Counseling

CounselingOnce we exempt God, everything and everyone else had a beginning. The some 500-plus counseling techniques we have mentioned had a beginning. Some of the more popular counseling philosophies began with Freud, Rogers, Jung, Maslow, Skinner, Adams, Ellis, Minuchin, Beck, and the list goes on. Then there is the debate over who was the first psychological counselor. For example many believe Dr. William James is the father of modern psychology in America. Most professional or secular counselors are graduates of programs where teachers advocated a certain approach based on the works of some so-called expert. And much of what is being passed off as “Christian Counseling” is a mixture of teachings from various secular approaches; an example would be Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

We should not be surprised to learn that biblical counseling, as practiced today as a recognized discipline among churches, seminaries, etc., has its roots in the eclectic work of men. The “Competent to Counsel” movement which advocates that every Christian equipped with the Bible is competent to counsel, was begun by Dr. Jay Adams. Like secular counseling, so-called biblical or Christian counseling, has numerous schools of belief relative to how to practice counseling based on the word of God. Some of these are on target; some are mixtures of secular and humanistic approaches.

While a survey of various counseling theories may be essential to an academic education in the field of counseling; even biblical counseling; it must not sidetrack us from the original Counselor and His counseling methods. God is the originator of giving advice (counsel) and the original Counselor: “IN THE BEGINNING GOD.” Therefore, when we turn to His counseling manual—the Holy Bible, we have the original source of counseling.

Since biblical counseling is based on the word of God, it must be true that our heavenly Father is the only true source of advice. He is the perfect counselor. Suppose you purchased an electronic device and in the passing of time it starts to malfunction. Who would be the BEST source to diagnose and repair the device? Would it be someone who has researched bits and pieces about the device or would it be the inventor (creator) of the device? The creator is the one who can repair the device because he knows everything about it.

Downloadable Resources

 

PSALM 73:1-28—WHY?

The Psalmist asked the same questions, sooner or later, we all ask: “Why do the wicked prosper and bad things happen to the righteous?”

  1. Why do innocent children suffer?: hunger, disease, abuse, etc.

  2. Why Katrina, 9/11, fires, etc.?

  3. Why death by disease? Pain? Suffering?

  4. Why Job 14:1?

Matthew 5:45, “…that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes His sun rise on the evil and

                             on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

James 1:16, 17: “Do not be deceived, my brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and

                             comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

Conflict: 1. Blame God. 2. Doubt God. 3. There is no God. 4. ??????????

SOME REASONS WHY THINGS—GOOD AND BAD—HAPPEN TO ALL PEOPLE (“Okay for bad—not good”)

  1. Everyone has an appointment with death—comes early—comes late (Hebrews 9:27).

  2. Events based on “Laws of nature” (Gravity, seasons, storms, floods, earth quakes, Rom. 8:19-22).

  3. Violation of man-made laws (Crime, violence, traffic, fraud, etc.)

  4. Violation of civil laws (Law suits, contract, damage or property, etc.)

  5. Breaking of vows—covenant (Marriage vows, divorce, contract, broken promises, etc.).

  6. Violation of health laws: mental and physical (Alcohol, drugs, diet, etc.)

  7. Violation of spiritual laws: SIN (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; James 1:16-20).

  8. Promised suffering (2 Timothy 3:12).

  9. Law of “Sowing and Reaping”: 1. Sow now 2. Reap later 3. Reap more than sown (Galatians 6:6-9).

  10. Freedom of choice (Genesis 2:15-25; Joshua 24:15).

  11. “Unknown” actual reasons (Deuteronomy 29:29).

CONCLUSION:

John 14:1-6; 1 Peter 1:5-7; James 1:1-5; Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:10.

Roy was with a group of Christians, who after Sunday morning church services, were having lunch in a popular local restaurant. As the conversations switched from topic to topic, one of the church leaders began to talk about a couple’s marriage. One lady chimed in, “Poor Edith, I don’t know how she has put up with Charlie as long as she had.” Several shook their heads in agreement.

     One man remarked, “I’ve played golf with him, and from remarks he made, I knew the marriage was in trouble. Those poor children.”

     “I’m a close friend of Edith,” an older lady said, “she has confided in me that Charlie has a drinking problem and dabbles in gambling. Their marriage is headed for a divorce.”

     Soon the conversion was aflame. Charlie and Edith’s marriage was consumed faster than the bread. Satan was having a field day.

     Roy just sat there taking it all in. He didn’t say a word. He couldn’t believe this group of pious church goers, who had just attended church, was gossiping about the marriage of their brother and sister in Christ. Questions ran through his mind: “What should I do?” “Should I dare and say anything?” “This is wrong!” Looking around the table he noted several of those who were engaged in the gossip had major issues in their lives now, some had issues in times past. He remained quit and said a silent prayer for the group. What would you have done?

