Resources By Topic
Resources by Topic
- Biblical Counseling
When you hear the word dementia, what first pops into your mind? Old age? Alzheimer’s? Nursing homes? The high cost of care? No one likes to talk about dementia. Nobody wants to have dementia. Still, biblical counselors need to know about it because chances are they will counsel a person with dementia or, more likely, family members who provide care.
In brief, dementia is a cognitive disorder. The affected person’s thinking ability gradually deteriorates. It interferes with judgment and memory and also can create confusion, fear, and irritation. There are several types of dementia. The best known is Alzheimer’s, which was experienced by former president, Ronald Reagan.
In 1900, people aged 65 or older made up 4 percent of the U.S. population. In 1980, this number nearly tripled to11 percent of the population. Do you know the estimate for the year 2030? 22 percent – almost a quarter of the population! And the “geriatric” slice of pie keeps growing. Continue reading...
The world is shifting. Nation against nation; political party against political party; infighting in friend groups and families, and even infighting in the church. It seems that, with every passing moment, people’s attitudes, circumstances and experiences are changing.
Yet Jesus calls us to be different, to be set apart. In the early parts of His farewell discourse, Jesus outlines the foundation of what it looks like to follow Him: to abide in Him. He reminds the disciples, and subsequently us, that nothing can be done apart from Him (John 15:5).
But what does it mean to abide? What does it look like to live rooted in Christ? When the world around us changes, Jesus tells us that abiding in Him looks like loving one another (John 15:12). Jesus teaches us in John 15:12-17 what it looks like to love one another; He shows us where this kind of love that should characterize our lives as His followers, comes from.
Our Standard Challenged (v. 13)
In our world, there seems to be a number of definitions of what love is. If you asked five different people, you’d probably get the same amount of differing answers. It feels at times that these perceptions of love are competing with one another.
However, Jesus gives his followers an eternal perspective, an eternal standard for love: “laying one’s life down for his friends.” Now obviously, we’d like to take that literally by saying we’d sacrifice ourselves if our friends are in harm’s way. But this is an extreme and only part of what Jesus is saying. He’s talking about a sacrificial lifestyle toward others; He’s inviting us to give ourselves fully to one another. However, we cannot love one another fully in and of ourselves. We have to love others out of being loved…being loved by Jesus, who loved us deeply enough to lay down His earthly life for us.
Our Status Changed (v. 14-15)
“Status” is a word that gets thrown around, often being tied to whether or not someone is in a relationship and if it is public knowledge on social media. From being married, in a relationship, to being single, people are interested in status. But if our love is supposed to be set apart from the rest of the world, we have to rest in our status in relationship to Jesus. He, the perfect prophet, priest, and king, has never waivered or changed.
When we think about kings, it usually entails this idea that they are served by others–subjects or slaves, if you will. While this is a part of rule and reign that we see on earth, that’s not the kind of rule and reign Jesus practices. Those who follow this King are called His friends. He invites them into what the Father has revealed and taught through Him. The King has loved us enough to call us His friend and that is where we live from. Our friendship with King Jesus is the place from which we are able to love one another.
Our Soul Chosen (v. 16)
Not only has the standard been challenged and our status changed, but in Christ, we are chosen. Loving one another means that we are set apart for His Kingdom and His purposes. We have been tasked to live obedient lives in the power of the Holy Spirit; lives that reflect the light of King in a dark and unloving world. In Christ, the Father has tasked believers to be representatives of Christ so that others may come to know Him; so that others may come to know what abiding love looks like.
Prayer is one of those topics that tends to stir up feelings of either conviction or confusion in people. Some might feel guilty for not praying more but unsure if they are even doing it correctly. Others may wrestle with feeling inadequate, ineloquent, or ill-prepared. There are even those who deep down wonder if prayer really matters. Continue reading...
Intentionally seeking and granting forgiveness is first and foremost about the glory of God. As we humble ourselves to His will and seek to imitate Him in our relationships with others, forgiveness serves as the foundation upon which relational and emotional healing may take place.
“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgiven him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:3-4).
As we consider and pursue resolving conflict biblically, it’s helpful to clarify what biblical forgiveness is and is not. Here are some common myths above forgiveness.
