Posts Tagged counseling

The Most Depressing Day of the Year

By Dr. Timothy Juhnke

Recently, a psychologist from the UK made headlines when he announced that Monday, January 24, was the most depressing day of the year. Dr. Cliff Arnall devised a formula that was used to determine people’s lowest point. He used the Formula:

[W + (D-d)] x TO
M x NA

A Reporter explained the formula like this: “The equation is broken down into seven variables:

  • (W) weather
  • (D) debt
  • (d) monthly salary
  • (T) time since Christmas
  • (Q) time since failed quit attempt [i.e. failed New Year’s resolutions]
  • (M) low motivational levels
  • (NA) the need to take action”

According to the article, Arnall devised the formula for a travel company that wanted to know the peak times that people book vacation getaways. Wow, nothing like adding an exotic vacation that you can’t afford to help you feel better when you are depressed!

I don’t mean to make fun of people’s depression and anxiety. It is a serious problem, especially if you suffer from it. But the truth is that the world has little hope of finding a lasting solution. Compiling debt to treat the blues only compounds the problem. Similarly, medicating depression and anxiety with pharmaceutical drugs or other substances only treats the symptoms, not  the cause.

Christians are not immune from depression, especially if they engage in the same destructive financial and emotional behaviors as unbelievers. But the believer possesses a solution; we have a prescription from God Himself. When believers focus their attention on the Lord (and repent of sinful behaviors when necessary) they have this promise:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

This is the only lasting prescription for peace. I have used it in heavy doses. I am thankful for that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t apply to Scripture and that we could never overdose on it. I am a living testimony that the promise of this verse works better than any drug the world could offer. I have literally experienced physical relief from anxiety as I clung to that verse. And the beauty of it is that there are no side effects. Stay your mind on Jehovah and He will keep you in perfect peace.

Dr. Timothy Juhnke is the Senior Pastor of Faith Community Church

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Pastor Tim

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The Just Shall Live By Faith

By Stephen Ganschow

Depending on your translation of Romans 1:16-17, (I prefer the ESV, personally), specifically the latter part of verse 17, it will say something like, The just shall live by faith or The righteous shall live by faith. Who are these just and/or righteous people? Who is Paul talking about as he opens his letter to the church of Rome? I believe it is only fair to allow Paul to define who they are himself…and he does so in Romans 8:28-30 (ESV). As can be seen and understood from those passages of Scripture – Paul is speaking of God’s chosen people – those that He has sovereignly called to Himself – the Church. Those our Savior foreknew, He predestined (as in, called to these people and put the desire in their hearts to respond to Him in salvation and belief). It is these called, elect people which are justified. So circling back to chapter 1 (16-17) then – the righteous are the believing Church – and it is the truly repentant, believing church that will be positionally justified before Christ and thereby living by faith.

In Romans 1, Paul was making the point that the justified people of God, though sinners saved by His grace, only enjoy this position by faith alone. This is a pattern that can be clearly seen throughout the canon of Scripture. In (Romans 4:1-4, 11-16) Paul refers to Abraham, and how he was justified by faith alone, not by works. For if he had been justified by his works he would have something to boast about (Romans 4:2 – ESV). But that was not the case.  As verse 3 goes on to remind us, Abraham was a man of faith in God first, and a responder to that faith in action, secondarily. However, Romans is not the only book in which Paul asserts this notion of living by faith alone. In Galatians, Paul is discussing in chapter 3, the difference between living under law (legalism) and living by faith (works based theology vs. faith-based theology). He asserts here as well (Gal 3:11 – ESV), “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Friends, if you are reading this and think that your works alone will get you to Heaven, the Bible, God’s own words (2 Timothy 3:16-17 – ESV) clearly contradicts this notion. To think man can do anything worthwhile, separated from the Spirit of God, is a self-deceptive error, rooted in pride. It is by grace we are saved (from God), through faith – not at all of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 4:2-3 – ESV). Now, does this negate our works? Do we only need to believe and not respond in righteousness and action? Certainly not! This is what large sections of the book of James spend time elaborating on. We’re not to be a hearer of the Gospel and of God’s Word only but a doer of what it says as well (James 1:22 – ESV). And just as compassion without any follow-up action is fake, faith in Christ without the follow-up action of responding in obedience and living in a Christ-like manner is empty. It insinuates a lack of saving faith (James 2:17 – ESV). Our faith MUST be followed up by action. This is what it means when Romans 1:17 says, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ – we will believe and respond! We will believe and obey in action. That is living by faith.

