Counseling

Counseling

Principles for Wise Discipline

Wise discipline of children…

1. Knows and respects the child.
There’s no place for discipline that demeans children or serves as a vent for an adult’s frustration. All people are made in the image of God, and God commands parents to rear their children in a way that doesn’t provoke or frustrate children. Discipline serves God’s ends, not our own, and should lead children toward the loving embrace of God through the love and respect of their parents.

2. Sacrifices being liked for a moment to do what is best.
Most parents are willing to sacrifice themselves to save their children, but many parents refuse to tell their children “no” out of fear that their children won’t like them or might (gasp) be upset with them. The loving and direct application of God’s truth to a child’s life is worth your child’s disapproval.

3. Varies by age and situation.
Wise discipline is consistent but not rigid. If children never know what to expect, the lack of consistency will drive them crazy. But if parents never adapt to situations and individuals, they can press “a square peg” so hard into “a round hole” that they can do harm to the child.

4. Prepares hearts for the gospel when it’s done in love.
By bringing consequences in a temporary, yet tangible way, we model the holy anger of God against sin. By loving our children warmly, relationally, and unconditionally, we model the loving care of our Heavenly Father. Understanding the character of God helps children understand the necessity of the cross for dealing with the pain of sin and the love of the cross, as Christ died for our sin. Teaching children that there’s no pain in sinning cheapens the sacrifice of Christ.

Advertisements

What about the Other Babies?

In Matthew 2:16-18, we have one of the most troubling accounts connected to the birth of Christ. Herod the Great, a paranoid king, desperate not to allow this new “King of the Jews” to survive, sends his soldiers on an errand of terror—slaughter all the baby boys in the region of Bethlehem.

The execution of these children was probably a fairly quick day’s work for Herod’s soldiers. Terrible, no doubt, but quick, since Bethlehem is a mere five miles from Jerusalem. One of the troubling aspects of this passage, though, is that God predicted that this would happen. In preserving the life of Jesus, God permitted the murder of the other baby boys in Bethlehem.

This is troubling. God predicted the murder of these children and the weeping of their mothers. The complete fulfillment of Jeremiah 31:15 means that these children were killed. Think of what this means—if you have a young son or know a young boy under the age of three, this would mean the death of that child. Imagine the name of your child being one of the boys slaughtered. We see the sovereign mercy of God in sparing Christ and rejoice. But what about the other children? Why did God not tell all the families to flee?

We can’t fully and finally settle this question for good in one blog post. But consider this: at the Fall, when Adam and Eve broke God’s law in the Garden, they introduced cosmic brokenness into the world. Only a cosmic solution can fix that brokenness. In the meantime, there are many small and great evidences that creation is broken. Whether it’s the reckless slaughter of babies in Bethlehem or the murder of unborn babies in a slaughterhouse posing as a medical clinic or the murder of people by terrorists in San Bernardino, CA, each of these stories is a reminder than we need something much greater than deliverance from individual tragedy. We need a Rescuer who can take a cosmic system of evil and set it ALL right. Jesus Christ is a king who can do that, but until he does, we deal with the evidence of living in a broken, fallen world.

So what is the purpose of all this pain and grief in the meantime? It’s at least two-fold. (1) First, pain and heartache pushes people to look for a redeemer. Brokenness moves us to repentance. Without sin and sadness, we wouldn’t need a Savior. (2) Secondly, it’s a reminder of the infinite value of Christ in comparison to every temporary pain. We ask, “Why would you let ____ happen?” We view things individually, rather than cosmically. But God’s plan has never been small, like our thoughts.

Later in Jeremiah 31, after the prophecy of weeping, the Lord promises a new covenant when the law of God will be written on the hearts of his people and he will remember their sins no more. God’s redemptive plan will set everything right to the point where Revelation 21:3-4 are fully and finally realized: 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

A God who can take the world we see around us and make it a new place with no grief at all is a God worth worshiping.

Looking for Margin

Margin is the space to rest, to recharge, to enjoy life with those we love … space to decompress and breathe.

As I get older, the pace of life seems to pick up more and more. Occasionally, I’ll hear someone (often a teenager) comment, “I’m bored.” I honestly can’t remember being bored—other than perhaps occasionally during a class lecture that was particularly tedious. But as far as looking for something to stimulate my mind when I had some “free” time? I just can’t remember that happening.