Myth 1: You cannot forgive until you have worked through your negative emotions against the offender. Most psychological models of forgiveness are feelings-based in that they purport the idea that a person may grant genuine forgiveness only upon working through negative feelings experienced by the offense. Such theories tend to contradict the teaching of Jesus in the above passage since it would be unlikely for you to effectively “work through” your negative emotions if someone committed the same sin against you seven times in the same day. Jesus’ command is to forgive immediately upon the offender repenting.
Myth 2: Forgiving while still angry or upset is hypocritical. Hypocrisy, from the vantage point of being a Christian, is to say one is a Christ-follower, but refuse or reject to abide by his teachings. Therefore, hypocrisy, in the context of forgiveness, would be refusing to forgive when a person seeks forgiveness since it counters Jesus’ instruction in Luke 17. To grant forgiveness while still hurting is not hypocrisy, it is obedience.
Myth 3: Forgiveness is essential so that I (the offended) am not harmed emotionally or psychologically. Many well-intended pastors and counselors have made the central aspect of forgiveness as one’s own self-healing. While harboring bitterness and resentment will certainly have a negative impact upon our spiritual and emotional lives, forgiveness is not a therapeutic intervention designed for psychological health. The primary aim of forgiveness is the glory of God. We glorify God most when we humble ourselves to his will and seek to imitate Him in our relationships with others. Forgiveness exposes the heart of an unworthy servant of God who simply carries out his or her critical duty to grant what they have been given by the Lord (Luke 17:10; Ephesians 2:4-10). Make the motive of your forgiveness first about loving God, then about loving your neighbor. The spiritual maturity that will accompany this mindset is far more significant than the temporal self-help messages so popular in Church culture today.
Myth 4: If I forgive, I must forget: Nowhere in Scripture does it infer that once we forgive, we must forget. Some quote Hebrews 8:12 in which God promises, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” These beautiful promises are fulfilled not because God’s memory is erased, but because He willfully chooses not to hold our sins against us. God is omniscient, and he has not forgotten our sins as we might forget where we placed our keys. God, out of the abundance of His mercy and love, foregoes justice against the believer, therefore upholding his covenant promises to those who have placed faith in Him for salvation.
Furthermore, some offenses are quite painful, even traumatic. To ask someone to completely forget the incident or the pain related to it would not be a compassionate approach to ministry. The key is not to erase one’s memory of the past, but to learn how to honor God when past memories seek to infringe upon one’s present awareness.
Myth 5: Forgiving someone means I can never talk to them about the incident again. While forgiveness entails not attacking the offender with past interpersonal sins, sometimes the restoration process may give rise to discussing the ongoing pain caused by the offense with the offender. The purpose of such conversation is not to resurrect past sins or accusation, but to provide the offender with the opportunity to love and care for the person he or she has hurt. For example, if a wife is struggling with deep sadness and an overwhelming sense of betrayal as a result of her husband’s confessed adultery, it will be important for her to share these burdens with him so that he may humble himself in seeking to restore the relationship.
Myth 6: Granting forgiveness is saying that what the offender did was OK or not that bad. Forgiveness does not lessen the gravity or severity of any sin. Sin, in all its forms is evil and vile. Forgiveness is granting to your offender something he or she may not necessarily deserve while refusing to take matters of punishment into your own hands. It is choosing mercy over justice and imitates the heart of God towards his people.
- Forgiveness is not an emotion, but a covenant promise to forgive the debt of your offender. Ideally, it should not be granted at the end of the healing process, but at the beginning. It is the foundation upon which relational and emotional healing may take place.
- Forgiveness is to promise that you will not hold the sin against your offender. You, as God, will work to willfully “remember the sin of your offender against him or her no more.”
- Forgiveness is to promise that you will not ruminate over your offender’s sin while alone. When you make this covenant promise to your offender, it serves as a powerful reminder with which to engage the mental battle when the temptation to ruminate arises.
- Forgiveness is to promise that you will not gossip about your offender’s sin with others.
Granting forgiveness is not ultimately contingent upon our interpretation of the offender’s genuineness in repentance. The Christian ethic seeks to operate in love towards all people, including one’s offender(s). Therefore, it is important to reflect the following: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Corinthians 13:7).
