Category Archives: Counseling

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.

Counseling and Your Personal Life

 The tendency on your part will be to give more and more to your counseling. I will agree that you have to be ready to make a real sacrifice, and put the necessary effort and time into your ministry. I also say that you have to learn to balance that with other important things in your life, especially your family and marriage, if you are married. Counseling will make a big demand on you, but you must control how much and what you give. Give your best, but give carefully. Pray before you go into your counseling session (and as often as you remember). Pray after the session, as well. Pray away those “spirits” that will want to attached themselves to you. Pray even when you don’t feel the need. You can use all the prayer you can get.

“Do not be deceived” (to quote the Bible from Galatians 6:8), “God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” Yes, what you put into your ministry will be what you get out of it. You must make it your passion, while at the same time making healthy and ell-thought out decisions.

Think about it, if you were experiencing a very difficult time in your life right now, who would you go to for help? Would you go to the counselor who counsels for a living, who needs to bring in an income from those she counsels? Would you go to someone who does it as a job, who leaves all the “counsel” at the office? Would you go to someone who limits your visits to exactly 60 minutes, regardless of the issues? Or . . .

Would you go to someone who lives counseling, who has it first thing in the morning and the last thing on their mind at night? Someone who knows how to separate the ministry from their personal life, but never stops being the counselor? Someone who works hard at learning, studying, and developing herself into the mold that God has for her in counseling? Someone to whom counseling is a ministry, a way of reaching out and easing the pain of others? Someone who knows that a degree from college is not the final “certifying” instrument, but that it is God’s calling and Word, which are the qualifiers.

Sure, a counselor can be a great counselor and still treat it as a source of income. But, God is specifically looking for those people who will allow Him to use them as His vessels for touching the lives of the hurting. He wants to counsel people through you, but He also wants to minister to your family through you. You have to leave the issues and problems in the counseling office, but you have to take the ministry everywhere you go. You don’t start and stop being a Christian counselor, you are a Christian counselor, just like you are a Christian. What you do does not decide who you are, but who you are decides what you do. That is not something you “leave at the office.” Everywhere you go you are a Christian, therefore, everywhere you go, you are a counselor. Why, because the Words tells us to be ready, “in and out of season.” (2nd Tim 4:2)

Allow me to challenge your thinking, which may argue against what your preacher has told you many times. We are to place God first in our lives. But, what does that mean? Well it does not mean that our families and relationship responsibilities are to be placed aside or in some sort of “second place.” It means that if I put God in first place, then as a husband I treat my wife as if she is in first place. As A wife, I treat my husband as if he is in first place. As a parent, I treat my children as though they are in first place. As an employee, I treat my job as though it is in first place. As a man, I treat God Himself as though He is in first place.

Live your life as fully as you can. If you are married minister to your wife (or husband) the way you would counsel your clients to treat their spouses. Go on those dates on which you will encourage the clients to go. Buy the flowers, or watch that football game, or have that sex, as you will encourage others for their lives. If you are a parent, develop the type of relationship with your children that you would counsel others to have. Make time for them. Spend time with them. Give time to them. They want your time, much, much more than they will ever want your money. Then counsel others to do the same.

Take care of your home, do the repairs, clean it, and so forth, just as you would counsel your clients. Do those odd jobs that are needed at your home, before you try to impress others with your wisdom. In other words, really demonstrate your love for your family, and with that experience, tell others how to do the same. Carry your life into your counseling sessions, but leave the problems and issues in the counseling office.

Your relationship with your spouse will protect you from the temptation to abuse your counseling privileges with persons of the opposite sex. Your relationship with your children will protect you from lethargy. Your relationship with your fellow church members will protect you from feelings of isolation. Your relationship with the Lord will protect your clients.

You are a husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, or friend, before you are a counselor. On the other hand, you are always a counselor. Be ready in and out of season, but still have a life.

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.

Cognitive Distortions

Understanding the problem to understand the solution. People do the things they do, because they BELIEVE the things they believe. This is the key principle for the counselor to use in guiding the client to a healthy mental and spiritual life. However, to ignore this principle, is akin to running around in circles but expecting to go down a straight road anyway. It will not make sense. You cannot fix a problem that you do not know exists. Once you identify a faulty belief, for example, then you are better able to identify the distorted thinking process (relating to that belief) and replace the faulty belief with the truth. It is putting the truth into practice that will actually bring about the necessary changes in the client. Therefore, we will consider ten beliefs that adversely affect people.

The Ten Forms of Self Defeating Thoughts

1. All or nothing – thinking

You see things in black-and-white categories if a situation falls short of perfect; you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself, “I’ve blown my diet completely.” This thought upset her so much that she gobbled down an entire quart of ice cream!

2. Overgeneralization

You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career reversal as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. A man and his wife were arguing and he decided that to keep arguing would be fruitless, so she gets even angrier and yells, “you never talk to me,” when he obviously was talking to her up to that moment.

3. Mental filter

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all of reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors a beaker of water. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical you obsess about his reaction for days and ignore all the positive feedback.

4. Discounting the positive

You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count.” If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it was not good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

5. Jumping to conclusions

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. This includes the following.

Mind reading: Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.

Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test, you may tell yourself, “I’m really going to blow it. What if I flunk?” If you are depressed, you may tell yourself, “I’ll never get better.”

Self-fulfilling prophecies: Like fortune telling, you predict that things will turn out badly, except in this case you end up contributing to the problem. For example, you tell yourself that people are not going to like you at a new job you are starting. Therefore, you go to work the first day with a chip on your shoulders because of what you are expecting, therefore the people at the new job think you are just a jerk. This, to you, becomes proof of what you were expecting.

6. Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimize the importance of your desirable qualities. Also known as the “binocular trick.” Kind of like looking through the binocular from both ends.

7. Emotional reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel terrified about going on airplanes, so it must be very dangerous to fly.” “I feel guilty, so I must be a rotten person,” or “I feel angry, so this proves I am being treated unfairly,” or “I feel so inferior, and this means I am a second-rate person,” or “I feel hopeless, so I must really be hopeless.”

8. “Should statements”

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano, a gifted pianist told herself, “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes.” This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. “Must,” “ought” and “have to” are similar offenders. Should statements” that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration, “He should not be so stubborn and argumentative.” Many people try to motivate themselves with should and should not, as if they were delinquents who deserved punishment before they could be expected to do anything. “I should not eat that doughnut.” This usually does not work because should and must can make you feel rebellious and you get the urge to do just the opposite.

9. Labeling

Labeling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying, “I made a mistake.” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” You might also label yourself “a failure” or “a jerk.” Labeling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do. Human beings exist, but “fools,” “losers,” and “jerks” do not. These labels are useless abstractions that lead to anger, anxiety, frustration, and low self- esteem.

You may also label others. When someone does something that rubs you the wrong way, you may tell yourself: “He’s a jerk!” Then you feel that the problem is with that person’s character or essence instead of with their thinking or behavior. You see them as very bad. This makes you feel hostile and hopeless about improving things and leaves little room for constructive communication.

10. Personalization and blame

Personalization occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that is not entirely under your control. When a woman received a note that her child was having difficulties at school, she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am,” instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her, she told herself, “if only I were better in bed, he wouldn’t beat me.” Personalization leads to guilt, shame, and feelings of inadequacy.

