you check out Scripture you will find over 500 references to the heart!) Generally speaking, our feelings reveal our hearts to us. This is an important point, for if you want to correct unhappy or bad feelings; you have to go for the heart and deal with the issues that lead you to feel bad or unhappy.

Asking questions is a huge aid in revealing the motives of the heart; answers to questions help to reveal why a person is feeling the way they do. Be aware that when you experience feelings particularly strong or problematic you must do some self-examination and determine what the cause is.

For example, if a person who is frequently sinfully angry could be asked some specific questions such as:

  • What do you want that you are not getting?
  • What are you getting that you don’t want?
  • What perceived right is being violated?

You see, your emotions reveal your heart, which is the storehouse of your faith and all that your faith is comprised of. Emotions also reveal your faith, and the voracity of your core beliefs.

Do you want to know what you believe? Try this quick little exercise;  take a few minutes to think about the emotion you tend to experience or struggle with most often (anger, sorrow, self-pity, fear, anxiety, joy, contentment) ; then spent some time asking yourself what this emotion tells you what you believe about:

  • God
  • You
  • Your place in this world
  • His plan for your life
  • What is really important

An exercise such as this one can go a long way to helping a person see aspects of their heart that they had not recognized before! Once a person knows what is going on in their thoughts (heart) they can apply correct theology to their wrong thinking.

This is really just scratching the surface of this very important subject!

I always encourage a person to seek wise counsel and accountability when heart change is needed or desired. Find someone who will help you to pin down the sinful attitudes of the heart and look at them biblically. They should also be able to help you to apply God’s Word to your life and walk with you as you ask the Lord to help you to understand what you are doing, and how you can overcome sinful responses.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

We focus heavily in our counseling ministry on renewing the mind because that is where true and lasting change takes place. The word of God is the only tool we have to affect this kind of change.

The Spirit of God and the Word of God applied to the heart of a person; applied to their thoughts, beliefs and desires of the heart will help get problematic emotions in submission to the Holy Spirit.

 

Julie is a certified Biblical Counselor and the head of Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

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You, a Slave to Sin

Romans 6:17-20 (ESV) says, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.”slave-to-sin

Did you know, fellow believer, that you were once a slave to sin? When you think of a slave…what generally comes to mind? Please ponder about that for a moment.

When Romans 6 uses the word slave it’s originating from the word “doulos.” Doulos has a number of serious implications with it, which we’ll discuss in a moment, but generally it is employed in relationship to being owned by, belonging to, and being wholly subordinate to one’s master. To bring this home, the Bible makes it expressly clear – we were once owned by, belonged to, and were completely subordinate to our sin – which was our master as long as we dwelled in it, apart from Christ.

Romans 6 continues though – that once we become obedient from the heart (the heart / desire change I often refer to away from the world, and to Christ in response) we have been set free from sin, and made slaves to righteousness / Christ! If there was ever Someone to be a slave to, it is certainly Jesus Christ. It is this level of obedience that He demands from His people. Well what does this obedience / slavery to Christ look like? For that we return to the word doulos. First, the world connotates absolute obedience (Matt 8:5-9, Luke 7:2-10) to one’s master. In our case – Jesus Christ. This is unquestioning obedience, and for the believer – absolute respect of Scripture like

(2 Timothy 3:16-17) demands. Also, compulsory obedience (Luke 6:46). Our immediate responses should be both to desire to, as well as physically respond in Christ-likeness always. Thirdly, this slavery to Christ entails consistent, immediate obedience (John 13:16). We should be unwavering in this way. Fourth – as the Bible tells us that we cannot serve two masters (Matt 6:24), our obedience must be exclusive to He and He alone. If our slavery and servitude to Christ is not exclusive, we are willingly engaging in idol-worship and sinning against the Lord. Finally, our obedience should be loyal (John 15:20). Our Savior demands absolute loyalty, born in a desire to do so, to Himself.

This is what putting off of the old man, and putting on the new man looks like in practicality. This is what it means to put away the things of this world, and focus solely on Christ. Unwavering obedience and willing slavery, in humility, to Jesus Christ.

Where are you in this commitment? Have you examined yourself before the Lord in this way? Are you able to communicate these Truths to those you disciple? Are you living it yourself? Are you a willing-slave to Jesus Christ?

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