Are you living by faith? Do your actions reflect your position of justification before our Savior? And if not, what do you need to do to change? I encourage you to measure yourself against the Word of God. See what areas in which you can respond, based on your faith, in obedience. And if you need some guidance – go to church leadership, a biblical counselor, a trusted friend who is strong in the Word and faith, and / or accountability partner(s). Living the Christian life is important enough to invest time to get it right. It takes effort and commitment…desire. I pray that you will consider this in your own life and respond to Christ accordingly as I am striving to do in my own life.

Stephen Ganschow is a former FCC member, now serving as the Caring Ministries Pastor at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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A Multidimensional God

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in his love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

God is not two-dimensional. He’s a complex, furious, loving, tender, laughing slaughterer of His enemies. There is a perennial tendency to flatten God’s character, to engage in reductionism for the sake of simplicity. Have you ever heard someone – or yourself – say,

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“Ezekiel’s Wheel”

“I just can’t worship a God who would…” There’s the sinful, creaturely impulse to make God in our own image. So much mischief follows when we flip the direction of image-bearing. When God created man and woman, he created us in His image; in our sin and rebellion, in our limitations and confusions, we think we should return the favor.

Isn’t it funny how some insist that God receives us just as we are, but refuse to receive Him just as He is.

By Jessica Winstead (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsWho would want a Hallmark God anyway? In what world does sentimental doting Grandpappy God belong? A world made of Precious Moments and Thomas Kincade’s perfection of light? Who lives there? We don’t. We live in a dirty, sweaty, smelly, dusty world: this world that Jesus is redeeming, this world in which His Church is advancing His Kingdom, is a world of pain in childbirth and snuggly toddlers; fighting against thorns and the joy of freely sharing what God has given; temptations to sins that would crush us and the delight of a cold glass of water. Sin infecting us all, and the image of God in us all. Total depravity and common grace.

And in all that messiness, we have a God who can handle it all. Because He doesn’t break bruised reeds, He doesn’t snuff out smoldering wicks, He leads justice to victory. He smashes the teeth of the wicked. He allows the wicked to prosper for a time, and He takes up the cause of widows and orphans. He directs elections, He clothes the grasses of the field, He comforts the lonely, He triumphs over mockers and liars and those who oppress the poor, He causes the mountain goats to give birth, He allows the abominations of the Amorites and Americans to reach their full measure, He tenderly consoles the weak in faith and He castigates the strong in their pride.

As someone else has said well, we must take all of God for all of life. He’s a multidimensional God. We need Him to be.

Joe Bancks is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Is Change Man-Centered or God-Centered?

By Julie Ganschow

I believe there is an overwhelming tendency in the world and in the church to take good advice and good counsel and make it all about ourselves. Humans are terribly self-centered and we take
every opportunity to bring things back to a self-focus.

Did you ever notice that in a group of women that it is rare to see them actually listening to the one speaking and even rarer to hear them comment on what is being said without reference
to self? No matter what the problem or issue is the other women in the group invariably bring up something about themselves and a time that something similar happened to them. We want
to think we are empathizing or sympathizing but in reality, we are attempting to refocus the conversation on ourselves.Change

Life change operates the same way; we want it to be all about us. When sin brings us unpleasant consequences we determine that change is needed so the consequences will go away. When we are feeling bad or sad for one reason or another we want to change so we will feel better. We change because we fear the reactions and responses of other people, or we want their approval.

This is man-centered living and it is anti-God and anti-Christ. Nowhere does the Bible tell us to be transformed so we can be happy, live our best life now, please others, or even please ourselves. We are to change to honor, please, and glorify God. We are to change and be changed because what we are thinking, believing, and desiring in our hearts is not glorifying to God. We are to change because at times we make a mockery of the cross and the sacrifice of Christ on that cross for our sin.

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. Romans
12:2 (NASB)

The reason we change is to testify that the will of God- that which is good, acceptable and perfect – is true. The reason that we change is to glorify God by obedience to His Word and His
commands to be conformed to the image and likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29).

All change must be Christ-centered and cross-centered to be biblical. Nothing else will do…nothing else will glorify Him.

Have you been trying to make changes in your life? How successful have you been? Have you been merely rearranging your flesh through self-help books, resolutions, support groups, and 12 step programs? While you may be successful at surface changes, until your heart is fully engulfed in the change process, your efforts will be just that – your efforts. A sinner trying vainly to change sinful habits of the heart.