Life seems to bring a different problem my way—the need for breathing room. You might call this looking for margin. There was a time in my adult life when it was just me … then just me and my wife … then me and my wife and a kid … and then me and my wife and two kids … But I don’t think that margin is about the number of people involved in my life (though increased relationships and responsibility do affect margin).

Every person has the same number of hours in a day and in a week. My days and hours fill up, whether I fill them up or not. So … I’m learning that the only way to have margin is to create margin intentionally, by making sure that there is time for the most important things in life: my relationship with God and local church, my relationships with my wife and kids, and my relationships with friends and other family.

Life will run away with you if you let it; sometimes it even runs over you! Take intentional steps to create margin in your life—for worship, for rest … and yes, even for fun. God designed us to live life with rhythm and margin, and it takes discipline to create margin for the most important things. If you don’t live life with intentionality, you’ll look at your hectic schedule one day and realize that life is out of control.

My fear in life isn’t that I won’t get anything done. It’s that I’ll spend my life doing things that don’t matter or doing things that don’t matter the most.

Embracing Trials with Joy

James 1:2-4 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

We should embrace every trial with joy, because trials make us like more Jesus. How do we know we’re embracing trials with joy? The diagnostic below might help to understand how you respond to trials:

Signs that you might not be enduring with joy:

  • If your first response is to complain, you might not be enduring with joy.
  • If your first response is despair, to go into a shell, you might not be enduring with joy.
  • If your first response is anger and resentment at the people causing the problem, you might not be enduring with joy.
  • If your first response is denial, to ignore the problem, you might not be enduring with joy.

Signs that you are growing in joyful endurance:

  • If you recognize your sinful response, repent of it, and thank God for the trials … even the inconvenient ones.
  • If you can zoom out from the immediate circumstances and recognize God’s sovereign hand governing your life.
  • If you can take a long look at your life and see that you are growing in joy over time, even as you are aware of the fallenness in you and around you.

 

 

 

Identity Crisis

“What do you do for a living?” This question is a common ice-breaker when we meet someone new. And what's the answer to the question? “I'm an accountant.” “I'm a stay-at-home mom.” “I'm a dentist.” “I'm a carpenter.”

Did you catch the subtle difference between the question and the answer? The question asks what a person does, and the answer states who a person is. Ok, I'm not on a rampage to end a colloquial answer to a common question. But I do think it's worth asking why we answer that question the way we do. Perhaps it's because our identity is so tied up in what we do that it becomes who we are.

If you're a child of God, your first identity is that you are a child of God. You do accounting work, but you are a child of God. You do carpentry work, but you are a child of God. You do pastoral work, but you are a child of God.

Why does a Christian who cares for her children at home go through an identity crisis when they leave? Perhaps it's because her identity is in the wrong place. Why does someone who works on cars (a.k.a, mechanic) become depressed when he loses his job? Perhaps it's because his identity is in the wrong place.

I have recently gone through a time when my vocation changed. I was a pastor. I plan to be a pastor again. But what about right now when I don't shepherd a congregation? What about a pastor who doesn't have a church? Can you still be a pastor if you're not actually shepherding anyone? We could probably overly-nuance the answer to this question, but suffice it to say, I'm convinced that my primary identity should be being a child of God and follower of Jesus. This anchoring truth helps in the midst of an identity crisis. I'm a child of God who does pastoral work … or landscaping work … or office work … or whatever. God calls His children to fulfill different vocations, but He still calls them His children. Their identity never changes.

So … Where's your identity?

Was Jesus an Introvert?

I've read a number of articles in the past few years on introverts vs. extroverts. The commonly agreed upon definition of an introvert is that an introvert is someone who gains energy by being by himself/herself. An extrovert is a person who feeds off of being around other people. People who have aspects of both introverts and extroverts are called “ambiverts.” The idea is that based on your assessment along the introvert/extrovert scale, you can more effectively recharge and work in your field.

I'd like to take just a few moments and reflect on this line of thinking from a biblical perspective. I'm not questioning that there are different personality types in the world (I tend to be more extroverted than my wife). However, I believe that God has designed every person for a rhythm of time alone and time with other people. God has called every believer to rest and recharge, and He's called every believer to reach out in love to others.