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
Relationships are difficult. Interaction with others is essential-which means that someone will offend you. You may have experienced at least one of these statements in your lifetime:
You took advantage of me. You stole from me. You lied to me. You cheated on me. You fired me. You abandoned me. You abused me. You ruined my reputation. You killed my loved one. You took everything from me.
When someone sins against you, it hurts deeply and causes emotional pain. Just as a car accident causes physical injury, someone sinning against you causes emotional injury (Ps 41:9).
The Healing Process
Emotional hurt is trauma to the heart. Like physical injuries, emotional injuries must go through a three-phase healing process.
The body reacts to trauma with an inflammatory process to destroy harmful substances entering the body. This is when you feel the most intense pain. The heart is the target of emotional hurt, reacting in self-defense (shock, denial, confusion, withdrawal) to prevent further hurt. This is when you feel the most intense emotional pain such as sadness, grief and rejection (Ps 25:16-17).
Just as the body forms a scab (a protective layer) to prevent infection, the heart-by thinking biblically about God, yourself, and the offender-builds and cultivates a shield of protection against a sinful response to an offense (Phil 4:8-9; 2 Cor 10:5).
The body replaces damaged tissue with healthy tissue. Similarly, the emotionally damaged heart is renewed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. God heals your broken heart and binds up your wounds (Ps 147:3), enabling you to respond to the offender with a heart that produces the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
Unforgiveness Hinders Healing
A wounded heart can lead to unforgiveness-the sin of being judge and executioner of the offender. Resentment takes root in the heart cultivating anger, hate and bitterness (Heb 12:15; Eph 4:31).
Offenses will come into your life and cause pain. You can either hold on to the hurt until it wrecks you, your family and your life-or you can minimize the damage by responding rightly to those offenses (Eph 4:32).
Freedom in Forgiveness
Forgiveness is essential to emotional healing. It is a command that requires you to accept the reality of the wrongs committed against you and to release yourself as the offender’s judge and executioner (Eph 4:32).
Forgiveness is a critical spiritual principle much like the law of gravity (Matt 6:12). You can no more alter the law of gravity than the spiritual principle of forgiveness. If you withhold forgiving others, God withholds forgiveness of your daily sins. (Matt 18:21-35)-not forgiveness leading to salvation, but the forgiveness you seek when your sin grieves your Heavenly Father (1 Jn 1:9).
An unforgiving heart forfeits God’s blessing and ushers in His chastening. Forgiveness is a gift you can give because it was given to you in Jesus Christ (Col 3:13). Forgiveness frees you to have unfettered fellowship with your Heavenly Father.
*This post is republished by permission and originally appeared on Institute for Biblical Counseling & Discipleship blog. Click here to view the original article.
We often think about grief and adults, but what about when our children struggle with loss and grief? When they face life’s losses, how do they find hope when they’re hurting?
In Grief and Your Child, I apply biblical principles of loss and hope to the grief experience of children and teens. The book focuses on helping parents and counselors to understand and empathize with a child’s grief. It then seeks to equip parents and counselors to help children and teens to find God’s healing hope in the midst of life’s painful losses.
In Grief and Your Child, I walk through a “counseling vignette” with “Jared” and his parents (“Elyse” and “Dexter”). The vignette illustrates the patient, compassionate, back-and-forth journey of grief that adults can take with each unique child.
At the end of the booklet, I share four parental grief ministry principles. I introduce this section with these words:
“Parents, by sitting in on our counseling sessions with Jared, Elyse, and Dexter, you’ve gained a glance into your own child’s grieving heart—understanding and empathizing with your child. You’ve also read a number of practical/relational/biblical principles for ministering to your child. In this final section, we want to expand on how to minister Christ’s compassionate comfort and healing hope to your child’s grieving heart.
Remember, children need good parenting even more than they need good counseling. You can be your child’s best biblical counselor.”
Parental Grief Principle #1: Face Your Grief Face-to-Face with Christ
You’ve heard the illustration about what flight attendants say concerning a flight emergency, “Adults, first put on your oxygen mask, and then put your child’s mask on them.” Without your oxygen mask, you’ll pass out and be no help to your child.
