Category Archives: Christian Beliefs

Faith Based Christian Counseling; Are You Qualified?

Depending on whom you ask, you will get different answers on what actually qualifies one to become a counselor. Those persons who have taken the time made the effort, and paid the financial costs to go to college will argue that the steps they took are the correct and only steps to qualify. I cannot and will not argue for or against their point, but I will say that I respect their choice to go to college and earn their degrees. I attended college, I got my degree, but I believe that there is also another workable option.

The other option is Faith Based Christian Counseling. While the “requirements” for qualification vary depending on the “certifying” or “licensing” procedures or processes of the specific organization or institute, all agree that there must be clear standards for all counselors and therapists. The reason they agree is that they want the service treated seriously. Just because its “Faith-Based,” or “Christian” counseling or therapy, it (they postulate) should no less still have standards and qualification requirements that will lend credibility to the religious profession. Just because it is ministry of believers in God, does not meant there should be nothing that can show that it is any less effective and beneficial to the client.

If you Google the words “Faith-Based Counseling” or “Christian Counseling” or anything similar, you will get hundreds, if not thousands, of hits. From the largest organizations, like the American Association of Christian Counselors, to smaller ministries, like New Life Christian Counseling Ministry, all these organizations and ministries have their own versions of a “Code of Ethics.” The Code of Ethics of New Life (the group I happen to be the pastor, and lead counselor of) is included as an addendum at the end of this book.

The Code of Ethics for Faith-Based Counselors are for the most part similar. The Codes vary depending on points of view of the specific people who are responsible for their creation within the different organizations and ministries. Nevertheless, the intent of all these groups is to establish a healthy and safe pattern for the client in receiving the counseling services.

The downside of any “Codes of Ethics,” regulations, rules, procedures, or such of Faith-Based counseling institutions, is that there is no real way to enforce these requirements, other than just to “revoke the certified status of the counselor/therapist.” This means is that the offending person is no longer “qualified” by one group, and all he or she has to do is find another similar group and get “qualified” again. There is no national, statewide, county, or citywide method for Faith-Based counseling ministries to “police” their members, much less the members of other such groups. The scary thing is that like getting ordained as a minister, there are places on the internet where they will “certify” or “license” you for a small fee. All you have to do is take some generally simple test or fill out some glorified application, pay the fee (especially, pay the fee) and there you are, Mr. or Mrs. Counselor or Therapist.

As with the example of the internet certified counselor, most Faith-based and Christian counseling organizations or ministries do not require the counselor to meet any yearly or annual stipulations to remain “active” as being certified or licensed. In most cases, they have so many members that “policing” them to see if they have met these requirements is so involved and cumbersome, that the organizations or ministries just “take it on faith” that the counselor will comply.

Few of these groups “solve” the problem by requiring their counselors to pay yearly or annual fees to remain “qualified.” Of course, all that this proves is that the counselor is willing to part with fees from $80 to $150 per year to make the claim to being certified or state-licensed. Still, in most of these cases, the organizations and ministries have no real way of overseeing the behavior of the counselor, much less to actually imposed corrections and penalties of any real substance on violators.

State licensed counselors and therapists argue that this is the problem with Faith-Based Counseling. The state, they argue, at least is able to impose legal action against persons who violate federal, state, and local laws, as well as particular legal requirements imposed on the state-licensed counselors to seek licensing in the first place.

A second point is the training and experience of the counselor. State licensed counselors will have to take years of college, and years more of volunteer or paid work at some state recognized the place of employment where they are able to apply what they have learned in college in regards to being counselors.

Faith-Based counseling, as I have already insinuated with my prior comments above, does not have some procedure that all such counselors must follow. The various organizations and ministries have their own processes that they follow when it comes to training. For the most part, these groups do not train the counselors, they mostly just “certify” or “license” them. Few, such as New Life Christian Counseling Ministry, actually provide training before they will certify a person. It is this lack of training that really “chaps the hide” of the state-licensed counselors. They argue that there can be no comparison between the beneficial and effective service that a state-trained counselor (who has followed a program involving years of their life), can offer, as compared to a Faith Based counselor who for the most part just filled out a questionnaire. If this was true of all Faith-Based counselors, I would have to agree with the state-licensed individuals, but it is not true in all cases.

What About You?

You can be become an effective, beneficial, and healthy counselor without spending years of college time. On the other hand, you will never become that kind of counselor without the years of training, and experience that it will take to get you there. The one thing you need to be effective Christian counselor is to have a passion for counseling. You need to have or develop a heart for those who are in need. You need to spend some time with God asking Him what He wants from you in this area.

You are probably someone with whom people are always looking to share their problems. People probably see you as someone who will listen to them without judging. People probably know that you will really listen to them. You probably already have a calling on your life for counseling. The fact that you are reading this book proves your interest and concern. The question here is this: Are you in tune with God, and are you ready to pay the price?

Isaiah 61:1 2 (NASB95) says the following, “1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; 2 To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn.”

Therapon founder Dr. Carlin got it right when he stated, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” Following the Therapon model as a base, New Life Christian Counseling Ministry (NCCM) has continued to build on that truth.

A person’s motivation for wanting to counsel is as important as the counseling itself. In addition, in some cases, it may well be more important.

The Isaiah verse above helps us to place our priorities in order and to understand what our motives should be as we undertake such a wonderful, but at times draining, ministry. We need to understand God’s heart for the counseling ministry. What He wants to accomplish. Why He wants to accomplish that. In addition, most of all, how we can develop the same desire within our own heart and spirit. Using the verse as a pattern, I will explore with you the mechanics behind God’s desire for the healing of His people.

The Pattern

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me”

God chooses the counselor. In choosing the counselor, He also empowers that person by placing His Spirit upon them. God knows that without His help we would not be able to succeed in this greatly needed ministry. He knows that if we try to succeed on our own, that we will run into so much resistance that we may likely fail more often. God is aware of the many things that can come against the new, as well as the seasoned, counselor.

He lets us know that He is aware by His encouraging Word:

Galatians 6:9   Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

2nd Thessalonians 3:13   But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.

The Lord wants us to know that it is by His Spirit that we do what we do, and not completely dependent on our own strength and convictions.

Zechariah 4:6   Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.

“Because the LORD has anointed me “

Mashach (maw shakh’): to rub with oil, i.e. to anoint; by implication to consecrate. Consecrate: verb  1   make or declare sacred.  2   ordain to a sacred office, typically that of bishop. Those that God chooses for His ministry of counseling, He also consecrates (sets apart; sanctifies; holds special; prepares specially for a specific purpose). The act of rubbing with oil was to prepare a leather item for permanent use. By “rubbing” the counselor with His “oil” (empowerment by the Holy Spirit), God prepares the counselor for the work ahead.

Therefore, “anointed” means that God has chosen someone for ministry, and has prepared and capacitated them for the needed work.

“To bring good news to the afflicted”

The pattern set before the counselor requires the bringing of the “good news” to the afflicted. By implication, the afflicted are those that are hurting, but mostly because they have not received the good news. Scripture tells us that we “shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

What is the good news?

• That “People do the things they do because they believe the things they believe.”

• That they do not have to continue bound to that affliction.

• That there is freedom from the pain and grief they are suffering.

• And so on.

We can best understand the reason for the affliction since they need to have the “good news” (the gospel) brought to them. They suffer from corrupted, distorted, and misdirected thinking. They need to know the truth so that they may then choose the right actions.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted”

Chabash (Khaw bash’): to wrap firmly (especially a turban, compress, or saddle. A turban (hat made of cloth that is wrapped around the head); a compress (a medical item used to put pressure on a cut to stop the bleeding); and a saddle, all have one thing in common = if they need to be utilized tightly enough to be functional. The brokenhearted are those that have suffered a loss in their life (death, divorce, relationships, and many others).

Therefore, to “bind up” the brokenhearted, the counselor must be ready to offer hurting people that which will tightly hold together their “broken” hearts.

Matthew 11:28 (KJV) “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Counselors “bind up” the brokenhearted by being that tool by which God tightly wraps them to Himself so that they may be healed.

“To proclaim liberty to captives“

Proclaiming is a verbal action. By implication, teaching, preaching, stating, speaking forth, telling, counseling. Liberty is freedom. Freedom from the lies and deceits of the enemy. Captives are those who believe the lies. Captive to their deceptive thoughts and beliefs. Captives need to be “told” about freedom because they may be so under self-deception that they actually believe that they are free already. Many persons suffer from a self-deception that leads them to become abusive and controlling of others, or become obsessed with addictive behavior and often easily abused substances (such as drugs and alcohol). The counselor’s job is to help these people come to a real view of their lives, and lead them in the way of freedom through the Word of God.

“And freedom to prisoners”

Prisoners are people trapped in lives of suffering due to the actions of others. Wives and children are often the victims of physically abusive men. Sometimes, either or both of their parents victimize their children. Those they should be able to trust impose sexual abuse and molestation on their children, and, the list goes on.

Counselors can help these people come to an understanding that (as hard as it may seem), they can do something about the suffering they are undergoing.

“To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD”

There are those people who have given up on life.

1. They feel there is no hope.

2. They want to give up on life.

3. They feel that the best way out is either by suffering a nervous breakdown, giving in to depression, or suicide.

“The favorable year of the Lord” signifies that there really is hope. By coming to an understanding of what God can do with their lives, many of these people can be brought back to life.”  People learn that God can use them in a successfully effective ministry of reaching out to others who hurt. People learn that God considers them of great value. People learn that God has answers for their questions, and plans for their lives, that will prove their worth to Him.

“And the day of vengeance of our God”

For those people who suffer from the unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, and hurt due to the actions of others, God wants them to know that their suffering was not in vain, or forgotten. God has every intention of dealing with the abuser, the murderer, the person who consciously choose to inflict pain and suffering on others. The counselor’s job is to help that person “cast” his/her cares upon God so that He will be the one getting the vengeance, since He can do that better that any person can.

“To comfort all who mourn.”

There are times when the suffering and pain of a person seems without end, or alleviation. It is to the people who are suffering this that God offers this comfort. It may be the mourning of a loss through death or divorce. It may be the mourning of rejection or loneliness. It may be the mourning of illness. In all these cases, God wants to comfort them. The counselor’s job is to be God’s eyes, mouth and hands in providing this much need comfort to those who mourn.

What is Christian Counseling Really, Anyway?

“Counseling is indeed an ambiguous enterprise. It is done by persons who can’t agree on what to call themselves, what credentials are necessary to practice, or even what the best way is to practice—whether to deal with feelings, thoughts, or behaviors; whether to be primarily supportive or confrontational; whether to focus on the past or the present. Further, the consumers of counseling services can’t exactly articulate what their concerns are, what counseling can and can’t do for them, or what they want when it’s over.” (Kottler & Brown, 1996)

What is Counseling Actually? Here are a few different definitions:

· “Counseling is the artful application of scientifically derived psychological knowledge and techniques for the purpose of changing human behavior” (Burke, 1989).

· “Counseling is a helping relationship that includes someone seeking help and someone willing to give help who is trained to help in a setting that permits help to be given and received” (Cormier & Hackney, 1987).

· “Counseling consists of whatever ethical activities a counselor undertakes in an effort to help the client engage in those types of behavior that will lead to a resolution of the client’s problems” (Krumboltz, 1965).

· “[Counseling is] an activity . . . for working with relatively normal functioning individuals who are experiencing developmental or adjustment problems” (Kottler & Brown, 1996).

My goal in this chapter is to give you a perspective that might be different from what you may have had before this. Also, to provide you, the Christian Counselor, with a working a theory that is a clear model or foundation from which you can conduct your counseling/ministerial service.

Training and Discernment

Christian Counseling requires two (2) very important things to be successful. One is the determination and commitment of the counselor in seeking more knowledge and training. The other, and very much more necessary, is the ability or learned skill of discerning.

Training and knowledge are readily available through many sources. A rich source of information is the internet. While there are many sources of training materials that charge money, there as many, if not more, sources which do not. Often these are in the form of written works from other counselors or counseling centers that make their materials readily and freely available.

In these cases, the counselor can garnish great amounts of learning and usable materials for improving their counseling skills. One suggestion is to print many of these materials and create binders that can be referred to, when needed. As well, you can create folders on your computer in which you keep resources and materials useful for counseling. Even if copyrighted, but the counselor may be surprised to find that many of the sources will authorize your use of the materials if you will just email them and ask permission. Additionally, there are many printed books (as well as many e-books on the internet) which may be purchased that will help challenge your present level of knowledge and help expand your foundation of tools and resources for use in counseling. At the end of this chapter, we included a list of many books we found useful for counseling.

One way to make the best use of any written material, especially a book is:

• First read the book entirely, taking your time to consider points as you go along.

• Reread the book, but this time, write down (or type into your computer word processing program) the main points, as you see them.

• Afterwards, take each point and write an explanation to yourself about how you could use that point during counseling.

• Think up an example you could use to help the client see your point better than just telling him or her the point, and write it down.

• List the main points in an order which you can refer to later, and using a binder, create your own “Counselor’s Manual.”

• In this “manual,” you can include additional materials as you get and prepare them.

• Since you will not be using this “manual” for distribution, you do not need anyone’s approval or permission to keep a copy of the materials for personal use, even copyrighted materials.

Seminars and conferences which are organized with the focal point being something related to relationships, and counseling specifically, can be of great benefit as well. Often these type meetings will provide the attender with materials and resources usually not readily available to the public.

My recommendation is for you not to write onto the materials (even if they ask you to), use blank sheets to write on. This is because later on you may want to use the materials again and will not be able to do so. This could cause you to have to recreate the form again, when it was easier not use the form clean in the first place. Often you will also get CDs and other audio/video materials. You can include these in your “manual” as well and refer to them when needed. Whichever way you choose, even if you choose all of the above, you still need to work on your discernment.


What you will not learn through reading a book is the natural (God-given) ability to discern, you can learn a skill that will become invaluable during counseling. To accomplish that, I offer the following:

The skill is extrapolation. This comes from the word extrapolate (a verb):

1. Extend the application of (a method, conclusion, etc.) to different or larger groups.

2. Extend (a graph) by inferring unknown values from trends in the known data.

In either of these two definitions, there is one idea; you can get more information out of a statement than what was obvious. For example, if I say that “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy hen.” You could extrapolate several other bits of information from the statement that are not actually stated:

1. The fox could have run before jumping.

2. The hen had probably been lazy for quite a while before the jumping occurred.

3. The hen was probably laying around, or at least has some qualities that may indicate that it is lazy.

4. The fox must have been in good shape, or at least behaved in such a way that it seemed to be in good shape, therefore “quick.”

5. Maybe the fox also enjoyed jumping other animals.

6. And so on.

The point here is not to be precise and without error. It is to search for as much information as possible to help with the counseling. Clients will tell you much about whatever they believe to be the actual problem(s) for which they came to counsel. The bigger problem is that their explanation of the problem(s), will be affected by their emotional status at the time of the explanation. If they are angry, for example, they may just tell you how bad the other person (or life) is, without referring to anything they may have done to cause or contribute to the problem themselves.

Your job will be to extrapolate from their explanations additional information necessary to help them get to a working solution. If you only concentrate on what they say, you will be working with little to no real practical information. Remember, the problem they explain to you will rarely actually be the real problem they are dealing with.

Extrapolation will help you arrive at the root problem the client is confronting. It is this “root problem” that requires attention. It is this “root problem” that most affects the client’s life and circumstances. It is this “root problem” that is the REAL problem. This “root problem” needs to be resolved. In addition, it is YOUR job to identify the root problem and find the answers for the client.

Root Problems

After years of training counselors, the one common mistake I have noticed is that the counselee’s complaints often distract them (the counselors). I see this as sort of laziness on the part of the counselor. To expect the client to just open up and give us all the correct answers is ludicrous. People who come for counseling are unable to explain their circumstance and situation in a clear manner. Theirs is often a life of dealing with self-defeating thoughts, confused thinking, fear and/or anger, and other emotional conflicts. The probability that they will actually see their circumstances from a levelheaded, analytical, and practical perspective is almost non-existent.

Getting to the root problem is the most crucial and important aspect of counseling. Until you identify the real circumstances, you will not be able to start working on the real answers. It will be like handing out aspirins for headaches. You may have some minimal effect on the immediate and more obvious aspects of the situation, but all of that will only distract you from finding the real problem.

In addition, just because you have a married person come in complaining about their circumstances involving their spouse it does not mean they are experiencing marital problems. In most cases, what you facing is individual problems that are hurting the marital situation. For example, the wife may come in complaining about her husband’s anger. She tells you that she thinks that she is the problem. She adds that she feels this way because she notices that she will often do things that bother her husband, and then he starts yelling at her. At first, you may feel that the answer is that she needs to stop doing whatever she is doing that causes her husband to react negatively to her.

The real (or root) problem may be different. The real problem may be that your client grew up in a home where the father was very strict and controlling. It may be that the dad imposed a very strong hold on his daughters. He may have controlled their ability to express their feelings, probably because he just did not know how to deal with them. Your client probably learns that she should always try to do only the “right” things around her dad, and avoid the “wrong” things to keep him from getting angry at her. She probably learned the lie that she actually could control whether her dad got mad or not. Therefore, with her husband, she tries to behave in the same way. Not being her father, the husband starts to resent her and reacts negatively toward her. His actions are not her fault, but her problem is not a marital issue, it is a personal issue, and until the personal issue (an individual problem) is resolved, you will not be able to “fix” the marriage.

Even though it may seem like there is a martial problem going on many times the problems are actually individual problems.

Individual Problems

Each person in a conflict brings his or her own personal fears, failures, hopes, and dreams. Any or all of these can cloud the client’s judgment. Now, let us consider that many persons come into a marriage with much baggage. Much of this baggage comes from past events and traumas.

Failed marriages, abuses and molestations, absent fathers, rape, family violence, drugs and alcohol, over-eating, and countless other maladies visit people throughout their lives. Any of these alone can produce the worst in any person. Any combination of the above can produce long-lasting, detrimental, and life-destroying behavior.

Most people get married without the slightest concept of what it means to be married. Mostly they have some obscure notion based on feelings, other people’s opinions, and personal fantasies. None of these can even begin to prepare the person for marriage. Compounding the problem is that after they get married, these troubled people start to try to shape the other person into their own image. This “shaping” causes many problems in the marriage.

As an example, let us look at a client who when he was 9 years old, his father died. Then at 14, his mother died in a vehicular accident. He develops an attitude of fear of abandonment and anger at God for the deaths of his parents. His fear leads him to believe that to protect himself and avoid abandonment; he needs to control those in his life. This need to control then becomes an obsession. His obsession leads him to become abusive with his family. The abuse produces fear in them and starts alienating them from him. The more they alienate from him, the more he panics. His panic makes matters worse and worse.

This client’s marriage will look almost perfect, from the outside. However, to his wife and kids, it could be a nightmare. He will have his wife and kids so fearful of doing anything that will result in an emotional explosion, that they will live strained and tense lives. On the surface, you may think that there is not any serious problem. Especially when the family may refuse to divulge any useful information about any problems. Why you may ask, would they hide and keep secret any abuse? Because of the fear they live with, the threat of possible pain or injury, and in many cases, shame.

The wife, in this case, will tend to be a loner. She will limit herself as to the number and quality of friendships and relationships outside the marriage. She will see her life as one long sad experience and wonder what she did to deserve this. She will both, love and hate her husband. She will endure the bad times because of the “good” times. She will on rare occasions express anger and actually take some action hoping that things will change, but will inevitably give in and things will go back to the way they have always been.

Now, let us look at this carefully, is this a marital problem, or is it an individual problem of the marriage. My argument is that it is the latter.

Ask yourself this question: “How many parents actually sit down with their children and train them to be good and healthy husbands and wives?” It is rare. Most people start learning about marriage only after they get married, and even then only that which they confront. What actually drives most newly married persons is some fantasy of what things are supposed to be like. While young women are dreaming of how much this guy is going to love them, cherish, and adore them, and so on, the young men are thinking about how much sex they will be getting without having to work hard for it. Oh, yeah, and have a live-in maid to take care of the rest of the stuff, too.

Women and men both respond emotionally to events in their lives, the difference is that women will (on the average) try to talk their way through these events, and men will (on the average) try to deal with these events by specific behavior. The saying goes like this, “Women say, and men do.” Neither is best, necessarily, and both can be wrong.

What we find here is that each spouse will tend to react to events within the marriage by resorting to emotional thinking that comes from past dysfunctional circumstances. So, until a person deals with a past trauma or event, they will continue to react to present stimuli based on those things. Any present-day conflict will bring to surface past fears and anger which will both, cloud and worsen the circumstances.

You can try to get them to work together (a married couple) by asking them to do things like “loving” each other, “dating” each other, “respecting” each other or many other things like that. The problem you will run into is that they each have very different ideas of what those words mean. These definitions will be based on their past.

The fact that each spouse has a different past will mean that each will see things, at times, in contradiction to the other. To resolve many present day “marital problems,” it most often becomes necessary to resolve past issues that each spouse brought into the marriage, before confronting the present complaints.

Counseling persons separately

Many times, the person you are counseling will not open up and divulge specific and/or intimate information while someone else is in the room. This brings up another problem, Should a counselor counsel someone of the opposite sex alone? Benefits and possible negative consequences exist on both sides of the argument. If you are a male counselor and you are counseling a couple, and you feel that they need individual counseling, you now have a dilemma. If you call in a female counselor to counsel the female counselee, you may deal with the possibility that she may not want to counsel with another female. All counselors, at one time or another, will encounter this issue. Do you as a male counselor (against your “better judgment) counsel her alone? On the other hand, do you deprive her of counseling with you because she will not counsel with a female?

Everyone should have the privilege of selecting his or her own counselors. The first rule in any Ethics Code is, “do no harm.” If the counselor realizes the need to counsel a couple separately, but then refuses to provide counseling to one of his clients who want only him to counsel them, that counselor may very well be in violation of that first ethical rule.

You will find that once a client begins counseling with you, they will rarely want to counsel with someone else while there is the chance they can counsel with you. Additionally, many persons find it exhausting to have to repeat themselves by having to start over with another counselor, especially when the probability of returning to that counselor exists.

So then, do you counsel alone with someone of the opposite sex? That is a decision you will have to make for yourself. Regardless of your decision, there will be benefits and consequences.

Returning to the question of counseling a couple separately, you would want to do this only with the intention of helping them resolve their separate issues so that they can then come together to deal with any remaining marital concerns.

One of the advantages of counseling couples separately is that you will probably get more truth out of them, or see the lies and self-deceptions more clearly. This will help you get to the root problem quicker. You will not have to deal with one person interfering with the others statements or claims. You will not have to referee two or more arguing persons. You will be able to concentrate on one issue at a time. Your client will be able to tell you private things that they may never share while their spouse is present.

As an example, the wife may admit to an affair that the husband is not aware. This will serve to help you counsel her more adequately because you are aware of an event in her life that has negatively defined her. Even if the husband is not aware of the affair, the wife will receive assistance in her effort to become a better wife, by being accountable to someone who knows her secret. Whether the husband should be told (by the wife) of the affair will depend very specifically on whether that will serve the best interest of the marriage. In some cases informing the husband may only serve to further damage the already weakened relationship. It has happened, where a wife withheld such information from her husband, but, on the other hand, remained faithful from that day forward and caused no other damage to her marriage. The same is true of some men.

What Steps Should You Follow to Get Started as a Counselor?

My strongest recommendation to you is to find an organization or ministry that will offer training in this area. Yes, it will probably cost some money, but it will be worth it. On the other hand, I want to warn you away from groups that offer “weekend” training and certification. Without a doubt, I can tell you (after about 30 years of experience as a counselor) that nobody can train effectively as a counselor in just one weekend. Yes, you will find these type groups, and they will “certify” you as a counselor, but, my experience over many years is that the vast majority of people who get the weekend training/certification actually do not go on to real counseling.

In fact, the organization I represent, New Life Christian Counseling Ministry, did that very thing for the first five years of our existence. We have found that many our graduates, as well as many who we are familiar with from other ministries, who paid for their weekend Training/Certification Course; still found that they felt unqualified to counsel. The result is that these particular people never fulfill their calling for lack of confidence.

I am including here a list of the things I recommend you look for in any training/certification program. Unless you just want to get the certificate without going through training, which you can readily do, I recommend the following for your consideration.

Find a training and certification program that offers the following:

1. Weekly training sessions that cover varied topics and issues relating to counseling people.

2. That some of these weekly sessions include theory as well as practical lessons.

3. That some of these weekly sessions allow for drawn-out discussion on the topics taught.

4. That some of these weekly sessions include practice in make-believe counseling sessions, where the participants receive helpful critic, and instruction for correcting non-beneficial counseling habits and practice.

