Archives For Biblical Counseling

I’ve made it no secret that I’m loving me some amateur gardening. My wife and I have tinkered with raised bed gardens now for a few years. We’ve moved the garden, planted different vegetables, started from seeds, started from plants, experimented with fertilizers, sprayed for deer, thrown oranges at deer (and hit them, thank you very much), and had a blast doing it.

But do you know one thing that’s never happened?

We’ve never had a plant that shot its roots towards the sky and its fruit down into the ground.

We’ve never had to say,

Aww shucks (because that’s what gardeners say…), this plant got it wrong…we need to dig it up and turn it over.

Wouldn’t it be weird to see roots growing towards the sky? To have to dig into the ground to get your fresh tomatoes? To wonder, when you planted your squash, whether the plants would guess, correctly or incorrectly, which direction was “up” and which was “down”?

Plants grow the “right” way because God intended them to grow that way. Science may have pinpointed the reason why this happens, but that doesn’t discount the hand of God to sovereignly direct things for His good and our benefit.

The crazy plant

I wonder how often a plant questions its Maker, though.

Wow, how great would it be for me to do things my way? I so hate growing towards the sun. If I could only sink my flowers down deep into this dark soil, things would be much better.

Ridiculous, no? We all know that that won’t work. Roots have to go into the soil. Fruit grows in the sun. (well…unless you’re a potato. But that’s another post for another day) It doesn’t work if this process is reversed. It’s not how plants are supposed to function.

We’re like a crazy plant

We do the same thing, though, in our lives, when we think we know better than God. We ignore the full life that God offers us. We go at life our own way, ignoring the wisdom God offers through others, through Scripture, and through life experiences. We think that we must know better. That our way must be the best. That roots don’t grow deep into the soil. That our roots need a bit of sunshine, and our fruit a bit of darkness.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

But life doesn’t always happen as we’d like it to, does it? What we thought would happen by the time we turn 25 hasn’t. We’re not married. Or we don’t have children. Or we’re not in our dream job yet. Or we don’t have a house. Or we don’t have much money. Or we haven’t finished our degree. Or our dad still doesn’t want a relationship with us. By 40, our kids don’t like us. We’re on our 3rd marriage. Still in debt. Still have a dead-end job. Maybe life has left us trashed.

And life itself has stopped making sense.

If God is who He’s claimed He is, our natural inclination would be to accuse, blame, and turn our backs on the One who has created it all.

But let me challenge you with a better way. I think it’s time to trust the Guy who knew us before He crafted us in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). Who knew what He was doing before we were born.

Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when things are chaotic. Even when things are falling apart.

The One who created all of this knows what’s best. His perspective is bigger than ours. His ways are higher than ours. (Isaiah 55:8-9) His love is deeper than ours. His joy is more full than ours. And He’s able to bring beauty out of ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)

Choose to scream and rail and throw your hands in the air if you’d like.

Or choose to let your roots sink deeper…and let your fruit grow upwards.

 

 

Looking but not listening

Ben Reed —  March 24, 2011 — 3 Comments

My wife said something to me the other day.  I was in the other room, so I didn’t hear her.

Valid excuse, no?

My wife said something to me the other day.  I was right beside her, doing something else, so I didn’t hear her.

Valid excuse, no?

My wife said something to me the other day.  I was looking her right in the eyes, and I didn’t hear her.

Valide excuse, no?

No?

Have you ever done that?  You’re looking right at someone, and they’re talking and you hear what they’re saying, but at the same time you’re hearing none of what they’re saying?

I feel dumb saying, “I know you thought we were engaged in a good conversation right then, and I was even nodding my head, but I have no idea what you said.”

Ever done that with God?

We’re surrounded by God speaking.

In our Bibles.  In podcasts.  Sermons.  Songs.  Through our friends.  Our small group.  Books.  Movies.  Creation.

He is speaking through success.  Through failure.  Through closed doors and open ones.

And yet we don’t listen.  We have no idea what God is saying, or calling us to do.

 

So how do we actually start listening to what He’s telling us?