Likewise, if you’re not dealing with your grief—in whatever losses you’re experiencing—you’ll be less helpful to your child. Recall 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: the God of all comfort comforts you in all your troubles so that you can comfort those—like your child—in any trouble, with the overflow of the comfort you’ve received from God. The best comfort-givers are comfort-receivers from the God of all comfort.
Parental Grief Principle #2: It’s Normal to Feel
Jared felt a variety of emotions: grief, sadness, fear, and anger. All casket experiences—especially the final casket of death—are intruders. Grief has a piercing stinger that wounds deeply.
Allow your child to vent and lament. Don’t force your son or daughter to “get it together.”
Give your child permission to grieve. One of the most powerful ways to do this is by giving yourself permission to grieve and allowing your children to experience—to the degree they can handle it—your own sadness.
Mourn with your children when they mourn. Weep when they weep (Rom. 12:15). Hurt with them when they hurt.
Practice lingering listening. Hear before you speak (Prov. 18:13; James 1:19). Feel before you fix (1 Cor. 12:26). Like the Holy Spirit, groan (Rom. 8:26) before you teach (Rom. 8:28).
Share your soul and Scripture. Our tendency is to rush in with answers before we even hear the question and before our child knows we care about their concern. As parents, we can follow Paul’s model of sharing Scripture and soul. “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess. 2:7-8).
Realize that children’s actions often express emotions. Children rarely have the emotional intelligence or maturity to verbalize exactly what they feel. Their actions speak for their emotions. Seek to prayerfully discern what emotional message your child’s behavior is sending.
Parental Grief Principle #3: It’s Helpful to Prepare Where Possible
In Jared’s vignette, his parents could have prepared him better for what he was about to face. It’s understandable that they did not—they were not prepared either. Nothing truly prepares us for death. But a few actions and attitudes can help.
Pray before communicating. Elyse blurted out, “Get in the car, Jared. Your Grandfather just passed away.” Her communication could have been improved with a prayer, “Father, help me to share this difficult loss in the gentlest way possible.”
Communicate before attending funeral services. Jared was ill-prepared for many of the experiences at the funeral home and the funeral—especially the open casket. Walk your children through what they are likely to experience. Talk openly with them about their questions, concerns, apprehensions, and fears.
Parental Grief Principle #4: It’s Possible to Hope
Do not merely give your child permission to grieve, but also offer your child encouragement to cling to Christ. Model for your child clinging-courage as you take your grief to Christ your Victor, to Christ your big and loving Shepherd-King, to Christ your Deliverer and Savior, to Christ who hears and cares, to Christ your comforting and encouraging Divine Counselor. Model finding hope in the Trinity—in the Father of compassion, in the sympathizing, suffering, helping High Priest, in the groaning Holy Spirit.
Bathe your child in hope-giving Scripture. Grief, loss, casket experiences, and death can be the exact time the Word comes most alive—what a paradox. The written Word points to Christ the Living Word—who is alive forevermore. Read Scripture together. Weep Scripture together. Cling to Scripture together. Pray Scripture together.
Relate God’s story to your child’s story. Picture it like this: You stand with your child between two worlds, between two stories—the earthly temporal story of death and the heavenly eternal story of life. With one foot, always pivot into your child’s earthly story of grief, pain, hurt, loss, and confused feelings. With the other foot, always pivot together with your child into Christ’s heavenly, hope-filled story.
Remind your child that you’ve read the end of the story. Life triumphs over death, hope triumphs over hurt, and Christ triumphs over the devil and evil.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Rev. 21:3-4).
Questions for Reflection
1. As a parent, pastor, or counselor, how prepared are you to minister to children in their grief?
2. How could you become better equipped to share with a child about God’s comfort in loss?
3. Of the four grief principles in the post, which one do you think would be most important for you to add to your grief ministry focus?
A Word from Bob: On August 21, 2021, New Growth Press will release Grief and Your Child: Sharing God’s Comfort in Loss. You can learn more about the booklet here. Today’s post seeks to capture the big picture of how to comfort children during times of loss and grief.