5. That each trainee is given the opportunity to practice, as well as just watch others practicing.

6. That the instructors make themselves available to the trainees for personal one-on-one discussions and instruction.

7. That there be an overall “course” “test,” which helps the trainees see his or her strengths and weaknesses.

8. That there be “hands-on” sessions where the trainee can attend real session while in progress, as spectators to see a trained counselor in action.

9. That there be “hands-on” sessions where the trainee can attend real session while in progress, where they can participate with the trained counselor in a kind of co-counselor capacity.

10. That there be “hands-on” sessions where the trainee can attend real session while in progress, where the trainee is the lead counselor in a real counseling situation, with the more experienced counselor watching in a supervisory capacity.

11. A clear program offered to the trainee where the trainee knows what steps are expected, where he or she is in the process, and what it will take to gain full certification status.

Along with this, I strongly suggest that you continue to attend seminars, training, and other such opportunities, as you are able. The more you train the better you become, and the more helpful you will be to the client. However, not all training is from seminars alone, conferences, and such. You already have at hand one of the most important training tools at your disposal, your Bible.

Using the Bible as a counseling tool.

The Bible is full of principles that are at the disposal of the counselor for use. You are encouraged to read the Bible stories from a counseling perspective. To best illustrate how you can do this we will take a story right out of the Old Testament and demonstrate.

Second Kings has a very interesting story about a woman whose husband died, leaving her and her children in debt and unable to pay it off. Her situation is common in modern times either. Too often, we find that men abdicate their responsibilities and leave their families without means of sustenance. There are just too many families without fathers.


“1 One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead. You will know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.”

2 Elisha said, “I wonder how I can be of help. Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Nothing,” she said. “Well, I do have a little oil.”

3 “Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. 4 Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.”

5 She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. 6 When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.

7 She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, “Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left.”  – 2 Kings 4:1 7 (MSG)


Let us carefully look at all the aspects of this story and see how scripture can lead us through a set of Biblical principles that will offer solution and peace to these people.

One day the wife of a man from the guild of prophets called out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead. You will know what a good man he was, devoted to God. And now the man to whom he was in debt is on his way to collect by taking my two children as slaves.”

The most important thing in counseling anyone is to identify what the real problem is. The clearer it is to the counselor and the client, the better the chance that together they will find the solution. The widow had two choices when her husband died.

First of all, to become despondent, fearful, and angry about the turn of events in her life.  She and her sons suffered a serious blow to their security. They were in danger because of a decision that was out of their control. The one who had gotten himself into debt had died and had left them with the burden of paying it off. Sometimes life can be so unfair. Other people do things that hurt us, and as a result, we have the burden of having to live through it. This is enough to lead many into a depressed and bitter life.

Secondly, she could have chosen (and did) to face the fact that the problem she now had to deal with was not going to go away by itself and take steps toward finding some kind of solution.

In the case of the widow, she went to someone to counsel her on what she might be able to do to resolve the matter. The lesson so far is that hiding a problem will not help, and may make matters worse. However, bringing it out into the light will at least provide the possibility of finding an answer.

Elisha said, “I wonder how I can be of help.

Counseling can help anyone find answers, but not all counselors have the right answers. An experienced and trained counselor will not have the attitude that he or she will have the answers to all problems. It is very important that we constantly remind ourselves of the dependency we have on the Holy Spirit to help us discern the root problem, and then find the solution(s) that will work.

Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

The questions the counselor asks are pivotal. What you ask, and how you ask it, will determine whether you get the right information for formulating some plan for finding the solution. The information she had already given him, along with the desperation in her voice, probably suggested to the prophet that the widow saw herself in a hopeless situation. She was probably looking at herself as being uneducated, untrained, old, no money earning skills to speak of, and trapped in a hopeless situation.

This type of mentality may cause the person to shut down. Thankfully, she did not, and she reached out for help. The prophet could see that there was a glimmer of possibility in her, or she would not have come to him at all. The thing he had to do was challenge her thinking while helping her find a solution.

“Nothing,” she said. “Well, I do have a little oil.”

Her answer was not surprising, as she was probably assuming he meant to ask her if she had any money at all. That was not his question, but her immediate concept was that the only real solution was that someone gives her money to pay the debt.

Many persons who come to counseling already have an idea of what they would want to happen. In their minds, if things were to turn out the way they think they should, then everything would be ok. For example, the man whose wife has had an affair may feel that his wife must suffer as he sees himself suffer and that the other man must suffer as well. That man may not be open to any other options at present.

The prophet accomplished three things by asking her what she had in her home. Firstly, he distracted her from the pressing issue that brought her to him. Secondly, it forced her to sort of step outside the problem for a moment and consider something else. Finally, it gave the prophet the opportunity for the Holy Spirit, speaking through the woman herself, to give him the answer he needed to find.

“Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get.”

Too often, in counseling situations, counselors spend much of their time trying to make the person(s) feel better. That may have some limited use, but what they really need is to start doing something that will produce immediate results. The results do not have to be as dramatic as in this story, but they have to be real. Even something as simple as beginning to read a book the counselor suggested that may offer real solutions to the problem is a big step. Remember, before the person came to counseling, they were doing nothing truly helpful to resolve their concern.

The prophet told her to do something that seemed to make no real sense at the beginning. As we learned in session two, the first step to changing the way we think is to begin behaving in a different manner than that which we had been. Different actions produce different results, and doing anything is better than doing nothing.

He told her to do something that would test her. Counselors should always give the client “homework.” Something they can work on that will prove out to be useful for their healing and progress toward a working solution. Even if the counselor has a clear idea of what the outcome will be, it is not always prudent to let the client know what you are trying to accomplish. In some cases, if you do, they will work against you. They may not be fully aware of it, but they struggle against the changes required. Remember, they may already have in mind what they hope you will tell them, and any real progress in another direction would disqualify their plan. Notice that he did not explain to her what he had in mind.

Notice also that the prophet told her to do something that required clear and measurable action. If you ask the client to take five steps forward and they only take three, the results will be obvious, and so will be what still needs to be done. If you tell the client to pray and trust God for the answer, there is no way of measuring whether they actually did, and how much. They will think they did, and start believing that you cannot help them at all.

One more point is necessary here, the prophet did not just tell her to get jugs and bowls, he told her to get, “all you can get.” The point is that your instructions to the client need to be clarified so that both of you are clear as to what will be expected. Never give ambiguous instructions that the client can apply as he or she feels they should. If they do not get the results that were to be expected, they will lose feel even more hopeless.

“Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons.”

As has been evidenced in the lives of many persons who begin counseling, when they start to change, others around them become angry. Often we see that those who used to complain that “mom is always angry and acting crazy,” now are getting upset because she is taking control of herself and refusing to play their head games with them anymore. One young man once said of his mother, “Yea, she acted weird and yelled a lot, but she never stopped us from doing what we wanted. Now she keeps telling us that we all need to change. That’s not fair!”

He told her to “lock the door behind you,” because he knew that once people start to notice what she is doing they would inevitably start to tell her how it could not work. Everyone has “nay-sayers” (people who whine about how things are not going to work the way they should) in their lives. As the counselor, you need to instruct your client to stop listening to the opinions of others while counseling with you. Even if the other person is their pastor or a loved one. The devil will use anyone to try to distract someone from finding freedom in Christ.

Notice this passage out of the book of Mark. [Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Mark 8:33 (NLT)]

Peter was only trying to help his friend and Lord by admonishing him to stop saying the things He was saying. Peter’s intentions were good. He wanted only the best for Jesus. So then why did the Lord call Peter “Satan.” Because at that moment Satan had come to Peter and put the thought into his mind to try to take Jesus’ minds off of His true purpose (giving up His life for our sins) and thinking of what would be humanly the best thing for Him to do (not to suffer needlessly). This is the same lie the enemy uses with many persons who come to counsel. He will use those who are closest to the client to confuse them with opinions that differ from what the counselor is saying. Confusion comes when we listen to more than one voice at a time. While the client is counseling with you, the only voice they need to be hearing is yours. Once you have terminated the counseling, then they can listen to whomever they want.

“Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.”

We all have to be wondering what was going through the widow’s mind. “I told him I only had a little oil,” she must have thought. “And, he wants me to pour it into not only many bowls and jugs, but some of these are really big.” Here was the beginning of her test. Would she do as the prophet had said, or would she let the circumstances of her problem dictate her actions?

Your job as a counselor is to start teaching the client new behavior. Do not worry, at first, whether they get it or not. New behavior will always produce new results. New results have the capacity to change the self-image and worldview of the client. With that change, the client can start making better decisions, and this will result in their feelings about their whole situation improving. The pattern they had been living following for all these years will start to change. Slowly at first, sure, but change nevertheless. A principle we learn from Scripture is “As we obey, we change.” Every step of obedience will result in a change in our nature.

Without a doubt, the prophet was depending on God to do His part. The prophet could give all the advice he wanted but God it was up to God to perform any miracle. God works through faith. Faith requires action on the part of the believer. Not just any action, but faith (trust in the Word of the Lord to the point that one puts His Word into action). Your client will have little to no idea of how to do that. It is up to you to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, to identify the steps necessary. Fortunately, for you, He wrote a book (the Bible) and put the answers in it, and made it available for us to use. He does not even require you to memorize it completely, for it to work. We can refer to it anytime we need to, and it will always be applicable to whatever situation we confront. Challenge your client’s faith by leading them to take steps that will provide God the opportunity to do His work through them.

She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them.

“She did what he said.” Wonderful words to the faithful counselor (and to God). Many will be the times you will encounter those who do not do what you said. Those times will feel like a failure to you. But keep heart, because if you did your part of the counseling experience faithfully, then you were 100% successful. Your success is not dependent on the client actually doing what you say. The client’s success is dependent on their applying the new behavior and actions as required to see progress, and possibly a real and lasting solution. The two are not the same. You have your obligations and responsibility to meet within the framework of the counseling sessions, and they have theirs. If you do not do your part, they will be hurt also. If they do not do their part, only they (and their families, etc.) will be hurt, you still succeeded because you did your part faithfully.

When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.

This story tells of a woman who trusted the voice of her counselor just enough to take a chance that maybe what he said was actually going to help her somehow. She could have argued and complained and he was asking her to do something that, besides being even possible, was going to have no immediate effect on the problem at hand. She needed money, not to try to do something crazy, like fill up large containers with just a little oil.

The difference in her was that she knew one thing for sure; she did not have the answer she needed. With this in mind, she was willing and ready to try whatever anyone who seemed to know what they were doing would tell her. It was her actions, not the instructions of the counselor, which made the difference in her and her sons’ lives.

She learned valuable lessons that day. She learned that if you want things to turn out differently, that you have to start behaving differently than you have. New actions produce new results. In the future, she would probably not need to go to the counselor for help. She will instead search God’s Word to see what He has to say and just start doing it. This must be the goal, which every Christian counselor should strive to accomplish, with every client.

“She went and told the story to the man of God. He said, ‘Go sell the oil and make good on your debts. Live, both you and your sons, on what’s left.’”

The final step for the woman was for her to share the good news of finding the answers to her problem with others. To let others see that she had success. In this way, God will be glorified for the solution, which He (through the counselor’s obedience and the client’s actions), and only He, brought about.

The number of stories in the Bible, like this one, is numerous. Your job, no, obligation, is to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB95)

Pull out your Bible, start studying, and get better equipped for the work to which the Lord has called you.

The final question of this chapter has to do with where you will do your counseling. If you are part of a church counseling team, then you will need to speak with the church leadership (possibly the pastor himself) and see if they will provide a room as a counseling office. If you are not, then you may want to either select a room in your home (not recommended), rent a room of storefront elsewhere, or do as some of our counselors did, have one of those backyard wooden or metal storage buildings built on your property and convert it into a counseling office.

In either case, you want to be conscious of the following:

The Counseling Office

Select a place that is both public and private. You need privacy for the assurance and safety of the client, but you also need the public part for your assurance and safety. Choose soft colors if possible. Keep wall hangings at a minimum. Pictures of peaceful scenes are appropriate. You do not want pictures that distract or are visually stimulating (as this may serve to keep the counselee distracted). Certificates and awards are appropriate wall hangings.

Leave the door open, if it is possible to remain private during the session. Soft music may be playing in the background, but not loud enough to disrupt the session. Use a chair that will keep you at eye level with the counselee.

Place a clock behind the seats where the counselees will be sitting. The location of the clock should be such that when you look away to see it, the counselee will not be able to obviously tell that you are looking at the clock. If you have a married couple in your office, seat them where they face you, but can see each other during the interview.

Taking Notes

Take notes only if you must, but be conscious that taking notes will often have the effect of stifling the counselee confidence in the privacy of the session. A good practice would be to wait until after the session and then write your notes concerning that session in your notebook.

Handling the Session with Good Interviewing Skills

It is important that the counselor always listen, not just to what the client is saying, but how they say what they are saying. Careful listening skills can lead the counselor to identify the root of a problem, and not be side tracked by the complainant.

Listen to what they say . . .

Clients will often unknowingly guide you in how to interview them by the things they say.

Molly says, “I love my husband, and I feel he loves me, so why do I sometimes feel empty inside?” Notice that she said, “Feel” when speaking of her husband’s love for her. She said “I love my husband,” but “I feel he loves me.” By using the words “I Love,” she is stating what she perceives to be real. By using the words “I feel,” she is indicating that she is not convinced of the truth of what she has said. These words are a clue to deeper problems she is experiencing than whatever she may be in your session speaking about. You should follow up that statement with a series of questions that will clarify your suspicions.

Questions like:

·       Why do you say the word “feel” about your husband’s love for you, but you don’t use that word about your love for him?

·       Are you unsure at times about his love for you?

·       Does he do things that cause you to “feel” that he may not fully love you?

·       Etc.

Paul is worried that his wife is having an affair. He tells you that he believes that this is true because “she doesn’t pay attention to me like she used to.”

Key words:

* pay attention             * me              * used to

The questions this statement should elicit from the counselor may include:

·       What do you mean by attention?

·       How much attention did she pay to you before?

·       What circumstances changed in your marriage when she stopped paying as much attention?

·       Did you have a baby?

·       Did you move from one home to another?

·       Did you or your wife lose a job?

·       Was either of you ill around that time?

·       Did you and she argue any around that time? If the answer is yes, then what were the arguments about?

·       Did someone else move in with you and your wife?

·       Did you have an affair, or any other kind of relationship (such as a friendship), with another woman?

·       Etc.

Ask Questions in Series

Asking a series of related questions is much more effective than just asking questions at random. Series questions allow the counselor to ask the same question from different perspectives. In example:

·       How long have you been having problems in your marriage?

·       How soon after you got married did the problems start?

·       What was the first argument that you both had with each other, and when did it happen?

·       What complaints does he or she have against you?

·       And so on.

Questions in series help you establish points of importance and relevance like:

·       When something may have started.

·       How long something has been happening.

·       How clearly the client understands what is happening to them.

·       Whether or not you understand what the client is saying.

·       What patterns may exist in the client’s life?

·       What they have “tried” in the past to resolve their problem or concern.

Questions in series help you and the client direct the session toward finding the real issues. For example, Julio came to counsel with you because he feels that he is losing control of his relationship with his wife because she is always angry with him for every little thing he does. He tells you that she said she no longer felt safe with him and maybe did not love him anymore.

Questions to ask are:

·       What are the things she says you do that bother her?

·       How long has she been complaining about them?

·       How did you respond to her complaints?

·       What changes, if any, did you make in your behavior?

·       How did she respond to your “changes?”

·       What would she say is the reason she no longer feels safe with you?

·       What are some things that you may have done that she might interpret as being unsafe for her?

·       And so on.

Let them talk it out

Many times people just need to let out their hurt by speaking. Do not get carried away by asking too many questions. Listen to what they say and either ask them to clarify what they may mean concerning something they said or verbally acknowledge that you are listening.

Clarifying what they mean.

·       Bill tells you that life confuses him.

·       You ask him what is confusing him.

·       He tells you that he just does not understand why life is the way it is.

·       You ask him what things in life bother him most.

·       He says he does not understand why bad things happen to good people.

·       You ask what bad things have happened to him.

·       He tells you that he lost his job, and his girlfriend has dumped him.

·       You tell him that those really are bad things, and then ask him what he plans to do now.

·       He tells you that he wants to find out what he is doing that is so wrong that things turned out this way.

·       You ask him what things he feels he may have been doing wrong on his part.

·       He tells you that maybe he did not pay enough attention to both his job and girlfriend.

·       You ask him what might have distracted him from those two things.

·       He tells you that maybe he was spending too much time with his friends and staying out too late.

·       You ask him what he thinks life might be teaching him through what he just said.

·       He tells you that maybe he should stop hanging around with his friends so much.

·       You ask him if the problem is the length of time he spends with his friends, or what type of friends he has.

·       He asks you what you mean.

·       You tell him that whom we hang around with can greatly influence the choices we make in life.

·       He responds that you make sense, that probably he should consider which of his friends are really best for him.

·       He thanks you for helping him come to an understanding of what may have happened, and vows to start making changes.

You should notice that in the above example the counselor did not try to control the session as much as just keep the client talking about his concern, but with the intention of guiding the client to a solution that he may think he arrived at himself.

Use Acknowledging Statements.

Sometimes you want to encourage the client to keep on talking; you are able to keep them going by acknowledgments.

·       Anita tells you that she feels that people do not like her.

·       You ask her, “Why do you feel that way?”

·       She tells you that everyone always ends up causing trouble for her.

·       You say, “Trouble?”

·       Yes, she says, something always happens that results in a problem between her and others.

·       You say, “Something?”

·       Yes, she says, either they start trouble or blame her for starting something.

·       You say, “Blame?”

·       Yes, she says, even if I do not say or do anything wrong they will find something to blame me for.

·       You say, “Why do you think they do?”

·       She goes on to explain why she feels that others make up stuff about herself.

·       You can keep a conversation going on for quite a long time this way.

·       If you reach a point where the one, or two, word responses do not produce the results you want, then you ask the client to explain something a bit better for you.

Have a motive or and objective when asking questions in series.

Knowing where you are going is the best guide for knowing what you need to do to get there. If you know what you are trying to get the client to tell you, then you will know what questions to ask. Do not assume that they will understand what you are trying to accomplish and make your job easier for you. Each question you ask in your series must build off the last one. In addition, each question you ask in your series must be a basis for the next one.

·       You ask, “What have you done to try to resolve your concerns?”

·       The client states that she has tried everything.

·       You ask, “Have you counseled before?”

·       The client says, “No, but I’ve tried everything else.”

·       You ask, “Have you made any real changes in your own behavior?”

·       The client says, “Well, no, but why should I make all the changes?”

·       You say, “So then you really haven’t tried too many things, right?”

·       The client says, “Well, ok, maybe you’re right.”

·       You say, “Are you ready to make changes now?

·       The client says, “Yes.”

Do not get sidetracked by your own questions. Moreover, do not be sidetracked by the answers your client gives you.

·       You say, “How are you doing today?”

·       The client says, “I’m doing fine, but the weather is so hot.”

·       You say, “Yea, it’s been hot for me too.”

·       The client says, “Do you also get a rash from the heat?”

·       You say, “Uh, no, uh, why don’t we get started with the counseling, ok.”

·       The client says, “Ok, but let me ask you a question, is it fair for others to judge us?”

·       You say, “Well, it depends on what they are judging.”

·       The client says, “Well, I think it’s not fair.”

·       You say, “Maybe we should get started with the counseling.”

·       The client says, “Ok, what do you want to know?”

·       You say, “How are you doing today?”

·       The client says, “I’m doing fine, but the weather is so hot.”

If the client brings up something in an answer that is of interest, but not part of the issue with which you are dealing, write down the thought, or make a mental note of it.  Random questions can disorient the counseling session and leave both you and the client unsatisfied.

Question Any Inconsistencies.

There will be times when the client makes a statement about something that does not match something else that they may have said before.

Example:  Joni told you, during the last session, that she did not feel that she had any problems with addictions or obsessions. During this session, though, she states that she has always had a problem with spending too much. Without bringing up the statement from the last session, you should ask Joni if she understands what an addiction or obsession is.

Once you and she conclude that any behavior that is harmful to a person that the person seems to be unable to terminate or change, but continues to do is an addiction, then you ask her why she told you she felt she did not have any problems with addictions, but still stated she had problems with overspending.

Becoming aware of inconsistencies in their thought patterns is extremely useful and beneficial to the client. These inconsistencies will also help you identify possible areas of conflict and needed resolution.

Elaboration and Clarification by Use of Synopsis.

To clarify major and/or important points it is often useful to give the client a synopsis of what you heard them say, and what you understood. This will help you by allowing the client to correct any misunderstanding on your part, and to fill in any holes that you may have missed. Secondly, it will show the client that you have been listening carefully to him or her. Thirdly, you both are able to finish the session confident that you both have enough information from that session to carry you until the next session.

Session Synopsis:

A.             Listen to every word.
B.             Ask questions in series.
C.            Let them talk it out.
D.            Use acknowledging statements.
E.             Have a motive or an objective.
F.             Question any inconsistencies.
G.            Give a synopsis.

The New Life Christian Counseling Map (A Format to Follow)

While there will probably never be a single “format” to follow with every client in exactly the same manner, haphazard counseling can prove ineffective for the counselor and disastrous for the client. Failure is not an acceptable outcome for either the counselor or the client.  Therefore, to have the highest expectancy of success we need a clear working theory to follow, a process that allows for individual input while dictating a specified course, and certain specific techniques that to follow faithfully in every case, situation, and circumstance. This method will provide the capability for the counselor to self-evaluate by using measurable data and not rely solely on personal emotional criteria to decide progress and success.

In addition, new counselors struggle with feelings of inadequacy, though in many cases these persons were already “counseling” people for years. The sudden inclusion of the Counselor’s Certification seems to intimidate rather than to motivate some people. Even experienced and mature counselors may find problem with the prospect of having to follow “new” specific processes with which that they may be unfamiliar.

Many persons who were already “counseling” before they became certified, had been using “procedures,” “methods,” and “theories” which they just learned along the way. They had become comfortable with the way they used these processes though they probably realized that they needed something else. Becoming a Certified Christian (or Faith Based) Counselor carries with it the semblance of qualification, as well as the “approval of others” that many persons who already “counsel” on their own may feel they lack. Regardless of what got you here, one thing must become prominent in your style of counseling: you must have clear goals and objectives that will lead you and the client to the root problem, and therefore, the answers to identify the solution.

You’ve got to Know Where You Are Going to Know How Get There.

The goal of this section is to provide you with a clear path to follow with your client to search for and find the answers you will both need to find a resolution. The process will be a collaboration.  It will require you to guide the client in a specific direction, while they client follows you willingly. It requires you to have a predefined process you will implement, and require the client to cooperate, even if they do not initially understand what you are doing.

People are not going to come to you because they already trust you great counseling “prowess” and “abilities.” You will have to earn their trust. You will best accomplish this by taking them through measurable steps that will prove, systematically, that the process you will be using with them actually works.

Winging it, or “making it up as you go” will always prove inadequate in the end. If you are unwilling to adapt to a working model of counseling, you will never really know where you need improvement or change. You must have something with which to compare your counseling style.

The following “Map” or process is a standard that to follow and apply in all your counseling sessions. Variances will occur due to the situation and circumstances presented in the case, but these variances should never derail the process. Be faithful to the process and it will work well for you.

With all this said, remember, any “Map” or process may need updating or modifying as time goes on. Be ready for the changes that will be necessary. Learn them, internalize them, and own them. Include them in you counseling “Map,” this will make you a better counselor.

The All Important Session One.

There are certain specific principles that you must use in this sessions without fail. They will help you start in the right direction, and will help you not get distracted by the client’s feelings and arguments about what their “real” concern is. These principles are included here for you. Use them wisely.

The “Map”

As with any map, you look for and identify the place where you want to go. Then you trace back along a route, which you will have to follow to get there, from your beginning point. Once you know where you are going, you will also learn lots of other needed information.

For example:

1. What the distance is.

2. How long it may take to get there.

3. Whether you should travel by road, train, or by air.

4. What provisions and other needs will you have to take with you.

5. Will you need to take someone with you?

6. Etc.

Session 1 must be used to ascertain these things in reference to the client’s real (or root) problem.

The most important question is where are you going to be heading with this client? Will it be different from other people you counsel? The answer to that is to reach a point where clients:

· Understand, as much as possible, the factors that got them on the unhealthy pattern they have been living.

· Learn new behavior that will get them started on THE new healthy pattern.

· (And where possible) Come to a closer walk in their relationship with our Lord.

These things will be the same with every client.

Along with the above, each case will have specific sub-goals as well. For example, a couple comes to counseling because they realize they have serious communication problems. Besides the above two things, the counselor will also need to help the clients learn to develop interpersonal and communication skills. The urgent need, though, (needing to learn healthy communication skills) must never over-shadow the greater needs as explained in the first answer above.