 

How to hear God’s voice

  • Read your Bible. God has spoken most clearly there, and He has guided people for centuries with the Truth found in the Scriptures.  Through reading more and more of the Bible, you begin to understand what moves the heart of God, where and how He’s working, and how your life can more closely reflect that of Christ.  I call that a win.
  • Listen to solid Bible teaching. Hopefully your church offers it.  If not, feel free to supplement with a Podcast from another church.  There are hundreds of great ones out there.  I listen to this one Matt Chandler HERE and Andy Stanley HERE. (though, thankfully, my church, Grace Community Church, offers amazing teaching).  Hearing the Bible taught and applied is a great way to understand what God may be calling you to do.
  • Serve. Serving others is a great way to get you outside of yourself, and remind yourself that you’re not the center of the universe.  It’s also a great way to find out what things you’re gifted at and where your passions lie.
  • Pray. Ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to be and do.  If you want to hear from God, ask Him to speak.
  • Listen to your friends. Asking those who know you well (especially those in your small group) and you to grow in your faith, to help you know what God may be calling you to do, can be incredibly insightful.  If your friends can be honest with you, they have probably seen God working in your life, and can help you know what things you may be gifted at (or not) that may be worth pursuing.
  • Spend some time enjoying beauty. Whether it’s in the form of nature, art, music, or movies, you can hear God speaking there, too.  I’m not promising an audible, booming voice, but God can move you, and speak to you, in significant ways when you acknowledge His role in creating those things.
  • Be still.  For me, this is probably the toughest one.  I struggle to be still and silent and patient.  (Psalm 46:10)

If you want to know what God’s calling you to do, both right now and in the future, try these things.  And when you get finished with these things, try them again.  And again.  And again.

 

Have you heard God speaking to you lately?

 

What’s He calling you to do?

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________…

Because sometimes listening and weeping is more valuable than words you can muster up.

(see Job 2:11-13)

 

Premarital counseling

Ben Reed —  November 19, 2010 — 6 Comments

Ever have one of those ideas that you didn’t realize was a good idea until afterwards?

I had a little accidental awesomeness yesterday.

I said this on Twitter and Facebook, and turns out it’s a question that lots of people think is important:

If you could tell an engaged couple 1 thing before they got married, what would you say?

The responses were so good, I decided to put them in a blog post.

  • To the engaged couple: you’re gonna hurt each other (sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident), but forgiving is worth it.  @pckaufma
  • When u know, u know. Don’t ask how b/c u can’t explain it, but when it’s really right you’ll understand exactly what I just said.  @aim3
  • Never let the sun go down on your anger…ever.  @daniel1012
  • Agree that, no matter how hard it gets, divorce is never an option.  @rkinnick59
  • Why do you love this person? What will the purpose of your marriage be?  @LucySongJau
  • Always try to be the first to apologize and to ask for forgiveness. It makes you work through junk in order to do it sincerely.  @masonconrad
  • To be open with each other about finances and how much debt you actually have, if any. – Bobbi Jo Cozby Caulfield
  • Have them do the Dave Ramsey course… a lot of marriages fail due to money and this is a way to make sure they are on agreement on how to handle their finances. – Arie Detweiler Schlabach
  • I think they should be required to see a print out of the last 6 months of their bank account just to get a small idea of their money management. not that it should stop them from getting married, but that they know that about the other one before hand.  – Michelle McClure Reese
  • be quick to forgive and slow to dwell on differences that, when embraced, makes the “whole” more complete. But how can you really narrow it down to one? In short…love as Christ loves. So…I guess it would really be to know and love God first! How simply complex.  – Mya Parker
  • Open honest communication – Diane Boots Bryant
  • don’t go to bed mad. – Rebecca Hackett Schilling
  • Make sure you understand each other’s expectations of getting married. – Michelle Lawrence Moore
  • Elope – Kristen Cocker
  • In many states, marriage licenses are cheaper (or free) if you go to premarital counseling. You may think it’s a bunch of psychobabble bullcrap (or, alternatively, a bunch of hyper-religious “God says X, so you should Y” stuff), but premarital counseling can help you explore aspects of marriage you might not have considered, especially if you have had a short engagement. Plus, it can reduce the over-all cost of getting married, assuming the marriage counseling doesn’t cost you more than the discount on the marriage license. – Noel Bagwell
  • What I would say just changed on Sunday. Last 10%! Don’t hold it back. – Angela Ridge Edwards
  • Enjoy each other without having children for at least two years. Living with a spouse exposes areas in your relationship which need some addressing ~ this can be a fun process if you’re on the same page! When you have spent time really getting to know each other, then you can move forward, better prepared to become a family. – Todd Oesch
  • marriage is a contact sport, you must love restlessly and get up from failure quickly. – Lindsey Pippins
  • Sit down every chance you get. – Bradley Mayse
  • In short, your only responsibility before family is your relationship with God….get that right and the rest will fall in place. – Wiley Aaron Rutledge
  • That You cannot Change Him/or Her. It seems like every new couple has this thought cross their mind somewhere in the relationship process. So if something “small” makes you feel uneasy, that something “small” will become quite Large later on. – Heather Bro Moroschak