It seems fair to say that Jesus is the only perfectly balanced ambivert in the history of creation. In the gospels we see Him ministering to crowds (Mark 6:30-44; 8:1-10), and we see Him taking time alone to pray and recharge (Mark 1:35; 6:46). Was Jesus an introvert or extrovert? I think the answer is that God designed every human being who has ever lived–including God-incarnate–for a balance of pouring out to others and recharging in private.

God established a pattern of rest and work at creation. Jesus Himself engaged in personal recharge, as well as public ministry, and He established a pattern for His people to pursue both rest and work.

It's not more holy to be either an introvert or extrovert. But every Christian should spend some time in personal rest, recreation, and worship, and every Christian should be actively pursuing ministry to others. The balance will be different for each person, as those made in God's image reflect different aspects of God's creative design in different proportions. And sometimes the balance for an individual will vary based on his/her stage in life.

Pray for wisdom to know how to engage in personal worship and proactive ministry to others. Was Jesus an introvert? Sometimes… Was Jesus an extrovert? Sometimes… Remember this as you minister to others and as you seek to help those around you know how to balance life and ministry. And remember this when you are tempted to judge those with a different balance of introvert/extrovert than God gave you!

When Finding Peace Is a Battle

What do we do when it feels like we're trusting God, yet we still feel like we don't have peace? Our anchor for peace is what is taught in Isaiah 26:3-4 and elsewhere: subjective peace requires reliance on God. But what happens when we are asking God for faith to rest in Him, and we still don't seem to be enjoying peace? What do you do when the battle for peace doesn't seem to work?

First, we must never lose our anchor.

We often take our eyes off of God and focus them on our problems. This results in frustration and turmoil. God, our Everlasting Rock, hasn't changed, but our thinking is more informed by our circumstances than our relationship with God. So, look to Jesus, run to God in faith, asking Him for grace to trust Him and peace in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Second, we must never blame our circumstances.

Circumstances are not an excuse for our failure to trust God. It is my fault because I fail to trust God. Sin around us cannot be an excuse for our lack of peace. Think about Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi. Their circumstances couldn't have been much worse, yet they were singing hymns to God. What is your response when you face difficult circumstances? Do you rest in God, or do you take your eyes off of the Savior?

So … we can't lose our anchor or blame our circumstances. But living at peace with others in this world still requires great wisdom. It is possible to enjoy peace with God, yet not enjoy peace with all men. What do we do at those times?

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Paul teaches believers that we should pursue peace with everyone with great effort. The point is that being at peace with others requires intentional focus. As much as it up to us, we ought to be at peace with others.

What the New Testament says here, it also says elsewhere. Consider the following passages:

  • Romans 14:19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
    • Paul is referring to something more than a casual nod of the head. He means that having peace with others requires intentional focused effort.
  • Ephesians 4:1-3 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
    • The eagerness in verse 3 has the idea of expending every effort. We should exercise ourselves toward the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We should give our best effort and be diligent in the pursuit of peace.
  • Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
    • “Strive” is the same word for “pursue” in Romans 14:19. It is used negatively to speak of persecution–in other words, persecutors, pursue or chase after believers. We should chase after peace with great zeal.

How do we live at peace with everyone, without getting into man-pleasing? We'll consider that question in the next post.

Self-Assessment for Peace

Isaiah 26:3-4 teaches that we can enjoy peace by resting on God. But how do you know if you actually have peace?

You might not be resting in God if…

  • You worry a lot.
  • You view yourself as a victim of your circumstances, rather than a child of God radically loved by God.
  • You think about your problems more than you talk to God about them.
  • You talk to others about your problems more than you talk to God about them.
  • You struggle to sleep at night because you can't stop thinking about your problems.
  • You try to manipulate situations, rather than trusting God's care for you.
  • Your view of the people around you is big, and your view of God is small (i.e., thinking about people in relation to your problems more than you think about God in relation to your problems).
  • People ask you what's wrong, and you didn't even realize your feelings were showing.
  • You are always believing that other people have it better, that your life is harder than average.
  • You find yourself irritable and impatient, when there is very little provoking you.

If you find yourself in need of peace, what can you do to get peace?