Christ-centered change acknowledges that there is nothing good within you to accomplish change. It requires humility to admit sin, repentance that is born of a heart that is broken by that
sin, and desire to change for the glory of God.

Julie Ganschow

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living

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Confessions of a Failed Feminist

By Julie Ganschow 

I would be considered a “failed feminist.” It was my elder sister’s goal to make me into her clone in the 1970’s. At the tender age of 12, she bought me Our Bodies, Ourselves; the instruction manual for the budding feminist. She preached women’s rights and marched for Roe v Wade, and took me to women’s conferences where I heard the battle cries of that generation that believed they didn’t need men, didn’t want men, and honestly believed women were the improved version of men—as though God had made a mistake the first time around. feminist

I could not embrace much of her philosophy. I knew I did not think lesbianism was a substitution for marriage, and from the start I knew abortion was killing a baby. However, I did not entirely escape the brainwashing. My heart yearned for home and family, but my brain told me I was a fool to decline college. As a married woman, I still foolishly tried to have it all, and for a while I had a full time career, and was a part time mother, part time wife, and was in fact a poor excuse for a godly woman. I had long since given up trying to be the world’s ideal woman and settled into a half breed of both worlds, loving neither one.

My training in biblical counseling began around then, and it opened my eyes to exactly how short of the mark I was as a wife and a godly woman. However, it was not until I got my first copy of Martha Peace’s book The Excellent Wife that the light fully came on as to how feminized I truly was! I kept trying to remove the fruit of anger and impatience and selfishness from my life and did not understand why I was such a failure at it. I went around the sin/confession/repentance/sin block so many times I was ready to name it after myself. I really thought I was hopeless.
In biblical discipleship, I deal on a weekly basis with the adult children of women who wanted it all, and they are a mess. Their marriages are full of strife and misery because they have grown up with a false idea of what womanhood is truly about. Often, their husbands are weak leaders (because they also grew up under feminism) and have not been taught to be godly men who can lovingly lead. The women find it very easy to dominate and lead in the marriage in these circumstances. The wives rear the children often overriding the counsel of their husbands; they chastise their husbands in public over child-discipline matters, and they control all the finances of the home. In short, they make nearly all the decisions. They struggle to submit to the church Elders and demand more position and authority than Scripture allows for them.

The origin of these sinful practices was the beautiful Garden of Eden. Eve did not start out a feminist, but once sin entered the world (Gen 3) and the curse was pronounced on woman (v16, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you”) women began to think like feminists. It is critical that we help our fellow sisters in Christ to understand that our heart’s desire is to rule over our husbands, to dominate men.

These are sins that begin deep in the heart of each woman as she desires to exalt herself. It is no different than Satan’s bold proclamation, “I will be like the Most High”

(Isa 14:14). We demand our own way, we demand to be heard and appreciated and valued. We demand to be in charge!  This is not Gods way, it is the world’s way, and it is idolatry.

Anytime it becomes more important for me to have my way than to glorify God, I am practicing idolatry in my heart. I am worshiping myself instead of worshiping Him and  placing myself on the throne of my heart and leaving no room for the desires and commands of the Almighty.

Until we can teach the young women of today about feminism being an issue of the heart more than a behavior, we are doing nothing more than plucking rotten fruit off the tree of their lives. The anger, resentment, and selfishness women display (fruit) are evidences of what is taking place in the inner man (heart). It is not enough to change the outer display; we must teach that the heart has to change before any lasting behavioral change will result! Our minds are to be renewed by the Word of God and then, and only then, will we come to believe that our former way of living and thinking is unbiblical. This, and only this, will bring about a changed life and bring an end to the feministic way of thinking.

 

Submitted by Julie Ganschow

Reigning Grace Counseling Center

www.r-g-c-c.org

http://bc4women.blogspot.com

www.biblicalcounselingforwomen.org

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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So, You Want to Feel Better?

BY Julie Ganschow

We live in a world that offers unprecedented access to methods to feel better.  In fact, if you ask most people who have the slightest amount of discomfort what they want, they will tell you they want to “feel better.”
Feelbetter

The world’s methods for feeling better are rooted in psychology and psychological thinking.  This includes the use of various medications.   What Biblical Counselors offer is a completely different method for “feeling better.”  It doesn’t come in a bottle or a pill, and you can’t find it through talk therapy, anger management, or hypnosis.   It begins with understanding the way you feel emotionally is a result – it is an outcome of what you are thinking about.