To me, this is one of the great values of community…learning from each other’s mistakes, victories, trials, pains, and joys.

What would you add to this list?

 

Don’t make it worse

Ben Reed —  June 18, 2010 — Leave a comment

Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart
is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound (Proverbs 25:20)

Sometimes, our counsel can make things worse.

We feel like we’re being helpful, but in reality, we make life more painful and difficult to bear.

So next time someone you know is dealing with a lot of life, and isn’t sure how to handle it, don’t try singing a happy song.  Don’t sugar coat things and tell them that it’s not that bad.  Because maybe it is that bad.

Instead, try weeping with those who weep. (Romans 12:15)

Or just being quiet. (Job 2:13)

Or pointing them to the unchanging hope of life with Christ.  Not to the quickly fading hope of a good and easy life on earth. (2 Corinthians 1:5)


 

I’m not a reader…

Ben Reed —  December 7, 2009 — 6 Comments

Why can a person read 2,444 pages of the Twilight Saga but barely find 10 minutes to read their Bible?

I ask difficult questions.  Not difficult in that you couldn’t follow along because they’re intellectually difficult, but difficult in the sense that they’re not surface-level, “easy” questions.

I was talking with a person recently, asking them about how they’re doing spending time reading their Bible (because I’m convinced that if a person’s not reading their Bible consistently, they’re not growing consistently).

Them: I’m just not a reader.

Me: I don’t buy that.

Them: I just don’t like to read.

Me: How many pages are in Twilight?

Them: I don’t know…probably over 1,000.

Me: How long did it take you to read that?

Them: Less than a week.

Me: …

You make time for what matters most to you.  Not sure where to start with the Bible?  Here’s a reading plan for you.

 

Rejoice!

Ben Reed —  June 18, 2009 — Leave a comment

When life falls apart, we tend to lose hope.  Whether that’s getting a flat tire (I just had one!), getting a headache, hearing tragic news, or losing your job, our response is often to recoil and lose hope.

When life falls apart, do you run to God or from Him?  Those are the only two options.  The biblical ideal is this: “we rejoice in our sufferings.” (Romans 5:3)  What?!?  Rejoice in our sufferings?  Isn’t that counter-intuitive?  How could somebody ever be joyful in the midst of pain?  Emotions aren’t something you can control, right?  They’re just a reaction, aren’t they?

Being joyful in the face of difficulties is a work that God must do in you.  It’s a process, and doesn’t happen overnight.

“Suffering produces endurance.” (Romans 5:3)  “Produce” implies that there is time between suffering and endurance.  No runner will tell you that they built up endurance in one week, or even in one year.  It takes a lot of time.  The same holds true for:

“Endurance produces character.” (Romans 5:4)  Former Princeton basketball coach, Pete Carril said, “Adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”  Hardships have a way of revealing the worst in us, but endurance in the face of them produces character.  This passage in Romans finishes with:

“Character produces hope.” (Romans 5:4)  What is that hope in?  That our sufferings are not in vain, but that they bring glory to God (Romans 5:2).  We rejoice because we are being made into the image of Christ, the One who died for us.  We don’t rejoice because we enjoy suffering.  We don’t hope because we think that life on earth will some day be rosy and easy.  We have hope because Christ died the death we deserve, and is shaping us into his image so that, when this life is over, we will be ready for an eternity with God.

In your suffering may you “not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The next time that life falls apart, turn to God, and let Him do a work in you.  May your suffering ultimately produce hope in Christ.

 

This is a snapshot of our garden

This year, I’ve taken up gardening.  I wrote a little bit about that here.  Before you write me off as a girly man, hear me out.

I built four raised plant beds to plant some mini-gardens in my back yard.  I don’t have room for a full-on garden, and raised beds tend to look tidier.  In addition, they’re supposed to cut down on weeds.  Based on the word supposed, you can guess that that’s not exactly the case.  At least it’s not so when you use dirt that’s full of weed seeds.  You see, I got the dirt from my grandfather’s farm, and though the dirt is unbelievably rich, it had some weed seeds in it.

My wife and I planted lots of vegetables: carrots, bibb lettuce, red cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and other stuff I can’t remember.  We also have herbs and flowers in the garden.  As they began to germinate and eventually sprout up out of the ground, we got really excited.  Except that we weren’t sure whether these new green sprigs were veggies or weeds.

“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Matthew 13:24-26)

There will always be “weeds among the wheat” in the church.  You can be upset about that if you’d like, or do something about it.  Does the fact that there are “weeds” (and by “weeds,” I mean that there are those there who don’t really belong to the kingdom of God, i.e., they’re not saved) bother you?  I hope it does, because it should!  Weeds are not meant to be there!  Someone else, not the true Gardener, has placed them in the garden.  What should we, the Church, do about these unwelcomed, ugly, ultimately life-sucking weeds?  Cut them off?  Cast them out?  Try to build our garden so that no weeds enter (which is not possible, by the way)?  No.  That is unloving and un-Christlike.  The answer to the question, “what do we do with the weeds?” is that we love them.  We evangelize them.  We live and preach the Gospel in hopes that God transforms them from a weed into a beautiful plant that bears fruit for the Kingdom.  Instead of sucking the life out of the Church, we plead with them to give the desire of their heart to Christ and begin pouring life back into the Church!

Don’t forget…you were a weed once, too.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

 

Check out these lyrics from “Let the Music Get Down in Your Soul” by Mark Broussard:

When your life gets too complicated
Gotta let the music
Get Down in your soul
Forget all your frustrations
And let the music music
Get down in your soul
Get on up, My brother,
And let the music, get down in your soul
Get on up, up yeah my sister
And let the music get down in your soul

Everyday ain’t gonna be sunny, No
Gotta let the music
Get down in your soul
Life ain’t filled with milk and honey, No
Gotta let the music music
Get down in your soul

Things ain’t as bad as they may seem
But you can’t find reality living in a dream
The strength you need, you had it all the time
You’ll find the answers in the back of your mind

Forget all you frustrations
come on
And let the music music
Get down in your soul

______________________________________________________

Is that the answer to life’s troubles?  Simply “let the music get down in your soul”?  Does that really help in the long run?  Maybe escaping into a song, simply forgetting your frustrations, realizing that you have always had the strength you need is what some people use, but Scripture offers a different hope.

Read these lyrics by a guy named David from Psalm 32:

Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Selah

Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD “—
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Selah

Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you
while you may be found;
surely when the mighty waters rise,
they will not reach him.

You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Selah

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.

Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.

Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the LORD’s unfailing love
surrounds the man who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!

_____________________________________________________

There seems to be a connection here between forgiveness and overcoming depression.  When David refused to confess his sin to God, he felt as though his bones were wasting away and his strength was dried up.  Sounds like he was feeling pretty rotten…we might even call that a sort of depression.  He then acknowledged his sin and didn’t hide it from the Lord, and found forgiveness.  What a gift!  What a weight of guilt is lifted off when we are forgiven!  “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity!”

I’m not meaning to minimize the pain of depression, or discount it as a serious problem, or even say that all depression is directly linked with sin.  I’m just offering this as one answer to “feeling down.”  If you find that life is too complicated, instead of working to “get the music down in your soul,” how about confessing your sin to God and asking Him to cleanse you and restore your joy?  Maybe the dark clouds of depression will lift.  However, even if they do not, you can rest assured that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.”  He will sustain you and give you reason to “shout for joy!”

What do you need to confess to the Lord today?

 

Is your system working?

Ben Reed —  February 18, 2009 — 13 Comments

I’ve been in my current ministry position now for a little over a year. Our church is structured around a three-fold strategy of creating followers of Christ: Gather, Commit, and Serve:

As we GATHER to celebrate Jesus and encounter biblical principles, COMMIT to one another in community groups, and SERVE by using the gifts God has given us to invest in the lives of others, we will grow in our passion for God, our compassion for God’s people, and our effectiveness in God’s work of developing growing followers.

That’s our system, and my role in the system is to facilitate, oversee, and help to develop community groups. I completely believe in our system, the simplicity of it (and the simplicity of what it means to be a be a follower of Christ), and am committed to it wholeheartedly. However, I’m always evaluating it, and specifically, the role of community groups in creating authentic community that fosters growth in godliness.

About two months ago, I was counseling a young man who had lots of questions about his next step in life. Basically, his question was, “What do I do next?” He needed help in thinking through future career options, future spouse options, financial next-steps, etc. He thought that his problem was that he struggled with change, and was afraid to take big steps. Over the course of only a few weeks, we determined that his problem was much greater. The next big step that he needed to take, the one that would determine the course of his life forever, was to become a follower of Christ. I told him that this decision would not necessarily make his life ‘easier.’ It would also not lay out in detail his exact next step. However, he would be resting his future in the hands of the One who created the universe (Genesis 1), who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17), and whose hand cannot be stayed (Daniel 4:35). So, this young man decided to place his faith in Christ!

That’s great news, right? I should be rejoicing, right?

I am, but I’m also saddened.

This man has been in one of our community groups for over a year. He has sat in a group every week, and still was troubled by the question, “What is the gospel?” This man is very intelligent, and can easily comprehend difficult, abstract concepts, but still had the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?” and “What does it mean to repent?” He didn’t know why we needed a sacrifice for our sins, and that Christ had offered himself as our perfect lamb.

If he was just a semi-regular Sunday morning attender, I could feel okay about this. But he’s there every single week, and is one of the most faithful members of his small group.

This bothers me. How could someone be plugged into what I thought was a disciple-producing ministry here at GCC and still have these questions? Let me reiterate that it was not for a lack of intellectual comprehension that this man did not know. He had simply not been asked the fundamental questions of the gospel and had the chance to interact with the Truth.

Is this an isolated issue, or pervasive? Is it a problem with the curriculum that we’re using? Is it a problem with the way that I communicate with my leaders? Is it our system? Is it a leadership training issue? Is it something that needs to be communicated more from the stage?

I realize that this post leaves me quite vulnerable as the leader of the small groups here at our church. But I want to be honest and say that this bothers me. I want to make sure that each of our group leaders is having gospel-centered discussions, both within the weekly group meeting and outside of it. So right now, I’m working through some ideas to ensure, as much as is humanly possible, that difficult questions are being asked, fundamental gospel concepts are being discussed and applied to life, and that those who attend our community groups have the chance to chew on and digest the great, life-changing truths of the gospel.

Is the goal of your ‘system’ discipleship? If not, what is the goal of your ‘system’? Is that goal being met? If it’s not being met, how willing are you to scrap the ‘system’ in favor of the goal?

Next post, I’ll fill you in on what I think the problem is. I actually think I may have nailed the issue. We’ll see.