To best help someone understand his or her unhealthy life pattern, the counselor must first get as much information as possible. The information needs to be as complete as possible.  We have included the following list as a guide to accomplish this:

1. Time Line.

In many cases (especially where more than one person have accounts which conflict), you will need to establish a timeline. This means to get the dates and circumstances lined up so that you can later refer to certain and specific events, which you determine to have produced unhealthy responses in the client that became part of their life pattern.

This will help the client begin to understand that specific events can cause persons to react in specific ways that can cause the person to start believing untruths that can harm them the rest of their lives. If they can see that certain events have shaped their thinking, the counselor has a greater chance of helping the client start to change their pattern to a healthy one. The principle here is: People do what they do because they believe what they believe.

2. The Client’s Responses to Events.

Your goal here is to learn the responses the clients had to revealed events in their lives. It is not what they said they did, as much as what they came away believing. Keep in mind; the client will not already know what they need to tell you to help you figure out this point. You must learn to ask open-ended questions (those that cannot be answered with one syllable words like, “yes” or “no”), and follow-up on any point that is not yet clear in your mind.

Though the client may not be conscious of his or her direct responsibility for life choices, they must eventually make that connection and learn to choose their responses in a healthier manner. Galatians 6:7 teaches, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows he will also reap. The principle is this: It is not what happens to us or what we do, but how we define ourselves because of those things, which shape our lives from then on.

I mentioned revealed events, so, therefore, I need to mention “unrevealed events” as well. The best course of action for the counselor is to realize that the client has neglected to provide needed information or that they have considered some information as irrelevant and therefore just chose not to include it.

One other possibility is that the client may be trying to manipulate the counseling for unhealthy purposes and will leave information which will either not help them in their personal goal, or which may prove them wrong in some way.

In either case, the counselor should approach this information gathering process sort of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. You may have an idea what the real problem may be, do not start assuming anything until you get as much of the puzzle together before you decide that you fully understand the circumstances. As long as there are pieces missing (holes in the information), you do not have enough to start yet.

3. Take your time, and be on time.

One of the “nice” faults of many counselors is that they are so anxious to help others that they do not take their time to gather enough information before plunging head-on into the counseling “process.” Their desire, which is admirable, can result in misdiagnosing the client’s problem and wasting much time and effort working on something that may not be the real problem at all. The result of this will be frustration on both the counselor and client’s parts. The client will start to lose faith in the counselor, and the counselor will unconsciously blame the client for the lack of progress.

For the first session, the counselor will need approximately two (2) hours. This is only to begin gathering information. It would be rare to have a counseling session that will provide all the information you need to make a full diagnosis of the root problem. Scripture puts it this way, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter,” Proverbs 25:2 (NASB95). The principle is this: “A wise counselor will search out and consider the information carefully, but the foolish one will rush head-on without having all the proper information.”

The second perspective on this section is that another thing that can undermine the counseling effort is the seeming inability to manage session time effectively. When New Life clients fill out the Intake Form, they learn that the first hour is going to take approximately two hours and that all sessions after that will be about one hour to one and a half hours in length, for the most part. Clients will take you at your word and make plans for after the counseling sessions. Counselors need to be conscientious of their management of the session times.

Even if the counselee arrives late, the counselor should begin immediately. As well, during the session, one should use the clock to encourage active participation from the client. As an example, you could start the session by informing the client that you will be ending the session in one hour. This will inform the client that if there is something they really want to talk about, that they should get to it. You can also use the clock by informing the client that you would like to use the next fifteen (15) minutes to cover a specific topic before going on to something else. Finally, about ten minutes to the end of the session, you can inform the client of the time so that they will be even more encouraged to bring up some topic that they really need discussing. As well, you can refer to the time at five minutes to the end of the session, and go over the client’s homework with them. Effective management of the time will help the clients with their confidence in your management skills. The Bible teaches that anyone who is faithful in the small stuff (“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much. . .” Luke 16:10 (NIV)

4. Remember that our style of counseling is Belief Therapy.

Also known as “Cognitive Therapy,” is usually used in combination with behavioral approaches and Scriptural principle which impact on the nature of humans. Cognitive theory emphasizes that distress does not come from the traumatic event, but what they think or believe about what happened to them. Maladaptive or irrational thinking styles and beliefs about one’s “self” produce psychopathology (unhealthy forms of thinking). Belief Therapy primarily uses teaching and educational approaches, mixed with behavioral modifications, with clients. This type of therapy is effective because clients learn new and more adaptive or rational ways of thinking about themselves and their lives, and learn different ways to react or respond to events, traumatic or not.

As long as you keep this concept in mind, you will allow the therapeutic style counseling of Belief Therapy to dictate much of your counseling for you. This is a healthy practice to follow and will lend itself for resulting in the greatest benefit to the counselee. The first rule of NCCM’s Code of Ethics is “Do no harm” (to the clients). Losing sight of the Belief Therapy pattern of counseling actually can result in harming the client. This can happen because you will not be allowing the process and method of Belief Therapy to work at its very best and most effective manner.

5. Learning to listen to what is not said.

Make up your mind ahead of time and start the questioning period of the session with a realistic expectation. That is that most of what the clients say complain about, argue, cry about, emphasize, stress over, and such is not the real problem. As mentioned before, the first step toward ineffective counseling is to zero in on what the client is saying and being too lazy to search out the real (or root) problem which is hidden somewhere in all that the client says.

To make matters worse, women (in general) say one thing while meaning another, and men say exactly what they mean, but are not always sure what they mean. If you take what they claim at face value, you will end up with an erroneous diagnosis of the situation or circumstances. Bad diagnosis (what is wrong) means bad prognosis (what should be done), and that means bad prescription (how to solve the problem).

Do not be satisfied, even when you think you got it. Allow yourself the possibility that you still got it wrong, or at least, not accurate. Many times, you will find that after the client presumably told you everything, several sessions down the line you will learn new information. Compare this new information with what you have already learned about the client. The new information can indicate that you are following the right “path” to the real problem, or that you have completely missed it.

6. Question everything.

Always ask clarifying questions. Just because the client said something that made sense to you, which does not mean that the client meant it the way you understood it. Challenge keywords. For example, if the client states that they accept responsibility for their actions, ask them to explain what the word “responsibility” actually means. You will be looking for more than for the client to tell you what he or she thinks you want to hear. Other words like “love,” “guilt,” and “accountable,” will mostly always mean one thing to them and another to you.

In one example: a male client told the counselor that even though he battered his wife, it did not mean that he did not love her because he did. When the counselor asked the client to define “love,” He said that it meant that he loved her. The counselor again asked him to define love without repeating the word. He said that it meant that he had so much love for her that he knew it was real. The counselor again asked him to define the word love, but to leave it out of the sentence. The man became agitated and complained that you cannot express love without saying the word. The counselor told the man that Jesus proved His love by dying, and that He never used the word “love” while He was on the cross dying. The man argued that was because Jesus was God and he was not so that he had to use the word to say it.

The counselor asked him to give an example of how maybe he could show his love without saying it. The man answered that it did not matter what he did, that if he did not tell his wife he loved her she could not know it. The counselor told the man that one way he could show his wife that he loved her without saying a single word, was by accepting full responsibility for everything that went wrong in his home, and accepting full guilt for his own harmful actions. The man countered that it was not all his fault. He claimed that she was mostly responsible and that if his words were not good enough then there was nothing more he could do.

Do not take the clients words at face value. Challenge everything.

7. Start to identify the lies.

Challenge your client on the things he or she believes that are erroneous. The biggest problem most counselees are dealing with is flawed truths. In many cases, they believe things which they are convinced are true, but even though they have seen the evidence all of their lives of the fallacy of these “truths,” they still will not give them up. It is these “truths” (which are actually lies) that dictate the life pattern, healthy or unhealthy, of the client.

Your job is to start identifying (even if you do not start to attack them yet) these lies so that you can help the client see the error of those beliefs and choose to change them. Remember that Romans 12 states that we are not to “follow the pattern of this world, but be transformed.”

One technique for challenging these false truths, Is to ask questions that will force the client to have to compare the truth and the lie and choose to change their beliefs.

Here is an example: Maria (not her real name) says that she has a very bad relationship with her mother. She says that her mother is an abusive, angry, and hateful person. She claims that her mother is always taking advantage of her, by borrowing money and never paying it back, and then when Maria does not lend her money, the mom tells everybody that Maria is just a stingy mean person who hates her mother. She asks what she can do to improve the relationship with her mother.

The counselor asks Maria why she feels that she needs to try to improve the relationship.

Maria answers, “Because she is my mother.”

The counselor says, “Yea, and so.”

Maria responds, “Well she’s my mother and I am supposed to have a good relationship with her, right?”

The counselor then challenges Maria’s belief, “Where is it written that you have to have a relationship with someone (anyone) just because they are related to you?”

“Doesn’t the Bible say you have to honor your mother and father?” Asked Maria.

The counselor did not answer her question, but instead asked a counter question, “What does the Bible mean by honor?”

Maria looked puzzled and said, “Does it mean to love them?”

The counselor said, “Now you saying something different. The two are not necessarily the same.”

He then explained the meaning of honor in the Bible.

Jesus underscored the importance of this commandment (Matthew 15:3 6) and instructed us to care for a parent in need.  In addition, the Apostle Paul applied the commandment to young children obeying their parents (Ephesians 6:2) and older children caring for a parent or grandparent who is a widow (1 Timothy 5:4).

In Maria’s case, it sounded more as if she struggled with anger and guilt.  Anger at her mom’s destructive behavior and guilt because she (Maria) got angry. The anger proved only that Maria wanted something from her mom. It was that need (whatever that was) that was driving Maria to keep accepting the abuse from her mother, not some misconception about “honoring” her mom. Her situation illustrates the problem that many well-intentioned Christian people have.  Their mother’s behavior is not honorable.  Permitting her to destroy your property or to use Scripture to manipulate and guilt trip you is not honoring her.  Moreover, it is certainly not honoring the God of righteousness because mom’s behavior is wrong.

Maria needed to sit down with her mother and talk to her about the concerns she had. If talking to the mom about those issues did not improve things then she may need to set some consequences in response to the mom’s abusive behavior. For example, like stopping visiting her until she agrees to behave appropriately. Ultimately, if her bad behavior continues Maria may need to consider possibly eliminating the relationship completely from her life. There is no requirement or obligation to accept abuse from anyone just because someone happens to accidentally be related to us by blood.

One very clear example of these is when Jesus was teaching at Peter’s home one day, his mother and brothers came to see Him. “While he was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers showed up. They were outside trying to get a message to him.  Someone told Jesus, ‘Your mother and brothers are out here, wanting to speak with you.’ Jesus didn’t respond directly, but said, ‘Who do you think my mother and brothers are? He then stretched out his hand toward his disciples. Look closely. These are my mother and brothers. Obedience is thicker than blood. The person who obeys my heavenly Father’s will is my brother and sister and mother.’” Matthew 12:46 50 (MSG)

Maria had to learn a painful, but real lesson. Those that you love do not have to love you back. Moreover, if you choose to remain in a bad relationship, it is your fault. If you want things to improve, in some cases you have to let the relationship go.

You are not obligated to anybody, except your own underage children (not adult children). No matter what anybody says, and no matter what your own feelings say, you owe nothing to anybody just because you are blood-related. The only obligations you have are those you choose to accept.

8. To confront or not.

Another problem area when counseling is whether to confront or not. There are going to be times that are very evident that confronting is not only appropriate but necessary. On the other hand, just because a client is being difficult that is not always clear indication to confront. Sometimes the confrontation can be the reason the client stops coming back to the sessions.

Confrontations can be the result of several factors, up to and including, the frustrations of the counselor. The counselor may feel that he or she has been working on the case with the client long enough and should be seeing different results than what is happening. The counselor may base his or her success on the choices and behavior of the client and will start feeling that they need to push the client to the next step. People progress at different rates, depending on the person, the situation, and the degree of trauma suffered, real or imagined.

Another factor is that the client may still not have developed the level of trust in the counselor needed to take the chance of doing the things the counselor has been suggesting. The client may understand what the expectation, but the more real the consequences seem the more frightened they may become.

One woman called for an emergency counseling session. She told the counselor that her situation was very drastic. She said that her husband had been beating her. She said that she so desperately wanted to be able to do something to change all of that. The counselor asked her when her husband last had hit her. She said that he had done it just before she left to come to the counseling session because he was trying to keep her from coming. She showed the counselor the bruises. She added, that the reason she had come to counseling was that she wanted the counselor to teach her how to get along better with her husband so he would not hit her anymore. The counselor said that what she was asking for was completely irrelevant, that her request, now, was ludicrous. The counselor told her that the only thing she needed to do “right now” was to call the police and report this man. She responded that she could not do that, “He might get angry.” The counselor confronted her on the response, “If you won’t call the police right now to report this man, then there is nothing we can do to help you. You will not even help yourself. You do not need any counseling right now. You need to be safe. Counseling can come later.”

A bad example happened this way: after several weeks of counseling with a client, a certain counselor was become frustrated with the lack of seeming interest on the part of the client. The counselor had asked the client to do some specific homework that involved writing a report on a recommended book. Weeks went by and the client kept making excuses for not doing the homework, so the counselor decided to confront.

“If you choose not to do the homework by this next week,” said the counselor, “then I am going to take that as your way of saying that you are not interested in working on your problem, and we will discontinue the sessions.” Well, the client did not return.

After some time went by, the client again called the counseling ministry, but this time asked for a different counselor. Early on in the sessions, the new counselor asked the client if he would do some homework for him. The client asked what kind of homework would be involved. The Counselor noticed the way the client asked the question and asked the client if he could read and write. The client said that he could read very little, and wrote even worse. He then told the new counselor that this was the reason he stopped seeing the other counselor. The new counselor then gave the client audio tapes on the same subject as the book the other counselor had given him. The counselor asked him to listen to them and that they would discuss the subject at the next session. At the next session, the client arrived early and excited. “I learned a lot. Thank you.”

9. Decide together the goals and objectives of the sessions.

Do not let the client leave the first session without identifying clear goals and objectives that you will both be working towards in the coming sessions. This gave the client a sense of hope. As long as they see progress, they tend to relax a bit. Their attitude and worldview can make immediate changes.

As an example of this is, “Well, Bobby, from this session I can see that we will need to work on helping you identify some personal behavior patterns that are hurting you, and teach you behavior which will change the way you see things. This should help you get a better grip on how you react and respond to circumstances in your life. Do you agree with this or do you see something else?”

The Principle here (from Proverbs 29:18 [KJV], “Where there is no vision, the people perish”) is: You have to be able to see what you want to know what you have to do to get it.

10. Give homework

Homework is crucial. Homework keeps the client focusing on counseling “stuff” during the week when they are not in session. There are several pointers for the counselor to consider when giving out homework:

a. Is the client able to read and write?

i. Does the client have other problems that may affect their learning ability?

(1) Comprehension problems.

(2) Cannot read English or Spanish specifically?

b. Is the client’s home environment conducive to doing homework?

i. Will the husband, wife, or children interfere with the effort to do homework?

ii. Are noise, living conditions, and other situations a factor?

c. Are you asking too much from the client?

i. Can do the work, but in smaller parts?

d. Do they prefer different media than written materials?

i. CDs

ii. DVDs

iii. Video Tape

iv. MP3s to their MP3 players, iPods, phones, or Thumb or Flash Drives?

11. Clarify the schedule for future sessions.

Make sure the client is very clear on the dates and times of the sessions. Specify that they inform you as early as possible of the client not showing up so that you can choose to plan something else. Ask the client to be faithful about showing on time, and not coming too early. Let them know that they can call and reschedule if needed and that you will work with them if they want to change the date and times of the sessions. Input the date and time to your personal schedule or calendar immediately.

Using the Principles wisely in Counseling

Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out. Proverbs 20:5 (KJV)

Scripture is full of practical and useful counsel on how to manage our lives. The Bible provides much immediate and practical instruction. Your job as a Christian Counselor is to learn these truths and learn how to use them in your counseling.

Not all truths have specific verses associated with them. Often you arrive at truth when you study verses, passages and/or stories found throughout the Bible. The combination of these will lead us to understand certain and specific truths for our lives, these truths are the principles.

We will review several principles and teach you the process for using them. The first goal has to be to learn to identify the principles to begin with. The process you will learn here will teach you a standard way of working with all principles. All principles will lend themselves to the process taught here, and some principles will have minor variances that one must take into consideration before using them.

We will not try to identify all the principles in Scripture, as they are too numerous. On the other hand, we will cover some that will be necessary and beneficial in most counseling sessions. As well, there will also be principles (truths) which come from common sense (or at least that should be “common sense”) which have proven to be applicable to the counseling process. We will consider both Scriptural and common sense principles.

With that said, let us begin.

Some principles, which you will use often in your counseling, include, but are not limited to:

1. People do what they do because they believe what they believe.

2. The concerns the client expresses to you are rarely the real (or root) problem you will have to eventually deal with.

3. Belief in a lie can be as powerful as the truth, and sometimes seem more real.

4. Change is not change until there has actually been change.

5. If you do the same thing you have always done, you will get the same thing you have always gotten.

6. All cases of counseling involve some level of spiritual warfare, and you are as susceptible to it as is the client.

7. You must change the way you think if you want to change the way you live.

8. There are many ways to say, “No,” but there is only one-way to say, “Yes:” just do it.

9. You cannot change a man, but you can take away the goodies until he does.

10. You cannot change the past, but you can change how you feel about the past.

11. Change is inevitable, be ready for it, and change along with it.

12. If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

13. You do not want to try to forget the memories, but you want to eliminate the feelings attached to them.

14. And so on.

You now have two very real choices. Either you can look at these principles as some “pretty good suggestions,” or you can choose to believe that they are very truths that will become like tools for you, just as a hammer and nails are for the carpenter. Anyone may use a tool correctly, or incorrectly, the difference lays the training the person gets. You can keep waiting for others to train you, or you can get your own training while waiting for others to train you. The choice is yours.

Below is an example of how some of these principles, and maybe others, can be used in a real counseling session.

Lilly (not her real name) came for counseling because, as she says, “I got real problems. I get angry a lot and do and say hurtful things to people around me.” She continues by adding that she had just had a serious argument with her “husband” (Tom), in which she said some very mean and hurtful things to him on purpose. “I just wanted him to hurt,” she said. Asked by the counselor to give her own impressions of why she feels she behaves this way, she said, “I don’t know. I do not want to continue being this way. I just don’t understand why I get so angry.”

To start getting some information to work with, the counselor asked her some questions. “You may think these questions are strange, and that they don’t seem to have any connection to what you are experiencing, but I need you to answer them, I will connect them for you as we go on.” The client agreed.

Now, the counselor started with several principles in mind:

1. People do what they do, because they believe what they believe.

a. What this says to the counselor is that Lilly is experiencing uncontrollable rage because something in her thinking causes her to react to certain stimuli. For example: if her husband tells her she’s wrong about something, that may trigger, in her, a memory of her abusive father always putting her down by calling her stupid, or something like that. Therefore, she reacts to Tom with all the pent up anger she had for her father, and wants to defend herself by attacking Tom for what her father did. Part of her mind tells her that by attacking Tom she is somehow punishing her father instead.

2. Belief in a lie can be as powerful as the truth, and sometimes seem more real.

a. You do not have to be fully conscious that a lie is a lie. If you believe the lie hard enough, it becomes your truth. The lie can become so ingrained in the pattern of the person’s life that when faced with the truth, and have the truth proven to them, they still prefer to believe the lie, just because they have lived it for so long. To admit they had believed a lie is kind of like saying that they have been stupid or retarded, and that they really do not want to be true of them.

3. All cases of counseling involve some level of spiritual warfare, and you are as susceptible to it as is the client.

a. As Christian counselors, we cannot, and must not, eliminate the spiritual from our counseling. The enemy is real, and his attacks are real. We must come to understand our position in Christ, and the authority He has given us, so that we can better understand the limitations of the enemy. Without question, at some point the enemy attacked Lilly by some means. The counselor must work at identifying how and when.

4. The concerns the client expresses to you are rarely the real (or root) problem you will have to eventually deal with.

a. Armed with the knowledge of the above three principles, the counselor must also remember that most, if not all, of the concern expressed by the client, is emotional confusion that may seem clear to the client, but is probably just hurt and/or anger speaking. The counselor’s primary job, at the beginning of the counseling sessions, is to wade through all the emotional hurt and pain, and find the root (or real) problem.

The counselor asked Lilly to explain why she picked Tom to marry.

o She said, “I met Tom about the time I was going through a separation with my last husband. He …”

o “Wait,” said the counselor, “you were married before?”

o “Yes, to a guy named Jimmy,” she replied.

o “Why did you and he break up?” asked the counselor.

o “Well he was having an affair,” she replied, “and I caught him with the other woman.”

o “So you left him?” asked the counselor.

o “Well, no, he left me to go with her.”

o “How long were you and Jimmy together?”

o “I met him when I split up with my second hus …,” she tried to say.

o “Wait again; you were married with someone before Jimmy?” Questioned the counselor.

o “Well weren’t really married. I haven’t got a divorce yet,” she answered.

o “Yet? Are you saying that you were not yet divorced when you met the second guy, or that you are still not divorced from the first guy?” asked the counselor somewhat puzzled.

o “Uh,” she said, “I am still married.”

o “Uh, huh,” the counselor said softly.

o And then he asked, “Why did you and the second guy break up?”

o “I was having an affair with him and my husband found out and left me. Therefore, I decided to move in with him. It was ok for a while, but soon we started being so jealous of each other, and suspicious. That quickly destroyed the relationship.”

o “Uh, huh,” answered the counselor. “And why did you pick the first guy, your husband, to marry.

o “I vowed to do anything to leave my home, even if it was to marry the first guy that came along. Anybody, just to be able to escape,” she said.

o “Why did you use the word, ‘escape.’” the counselor queried.

o “When I was 14 years old, my step-father (Her father had died when she was only three years old), snuck into my bedroom one night and molested me,” she said while beginning to cry deeply.

o “I think we may have found the real source of all your anger,” said the counselor.

Putting the principles into action:

Armed with the above four principles the counselor asked Lilly to express her feelings after this happened to her. “I felt fear and hatred toward him. I had always loved him before that. He was my daddy,” she said in tears. “I always knew I could trust him. He taught me that people who love you would hurt you in the worst ways. I felt like I had somehow made him do it. I was so scared that I did not even try to stop him. I let him do this. I wanted to be ugly so he would not do it again. I felt ruined for life. I felt like no one would ever find me attractive again. I felt dirty.” Lilly cried for a while.

Having been well trained, the counselor knew that events like the one she suffered can cause serious trauma to anyone. All events, good and bad have the potential to be life changing. Disastrous mistakes (which could even take a life), or epiphanies (a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization) can change the course of the rest of your life.

Read this carefully, it is NOT the event, or even the epiphany, that changes you. Change comes from the way you respond to the event that has the potential to stay with you for the rest of your life. It was not that her stepfather molested her, which has caused the problems to all her relationships. Nor did it cause her other bad choices she has made. It is how she has defined herself, due to the event, which has stayed with her all these years. Though she was only 14 years old, and obviously not old enough to clearly analyze what had happened to her and how she should react to it, is was herself, not her stepfather, that made the mental decision she made afterward.

What happened spiritually was that the enemy came to her in that moment of vulnerability and told her vile and ugly things about herself. Not realizing what was happening, Lilly decided that these thoughts were hers. She accepted these horrible thoughts as being the truth. She allowed the event to define her. She did not realize that she had just written the pattern she was going to follow the rest of her life. Though it was not her fault, none of it, she condemned herself to a terrible life with those thoughts.

The enemy accomplished his goal, to destroy Lilly by getting her to destroy herself.

Her own self-image told her that she needed to have sex with men to try to convince herself that maybe somehow she was attractive. Most of her choices and decisions in relationships with men somehow associated with sex. Distorted sex. Confused sex. Every time she had sex with any male, she would vividly remember that hateful night. Her hatred and anger would rise to the surface again, and the bad times would start all over again.

She believed a lie. A lie perpetuated by the traumatic event. However, more importantly a lie created by her own mind. The lie became so real that her emotions had no choice but to align themselves with the dictations of her mind that said that the lie was true. Your emotions have no way of discerning right from wrong, or true from false. They will feel whatever way the mind directs.

The thought processing pattern:

Refer to the diagram. The pattern there is the one that all humans follow. As romans 12:2 teaches, the crux of all change begins in the mind (Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 [NIV]).

Notice also, these two verses as additional examples:

· “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy.” Proverbs 12:20 (NASB95)

· For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . . Proverbs 23:7 (KJV)

In both cases, these verses support the idea in Romans 12:2. The mind creates the belief structure. Moreover, the mind defines the emotions of the person. Once the feelings line up with the mind, and this may or may not happen immediately, then the emotions will dictate what the person’s actions (behavior) will be. It takes a disciplined person to react contrary to how they feel.

When those persons known as the “Angry People” of this world, learn this concept, and apply it, they learn to control how they will demonstrate their anger. The principle here is, “Angry people will always be angry people, but they can learn to control how they respond to the anger.” God gets angry. There are examples of His anger throughout Scripture. Jesus became angry and whipped the moneychangers in the temple. In both cases the anger was a righteous one (it was deserved), not just imagined by the one who got angry.

It is very possible and probable to get angry for the right reasons, and be in full control of your anger, thereby choosing how you will react to the anger, and not let the anger decide for you your responses.

Because of the cycle Lilly was now on, she was doomed to be a reactionary and a victim to her emotions, because of the lie that was constantly in the forefront of her mind. She was, unintentionally (at least, consciously), feeding the “monster” of fear and anger which produced the rage within her.

That brings us to that last part of the above diagram, the world view. Lilly’s actions would continually result in negative products, so therefore how she saw the world was as one big negative experience. Because she saw life and other people this way, she reacted to all of this as though she was protecting herself from constant attack. Everything that triggered her was another chance to relive the wrongs of the past (the molestation and all her bad decisions thereafter). Each time she relived these events in her mind, she fed the monster. Her monster was big, healthy, and powerful.

Feeding the monster.

How does one feed the monster? By “celebrating” the bad times. As in any celebration, there are certain patterns. There is first the reminder or trigger:

1. A person’s birthday. (Annual)

2. A recognized holiday. (Annual)

3. A Promotion (Occasional)

4. A wedding (Occasional)

5. A wedding anniversary. (Annual)

6. Graduation (Occasional)

7. And more (both annual and occasional)

Then there is response. People either do or do not make plans to celebrate. Once the person decides to celebrate, they will follow a specific pattern of behavior. Once followed, the pattern should result in a good and great time by all.

Likewise the angry person. There are certain times and events (reminders) during the year, or occasional circumstances or situations (triggers) which trigger in them a time for celebration. They remember the event that happened in the past, and then they choose to celebrate by already having a set pattern of behavior that they always follow. The behavior always results in the same negative reactions and responses from those around the angry person, and the angry person again feels justified for his or her actions.

Using Lilly’s case, she told of how after her step-father had done this to her, he bought her a game station which she had been asking for, he also told her that every Christmas he would give her something really good, “because we have a special relationship.” Lilly grew to hate Christmas. It was only a reminder of what had happened to her.

From then on, Lilly would go into a depression about two weeks before Christmas, and remain like that until after the New Year. It was like clockwork, everybody already knew what to expect, and tried to avoid her during that time, which only made matters worse. She was mean and “crazy” during those times, and she always followed the same pattern. She would deny it if you pointed it out to her, but it was true nevertheless.

Her “occasional” celebrations came in the form of intimacy. She craved a real intimate relationship with a man. The problem was that every time she would start being intimate, whether it involved sex or not, she remembered that horrible night, and became angry all over again. Her set method of behavior for this celebration was to picture the night again. See her stepfather coming into her room. Pulling back the sheets, and then all she felt was terror. In addition, this happened every time she was intimate with any man. She had so many men in her life because she was looking for the right man, the one who would not make her feel this way. She believed that he was out there, but had not found him yet, and because she wanted to, she was destined to find and lose men throughout her life.

Hurt people tend to celebrate their hurt (another principle for you to use). They have, whether conscious of it or not, a set method of behavior for the triggers. They will repeat this behavior every time, though they will deny doing so. In fact, the only one who denies it is the angry person. Everyone around them already knows what to expect. They cringe at the idea that a trigger point is coming up. They are usually more cognizant of the triggers than the angry person is. Such is the life of the angry person and her victims. Yes, her victims. Once she had been the victim, now she is the victimizer.

How do you stop feeding the monster?

Two things are important to keep in mind. First, understand that the event(s) will not change. Do not go there, its fruitless. Second, know that what can change is the person’s self-definition relating to the event. In Lilly’s case, she was 14 years old. As a teenager, she was not old enough or experienced enough to cautiously evaluate and analyze the circumstances and situation with which she suffered. Because of her lack of maturity, she found it easier to define herself as being bad, instead of placing the full blame on the rightful culprit. She cannot change the event, but she can change her memory of what happened.

Memory is a tricky thing. You can believe that what you are recalling is 100% exactly what did happen, but when others remember the same event, they may remember something different. You can be 100% sure in your mind and be 50% wrong. Sometimes we remember things exactly the way they happened. Sometimes we remember things a certain way and they did not happen that way. Sometimes we remember things that never even happened. Moreover, sometimes we just plain forget some things that really did happen, and we will argue that they never did.

Remember, memory is a tricky thing. You can even play with the things you remember correctly and adjust that memory to what you now want to be true. Repeat it (to yourself) enough times, and it becomes a “real” memory for you. Repeat it to others often enough a most people will except it as being the truth as well. The conscious mind is able to discern between real memories and fake memories, but the subconscious mind does not have that capacity. Whatever the subconscious learns it takes as fact. When the subconscious and the conscious mind have trouble distinguishing between each other, you have someone with mental problems. The point here is that a person can alter a memory, and so alter their emotional response to that memory.

Redefining the memories:

Lilly’s next step in the counseling process was to redefine her memory of what happened that night. After some discussion, between Lilly and the counselor, she redefined that night in this manner. “I was asleep and heard a sound in my room. I was not fully awake and could not see what it was.  Suddenly I realized my stepfather was in my bed. He pulled the blankets up and started to touch me. I jumped up to my feet, on the bed, and started yelling at him to leave my room or I would go and tell my mom what he was trying to do. He became afraid and backed away. After he left I cried to myself that the man I trusted had proved he was not a good man. I decided not to trust him again. I decided that I would instead lean on God for comfort and direction. I decided that it was my stepfather, who had some sick and twisted problem. That I had done nothing to encourage his sick behavior. I decided that I was still going to be happy in my life, in spite of what he did.”

Lilly repeats this new memory to herself as often as she thinks about it. This memory produces different feeling in her than the old memory did. With this memory come feelings of self-confidence, self-control, and a trust in God for the security she needs.

Practicing the new memories:

The next step in Lilly’s therapy was practicing the new memory. This was she did by identifying other bad memories, and finding a way to alter them so that the results were such that Lilly took some action, which, though she could not change the event, she did change the way she handled the event. The more she did this, the more she changed her self-perspective in the present. This will produce, in her, new actions and behavior in the future.

Practice fixing bad experiences

Another useful process is to practice fixing bad experiences mentally. Just imagine yourself in a confrontation with someone with whom it is difficult to communicate. In real life, the result may have been that you both ended up arguing and upset with each other. Probably you and this other person said some hurtful things that you now wish you had not said. On the other hand, maybe you behaved in some way that you wish you could change.

The thing here is to imagine the confrontation (or possible confrontation) and run it through your mind in slow motion. Start the confrontation as always begins. However, this time (since you are in full control of the proceedings in your mind) do a freeze frame like in television shows. Just stop all the action. Now ask yourself what should be the next step on your part. Think about what the consequences may be if you say this or do that. Decide, while you are in freeze frame what you should do next. Once you have decided, start things up again. Your new decision should have different results. For example: let’s say that at some point in the real life confrontations, you start getting angry at the other person because they are not listening to you but are trying to force you to hear them only, then you start to yell instead, thinking somehow that you might get their attention. Now you know that has never worked, but you probably have repeated that behavior often with little to no helpful results. Let us say that this time, just when you normally would start to yell, you decide instead to walk away from the confrontation. You go to another room or somewhere else where you can relax and calm down.

If you repeat this every time from now on, things will begin to change. The immediate result will be that you will not get into a shouting match with anyone, you will feel better about yourself afterwards, and you will look for other ways to make those confrontations better for you. The funny thing is that many times when we change how we confront others, they seem to make changes of their own. At least we can hope so.  We cannot control others, but we can control ourselves. We should never choose to remain in an argument in which the other person is unwilling to consider our points, as we are willing to consider theirs.

So, what did Lilly learn?

1. People do what they do because they believe what they believe.

2. There was another more serious problem (the root problem) that was causing most of her more seeming immediate concerns, she had to deal with that first, then deal with the rest (if they were still there).

3. Belief in a lie can be as powerful as the truth, and sometimes seem more real.

4. Change is not change until there has actually been change.

5. If you do the same thing you have always done, you will get the same thing you have always gotten.

6. All cases of counseling involve some level of spiritual warfare, and you are as susceptible to it as is the client.

7. You must change the way you think if you want to change the way you live.

8. You cannot change the past, but you can change how you feel about the past.

9. You do not want to try to forget the memories, But you want to eliminate the feelings attached to them.

What about Lilly’s other complaint? Well, she stopped behaving with her children and the “man in her life” in the same manner as she had always done. They are not as frightened about “setting her off” again. They have calmer discussions and controlled arguments when issues arise. She does not explode on them when things are not going well. Why? Because she is now dealing with present problems, and not with all the burdens of the past pains and traumas. Is she “perfect” now? Not by a long shot! However, she and her family are off to a good “beginning,” to the rest of her life.

Blind Leading the Blind

The problem with spiritual blindness is that those who are spiritually blind don’t know it.

This is why we are exhorted in the Word to make a self-examination.

(See 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NASB), “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail the test?”

 The point here is that there actually is a test.

  • No, it is not one of those multiple choice kinds.
  • This test involves applying the Word of God in your life, examining the results, and then testing the again.

In 1st John 4:1 (NASB), it says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

  • The Lord clearly instructs us to put everything to the testeven His own Word.
  • How do I know this? Look at the verse, notice the words, “to see whether they are from God.”
  • This clearly shows that God not only has no problem with us testing His Word but that He wants us to do so.
  • This way we can come to learn how to tell the difference between His Word and the voice of others.

Notice this confrontation between the Lord and the Pharisees found in John 9:38-41 (NASB), “And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Him. And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’ Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, ‘We are not blind too, are we?’ Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

  • Can you see (pun intended), the Lord is saying that the Pharisees failed the test.
  • In their case, they would remain blind, because they did not want to see.
  • They were face to face with God in the flesh, and they did not recognize Him because He was not behaving the way they believed He was supposed to behave.

Additionally, Matthew 13:13-17 (NASB), says, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

  • This is Jesus explaining that He uses certain techniques to get His message across to those who really want to hear, and understand while allowing those who do not want to change to keep on acting like they do not understand.
  • Notice as well, that it tells us that there are those who are blessed because they can “see.”
  • This ability to “see,” for these people is a “blessing,” or rather, a gift from God Himself.

In the Bible, this inability to understanding things is referred to as being blind.

  • Spiritual blindness comes about for different reasons.

One of those reasons is found early in the Bible in Deuteronomy 29:4 (NASB), “Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.”

  • Here we can see that God not only is capable of “blinding” people spiritually but obviously, He actually did it.

Why He would do this is also something that would have different reasons for happening.

  • One of those is that the people involved are not ready to understand,from God’s point of view.
  • This could happen because He is not ready for them to understand and do the right thing because His plan calls for something different.
  • As an example, He hardened the heart of Pharaoh, so that the king would not release the Jews and God could take the opportunity to demonstrate His power to the world.

Another reason why God would keep some people from “seeing” is found in Romans 11:25 (NASB), “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

  • Because God has a plan and that plan must work out the way He wants it to, He has kept Israel from understanding some things about who Jesus truly is, so that there would be ample time for people who are not Jews to get saved.
  • See also Romans 11:7-8 (NASB), “What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY.”
  • See how God intentionally kept Israel (the Jews) from understanding and acting on that knowledge, until He is ready for them to do so, until then, they will remain “blind.”

Another reason why some people are “blind,” is found in 2nd Corinthians 4:3-4 (NASB), “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

  • Satan has been given the power to “blind” the eyes of those who are not going to be saved.
  • If they were to understand that Jesus Christ is the Lord, then they might get saved, and that is not part of the plan in their case.
  • These people, who do not see, but act as if they do, often turn out to be people who also end up fooling true believers with their erroneous religious beliefs.
  • The book of Galatians speak clearly of this problem.

Jesus’ response to us, regarding these blind people is to, “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14 (NASB))

In our case though, we have different instructions from the Lord, “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)).

  • In this verse we see the process which God expects from us so that we may be able to really “see,” and know that it is truly God speaking, and not some other voice.
  • In our heads we have three voices.

o   One of them is the voice of God, the second is the voice of the enemy, and the third is our own voice.

  • Which is the most powerful of the three, you might ask? Your voice.

o   Too often our voice is so strong and powerful in our heads, that it actually sounds like what we would expect God’s voice to sound.

  • In truth, God’s voice is the still small voice which you have to stop and listen to, so that you can recognize it and know it truly is His voice.
  • But, we do not always know if it really is God’s voice.
  • To know this, we must become “transformed.”

o   This means to stop thinking the way we always have, and start thinking the way God wants.

  • Once we start thinking His way, or as the Word says, by using the “mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), we will be able to know it is His voice, as best as we can.

This transformation, or rather the ability to see and not be blind, requires us to use the tools He put at our disposal.

  • Those “tools” are simply the Word of God. Notice what Hebrews 4:12 (NASB) says. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • It is the Word of God that “transforms us,” opens our eyes so that we may see, so that we may use it, and lead others to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The way we learn to use the Word of God correctly, and use this tool in the proper way is to follow the instructions of the Lord in 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), “Be diligent (study) to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
  • The study of the Word, the testing of the Word, and the application of the Word, is what will be required to stop being “blind,” and “seeing.”

The final question is this:

  • Are you able to take God’s Word as the truth, just as you take a scientist’s word at what they say is true.
  • When there is a conflict regarding what scientists say and what the Bible says, how do you decide which to believe?
  • Your answer will decide whether you are blind or not.

What Does It Mean To Love Jesus?

I asked myself, “Do you really love Jesus?”

Pastor John Piper said, “If you don’t love Jesus, you don’t love God, and if you don’t love God you don’t love Jesus.”

I came across a dilemma, not long ago. I questioned myself about my love for the Lord. I asked myself what it meant to love God. Was it some feeling I was supposed to have, or was it solely to be proven in obedience? In John 14:15, Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In other words, He said, you will show me that you love me if you do as I have commanded you. Was He saying that the obedience alone demonstrated my love for Him, or was He saying that because I did love Him I would obey Him?

I grew up without a father. He left me when I was three years old. I grew up hating that man. I hated even thinking of him. Because of his cowardice, I learned to distrust all authority figures in my life. I grew up angry and full of rage. I expected people to reject me, to abandon me, and not to love me. I never considered the possibility that someone would actually want to be with me for real. It was not that I went around belittling myself, or thinking the worst about me, it was that I never believed I was worthy of someone loving me. I did not even love myself.

As I grew older, I began to search for importance. I want to be someone special. I wanted others to look up to me. I wanted to be famous. I wanted more than I had. This drive for importance led me to many decisions that resulted in bad consequences in my life. As a young man, I spent much of my time in juvenile homes. When I got a little older, I spent two years in maximum security for assault with attempted murder. After I was released, I met a young woman and married her. I thought I had finally found someone who would love me, but the marriage lasted six months and she divorced me. My anger ruined the relationship and I became violent with her.

After that, I got one job after another, constantly getting into trouble and being fired. I became an alcoholic and started on a downward spiral. About that time, I heard of a group of people called the Brown Berets. This seemed like my chance to become important. I became the Prime Minister of the organization. For many years, I came out on TV, newspapers, and radio talk shows. The Brown Berets became a stepping stone for me to gain importance, but that importance was not real. After nine years in the organization, I became disillusioned with the groups success. I began to doubt the goals and objectives of the group.

Around this time, I got married again, to my present wife. At first, it seemed great. She loved being with me; doing the things I wanted to do. Little by little, my anger and bitterness crept into that relationship as well, and things started getting bad. My disappointment in the Brown Berets, coupled with my bad marriage, led me to start using cocaine. I became addicted to the drug and it only made things even worse for me. I quit the Brown berets and started dealing with the divorce proceedings my wife began against me. I remember thinking about my life and wondering whether it would be better for everyone if I would just die. I knew there was something wrong with me. I didn’t know what to do, or even how to get started to try and fix things. I had spent 32 years of my life wanting to be important, to be loved by someone, and all I found at the end was my anger, bitterness, and my hatred for the coward who left me when I was three years old.

But, there was a little light at the end of that dark, dark, tunnel in which I found myself. I had an eight year old son, Nino, and a second son, Chicho, which had just been born. I thought of them, and I decided that I would not be like my father. I would not leave them. They became my motive for change. I wanted to be a better father. I wanted them to grow up and know that I never left them, no matter how bad things got. I determined to change for them. They gave me another chance, another reason, to be important.

The divorce proceedings between my wife and I were bad. Every time we met for any reason became another chance for her to attack me and say hateful things against me. But, I knew I deserved them. I still got angry, but I knew that I had done this. I turned her against me. Still, I did not want to lose the marriage, and I kept asking God to please save my marriage. The only thing He would say to me is, “Let me change you. Let Me change you. Let Me change you.” I would get so angry at Him. I wanted God to have mercy on me, even though I knew I deserved everything that was happening to me.

One day I was invited to attend a seminar at which David Wilkerson, a preacher from New York, was speaking. I remember him saying, “God wants you to give Him a chance to prove to you that He can do what He says He can do.” I responded and said, “God doesn’t need any chances, I am the one who needs a chance.” I prayed that night and told God that if He could change me, then He could have me.” I have never been someone who does things halfway. If I messed up, it was all the way, if I did well it was all the way. I knew what I was telling God, if He could change me, I would belong to Him the rest of my life.

Not long after that, I was summed to child custody court, and the court took my boys away from me and gave them to their mother. The court also ordered me to leave my home, and restricted me to be able to see my sons only twice a month. I could not understand this, I wanted to be with my sons, and they took them away from me. I wanted to get angry at God, but I kept reminding myself that He was the owner now. He had the right to do with my life as He pleased. The anger would build inside me, and come dangerously close to an explosion. But The Lord would always remind me that He was now in charge, and that He wanted me to let Him do whatever He thought was best.

Later, we ended up in divorce court. I kept wondering how the Lord was going to stop the divorce proceedings. But, we ended up before the judge who heard all the accusations my wife had against me. Then the judge slammed his mallet on the desk and pronounced us divorced. My world seemed to stop. God had not stopped the divorce. I had lost my family. I wanted to get so angry at Him, I wanted to shout at Him, I wanted to hurt someone. But, instead I walked out of the court feeling defeated one more time in my life.

A couple of days later, my attorney called to ask if I had her from my wife. I answered that he meant my ex-wife. “No,” he said, “I mean your wife. She hasn’t singed the papers yet, and they are looking for her to sign them. I started at the phone for a long time. I did not understand what I had just heard. After a while, I called my wife and she answered. I told her that they were looking for her to go and sign the papers. She said that she knew, but that she had decided not to sign. She said she was going to give me one more chance. After we hung up the phone, I thought of all the anger I had had against God. I thought about how I had wanted to give up on Him. I thought about how much He loved me.

As a man I respect very much said to me not long ago. “I may not be the best husband, but I am a better husband now. I may not be the best father, but I am a better father now. I may not be the best man, but I am a better man now” And I added, “I may not know how to love God that way He wants from me, but I will spend the rest of my life learning to love Him with all my heart.”

So, do I really love Jesus? I hope so.

I am going to spend the rest of my life ministering to others, counseling others, helping others, serving others. That is the best way I know how to show Jesus I love Him, and loving Jesus is the best way I know to show God that I am so appreciative of what He did for me. Yes, Lord I love you, but help me learn how to love you better.

What is a Christian?

Depending on whom you ask you will also get varying definitions.

I will attempt to give a generally good description of who we are, as compared to what others say about us. There is NO one definition for all of us. The all-encompassing word, Christian, is used as though it clearly identifies a specific group of people. It does not. Here are some examples of what I mean.

1.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” just because they live in the United States. The idea here is that since the founding fathers used Christian concepts and doctrine in much of their initial work in the creation of the United States, this means that this is a “Christian” country. Therefore, all of its citizens would be “Christians” by default.

2.    There are people who call themselves “Christians” just because their family and relatives all call themselves “Christian.” The idea here is that “Christianity” is more of a cultural identification. For example, if you are born in a Japanese family here in the US, and though you were not born in Japan, you are nevertheless a Japanese person. Therefore, if people are born in a “Christian” family, they might consider their selves “Christians” by default.

3.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they attend a “Christian” church and believe that makes them a Christian. The idea here is that you are something by association. For example, if you visit Houston, then go to NASA, and then climb into and sit in a display spacecraft, does that make you an astronaut? Of course not, and attending a “Christian” church does not make anyone a Christian.

4.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” for the sole purpose of taking advantage of the benefits that may come along with the identification. For example, a homeless person who is begging for money will identify him or herself as “Christian” or say “God bless you” in order to get someone else to give them money. There are also some persons who pretend to be “Christians” so that they can go into churches and con people out of their money and possessions, and many times to take advantage of them in other ways.

5.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because, at the time and moment, they may find it cool or emotionally satisfying to do so. Too often, at church events, the emotion of the moment may move people to respond to an altar call or motivational urge by the preachers. For a while, they do fine, but when the emotion fades (as it will), they start faltering in their commitment and identification with being “Christian.”

6.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they want to embarrass Christians. The will call themselves “Christian” and then behave badly, use foul language, and even threaten others with hell and damnation because they know that this will make Christians look bad. They will adamantly argue that they are “true Christians” while at the same time behaving viciously against others.

7.    There are people who call themselves “Christian” because they believe in a God, but they know they are not Moslem, Jewish, Buddhist or some other religion. This is “Christianity” by default. For example, if you learn about all the other religions, and you do not identify with any of them, then you consider yourself a “Christian” by default.

These seven groups (and there might be more) represent most of the people who are not true “Christian” but will argue that they are for their own specific reasons. The great thing about whether they are or are not Christians is that I do not get to decide for them. Whether they are truly Christians is between themselves and the Lord. On the other hand, we are encouraged in the Scriptures to pay attention to the “fruit” of the tree. The “fruit” will always tell you what kind of tree it really is. Before you mention that I should not “judge” others, the Bible teaches that if I am willing to accept judgement in the same manner as I judge others, then I can judge others.

So then, what is a “true” Christian?

Well, if I take the teachings of the Scriptures and interpret them carefully and correctly, I offer the following.

1.    A Christian is someone who believes that God exists, has always existed, and will always exist. We do not try to explain it, and may not fully understand it, but we accept it because we do so by faith.

2.    A Christian is someone who believes that the Bible, which includes the 66 canonized books, is God’s inspired Word. We believe that regardless selection process, these 66 books were what God wanted to be included.

3.    A Christian is someone who believes that we must obey the teachings and instructions of the Bible as God direct commands to us. God knows we fail and err in our obedience to Him. God and we do not believe we are to be perfect in our obedience (though that is what God wants from us in the end). We are not answerable to non-believers, though we do believe we are to be examples to those persons of how imperfect people can still have a healthy relationship with a God who forgives and has mercy.

4.    A Christian is someone who believes that though we are to get along with others the best we can, that we are not doormats. We are soldiers in Christ, an army of the Lord, conquerors in all things, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We do not have to take the abuse of others without the right to defend ourselves. We will “turn the other cheek” when we are able to demonstrate that we prefer to get along with others, but we will not cower in fear of no one. If God is for us, then who can be against us. We must love others but we do not have to like them. Thank God!

5.    A Christian is someone who believes that we must challenge all teachings, including those from the Christian Bible. The Scriptures instruct us to “test” every “spirit” to see if it is from God. This means that to prove it is God leading us to do or believe something we must check it against the Scriptures. We are to see if some teaching will agree or disagree with what we think is from God. We know that deception is possible if we do not make ourselves familiar with the teaching of the Christian Bible.

6.    A Christian is someone who accepts that other may judge us. We do not like criticism but accept that it comes along with the job. We are also willing to judge (not criticize) others in the same way that they may judge us. Judgments are important so that people may learn to make healthy decisions in their lives.

7.    A Christian is someone who believes that the Holy Spirit of God lives within them. We are the only “religion” (by the way, we dislike that word) that believes this way. As well, we do not mean that God’s Spirit lives in us metaphorically; we mean that He lives in us for real. We believe that when we chose to accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit entered us, and will remain with us forever.

8.    A Christian is someone who believes that God is omniscient. This means all knowing. Not only does this mean He knows everything, but He also knows what will happen ahead of time. We do not interpret this to mean He must interfere with events though he may make that choice.

9.    A Christian is someone who believes that Heaven and the Lake of Fire are real. Therefore, our instruction is to tell others about salvation in Jesus Christ. If someone believes another person is in danger and does nothing to warn or prevent it, he or she is just as guilty. In the same context, we believe people have the right to reject Christ and have themselves cast into the lake of fire.

10. A Christian is someone who believes that God is omnipresent. This means that He can be anywhere and everywhere if He so chooses. It also means He does not have to be anywhere He chooses.

11. A Christian is someone who believes that God is omnipotent. This means all powerful. This means God has the ability to do anything He chooses to do. We understand that while He is all-powerful this does not also mean He has to interfere with human events, though He has done so in the past, and may choose to do so again. Just because God can do something, it does not mean He should do it. Saving people’s lives, stopping babies from deformed births, healing people, and other such are completely at His discretion and not open to debate from us.

12. A Christian is someone who believes that God is perfect. This means He does not make mistakes or fail. Everything He does is right and turns out the way He intended. His decisions are always correct because He knows the future. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. He is able to do and think exceedingly beyond all we can think or imagine. We may be a little like Him, but God is nothing like us.

I could have kept on going a bit longer, but you get the point. Right? Can you see the difference between those above and the description I gave? Christians should not be lumped into the same pile as those who just call themselves “Christian.” Just as all non-Christians should be lumped into the same pile as Moslems, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, and so on.

What Does Love Feel Like?

While sitting through the movie, “The Shack,” along with my wife, I was struck with an odd idea. Well, to be honest, odd to me. The main character was going through a dilemma which tore at his very soul. On the one hand, he blamed himself for the death of his daughter, and on the other hand, he was angry with God for not saving her life. The main point, I think, at least regarding him, was that he was blinded to what he was really struggling with because his anger and bitterness kept getting in the way. The “odd” idea which came to me was whether I was going through something similar.

At the age of 3, I remember playing in the living room of our West Dallas project’s apartment in which we lived at the time. Movement caught my attention, and I turned to the window and saw my father looking in as though he was looking for something. I walked over to the window and stood there looking up at him. After a while, he turned away and I never saw him again for the rest of my life. The point here is that the one thing which has stayed with me for over 62 years is that he never looked down at me, as though I wasn’t even there.

When I was around 5 years old, my mother had a “nervous breakdown,” whatever that is. I think she just became so angry at the world that she introverted herself, and dove wildly into an emotional depression. The result was that we (my brothers and I) were taken into custody by the state and placed in a foster home. I have no memory of being transported to the foster home, which gives me the idea that we may have been asleep at the time. I do remember the abuse we suffered at the hands of those people. During the whole time we were there, we lived in constant fear. And, to myself at least, it seemed we were there forever. Those foster “parents” should never have been allowed to get near children. Their treatment of my brothers and I was atrocious. I, as the oldest of the three, was the butt of their attacks. At least to the best of my memory, it seemed they enjoyed making me suffer. I remember them laughing at me, calling me names, and to scare me even more, they would mistreat my brothers in front of me to cause me even more fear. At one point, my youngest brother, George, pooped on himself, and the foster “parents” found it hilarious when they forced me to eat some of it because I had not taken care of him. I learned to hate while in that house. I learned to hate, and I learned well.

One day, after what seemed years (which was probably only a few months), we were cleaned up and dressed nicely. We were going to have visitors. Actually, two ladies arrived. One seemed familiar, but the second was completely unknown to me. I could tell that something was different from normal, the foster “parents” were behaving like nice people. That only made me more apprehensive, as I was expecting some sort of abuse to occur at any moment. I remember the three of us brothers standing together, huddled, and afraid. One of the ladies, the one that did not seem familiar to me, began speaking to us. She was speaking in English and I did not fully understand her. I could tell by her hand motions that she wanted us to come to her and the other lady, the familiar one. Our response was to huddle even closer. One of the foster “parents” came to us and grabbed my arm, and gently (but forcefully) pulled me forward to the ladies. My brothers came along with me. The first lady spoke again and said, “Mama,” as she pointed to the other lady. I looked at the first lady, then I looked at the second lady, and back to the first. I did not know what was happening, but I was beginning to catch on that she was trying to tell us that this was our mother.

That is my brother Joe on the left, then me, and George is in our mother’s arms.

Our mother smiled and called to us in Spanish. My young mind struggled to bring to memory her picture in my head. The abuse we suffered at that home left me confused and fearful. A part of my mind told me that we were being fooled again. She seemed confused that we did not just run up to her immediately. She stepped forward and reached out to us. I tried to back away, but the grip of the foster “parent” was stronger. “Soy tu mamá,” she said (I am your mother), and she knelt before us. It was then that I remembered her. My mother, the one we loved. The one we missed so terribly during those torturous months in that hell house. The one who sent us there. The one who was responsible for all we had suffered at the hands of those evil people. All of my fears, anger, and hate swelled up in me. I felt as though I was going to explode. “I hate you!” I screamed at her, “I hate you. I hate you.” I finally had the chance to release all that pent up fear. I was staring straight at the person who was responsible. I hated her so very, very, much.

I have scattered memories of abuses and violence which we suffered, too many of those memories are of things which happened to me personally. The way my mother handled all of that was with lots of screaming and yelling on her part. She had a mean streak. She blamed us for everything that went wrong in her life. Her favorite attacks were when she would scream “Hijos de su p**che padre (sons of your f***ing father). I had no idea what she would go on about, but I quickly learned that she hated that man. I have yet to learn the truth about all that happened between them, but I no longer care. At the time, though, it was her ammunition against us. He left her, and she was angry, and she was going to punish us for it. I especially took the brunt of much of her anger, because I was the oldest and was supposed to “know better.”

In those years I sort of remember trying to love her. I mean, come on, what other choice did we have? We were as stuck with her as much as she was with us, and she did not make that easy. My memory of her, during that time, was that she was mean. Her anger was her most obvious quality to me. Like her, my anger was my most familiar companion as well.

The trauma and abuse I (and my brothers) suffered at the hands of an angry mother, and a coward of a father who abandoned his children, left me scarred with an emptiness of the heart, and blindness of the soul, that to a point still haunts me to this day.

So, what is love? I have learned to rationalize things in my life. I compartmentalize, put things into separate “boxes” and learn to keep each thing in its place. I have specific rules I follow, which guide me in how to act and react to situations and circumstances in my life. The Bible teaches me that if I love someone I will do what is best for them, even if it means they must suffer consequences for their actions and choices. I understand that, I understand pain and punishment, so “suffering the consequences” of my actions and choices is not something altogether strange to me. Since I was little, I have known that when you do something that displeases those in control, they will make you suffer for it. I learned to accept that as a truth of life. So, when I first read in the Word of God that he punishes His children (Hebrews 12), I rolled with the punch and accepted that for what it says. I began my “walk” with God understanding that He was the Lord. By “Lord” I mean the Boss, the one in charge, the controller of my life. This meant to me that He can do whatever He wants with my life, and that there is nothing I can do about it. It means that He can choose for me to go through hard and difficult things, situations, and circumstances, and that I am supposed to just “grin and bear” it.

I first came to know “God” as my new owner. I was “owned” before by the hatred, fear, and bitterness which permeated every pore of my body, all the way down to my soul. Love had no place in my life. I want to believe that there must have been someone in my young life who actually loved me, but if there were, no real evidence comes to my mind. Now, don’t get me wrong, and misunderstand my words, I believe that there were people who “cared.” I know that I cared for my brothers and sisters, in fact I still do. I hope they cared about me as well, but when we were younger, all of us, brothers and sisters, suffered our own demons in various ways. None of us “children” of that woman came away unscathed. For many years, and maybe even to some point up until now, we drifted apart and dealt with our own separate lives. I, along with my brothers, Joe and George, tended to spend more time with each other. My brothers, Larry and Rick (sons of a different father), were often left to themselves. My sisters, Connie and Diana (from still another father), tended to spend more time with each other, and later on, with my youngest brother, Don, who had the same father as my sisters. We all care about each other, at least to the best that we are able while dealing with the traumas and emotional damage we suffered as children.

So, what is love? I know one thing clearly and without any doubt, before turning my life over to Christ, I had no earthly idea what is was. And, now as a Christian of about 35 years, I am still working on it. As I said I have learned to rationalize love. When I have been asked to define love, I always revert to my standard answer, “The Bible teaches that love is what we do.” I have always given that answer, because it works with my understanding of what I perceive love as being. But, what I rationalize and what the Bible actually says, may not be the same. The verse which always comes to mind is John 14:15 (NASB), “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” It does not say, “Keeping my commandments is HOW you love me.” It says, If you love me…” If you “love” me. “Love.” I have always seen this verse differently. To me it always read, “Obedience is love.” So, I committed myself to doing what God wanted so that I could thereby prove my love. The way I interpreted the instruction was that I did not have to concern myself with feelings, but only with doing something. So, I gave in to God, as He started working on me, out of obedience. I conceded to changes in my character, out of obedience. I responded to God’s call on my life for the ministry, out of obedience. I tithed and gave offering faithfully, out of obedience. I prayed for people, counseled people, and pastored people, out of obedience. I have lived a life of service to others for all of my Christian life, out of obedience. Why? Because this is how I have always understood love. Love is obedience, and obedience is love. This way I was never expected to feel anything, I was expected to obey, and that I could do without too much trouble.

Again, do not misunderstand my argument here. I am not speaking out against just obeying God for the sake of obedience. There are many benefits from that kind of response to the Lord. And, remember when I use the word “Lord,” I am speaking about the Boss, the controller of our lives. I am referring to the part of God that expects all of His children to do what He says regardless of how they feel about His orders. He wants done what He wants done, and He does doesn’t want us to do differently. When you do obey Him, the biggest perk is that He will bless (reward) you for your obedience. There will never be a time when you obey Him and He will not bless you for it. Why? Because that is one way He shapes your life, and mine. When we obey, He blesses us, so because we liked getting blessed we will obey Him again, and, every time we obey we change a bit more. So, because we change a bit more, we want to obey Him a bit more, and we will, which will result in Him blessing us again. Get it? It is not a matter of how we feel, but whether we obey. The benefits to seeing your relationship with God in this manner are obvious, when you think about it. On the other hand, it is also a great way to avoid having to deal with feelings.

So, what is love? The Bible clearly states that God is love, but is love God? I don’t know the answer to that one. I am also not one of those people who just accepts some nice sounding words, act like I actually understand them, and then start spouting them out of my mouth. To me love is still not what I feel, it is what I do. But, that should not be interpreted as though I am saying I am not open to learning the truth, if I am in error as to the truth. Though, I still want whomever it may be to use language (when explaining “love”), that is not just a bunch of emotionally meaningless terms and expect me to understand. Truth does not hide behind vague emotional drivel, though I will admit that “love” may not fully be explained with logical, rational, terms which have clear meaning. I am willing to listen to some emotional terms, as long as that is not to whole of the explanation. For example, the Bible teaches on many concepts and ideas. Thankfully, the Lord did not resort to using only ambiguous terms and language. Even the most difficult themes and arguments in the Scriptures can be studied and understood with time and effort. The reason being that God provides enough logic, rationale, reason, and evidence, along with the “touchy feely” parts of the Word of God.

The dictionary defines the word “love” as, “an intense feeling of deep affection.” Yea, that really makes it clear right? First of all, what is meant by “intense” and “deep?” And, tell me this, how does one “love” God “intensely” and/or “deeply?” These two words are subjective, in other words dependent on the feelings of each person as to how they would define them. The dictionary is of little help, you see it defines “intense” as, either (1) of extreme force, degree, or strength, or (2) having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious. The second definition may be closer to what we are trying to understand, but still we just have more adjectives to work with, and we are no closer to a clear understanding. So, let’s instead look at the word “affection,” in the definition. It means, “A gentle feeling of fondness or liking.” Gentle? What happened to “intense?” I’ve decided the dictionary is of no real help.

So, what is Love? Let’s turn to the Bible as our source for trying to get a clear understanding of this elusive word. The Scripture teaches that:

  1. It is as strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
  2. It is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 14:15)
  3. It is patient, kind, and is not jealous; it does not brag and is not arrogant, it does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not (easily) provoked, it does not take into account a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
  4. Greater than faith and hope. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
  5. The fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22)
  6. The perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:14)
  7. It is from God. (1 John 4:7)
  8. It casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
  9. “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

If I use only the above references from the Bible as my basis for deciding what love is, I have to conclude that it does not involve feelings at all. All nine of the references speak of actions and decisions. They speak of what is, not how something feels. None of the nine require a person to feel this way or that. So even by using the Bible as my sole resource for finding the answer to what love is, I still don’t seem to have a clear understanding regarding whether feelings are supposed to be part of the formula. If I follow the teaching from the Word of God, specifically the nine references above, I have to conclude that love is what I decide and choose to do, not how I feel about something. For example, 1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” John 14:24 says basically the same, notice, “He who does not love Me does not keep My words…” in other words, those who do “love” Jesus show it by obeying Him, not by how they “feel” about Him. So then if we “love” (obey) Jesus, we have to obey His commandment to “love” one another (John 15:14). It seems to me that it means that we show love to others by obeying the Lord. Hmmm.

So, what is love? It is the decision to treat someone else as more important than yourself. It is the understanding that someone else has priority over you, in this case it would be God, through our Lord, Christ Jesus. It is the decision to do what God has instructed us to do in regards to others, and not allow our feelings to cause us to choose to do differently. It is the decision to obey the Word of God, when our feelings tell us that we should instead do what we believe is right.

Even after writing almost 3800 words in this article, I still don’t understand love as a feeling. The idea of it is foreign to me. I understand hate, anger, rage, bitterness, frustration, depression, and vengeance. I understand those words, and I even have a personal knowledge of how they feel. I can stir up anger in milliseconds, and can feel the rage flow through me. I have lived with those feelings for so long in my life that I have an intimate acquaintance with each of them, but “love,” I have no concept of how that feels.

I love my wife. That means I make her my priority, treat her as more important than myself, and will always choose behavior and actions which will benefit her and not damage her. I will obey God, and His Word, in regards to what I will or will not do with or to her, or allow in our lives, regardless of how she feels. Her feelings cannot ever override the instructions of the Lord in my life. If I let that happen, then, according to my understanding of “love,” I will prove I don’t “love” her. The concept is a logical and calculated one. It is practical and clear. There is no ambiguity in that form of love.

When she is not around me, I miss her. If she were to die before I do, I would want to die as well. I know that this world means nothing to me if she is not here to share it with me. Because of her I want to be a better man. I treat others better because she has taught me how through her sacrifices and actions in my life. I have learned how to submit to God because she has taught me how through her submission to me. I want her to always be with me, and I am not as happy when she is not around. She makes my eyes to smile when I see her. She makes my heart feel better just because she is alive. I thank our Lord with all of my heart for allowing me to have her in my life.

But, my “feelings” of “love” for her are flawed. I sometimes don’t like her, just as she sometimes does not like me. We sometimes hurt each other’s feelings. We don’t always agree. There are many things we both like similarly, and there are other things we like differently. I talk more than she does, but I don’t listen as well as she does. I am more educated, but she tends to be wiser. I know she loves me, but I know this by her actions, choices, and decisions. I don’t always know how she feels about me, but I am aware of her behavior and I see her decisions in action. These two things prove to me that she loves me.

I may never learn how to love someone else by feelings alone, and I don’t know if that is really necessary. Throughout my whole life, my feelings have neither hurt nor benefitted anyone else, but my decisions, actions, and behavior have. No one has ever told me that they know I love them because they can tell how I feel about them, but many times I have been told by someone that they knew I loved them because of what I did, or did not do, to or for them. I guess I will leave things the way they are. I will probably have to wait until I get to heaven to “feel” love, and that is okay with me.



How Do You Know?


During a recent conversation with a fellow Christian who was arguing that he wanted to start digging deeper into the things of God, I challenged him with what seemed a simple question.

I asked him, “Do you believe that the earth is spinning at 1,000 miles per hour?”

He paused a moment and answered, “Everyone knows the earth spins.”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because that is what we have been taught all of our lives,” he said with much confidence, then he hesitated, “Right?”

I asked him another question, “Do you believe that the earth is round?”

With a frown of suspicion on his face, he responded, “Of course!”

“How do you know that for certain?” I asked.

“Because …” he said slower this time, “that is what we have been taught all of our lives. What are you getting at?”

I smiled, “Well, in Genesis, the Bible teaches that God created the earth and that it was just formless water. Then, God opened a space inside that water, like a giant air bubble, and caused dry land to appear. After that, it says, He put into that same space, in the water, the stars, the sun, and the moon. Do you believe that?” I asked him.

He stared at me for a moment, as though he was trying to see through a dirty window.

Then, as though he had caught onto something, he asked, “That’s a trick question, right?”

“No,” I smiled again, “That is the truth.”

“So you’re saying we live in a giant air bubble inside a lot of water?” he asked incredulously.ancient-hebrew-view-of-universe

“Whoa!” I replied smiling even more, “I didn’t write the Bible, nor did I inspire it. Read it for yourself. Genesis 1:1-17”

He snatched open his Bible and started reading out loud. I waited until he finished and asked him, “Do you believe what the Bible teaches about the creation of the earth?”

This time, though, he just stared at me, then down to the Bible he was holding, and back up to me. He opened his mouth to say something, then looked back down at the Bible, then back up to me.

“This is very different from what we have been told, right?” he said.

There are many godly believers who want to “dig deeper” into the Bible, as my friend said, but the first thing they have to confront is the question whether they are prepared to believe what they read and whether they are ready to change their minds about what is true.” Too many believers want to learn more about Bible teaching but will struggle greatly when they are confronted with something that differs from their existing beliefs.

globeFrom the first day you entered a school class, you were faced with a globe of the earth. The concept of a round earth was immediately implanted in your mind, and then it has been reinforced continuously since then. We hear about space, and trips to the moon, and possibly other planets. We are told the earth spins around at 1,000 miles per hour, and 67,000 miles per hour around the sun, and over hundreds of thousands of miles per hour through the Milky Way Galaxy. We are told that nothing existed, but that the nothing exploded and, due to that, we now have a universe. I could keep on going with all that we have been taught, and we have accepted all of that with little to no real proof. If the scientists say it is true, we accepted it as truth. You can go outside this very moment, look up into the sky, and if you pay attention to your natural senses alone, you will notice nothing that proves the earth is spinning. Yet, regardless of what your senses tell you, your mind will argue that the earth is spinning. Why? Because that is what you already believe.

On the other hand, people who claim the name of Jesus, will read the Scriptures and love them and want to hear about them. But, when they run across a teaching which challenges what they already believe is true, they will depend on their senses. My friend, after reading the Genesis passage, looked up into the sky. He looked up and then spanned across the whole sky.

“I don’t see any water up there,” he said as if that alone was the entire proof that it did not exist.

“Can you feel the earth spinning,” I asked him.


“So, you believe that the earth is spinning, even though your senses have no proof, but you cannot believe the Genesis teaching because your senses tell you there’s no proof, right?”

My friend is typical when it comes to those of us who claim to believe in a God. When people hear what they already believe, proof or not, they will accept it without question or challenge. Evidence is not required or expected. But, when the Bible teaches something that is challenging, people will immediately consider their senses, life experiences, and what they already believe as the test before they will accept the Word of God. The teaching in Genesis is a perfect example of this conundrum in which many believers find themselves often. They believe scientists much more readily than God Himself.

God, in and of Himself, is a real challenge for us as humans. Just the idea that some being exists which is capable of impossible things, is all-powerful, knows everything that has, is, or will happen, and can be in one or more places at the same time, is intimidating.  Next to a being like this, we are seemingly nothing but tiny specks. No wonder the atheists don’t want to believe in a God, it diminishes them. Any person who can consider the existence of such a being without unnerving awe is crazy. Yet, “believers” throw the name of Jesus around as though it was something easy to grasp.

Think about what we claim to believe. First, that there is actually an alien being that is that powerful, and that the most solid “evidence” we have of His existence is the Bible. I put quotes around the word “evidence” because I am using the word loosely. Using evidence to prove anything requires that you first decide what you will accept as evidence. One group of people may accept somethings as evidence, while others may reject the same. In any case, we all know the Bible was written by men, who the Bible itself claims were inspired by the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Bible claims that it is its own evidence. Other than the Scriptures’ own claim of evidence, there is no other evidence that the Bible is the actual “Word” of God. We either will accept this or not. This is a simple decision of the mind.


I don’t know about you, but I do not accept anything as truth until I am able to put it to test. I have had to do this with everything I have believed my entire life. I have believed things, in the past, which turned out to be lies or error. Those times resulted in bad decisions, problems I did not need to go through, and loss of relationships or benefits. Just because I believed that something was true, did not prove it was. The results eventually taught me the truth. So, I changed in how I accept the truth. I challenge everything, and what is true will prove itself through acceptable evidence. When I deal with the Bible, the Word of God, I do the same. I do not believe anything until I find enough evidence to support what the Scriptures claim. One caveat, though, I have no problem allowing the Bible to be its own evidence. On the other hand, I will challenge the Scriptures. I know there is nothing wrong with this because the Scriptures themselves teach that God is just fine with being tested. In the third chapter of Malachi, in the 10th verse, the Word claims that God issued a challenge to believers. It quotes the Lord as saying, “Test Me.” I, for one, will not argue with God. If He says, “Test Me,” I will test Him. This is not some attitude problem on my part, it is obedience. My senses tell me that I should just “humble” myself before the Lord, and grovel at His feet, just because He is God, I mean, who the heck do I think I am? On the other hand, am I going to disobey God because my senses tell me different? Notice in the book of First John (4:1 NASB), “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” If I just accept everything I read, or am taught as being, in the Bible as the truth, I might deceive myself. God is warning me to pay attention. He does not want me to fall for lies, and start believing heresy (stuff that sound like the truth, but is not). So, He instructs me to “test” and see if it is from Him or not.test-me

You probably remember the Biblical story of Jesus’s forty day fast (not eating for that time period). Satan appeared to Him and tried to tempt Him. At one point, the enemy even quoted Scripture to the Lord. Do you understand? The devil himself read from the Bible, word for word, and he was still lying. Just because the Bible says something, it is not enough to prove it is from God. The Bible truthfully quotes Satan as saying something, but it also teaches that everything Satan says it a lie. Satan is quoted in the Bible, right? But, we should never take what he says as truth, just because it is quoted in the Scriptures. That is why God instructs us to test the spirits to see if they are from Him. Along with this, we have the problem of hundreds of version of the modern day Bible. Each was translated according to the understanding of the translators. One person may understand the meaning one way, while another person will understand it differently. On top of that, we have the problem of word usage. Modern words are affected by culture, tradition, region of the country, slang, work related terminology, and so on. In the days when the Bible was written, they had the same circumstances. This means that without careful study and research, one may end up with false interpretations. It almost sounds as though we may not be able to get the correct meanings and therefore the actual truth to which God wants us to come to an understanding.

How can we really know the truth? The Bible gives us that answer as well. In 2nd Timothy 2:15 (NASB), the Word says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Notice the phrase at the end, “Accurately handling the word of truth.” There is a right and wrong way to “handle” the Word of God. God’s own challenge to His children is the right way, “Test Me.” To do this we have to, first

When I use the word principle, I am using this definition, “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.” This means that the principle will become my foundation in determining how I will or will not act or respond in certain situations or circumstances. For example, in Proverbs 3:7 it says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is…” The principle is, “People do what they do because they believe what they believe.” Now, with this principle I can make certain and specific decisions, and come to certain and specific conclusions. I can know that humans will always behave in some specific manner, or make similar choices, because of what they believe. So, if a person believes he is superman, he will then start dressing up in a costume with a big “S” in front of it and try to fly. Sure, they are probably crazy, but they believe what they believe, so they do what they do. In regards to believers in God, those who believe that God blesses those who tithe and give offering will then pay tithe and give an offering. If a person believes that God can be trusted, he or she will then live calmer lives, because they believe God will help them through those tough times.of all, identify what we will accept as evidence. My opinion is that we must accept the Bible itself as our foremost evidence. To accomplish this, we must study and research the various Bible versions, and make a decision which we believe is best for our use. Then, we must find, within those pages, the evidence it espouses, then study and research it. My method is to find the principles it teaches, and then put them into action, and see the results. My personal argument is that the results will tell you if what you believe about God and His Word is true or not.

Now, if the principle I mentioned above is correct, anyone can use it to make certain and specific decisions and choices in their lives. If the principle is applied correctly, it will have the expected results. This, in and of itself, will become part of the evidence which in the end will either sustain the belief that God is real or not. The beauty of using Biblical principles as evidence is that they are not dependent on our feelings or senses. They either work or they do not.

My friend decided to do some research on the question of how God created the earth and heaven. He is still researching, but he does admit one thing. If he reaches the conclusion that the Bible is correct about how God created the heaven and the earth, he had some rather big changes to make in his idea of reality. But what about you dear reader, how do you know what the truth is?


Savior, But Not Lord!

Not long ago, while counseling a client, I came to a conclusion I had not thought about before. The client was struggling with “trying” to follow the process I counseled, but kept failing. The client was struggling with the desire to view pornography and the desire to be a “good” Christian, at the same time. He and I began the counseling months ago with exploring various possibilities of why he got started and why he continues. Each aspect we discovered and dealt with helped him to understand another part of his character, and cause him to become more determined to change. Though he would have success, he would also fail again. We were almost to the point of running out of probable answers, when I received an inspiration from the Lord.

Before I explain, let me make one point clear, there are no “good” or “bad” Christians. There are just Christians who are in the process of change and growth. They are not responsible for changing themselves, that is the Lord’s work (Hebrews 12:2 (AMP), ”… Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection].”) Our job, as it were, is only to obey Him. As we obey, we change. Little obedience, little change. Big obedience, big change.

Now back to my earlier point. I received an inspiration from the Lord regarding what was happening to the client. I could tell he was serious in his efforts to curb the watching of pornography, but I could also tell he could not understand why he still chose to do it.

untitledhi3“When Jesus died on the cross,” I explained to him, “one of the things He accomplished was giving us liberty. That means complete freedom to do as we choose, right or wrong.”

Galatians 5:1 (NASB), “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” We used to be under the power of Sin, and therefore we would not do what is right, because it had a hold on us and moved us to do so. The death of our Lord on the cross set us free from the bondage of Sin, and we do not have to continue doing what is not right. On top of that, as you can see from the Galatians verse, we are told not to “be subject” (which means to not put ourselves under the control) of Sin again. This clearly means that we have a choice to stay free or go back to slavery under Sin. At the same time it also shows that we have been given freedom to choose. This means the freedom to choose to disobey God as well. Freedom is not freedom, until it is freedom (the complete liberty to make our own choices). If God is controlling our choice about something, then we do not have the freedom to choose.

When God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth,” in Genesis 1:26 (NASB), I believe that the “likeness,” referred to there, includes the ability to (as God can) freely choose to obey or not to obey. The only way we truly seem “god-like” (as in “Our image”) is that we can actually choose to disobey the creator and Lord of this universe. When the Christ died on the cross, He did not take away our freedom to disobey, He freed us from the power of Sin, which used this ability against us to get us to choose not to do what is right. But, I contend, that the Messiah maintained that freedom when He freed us from Sin, as pointed out in the Galatians verse above. Notice also the following argument made in Galatians 5:13 (NASB).

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Notice the wording here, “do not,” as in, “You have the power to do or not do.” The Lord would not tell us (through Paul) that we could keep our freedom from turning into “an opportunity for the flesh,” if we could not make the decision (have the freedom) to do so. God has given us a gift that is beyond my words to express the greatness and unfathomable measurement of it. In essence, and to a point, it gives us the ability to go beyond the control of God, as no other creation of His can. Though He is God, Creator and Lord, over all of the creation, He has chosen to limit Himself to this certain aspect of the human condition; we have self-will (complete freedom to choose not to do what is right), and the Lord did not take that away on the cross.

In fact, 1 Peter 2:16 (NASB) shows as much. In that verse, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God,” we are told to “use” our freedom. Only free people can “use” their freedom, and, if they are not able to choose the manner in which they use this freedom, they are not truly free. When Jesus set us free through His death on the cross, it was for true freedom; the liberty to live and choose as we want. Right or wrong, we are to make that choice.

I explained to my client that this was part of the problem he was struggling with. He was expressing his freedom, even from God Himself. He may have accepted Christ as his Savior, but he had never accepted Him as his Lord. The Apostle Paul understood this clearly. In 1 Corinthians 10:23 (AMP), “All things are legitimate [permissible—and we are free to do anything we please], but not all things are helpful (expedient, profitable, and wholesome). All things are legitimate, but not all things are constructive [to character] and edifying [to spiritual life]. Notice the words carefully, “We are free to do anything we please.” Yes, that’s right, anything, but not all things are good for us.

The problem my client was having, was that he still had “rights.” He still saw himself as this free Christian who could do as he pleased. And, isn’t that what the Christ wanted for him anyway, freedom? Of course He did, but not to do what is not the right thing. Remember, as it says in James 4:17 (NASB), “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” The word “sin” here means to fail to do the right thing. See the words? “Knows,” and “does not do.” These are clear indicators that the person is in full control of their decision. They have freedom; the liberty to do what is not right.

So what’s the answer? The simple answer is accept Him as your Lord. Reread 1 Peter 2:16 again, and you will run into the phrase “bondslave.” What is a “bond-slave?” Well in Peter’s time, when people owed more money than they were able to pay off, they would either be taken into slavery, or volunteer to become slaves, until the debt was paid off. Some people owed so much that they would often be someone’s servant for many years. Every once in a while, some of the slaves would serve enough time to be set free, and the debtor (master) would inform them and tell them they could leave. In some cases, the freed people would consider their circumstances. While they were slaves, the owner provided all their food, their clothing, a place to live, in some cases even took care of the wives and children, paid all the bills, and so on. If they left, freely, they would have to get jobs, find a place to live, pay rent or mortgage, buy their own food and clothing, basically meet all their own needs. In many cases, they chose instead to remain slaves to the master. They rationalized that being his slave was better than being free.

This is what the Apostles Paul, Peter, and the rest came to understand. That being free was not what is was cut out to be. Freedom meant that you would probably choose not to do what is right. They may not have done this specifically, but I believe they weighed the differences in their hearts, if not in their minds. I can use this freedom which the Christ has given me, and I can make all my own choices, decisions, live as I believe is the right way to live, and obey the instructions I believe are right. I may “sin” once in a while, but I have already been forgiven of all my sins anyway. Or…

I can give up my freedom. I can acknowledge Christ Jesus as my Lord, and willingly become His “slave.” In which case, He will decide what I want, and when I will want it, what I am to choose, how I am to feel, what I am to believe, and who I am to be. I will become His servant in ministering to other people. I will become His eyes, His mouth, His hands, His feet, and His heart, when it comes to fulfilling His plans. I believe that the Apostles chose a life of “slavery” (bond-slaves) rather than to live a life of freedom, because this was what God wanted from them.

I told my client, God wants you to accept Him as your Lord. He wants you to willingly choose to become His “slave.” He wants you to give Him control over your life so that He can keep on with the work of changing you. My client asked, “Will that mean I won’t sin anymore?” “No,” I said, “Humans “sin,” as you say, just because we are human. Humans will always struggle with failure and error. This is “sin” too, just not the kind you are thinking about.” James 4:17 says that “sin” is when someone knows the “right thing to do and does not do it.” This means that even when we are trying to do the right thing, and get it wrong, or do not do it perfectly, we have sinned (we failed or erred). On the other hand, there is the other kind of “sin.” This is where we willingly choose to do the wrong things. To get to this point, the person must first not do the “right thing.” The “right thing” in this case is to obey God. If we choose to disobey God, we then will be able to choose to do all the wrong we want. If we choose to obey God (be His slaves and let Him do the choosing) then we take away our ability to do what is wrong. The two concepts cannot continue at the same time, in the same person. If we choose one, then, and therefore, we choose against the other. We will either live as though we have rights, or live as though we are servants of God.

“So,” he said to me, “If I make God my Lord, and place myself under His control, then I won’t do wrong against Him?” “Yes,” I said to him, “If you give up your freedom to Him, allow Him to make your decisions for you, and if you obey His instructions, you will never do wrong against God.”

All Christians have accepted Christ Jesus as their Savior, but too many have yet to accept Him as their Lord. How about you? Have you?

Do you REALLY take time to pray?

The question of prayer has long been an obstacle over which I have had to prevail. No, not that I have had problems with whether we should pray or not, that has been made clear in the Bible. We are instructed to pray always (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and for everything (1 Timothy 6:17). The problem I struggled with for many years is that of when, how, for how long, and for what to pray. You may not have struggled with this, and think I am being silly. Because of my character, I tend to do better when I have rules to follow, than when I am supposed to freelance it. For example, if the Bible were to tell me that I was supposed to pray, and give no instructions on what is to be expected of me, I would become confused and frustrated. This would only result in my praying less often, and for smaller amounts of time. It definitely would not be one of my favorite things to do.

Early on in my walk with God, I learned several truths about the Lord that has formed my understanding of my God since. For God to be a true God (at least in my opinion), four things, at minimum, must be true:

  1. God must be omnipotent (all powerful – Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:20).
  2. God must be omniscient (all knowing – John 3:10).
  3. God must be omnipresent (able to be anywhere and everywhere, at the same time).
  4. God must be perfect (incapable of error or failure – Matthew 5:48).

If even just one of the above were not true of our Lord, then he would not be God. In this case, though, as the above Scriptural references will sustain, He is definitely the One True God. But, it was the second point above which threw the proverbial wrench into the works for me. If God knows everything, then why must I tell Him again what He already knows? Of course, that also created a conundrum for me. Watch this, since God knows everything, this means He knows what I am going to say before I say it, right? (Matthew 6:32 and Luke 12:30) So if I don’t pray, because I believe He already knows what I am going to say, then He also knows I didn’t say it, because I didn’t pray. But, if I pray so that I actually say it, then I know He already knew what I was going to say which means I did not have to say it to begin with, right? It is confusing at times.

Secondly, His omniscience means He already knows everything going on in my life. Since this is true, then why must I have to tell Him about it? The Bible teaches that God loves me (John 3:16), and that He wants me to live in joy (John 16:24). It even emphasizes that nothing is impossible for God (Mark 10:27), so then why doesn’t God just meet those specific needs, without us having to pray for them specifically? Is there something inherent in praying, or does He like hearing us ask Him for things, or what? Since God already knows everything, and He knows the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4), why doesn’t He just meet those needs to begin with? This way we could cut out all that begging and crying on our part (this was said “tongue-in-cheek”).

As a believer, I know that God meets all my “needs.” This means that whatever God decides are my “needs,” He will meet those “needs”. This does not mean that He will necessarily meet my perceived (from my perspective) needs. Let’s say I ask God for money for some expense or desire (telling myself that it is a “need”), and hoping He will agree with me, and give me the money. God will, for example, instead, and without question, meet the need of my learning patience by putting me through a series of situations and circumstances which will result in my learning the characteristic. In God’s eyes, I need to learn patience (Hebrews 10:35-36), so that is a need He will supply whether I ask for it or not. I may or may not get the money I asked for, that will depend on whether He decides if indeed it is a need.

On the other hand, Scripture says we “do not have” because we “do not ask” (James 4:2). But, then when we do ask for what we think we want, we are told that we do not receive because we ask with wrong motives (James 4:3). Yet, the Scriptures do not go into detail as to what is specifically considered “right” or “wrong” motives. Remember, all humans are selfish. We were born that way. It is our nature. That is the way God created us. Why do you think Adam chose to disobey God? Our sinful (selfish) nature. So, with that in mind, everything and anything we want will be tarnished by our selfish nature. Even when we convince ourselves that we are being selfless, there will still be some inner, unspoken, selfish motivation. The truth is that nobody does anything for nothing, we always have some personally satisfying motive for what we do, even if it is just that we feel good about what we have, or are doing. That is our nature.

So, even if we play like God does not already know what we are going to pray about, there are certainly some “rules” we have to follow when praying!? And, I thought I would just be able to open my mouth and start spewing out all of my requests and demands (just kidding). Nevertheless, there should be no argument that there are “rules” which must be followed.  To begin with there are two from the James verses above:

  1. Ask or you may not get anything.
  2. Ask with the “right” motive.”

Then, we run across Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24, they tell us that we have to “believe” that we are going to get what we pray. And, what does the word “believe” mean in that verse? Does it mean that we are to know we are going to get that for which we prayed? How can someone know that something is going to happen when it is dependent on someone else (like God) doing it according to their own opinion and perspective? Have you ever prayed for something that you never got? I have. Maybe I was asking in the “wrong” way (there, that’s one way to make excuses for prayers that fail).

On the other hand, some people do pray in “wrong” way. Matthew 6:5 basically states that some people like praying in public (that probably means where people can hear and see you praying, like in church [??] for instance). Instead, the next verse (v.6) instructs us to pray privately (uh, does that mean not to pray at church either?). Likely not. Still, we are told to pray privately. In fact, we are told to go into our “Prayer closet” and pray there (I guess that could mean that someone has a private room in which they normally pray). It goes on to say, “And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Does that mean our prayer are to be secrets, or that we should pray secretly?

If that was so, then why would our Lord, Jesus, publically teach the disciples how to pray? In the books of Matthew, verses 9-13, and Luke 11:2-4) He gave them a pattern by which they could pray. Still, I will agree that He did not tell them to pray publically at that time either. I was about to write that Jesus often prayed around His disciples, but then remembered that He would walk away from them to be alone and pray (for example, Luke 22:41). On the other hand, James 5:14 tells the sick to call on the elders of the church to come and anoint them and pray over them. This obviously cannot be done in “secret.” The “secret prayer will not have the intended result, that of comforting the sick person, and them hearing that their sins have been forgiven.

Besides all of the above, there seem to be a couple more “rules.” It seems that the disciples, at least at times, had trouble staying awake during prayer time. In the book of Luke (18:1), our Lord had to get onto the disciples for falling asleep during prayer time. Have you ever fallen asleep during prayer time? I have. Lots of times over my 33 years as a Christian. There were those times when I was praying along just fine, and ran into a block. What I mean by this is sort of like a “writer’s block.” That means that someone is writing a book, or novel, or something like that, and they come to a point where they suddenly cannot think of the next word they need to write. They might be having a problem with where to head the story, what problems to create for the protagonist, or whatever. The point is that they hit a mental wall, a block. I have had many of these in my prayers. I suddenly just stop and try to come up with something else I am supposed to say, but cannot think of anything. Some of those times, I fell asleep thinking of what I was supposed to be saying.

Of course, another question is, “Are we supposed to do all the talking during prayer? You know, non-stop? I mean, it’s not like we get an audible response from God right? Or, at least, I never have. I think if I did, I would faint from fright, and my prayers would end there anyway. Of course though, regardless of what obstacles we do encounter during prayer, we are urged not to give up praying (Luke 18:1). Just because we often cannot think of the next word, this does not mean to pray less. Instead, we are also urged to lean on the Holy Spirit for His support. Romans 8:26 and 27 speak of the way the Holy Spirit will help us when we are having trouble praying. Since God’s Spirit lives in us, then His Spirit in us (who knows all of our thoughts and desires) speaks to the Father directly and prays on our behalf. At those times, we may start speaking in a language that we do not understand, but since the Father and His Holy Spirit do understand each other, they know what is being said. I have found that when I run into these prayer blocks, it is easier for me to begin speaking in tongues, and turn the prayer over to the Holy Spirit and let Him speak for me. He has a better grasp on this prayer thing than I ever will.

One more important point, and that is that we are supposed to be praying directly to the Father. Jesus plainly says this in John 16 verses 23-24. I think He is trying to get us to concentrate on our relationship with the Father as being the primary source of meeting our needs. As a father myself, I love it when my sons come to me for help, as well as them just spending some time with me. Often, just helping them meets a need in me. If the Father is in any way like that, I would say He longs to bless His children, for two wonderful reasons:

  1. Because He loves us.
  2. Because He wants us to hurry back and spend time with Him (and He doesn’t mind “bribing” us with blessings).

Truly there are some “rules” which are to be applied to our prayer life. The following are some I have identified in this article:

  1. Ask, or you may not get anything.
  2. Ask with the “right” motive.”
  3. Don’t pray just to impress
  4. Pray in secret, unless you are praying for a person in need.
  5. Follow the prayer pattern which Jesus taught.
  6. Don’t ever give up praying.
  7. Don’t fall asleep while praying.
  8. Allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for you, when necessary, by praying in tongues.
  9. Direct all your prayers to the Father, He wants to hear from you directly.

Please don’t decide that I am being religious about these “rules.” I believe that God is more interested in you just making the time to spend with Him, than He would care about all the “rules” together. On the other hand, our Lord is a God of order. He created overall plans for creation, set them in order, and enforces the rules which keep His plans furthering towards the intended goals. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you spend lots of time with Him asking Him about all of this J.

So, I go back to my initial question, “Do you REALLY take time to pray?” After writing this article, I will confess something to you. I pray, not only because we are supposed to, and but also because I love it when God blesses me. I have a great big, selfish, desire, for more, and more, of whatever God wants to bless me with. Let it rain down on me, Lord!

What is MY Calling?

This is an excerpt from Rev. Juan M. Perez’s book, “What Does God Want From Me?” You may find the full book, for FREE at: SmashWords.

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As a young child, I lived a life of uncertainty. My father and mother split up when I was three years old. They had a rocky relationship which seemed to always turn sour over any little thing. My mother “suffered a nervous breakdown” when I was five or six, and me and my two younger brothers were left with a foster family who terrorized and traumatized us. I grew to hate my mother, almost, if not more than my father. I never felt safe, but I was always angry. I started out a sissy, picked on by everybody and their grandmother at school. I then turned into a bully who had little to no mercy on the weaker kids. I got into a gang as soon as I was old enough, and got into many legal predicaments in my youth. It seemed to me as though I served more time in Juvenile Centers, than free time on the outside, from age 13 to 17.

I quickly learned one thing about myself, I had the ability to use my words in ways that others around me did not. I learned I could make people believe things just because, and how, I said them. I humorous time I remember, I had been arrested in Fort Worth, Texas, for some tickets I owed. They took me to jail that Saturday night. When I arrived I noticed I was the only Chicano, and there were three scraggily looking white guys at one end of the jail tank. I immediately became afraid, because I thought that they may decide to bother me.

I walked to the opposite end of the tank and sat there staring at the wall in front of me as though I was trying to figure out what it was. The guys at the other end were laughing and would constantly turn to look toward me. I figured they were trying to decide what to do about me. As I stared at the wall, I noticed one of them got up and walked over to me. He was taller than me, and seemed bigger. I realized that in a fight he might beat me, and then there was the question of whose side his friends would fight on. Right?

When the guy got near me, he asked, “Why are you in?” I thought about it for a moment and slowly turned to face him. “Murder,” I said, without showing emotion. The guy hesitated a moment and then asked, “Who did you kill?” I slowly turned back to stare at the wall and said, “This guy who was bothering me.” The white guy turned around and went back to his place with his friend and they left me alone.

Throughout my younger life I was constantly confronted with the awareness that I could use my words to manipulate people. I started using this technique on people on purpose to see if really would work, and I found that the more I did it the better I got at it. The weirdest thing of all of this is that even though I was obviously a manipulator, many of those around me would still, on occasion, come to me for advise on how to do this or that.

By the time the Lord saved me, I had become an expert at verbal manipulation and coercion. It seemed to me that I was constantly having to use this skill to get this advantage or that opportunity from others. Though I was conscious of this ability, I never considered using it for anything but my selfish reasons. I found that I was overly conscious of how I used my words. I had just gone through a near divorce due to a terrible marriage where I used my words (and physical violence) to hurt my wife. I helped her in destroying her own self-worth, her self-esteem was at the lowest in her young life, and I recognized my part in damaging her in the way I did.

As a new Christian, I still noticed that people would listen to me. I realized that as a Christian, some people might not fear me as much. When I was approached by others concerning problems in their lives, I noticed I was able to help them see other options that were available to them, when they had already come to the conclusion that there was no solution. I came to accept that the reason I could use my words so effectively was because I could deal with the abstract better than some people around me.

Abstract is the ability to express something apart from the object itself. In other words, and for example, I could imagine a globe of the earth in the air in front of me, and I could “see” the clouds moving over the globe. If you were to point to a spot on the “opposite” side of the globe, I could tell you what country you were indicating. I started applying this new knowledge of myself to the things of the Lord. Where some people would hear one thing from the Bible, I found I could hear more.

I started asking myself some hard questions regarding God and why He did what He did. As I continued, I started getting more and more answers. Most specifically, I paid attention to the promises and principles taught in the Scriptures. These were also words. Yes, God’s Word, but nevertheless, words.

I mentioned to my pastor some of these insights that I was having. Though he seemed not to completely understand what I was trying to explain, He recognized that it was something that God was working in me. He started out teaching me about counseling. After a short while of him trying to teach and encourage me, I realized he was unable to take me further. I appreciated his help, but I took over the training process.

I started reading every book I could get my hands on, and that interested me, regarding counseling. I began reading the Bible through the perspective of counseling, and found that I was understanding many teachings in ways I had not before. I developed a love for studying the Bible to see how much I could gleam from it to help in my counseling. Even as a pastor of a church for 13 years, I still continued counseling people and still continued studying to enhance my skills and abilities in this area.

Without realizing it, I had found my calling from God. I recognized the calling came in three forms; primarily as a counselor, secondarily as a teacher of the Word, and finally, also as a pastor.

During the first years as a Christian, I got involved with many ministries. I helped feed the homeless, I found I did not like doing that. I went to prisons to minister to the inmates, I found I didn’t like doing that. I helped pass out leaflets and brochures on the streets, I found I didn’t like doing that. I preached at the local city jails, I found I didn’t like doing that. I tried many different things, and each time I found I didn’t like doing that.

But, when it came to teaching the Bible or counseling, I was as happy as a fat flea on a lazy dog. I loved it. I jumped at every chance I got to either counsel or teach the Bible. As a pastor, I had countless opportunities to preach. I enjoyed preaching, but I enjoyed much more the opportunity to move people in the direction God wanted them to go.

I find that I am still able to manipulate and control, but now I am conscious of how I use my words. I am fully aware that God is ever-present and wants me to use these skills and abilities of mine to serve others. Service to others is the primary reason why I now exist. God will keep me on this planet until he decides it’s time for me to rest.

I found my “calling” by trial and error. I tried some ministries and found they were not for me. But, I did not just wait around for God to send me some sign, a sun ray from the sky, or for some other person to give me a “word from God” about what God wanted me to do. You will probably need to do the same. Don’t wait for something to happen, it may not. Instead, you speak to your pastor, ask him or her to help you identify your calling. If they are unable, then ask them to help you find someone who can. Once you start getting ideas of what your calling is, then get out there and start “working.” Remember, you are allowed by God to get it wrong. You may also find that some ministry or other is not to your liking. That’s okay.  But, I promise you, if you get started, and you keep it up, you will learn what you calling is.

Please make time to read the story of Elisha, in the Bible, You will find a man who was called by God, ran into obstacles trying to fulfill his calling, and finally became the person God wanted him to be. You will find the story started in 1st Kings 19:19-21 and it picks up again in 2nd Kings, chapter 2, verses 1-14. Elisha had many reasons to just quit and do nothing but believe in God, instead he decided to follow his calling, and he became a great tool of God for service to others.

Many Are Called, But Few Are Chosen

The statement, “Many are called, but few are chosen,”, found in Matthew 22:14, comes from a parable that Jesus told his disciples. In the parable a king is having a wedding celebration, and the people he invited rejected the invitation, and in many cases, they even harmed or killed those who came out to invite them. After taking action to show his displeasure against those who rejected his invitation, the king decided instead to invite the general public. Both good and bad people showed up, but, as the king made his rounds at the celebration, he noticed a man who was not dressed appropriately, and he challenged him. The king wanted to know why he was not dressed as expected. The man could offer no adequate response, and so was no only kicked out of the celebration, but arrested.Text Box 1

The most likely lesson which the Lord wanted learned was that God the Father was the King in the story, that He and those who preached the gospel in those times were the ones who went out to invite the initial guests. That those guests, the Jews, harmed and killed those who the Father sent to preach the Truth. The general public is to be understood as the Gentiles, all of us who are not Jews. The man who was not dressed appropriately demonstrates that there is a particular protocol which the Lord requires for entry into the celebration (salvation), and of course that is solely through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Pretending that someone is saved will only result in that person coming to a rude awakening; you cannot sneak your way into the kingdom of God, there are consequences.

From the story, we can make a few conclusions, and learn some Biblical principles.

  1. God wants to end up with a people who are willing to do whatever will be expected of them.
  2. He wants to have as many as possible, but that He will accept even a few, if they will do as He wishes.
  3. There is a condition to being one of the few, and that is to be “dressed” appropriately.
  4. Being dressed appropriately means complying with the established protocol.
  5. The established protocol is recognizing, accepting, and living as though, Jesus Christ is the “way” into an eternal relationship with the Father.
  6. This then stipulates that someone’s personal beliefs, doctrine, theology, and/or opinions (their personal choice of “dressing”), have no bearing on their status as one of those “chosen” to celebrate that relationship with the Father.
  7. That those who pretend (and/or deceive themselves into believing) they have a relationship with the Father will be rejected.IMG_0033

With this in mind, the question which all counselors should have is, “What does this have to do with counseling?” I’m glad you asked. :-)

Every time I have held a counseling training course, I have found people attend for different reasons. Some take the classes:

  • Because they want to begin a ministry as counselors to the general public and therefore obey the calling on their life by God, or,
  • Because they want to learn about counseling, so they may use the various techniques and methods to deal with issues in their own, or loved ones’, lives, or,
  • Because the like the idea of taking a course which involves physiology, and it may give them the upper hand when dealing with others, or,
  • Because they are those type of people who are always learning and never growing. These people attend each and every class offered, regardless of the theme, content, or intent. Their own motive is solely to “learn” more.

Of the three groups above, I want to stress the first. Why? Well the third and fourth groups will be of no use, in the long run, as far as actual counseling ministry is concerned. These two groups might even give you the impression that they want to learn about counseling because they feel a “leading of the Lord” to take the class, but all the time it is their own personal motives which are driving them. The third group will be somewhat useful, if they can get past their selfish motives. For example, once they use their new learned knowledge to help resolve some issues within their immediate family, or in themselves, they then begin help others as well. I have seen this in the past.

So then, does every person who takes the counseling training course actually want to counsel? No. What is the usual percentage, of people who take the classes, who actually end up counseling? The number is small. For example, I trained a group of 25 persons in a church in North Dallas. After the training was over, only 2 persons, to my knowledge, have continued counseling. In another case, I trained 18 persons in a church in Arlington, Texas. After the class, again to my knowledge, only one of the trainees has continued to counsel. There are reasons for this, and I will explain. I have held training for counselors throughout the Metroplex, and the results have always been similar.

Why has this been the trend? I knew you would ask that question? Well, there are factors. First of all many of the persons who took the classes fell into the third and fourth groups I defined above. These persons were not going to continue and counsel, no matter what. Counseling takes time, it demands for you to make it a priority in your life, and it costs. By “costs,” I mean that you have to make some sacrifices along the way. If you have to ask what the costs will be, then you should not even consider becoming a counselor. Anyway, this trend of ending up with only a few counselors, has become the norm due to the following factors:

  • Other than the case where people were just not going to counsel anyway, motivation plays a large role. In some cases, after the training was over, the pastor placed an individual over the counseling ministry to oversee it. This, in and of itself, is a good thing. The problem comes when someone who is already busy and plays a leadership role in the church is assigned additional workload on top of what they already have to contend with. They will start with holding a meeting soon after the counseling training is over, but with time the meetings become less frequent, to the point that the leader no longer makes an effort. The newly certified members, who are not involved in an active counseling ministry will keep waiting for the leader to set a meeting, and will eventually come to accept that it just won’t happen. With time these counselors get drawn into other activities and the idea of counseling becomes a dim memory. The fault here is primarily of the leader, the pastor, and the church. They had a useful resource, and they not only did not use it, but they disregarded it.
  • One special situation comes to mind, for my next point. The training class was comprised of 14 student counselors. The pastor was excited about the prospect of having a functioning counseling ministry in his church. He had mentioned often, to me, that he always dreamed of a team like this ministering to the public. He knew, he said, that as people were helped by the counselors, and then accepted the Lord as their Savior, that they would inevitably choose to go to church where their counselor went. I completely agreed with him. We held the training classes and all 14 successfully completed the course. As the classes were wrapping up, the pastor appointed a church deacon (who also completed the course) as the overseer of the ministry. After the raining had completed, I attended the first ministry meeting of the church team. Everyone was excited, I could see the hope in their eyes. The leader led the group in coming up with several points which need to be addressed, and these were presented to the pastor.
    1. First, they asked that the pastor assign an office or private location for the counselors to use to hold the sessions.
    2. Then, they asked that the church either open a new phone line, or ask the already burdened church secretary to receive the calls for counseling and give them over to the Lead Counselor.
    3. They also asked the church to pay for a mass mailing in the zip code area where the church resides, to inform the public of the availability of the counseling service.
    4. Finally, they asked the church to print either some business cards or brochures for the counselors to give out to prospective clients.

What was the response? The pastor informed them that he had to consider the requests, because he had to be a “good steward” of the money, and that he could not just spend it on every whim (yep, he said that word) of church members. As for a private location or office for counseling, the pastor said he would be looking for somewhere that would work. In regards to the mail out, he said that it was not in the budget for that year. He told the counselors that they could print their own business cards, but that they could not put their own names on the cards. He wanted only the church’s name and phone number on the business cards. As for brochures, not yet. Finally, he decided that the already burdened church secretary would receive calls for counseling and forward the information to the Lead Counselor. Somewhat discouraged, the counseling team accepted the limited working conditions, and waited for calls. They decide to wait on the business cards.

Plano Class Pictures (11)One day, the Lead Counselor was approached by a member and questioned on the activity of the counseling ministry. She complained that she had referred two persons to the counseling ministry, and that no one ever returned their calls. The Lead counselor went to speak with the church secretary, who immediately began arguing with the counselor that she was already overworked, and did not have the time to keep up with someone else’s duties. When informed, the pastor defended the secretary and told the counselor that they had to find other means of having folks contact them. The leader became discouraged and started concentrating more on his other duties. The counseling meetings tapered off, until they ceased altogether. To my knowledge, no one is counseling at that church today.

Many are called, but few are chosen. This does not only apply to the people who take counseling training, but to the leaders which are placed over them. Nothing will kill a ministry as quickly as a bad leader. There are many “leaders” in churches all over the world, but not all of them are chosen. In many cases people end up in leadership positions, solely because no one else wants the job, so the church accepts whomever volunteers. And, many of the “volunteers” actually want “power” or rather authority. Once they are these positions, these bad leaders become tyrants who lord themselves over others. They are more concerned with their own image and success as compared to those of the people under their authority.

The idea of counseling people is initially exciting and attractive, but with time, all those involved learn that with the exciting part comes great responsibility. Counseling people will cost you money. You may have to pay for your own materials used in ministry, your own business cards, your own printing, and so forth, even if you are part of a church ministry. Many times the churches are small and they just don’t have the finances financially to support a ministry that they truly want. Counseling people will cost you time. In many cases, your counseling sessions, with a person or couple, will last for months. This means you may have to adjust vacation times, Holiday events or other similar occasions to deal with the demands of the ministry. If you are not willing to make some sacrifices, you do not want to become a counselor. Counseling people will cost you pride. If you want people to follow the counsel you give them, then follow it yourself. You family is the highest priority in your life. Not your relatives, your immediate family. If you are married, this means you, your spouse, and your children. If you are not married, this means yourself. Often people will tell others they should or should not do this or that, and then turn and do the opposite. You must place your pride aside and become an example for others as to what a healthy Christian life looks like. Counseling people will cost your independence. God wants to be in charge. He is not willing to share that authority with you. He wants things done His way, only His way, and He will never agree with making changes to His plans. He will send you the people He wants to heal and help, and to do so He needs you doing and saying what He wants, not what your great intelligence, education and training have taught you. He would rather use an untrained counselor who will allow Him to use the counselor as the tool for His work in the life of a client, rather than to depend on a well-trained, educated, and intelligent man or woman who is going to do it the way they believe is right. Proverbs 16:25 (NASB) says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

I will add one more thing here. All those people who took the training classes to become counselors, should not have allowed the actions of the bad leaders to stifle their initial excitement regarding counseling. They may be able to blame the bad leaders to an extent, but after that the counselor him or herself is responsible for obeying God. If it were me, and my church did not support the counseling ministry, and God did indeed call me to counsel, I would leave that church and find somewhere where I could practice the calling, and use spiritual gifts which God had given me to do this wonderful ministry.

What is your motivation? Why did you become a counselor? Are you paying the price? You have the ability to affect one thing most important, you can choose to obey God and become one of the chosen. Remember, John 14:15 makes it abundantly clear. Jesus is speaking in that verse, and He says, “If you love me (in other words, if you tell yourself and/or others that you really love me), you will keep my commandments (in other words, you will prove that you love me by doing what I instruct you to do, and do it only my way).

Rev. Juan M. Pérez

Life Sucks and Then You Die!

Great title, right? It got your attention. But more important than that, to many people that is the truth. Life has not been good for many thousands, if not millions or people worldwide. All that anyone has to do is turn on the news channel and you will hear of atrocities, death, violence, war, terrorism, and so on. Bullying is rampant in American schools. The suicide rate among teenagers is high. Husbands batter and abuse their wives. The war of drugs is losing. The President of the United States, in my opinion, is a racist. Neither the Republican Party, nor the left-wing liars of the Democratic Party have real answers. Criminals use guns to kill people, and the gun-haters want to take weapons away from those who obey the law. A single court (the Supreme Court) overthrows the votes of many millions of voters and stuffs an undesired lifestyle down their throats. The police are seen as the enemy and criminals are defended by the public. And that is just some of what is happening today. Other than all of that, life is great!

violenceNo wonder anxiety and stress is becoming a growing problem. A person who walks into a building full of children and kills many of them is the symptom of a real and mostly ignored problem in these United States. We quickly excuse the situation as that of mental illness, evil, terrorism, and other such terms. The problem is that we ignore the most likely reason: frustration.

It is one thing to demand something you have never had, it is another to lose something you have always had. The political climate in the United States, at present, lends itself to the manifestations of violence and further acts of aggression. As long as we continue to ignore the truth, we will be condemned to suffer the consequences. People who find no recourse for their frustrations will too many times take aggressive steps, which could include violence, to vent their sentiments.

The recent shooting of the reporter, cameraman, and guest on live television is just one more example. The talking heads on the news channels spouted words like, “crazy,” “evil,” and “deranged,” when speaking of the murderer, but seemed completely clueless of the real and underlining possibility for the motivation of the killer. Regardless of the fact that his actions were wrong and disastrous, the bits of information which started coming out about him pointed in the same direction: frustration.

Humans are selfish. We were born that way. It is in our nature to look out for ourselves. It is only by maturity that people learn little-by-little to become more selfless. Selfishness has its positive side. Due to that we care for ourselves. We eat what we enjoy, we make time for ourselves, we strive for happiness, we care for those we love, and so forth. This level of selfishness is good and produces positive and healthy results. It is when selfishness is carried to the extreme that it becomes something ugly. When we are willing to benefit from something to the point that others lose or get hurt is when selfishness becomes dangerous and hurtful.

[In their minds, there was no other recourse, to them, they had tried what they could to get their point across and show why they were right and others were wrong.]

The dictionary gives one definition of selfish as: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. In the context of the first part of the definition, selfish means that someone who is being selfish does not care that others may be harmed as a result of his or her actions. But, if we take the second context and carefully look at it, we can see that someone may be act in their own favor without necessarily harming others in any way. For example, if I decide to eat two hamburgers today, instead of maybe sharing one of them with someone else, I am harming no one, nor am I necessarily being inconsiderate. As well, what if I am a rich man, and want to share my money with others, but I want to benefit from sharing with them? I am being selfish, and still benefitting others.

In this last context, God is selfish. He wants things His way. He will not allow exceptions, things must be done His way, and if we choose not to do things His way, He will exert His power to ensure that His will is done regardless. He has His plans, and He will not permit them to be changed, modified, or stopped. God wants what God wants, and He will do everything according to what He thinks is best, without considering anyone else’s opinion. Notice Ephesians 1: 4 and 11.

We are like God in this aspect. We want things to be the way we want things to be. This is just human nature. It does not either make us bad or good. We work things to our own “good” throughout our lives. Our goal (selfish or selfless) is to “live long and prosper” as a character in the popular television series “Star Trek,” once said. We want to be happy, we want those we love to be happy, and we don’t want anything to change that, especially not something which would harm us in any way. But, what happens when something does harm us, when we unfairly lose something we have always had, or when we are deprived of something that is supposed to be our right? Well, we become angry.

Desperate BusinessmanFrustration leads to anger. It is the direct result of this sense of unfairness which is the result when we have no recourse to release frustrations. The murder of those people on live television is but a tiny example of what is happening in the world today. The earth is pregnant with the frustration of unfairness. Take for example, the Middle East. The little country of Israel is surrounded by large Islamic countries. Their hatred of Israel is based on their perspective that the Israelites are occupiers of stolen land. The Palestinians are the best example in this mess, from their point of view, something that they have always had was taken from them to be given to those who did not already have it. The wants of the few outweighed the needs of the many. To make matters worse for them, the United Nations, with the United States and England primarily endorsing the effort, their country gets chopped up into pieces and the “invaders” are supported by the world powers. Instead of defending the Palestinians from invasion and occupation, the very resource which should have been there to help countries from such an invasion, aligned instead with the invaders. Then, when Iraq invades Kuwait, those same powers come out in force to defend the small country and repels the invaders. From the point of view of the Palestinians, where is the justice and fairness? What are they told to do? Accept it.

[Nothing that you read in this article should be understood as me excusing, justifying, or condoning anyone’s illegal behavior or actions. My goal is to present an argument for understanding the growing problems associated with frustration in our society.]

Frustration has been evident in many of the shootings and criminal actions of late. Blacks rioted in Ferguson and destroyed their own community; the result of lingering frustration. The shooters at Columbine had reportedly been the victims of bullying, and in their frustration chose to use violence as the only recourse for them. Any search of the internet will produce many cases of people returning to their last place of employment and killing fellow employees. Why? Frustration. In their minds, there was no other recourse, to them, they had tried what they could to get their point across and show why they were right and others were wrong. The question here is not whether they were in actuality right or wrong, the question is what can we do about their frustrations?

I mentioned the decision by the Supreme Court above, and I want to touch on that subject again as another example. Millions of people in several states voted against same-sex marriage. This has been a hot issue for many years, it is something extremely important and personal to many citizens of these United States. It is possible that with time, these very same citizens would have voted for same-sex marriage, but not today. Along with this, there is an underlining belief that the vote of the American citizen is sacred and valuable, and a right which cannot be taken away. The decision by the Supreme Court violated that right. It did away with the legitimate votes of millions with just one simple declaration. What all Americans have always had (the right to have the vote of the majority win), has been displaced and removed. We all know now, from that fateful day and on, that the legal vote of the majority of the citizenry can be ignored if someone with enough power dos not like it. What we have always had (the sanctity of marriage) has been taken away from us, and what others never had (the legal right to marry) has been given to them in disregard of the majority’s opinion. And, to make matter worse, we can do nothing legal about it. How frustrating!

As a counselor, I encounter this anger all the time. People are frustrated because of circumstances in their lives. Wives complain of husbands who do not keep their word. Husbands complain of wives who “want to change” them. Church members complain of pastors who “lord it over” them. Children complain of parents who exasperate them. Adult children complain that their parents love the other adult child more. People complain that God should have done this or not done that. Many clients have high expectations of what life should have been like, only to realize that life “sucks” for everyone. The Victim Mentality is prevalent in our society, and it shows no possibility of lessening. The politically-correct mentality infringes on the healthier way of managing our lives and relationships, producing less healthy, co-dependent, weaklings who want life to conform to their standards. “Life,” as such, conforms to no one. We either will take responsibility for ourselves, or we will suffer the consequences: frustration.

As a counselor, my job is to help someone find answers which will work in their life, to resolve, and hopefully eliminate, their immediate and long-term problems. To accomplish this, I need to understand the problem. I have always believed that the answer to any problem will be found in the problem itself. The better I understand what the problem is, the closer I am to a solution. When it comes to frustration, though, there seems to be an added challenge; the answer may not be available.

The “answer” for the Middle East “problem” is the removal of Israel, and elimination of all interference by foreign powers regarding the progress of Islamic countries. That is a solution which will not be forthcoming. The West, especially the United States, will not turn its back on Israel. It is has great strategic value to the US, besides the treaty we have with them (I support Israel, by the way). So the result for the Moslems is frustration, and the result of that frustration is anger.

Oftentimes, clients will hide their frustration. The result will be pent up anger, which they will disguise as victimization. They are so frustrated with circumstances (a misbehaving husband or wife, for instance) that they view the problem as one of injustice (I am being treated unfairly), so they respond as victims (something must be done about this), and when they have tried “everything” they will have only two options: accept defeat or fight back.

For those of you, dear readers, who argue that someone just has to accept what they cannot change and go on with their lives, consider this scenario.

One day foreign forces invade and occupy a US territory, let’s say Hawaii. The invading army takes control of the state government and imposes martial law, effectively stripping every Hawaiian of their legal rights. The Hawaiians have two choices: 1) Accept that they are now governed by a foreign power, and go about their business as an occupied people, or 2) Fight for their freedom. Which would you want these people, the Hawaiians, our fellow citizens, to do?

WarAfter a truncated effort by the United States government to demand that the invading force remove its army, we would launch such an attack which would likely leave the world spinning its head with the rapidity of our response. Violence would be the answer to the frustration produced by the actions of a foreign power.

One of my research studies, that of the behavior of men who physically abuse their wives, produced several interesting points of consideration. My main focus was on why these men chose to be violent with these women they allegedly loved. You would imagine that they would instead choose to keep their arguments limited to words rather than opting to attack their spouse. My research included myself. For the first six years of my marriage to my wife, I physically (as well as emotionally) abused her.

Without justifying anything, I asked the right question, “What was at the core of this behavior?” Why was it that these men resorted to violence? As I studied and researched, and better understood the problem, I came to some conclusions.

First, let me share what is not the answer: labeling. Resorting to labeling the men as abusers, crazies, evil, batterers, sick, and so on, helped in no manner, and only served to cloud the issue. Labelling people puts them into a category, and doing so helps others to just cast them away as useless. Indeed, some men who are violent are crazy, some are mentally unstable, and some are just plain confused about how to deal with any relationship, so they choose violence. But, the greater number are not such, these men are those who reached a point of frustration which tells them they have no other option but violence. In their minds they have “tried everything,” and it didn’t work, so they resorted to violence. The sad thing is that the violence actually works, to a point.

[Of course, the better answer is for people to learn to “accept those things we cannot change,” as the Serenity Prayer goes, but that does not help with the problem in any manner. Why? Because some things should not be accepted.]

Take Julio for example, Julio and Rosa got married on their 20th birthdate. Yes, they have the same birthdate, year and everything, but he is four hours older. Rosa was the youngest of four kids, and Julio was the oldest of three. Rosa’s parents fought often and separated at least three times according to her memory, and Julio’s dad died when he was 11, from a car accident.

When Rosa was 10 years old, her uncle started molesting her and this lasted for almost three years. When she told her mother that her uncle (the mom’s brother) was molesting her, the mom punished her for “lying,” and told her never to mention that again. Julio grew up with the knowledge that you could easily lose the people close to you, so he developed the need to try to control those around him. When he could do that, he felt safer.

By the time that they got married, Rosa had develop a need to have males approve her, which made her a target for men who took advantage of her at times. Julio, on the other hand, grew to learn that even the threat of violence was enough to get people to comply.

Julio and Rosa fell “in love,” and decided to get married. Julio could find no fault in Rosa, and she saw only strength in him. The very things that drew them together were the things that started to divide them.

Rosa’s neediness made her clingy and codependent on Julio, and his defensiveness pushed her away. The more she wanted from him, the more fearful he became because he did not know how to handle her neediness. She would make demands on him, and he would scream at her to back off. The more he insisted that she back off, the needier she felt and the greater the demands.

Julio’s mind told him that she was not listening to him, because if she was she would understand and agree with him. At first he would just argue with her, later he started yelling at her, and after a time, he started threatening her. Her lack of expected response created in Julio a frustration as he had not experienced before. His mind told him that what he was doing was not only not working, but that it would never succeed. During one of their more spirited arguments, he snapped and hit Rosa. The lie he believed was that he had no other option, because he “had tried everything.”

Most men who physically abuse their wives fall into this category (if you like) of why they use violence against their spouses. In their minds, they believe that they have run out of options.

Again, this does not excuse them, but it can help us to understand the dynamics of frustration.

In his book, “Understanding Conflict And War: Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective, Chapter 3 – Frustration, Deprivation, Aggression, And The Conflict Helix,” R. J. Rummel says, “Moreover, we are often unable to satisfy our desires or accomplish our goals. Sometimes our ambitions exceed our abilities, or we misperceive the possibilities. But sometimes we are blocked by an external barrier that precludes gratification. This may be a traffic jam preventing us from reaching an appointment, a college rule prohibiting us from taking a particular course, an amorous neighborhood tom cat interrupting our sleep, or our race restricting professional advancement. Whatever the barrier, we are frustrated. All of us are so frustrated from time to time.”

“In addition, we all have experienced irritation and anger at some frustrations. A long line preventing us from seeing an eagerly awaited movie, a crush of shoppers hindering the purchase of some simple necessities, a slow driver obstructing a narrow road, probably have aroused in all of us that familiar flush of annoyance, even anger. That frustration of our desires and goals occasionally leads to anger is a commonplace. It is subjectively unquestionable — a fact of our existence.”

We get frustrated because we get stuck. We cannot move forward, and we cannot change things. We feel deprived, and that only emphasizes the unfairness of the situation.

Of course, the better answer is for people to learn to “accept those things we cannot change,” as the Serenity Prayer goes, but that does not help with the problem in any manner. Why? Because some things should not be accepted. Racism, violence, injustice, and other similar things should never be acceptable under any guise. Those things are wrong and must be eliminated, or at least suppressed. In those cases aggression is understood, if not actually condoned. But, what usually results is that those who witness such aggression, as in the case of the shooter of the television crew, refuse to consider the possibility that it was simple frustration which may have prompted the killer. To consider that his motive, distorted as it may have been, was that he became frustrated because he believed that the system failed him. In his own mind, he may have reached the point where he had no other option available to him that seemed as though it would help him achieve his goal.

[“The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur.”]

Many of my clients, in these 28 years of counseling, have been at that same point. They may not have decided that killing someone else was the answer, but many of them were at their wits end when they came to see me. In many cases, I strongly believe, many of them were able to come to an acceptable acceptance of their circumstances. I was able to help them find another answer, not the one they believed to be the fairest, just, or correct one, but one they decided to live with.

I am aware of one client, many years ago, who even after counseling with me, and another qualified counselor, still succumbed to his frustrations and he killed his wife in front of their children.

Pay attention to the news, the people in your life, and those nearest to you, and you will find examples of people struggling with frustrations.

Further in his writing, R. J. Rummel, said this, “It is remarkable that those who are most deprived, most oppressed, most in need, are not those who usually violently rebel. Of course there have been food riots and peasant uprisings, but most often revolutions and violence have occurred when conditions are better or have been improving, and among those who are not the most deprived.

Explanations vary but generally focus on two propositions. First, deprivation is subjective, a function of a person’s perception, needs, and knowledge. To nail deprivation to an objective or absolute lack of something such as freedom, equality, or sustenance, is to ignore that definitions of these shift according to historical period, culture, society, position, and person.”

“However, some internal norms or standards, some benchmarks, against which to assess deprivation are still required. The second proposition, therefore, deals with these norms. It asserts that we take our presently perceived or expected position, achievements, gratifications, or capabilities as a base of comparison against our wants or needs, or what we feel we ought to have. The gap between wants or oughts and gratifications or capabilities is then our deprivation, or relative deprivation in the sense that it depends on our base of comparison.”

In other words, just because someone else is able to brush off an injustice or mistreatment, and “bury the hatchet,” is no indication that it is the norm. We, each of us, decides in our own minds what is acceptable and unacceptable in our lives. One person may accept slavery, and the next one will fight it with all their might. One person may accept racism, and the other will openly demonstrate aggression against it. One person may accept that they have been rejected, and the other will go into a building full of children and kill as many as he can.

Another writer put it this way. “In summary, the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be the frustration-aggression mechanism. Frustration does not necessarily lead to violence, and violence for some men is motivated by expectations of gain. The anger induced by frustration, however, is a motivating force that disposes men to aggression, irrespective of its instrumentalities. If frustrations are sufficiently prolonged or sharply felt, aggression is quite likely, if not certain, to occur. To conclude that the relationship is not relevant to individual or collective violence is akin to the assertion that the law of gravitation is irrelevant to the theory of flight because not everything that goes up falls back to earth in accord with the basic gravitational principle. The frustration-aggression mechanism is in this sense analogous to the law of gravity: men who are frustrated have an innate disposition to do violence to its source in proportion to the intensity of their frustrations ….” – Gurr, 1970:36-37.

The Power that Works In Us

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

I have a habit of searching for verses and passages within the Sacred Scriptures which catch my attention, and there are many. Each catches my attention, often, for different reasons. Usually the reason is because the verse, or passage, seems to be saying (or teaching) more than what seems obvious. When this happens, questions pop into my head regarding what I just read, and I want to know the answers.

BibleAs well, I have learned that the obvious is not always the reality. What is understood in the English, using modern day concepts, knowledge, and interpretation methods, may only produce a lessor explanation of the meaning, or teaching, of the Scripture in question. I have learned that when reading a verse, or passage from the Bible, and using the knowledge I have gained from the culture of the time, their use of words and phrases, the contexts used as of the writing, and so forth, will often lead me to an understanding which is different from the seemingly obvious one. For example, in Spanish, when one wants to invite everyone they know to a Fiesta, one would use the phrase, “Todo el mundo” (the whole world). The use would be like this, “Invita a todo el mundo.”  This means, “Invite the whole world” (literally). The real meaning, which is understood by the speakers and those who heard the phrase uttered is, “Invite anyone who wants to come,” (or everyone). The “todo el mundo” part removes the limit of who may be invited.

For a better understanding of what the Bible teaches or says, one needs to consider several factors, as I pointed out above, to reach a better conclusion as to what the teaching or meaning may be. On the other hand, many times the Bible means exactly what it says.

As far as this article is concerned, I am going to pay careful attention to the Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB) verse listed at the beginning of this article. I use the NASB in all my studies, it is the version of my preference. I usually begin with identifying any key words or phrases (at least from my perspective) and then I go forth.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

For me, the keys words or phrases here are:

  1. Able.
  2. Far more abundantly.
  3. Beyond all.
  4. Ask or think.
  5. According to the Power.
  6. Works in us.
  7. The Glory.

These key words or phrases are those which catch my attention. They catch my attention for different reasons, but mostly because they are not immediately clear as to what they mean. The average reader will read these in English and decide immediately that they understand and will, also immediately, stop any further investigation into the possible meaning or teaching of this verse. They will, in essence, think they already understand all that they need to understand from the verse and simply go on to the next one. I am different. I need to know the answers which were not answered by simply reading the verse once.

The first question I have is, “Of whom is this verse speaking?” Notice the phasing in the verse, “Now to Him …, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus…” Well, since the Lord Jesus is mentioned in the verse, we can safely deduce that He is no the “Him” mentioned twice. A quick glance at the context of the verse in the chapter it is found, tells me that the “Him” referred to here is the Father (see verse 14). This is important because we will also be investigating whom it is that can, “do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”

The second question which Bible 3comes to mind is, “What is the main argument of the verse, or what is it trying to get across to me?” For example, is it saying that the Father will or must be glorified in the church and in Christ Jesus, or that the Father has the power and ability to work through us and somehow do much more than we are able to ask or conceive, and that He will be glorified in this manner? Actually the answer is, “yes.” They are both right. But, all of this only produces more questions.

The next question which demands an answer is, “What does glorified mean?” The Greek Word is: δόξα (doxa). It is pronounced: dox’-ah. Using the Vine’s Dictionary of Words, it is listed as meaning: Dignity, Dignities, Glory, Glorious, and Honor.

In English it is translated into several other words, though the same Greek word is intended. In the KJV they are: glory 145 (times), glorious 10, honor 6, praise 4, dignity 2, and worship 1. A total number of 168 uses, and all of them, used in different ways, are the same word, “doxa.” The initial intended meaning of the use of this word is: dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, and worship.

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words goes on to say that “doxa” has a further signification, “an opinion, estimate, and hence, the honor resulting from a good opinion.” In other words (regarding the Ephesians 3:20-21), that the Father receive high praise, much regard, and be placed in a high position of honor. We can safely say that giving the Father glory means to speak highly of Him, to brag about His ability to do this or that, and to show Him the highest respect (in whatever manner we can) at all times.

So, at this point I feel comfortable that I understand two things regarding the verses in question; one, we are speaking of the Father specifically, and, two, that He must receive glory (as defined above). So then the next question comes up, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The average reader of the Bible will simply answer, “Because He is God!” The answer sounds nice, is the religious response that is appropriate, and is true, but it belies the Biblical instruction to “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1 – I added the bold and italics). More important than knowing the truth, is knowing why it is the truth.” This is the reason those very same Scriptures exhort us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 – I added the bold, underline and italics). So, you see, if someone just spits out an answer because they feel, or believe, that it is the right answer, they are disobeying the Scriptures’ instruction to test the “spirit.”

So, let’s go back to the question, “Why should the Father be glorified?” The answer is found in the verses themselves. The Father should be glorified because He is, “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.” That’s why! But, this now presents even more questions. The next one that I have is, “What is this “power” to which the verse refers?”

The Greek word is: δύναμις (dynamis). The phonetic pronunciation is:doo’-nam-is. Vine’s Dictionary of Words says it means: Ability, Able, Meaning, Might (Noun), Mighty, Mightily, Mightier, Miracle, Power, Strength, and Strengthen.” It is used in the Bible 120 times, and it was translated in those different locations as: power 77, mighty work 11, strength 7, miracle 7, might 4, virtue 3, mighty 2, and miscellaneous translations 9 times.  The definition includes (literal or figurative); specially miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself) :- ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, and might (wonderful) work (according to Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). By the way, this is the Greek word which we use to get the English word, “dynamite” from.

If we are careful and pay attention to the definition and meaning given by these sources, we can reach a conclusion as to what this word “power” means, in relation to this verse. Since it is something that “works within us,” it does not necessarily imply that it is a natural part of us. In other words, it may be something that can enter us, perform its function, and then leave. The phrasing of the verse, and the context of the verse in the chapter, does not allow an interpretation which includes this power being a natural part of us as humans. Therefore we must reach the conclusion that it is something that can function within us, but not necessarily be controlled by us alone.

In any case, it seems, based on the data garnered from the above resources, the word “power” here means: a dynamic ability which is not controlled by us, and which is capable of miraculous results and performance. What I get from this is that there is a power which can function in us (as humans) which is able to accomplish powerful and miraculous things. And, continuing with the context of the verse, it seems that this power comes from, or is used by, the Father. This last point is important to me, because the question of ability (as in, “who is able to”) is answered by the fact that it is the Father who is the One who is “able.” Jesus Himself clearly states in Matthew 19:26, that, “with God all things are possible.” So there is no question of the Fathers ability to do whatever.

Therefore, we go to the next Bible 4question, “How does this power “work” in us? I believe that the answer will be found by understanding the phrase, “according to” which precedes in the verse itself. I won’t go into all of the Greek word usage and Vine’s explanations again, but I will summarize. The phrase “according to” implies a pattern of sorts, conditions or stipulations, requirements or steps which must be followed. So therefore the safe conclusion we can make is that the phrase “according to” in this verse is indicating that there is a process which must be applied for this “power” to “work” in us. This could mean that the Father Himself would need to do some specific things, or that we would need to do some specific things for this power to “work” in us. In either case, something seems to be required for the “power” to “work” in us.

The next obvious question is, “What are the requirements?” The verse does not say, nor is the answer found in the chapter. But, the real question is not just, “What are the requirements,” but instead, “Are these ‘requirements’ something that we as humans must know?” The answer to that question will answer the first. To find out whether we, as humans, must know what those “requirements” may be, we must first decide whether it is we, or the Father who must meet the “requirements.” And that, dear reader, depends on how this power works “in” us.

So therefore, my next question is, “What does the verse mean when it says “in us?” Specifically, I question the word, “in.” Is this saying that this power:

  1. Literally enters humans, so that it resides in us.
  2. Or is it saying that it is something that humans may use, but not necessarily be inside us.
  3. Or is it saying that the Father uses this “power” in an external manner that affects humans internally, or our lives, as such?”

I have a tendency to go for the last point. In context with the rest of the Bible, in general, the third option above make more sense. I believe that the verse is teaching that the Father has the ability to bring about “miraculous” circumstances in the lives of those who meet the conditions required for this “power” to perform its intended function.

When I say “those who meet the conditions required,” I am not saying that I believe the verse is indicating that we as humans must do anything as such. I am saying, though, that I believe the context of this verse implies that there are conditions which must exist in humans, for the Father to then use this “power” to affect our lives. For example, in Mark 19:26, Jesus said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” The question there is not whether “all” things are possible, but rather how all things are possible. The statement clearly dictates that belief is required. It does not make an obvious clarification as to whom must have this belief, but by implication, and the following actions of Christ Jesus Himself, the understanding is that the one performing is the one required to believe.

So, though the Ephesians verse does not have a clear indication of whom is to meet whatever conditions are required, the context which includes the Mark verse teaching, will allow us to conclude that it could be either the Father Himself, or the human involved, who must meet the required condition for the “power” to work. But, in this specific case, there is one more consideration, God must be the One getting the “glory.” So, with this in mind, we can now safely conclude that it is the Father Himself who must meet the conditions required to use the “power that works within us.” If it is He who meets the conditions, and “works the power,” then it is He who deserves the glory (credit) for the outcome of the use of the “power.”

My next question has to do with the phrase, “far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.” The word “abundant” is one that is readily clear, it means, “plentiful, copious, ample, profuse, rich, lavish, abounding, liberal, generous, and bountiful” In other words, enough; enough of whatever for whatever purpose or use. The general belief in regards to the provision of God (or rather, what God can provide) is that He always provides what is needed; therefore: enough (abundant).

In the case of this verse, though, it is saying that the Father is able to go “beyond” the limits of enough. “Enough” should, in and of itself, be enough. Who needs more than enough? If the Father were to only give each believer “enough” they would never lack in anything, right? But the argument here is that the Father can is able to go “beyond” the enough. Not only that, but that he is able to go beyond, “all that we ask or think.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but, as you can see by this rather long article on just two verses from the Bible, I can think quite a lot. So, we must investigate this phrase a bit more. The question here is, “What does this verse mean by all that we ask or think?” To understand the meaning in it clearest form, let’s look at the word “all.” Not to be silly, but “all” in the Greek still means “all.” By implication, in this verse it means “Everything that we (as humans) can come up with to ask of God. What would this include for you? For me, I could write a book of around 100,000 words (sort of like a long novel), and I probably would still not be finished. Why, you might ask? Because I am human.

Humans are born selfish. Give two babies a toy each, and they will want the toy of the other, even if it is the same type of toy. Why? Because we are born selfish. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn to become less selfish, and more selfless. We never stop being selfish, but in many of us, we learn to sacrifice some of that selfishness for the greater good. Usually that “greater good” is something that benefits us as well also. So, when it comes to what we can ask God for, we have an “abundant,” or should I say, plethora of requests and supplications. We can ask God for some things which will benefits us alone, our families, our friends, our church members, our country, the world, and so forth. There almost seems to be no limit to what we, as humans, can ask of God. Nevertheless, the verse claims that the Father is able to do “more” abundantly (more than enough) than we ask.

On top of that, the verse further claims that the Father is not only able to do “more” than we ask, but that He is able to do “more abundantly” than we think. This to me is the biggest point of the two verses. This is the main key word. This is where the conditions (for the power to be able to work in us), if any, may be found.

As I said before, I don’t know about you, but I have a fantastic imagination. I am a writer, as you can see. I also write books about politics, counseling, and in August of 2015, I just published my latest book, “Another Star in the Sky.” This last book, is a science fiction story about aliens who come to Earth. If you go to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Smashwords on the internet, you can buy a copy of the book. The story has over 60,000 words in it. My point is that I have a rather limitless imagination. I can understand abstract concepts with which some people may have problem. There are many people on this planet who have the same capacity as I, and maybe even better.

My point is that if the Father is able to do “more than enough” compared to what I can imagine, then He is truly magnificent. I can imagine the Father blessing me with 200 million dollars. With that kind of money, the first thing I would do is set aside a simple 50 million for personal expenses. J Then I would create a non-profit corporation and donate the remaining 150 million. Via the corporation, I would find ways to help people, churches, and so forth, in the name of the Father, so that He would get all the credit (glory). In many cases, I would make sure the people or organizations did not know who gave the money, so that God would get all the credit, and not me. Sure it would feel great to give people money (in the name of the Lord) and for them to be thankful to me as well, but, for him to get the glory (honor, worship, and praise) most of the time the recipients could not know from where the money came. You see, I can imagine much. And, by the way, I just used a small number like 200 million as an example, I can imagine a much larger amount.

Bible 2So, then, getting back to our discussion regarding Ephesians 3:20-21, what is it exactly that the verse is saying, and what is it teaching. These are two different points:

  1. It says that the Father should get all the credit for His ability to perform miracles and do things, which can be beyond the comprehension of any human, when the human is willing to believe in His capacity to do so, because the performance of those things requires belief (in this case it probably means to have faith in God’s ability) in the human. And, that the Father should get this credit from His church, as He already does from His Son, our Lord Christ Jesus, forever and ever.
  2. It teaches that God wants us to learn to free our imaginations, when it comes to what He is able to do. He wants us to believe big, to dream of great things that He can accomplish in our lives, and to not doubt ourselves as to how greatly He can use us.

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NASB)

Religious Abuse

Roy GomezBy Rev. Roy G. Gomez

The definition of Religious and Spiritual Abuse.

Religious abuse refers to abuse administered under the guise (concealing the true nature of something) of religion including harassment or humiliation, possibly resulting in psychological trauma. Religious abuse may also include misuse of religion for selfish, secular, or ideological ends such as the abuse of a clerical position.

 Spiritual abuse just as emotional abuse affects one emotionally, while physical abuse inflicts pain and bodily injury on its victim, spiritual abuse affects one spiritually. It is the result of a spiritual leader or system that tries to control, manipulate, or dominate a person. This control is often in the form of fear. This is considered a major factor in mind control/coercive (relating to or using force or threats) persuasion or thought reform. There are those who feel the latter comes into play in cases such as these, while others feel the thinking is in error. Regardless of where one stands on this, it does not lessen the effects of spiritual abuse.

David Johnson & Jeff Van Vonderen, co-authors of “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse,” describe the action: “It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t ‘behave’ spiritually the way you want them to. When your words and actions tear down another, or attack or weaken a person’s standing as a Christian- to gratify you, your position or your beliefs while at the same time weakening or harming another- that is spiritual abuse.”

Does leadership in the church demand you consult with them (or your discipler) before making major decisions or any decisions at all? Has leadership forbidden you to go on vacation or spend time with someone (particularly one who has left the church group)?

Do you find yourself periodically questioning your spirituality or standing with God? Have you been preoccupied with checking out others in the congregation to see who is living up to the rules and who isn’t?

Are extra-biblical rules and standards equated as coming from God, with your salvation or spirituality linked to following them? Do you find that cutting or not cutting your hair has now become an indicator of your spirituality and a means of protection for your family?

Has the initial joy you felt when first coming to know the Lord been replaced with worry? Do you feel you’re not doing enough or are not good enough and can’t live up to what is expected? Are you worried God has sent you a spirit of delusion?

Do services uplift and give strength or do you feel sad, beaten down, or depressed afterward? Has your view of God changed to where he is seen as a harsh taskmaster, eagerly waiting for you to mess up so he can chastise you or leave you behind? © 1997 – presented by Lois E. Gibson

Who are the people who tend to fall victims to this?

I was not able to find in the area of race, class or gender; as to who falls as victims to Religious or Spiritual Abuse. In my years of ministry I could not say that there is an economic, social, race, or gender group – but from each group they are mistreatment to someone who is in the dire need of spiritual help out of his or her unbearable and bitter life experiences.

Normally we tend to seek help from God when we are in difficulty. In a search of God, we reach to religious places like temples, churches or mutts where -few times- we come across real unscrupulous (dubious) elements, those disguised themselves as the representative of God. They emotionally blackmail the needy by misusing of a position of power (like pontiff), leadership, or influence to foster the selfish interests of someone else other than the individual who needs help.

Such mischievous elements prey upon needy person’s genuine intension of seeking help from God or the almighty power. They purport their advice to be the ‘most appropriate’ advice in that critical life situation. Abuse occurs because of legitimate personal needs that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes pretended as legalistic, mind controlling, spiritual healing systems and religiously helpful to work out solution in your life problem.

Why are they more susceptible to this malady (1. a disease or disorder of the animal body; 2. an unwholesome or disordered condition) than other people?)

Abuse is a complicated affliction, affecting people of all ages, intelligence levels, and backgrounds. It’s hard to tell what causes some people to be more prone to abuse than others; it’s usually a mix of many factors, from family background, genetics, and environment, stress, and personality traits.

People who were abused or picked on are prone to suffer more as they lose all their self-confidence and esteem in that grueling bullying. Bullying is the most damaging strategy after torture.

You don’t only use knives and daggers only to kill someone, just demean and harass, and you might end up killing an innocent.

Bullying that happens early on, leaves an indelible mark on the child’s brain. He starts to feel useless, incompetent and victimized, losing all strength of bouncing back. If anyone gets in that rut, how do you expect them to construct their life back?

Life for normal people is so complicated and full of challenges let alone for someone who has been dished out the most damaging attitude of being a loser. This is an ongoing issue in the church as a whole. It’s a worldwide problem and across all religious denominations.

What are the symptoms of these victims?

Salvation Redefined – Spiritually abusive ministries continually redefine salvation. This keeps the bar moving higher and higher so that followers must stay dependent on the intercession, wisdom, and power of the leader. Healthy leaders, on the other hand, communicate a clear biblical gospel of salvation by grace through faith. God’s plan of salvation never changes.

Deification of Leaders – While few spiritually abusive leaders overtly claim divinity, in practice they act as if they are godlike. For example, the leader may say that he or she speaks for God. That God works exclusively through his or her ministry, or that followers can please God by pleasing the leader. Healthy leaders, however, avoid putting themselves in the place of God.

 Exhaustion – Spiritually abusive ministries exhaust their followers through high commitment and endless demands on time and service. If you always feel exhausted after church—or if your church life seems one continuous demand on your time with never a chance to rest—you may live in a spiritually abusive system. Healthy churches and leaders understand the need for rest and personal time. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.

Sacrificial” Giving – Spiritually abusive ministries regularly call for sacrificial giving of time, talents, and treasure. The Bible knows little of this. Instead, the New Testament calls for generous and cheerful giving (2 Cor. 8 and 9). While God does sometimes call us to give sacrificially, this is between us and the Holy Spirit. For example, the Philippians gave sacrificially and amazed even the Apostle Paul. But no person can demand such sacrifice, and certainly not on an ongoing basis. Healthy churches teach biblical giving which is based on generosity and freewill, not coercion or guilt.

Punishment – Spiritually abusive groups use church discipline passages as an excuse to punish current members or to shun ex-members. They use church discipline to keep people in line, to quell disagreement (which they call “rebellion”), and as a threat against critical thinking (which they call “pride”). They also overreact to small sins or minor behavioral issues and bring the full weight of church discipline against people who actually just need time to mature. Leaders of these groups misunderstand the purpose of church discipline, which is restorative, not punitive. Spiritually abusive groups also misinterpret the warning passages in the book of Hebrews—they claim that people who leave their select group have left the faith. In contrast, healthy leaders use church discipline only in serious matters of major unrepentant sin. And they understand that the goal of such corrective measures is restoration, not punishment.

Who are the typical abusers of this malady?

 I have found that it is an out of control problem cause by adult – males, females. In over 30 years of ministry and innumerable counseling sessions I have dealt with similar situations.

Often, people — especially church goers — Religious and Spiritual Abuse does not happen within committed Christian. But nothing could be further from the truth. After observing destructive relationships, being involved and being a victim.  I have discovered these several characteristics traits, actions – that are most often exhibited by abusers. Remember that males can be abused by females, but the victims are predominately female.

 Charming, Jealous, Manipulative, Controlling, Narcissistic – He/she is the master, Inconsistent, Critical, and Disconnected – isolate his victim from family and friends so that you are totally dependent on him. Hypersensitive – flies off the handle for the slightest infraction, vicious and cruel.

 What drives the abusers?

Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position.

At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes described as legalistic, mind controlling, religiously addictive, and authoritarian. Freddie Garcia – Victory Outreach Inc.

What are the stats of religious abuse in the United States?

 I was not able to obtain a clear answer to the Religious/ Spiritual Abuse Question. Research seem to avoid the question.

Most churches in the United States have an average church attendance of around 500 adults, 125 children. Most congregations are dominated by married adults, so in this “average church,” there are 200 married couples, 275 women and 225 men, 64 girls and 61 boys. This means that in this church:

 At least 40 marriages are abusive. Studies show that anywhere from 20%-35% of all intimate relationships are abusive, and many are physically violent. Physical abuse is not the only form abuse can take, and other types of abuse are just as damaging.

As many as 20 women are being consistently raped by their husbands. Studies performed by Susan Estrech and Diana Russel indicate that 10% of married women describe most of their sexual encounters with their husbands as non-consensual.

It is possible that there are 9 child sexual abuse perpetrators in this church, since 30% of all child sexual abuse perpetrators are close family relatives– usually male relatives, although in 9%-14% of cases the pedophile is a woman. Another 30% of the time the perpetrator is another, older, minor.

That’s a possible 256 people– 40% of this “average” congregation— who have been violently wounded by some kind of horrific abuse.

Defeating the dragon – Posted on February 13, 2014 by Samantha Field.

Rev. Roy Gomez is a state licensed counselor, as well as a certified Faith-Based Christian Counselor. Rev. Gomez has worked in the field as a mentor and counselor for drug addicts for many years. He works as a Care Manager at Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance - MDHA - The Bridge. He majored in Social Work Major, with a Substance Abuse minor.

Godly Love versus Human Love in Marriage

As a counselor, I have worked with many couples in my 28 years in this ministry. One thing I have learned that is the source of many conflicts between them is the mistaken idea of what they believe love means. When someone uses the word “love,” they are actually saying many other things. Let’s look at a list of the things the word could mean to different people:

  1. I want you in my life.
  2. I need you in my life.
  3. I want you to be mine.
  4. I want you to be with me alone.
  5. I want you to be the father/mother of my children.
  6. I want to grow old with you.
  7. I don’t want someone else to have you.
  8. I don’t want someone else to take you away from me.
  9. You make me feel good about myself.
  10. I am happy when you are around.
  11. I can’t live without you.
  12. I don’t want to live without you.
  13. When you are not with me I feel sad or angry.

What is the common denominator in all of the above statements? Yes, it is all about the speaker (I, me, my, and mine). Notice none of the statement say, “I want to do what is in your best interest, even if you reject me.” Human love is, by its nature, selfish. This is why two persons will start off liking each other in a relationship, and can end up hating each other in the end. They may claim to have loved each other at some time, but the “love” they had was a human one, flawed and selfish. The truth is that many couples do not really know true love.

Their love is more easily defined in the term “fifty-fifty,” where each are expected to do their part. The problem is that too often they don’t know what their part is, and secondly, they are only doing their “part” of it. Human love can better be understood this way: “I will try to do my part (whatever it is that I think or believe I am supposed to do), but I will expect you to do the right things all the time (whatever I think or believe you are supposed to do). The truth is that many couples just do not know what love really is, and therefore have unrealistic expectations as to what their partners are supposed to be doing, much less themselves.

As a counselor you run into these situations constantly. One of the pair will argue that the other is failing in their responsibilities, but will, at the same time, overlook their own indiscretions when it comes to marital responsibilities. Each will be adamant that they understand what love means, but will also spout selfish expectations which place the greater responsibility on their partner to fulfill their part (whatever that may be). As well, each will use the word “love” in inappropriate and confusing ways. For example, a client of mine, a woman, told me that she called the police when her husband assaulted her, then, she said, because she went to jail and paid for his bond to have him released. She said that she did this because she “loves” her husband. The husband went home with her and assaulted her again for calling the police to begin with. Was that really “love” on her part, or stupidity? Another example, a male client told me that he “forgave” his wife after she had committed adultery, and did not impose a consequence on her for her discretion, because he “loves” her. Six months later she was caught texting with another man about getting together with him. Was that “love” or stupidity?

Once a couple gets to my office, they have reached a point of concern which demonstrates to me that they do not know what love really means. The sad truth I seem to confront over and over is that these two people don’t even know how to love themselves, much less know how to love someone else. I don’t mean they don’t care about others, I agree that they do. They care about their children, they care (to a point) about their spouse and marriage, they care about many things, but caring about something is not the same as love. The two words do not have the same meaning.

I had one wife who came to see me because she wanted to divorce her husband. She kept saying she still loved him, but did not want to be with him anymore. After a couple of sessions she came to understand that what she felt was not actually love. She cared about him. She understood that she was going to hurt him with the divorce, and she felt “sorry” for that, but she did not want to be with him anymore. She did not love him, she only cared somewhat.

Human love in marriage, dating, and other similar type of relationships, usually means, “You belong to me. I should be able to do whatever I want, and you should accept me the way I am without trying to change me!”

In the following pages, I have included a chart which demonstrates the differences between human love and Godly love. I have defined the terms from the point of view of marriage, and other similar relationships. When reading it, you should not conclude that I am saying that one hundred percent of all married people always behave the way I have listed below. The chart can be better used as a guide when dealing with a couple, or even if you are just counseling one of the two. You can use the chart to help the person (or couple) to understand the difference between what they believe to be love, and what God says is love.

Your goal needs to be to help them compare their own actions, behavior, and decisions regarding their relationship, and the problem encountered, and not for judging their partner. This can help them make some decisions which can have the capability of causing change in their relational circumstances, even hard, difficult, and painful decisions.

Remember, we don’t put up with their disrespect because we “love” them, we put up with it because we don’t love ourselves enough to walk away.

 Chart - page 1

Chart - page 2