Some people do the opposite. They blame other people or their circumstances for their problems, and they overlook ways that they might be contributing to the problem: “The reason my marriage is so lousy is because my spouse is totally unreasonable.” Blame usually does not work very well because other people will resent being made the scapegoat and they will just toss the blame right back in your lap. It is like the game of hot potato – no one wants to be stuck with it.

A Poem on Giving Up A Cognitive Distortion

Letting Go

To “let go” does not mean to stop caring,

it means I can’t do it for someone else.

To “let go” is not to cut myself off,

it’s the realization I can’t control another.

To “let go” is not to enable,

but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To “let go” is to admit powerlessness,

which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To ” let go” is not to try to change or blame another,

it’s to make the most of myself.

To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.

To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To “let go” is not to judge,

but to allow another to be a human being.

To “let go” is not to be in the middle

arranging all the outcomes,

but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

To “let go” is not to be protective,

it’s to permit another to face reality.

To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.

To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue,

but instead to search out my own shortcomings

and correct them.

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires,

but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.

To “let go” is not to regret the past,

but to grow and live for the future.

To “let go” is to fear less and love more.

– Anonymous

Límites Personales En La Consejería

Satanás ha tenido mucho éxito en contra matrimonios cristianos.

· Mediante el uso de la cultura popular, ha convencido a muchas personas de que aunque estén casadas, siguen siendo dos personas completamente separadas.

· En muchos casos, esto produce una atmósfera de contención, con ambos intentando ganar el control sobre el otro.

· Esto se debe a que en lugar de ambos individuos trabajando juntos para lograr metas mutuamente beneficiosas, cada uno trata de alcanzar metas que se benefician a sí mismos.

Texas es un estado de propiedad común, esto significa que lo que le pertenece a uno de ustedes también le pertenece al otro.

· Si uno de ustedes debe una factura, ambos deben la cuenta, no importa cuyo nombre esté en ella.

· Esta es la ley, y no importa lo que digas o lo que creas.

· Por lo tanto, si uno de ustedes tiene un problema legal, ambos tienen problemas legales.

En las Escrituras, nos dicen que cuando una pareja se casa se convierten en uno.

· Esto significa que la pareja es vista de la misma manera por Dios.

· Cada uno tiene sus responsabilidades, pero ambos son responsables ante Dios y entre sí.

· Si uno de ustedes hace algo malo, afectará al otro tanto.

· Esta es la Palabra de Dios, y no importa lo que digas o lo que creas.

· Así que si uno de ustedes tiene problemas, entonces ambos tienen problemas.

Si una persona casada piensa que si su esposo (a) es quien tiene un problema, y no ellos mismos, es una mentira.


· Una de ellas es condicionamientos , y la otra es acuerdos.

· Las primeras (condiciones) se refieren a condiciones que establecemos para que otros puedan elegir si desean una relación con nosotros o no.

· El segundo (acuerdos) se refiere a la manera en la que vamos a tener una relación con los demás.

· En el matrimonio, ambos son importantes, y son diferentes entre sí.


El primer tipo de límites son importantes para nosotros específicamente.

· Son lo que usaremos para protegernos de los malos tratos de otras personas en nuestras vidas.

· Cuando dejamos de ser claros a otras personas en cuanto a lo que es aceptable y no aceptable en nuestra relación con ellos, nos abrimos a la posibilidad de que puedan aprovecharse de nosotros.

· Si no decimos que no a lo que creemos que está mal, permitimos que otros crean que estamos dispuestos a tenerlos para tratarnos de la manera que ellos elijan.

· Incluso si la gente no se dispone a aprovecharse de nosotros, con nuestro silencio les enseñaremos y les capacitaremos para que hagan exactamente eso.

Nadie puede leer tu mente.

· Sólo porque son adultos que no saben automáticamente lo que está bien y no está bien.

· Y, en muchos casos, usted tendrá que enseñar (tal vez incluso entrenar) a ellos cómo hacer lo que usted está esperando de ellos.

Las condiciones pueden ser colocadas bajo dos secciones separadas.

1 – Aceptable 2 -Inaceptable .


Condiciones aceptables son los que usted ha considerado seriamente y encontrar está bien si están en su vida.

▪ Por ejemplo, usted pone una condición en sí mismo para hacer ejercicio.

▪ Tal vez decidas orar más a menudo.

Las condiciones aceptables le ayudan a aclarar las cosas que desea en su vida, y quieren continuar y/o mejorar.

▪ Por ejemplo, ahorrar dinero para una casa, hacer nuevos amigos, y / o estudiar su Biblia


Condiciones Inaceptables son los que usted ha considerado seriamente y decide que NO está bien si están en su vida.

Por ejemplo, usted elige no fumar cigarrillos o beber alcohol, o decide no tener relaciones con personas que se aprovechan de otros.

▪ Las condiciones inaceptables le ayudan a aclarar aquellas cosas que NO desea en su vida, y/o que continúen en su vida.

El establecimiento de condiciones , después de toda una vida sin aclarar las condiciones, será estresante y algo difícil.

· Esto es porque los seres humanos tienden a seguir los patrones.

· Nos acostumbramos a vivir de cierta manera y generalmente no nos gusta el cambio.

· ¿Por qué?

· Porque el cambio significa que tenemos que trabajar en ello, y no hay respuestas fáciles.

Las condiciones son importantes porque nos entrenamos para vivir una vida más segura y más saludable, y otros aprenden lo que está bien y no está bien hacer en una relación con nosotros, si quieren tal relación.

Consecuencias de las condiciones – Este es simple, si la otra persona no está dispuesto a aceptar sus condiciones para tener una relación, usted no tiene una relación con ellos.

Donde no hay consecuencias, hay permiso.


Los acuerdos son límites que usted trabaja con alguien con quien usted tiene una relación.

· Esto podría ser un esposo o esposa, padre o hijo, pariente o amigo, gente en el trabajo iglesia.

· Los límites en el matrimonio se refieren a los acuerdos entre usted y su cónyuge.

· Estos acuerdos son una especie de reglas que usted y su cónyuge crean juntos para aclarar circunstancias que podrían convertirse en problemas importantes si no se resuelven o aclaran pronto.

La idea de los acuerdos es que si la pareja elabora un acuerdo sobre cualquier asunto o situación que pueda afectar su matrimonio, tienen la posibilidad de evitar cualquier argumento o argumentos problemáticos en el futuro.

· El problema será si ambos mantienen su palabra y siguen el acuerdo.

· Si lo hacen, tendrán una relación más pacífica y más saludable.

Los acuerdos son sólo eso, los acuerdos.

· No deben ser utilizados uno contra el otro.

· Se trata de acuerdos que han sido considerados por ambas personas, y ambos coinciden en que es para su mutuo beneficio que se establezca el acuerdo.

· Los acuerdos deben aplicarse a ambas personas por igual.

· Nunca debe haber acuerdos dirigidos a una persona u otra.

· No se trata de controlar a los demás, sino de estar de acuerdo unos con otros.

· El objetivo NO es para ti ganar, el objetivo es que AMBOS de ti gane.

Consecuencias por violar un acuerdo – Esto dependerá de la violación. Voy a dar ejemplos a continuación.


· Ninguno de nosotros puede tener un amigo del sexo opuesto sin la presciencia del otro, y su acuerdo para la amistad antes de que comience.

o Si tengo una amistad con una persona del sexo opuesto, y mi cónyuge no lo sabe, significa que hay algo malo, porque lo he escondido de mi cónyuge. Por lo tanto he estado engañando a mi esposo. Si estaba en el trabajo, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que renuncie a mi trabajo y encontrar otro como consecuencia.

o Ninguno de nosotros hablará negativamente sobre el otro a ninguna otra persona, pariente o amigo, y tampoco permitiremos que otros hablemos negativamente sobre nuestro cónyuge.

o Si hablo negativamente acerca de mi cónyuge a otra persona, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que vaya a esa persona y decirles que estaba equivocado en lo que hice. Si permito que alguien me hable negativamente acerca de mi cónyuge, mi cónyuge puede pedirme que regrese a esa persona y les advierto que no hable negativamente sobre ella a mí de nuevo.

· Nuestra casa será un hogar divino, todos los que viven aquí irán a la iglesia.

o Cualquier visitante de nuestra casa, a quien permitimos que viva con nosotros por cualquier período de tiempo y que elige no asistir a la iglesia, se le pedirá que se vaya.


Stop Playing “The Game”

One of my brothers called me one day. I could tell from his voice that he seemed stressed a bit. “You doing anything?” he asked. “Nope,” I answered, “just watching TV.” “Oh, he said, “I’m heading for a doctor’s appointment.” “Oh, yeah?” I responded, and added, “I hate doctor’s appointments.” He was quiet for a moment and said, “Yeah … I have to be there in an hour.” “Oh,” I said, “I guess you’d better hurry.” He was quiet again for a moment and then said, “Well, I guess I’d better let you get back to your TV, you wouldn’t want to miss anything important.” “Okay,” I answered, and we hung up.

Now, I hope you caught on that he was trying to get me to volunteer to take him to his doctor’s appointment. I caught on instantly at the time. Why? Because he is my brother. We come from the same mother, and, consequently, we learned many of the same bad habits and behaviors of hers. Worse than that, we all practiced these for most of our lives. The sad thing is that none of us, for so many years, even knew we were doing the same as her. All, of us siblings grew to dislike, loose respect for, and/or in a couple of cases (me included), we learned to hate her. From my personal point of view, it seemed for whole mission in life was to make her children miserable. And, in my case, she succeeded. Unfortunately, I still developed many of her manipulative idiosyncrasies, as did my brothers and sisters.

When my brother (the one I mentioned above) asked if I was “doing anything.” He really meant, “I want to know if you are available to do something for me?” It doesn’t even sound close to that does it? But, that is the way people who “play the game” speak. Instead of just directly asking you to do something for them, they will go around in circles with their language games trying to get you to say what they are trying to get across. In a weird sense, it gives them feeling of power. Yes, “power.” The “power,” or rather the ability to manipulate someone into doing something what you want without setting yourself up for rejection. In their minds, they do not notice that they are doing this. To them, it is just the normal way to approach someone from whom you want something, and then how to get them to volunteer on their own.

Why the need to get people to volunteer? Because they don’t want to feel like they owe anything. If they ask you to do something for them, in their minds, they now owe you a debt for what you did, even if it is just to say thank you. Even gratitude can be seen as a tool of manipulation from their perspective. If the “game” player can get you to volunteer then you will not have any means of controlling them, even if that is not your intention. From their perspective, you volunteered so they do not owe you anything. Their need of being in control will supersede their desire to obtain or gain what they need. Often, if they are unable to manipulate you into volunteering, they would rather lose out that to becoming indebted to you.

Along with this, even if you are unaware of what is happening, each time they manipulate you into volunteering, they take that as your conscious agreement for them to continue this unhealthy behavior. Where there are no consequences there is permission.Then, when you finally get around to saying no, they will become angry with you and take your right to decline to do what they want as an attack on them. They will interpret your refusal as a personal rejection, and, in turn, also take it as your conscious attempt to deprive them of something, or at the very least, to purposely make them unhappy. Your real motive for refusing, such as an emergency, illness, work, just not feeling like you want, and so forth, will be viewed as a thinly disguised excuse and therefore proving you are just being selfish and mean.

Once they walk away, whether or not they showed they were upset at your refusal, they will allow their anger smolder for a long time and build up bitterness toward you. You may encounter them at times and they may behave, at that moment at least, as though everything is all right, but inside they will be festering with their displeasure of your choice to refuse them something. Then on some unexpected day, you might call on them to help you (you know, because you helped them before right?), or to do something for you, and they will take this as an opportunity to punish you for what they believe you intentionally did against them. They will either agree to what you are requesting with the intention of not doing it, or they will make up some lame excuse that is clearly intended that you see it as a fake thing, or they simple say no to you. This will give them personal pleasure and a sense of having retaliated against you for your meanness. Of the three responses I mentioned above, the second two are intended as proof to you that they are in control of the situation, and to show you the consequences of refusing them their mostly unstated requests or demands. In the case of the first response (They will either agree to what you are requesting with no real intention of doing it), this one is the sneakiest. It is the most obvious of their punishments while still being subtle enough to be defended as nothing nefarious. They will agree to do something you request, or demand, but they do it in ways you did not want. For example:

1. They will start doing what you requested, and then some “emergency” or other circumstance will come up which will cause them to have to stop or leave, and they will never return to the task.

2. They will start doing what you requested, but they will began having trouble doing the task. They may “forget” your instructions, get them wrong, or, in other cases, purposely change them so that your task either fails or is not completed with their help.

3. They will start doing what you requested, but their work or efforts will be limited or slow in coming. This means they might choose to take all day on a task which may be done in a few minutes, or they will do only what you tell them to do, and not notice the obvious steps of the task, which will force you to have to be there with them while they do the task (two people to do the job of one), giving them instructions step by step. The goal with this response is to get you to understand that you should never call on them for help (because you were mean to them when you refused their request – a punishment of sorts).

4. They will “forget” that they promised to do something you requested or demanded of them. On the day, or at the time, of the expected task or favor for which you asked their help, they will be absent. After you contact them (they will probably never call youfirst) they will be surprised at your call or anger and tell you they simply forgot. They will seem profusely sincere in their voluminous apologies for not remembering, while the whole time loving that they punished you for your meanness and rejection of them.

5. They will have an “emergency.” This is not to be confused with a real emergency. Any “emergency” at this point will be contrived. For example, your “friend” or relative will realize that the time or date of your expected help from them has arrived. They might start an argument with their wife or husband. They will “forget” to put gasoline in the car.

As I hope you can see, this game requires participation on both parts; the “gamer” and the “victim.” The gamer is conscious of the game while the “victim,” may initially by clueless. But, with time (and that time does not need to be long), the “victim” is no longer a victim, they are active players in the game. What makes the game effective for the gamer is that the “victim” will continue to deny that they are active players, giving the gamer even more “power” over the “victim.” It takes two to keep a “game” going. The gamer can initiate and attempt to keep the game going, but if the “victim” does not play the game will end.

What steps can you take with a “gamer” to stop the “games” altogether? I am glad you asked. Establish healthy boundaries and do not break them for the gamer regardless of who he or she is, how much they complain or get angry, or whether you like them or not. Buy yourself a copy of the book, “Boundaries,” by doctors Cloud and Thompson, read it, and start applying healthy boundaries in your life. Choose to be happy.

“My Story”

The following is from an email sent to me by a precious person who also was a client of mine a while back. I wanted to share this story with you to give you a glimpse into the struggle that many Mexican immigrants have as they enter and live in the United States. I changed some details (names and such) which would identify the person, but the story is real. – @PastorJuan

Good evening Pastor Juan,

I just finished reading your post called “Open Letter to the Republican Party.”

Within the first couple of paragraphs, I could not help but cry. (You’re probably not surprised being that I cried almost every time I met with you for counseling.) I even stopped a few times and sobbed as I held my cry in so that my roommates would not hear me.

I believe that I did not read your post by coincidence, but it was sort of used to bring some healing, peace, comfort and strength into an area of my life that I had never shared with anyone so openly like I am about to do now.

When I met with you for counseling back in 2013, I briefly shared about a law that had been passed in 2012, a law that benefited people in a situation like mine. Due to the high opposing comments said from the pulpit of my former pastor, I felt that I could not accept the benefit because “it was wrong” like it was said. I mentioned it to you, and I think you said, something along the lines of “Why not?” Your words quickly encouraged me to go for it, to apply, and go through the process and eventually be granted DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

If you are not familiar with this program, it basically states that anyone who was brought by their parents to the U.S. before reaching 16 years of age, Entered Without Inspection (EIC) or Overstayed their Visas and was at least 31 years of age by August 12, 2012, could apply for Deferred Action and a work permit that is renewable every two years. Because of this, being granted DACA, the last four years of my life have changed quite a bit. As you know, I was able to save money, purchased my first car, got a new job, I got braces, I moved out, and I received an external scholarship for $29,000 that will help me finish my bachelors’ degree. The latter one was granted by millionaires who believed in people like me and decided to give us (me) a chance to study, since we are not allowed to obtain federal aid for school. But, it was not always easy to talk about who I am. Though I could talk to friends, high school mates and coworkers of where I came from, I have never actually mentioned how I got here.

Back in Mexico, sometime before 2000, I vaguely remember my parents talking about moving to “el otro lado” (the other side). They never really mentioned it to me or my sisters until a few days before we left Mexico. Though we had already visited in ’95 with our visas, it never crossed my mind that one day I would be living here. But, in July 2000, two months before my 13th birthday, I remember getting ready to go. One of the things that I clearly remember is using a shoebox that I neatly wrapped in two separate pieces to put all my belongings: posters of the Backstreet Boys, music cassettes, a tiny fairy toy doll that held glitter dust in a container under the skirt, a ring that was given to me by my parents when I started first grade, and a drawing I made of a house I dreamt to have. I also remember the morning when we left. It was early, though it was summer, there was a cool breeze my mom’s dad, who is (was) a U.S. citizen, picked us up in his long brown car. We drove up the street and I remember looking back, waving goodbye to my dad’s dad, Guelito (Grandpa), Tia (my aunt) who stayed the night to say goodbye, Tio (uncle) who lived up the street, and our neighbors, Tio (other uncle) and Tia (other aunt). I never once thought that I would never see some of them again, except through social media and one who would come visit every year.

Near the border, it was a nerve-racking and a different experience from the first time we visited the US. This time we were told “Si te preguntan a que vienes, diles que a visitar” (If they ask you why you are coming, say to visit). Though I was in my preteen years, somehow I knew I could not mess up

otherwise I would be in trouble. I also recall one of my Tias (aunts), who was also a resident in the States, taking my one-year-old sister before we crossed the border. I did not understand it then, but came to find out later that my sister did not have a visa, so she passed as if she were my Tia’s daughter with my cousin’s birth certificate. At checkpoint, I recall an officer; I would still recognize his face if I were to see him now. He looked at my passport and then looked intently at me; Nervousness pulsing through all of me as he asked me if I was the girl on the passport and I nodded. We crossed and made it to Houston, then three weeks later to Dallas to live with my dad’s sister.

From then on, I knew and grew up with a different mindset than from the kids who were born here in the States, but I did not know how difficult it was going to get, at least emotionally. The constant reminder of “fear the cops” as mom would throw herself back on the passenger seat when dad would drive by a police car. Or, hearing “joking” remarks about being “illegals” from relatives and even those in the church. Or, hearing indirect remarks of how they will not struggle in taking “us” to a trip if there are going to be checkpoints on the way. But, perhaps, the toughest one was, not being able to begin a normal teen life, such as applying for a learner’s permit or a driver’s license and apply for colleges and scholarships due to me not being a U.S Citizen.

I am not looking for pity. I have come to trust you, Pastor Juan, as the Lord has helped me in so many ways through your counsel.  I know that you receive my open heart in a very objective and helping way if I may say so, and, that is the reason why I can talk openly about this subject that had haunted me for quite a while.

I continue.

Fast-forward to this year, after DACA, and the many accomplishments I have been able to fulfill because of it, I cannot help but feel so much gratefulness toward those who believed in me. The day I received the email that congratulated me on receiving the scholarship, guess what happened? Yes, I bawled! I was in doubt; I did not think that they would want a woman of my age using their money. However, I guess they liked what I wrote on those essays, saw my accomplishments and grades, and believed in me. I truly believe the Lord fulfilled those desires I had back when I was 18: getting a driver’s license, finishing college and moving out of my parent’s home, as some of my friends did when they got out of high school.

However, again, the reason why I wrote to you is that I wanted to share my story and share the fear that was in me if ever I was to share this with anyone. I was afraid of being rejected, being called out, being an outcast, being seen as inferior. Hey, there are times when you think your own Raza (race/people) will stick up for you, but it is not always like that.  I saw it many times when my dad was underpaid (even by relatives or other Latinos), and he could not say a thing, otherwise they would threaten to stop giving him work.  I remember seeing tears of frustration. Something that he hardly does, as he is not very open with his feelings and emotions.

Back to DACA, I do not know if you are aware but there are 10 states that are being led by Texas’ Attorney General and they are pressuring the president to end the program, just as he said he would when he was campaigning. Since then, president Trump has warmed up a bit to us (immigrants) and has not decided, but the 10 states made it clear that they wanted an answer by September 5th or else they would take it to court. There are also two Senators, one from Illinois and one for South Carolina who want to introduce a bill that would give us permanent residency, given that we’ve been good citizens through DACA.

One of the many things that I learned while counseling with you and in my own experiences and times with the Lord, is that no matter what, I will be okay, because the Lord is with me. I have learned that it is appropriate to prepare for unforeseen circumstances, but I learned not to allow, “What could be,” to shake my peace and control my present decisions to the point that it brings me down to fear and doubt. If anything, I know that no matter what, the Lord will guide me and take care of what I need, just as He has in the past no matter the outcome. Nevertheless, I think deep down there were certain fears and emotions that I bottled deep down in me, which is the reason why I bawled while I read your post.

Last week, the scholarship board sent a questionnaire for us awardees to fill out. Some of the questions asked to share our story however open we wanted to be; I did not share much as I did with you just now. But, one of the questions went along the lines of “What would you say to those in office would like to stop DACA?” And, just as you described Latinos on your post, I described myself as who I am. Hard worker, wanting to give back to a country that although does not recognize me as a citizen, I consider myself as one because I have lived here longer than I have been alive.

This is all I know (more than any Mexican history), this is where I grew up and became who I am now. And, I do not feel entitled to anything as might some people who were born here, but I feel privileged to be here. It is always an honor to pledge allegiance to a flag that although is not from the country I was born in, I am prideful to recite what it stands for: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And, like I told them on my answer, any time I am at a ball game, I cannot help but secretly shed tears and truly pray the song “God bless America” because I truly love Her, knowing that anything that happens to it, happens to people who live here who came from all parts of the world, to friends, to relatives, to me, to my family (and future family.) To people who struggled to be here, to find hope, safety and the American dream. I told them this and now that I have shared my story with you, I feel this huge weight lifted from me.

Thank you, Pastor Juan, for taking the time to read my story. All I wanted was to pour it out on someone and I know it fell on good ears.

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.



Getting Lost in the Story

ListeningNew counselors have one bad habit they must work on to become better counselors. They must learn not to get lost in the story.  By this I mean that the counselor will get so focused on what the client tells them is going on, or that the counselor begins to side with one person over the other. In either case, the counselor has become less effective as of that moment. Good and healthy counseling requires that the counselor be objective when dealing with opposing points of view. When the counselors chooses sides, they are no longer the best counselor in the case. As well, when the counselor gets all focused in the client’s story, he or she is in danger of choosing sides, or at the very least, may start jumping to conclusions before he or she has all the needed data.

Getting lost in the story means that the counselor is so wrapped up in the details of the client’s complaint or arguments that the counselor loses sight of what is more important. The important thing is that counselors need to listen for clues and symptoms which will help them identify what the root problem may be. The goal of all counselors must always be to find out what is going on wrong with the client’s life, not just what the client says is wrong. This way the counselor can better help the client find the answers they actually need as compared to the answers they want.

Counseling 1As well, when the counselor gets “lost in the story,” he or she limits themselves in scope as to what questions they will ask of the client. This is extremely important because if the counselor is already jumping to conclusion early on, they will not ask questions they need to ask to get data which will better help them to find the real problem, and therefore the real solution.

As an example, one counselor had a client who presented with the complaint that her husband was abusive and violent. The counselor, also a female who had suffered a bad relationship with a husband in her past, immediately began notifying the client of her legal options. As the counselor continued questioning the client, along the lines of the “abuse,” the client began to become uncomfortable. The counselor counseled the client that she should meet with a lawyer and consider divorce proceedings. The client responded negatively to the counselor, “I don’t want to lose my marriage!” The counselor was suddenly confused, “But … you told me that your husband was abusive to you?” “Yes, I mean, No,” responded the client, “He sometimes gets really angry, but he is not that bad.” “But, you said he hurt you,” responded the counselor. “Well, yea, he did push me, but that was after I started hitting him,” said the client. “You, were hitting him!?” asked the counselor, quite stumped, “Why?” “Because he was not listening to me,” said the client, now starting to cry. “oh,” said the counselor, now catching on to what was actually going on, “Do you mean that he was not listening to you, or not agreeing with you?” “Well, yea,” said the client sheepishly, “He was not agreeing with me, so I hit him.”

It is the responsibility of the counselor to stay on point. it would have been easy for the counselor above to quickly conclude that the husband was some mean ogre who needs to be dealt with immediately.  Instead the counselor found that both persons were in the wrong. It is this important ability, that of paying attention to the details and searching for the real problem, which will actually help the client with their issues.

Staying on point means asking questions, even when you think you know the real problem. It is important for counselors to verify whether they actually have concluded correctly. Let me make the point clearer this way. When a client comes to a counselor the present a case. This means they explain their point of view on what they believe to be the problem. When a client presents they are making an argument. No, I don’t mean they are arguing, they are making an argument, sort of like a lawyer in a court setting.  Counselors, in a manner of speaking, must become judges, which after hearing the arguments must make a concluding decision.

 If the counselor pays attention to the argument, and verifies or disproves the premise, then he or she will come to a more likely correct conclusion, and therefore a better means of helping the client. 

There are two types of arguments, deductive and inductive. The first refers to arguments made using facts which can be verified, and the latter refers to arguments which are based on opinion. Clients tend to argue inductively, their arguments are heavily colored by their emotions. Counselors have to wade through facts and opinions, stated and unstated assumptions, relevance, biases, personal perspectives, and the truth. All of this means that the counselor must pay attention. Not just to the client, but also to what, and how,  the client says and does not say.

To come to correct conclusions, the counselor must understand premises. Premises supply the evidence on which an argument is based. For example, a client might argue that she believes her husband is having an affair. This is a premise. The counselor’s job is to verify the premise. This is done by asking the client questions which help to either confirm the premise or to prove it erroneous. In this example, the counselor might ask the client what evidence she has which cause her to come to the conclusion. Lets say she tells the counselor that she saw her husband speaking with a woman at work. The counselor would likely tell the client that this alone is not sufficient evidence to reach the conclusion her husband is having an affair. Then lets add that the client continues, “But, I have text of her contacting him on his cell!” The counselor reads the text and it reads, “Hi, Jack, thanks for your help, I appreciate it very much. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The counselor will ask the client, “what did she mean be ‘tomorrow?'” The client might answer, “They work at the same place, I think she was the woman with whom I saw him speaking.” The counselor would likely state that the evidence, so forth, still does not seem to imply the husband is having an affair. Realizing that the client’s argument is not supporting her premise, the counselor could then question her real reason for her fears.

If the counselor pays attention to the argument, and verifies or disproves the premise, then he or she will come to a more likely correct conclusion, and therefore a better means of helping the client. This may seem a bit involved, but for the counselor which wants to be the best counselor possible, learning new techniques and skills is valuable. I hope this may have encouraged you to take a course in Critical Thinking. It will be the best thing you can do to improve your communication skills as a counselor.

Unconditional Love? … I’d Rather You Liked Me.

The-Flip-Side-of-LoveWe are instructed to “love” one another, but we don’t have to like anybody. In the Bible, the word used as love has three Greek meanings; Eros, Phileo, and Agape. I will not go into all the translation details in this article. You can “Google” “Greek words for love” and get plenty of information on the subject. My point, though, is to emphasize that there is no one way to “love” others, and that depending on the way you are “loving” someone else, there are conditions.

In my 30 years of counseling people, I have heard countless of times how much couples “love” each other. Men who physically and emotionally abuse their wives will argue about how much they “love” them. Wives who committed adultery will, after they get caught, cry about how much they “love” their husbands.

According to Holman’s Concise Bible Commentary, love is an “undivided allegiance and unswerving obedience” to God. This definition of love does not involve a person’s emotions as the determining factor. But, there is a clear object of this “love,” it belongs to God alone. The question I am dealing with today is not about our “love” for God, but, rather, in how we feel about one another as humans. The question is are we expected to love one another “unconditionally?” Keep in mind that I used Dictionay.Com’s definition of the word. “Conditionally – imposing, containing, subject to, or depending on a condition or conditions; not absolute; made or allowed on certain terms: conditional acceptance.” Therefore, if someone will or might benefit from something they do, then there was a condition. I searched the Bible to find any reference which would lead me to believe that I was to love someone else “unconditionally,” and I came up with zero verses.

On the other hand, I also searched the Bible for any references which would, at least, give the impression that some condition was tied to loving someone else, and came up with a bunch. For example, let’s look at, Matthew 5:43-45 (NASB), “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” I added the bolding, underline, and italics to emphasize the condition for “loving” our enemies. (See also Luke 6:32) Notice the very next verse, Matthew 5:46a (NASB) “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” Did you get that? Why mention a, “reward,” if loving our neighbor is to be done “unconditionally?” Doesn’t “unconditionally” mean you are not supposed to get, or look forward to, a reward?

God understands that humans are driving by selfishness. Even those of us who have learned to also be selfless, still deal with some selfishness. God understands that when we humans are rewarded for what we do, we are more likely to continue to repeat the behavior.

Let’s also look at Matthew 19:19 (NASB) “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” Did you notice the condition? “As yourself,” it said. Not just “love” your neighbor, but love him or her as you would show that “love” toward yourself, that is the condition in this case. It means you have to evaluate how you “love” yourself. Identify what you do which demonstrates love for yourself, and then do the same for others. That is conditional “love.” There is a principle which will help us better understand this concept, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” If you do not “love” yourself, then you will have a difficult time trying to “love” someone else. You must first “love” yourself, and see the benefits, so that then you can give it to others.

Human “love” is almost always some emotional soup made up of distorted perspectives, selfish desires, and mixed in with self-serving manipulation and abusive control over the object of one’s affections.

Do you get it now? No? You want more proof? Okay, let’s look at Luke 7:41-42 (NASB), “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” The obvious answer is the one who owed the most money. Why? Because this “love,” which the Bible recognizes as affected by human feelings, is swayed by the condition by which it is promoted. See, the Bible understands that people’s love is likely conditional.

Confused LoveThis word “love,” in the Greek, has different connotations, for example in Luke 11:42 ((NASB), “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”), it is the Greek word: ἀγάπη. Transliterated it means: agape. The definition is: love, goodwill, and is used in the New Testament 116 times. On the other hand, the Greek NASB Number: 25 (John 8:42 (NASB) Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.), used as love is: ἀγαπάω. The have the same root, from which the words come from, but this one is transliterated as the word: agapaô. Its definition is: to love, and is used 143 times in the New Testament. The first word “agape,” is used to mean, “Doing good unto others, because you want to do the good.” The second word, agapaô, is used to mean, “An emotional attraction and desire for something.” Between the two, the closest one which could be considered as unconditional is the first, “agape.” But, even then, the person is “loving” others because he or she wants to, this means that their feelings, motivation, and/or desired outcome affects their “love.” These feelings, motivation, and/or desired outcome is the condition upon which this “love” is based.

You see? Love is not unconditional with humans, nor does God expect it of us. But, my goal in this article was not to argue against “unconditional” love. I have a different objective, I want to argue in favor of another word used for love in the Bible, “Phileô.” This word is Greek NASB Number: 5368, φιλέω. It is transliterated as the word: phileô. The definition is: “to love,” and is used only 25 times in the New Testament. The meaning of the word is better understood by replacing the word “love” with “like.” Yes, I mean, “Like!”

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines the word like as, “to enjoy (something), to get pleasure from (something), to regard (something) in a favorable way, to feel affection for (someone): to enjoy being with (someone).” The great majority of the time, when people use the word “love,” they are actually using this definition. We use it for, “I love hamburgers,” or “I love my dog,” or “I love my wife,” or “I love writing long boring articles.” In either case, we are not really meaning “agape” or “agapaô.” We are really saying, “Phileô.”


I was counseling with a couple once where the wife found out her husband was having an affair. When she threatened to divorce him, he agreed to come to counseling. I asked him why his wife should even consider staying with him, he argued that he loved his wife!”

In my 30 years of counseling people, I have heard countless of times how much couples “love” each other. Men who physically and emotionally abuse their wives will argue about how much they “love” them. Wives who committed adultery will, after they get caught, cry about how much they “love” their husbands. Parents who have physically (and sometimes sexually) abused their children, will then turn around and adamantly claim “love” for the children. I will often have couples in my counseling office, who will spend an hour or two accusing each other of horrendous things, calling each other names, putting each other down, blaming each other for countless of wrongdoings, and when I ask them why they even want to be with the other person, they say the “love” them. There is no way they are saying they, “agape” or “agapaô” the other person. What they are saying is they “Phileô” the other person. In other words, they want the other person around, because they have some level of like for them. If you really “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”) someone, you don’t do things on purpose which can damaged them.

Chicho - LoveWhat is the one main factor in why marriages fail? Most people will say that it is because people stopped “loving” each other. I disagree. I believe that the real reason marriages fail is because one or both of the two stopped “liking” each other. Real “love” develops over time, or it is done intentionally, as in, by obeying God. “Love” at first sight is a lie which has deceived many couples into relationships which turned out terrible. The truth is that we can have “like” at first sight, and then get to know each other and start learning to “love” one another with time. True “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”) has a condition, and that is that the one who “loves” does so with the intention of giving the other the fullest benefit. In other words, that the “love” results not be solely selfish in actuality. For example, when a young man says he loves a young woman, is he saying, “I want to do for her all that will be in her best interest, even if that means she won’t end up with me? (“agape” or “agapaô”), or is he saying, “I want her to be with me, because it will make me happy? (“Phileô”). Everyone reading this article, will know that he really means that second kind of “love” (in other words, “like”) right?

I am a counselor, I don’t lie to, or deceive, myself as much as I am able. Just because people use certain words, it does not mean they actually mean what they say. Truthfully, most people say one thing but mean something else. In their own minds they know what they intend to say, but the will choose words which say something different. For example, I went to visit a friend, a while back, when I knocked on his door he yelled out “It’s open!” I glanced at the door and it was not open. I responded to him indicating the truth. He yelled again, “Yes, pastor, it is open!” I glanced back at the door and saw clearly that it was shut and that it was not even slightly ajar, much less actually open. I stood at the door waiting. He walked to the door and opened it, and the said, “See, it was open.” “No,” I said, “You opened it.” “No,” he said, “I meant that it was unlocked.” I smiled and said, “Why didn’t you just say that?” “I did,” he said grinning, “I said it was open.” If you look up the word “open” in the dictionary, you will see that it does not define “open” to mean “unlocked.” He was saying one thing, while he clearly meant something else.”

People who really like you will not willingly
make choices which will harm you.
Scary Love

Do You See How MUCH I Love You!!!!!!!

The word “love” is the same. People use the word, but, more often than not, they really mean “like.” When most people define the word “love,” they mean something like, “I want, I need, she or he is mine, it makes me feel good, I should not be deprived of it,” and so on. Human “love” is almost always some emotional soup made up of distorted perspectives, selfish desires, and mixed in with self-serving manipulation and abusive control over the object of one’s affections. Too many times human’s “love” is displayed by jealousy, abuse, violence, and traumatic behavior. Why? Because, they are not actually speaking of “love” (“agape” or “agapaô”), they are speaking of something which has no resemblance to real “love,” any more than a duck resembles and dog.

On the other hand, one thing I don’t see in my counseling office, is a couple who is there because they are having problems because the “like” (“Phileô”) each other. When people “like” someone they go out of their way to spend time with that person. They miss that person when they are apart. They look forward to those times they spend together. A couple who is dating (and also “like” (“Phileô”) one another), write poems to each other, buy flowers for each other, will sacrifice time with friends to be with each other, will spend lots of time talking about practically nothing, just to be with each other, they care how they dress, smell, and look to each other, and so forth.

Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Treasures are those things which we consider important to us. If your wife or husband is your treasure, your desire is for them. You want them to like you, because you like them. “Phileô” (“love” that is really “like”) is an emotional choice to desire someone or something. People who “Phileô” each other tend to stay together much better than people who just claim to “love” each other.

I was counseling with a couple once where the wife found out her husband was having an affair. When she threatened to divorce him, he agreed to come to counseling. I asked him why his wife should even consider staying with him, he argued that he loved his wife!” I asked him two questions, “If you had not been caught, would you have already quit seeing the other woman by now?” and “Were you loving your wife while you were having sex with the other woman?” He just sat there silently, because he knew the truth, and he didn’t want to make things worse. If that is love, I sure don’t want any part of that. On the other hand, I asked the wife why she wanted to try to save the marriage. “I love him,” she said, “I know that he was wrong, and I know that he deserves for me to divorce him, but I want to give him a chance to prove to me that he really loves me by making the necessary changes.” Now that, dear reader, is love. She was willing to make a sacrifice and take a chance he would just hurt her again, solely because if it worked, it was the best thing for the relationship.

So, what was my point to begin with? Well, it is this. I would rather that people liked me than “loved” me. People who claim to “love” you, too many times, are actually referring to a conditionally motivated, self-serving, self-satisfying, and ego-centric, emotion. On the other hand, when people truly like each other they want to spend time with each other, spend time speaking with each other, treat each other with respect, do enjoyable things with each other, and so on. Someone can “love” you and abuse you, attack you, lie to you, manipulate you, control you, be unfaithful to you, be jealous of you, fool you, and so on. People who really like you will not willingly make choices which will harm you.

There is no such thing as “unconditional love,” even God has a condition for His love (“agape” or “agapaô”), regarding us, He wants to end up with His children in eternity with Him. God does not “love” us just for the heck of it, with no intention, desire, motivation, or personal benefit from that “love.” He wants something for that “love.” He wants you.jesus_wants_you

Conflict Resolution, Before or After?

Conflict is best resolved when two persons are able to communicate their separate concerns and together are able to reach compromises which work in the favor of the relationship. The question is, “Do I want to win, or do I want us to win?”

The difference is demonstrated by the approach that a person takes, when dealing with the issue of conflict. There are two options which will produce very different results:

  1. The Fireman Approach – waiting for a fire and using various techniques of putting out the fire.
  2. The Fire Marshall Approach – identify circumstances which could lead to a fire, and take preemptive action to avoid the fire altogether.

Most people take the first option, waiting for some problem to start working at resolving it. The problem with the Fireman Approach is that you have had a fire. Fires damage things, and sometimes even to the point of total loss. And as with real fires, sometimes the only real solution is that you may have to tear down the complete structure, to be able to build a new one in its place. In human terms, concerning relationships, this means that the couple has a greater chance of ending up in divorce.

Another danger with real fires is that even if the structure itself is not complete destroyed, the loss of personal items, many which will never be replaced, can impose a major emotional trauma on people. Relationships can have the same result; the couple may resolve some traumatic event in their relationship with each other (such as an adulterous affair), and still have linger circumstances which might remain for the duration of their marriage (the loss of full confidence in each other).

Taking the Fireman Approach to a relationship, means that the couple is not willing to commit themselves to the task of learning how to identify possible problems, work out solutions in advance, and then comply with the expectations as agreed. The Fire Marshall Approach requires that type of commitment. A Fire Marshall can inspect a home or building, and identify any situation or circumstance which may possibly lead to a fire, and offer steps which may be taken to avert the possibility of a real fire.


I call it the Marital Agreement Process.

The idea here is for the couple to identify areas of conflict in the past, and establish agreements that can prevent the same behavior, on the part of both, in the future.

  1. Select an issue, problem or a topic of concern (money issues, relatives, sex, friends, people of the opposite sex, etc.).
  2. Discuss the intended outcome; what you think should happen in that circumstance or situation in the future.
  3. One of you offer a possible solution (I.e. “We could agree to do things this way at those times.”)
  4. If the other disagrees, they should offer a compromise (i.e. “What if we did this instead …?”)
  5. If the first person still is unsure, they could offer another compromise (i.e. “That’s better but I see a problem, what about this…?”)
  6. Once both agree on the intention of the agreement, it needs to be written down on paper.
  7. Once written, someone needs to read it out loud. The purpose is to listen to the words.
  8. Is there a loop-hole somewhere in there?
    1. Are there words that may have different meaning to each of you?
    2. Does the agreement bring up other questions?
    3. Do you both find the agreement acceptable?
    4. Can either of you think of any reasons (good ones) for violating that agreement?
    5. Do both of you give your word that you will comply with this agreement?
  9. If you find any loop-holes, then either change the written agreement until there is no loop-hole, or add an additional agreement that would cover the loop-hole.
  10. If there are any words that could mean different things to each of you, then write down the words and define the meaning that both of you agree upon.
  11. If the written agreement prompt other questions, then either correct the agreement to deal with them, or save them for later to deal with separately.
  12. Do not make any one agreement too long and convoluted. It is better to have several short and to the point statements.
  13. If either of you can think of any (good) reasons for violating any agreement, bring it up now. Later on you will be seen as a liar who should not be trusted.
  14. Once you have reviewed the written agreement, understand it, and agree with it, go on to the next agreement.

Each of you should have their own “copy” of the agreement. Neither of you is responsible for reminding the other of the agreements. Each person is responsible for keeping his or her own word. But, both of you are responsible for imposing consequences on the one who violates an agreement.

The issue is TRUST. The consequence needs to reflect the same. Each time trust is violated the consequence must be bigger and longer lasting than before.

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!

8 Marital Principles That Can Work, Starting Today

Are you struggling with that hard-headed husband who seems to never grow up? Does your wife sometimes make you wish you weren’t married? Does he constantly make promises and then not keep his word? Has she been going on spending binges, when you have bills that have not been paid? Are you unhappy with the way some things are in your marriage? Today you will get answers that CAN force change in your married life, if you’re brave enough to use them.



While it is true that one person can do something that is obvious to hurt their marriage, it is also true that the other person does NOT do something that they could have to keep the bad behavior from continuing.

DOING SOMETHING does NOT mean: crying, nagging, screaming, cussing, locking yourself in your room, praying and praying, wishing things were different, complaining to friends and relatives, lying about what happened,  making excuses for him, hoping things will get better,

Those things may be expressions of your feelings, but they are NOT ACTIONS.

When a wrong is committed, ACTION means you allow the violator to suffer a consequence; see the second principle for more explanation.

If there has been violence in the marriage for some time That means that the one being violated has NOT called the police, separated and possibly considered divorce
Most of the time when she does call the police She will also be the one who bails him out of jail the next day, and then won’t press charges
If one commits adultery The other will tend to forgive without the violator suffering any real consequence
If one deceives the other (lying, keeping harmful secrets from, doing something that can harm without telling, etc.) The other usually gets mad for a little while and then acts as though nothing happened.
When other people find out that one spouse has been abusive The other will defend the violator, lie to the people, and hide the truth of the abuse.
One of the spouses does not do their part in the care of the home and marriage The other tends to just get angry and nag.


Every time that your spouse does something that is not acceptable, they must suffer a consequence. This will teach them not to repeat the unacceptable behavior.

What is NOT a consequence? What IS a consequence?
Nagging is NOT a consequence. The possibility of really losing something they do not want to lose.
Telling them off is NOT a consequence. If you stop doing something they want you to do (i.e. sex, massaging, paying attention to them).
Crying is NOT a consequence. If you make them do for themselves things you have been doing for them.
Complaining is NOT a consequence. If you separate for a day or two.
Showing them the error of their ways is NOT a consequence. If you separate for a long period of time.
Reminding them is NOT a consequence. A consequence is when someone is about to lose something they do not want to lose if they keep up their unacceptable behavior.
Pouting is NOT a consequence.
Screaming is NOT a consequence. A real consequence has REAL results.
Yelling at them is NOT a consequence. IN OTHER WORDS, A CONSEQUENCE HURTS.
Threatening is NOT a consequence.


A personal boundary is like a rule you give yourself that you will follow if a particular thing happens. Below are examples of personal boundaries:

Personal Boundary The Action I Will Take
If someone cusses in my presence I will leave the area or end the conversation
If my spouse commits adultery I will separate from them until they get counseling and make character changes in themselves
If my spouse physically assaults me (hits) I will call the police and press charges, and will separate from my spouse until they get counseling and make character changes in themselves
If my spouse make fun of my food I will stop cooking until they promise not to do that again
If my spouse promises something and does not keep his or her word I will choose not to trust them again until they prove they will stop lying, and I will stop being intimate with them until then
If someone take advantage of me I will cut off the relationship until they prove (not just say) that they will not repeat their actions
If someone lies to me I will not believe anything that say again, until I see a change in them
If my spouse repeatedly (more than once) hurts my feelings on purpose I may choose to leave home for a day or two, or until he or she apologizes and promises not to do it again.
If I find that my spouse has a friend of the opposite sex that I am not aware of I will consider it the same as adultery and follow the same steps
If I learn that my spouse has committed crimes I will separate from them until they resolve the legal matters.
If my spouse does not want to go to church I will go without them, in obedience to my Lord




Have clear and written rules for your marriage, home, and children.

Proverbs 29:18 (NASB) “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.”

Everyone and everything that wants to succeed has rules they live by.

Businesses Policies and procedures; employee handbooks; job descriptions
United States of America Constitution of the United States, and Articles of Independence
Society State laws; county regulations; city ordinances
Gangs Gang rules that members have to follow
God His Word; the Bible
Married couples Little to none
Homes rules Little to none
  • Most of society’s problems come from persons who were brought up in homes without clear and fair rules.
  • Most marriages in the United States end up in divorce within two years, due to the lack of clear and understood goals and objectives. Example: If you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know how to get there.
  • True Marriage and Home rules are written down on paper.

Only a fool argues that you don’t have to write down rules.

  • Businesses do, The USA does, Society does, many gangs do, and especially God did.
  • Everyone and everything that wants to succeed writes down their rules and follows them.



Ephesians 5:21 (NASB) “and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Your wife has the RIGHT to do Anything You Do.

  • If you check out other women, they should be able to check out other men.
  • If you daydream about other women, they should be able to daydream about other men.
  • If you flirt with other women, they should be able to flirt with other men.
  • And so on. Right?

Ephesians 5:23 (NASB) “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.”

Ephesians 5:25-28 (NASB) “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.”

What does it mean to be the Head of the wife?

  1. You are to serve as her example in everything; 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB) “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

You should be able to say to your wife:

“You have the right to behave like I do, mess up like I do, lie to me if I lie to you, don’t do things for me if I won’t do things for you, don’t give me attention if I don’t give you attention, and don’t show me love if I don’t show you love. Imitate me in the same way that I imitate Christ. If I am just fooling like I’m imitating Christ, then you also have the right to fool me.”

The way in which a husband is subject to his wife is that he makes himself accountable to her to judge his actions, and then for her to make decisions based on those actions.




What is submission?

  • Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that a wife is supposed to obey her husband.
  • True submission is when a person already knows what is expected of him or her and goes about doing it without having to be instructed to do so.
  • Waiting until someone tells you to do something is called obedience.
  • While submission is part of obedience, obedience is not part of submission.

Submission is always done to an authority.

  • Submit to your pastor
  • Submit to your leaders.
  • Submit to the elected officials and laws of the United States.
  • Submit to Christ.

If the person violates his authority, he has no authority to which to submit.

  • If a police officer commits a crime, he or she loses their authority as a Peace Officer. We do not have to submit to them.
  • If the husband is fulfilling his authority in Christ by living according to His word, then the wife must submit to her own husband in obedience to God.
  • If the husband violates his authority, then the wife is to obey God and wait until her husband starts to fulfill his authority again.

The mistreatment of the wife.

Malachi 2:13-16 (NASB) “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit. And what did that one do while he was seeking a godly offspring? Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”

God hates the mistreatment of the wife.

A woman is never expected to submit to a man who is violating and mistreating her. But she is instructed to submit (willingly follow and support) her husband who is loving her and caring for her (Ephesians 5:25-28 [NASB]).



Women say and men do.

Women tend to express their feelings by verbalizing their emotions concerning things that bother them.

Men tend to express the feelings by acting out and behaving in one manner or another.

  • If a woman tells you that she will change and that she will behave differently, she most likely means it, but she will convince herself that just saying it is the same as doing it.
  • If a man tells you that he will change and that he will behave differently, he most likely knows it is not really the truth, but he wants you to believe it is just because he said so.


The truth is in the actions

  • Stop listening to what they say, or what they tell you is true.
  • Pay attention to what they do, and the results of their actions.
  • If your spouse does something new just one time, or a few times, there has still been no change.
  • If your spouse has been doing the new thing for 3 to 6 months consistently, MAYBE then it might mean he or she really is changing. Notice I said changing, not changed.


Actually, it is the result of their actions that are true.

  • If they promise something and don’t keep their word, they are lying.
  • They say they believe something, but they do the opposite, they are lying.
  • If they say they’ll TRY to keep their word, they are lying.
  • If they actually keep their word, they’re telling the truth.
  • If they actually do what they say they were going to do, they are telling the truth.
  • If they say they believe something and actually live according to that, they are telling the truth.

Don’t get distracted by your spouse’s sincerity. Don’t listen to their words. Watch their actions, that’s where the truth will be found and obvious.

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.

– – – – –

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.