Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling

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Top Ten Trends in Biblical Counseling from 2000-2009
Part 2: Trends 5-1

Note: For Part 1 and trends 10-6, please visit here:

It’s hard to believe that the first decade of the 21st century has come and gone.

As the decade ends, I’ve been pondering the top ten positive trends over the past ten years in biblical counseling.

It’s exciting to reflect on what God is doing as He empowers His Church.

Enjoy trends five-to-one (in reverse order to heighten the anticipation!). And please join the conversation and let me know what your selections would be.

5. Culturally-Informed Approaches

There was a time when “modern biblical counseling” consisted of “a bunch of white guys.” Thankfully, the “movement” is maturing due to the contributions of a growing multiethnic group of women and men. Elyse Fitzpatrick (, Lucy Ann Moll (, and Susan Ellis ( are just three examples of women leading the way in biblical counseling. Pastor Deepak Reju of Nine Marks Ministries (, Dr. Elias Moitinho (, Pastor Dwayne Bond (, and the Black African American Association of Christian Counselors (BAACC) ( are representatives of a multiethnic group of individuals and associations promoting biblical counseling.

My own books, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction (, and Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith ( each seek to teach biblical counseling from a multicultural perspective. There’s also an encouraging movement of international biblical counseling with Wayne Vanderweir’s Overseas Instruction in Counseling ( being just one such examples.

4. Comprehensive Models

Once upon a time, biblical counseling could be labeled one-dimensional with a focus on combating the impact of the fall/sin on human nature. Today, biblical counseling comprehensively examines creation (understanding people from God’s original design), fall (diagnosing problems resulting from sin), and redemption (prescribing God’s solutions through our salvation and sanctification in Christ). Models also formerly tended to highlight the behavioral aspects of growth in grace. Today they emphasize our relational (spiritual, social, and self-aware), rational (images and beliefs), volitional (motivational and behavioral), emotional, and physical nature in a comprehensive manner. Eric Johnson’s Foundations for Soul Care (, and my work Soul Physicians ( are just two examples of books written in the past ten years to offer comprehensive theological foundations for biblical counseling.

3. Progressive Sanctification Focus

Current models of biblical counseling have made great progress in teaching that the counseling process is simply a sub-set of the discipleship process, both of which God designs to assist us to grow in grace. The National Association of Nouthetic Counselors (NANC) ( has spent the past decade equipping pastors and lay people to assist God’s people in the progressive sanctification process. The mission of the BCSFN is to link biblical counseling and spiritual formation to develop theological models and methodological approaches leading to progressive sanctification.

2. Sufficiency of Scripture Emphasis

Rather than harp on what’s wrong with other models, over the past ten years there has been an increasing focus on the sufficiency, relevancy, profundity, and authority of God’s Word for Christian living. David Powlison’s Seeing with New Eyes ( and Speaking Truth in Love, Michael Emlet’s Cross Talk (, and my Spiritual Friends ( all practice the sufficiency of Scripture by teaching why and how to saturate biblical counseling with scriptural explorations and spiritual conversations

1. Christ-Centered Purpose

Biblical counseling over the past ten years has re-committed itself to the primary purpose of glorifying Christ. It’s all about Him. For instance, the use of Scripture to assist one another to grow in grace (progressive sanctification) has as its final goal helping one another to exalt and enjoy Christ now and forever. Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Counsel from the Cross ( exemplifies Gospel-centered biblical counseling.

We can bring together these top ten trends of the past ten years to offer one working definition of biblical counseling.

Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit to relate God’s inspired truth about people, problems, and solutions to human suffering (through the Christian soul care arts of sustaining and healing) and sin (through the Christian spiritual direction arts of reconciling and guiding) to empower people to exalt and enjoy God and to love others (Matthew 22:35-40) by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ and the Body of Christ.

Join the Conversation

What top trends would you add to this list?

What individuals, groups, and books would you add to trends 5-1?

In 75 words or less, how would you define biblical counseling?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Going Rogue

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Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin
Book Review by Bob Kellemen

Book Details

*Author: Sarah Palin (with Lynn Vincent)
*Publisher: HarperCollins(2009)
*Category: Autobiography, Politics
*ISBN and Length: 978-0061997877, 413 Pages

Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships, and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. Find all of Bob’s book reviews, blogs, books, and free resources at

Recommended: Going Rogue offers Sarah Palin’s fast-paced, well-written, personal account of her American life from her relative obscurity in Alaska to her meteoric rise as John McCain’s vice-presidential candidate.

Review: Living the American Dream

Reviewing Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue: An American Life must be an American pastime. Within three weeks of publication, Amazon.Com already lists 536 reviews. No surprise, given that as of December 6, 2009, it remains Amazon’s number one best seller, and perhaps the most talked about autobiography since Bill Clinton’s mammoth My Life.

What Others Are Saying

I find many of the reviews, along with the comments and criticisms of the “liberal pundits,” to be almost laughable. Many complain that Going Rogue is “self-serving.” Such a statement is not a book review; it’s a judgment of the motives of the heart. Ironic, isn’t it, that those who claim Sarah Palin is a “judgmental Evangelical” turn around and judge her motives?

Others grumble that Going Rogue is “self-focused” or overly “self-referential.” Pardon me for being a tad slangish, but “Duh!” “Hello!” It is, after all, an autobiography. Read Bill Clinton’s My Life (all 957 pages) and guess what, it’s self-referential. The same is true of Hillary Clinton’s Living History and of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father. Yes, by definition, an autobiography offers an individual’s personal slant on their life, perspective, beliefs, and impact.

The Foreshadowing: Living the American Dream

Being a political biography and autobiography “junkie,” I didn’t know what to expect when my copy of Going Rogue arrived. I’ve read autobiographies that creep along at a terminally slow pace. Not so, Going Rogue. Palin’s writing is fast-paced and captivating. (Yes, she has a collaborator, Lynn Vincent, which is common-place in such political autobiographies. However, the fact that Sarah Palin is a college-educated journalism major also likely has much to do with how well-written her autobiography is.)

Palin begins by foreshadowing the rest of the book.

She’s zig-zagging from booth to booth at the 2008 Alaskan state-fair, her four-month-old son, Trig, in her arms, Piper, her seven-year-old daughter her constant companion. Her phone rings and it’s John McCain asking if she “wanted to help him change history.”

From state fair to world politics. From babe-in-arms to fighting for the life of the unborn. From the obscurity of the Alaskan outback to the notoriety of vice-presidential candidate. Hers is “an American life”—where an individual can rise from a working-class home and work her way from city council, to major’s office, to governor of the largest state, to a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the land.

Her American Life

From there, Palin transports her readers back in time to February 11, 1964, the day she was born in Sandpoint, Idaho. Within three months, her family is moving to the remote frontier town of Skagway, Alaska.

Palin tells the revealing story of her first attempt to fly. Four-years-old, she leaps off the wooden plank sidewalk. Her description is metaphoric for her life.

“I got to thinking: I had seen eagles and dragonflies and ptarmigan fly, but I had never seen a person fly. That didn’t make any sense to me. Hadn’t anyone ever tried it before? Why couldn’t someone just propel herself up into the air and get it done? I stopped and looked up at the summer sky, then down at the dirt road below. Then I simply jumped. I didn’t care who might see me. I wanted to fly more than I worried about what I looked like. My knees took most of the impact, and I scraped them both. ‘Well, that didn’t work,’ I thought. So I got up, dusted myself off, and kept walking.”

That’s the story of Sarah Palin’s life in just over 100 words. Like her or hate her, agree with her or disagree vehemently, Sarah Palin is a flyer. A risk-taker. She’s resilient. As Yukon Cornelius would say, “She’s like a Bumble. Bumbles bounce.”

I enjoyed her first fifty pages perhaps most of all. Her readers learn not only of her upbringing, but of her ancestry, back several generations to well-educated, middle-class, hard-working Americans. We also learn of her husband, Todd’s, background and Yupik Eskimo ancestry. Additionally, we learn of her athletic accomplishments, her working her way through college, her childhood and young adulthood friends, and of her meeting and marrying Todd.

Why the Feminist Hatred?

Palin not only traces her early years, but also outlines her political rise: from city council, to major, to governor, to vice-presidential candidate. Reading these pages, I couldn’t help but ponder, “Why the feminist hatred?”

Let’s be honest. If her political and religious views were liberal, then her back story would be the darling of the feminist world. Born without any silver spoon. Not making it in life and politics because of the help of a well-connected father, or on the coattails of a politically-powerful husband. Working her own way through college. Raising a family and becoming a working mother. Getting involved in local causes. Fighting the old-boys’ network to be elected to the city council, to be elected mayor, and then governor. An athlete. A beautiful woman who never used her physical beauty to gain political clout.

I mean, what’s not to like about her radical womanhood?

No doubt, it’s her conservative values that prompt the feminist hatred.

Painful Reading

Reading about Palin’s rise within Alaskan politics was enjoyable reading. However, once she made the transition to the national scene, I cringed as I turned every page. Not because of poor writing, but because of the documentation of the constant attacks—attacks on her family, on her intellect, on her views and values.

I’m no Sarah Palin apologists. I don’t agree with all her views—whether religious or political. I’m not even claiming she was the most qualified vice-presidential candidate in American history (she certainly was not the least qualified and she had more political and executive experience than many presidential candidates).

It’s just the sheer unfairness of the attacks. Consider just one small, almost ancillary example: her college education. She was mocked by the media because it took her five years to graduate from college. That’s because she worked her way through college and had to take time off to earn enough money to pay her tuition. Sounds rather honorable.

Others mock the schools she attended and the degree she earned. True, she did not attend an elite, Ivy League, Eastern university. Then again, neither did arguably one of America’s most successful Presidents, Ronald Reagan (Eureka College). Perhaps most ironic, those complaining the most about her college education had the identical degree: a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Of course, that’s pretty trite stuff compared to the way Palin was savaged as a hick, an anti-intellectual, a religious extremist, dangerous, totally unqualified and unfit, etc., etc., etc.

Yes, it was painful to re-live those excruciating months of national “notoriety.”

Then again, it was instructive finally to hear “the rest of the story.” Sure, as an autobiography, you read Sarah Palin’s personal slant and biased perspective. At least her side of the story is finally told.

What About Christ?

Many may be surprised where I do find fault with Going Rouge.

Where is Christ in Going Rogue?

I’m not questioning Sarah Palin’s personal Christian faith in Christ. Nor am I questioning her religious values. Neither am I denigrating her Christian lifestyle. She prays. She depends upon God. She attends church. She loves her husband and family. She lives out her pro-life beliefs. Etc., etc., etc.

I also realize that Going Rogue is primarily a political autobiography, not a religious one. I understand that Palin’s purpose was not to make converts. Still, Sarah Palin is not afraid, throughout Going Rogue, to speak her mind and to share her heart. In fact, she’s not afraid to talk about her relationship to God.

All that said, I ask again, “Where is Christ in Going Rogue?”

My antennae first went up when I read Palin’s two explicit descriptions of what Evangelicals might call “conversion.” The first, on page 22, describes her personal conversion.

“I made the conscious decision that summer to put my life in my Creator’s hands and trust Him as I sought my life’s path.”

The second, on the last page of her book (page 413), involves what some might describe as an “altar call.”

“And I do know there is a God. My life is in His hands. I encourage readers to do what I did many years ago, invite Him in to take over . . . then see what He will do and how He will get you through. Test Him on this. You’ll see there’s no such thing as coincidence. I’m thankful for His majestic creation called Alaska, which has given me my home, and for His touch on America, which has given us all so many opportunities. By His grace, an American life is an extraordinary life.”

What’s missing?

Christ is missing.

Sin is missing. Confession of guilt before a holy God is missing. Salvation is missing.

My antennae alerted, it then dawned on me that I didn’t remember hearing any Christian salvation concepts anywhere in Going Rogue. Perhaps my memory was bad, especially since I wasn’t consciously looking for these concepts in a political autobiography.

So I performed an Amazon “Search Inside” the book.

How many times in her 413 pages does Sarah Palin mention Christ? Zero.

Christian? Zero.

Christianity? Zero.

Salvation? Zero.

Sin? Twice. However, both are said sarcastically about journalistic sins of omission. So, sin? Zero.

Grace? A dozen times. However, not once in the context, or with the meaning of, “saving grace.” So, saving grace? Zero.

Evangelical? Twice. Once about her mother being invited to an Evangelical church, and once about Sarah being called a “book-burning Evangelical extremist.”

Lord? Eleven times. Several in Old Testament quotes. Several in prayers, such as “Dear Lord.” Several in slang, such as, “Dear lord, you call that a good interview?” Never in the Evangelical sense of Christ as Lord.

Church? Eleven times.

God? Forty-two times.

If Palin had never shared her conversion experience (page 22), or never broached the topic of encouraging her readers to do what she did many years ago (page 413), then I would have been a little less concerned. I could say, “It’s a political memoir, that’s why Christ is missing.”

However, having addressed the topic, plus having mentioned God 42 times, and then leaving Christ, sin, and salvation totally out of all 413 pages… I have to ask, “Where is Christ in Going Rogue?” “Why was Christ omitted from Going Rogue?”

What to make of this? Again, I’m not questioning Sarah Palin’s Christian faith or Christian life.

However, I am raising the important question of how she chose to describe her conversion and her Christian faith in her autobiography, where on so many other personal issues she’s so unafraid to speak her mind boldly.

Honestly, it’s scary. Scary because it’s illustrative of our post-modern conception of religious faith.

It’s religion lite. It’s conversion without Christ. It’s salvation without the cross. It’s redemption without sin and guilt.

It’s “AA Faith”: putting our hands in the hands of an anonymous, generic “Higher Power.”

If the “Religious Right” is behind Sarah Palin, it had better not be because of her depiction of salvation from sin by grace through faith in Christ alone. At least not on the basis of 413 pages of autobiographical narrative where she mentions Christ zero times, where she never once mentions sin and salvation from sin.

Yes, unfortunately, it is a typical American life. We pray to God in the hard times. We mention God. But we eschew explicit dependence upon Christ as our only Savior from sin by grace through faith.

A Political Autobiography

As a political autobiography, Going Rogue: An American Life is an excellent read. If you want Sarah Palin’s defense of Sarah Palin’s political life (which is what every political autobiography offers), and you want it in a tell-all, fast-paced, well-crafted book, then do what 2.5 million people have done already—buy Going Rogue.

However, if you want a personal autobiography (of someone who claims to be a spokesperson for the Evangelical Right) that at least provides a snippet of content about conversion to Christ from sin by faith—then Going Rogue will disappoint. Going Rogue, while it is a defense of Sarah Palin’s life and politics, is not a defense of Christ’s saving life, death, burial, and resurrection for our sin. Which, in my conviction, is not only America’s only hope, but the only hope of the world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Christmas Gift for Women

A Christmas Gift for Women

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A Christmas Gift for Women

What do you buy for the woman who has everything?

Buy your wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, or co-worker the gift of 52 incredible stories about 52 remarkable women of faith.

Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith encourages women to recognize that they are precious in God’s sight.

It empowers them to see how God has designed them for unique and special ministry.

To read a sample chapter, to view what others are saying, and to order your Christmas gift of Sacred Friendships (at 40% off), please visit

Thursday, November 19, 2009

RPM Ministries’ First-Ever Webinar!

Note: We're Moving! Please remember to bookmark since I've moved my official blog there. I'm posting here just a while longer until everyone migrates to the fresh new site at...

RPM Ministries’ First-Ever Webinar!

One of life’s 7 ultimate questions is, “How can I help? Do I have a purpose and how do I fulfill it?” I want to help you to answer these questions...for free.

I’m excited to announce that I’m able to offer you something very valuable for the low price of…$0.00!

You’ve heard me talk about my How to Care Like Christ seminars.

Now, for the first time, I’m presenting part of that seminar as a webinar. From the comfort of your home and the privacy of your computer screen, you’ll be able to hear my presentation while viewing the entire PowerPoint presentation.

But That’s Not All!

But that’s not all. I’m working in partnership with three other nationally-known biblical counselors. Their three webinar sessions also cost...$0.00!

Over the course of two weeks, we’ll offer four interactive sessions that each last an hour. Topics include:

1. How to Identify the Ruling Idols of Your Heart (Rick Thomas, December 1, 2009, 7-8 PM EST)

2. How to Help People to Overcome Addiction to Pornography (Luke Gilkerson, December 3, 2009, 7-8 PM EST)

3. How to Care Like Christ (Bob Kellemen, December 8, 2009, 7-8 PM EST)

4. How to Revise Conflict and Revive Romance in Marriage (Brad Hambrick, December 10, 2009, 7-8 PM EST)

All sessions will include practical advice, examples, and a Q/A time.

What You’ll Learn to Do in My Webinar

Everyone wants to do biblical counseling and to be a spiritual friend, but what does it actually look like in practice? In my webinar you’ll be equipped to:

1. Use God’s Word to bring Christ’s hope to people’s suffering.

2. Offer sustaining care for discouraged people by weeping with those who weep—learn how to empathize with people’s hurts.

3. Bring healing comfort for suffering people by exploring Christ’s hope in the midst of people’s grief—learn how to encourage people with Christ’s truth.

The Details

The date/time for my webinar are December 8, 2009, 7-8 PM EST.

For more details and to register for any or all of the four webinar sessions, visit:

This invitation is being sent to over 200,000 (not exaggerating) people, and we only have room for the first 1,000 people for each webinar. So registering quickly is a good idea.

Be equipped to care like Christ.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fresh Site, Free Book

Visit and Follow Our New Website, Receive a Free E-Book

RPM Ministries has a fresh, new look. Same name, same purpose, same address, but easier to navigate and nicer on the eyes.

Visit us at:

Win a Free E-Book

Win a free copy of our E-Book, How to Care Like Christ. In this 55-page e-book, I summarize my entire model of biblical counseling. Learn what makes counseling truly Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed.

Normally $10.00, I’ll send you your copy for free when you:

1. Visit the site:

2. Become a Follower of the site. Just scroll down on the left of the home page to the Follower area and add yourself.

3. Send me an email at so that I can send you your free copy of How to Care Like Christ.

Note: This offer is good for the first fifty followers of the new site.

Christ Our Sentry

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 14:
More Than Conquerors Through Our Conqueror

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: 1:, 2:, 3:, 4:, 5:, 6:, 7:, 8:, 9:, 10:, 11:, 12:, 13:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

“Cure” Equals Caring for Others

The movement toward healing of anxiety is a relational movement toward Christ and the Body of Christ. Many people struggling with anxiety issues feel disconnected from others. Sometimes they can’t attend functions. Other times they do, but they feel so “different.” At times they feel shame in their relationship to Christ. They believe the lie that says, “If I only trusted Christ more, then I wouldn’t have any fear. He must be ashamed of me.”

As I noted in an earlier post, the “goal” of healing is not necessarily the absence of all feelings of anxiety and fearfulness. The goal is the experience of a peace that passes all understanding, even if the struggle with anxiety is not totally eliminate and defeated until heaven.

The goal is also to move from what we’ve called “stuck vigilance” to “healthy vigilance.” Vigilance, recall, is God’s gift to us to warn us of impending danger and to prompt us toward courageous response. When is a person “healed” from anxiety? When are you healed from anxiety? When you are tending and befriending others. When you are protecting others, not your self.

In the opening credit scenes to the TV show Monk, there’s a clip where Monk is racing frantically after an airplane. He’s risking his life, despite his many phobias, to rescue his assistant and friend, Natalie. Monk wasn’t “cured,” if cured means no more feelings of fear. But Monk was and is on his way toward “cure” if “cure” means caring for others.

“Cure” Equals Trusting Christ

When the alarm bells of vigilance go off, God designed us to enter sentry mode—to vigilantly tend, befriend, and defend. In the midst of overwhelming, terrifying fear, how in the world are we supposed to have that kind of courage?

It comes when we move from stuck vigilance to trusting vigilance when we see and experience Christ as our Sentry. Scripture after Scripture calls Christ our “Rock,” “Defender,” “Strong Tower,” “Fortress,” “Shield,” “Defender,” and so much more.

What’s your image of Christ?

When anxiety, fear, and phobia strikes, the battle plan involves seeing Christ as the One who battles for us. In anxiety, we scan, and scan, and scan—obsessively pondering every possible future negative eventuality. In victory over anxiety, we hear God’s story of scanning for us. “Cast your care on Him, for He cares for you.” “Do not fear (or give into fear), because He never slumbers or sleeps.”

In defeating anxiety, more than anything else we must ask, “What is our image of God?” Is He for us, or against us? Do we see Him as our Conqueror through Whom we become more than conquerors? Through Him who loves us so…so much that He empowers us to face every fear!

The Rest of the Story

In facing and fighting fear, we not only need to see Who Christ is; we also need to understand God’s plan for fear. What is God’s design for fear?

That’s our question (and answer) for our next post.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Remarkable Stories of History-Changing Women

Review of Sacred Friendships
by Robert W. Kellemen and Susan M. Ellis

Reviewed by Keiki Hendrix for Examiner.Com at:

Remarkable Stories of History-Changing Women

Would you be interested in the remarkable stories of over fifty history-changing women? These are women of character, fortitude and great faith. Would you love to learn about these women who shaped and changed the lives of others?

Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith by Robert W. Kellemen, PH.D and Susan M. Ellis is the place to begin. Thoroughly researched and presented with admiration, you'll find great inspiration here.

As a Bible Study leader, I was amazed at the large list of influential, but often unnoticed, women of great faith. As a woman, I identified with many of the struggles these women faced both as a result of the culture of their day and their own inner conflict.

Reading of these women’s statements from their diaries, journals and other writings as well as statements made about them by their contemporaries, I was challenged and made aware of these “great cloud of witnesses.”

These are the daughters, mothers, wives, and friends of some of those whose names you certainly would remember. Names such as Spurgeon, Edwards, and Wesley—all great men of faith. But the reader also discovers many women whose names and stories you might not encounter unless discovered in reference to another. In this book, these unnoticed women of history are profiled with a focus on the spiritual direction their lives revealed.

It is sage advice that a woman was created to inspire and influence others. As you read the stories of these women, you will find this is the common thread among them. They inspired, comforted and encouraged. They also suffered, remained steadfast, and revealed admirable personality traits as they each pursued their walk with God.

Profiles include Vibia Perpetua, Susannah Wesley, Terea of Avila, and Betsie Ten Boom. Quite a large list follows, too many to list here (over 50 women in all). This is a relationally relevant reference book for any women’s ministry leader. I recommend this book highly and have donated my copy to my church library.

About the Co-Authors

Dr. Robert W. Kellemen

My passion is to equip people to change lives with Christ's changeless truth through Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation. That's why I authored Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. To learn more about Bob, please visit:

Susan M. Ellis

Susan M. Ellis, M.A. is an adjunct professor and women’s mentor for the M.A. in Christian Counseling and Discipleship Department at Capital Bible Seminary. In these roles she is on the cutting edge of research and development in women’s ministry, and is an expert mentor, training women in the art of soul care and spiritual direction.

Additional Resources

To read a free sample chapter, visit:

To order your copy at 40% off, visit:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review: Counsel from the Cross

Counsel from the Cross:
Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ

Book Review Details

*Authors: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson
*Publisher: Crossway Books (2009)
*Category: Biblical Counseling, Ministry, Church, Christian Living

Reviewed By: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, Author of Soul Physicians, Spiritual Friends, Beyond the Suffering, Sacred Friendships, and God’s Healing for Life’s Losses. Find all of Bob’s book reviews, blogs, and free resources at

Recommended: Counsel from the Cross is the next generation text for Christian counselors and the next generation manual for Christian living for believers. This book excels at explaining the connection between the Christian gospel and Christian counseling.

Review: Changing Lives with Christ’s Changeless Truth

Authors Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson state in their preface that they want to lay before their readers the provocative claim that “the cross of Christ and the gospel that proclaim it really are ‘the power of God for salvation [comprehensive rescue] to everyone who believes’ (Rom. 1:16.” Their book Counsel from the Cross engagingly demonstrates that in the cross lies the power to liberate hearts and to instill hope. Thankfully, they have the audacity to believe that change can actually happen—because of what Christ has already done.

Infinitely Loved by an Infinitely Loving God

Paul Tripp gets it right in his back-cover recommendation when he says the book is “a triumph of a maturing biblical counseling movement.” At times, the modern biblical counseling movement has been good at communicating, “It’s horrible to sin,” but not always as good at communicating, “It’s wonderful to be forgiven.” Fitzpatrick and Johnson understand the truth of Romans 5:20 that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds. They understand our guilt before a holy God and our salvation from a loving God. As they beautifully state it, “The cross declares that we are loved with an intensity that defies our capacity to comprehend, not because we are intrinsically lovable but because God is intrinsically love.”

The authors rightfully claim and artfully present throughout their book that “in the cross of Christ and in the surprising combination of ego-smashing humility and despair-smashing confidence . . . lies the power to set struggling people free.” In this, they follow the ancient Puritan arts of loading the conscience with guilt and of lightening the conscience with grace. They follow the principle of historic reconciliation that combines the truths that “it’s horrible to sin, and wonderful to be forgiven.”

The Cure-All that Cures All

Here’s the profound truth communicated in Counsel from the Cross. “We believe that when God the Creator provides a cure-all, it really cures all.” Fitzpatrick and Johnson are convinced that “this reality is profoundly relevant to the way Christian counselors address the struggles of those who come to them for help.”

Upon this foundation, the authors send the following invitation to their readers. “So we invite you to join us in a venture of exploration to discover the power to defeat sin and sadness, conflict and bitterness, and self-pity and self-contempt, not by walking beyond the gospel that first brought us into the favor and family of God but rather by moving more deeply into that same gospel.”

Martin Luther based his ministry of spiritual consolation and spiritual direction upon the truth that “sanctification is the art of getting used to our justification.” Fitzpatrick and Johnson similarly believe that the truth of our acceptance before God by Christ’s righteousness alone must be made practical as we live our everyday lives. They say it so memorably. “We become people who ask WWJD (What would Jesus do?) without ever considering the gospel or WDJD (What did Jesus do?). They add: “We naively press the gospel out to the margins of our faith because we have never really been taught how it’s meant to connect with our daily lives.”

Salvation Grace and Sanctification Grace

Beginning in chapter one with the truth that we are loved by God in Christ, they begin to demonstrate how the applied knowledge of our grace acceptance changes everything about how we view God, ourselves, and others. Continuing in the second chapter, they help us to understand that Christ’s salvation grace is also sanctification grace. The same grace that saved and cleansed us from sin equally empowers us day-by-day to be victorious over sin and in suffering.

Chapter three explains why it is so important to remember and apply God’s immeasurable love: because we have a love problem. No, it’s not that we don’t love ourselves enough. It’s because we love God too little and false gods too much. “Every false god we serve . . . has the power to entice and entrap us only because our love for the Lord is weak.” So we must remember God’s love for us in Christ for one reason: our love for God and for others is responsive in nature. We love God in response to His love for us (1 John 4:19-20). We will never be able to mortify our sins, Fitzpatrick and Johnson correctly explain, “if we are unsure or doubtful about God’s disposition toward us, if we think that he is unloving, displeased, or angry.”

Chapter four explains how believing God’s grace love for us impels us to love Him and others. They call the person who “gets this” the “gospel-centered Christian.” The rest of the book then builds upon these first four chapters as it elaborates upon such relevant themes as gospel-centered counseling, the gospel and our sanctification, the gospel and our emotions, the gospel and our relationships, and the gospel story and the glory story (chapters four-to-nine, respectively).

Applying Timeless Truths in Timely Ways

The authors begin with their definition of counseling. “Gospel-centered counseling is the process of one Christian coming alongside another with words of truth to encourage, admonish, comfort, and help—words drawn from Scriptures, grounded in the gracious saving work of Jesus Christ, and presented in the context of relationship.” They are to be commended for such a Christ-centered, comprehensive, and compassionate description of biblical counseling.

They aren’t finished. “The goal of this counseling is that the brother or sister in need of counsel would grow in his or her understanding of the gospel and how it applies to every area of life and then respond in grateful obedience in every circumstance, all to the building up of the church and for the glory of God.” Counseling is not ultimately about the counselee. Counseling is ultimately about the Divine Counselor. And counseling, though perceived to be so individualistic, in the eyes and hands of Fitzpatrick and Johnson, is corporate and communal.

In this chapter (chapter five), the authors build an absolutely necessary foundation. We can change because we have already been changed. We can put off the old, because in Christ we are new creations. They believe that some modern approaches to biblical counseling have focused on biblical imperatives absence an equal focus on our new identity in Christ (what I would call our “new nature”) and our new relationship to Christ (what I would call our “new nurture”). Gospel-centered counseling applies our justification, regeneration, reconciliation, and redemption to our lives so that the motivation for change and the hope for change both derive from what Christ has already done and not from human self-effort. Chapter six then uses several real-life vignettes to contrast and compare how gospel-centered counseling, versus other approaches to counseling, would address the issue of sanctification—daily growth in grace into the image of Christ.

How does this “play itself out” practically? Fitzpatrick and Johnson answer that question by addressing the gospel and our emotions (chapter seven). They begin by describing the complex interworking of our body and soul. They comprehensively detail the soul as including our capacities to think and reason, emote, and choose. They then carefully explain the interaction of our brain/mind and body/soul relative to emotions. The authors use several narratives and illustrations relative to various emotions to explain their theory of applying the gospel to troubling feelings and mood states. Chapter eight follows a similar pattern as it applies the gospel to our relationships. Here they highlight the importance of our religious affections (love for God) as the basis for holy and healthy human relationships.

In their final chapter (chapter nine), the authors discuss two hugely different ideas of the “glory story.” The secular glory story teaches that we can attain glory by hard work, self-discipline, and the right list of activities. The scriptural glory story teaches us that our current maturity (sanctification) and our future glory (glorification) are grace-based. Our future promised victory over sin motivates us today to cling to Christ’s grace for progressive sanctification as we battle idols of the heart and besetting sins.

Pursuing Counsel from the Cross

In the spirit of the book’s entire message of applying truth to life, Fitzpatrick and Johnson include in each chapter personal illustrations, counseling vignettes, and real-life narratives. They also conclude each chapter with a built-in discussion/application guide aptly labeled Pursuing Counsel from the Cross. Their questions are carefully crafted to engage readers in personalizing the truths in each chapter by applying them to their lives and ministries.

Counsel from the Cross is a refreshing, nourishing, and nurturing examination of what makes biblical counseling truly biblical and what makes Christian living truly Christian. Pastors, counselors, educators, and students would all do well to build their ministries upon this model. As believers, we would all do well to build our lives upon the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—as explained in Counsel from the Cross.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Did You Win a Free Copy of Sacred Friendships?

Did You Win a Free Copy of Sacred Friendships?

We have a winner!

Actually, we have five winners!

No, we have SIX winners.

As part of the Sacred Friendships Blog Tour we were to randomly selected five people who commented on any of the 30 stops on the 40-day tour.

I felt generous and selected six winners.

If you did not win, but still want a copy, you can own your own autographed copy at 40% off by visiting: and going to the Order/Store link.

Here are our winners:

1. Bridgit from Kary Oberbruner's website.
2. Sheila from Lynn Mosher's website.
3. Jen from Leslie Wiggins' website.
4. Stephen from Keiki Hendrix's website.
5. Edna from Cathy Bryant's website.
6. Robin from Sheila Gregorie's website.

Congratulations! And enjoy and be encouraged by these 52 remarkable women and their amazing stories of faith in Christ.


Climbing in the Casket of Anxiety

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 13:
Climbing in the Casket of Anxiety

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: 1:, 2:, 3:, 4:, 5:, 6:, 7:, 8:, 9:, 10:, 11:, 12:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

Embrace Your Spiritual Friend

Today I speak to the helper.

If you’re helping someone who is struggling with anxiety, and they ask you if you’ve ever experienced anything like what they describe, tell the truth.


If the answer is yes, briefly share your story, but don’t make the meeting about you. Share enough so the person knows you can identify with them. However, be sure to let them know that their situation and yours are not identical and that you want to understand what anxiety is like for them.


If the answer is no, don’t apologize. We have this false notion that we can’t help or understand someone unless we’ve experienced the identical issue. First, no two people experience anything in an identical way.

Also, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is very instructive.

“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

God’s empathy is infinite. God’s comfort is infinite.

My experience is finite. My empathy is finite. My comfort is finite.

So the qualification for empathy is not that I’ve experienced the identical issue.

I am empowered to empathize with you and to offer you comfort if I am the type of person who has taken any and all my struggles to God. God equips God-dependent people to empathize with other God-dependent people.

Climb in the Casket

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul honestly shares his agony. He says he does not want the Corinthians to be ignorant of his suffering. He further candidly tells them that he has despaired of life and has felt the sentence of death.

In these verses, Paul is inviting the Corinthians to climb in the casket with him. His external suffering led to internal agony—despairing of life, feeling a sentence of death.

Our spiritual friends suffering with anxiety are inviting us to climb in the casket with them. We are to listen and experience their fear about fear, their panic about panic, their worry over worry.

Your spiritual friend should sense that you have heard their suffering—the details of their fear, anxiety, and panic.

Further, they should sense that you sense and experience and feel their fear. Your suffering is incarnational. Like Christ, you courageously and sacrificially choose to take on their suffering as your own.

The Rest of the Story

I know. It is terrifying to think about feeling someone else’s terror. Well…just think how they feel!

I know. You don’t want to stay in the casket with your spiritual friend.

That’s good. Because a casket is a good place to visit, but a bad place to call home.

So…in our coming posts, we’ll explore how to celebrate the resurrection together with your spiritual friend. We’ll explore how to experience peace even when you feel worried.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Identify the Enemy and Plan for Victory

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 12:
Identify the Enemy and Plan for Victory

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: 1:, 2:, 3:, 4:, 5:, 6:, 7:, 8:, 9:, 10:, 11:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

Empathetic Data Gathering

Whether you’re working through your own anxiety or working with someone who is, careful data gathering is vital. If you’re helping someone else, then add a word to that phrase and make it empathetic data gathering.

If you’re a “Type A” person, a take-charge individual, a take-no-prisoners character, or someone for whom anxiety is a foreign concept, then you’ll need to prayerfully ask God to empower you to connect with and comfort someone for whom life is one big phobia, panic attack, or state of anxiety. Gathering data is not some Joe Friday (very old TV show--Dragnet) “Just the facts, Maam.” It’s soulful—two souls connecting together as they start their journey toward victory over anxiety.

What to Listen for and List

1. Take (if you’re the helper) or do (if you are suffering with anxiety) a careful anxiety/worry/fear/phobia/stress inventory.

Get specific. Create accurate labels. What is feared? When is anxiety worse? What stressors are most prominent. You can’t defeat a nameless, shapeless enemy. Identify specific instances, areas, and issues.

2. Take or do a careful anxiety/worry/fear/phobia/stress history.

When are things worse? Better? When did issues with anxiety first crop up? What has been done in the past to defeat anxiety—what has worked and what hasn’t?

3. Explore (the “counselor”) or share (“the counselee”) the inner feelings/emotions.

What does it feel like for this person to be “anxious,” “fearful,” “worried,” “stressed out,” and/or “panicked”?

4. Do a Comprehensive “Soul Exam”

Physicians of the body start with a comprehensive exam. Soul physicians are even more comprehensive.

a. A Spiritual Exam:

How is Christ being related to the issues of anxiety?

b. A Social Exam:

How are others being related to the issues of anxiety?

c. A Self Exam:

How is the individual relating them self to the issues of anxiety?

d. A Mental Exam:

What thoughts, beliefs, images, and mindsets are associated with the issues of anxiety?

e. A Motivational and Behavioral Exam:

What choices, goals, purposes, actions, and behaviors are associated with the issues of anxiety?

f. An Emotional/Feeling Exam:

See point 3 above.

g. A Physical/Body/Medication Exam:

How is the body responding/reacting to the anxiety issues? What is the person’s diet, exercise routine, sleep patterns? Are any medications being taken? When was the last physical exam?

5. Create a “Victory Plan”

What would healing feel like? What would overcoming anxiety look like? What will victory involve? What will be different or better when anxiety/fear/worry/phobia/panic are conquered? What is the ultimate goal (see part 11:

6. Infuse Hope

The battle is not easy, but it is winnable. Especially if the ultimate goal is conformity to the image of Christ (see part 11: Believe that through Christ others have had victory and so can you. Peace that passes understanding is available.

The Rest of the Story

In essence, you start by identifying the enemy and planning for victory.
But there’s at least one more relational process that is vital for the healing to begin. We’ll explore that together next time in Part 13.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry

7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry

In our post-modern generation shaped by relativism, even the Church is filled with differing views on the largest issues of life and ministry.

The question that defines us more than any other is:

“Upon what do we base our life and ministry?”

Here are seven of the truths that must shape the way we see life and ministry. I call them:

Life’s Seven Ultimate Questions and Answers.

They teach us what makes biblical ministry truly biblical.

1. Question 1: “What is truth? Where do I find answers?”

Answer 1—The Word: “God’s Word is sufficient, authoritative, profound, and relevant.”

All that we need for life and godliness we find in Scripture (the written Word). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (the Living Word). We live and breathe every nano-second not by bread alone but by the Word of God. Therefore, in life and ministry every question is ultimately a God-question and every answer is fundamentally a God-answer.

2. Question 2: “Who is God?”

Answer 2—The Creator: “God is Trinitarian.”

God is not the “alone with the alone.” The God of the Universe is, always has been, and always will be Three-in-One, communitarian, Trinitarian. Before God created, He related. Thus God created us not out of need but graciously from the overflow of infinite Trinitarian fellowship. Reality is relational because God is Trinitarian. Therefore, in life and ministry our purpose is to glorify God as we combine Scripture and soul, truth and love.

3. Question 3: “Who am I”?

Answer 3—Creation: “We are created with dignity by God in the image of Christ.”

I am not an accident. I am fearfully and wonderfully made with the purpose of worshipful fellowship with the God of the universe and sacrificial one-another fellowship with my fellow human beings. Together we are to enjoy God by glorifying Him forever as we fulfill our calling as stewards of His universe. Therefore, in life and ministry our goal is to reflect increasingly the inner life of Christ.

4. Question 4: “What went wrong?”

Answer 4—The Fall: “We sinfully and foolishly choose god-substitutes over God.”

The only explanation for sin and suffering is humanity’s fall into rebellion initiated by Adam and Eve and continued to this day by every person who ever lived. We sinfully forsake and attempt to replace God because we have lost our awe of God and chosen to love false gods. Therefore, in life and ministry we must recognize and confess that our core problem is spiritual adultery.

5. Question 5: “Can we change? How do people change?”

Answer 5—Redemption: “We must apply our complete salvation to our daily sanctification.”

Our only hope for change is our acceptance by faith of God’s grace in Christ. Those who are new creations in Christ can change because they have already been changed. Justification (our new pardon), reconciliation (our new peace), regeneration (our new purity), and redemption (our new power) provide the four-fold basis for daily growth into the image of Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry our identity in Christ is foundational to our transformation in Christ.

6. Question 6—“Where am I headed? What is my destiny?”

Answer 6—Glorification: “Heaven is my final home.”

For those who enter into eternal relationship with God in Christ, our destiny is endless relationship and purpose—sacred communion within God’s holy and happy family. The biblical answer to the question of ultimate destiny ought to impact drastically how we live today—our future destiny impacts our present reality. Therefore, in life and ministry, reading the end of the story makes all the difference in how we respond to present suffering and how we overcome besetting sins.

7. Question 7—“Can I help? How can I help?”

Answer 7—Sanctification/Ministry: “We dispense God’s cure for the soul—grace.”

Grace is God’s prescription for our disgrace—the disgrace of sin and the disgrace of suffering. Grace is God’s medicine of choice for our sinful and suffering world. God calls us to be dispensers of His grace which sustains and heals us in our suffering, which reconciles and guides us in our sin, and which moves us toward sanctification in Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry we must be dispensers of grace.

The Life of the Soul through the Lens of Scripture

These seven biblical categories are essential for seeing the life of the soul through the lens of Scripture. They are absolutely vital because these relevant biblical categories address life’s seven ultimate questions that every honest person asks.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Blood of the Martyrs

The Blood of the Martyrs Is the Seed of the Church

Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Last year 176,000 Christians were murdered for their faith.

The following is excerpted from Sacred Friendships: Celebrating the Legacy of Women Heroes of the Faith. It is provided today for free as a memorial to that great cloud of witnesses. Learn more about the book at:

Vibia Perpetua: The First Female Martyr of the Church

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. Vibia Perpetua (181-203) heads that company. The early Church preserved her manuscript (The Martyrdom of Perpetua) as a martyr’s relic because it is one of the oldest and most descriptive accounts of death for Christ. It is also the earliest known document written by a Christian woman.

Anyone who has ever suffered for the faith or has been oppressed by the powerful can carry on a conversation and feel a bond with Perpetua. In fact, in the introduction to her story, we read that it was “written expressly for God’s honor and humans’ encouragement” to testify to the grace of God and to edify God’s grace-bought people.

Of course, even reading the word “martyr” likely causes us to imagine that Perpetua was a spiritual “super woman” whose life and ministry we could not possibly emulate. The story of her life, however, demonstrates just the opposite.

Perpetua lived in Carthage in North Africa during the persecution of Christians under Septimius Severus. At the time of her arrest in 202 AD, she was a twenty-one-year-old mother of an infant son. Born into a wealthy, prominent, but unbelieving family, she was a recent convert with a father who continually attempted to weaken her faith and a husband who was, for reasons unknown to us, out of the picture. Nothing in Perpetua’s situation or background prepared her for the titanic spiritual struggle God called her to face.

Perpetua, her brother, her servant (Felicitas), and two other new converts were discipled by Saturus. We learn from Perpetua of the arrest of all these faithful followers of Christ. “At this time we were baptized and the Spirit instructed me not to request anything from the baptismal waters except endurance of physical suffering. A few days later we were imprisoned.”

A Light in the Darkness: Experiencing the Pain of Others

Perpetua candidly faces her fears and expresses her internal and external suffering. “I was terrified because never before had I experienced such darkness. What a terrible day! Because of crowded conditions and rough treatment by the soldiers the heat was unbearable. My condition was aggravated by my anxiety for my baby.”

This very human woman exudes superhuman strength. In the midst of her agony, she empathizes with and consoles others. Her father, completely exhausted from his anxiety, came from the city to beg Perpetua to recant and offer sacrifice to the emperor.

“I was very upset because of my father’s condition. He was the only member of my family who would find no reason for joy in my suffering. I tried to comfort him saying, ‘Whatever God wants at this tribunal will happen, for remember that our power comes not from ourselves but from God.’ But utterly dejected, my father left me.”

On the day of her final hearing, the guards rushed Perpetua to the prisoners’ platform. Her father appeared with her infant son, guilting her and imploring her to “have pity on your son!” He caused such an uproar, that Governor Hilarion “ordered him thrown out, and he was beaten with a rod. My father’s injury hurt me as much as if I myself had been beaten. And I grieved because of his pathetic old age.”

Perpetua provides a classic portrait of biblical empathy. Her as if experience of her father’s pain is the essence of sustaining soul care.

She not only finds in Christ the strength to empathize with her father, she also summons Christ’s power to console and encourage her family and her fellow martyrs.

“In my anxiety for the infant I spoke to my mother about him, tried to console my brother and asked that they care for my son. I suffered intensely because I sensed their agony on my account. These were the trials I had to endure for many days.” Incredibly, Perpetua’s greatest pain was her ache for others who hurt for her!

A few days passed after the hearing and before the battle in the arena commenced. During this interval, Perpetua witnessed to her persecutors and ministered to other detainees.

“Pudens, the official in charge of the prison (the official who had gradually come to admire us for our persistence), admitted many prisoners to our cell so that we might mutually encourage each other.”

The Road to Hope: Maintaining Perpetual Persistence

Felicitas was in her eighth month of pregnancy. As the day of the contest approached, she became very distressed that her martyrdom might be delayed, since the law forbade the execution of a pregnant woman. An eyewitness to their eventual death shares his account of their journey together.

“Her friends in martyrdom were equally sad at the thought of abandoning such a good friend to travel alone on the same road to hope. And so, two days before the contest, united in grief they prayed to the Lord.”

Immediately after their prayers, her labor pains began and Felicitas gave birth to a girl whom one of her sisters reared as her own.

This eyewitness records their witness for Christ to the very end.

“On the day before the public games, as they were eating the last meal commonly called the free meal, they tried as much as possible to make it instead an agape. In the same spirit they were exhorting the people, warning them to remember the judgment of God, asking them to be witnesses of the prisoners’ joy in suffering, and ridiculing the curiosity of the crowd. . . . Then they all left the prison amazed, and many of them began to believe.”

To the very end, Perpetua maintains her perpetual persistence. “The day of their victory dawned, and with joyful countenances they marched from the prison to the arena as though on their way to heaven. If there was any trembling, it was from joy, not fear. Perpetua followed with a quick step as a true spouse of Christ, the darling of God, her brightly flashing eyes quelling the gaze of the crowd.”

As they were led through the gates, they were ordered to put on different clothes; the men, those of the priests of Saturn, the women, those of the priestesses of Ceres. “But that noble woman stubbornly resisted even to the end. She said, ‘We’ve come this far voluntarily in order to protect our rights, and we’ve pledged our lives not to recapitulate on any such matter as this. We made this agreement with you.’ Injustice bowed to justice and the guard conceded that they could enter the arena in their ordinary dress. Perpetua was singing victory psalms as if already crushing the head of the Egyptian.”

Here we witness not only Perpetua’s courageous example of persistence, but also her model of biblical confrontation. She provides riveting testimony to Christ’s power at work in the inner life of a Christian woman whose spirit could never be overpowered.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

What's Our Goal?

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 11:
What’s Our Goal?

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1:, Part 2:, Part 3:, Part 4:, Part 5:, Part 6:, Part 7:, Part 8:, Part 9:, part 10:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

What’s Our Goal?

If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, what’s our goal?

You shout, “To get rid of the anxiety!”

Well, that’s a great desire. It certainly is an acceptable prayer. “Lord, if it be Thy will, remove all feelings and experiences of anxiety.”

The problem is, this side of heaven, not all feelings are “healed,” not all negative emotional experiences are “wiped away.” It’s on the other side of heaven that we have no more tears, sorrow, pain, or suffering.

There’s no guarantee that medication will eliminate anxiety. There’s no promise that talk therapy will remove all feelings of fear. There’s no pledge that biblical counseling or scriptural meditation will eliminate every negative emotion.

When anxiety is totally eliminated, that’s a special grace of God for which everyone gives thanks. But that’s not the everyday result nor should it be our ultimate goal.

Peace in the Midst and Godly Living All the Time

Our goal is peace that passes understanding. Peace that empowers us to live and love like Christ even if we still feel anxious.

Even if we still have fear, our goal is to face our fears in and through Christ for God’s glory and the good of others.

We can and often should change how we respond to our emotions, what we do with our emotions, and how we manage our moods.

We can change the choices we make as a result of the feelings we have. We can address the motivations of our hearts.

We can renew our minds and change our thinking about our feelings, about God, about ourselves, and about others.

We can return to a focus on loving God and others, regardless of our feelings.

All of those are good, godly goals—much better goals than changing or eliminating feelings of anxiety.

Nothing is more courageous than doing the right thing even when we’re terrified.

Nothing is more godly than facing our fears even when our fears are not eliminated.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

God Is Dependable; Life Isn't!

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 10:
God Is Dependable Even When Life Is Undependable

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1:, Part 2:, Part 3:, Part 4:, Part 5:, Part 6:, Part 7:, Part 8:, Part 9:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

God Is Dependable

What message does someone struggling with anxiety need?

When life is bad, we need to remember that God is good—all the time. And when life is undependable, we need to know that God is dependable—all the time.

Life can feel like it is out of control, capricious. Stuff seems to happen for no reason and with little or no warning.

When cares overwhelm, we need to remember that we can cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. We can depend on Christ’s care because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever—He is eternally dependable.

Listening to Sad Stories

Helping one another to embrace our dependably caring God is the ultimate goal. However, that does not necessarily mean that our first response is to spout verses about trust.

Before we race in telling others about God’s story, we need to earn the right to speak by listening to our friend’s story.

People will hear us as we talk about God’s story of healing only if we have been compassionately listening to them talk about their story of hurting.

It’s excruciating to feel enslaved to fear. It’s confusing and even maddening to have something so good (that “vigilance” that we spoke of in Parts 1-8) turn so harmful.

As a spiritual friend, we want to empathize with our friend who is struggling with anxiety. We want to compassionately identify with them in their story of life that feels so out of control.

If you’ve never experienced panic or phobia, if you’ve never been overwhelmed by nebulous anxiety, if life for you means charging ahead, then you will need to prayerfully ask God to enable you to connect with and comfort those who feel like “anxiety” is staffed on their forehead.

Can you listen to a friend’s hurt without compulsively needing to immediately fix your friend? Or, are you afraid of their fear? Anxious about their anxiety?

The Rest of the Story

What do you listen for? How do you respond to what you hear? We’ll address those vital questions next time.

God's Prescription for Victory Over Anxiety

The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 9:
God’s Prescription for Victory Over Anxiety

Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1:, Part 2:, Part 3:, Part 4:, Part 5:, Part 6:, Part 7:, Part 8:

Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love?

Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

God’s Prescription

In parts 1-8, we’ve been good medical students of the soul. Here’s a one paragraph summary of what we’ve learned.

Anxiety is the fallen counterpart to God’s original design for the soul. God created us with vigilance—the ability to respond to threat with creative energy that protects others and depends upon God’s protection. Anxiety is our fear response (stuck vigilance) to threat with destructive energy that protects self through flight and/or fight behavior that fails to depend upon God or protect others.

God’s Care and Cure: Our GPS

How do we respond to destructive anxiety? How do we minister to someone battling stuck vigilance that seems to leave them in a perpetual state of alarm?

Ultimately, the “cure” for anxiety involves embracing the reality that God is dependable even when life is undependable.

However, in helping others, we can’t rush in with our answers until we’ve patiently heard their questions. We must enter souls before we direct souls. We must express God’s care before we offer God’s cure.

What’s involved in that? Today I share an overview. Consider it our GPS: God’s Principles from Scripture.

GPS # 1: Empathy—“It’s Terrifying to Experience Anxiety”

It means compassionately identify with people experiencing overwhelming fear. Can you sense how frightening it is to experience anxiety? Can you empathize with and embrace your spiritual friend’s trembling body and anxious heart?

We’ll learn how together.

GPS # 2: Encouragement—“It’s Possible to Experience Peace Even When You Feel Worried”

Over the course of several blog posts we’ll interact about the empathy process. Of course, we don’t want to stop there. People do want to change. They do want peace.

So we’ll also explore how to move from anxiety to shalom—peace in a frightening, fallen world.

Having embraced our spiritual friend through empathy, we’ll learn how to encourage one another to embrace Christ. What difference does it make that Christ never leaves us or forsakes us?

We’ll find out.

GPS # 3: Exposure—“It’s Horrible to Self-Protect”

If you watch the show “Monk” then you know that Detective Adrian Monk struggles with OCD and a multitude of phobias. He has a very sweet assistant, Natalie. As much as I love the show and like the character Monk, it drives me crazy the way he mistreats Natalie by only thinking of himself. Monk’s friends and therapist enable him (in the bad sense of that word) by never or rarely confronting him with the self-centered side of his anxiety.

Yes, we need to empathize and encourage.

However, since anxiety includes self-protection rather than trusting God’s protection and protecting others, we also need to expose sinful self-protection. And, we need to expose God’s forgiving grace and His accepting heart.

We’ll learn how.

GPS # 4—Empowerment—“It’s Supernatural to Trust and Defend”

Every once in awhile Detective Adrian Monk does something brave, something that protects Natalie or his other friends and co-workers. It seems almost miraculous. And, really it is. It is not natural for any of us to care about others. It is supernatural.

How does someone who is terrified of life begin to trust God and defend others? How do they, how do we, tap into Christ’s resurrection power to overpower fear with faith, hope, love, and peace?

Stick with us as we’ll learn how.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Soul Contact

Begin Before the Beginning: John 1:1—Soul Contact

Before God created, what was He doing? This vital question exposes the vital quest in the human soul created in the image of God.

Before God created; He related.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God” (John 1:1).

In the Greek, this little preposition with signifies “before, in the presence of, face-to-face with.”

When my children were young, we played a game called “Eye Contact.” I would bellow, “Josh! Marie! Let’s play ‘Eye Contact!’” They’d race to me, shove their eye sockets into my eye sockets, press their eyeballs into my eyeballs, and we would make eye contact.

Father and Son (and Spirit) play an eternal game of “Eye Contact,” except they call it “Soul Contact.” The Trinity always enjoys the sheer delight of eternal, unbroken communion, connection, and community.

Their love teaches us how to love in spirit and in truth.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Life's Seven Ultimate Questions

Learn Biblical Answers to Life's Seven Ultimate Questions

What does the Bible say about the core questions we all ask?

1. What is truth? Where do we find answers?
2. Who is God?
3. Who am I?
4. What went wrong? Why do I sin and suffer?
5. How do people change?
6. Where am I headed?
7. How can I help?

Find out Friday, November, 6, from 9 AM to Noon during my interactive Christian Counseling In-Service “How to Care Like Christ” at Family Concerns Counseling in Valparaiso, IN.

Space is limited, so if you are interested in attending please contact:

Dave Bauer
Family Concern Counseling
2004 Valparaiso St in Valparaiso, Indiana
For direction or more about Family Concern Counseling visit:

Purchase “How to Care Like Christ”

You can purchase a copy of the manuscript on which the seminar is based at:

Other Opportunities

If you're not in the Northwest Indiana area and would like to attend or host a seminar, contact me at to discuss a half-day In-Service or a Full-Day seminar in your area.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Win a Free Copy of Sacred Friendships!

Comment for a Chance to Win a Free Copy of
Sacred Friendships

The Sacred Friendships Blog Tour comes to an end on Friday, October 30.

The 40-day, 30-stop, whirlwind tour has been a blast.

It's been so very encouraging with all the incredibly positive reviews.

My special thanks to all 30+ bloggers who participated.

Now it’s our chance to give back to you.

Listed below are the thirty blog sites.

Visit some of your favorites. Make a comment about the blog post on Sacred Friendships.

Your comment automatically registers you to be among five people who will be randomly selected to be mailed a complimentary autographed copy of Sacred Friendships.

Purchase Your Copy

If you aren't randomly selected, then visit this site to purchase your own autographed copy at 40% off for just $12.99:

Visit, Comment, Win One of Five Free Copies:

*Kary Oberbruner:

*Julie Ganschow:

*Stacy Harp:

*Brad Hambrick:

*Jim Nestle:

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*Angela Dockter Harris:

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*Sandra Peoples:

*Lynn Mosher:

*Joshua Young:

*Bill Higley: and

*Rick Howerton:

*Cynthia Russell Bailey:

*Ian Jones:

*Mark Tubbs:

*Leslie Wiggins: and and

*Phil Monroe:

*Keiki Hendrix:

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*Dan Lacich:

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*Pastor Mark Kelly:

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