The Tipping Point

Roy was caught in a tipping point. On the one hand he could have joined in the gossip about the marriage; on the other hand he could have condemned those who were gossiping about the couple, or choose, as he did, to pray about the situation. It was a tough moment to be in.

     Whether by intent, accident or spiritual maturity, Roy avoided being guilty of an attitude condemned by Jesus. It would have been easy to be a judge and juror in condemning the gossipers and the couple’s marriage. Roy made the right choice.

     Here is what Jesus warned about relative to arbitrarily judging a person’s motives, status, and behavior:

  1. Early one morning while teaching in the temple, the clergy of the day—the scribes and Pharisees—brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They quoted Scripture to Jesus in an attempt to see if He believed it and would obey it. They thought they had finally trapped Jesus. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first’” (John 8:7). Amazingly, these dogmatic legalist had enough conscious to accept what Jesus said—they were sinners too—and slip away (John 8:9-13). There are still rock throwers.

  2. It is a known psychological truth, as well as a commonly observed truth, that one way people build themselves up in their own eyes, and hopefully in the eyes of others, is by finding fault with others by discrediting a physical feature, a certain behavior, or status in life. After giving a powerful lesson on the wrong of judging others, Jesus said: “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! FIRST remove the plank from your own eye, THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye’ (Luke 6:37-42). There are speck detectives today.

  3. It is so easy to miss our own faults and needs, but it is easy to see them in others. The scribes and Pharisees, the “holier than thou” religions leaders among the Jews, carried a magnifying glass in order to see and point out even the little wrongs in the behavior of others. A common practice in the first century was to use a piece of linen cloth to strain out gnats and substances from water, grape juice and wine. To the masters of this practice, Jesus said: “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:24). If we can see the little wrongs in a person’s life, surely we should be able to see the “big wrongs” in our lives. There are gnat strainers today.

     To the sinful tendency of man to find and point out flaws, weaknesses, and wrongs in others; these three portions of Scripture declare it is wrong and unacceptable to the Lord. When we fall into the status of judging, we set up a reciprocity system of reaping what we have sown. Here are the words of Jesus: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you WILL BE JUDGED; and with what measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1, 2). When you throw dirt in the fan it will blow back on you.

Some Ways Stone Throwing, Speck Finding, and Gnat Straining is Practiced

In our tendency of pointing out the flaws, weaknesses, and sins of others, it is a way to take the spotlight off those same qualities in our lives. Here are some of the numerous ways stone throwing, speck finding, and gnat straining occurs:

  1. Belittling a person who is not able to defend himself or herself.

  2. Verbalizing what another person ought to do, even though that person is not present: “You know John ought to…”.

  3. Speaking about a person with words you would never want anyone to say about you.

  4. Smoldering inside without overtly expressing it to the other person.

  5. Continually making negative remarks, in a clandestine way, about a person. “Cutting the person down inch by inch.”

  6. When something positive is said about a person, you are quick to discredit it by making a negative remark.

  7. In subtle ways strategizing and pursuing ways to undercut or sabotage a person’s reputation; finding ways to get them dismissed or replaced by finding faults.

  8. In a pious gesture of concern about a person’s problem by saying “We need to pray for…”. Making a prayer request on behalf of another, but revealing hurtful truths.

  9. The perpetual attitude of always finding fault with others: waitresses, clerks, cab drivers, police officers, teachers, leaders, classes, or races of people.

  10. By passing judgment on their eternal destiny—heaven or hell. Questioning a person’s relationship with God. Being a judge of “faithfulness.”

    How to Avoid Stone Throwing, Speck Picking, and Gnat Straining

If these attitudes have become habituations they will be more difficult to stop than occasional practices. A dyed-in-the-wool habit doesn’t die an easy death. It has become part of “who we are”. It is our normal self—“that’s just the way I am.”

     While it is not easy to stop arbitrary and judgmental behavior, it can, with God’s help and power, be overcome. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Remember there is a difference between offences that are real against you, than ones you’ve imagined. Jesus gave instructions on how to deal with real issues with other people (cf. Matthew 18:15-20). Go to the person!

  2. Spend some quiet time and honestly analyze whether or not you are a stone thrower, speck observer, or gnat strainer. This is tough but absolutely essential.

  3. Ask your spouse, parents, a close friend, etc. if they see any of these tendencies in you. Don’t argue or refute—listen prayerfully. Truth has nothing to fear.

  4. After you have practiced one of the three attitudes, ask yourself: (1) Why you needed to do it? (2) What benefit did you gain? (3) How did it build the other person up?

  5. Continually pray for strength and wisdom to stop the habit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17). God will help (Ephesians 3:20).

  6. Start making it a practice to kindly stick up for the person who is being judged. Speak the truth in live (Ephesians 4:15).

  7. Remember that judging the behavior of others doesn’t change our lives for the better. In fact, it bring God’s displeasure which isn’t encouragement to continue judging.

     When the woman was taken in adultery, and those who had condemned her had slipped away, Jesus didn’t lecture or sermonize her about sexual immorality, dangle her over the fires of hell, or tell her had she was. Relative to condemning her, Jesus said, “I don’t accuse you either; go and sin no more.” Therefore, you can be aware of sin and wrongs without throwing a rock at the person. Encouragement and forgiveness are the higher roads to walk as a Christian.

     How do you intentionally keep from being a stone thrower, speck hunter, and gnat strainer?

As she sits in the counselor’s office, tears are slowly running down her cheeks, in a sobbing voice she says to the counselor, “My husband is seeing another women. I have begged him to stop but he won’t. He says it’s my fault; that I am to blame because I am emotionally dead. Maybe I am to blame. Do you think I am responsible for his unfaithfulness?”

     Johnny brings home his report card for his parents to review and sign. When they look at the report card they see two Ds, two Cs and one B. The conduct evaluation section is checked as unsatisfactory. In the midst of having a heart-to-heart talk with Johnny about his report card, Johnny begins an emotional response blaming the teacher for his grades. Johnny’s mother makes an appointment to see the school Principal to talk about the “unqualified teacher.”

     George had gotten into the habit of slipping out of work before the official time he was to leave. He was developing a pattern of arriving late to work. The quality of his word was slipping. The Supervisor called him in and gave him a reprimand and placed him on probation. That evening George went to a local bar and while self-medicating with alcohol, started blaming his boss for the problem.

     Gus had been in and out of juvenile detention homes and jails several times between ages 15 and 19. Now at age 29 he was serving a life sentence as a habitual criminal. His arrest record contained numerous sheets. A psychologist read about Gus and tried to help him get a probation release. The reason for the release was the fact that Gus’s parents, neighborhood, and peers were responsible for his life of crime. A member of the Hearing Committee, upon hearing the Psychologist’s case, said, “This sounds like the old blame game to me dressed up in psychological jargon.”

The Blame Game

The above illustrations are examples of the blame game. We live in a society where the most popular game in town is the blame game:

  1. The Republicans blame the Democrats—The Democrats blame the Republicans.

  2. The Senate blames Congress—Congress blames the Senate.

  3. The coach blames the players—the players blame the coach.

  4. The media blames the public—the public blames the media.

  5. The husband blames the wife—the wife blames the husband.

  6. The patient blames the doctor—the doctor blames the patient.

  7. The Supervisor blames the worker—the worker blames the Supervisor.

  8. The leader blames the followers—the followers blame the leader.

  9. The singer blames the band—the band blames the singer.

  10. The preacher blames the members—the members blame the preacher.

     And the blame game goes on and on. There are no limitations to the many ways it can be played, nor the number of people who can play it. The blame game can have a domino effect. The janitor was chewed out by the boss of the cleaning crew. The janitor fussed at the elevator operator for being too slow. The elevator operator complained to the doorman for not opening the door fast enough. The doorman jumped on the bus driver for not stopping at the correct spot. The bus driver spoke harshly to the clerk at the local market. The clerk went home and kicked his dog. The dog chased the cat up a tree. Was the boss of the cleaning crew responsible for the cat being up the tree? This humorous story illustrates how the blame game and passing-the-buck is practiced.

     One of the major features of the blame game is its use as a propaganda technique. For example when a politician, or any person, continually blames a person, group, or situation for a specific condition, which isn’t true only fabricated, it becomes a propaganda tactic. Through the use of accusations, suggestions, innuendos, and hyperbole the assigned negative status is believed and acted upon. We sometimes call this “Brain washing.” This turns a “lie into a truth.”

     Do you know who the original players of the blame game were? It was our greatest great grandparents, Adam and Eve. We know the story. God had placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with permission to partake of every fruit except one—“the tree of knowledge of good and evil” —to disobey would bring death (Genesis 2:15-25). As time moves forward Eve is tempted by Satan relative to the possibility of her becoming a god (Genesis 3:1-5). Eve took the bait and ate the forbidden fruit, and as any good wife would, she gave her husbands, Adam, some of the fruit. He ate!

     The next act is one of discovery. Dressed in their new clothes, which they had never worn before, God shows up—He always shows up (cf. Numbers 32:23). God’s question was a simple one—three words—“Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). In reply Adam starts the first round in playing the blame game. It was Eve’s fault: “… The woman whom YOU gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12). Adam blamed Eve but he first blamed God for giving him Eve.

     In his confrontation with Eve, God asked, “What is this you have done?” Eve gave a quick blame game player’s reply, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (Genesis 3:13). From the day they were driven out of the garden, the descendants—all mankind—of Adam and Eve have continued to play the blame game. We all have played it at one time or another.

     In his epistle to Christians, James responds to the accusation that God is responsible for man’s sins. It is impossible for God to tempt man to sin (James 1:13). Each person is responsible for his or her sins: “But each one is tempted when HE IS DRAWN AWAY BY HIS OWN DESIRES and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14, 15). Adam and Eve were responsible for their actions.

     I must be quick to acknowledge that other people through their lack of responsibility, hurtful behaviors, and sins, can cause harm to people. Jesus warned about causing people to stumble (Matthew 18:1-9). For example a family while enjoying a family drive is hit head on by a drunk driver. The drunk driver is to blame for the death and injuries caused by his behavior of driving while drunk. The irony is a lawyer tries to shift the blame by blaming the clerk in the liquor store for selling the booze to the driver; the car manufacture and road conditions were also blamed.

Responsibility and Playing the Blame Game

It doesn’t take any effort to see the explosion of people in society playing the blame game. It is the pointing and shaking of fingers at others; it is the shouting and cursing others; it is printed accusations against persons and groups; it is creating a new politically correct vocabulary; it is being selective in applying the First Amendment.

     The consequences of failing to take responsibility for one’s own behavior, attitudes, and beliefs are far reaching. Playing the blame game may make it seem like you have won, but not so. The consequences prove otherwise. Note these consequences:

  1. A stubborn refusal to admit one’s own issues, problems, and contributions to marital issues will eventually lead to unhappiness, family problems, and divorce.

  2. A stubborn refusal to accept one’s responsibility for bad choices, decisions, and results may lead to emotional and physical health issues. Worry, fear, etc.

  3. A stubborn refusal to accept responsibility by blaming others leads to isolation. People don’t want to have a relationship with a blame game player.

  4. A stubborn refusal to accept responsibility will create a denial mentality that leads to no personal growth, nor acknowledgement of needs, etc.

  5. A stubborn refusal to accept responsibility and play the blame game will lead to judging other people, which is forbidden by the word of God (Matthew 7:1-6).

  6. A stubborn refusal to stop blaming others creates an unforgiven spirit, which is condemned by Christ (Matthew 6:14, 15).

  7. A stubborn refusal to stop playing the blame game may create victims and manipulation of others. It will upset their peace of mind; even cause agony, doubt and fear.

  8. Playing the blame game may cause unwarranted blaming of yourself, which may lead to all kind of emotional issues—assigning self with “victim status.” The “Poor me syndrome.” In psychology this is called characterological self-blame (i.e. feeling something is inherently wrong with self).

  9. Playing the blame game can create an environment where others are encourages to play the game—“the monkey see—monkey do” imitation. It’s what we do around here.

  10. Playing the blame game can create laws, government controls, and rules that are founded on suppositions, not proven facts or sustainable truths. These are promoted through fear tactics and ignorance. They are designed to control people.

     As described in this study the blame game is not winnable. That is when viewed by God’s standards and the attitude of Christ. It may stroke our ego, shift the blame and temporary responsibilities, but in God’s sight we are losers. If a player, repentance is the cure.

     What are you intentionally doing to cancel your participation in playing blame games? Believe me, Satan’s team will go on without your participation.

 

“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does no continue” (Job 14:1, 2).

The longer I live, and with each passing day, I know from experience the words of Job are true—DAYS ARE FULL OF TROUBLE. I venture to say you know this too.

     We even have a popular hymn that reminds us of what Job uttered thousands of years ago:

JESUS IS COMING SOON

(By R.E. Winsett)

Troublesome times are here, filling men’s heart with fear,

Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake…

Humbling your heart to God from the chastening rod.

Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake.

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon

Many will meet their doom …

     While this is a song that tells us to hang in there because sooner, or later, Christ is going to return and render judgment on the lost. Therefore, we need to be ready at all times. I believe this. However, my challenge is today. How do I deal with the “Troublesome times” and “Days filled with trouble”? How do I rebound from life’s setbacks?

     Life has a way of tumbling in on US at unexpected times. It may be:

  • The unexpected loss of a job; even one you’ve had for years. Maybe a reduction of pay.
  • The sudden loss of health: diabetic, blood pressure, cancer, vision, hearing, etc.
  • The loss of a loved one: spouse, parent, child, sibling, or close friend. Shock waves!
  • The loss of finances: Stock Market, scammed, robbed, etc.
  • An attack on your character or integrity. Betrayed by a close friend.
  • Problems with children, family issues, marriage breakup, etc.
  • The doubts about our relationship with God because of a mistake or sin.
  • A change in circumstances you have no control over. Divorce, drugs, alcohol, etc.
  • Even the dumb things we are personally responsible for doing

The Empty Words: “GET OVER IT”

A mother was questioning her daughter about the girl’s wrong behavior and how she was very displeased with it. The daughter replied in a loud voice, “Well Mother, I guess you’ll just have to get over it.” The expression “get over it” has become the ultimate tool used by people today to make light of a person’s response to something that is hurtful, upsetting, or resentful. It is demonstrating a lack of respect for the feelings of another person. It is an escape hatch to avoid being blamed for something wrong or hurtful. It is unloving and uncaring toward a person.

     As we look closer at the three words: Get over it, what do they really mean or imply? For example you can come to a bridge and “get over it.’ You can come to a river and “get over it.” You can have a bad cold and “get over it.” However, when a loved one dies how do you “get over it”? Do you get over it by having a blank memory of the deceased? Do you get over it by never feeling the pain of the loss? Do you get over because someone tells you to get over it?

     The apostle Paul is a perfect Bible example of what moving past what you’ll never get over. He was a terrorist against the church in the first century (cf. Acts 7:54-8:3). He persecuted, beat, placed in prison, and killed Christians (cf. Acts 26:9-19). After his conversion to Christ, he never got over the pains from his past behavior. However, with God’s help and power, he moved past it: “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, FORGETTING those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize…” (Philippians 3:13, 14). Paul is not stating he has a blank memory about his past, his writings prove otherwise. He is stating that he doesn’t dwell on them by letting his past cause him depression, etc. He moves past them knowing they are covered by grace and the blood of Christ. In psychology we call this REFRAMING. The past cannot be changed!

Attempts at Comforting

Have you ever noticed how some persons, even Christians, are quick to give you words of encouragement when life tumbles in? In those times when you are exiled from the joy, happiness, and peace promised by God, well-meaning friends, and even non-friends, try to comfort you. Here are some of the more popular expressions we hear and use:

  • “Everything is going to be okay, just trust God.”
  • “You need to snap out of it.”
  • “Pick yourself up and dust yourself off and get back in the race.”
  • “He/she is in heaven.”
  • “Keep a stiff upper lip.”
  • “Whistle a happy tune.” “Don’t worry be happy.”
  • “Things aren’t as bad as them seem.”
  • “Time heals everything.”
  • “You need to get over it.”
  • And quoting Scriptures: “Let not your heart be troubled” (cf. John 14:1).

I am not trying to cast an accusation about anyone, which includes myself, for using these expressions in genuine effort to help the hurting. However, it must be noted that even good intentions can turn out to be negative. Most of us don’t know how to help the hurting.

     Good intentions may not be enough. This was the case with Job’s friends. “Then Job answered and said, “I have heard many such things; miserable comforters are you all! Shall words of wind have an end? Or what provokes you that answers? I also could speak as you do, if your soul were in my soul’s place. I could heap words against you, and shake my head at you; BUT I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the comfort on my lips would RELIEVE your grief’” (Job 16:1-5). Job had lost everything, from his wealth, family, and health, to being accused of being a hypocrite. His friends used theology to correct him, but they were wrong.

     I am thankful for all those brethren, and others, who try to encourage persons who are in emotional exile. The Scripture admonishes us to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:1, 2). I am grateful for persons who have learned to move beyond what they will never get over. These are the persons who experienced emotional and physical earthquakes in only a few minutes—but the aftershock pains continue to go on and on. Each one is discovering the strength to move beyond what they will never get over. This doesn’t mean they have a blank memory; they simply reframe the pain, etc. They are dependent on God and His word for strength and comfort.

Living in Exile

When life tumbles in on us we are driven into a state of emotional, and sometimes physical, exile. We are exiled from the joy, peace, happiness, energy, company and desire to get up and get on with life. Many times we beat ourselves up for whatever reasons we can think up. I want us to take a look at what Jeremiah told Israel when they were exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 29:1-3). The prophet told them numerous positive things to do, as they would never get over how they had been brought into captivity, but they could get past it by taking positive steps to create a new place of joy in a foreign land. In reading Jeremiah 29:4-10 there are several positive steps they can take to get past what they can’t get over. They need to get busy:

  • They need to build houses and dwell in them. This can be exciting work that takes one’s mind of the past.
  • They need to plant gardens. Few things calm the spirit more than a beautiful garden.
  • They need to eat the fruit from their gardens. Eating together is an amazing way to get past what you can’t get over.
  • They need to get married and have families. Few events in life lift the spirits more than a wedding and the birth of children.
  • The need to take a proactive approach in making peace with the officials and citizens where they are captives.
  • They need to reject all false prophets and their teaching that are enemies of God and their relationship with Him 
  • They are promised a bright future; after 70 years they will return to Jerusalem and return to worshipping and serving God. God’s promises can be truest!

From these seven actions and promises Jeremiah shared with Israel, we learn that we are not helpless or without hope. Even while in exile we can do things, both physical and spiritual, to move past what we may never get over. A reading of Psalm 139 reminds us that God is always with us. Jesus promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:18-20).

     Don’t wait for things to change before you start moving. It is a waste of time. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be happy in it” (Psalm 118:24).

     My book Trusting the God Who Won’t Let Go (amazon.com) is a great source of comfort and help in times of exile.

The Normal family had three children, all of which were considered intelligent, well behaved, and compliant to the rules. Then things changed in the family dynamics with the birth of their fourth child, a boy whose name was Ab. Right from the moment of birth, Ab demonstrated that he was going to be different from his three siblings. His temperament, intelligence, and behavior was different; thus the name Ab was appropriate. When Ab was enrolled in preschool the parents took all the psychological tests and gave them to the teacher. They told the teacher Ab was smart but different. The teacher made a big deal out of Ab-Normal.

     Have you ever noticed the prolific use of the words normal and abnormal? These two words can determine a person’s successes or failures in life. There is a humanistic group of professionals, most identified in the field of psychology, that specialize in assigning people to one of the categories: normal or abnormal. There is a holy horror of being place in the abnormal category. It wrecks your future and creates ongoing anxiety.

     You don’t have to look very far, or have your ears especially tuned, to read and hear the frequent use of the word NORMAL in our daily lives. What is normal?

  1. What is normal blood pressure?
  2. What is normal body temperature?
  3. What is normal IQ?
  4. What is normal cholesterol
  5. What is normal blood count?
  6. What is normal eye pressure?
  7. What is normal behavior?
  8. What is normal blood sugar?

And the list goes on and on. What is normal? What I do is normal, what you do is abnormal.

What is Normal?

Webster’s generic definition of Normal (adj.), is: 1 “Conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model or pattern, esp. corresponding to the median or average for a large group in type, appearance, achievement, function, development, etc.” Abnormal is defined as “not normal; not average; not typical; not usual; irregular, etc.; based of what the majority deem to be the norm.”

     In psychology, psychiatry, and mental health, NORMAL denotes a developmentally appropriate level of effective functioning of personality, cognition, and affect that is satisfactory both to people and their respective social milieu” (www. medical-dictionary.com/normal).

     NORMALITY (also known as normalcy) is the state of being “normal”, as opposed to being deviant, eccentric or unusual. Behavior can be normal for an individual (intrapersonal normality) when it is consistent with the most common behavior for that person. Normal is also used to describe individual behavior that conforms to the most common behavior in society (known as conformity) (en.wilkipedia.org/wiki/Normality (behavior) ).

Psychology and Normal

The American Psychiatric Association, in my opinion, has hijacked the words normal, abnormal, and normality. In their “bible”—the DSM—they have developed hundreds of ways to determine if a person’s behavior, etc. is normal or abnormal. Diagnosis are made and drugs are prescribed. In this world labels are all important. These labels only add to the anxiety already in existence. Billion dollar business are built on the use of “normal” and “abnormal”, and on what constitutes wellness, unhealthy, and disorders. Notice the drug advertisements on TV.

     What is Abnormal Psychology? Simply defined it is the study of “abnormal thoughts, feelings, and behavior.” There are two basic theories about what causes abnormal behavior:

  1. Somatogenic Theory: Abnormality is caused by a biological disorder or disease. It may result from a brain injury or mental disease. Medication or surgery may be used to relieve or “cure.”
  2. Psychogenic Theory: Abnormality stems from psychological problems such as “hearing voices”, negative thinking, fear, obsessive thought patterns etc. Therapy includes talk therapy, cognitive behavior changes, self-talk, etc.

I was taught in graduate school that abnormality is related to four major things:

  1. Distress: something occurs that causes anxiety, fear, loss, anger, etc.
  2. Deviance: this is departing from societal behavior norms: “Peeping Tom”, “Flasher”, etc.
  3. Dysfunction: not able to perform normal or regular things; depression, recluse, etc.
  4. Danger: reckless behavior, taking chances, suicide ideation, etc.

     One of these or all four together may produce abnormal behavior. The behavior may be temporal or it may be perpetual.

Contributors to determining what is Normal

In a practical or pragmatic sense, normal is like beauty—it is in the eye of the beholder (Or the therapist). This is moving beyond the medical and legal fields. Thus the question, which is valid, who determines what behavior or personality is normal?

  1. How about cultural contributors? In some African tribes the women go without clothing on their bosoms. They have facial tattoos. A person may have grown up in a home where soup was “sucked making a noise” from the bowl or spoon. In some cultures the family and extended family members live in the same household. Visiting a foreign country you observe customs that you deem “not normal.” Why? You are judging based on USA norms. Not to debate the right or wrong, it is simply true that culture plays a major role in determining what is normal and what is abnormal.
  2. How about the difference in times? When I was a boy numerous Blue Laws were in effect. Businesses didn’t open on Sunday. When it was learned that a Jewish merchant had opened his store on Sunday, he was going against the norm. The times document culture. Some of the bygone habits, beliefs, and customs are still being used today to judge what is normal and what is abnormal. Some tend to rebel against “old school” norms
  3. How about the “isolation” of some religions and churches. A congregation is a small cultural bubble in a larger bubble called society. Churches have creeds, traditions, doctrines, habits, programs, etc. which they expect members to support and engage in. Some of these are based on Bible doctrines and some on traditions; usually both are equally bound as the norm. What is accepted in one church is rejected in another.
  4. There are the things we grew up with in our homes that were considered normal? It may have been choosing to eat certain food, certain ways. It may have been an acceptance or rejection of an ethnic group not our own. It may have been passing judgment on entertainment, etc. Family life plays a major role in determining what is normal or abnormal. The people next door are abnormal because they listen to opera.

     Yes, there are numerous things that go into determining what is normal. There are the psychological norms, the community norms, the religious norms, the domestic norms, personal norms and it goes on and on. What is normal? What is abnormal? How do we know for sure?

Choosing a New Normal

You and every person on planet earth, including myself, is in a shared “normal condition.” According to the Bible it is “normal” to be a sinner. Shocking? Not really if we let the Bible speak. The apostle Paul declared this, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). “[F]or all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But it gets worse, “And you he made alive, who were DEAD in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked…” (Ephesians 2:1, 2). Within the “normal” state of sinners there is major chaos, hate, crime, drunkenness, etc.

     While, sooner or later, it is “normal for a person to sin”, this normal creates an amazing abnormal condition. It is abnormal for a child to be separated from a parent. Yet that is what happens when a person sins: they are separated from God the Father: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1, 2). It creates a spiritual “Amber Alert.”

     As Christians when we heard the Gospel—the Good News—about how we could choose a new normal, we repented (Acts 2:38) and chose to do so. The new normal became a reality when we were baptized into Christ: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4; Read all of Chapter 6). We became “new creations.”

     Choosing the new normal, as defined by God, we are now practicing these new attitudes and behaviors:

  1. “Have this attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4-7).
  2. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).
  3. “Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2).
  4. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
  5. “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from sin” (1 John 1:7).
  6. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
  7. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1, 2).

     When you move from the “normal of the sinful world” to the new “normal in Christ” you will be looked upon as abnormal. Here is how your former associates, with whom you had a sinful lifestyle viewed as normal, will now view you as abnormal: “In regard to these, they think it STRANGE that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4).

     Oh by the way, the Normal family changed Ab’s name to Norm. And he is doing honor to it.

     I pray you are rejoicing in the new normal which is in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27; Romans 8:1).

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). This verse from the Old Testament writings of Solomon, has been used as the basis of success philosophy by gurus in seminars, books, media, and so forth. When Sir Francis Bacon was asked what he thought was the outlook for the next generation, he replied, “Tell me what the young are thinking, and I will tell you.” Marcus Aurelius said, “A man’s life is what his thoughts make him.”

Emerson wrote, “The ancestor of every action is a thought.” Even old William Shakespeare got into the act: “There is nothing, either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” God said through His prophet Jeremiah, I will give you the fruit of your thoughts” (Jeremiah 6:19). Biblical counseling is powerful because it addresses what God says is the source of man’s problems and sin: HIS THOUGHTS: And he said, ‘what comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, PROCEED EVIL THOUGHTS, adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, and evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from WITHIN and defile a man’ (Mark 7:21-23). This list of 12 major crimes and sins committed by mankind, is the continual debate over “Why do people do these things?” The answers are as varied and many as those involved in answering. Some popular reasons by persons committing these 12, and other sins, are as follows:

1. People do what they do because of their parents.

2. People do what they do because of their teachers.

3. People do what they do because of their “inner child.”

4. People grew up in a poor neighborhood or poverty.

5. People were influenced by their peers.

6. People were victims of the media.

7. People do what they do because of disease or mental illness.

The reasons are almost endless, as counselors, social workers, medical professionals, etc. Try to give reasons for man’s sinful behavior. They will call it anything but sin or sinful thinking. I believe Jesus. He said there is never just one sin or crime committed; behind each sin and crimea thought has gone before. Therefore, to make a valid and lasting change in behavior one must change his or her thinking. The Bible calls this repentance: “To have another mind, to change one’s mind.” It is possible for one to adjust or change his external behavior without changing his mind or thinking. Jesus said a man my refrain from the overt practice of adultery, but he can still lust after her and commit adultery in his heart.”

In the parable about washing the outside of cups and bowls, which represents pruning the externals, Jesus said it is imperative to clean the inside too. We can paint over rust with expensive and beautiful paint, but in time it will resurface. Likewise, we can clean up our outward act, but still be participating in it in our hearts (thinking). Some men’s sins are open going before into the judgment, and some men’s sins do follow them. The Kingdom of God is like a giant net in which many are gathered, but then there is a separating and throwing back those which aren’t desirable. Read Matthew 7:21-23.

CONFESSION OF A TERRORIST

His name struck fear in the heart of the early Christians. He was on an obsessive mission to stamp out every residue of the new sect called Christian. It was an enemy of God and the Law of Moses. His name was Saul, and he hailed from Tarsus. Here, before King Agrippa, is a short confession and a list of his crimes and terrorist acts again the first century church: Why should it be THOUGHT incredible by you that God raises the dead? Indeed, I myself THOUGHT I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even in foreign cities (Acts 26:8-11).

After his confession before Agrippa, Paul went on to discuss how he changed his mind and thinking about Christ and the Gospel (Acts 26:12-32). He repented and spent the rest of his life, bringing forth fruits documenting his change of mind (thinking). He wrote to the Christians in Rome: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). To the Colossians he admonished them to set their minds on things above (Colossians 3:2).

BIBLICAL EMPHASIS ON THOUGHT

We shouldn’t be surprised to find numerous passages in the God’s counseling manual—the Holy Bible—on the power and importance of thoughts and thinking. In the secular world the emphasis on thinking is called “cognitive therapy.” Our thinking is so important that God monitors them at all times: O Lord, You have searched me and know me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my THOUGHTS afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether (Psalm 139:1-3).

Let’s notice the following verses in the Bible and what they reveal about the place and importance of our thoughts:

1. Obedience to God takes place in the mind: Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

2. The imagination is controlled by thoughts: And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the THOUGHTS of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).

3. Thoughts bring disapproval from God: The THOUGHTS of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:26).

4. Fruit in our lives is produced by our thoughts: Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their THOUGHTS, because they have not hearkened unto My words, nor to My Law, but rejected it (Jeremiah 6:19).

5. You may curse a person in your thoughts: Curse not the king, no not in THOUGHT: and curse not the rich in your bed-chamber (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

6. The first step in turning from God occurs in thoughts: Every day they wrest my word: all their thoughts are evil against Me (Psalm 56:5; cf. Psalm 14:1).

7. If you think right you are right: The THOUGHTS of the righteous are right, but counsels of the wicked are deceit (Proverbs 12:5).

8. The sin of foolishness begins with thoughts: The THOUGHT of the foolish is sin; and the scorner is an abomination to men (Proverbs 24:9).

9. Wickedness toward others starts with thoughts: Beware that there be not a THOUGHT in the wicked heart, saying,…and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, that you give him nothing (Deuteronomy 15:9).

10. Hypocrisy begins in the thoughts: Even so you outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matthew 23:29).

11. Man’s tendency is not to think like God thinks: For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord (Isaiah 55:8)

12. We must invite God to examine our thoughts: Search me, O lord, and know my heart: try me, and know my THOUGHTS (Psalm 139:23).

13. Our thinking helps us turn to God: I THOUGHT on my ways, and turned my feet into Your testimonies (Psalm 119:59). The word REPENT means to “have a change of mind (Luke 13:3, 5).

14. Comfort comes from thinking biblically: In the multitude of my THOUGHTS within me thy comforts delight my soul. God comforts through His word (Romans 15:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3).

15. If you desire to be a “deep thinker”—think biblically: O Lord, how great are thy works! And thy THOUGHTS are very deep (Psalm 92:5.

16. It is precious to think biblically: How precious are your THOUGHTS unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! (Psalm139:17).

17. Thoughts determine how we think about God and man: These things have you done, and I kept silence: you thought that I was altogether such a one as thyself; but I will reprove you, and set them in order before My eyes (Psalm 50:21).

18. Remembering or forgetting God occurs in man’s thoughts: Now consider this, you that forget God… (Psalm 50:2) … but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened (Psalm 1:21).

19. No thought can be hidden or withheld from God: I know that You can do everything, and that no THOUGHT can be withheld from You (Job 42:2).

20. Thinking causes a person to do wrong: I verily THOUGHT with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9). Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps the THOUGHT of thine heart may be forgiven you (Acts 8:22)

One of the major goals of biblical counseling is to help a person understand the role thinking and thoughts play in attitudes, behaviors, and belief system. