Complicating Problems

September 16th, 2014 No Comments

A complicating problem, also called a secondary problem, is a problem that comes as a result of not handling the primary problem correctly in the first place. Jay Adams gives an example of complicating problems in his book Competent to Counsel, when he discusses how sin, not dealt with Biblically, spirals downward, out of control. He said, “Sinful habits are hard to break, but if they are not broken they will bind the client ever more tightly. He is held fast by these ropes of his own sin. He finds that sin spirals in a downward cycle, pulling him along. He is captured and tied up by sin’s ever-tightening cords. At length, he becomes sin’s slave” (p. 145). He goes on to use the event of Cain and Able in Genesis four as an example of this. Cain’s sacrifice was not accepted by God (4:5). Then Cain sat, seething and becoming more and more angry. God went to him and warned him not only about where he was headed, but also gave him a way out (4:7). Instead, Cain killed his brother Able and compounded his sin (4:8). Later, Cain added lying to the pile of sins (4:9), and he was forced to become a wanderer and a vagabond (4:12, 14). read more…

The Concept of “Presentation Level” and “Performance Level”

September 11th, 2014 No Comments

Working with people and their problems is often like working with an onion. To get to the heart of the matter, you often have to peel off several layers. People usually come to me with issues in their lives that they know they need to do something about. They know they are having trouble. What they don’t know is that the problems they know about are usually caused by problems they don’t know about. Sometimes these problems are sinful; sometimes they are not.

In either case, if you want to help a person with the problem they bring to you, you will need to go back and work with the underlying problems before you can help them with the problem they presented in the first place. In the biblical counseling world these two levels have names. The first level, the one the counselee brings to you is called the presentation level. The level that is usually causing the problems at the presentation level is called the performance level.[1] There is another deeper level as well, but this will be dealt with in the next question. read more…

Where is Jesus In All This?

September 10th, 2014 No Comments

Hmmm not sure where you are going with this. But I will say I have 3 children in my home who have experienced trauma at a young age. Trauma effects our brains in a physical way which then plays out in emotions and behaviors because it effects our brains. Just like western medicine I am sure some researchers are Christian and some are not. But I can say the research that has been done is useful and should not be ignored.

This comment came in response to my last post. I thought I would say a few words about it. First, in the previous post, I was talking about the temptation to study the mind at the trough of the non-Christians and think that we are learning anything ultimately and independently helpful.

Second, The Bible tells us that sin is not allowed—ever. It also tells us that our thoughts, intentions, words, and behavior comes from our heart, not our brain. This means that no matter what has happened to our brains, we are not allowed to sin. Sin is still something that earns the wrath of God. Sin is something that needs to be owned, confessed, and repented of. read more…

The Problem of Eclecticism

September 9th, 2014 No Comments

Eclecticism is the thought that Christian counselors can take advantage of modern psychologies to enhance their counsel. It often comes on the heels of the following statement: “All truth is God’s truth, but not all truth is in the Bible.” From there, the argument proceeds to look at the problems in the world around us and proposes solutions, based on non-Christian psychology, as if they have equal or even higher authority. for the cure of souls.

But we are Christians. We stand on the Bible as the Word of God, the creator of Heaven and earth. It is true that all truth is God’s truth and that not all truth is in the Bible. But how we know what that truth is is measured by what is in the Bible, not by some standard outside the Bible. For example, we know from the Bible that God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33). We also know that he is not a man and thus cannot lie (Heb. 6:18). This is how we know that 2+2=4 and always will. We know a lot about the world around us because we observe different things. Because God made the world in a particular way, we can only make inferences from what we observe if the same events will happen the next time all the conditions are right. And it is the way it is and not some other way because the God of the Bible is the same God who created the world and he doesn’t change. read more…

Guilt — False Guilt — Confession of Sin

September 5th, 2014 No Comments

Biblically speaking, guilt is the state of a person who has done something against the commandment of God. In fact the Hebrew word for guilt refers to the punishment that should be dealt out because of the transgression. It has more to do with the fact and penalty of sin than it does with the feeling of having sinned. I would say that the feeling that comes with sin would be more biblically called shame rather than guilt. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they disobeyed a command of God and earned the punishment of death, and thus were guilty of having sinned. When anyone in Israel sinned against God and realized their guilt, they were to bring an offering to the Lord. The offering removed the guilt by dying in the place of the person who actually sinned (Lev. 5:5-6 for example).

False guilt is what we refer to when a person violates some standard other than the Word of God. They may have disobeyed a house rule, or their own conscience, or some other outside rule and thus they feel guilty. But if the standard is not the Word of God, they have not sinned against God, they only feel like they have. False guilt is just that— false guilt. Fake guilt. No guilt. Simply feelings of guiltiness. These feelings are there because the person is too introspective, too focused on themselves. The person might be afraid God is angry with him. But if he has not sinned, his feelings are false. He needs to repent of allowing himself to think like this and stop feeling guilty for no reason. read more…

The Need For Homework In Biblical Counseling

September 1st, 2014 No Comments

Homework, “at its best…is intended simply as a means for beginning and maintaining the regular practice of godliness required by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7” (Adams, The Christian Counselor’s Manual, p. 298ff).

Homework allows God to do the work in the heart of the counselee rather than thinking that the counselor, is the healer of souls. This is because the homework happens in the presence of God, in the counselee’s home rather than in the presence of the counselor and in his office. Homework causes the counselee to look God in the face as he opens the Scriptures and hears the voice of God speaking to him. In the privacy of his own home, the counselee is able to pour out his life and heart to God and humbly ask for change and a new life. The counselor guides the counselee in telling him to whom to go for help, and where in the Word to go for help. But then, because the work is actually done at home, the counselor is able to get out of the way and let God work.

Homework sets a pattern for expectation of change. Right from the beginning, the counselee sees that God will be working through him as he does what God expects him to do. It is not that the counselee is doing the work, but that he is offering himself to God in a way that allows God to work through him to change his heart. Good homework gives hope to the counselee. It is a positive view of life and of God that gives the counselee hope for the future and a changed and joy filled life. read more…

Why Data Gathering is Important

August 29th, 2014 No Comments

Data gathering is collecting information. It is done several ways, the most obvious is the Personal Data Inventory Sheet. Another is simply asking good questions that reveal the counselee’s heart.

Gathering data is important for several reasons: First, the process is helpful in building the relationship between the counselor and counselee. While the counselor does not want to spend his whole time “bonding” with the counselee, trust is very important in the counseling process.

Second, gathering information is very important in making sure the counselor really understands the situation the counselee is describing. He needs to know not only the facts as the counselee remembers them, but also the emotional state, motives, spiritual state, and results of the various things that happen in the counselee’s life. The Bible says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (Pro. 18:13). Many counselors have spoken before they know all the information they need to make a wise pronouncement or suggestion.

Third, sometimes gathering data is important for the counselee as much as for the counselor. Sometimes the counselor might know exactly how to “fix” the counselee’s problem, but they can’t say it to the counselee in a way that they will hear or understand. Gathering data in the right way can reveal hidden motives, heart responses, and sinful patterns to the counselee that he had never thought about before. In biblical counseling it is important that the counselee understand what is going on in his life and sometimes a wise counselor can help him learn about himself and God in a less direct way.

Point To Jesus and Get Out of the Way

August 28th, 2014 No Comments

Mike, great article on Empathy and Involvement. You really described very well how things should be. However, I have a question. While I would say that I have a high degree of empathy, and it does serve me well in helping and giving encouragement and counsel, I’ve found that it has caused me enormous wear and tear emotionally. How does one keep that empathy strong, but in it’s place, to keep that from happening? I identify with people’s suffering, but I want to “fix it” so badly, that it wears on me, particularly when the external aids are beyond my ability to provide. I could not imagine hearing deep problems for 6-8 hours a day, as much as I desire to help. It would destroy me, I fear. Any thoughts? — Jay

Hi Jay,

Great question. I don’t know how a secular counselor can stand to stay in business, the pressure is so great. But Christians are called to do this in another way.

Here’s what I think about it.

First, we need to believe the Gospel ourselves. This means that we need to believe, in our bones, that only Jesus saves sinners. Only Jesus changes lives. Only Jesus makes people whole, gives them peace, removes burdens, and restores relationships. As counselors, we are tempted to think that we can do something for our friends. They come to us with their problems and we enter into their lives and forget that we are supposed to point them to Christ; not try to “fix” them ourselves. We have two main goals in the counseling ministry: point to Jesus and get out of the way. Only Jesus changes lives. read more…

Developing Involvement with the Counselee—The Difference Between Empathy and Involvement

August 27th, 2014 No Comments

If the counseling situation is as a pastor to a parishioner the level of involvement takes on a more robust attitude. The pastor should be very involved in the lives of his parishioners. He should pray for them, he should visit with them, he should marry their children to one another, he should go to their school plays, and he should be there when they die. A good pastor should weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh. He should be involved with his people and they with him. This should be the context of their lives. So, when things come up in the parishioner’s life, the pastor will have built up enough capital with the family so that they will love to allow him to help them. Involvement means fellowshipping with the people, being part of their lives, letting the church be a body and functioning as a body.

Empathy is feeling that accompanies involvement. When they hurt, he hurts. When they sin, the pastor feels responsible. When they have a baby, he is almost as excited about it as they are. Both involvement and empathy are good things. An effective counseling ministry needs to have both. read more…

The Scriptures Are sufficient for Biblical Counseling

August 25th, 2014 No Comments

In the same way that an automobile owner’s manual is the best source for information regarding a particular car, the Bible is the best source for understanding the world God made. The biggest problem people have, living with one another and in the world, is that they try to live in it without looking at the directions and without asking the creator for help. Just as it is a function of pride for a man never to ask directions, so it is a function of pride for a person to try to muddle along in life without ever asking for directions.

The Bible is the place people should be going to find out how to live their lives in a broken and messed up world. It is the place people should go when they realize they are broken and in need of help. The Bible tells us what the problems are. It also tells the solution to those problems. The role of the biblical counselor is to help the pilgrim move along the way. He stands as a beacon pointing to Christ. He takes the person’s particular problems and shows the person the Biblical answer to all his questions.

As we have mentioned elsewhere, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 says that the Bible is given to us by God so that we might teach one another, rebuke one another, correct one another and train one another. The goal of this is that we might all be complete, able to meet every obstacle, and equipped with every tool necessary to lead a godly life (by godly life, I mean the life God created us to live). Our primary tool therefore is the Bible. With it we help others live in righteousness as they walk with God in a sinful world. read more…

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