The Bible is clear that what we think, believe, and desire is what leads us to feel and act the way we do. What you think, believe and desire in your heart is what causes you to feel depressed or have sorrow without hope, be happy, anxious or anything else.  Our thoughts are a reflection of what is in our heart. (Proverbs 23:7) You can look at your heart as the control center of your being—the Bible does! (Proverbs 4:23) We are warned to keep our heart; to watch over it, to guard it, and protect it. The heart is where your thoughts, beliefs, desires, will, soul, feelings, emotions and every other thing about you that cannot be physically handled resides.

The Bible tells us that because of our fallen nature the heart is wicked and deceitful (Jer. 17:9).  Because of this the heart is set upon pleasing self above all.  This is a worship disorder that is rooted in the immaterial man, and affects every aspect of a person if left unchecked.  It manifests itself in the dedicated focus on something or someone other than God and His glory.  We find many other things to lavish our focus on: money, spouses, and children, just to name a few things that you may be familiar with.  But we also give far too much attention to things that are immaterial—feelings, desires, wants, perceived needs, lusts, thoughts, and emotions.  As much as in my humanity I wish I could say something else to you, I know that the truth is this:  How you feel is not as important as what you do with your pain, troubles, or suffering.

The Christian life is not about feeling good or being happy.  The hard truth is that we are here to worship and glorify God and sometimes God chooses suffering and pain as the vehicle He uses to bring Himself glory!  If feeling better is what you focus on, you have got the wrong focus, and you may be reaching for the wrong goal.  I am not saying that you wrong for wanting to relieve physical suffering.  However, the relentless pursuit of feeling better is often completely out of hand!  What if God wants you to suffer with pain?  What if God has placed you in a marriage that is difficult because He is in the process of making you more like Christ?  Would you want to short circuit that?

The goal for the Christian to be more like Christ.  That is what we proclaim as we spout Romans 8:28-29.  We say we believe that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, but when we have to grapple with what it really means to be called to suffer we say, “God, can’t you make me like Christ some other way? Can’t you conform me without this pain?”   We argue with God, we bargain, we plead, we exhaust every human method and means to avoid pain and misery and sometimes we miss the whole point.  The desires of our hearts are fixed in the wrong place! They are too often placed in what I want, what my rights are, how I can be served, how I can feel better and be happier…and these are not what God wants us to focus on!  He wants our desires to be in line with His— in the midst of the pain, in the middle of the crummy marriage or relationship. He wants us to stop worshipping and idolizing these people and things and fix our eyes on Him!

Living by emotions is a dead end. You will never find stability; there is no even keel.  You will find yourself brought high and low, up and down all the time!  This just creates more misery for you. There is a better way!

Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling

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Book Review: When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage

BY SUSAN VERSTRAETE

When Sinners Say “I Do”—Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage
Dave Harvey, Shepherd Press, 2007whensinners

He doesn’t pull any punches. In the preface to his book, When Sinners Say “I Do”, Dave Harvey says, “The more you get to know me, the more you’ll admire my wife.” Harvey has taken a good look at himself in the mirror and has seen a sinner staring back at him—the same experience we’ve all had if we are honest. Even though we believers are being sanctified, and even though God promises to complete the work He begins in us, all of us are still sinners. So now what? How can sinners have a marriage that glorifies God?

Harvey’s surprising answer is “by being good theologians.” Specifically, he encourages us to apply the Gospel to our marriages. “Never make the mistake of thinking that the Gospel is only good for evangelism and conversion,” he says. “Accurately understanding and continually applying the Gospel is the Christian life.”

The first half of Harvey’s book talks about sin. He helps us to redefine the problems we may be experiencing in marriage (or in other relationships) biblically. Not “My marriage is having problems” but “I’m having a problem with sin.” In the second half of the book, Harvey gives us multiple examples from his own life and from others to help us see how we can act toward our spouse with humility, mercy and kindness. We understand the Gospel first, and then we apply it —what Harvey calls “taking your theology out for a spin.” As he says, “Forgiven sinners forgive sin.” Unlike many marriage books, this book focuses on what I need to do, not how I can manipulate my spouse to change to please me.

I was struck by how widely applicable most of the book was—not just for marriage situations, but much of the material was helpful for relationships in general. The book was honest, understandable and often funny. I highly recommend it.

When Sinners Say “I Do” is available on the FCC bookshelf, or from Amazon.com for about $10. (The study guide for this book is about $7.00 from Amazon.com.)

Susan Verstraete is a member of FCC and serves as church secretary.

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