  • Ask God for grace to trust Him more. “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!”
  • Read and meditate on God's Word, focusing on the person and work of God. Ask yourself what you're doubting about God's character.
  • Stop. Listen to God and His Word, pleading with Him for faith. Psalm 62:8 Pour out your heart before the Lord; God is a refuge for us.

 

Benefits of Peace

Resting on God brings peace to God's children. What are the benefits of peace?

Peace doesn't mean that life will be easy, that God will make us rich and give us an easy life. It does mean that in the midst of life, God will be actively caring for us. The blessing of peace includes the benefit of God's intense care and guarding. Paul talks about the peace of God this way: Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. God guards His people with peace. When you are weary and want to give up, trust in the Lord who guards your heart and mind with His peace.

God ordains peace and acts for His people, working in our behalf. How can we see God acting for His people? The greatest evidence of this is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ–bearing our sins in His body on the tree, intervening between God's wrath and God's people. As we act, relying on God, He is actively working in us and through us. In the book of Hebrews, Christ sat down, after He accomplished the atonement for our sins. We rest in God, complete in Christ, who has credited all of His good works to us. But there are other ways that God actively cares for His people.

What does it mean for God to care for and act for us?

  • Child-rearing – we seek to raise our children faithfully, but make mistakes; God is working for us; perhaps you have a child who has left your home, turned his back on God, and now all you can do is pray.
  • Sharing the gospel – we share it in our feeble way, and God acts for us.
  • Difficult situation at work – we try to resolve an unresolvable situation; God gives us grace to persevere.
  • Peace in marital relationship – as we trust the Lord, He will act for us, bringing peace in ways that we never anticipated.
  • Peace when we're afraid – as we rest in the Lord, He will guard us, acting as our protector.
  • Peace for the single person – as you wonder when God will bring a spouse and are tempted to trust in that one, to trust in that wedding day, God will be your peace; you are complete in Christ.
  • Decision making – we are finite and imperfect and will make many wrong decisions, humanly speaking; yet, in the midst of those, God is there, working in our behalf, sanctifying us, acting for His people.

 

Obstacles to Peace

We can enjoy peace by resting on God. But what about the times we don't have peace? What keeps us from enjoying true peace? To what sorts of things do we look for peace, other than to God Himself?

Alternative sources of peace:

  • Addiction: we may use sexual addiction, drunkenness, or drug addiction as a means of temporarily forgetting about life's troubles.
  • Distraction: some of us lose ourselves in music, movies, video games, or other entertainment.
  • Workaholism: we may work ourselves to the bone, trying to forget about the rest of the noise in our life.
  • Family: family relationships–a very good thing–can be a way of escaping from heartache around us. Our society is more frenetic than it's ever been, and we use the pace of life as a way of escaping.
  • Busyness: some live life so busy that we don't have time to stop and think about our problems?

Even when we don't “create” other sources of peace, we often lack peace. What gets in the way of our peace?

Obstacles to peace:

  • Lack of faith/trust in God (child)
  • Failure to obey God in areas that are clear
  • Harbored secret sin
  • Conflict with others
  • Replacing trust in God with trust in men

Any time we replace our trust in the Lord with reliance on men, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Have you replaced God, the Everlasting Rock, with little human rocks? Human leaders will fail, whether they are leaders in the political arena or in your local church or in your family. If you're a parent, you know the taste of failure quite well.

Saying that leaders fail isn't a defense of failure and sin or saying that human leadership shouldn't be held accountable. They should be. The fact that we should be enjoying peace isn't an excuse for human leaders, meaning they can get away with what they want, since we should be experiencing feelings of peace and harmony. However, if human failure is shaking your confidence in God, then you've got your confidence in the wrong place. You're not leaning on God; you're leaning on your own understanding and on the people around you. Leaders are accountable to God and before God, and you stand accountable before God too.

God is the source of our peace, and the way to peace is trust and reliance on Him. The result of that should be a sense of rest before God and a sense of rest in our place in the world. Perfect peace is God's gift to those who rest on Him. The leaning into, the resting is passive. In other words, God works in our behalf as we rest in Him. It's sort of like needing surgery–it's something you have done, but it's something that you rest in the power of another to accomplish.

Do you know peace in God? Peace is a gift from God for those who trust in Him.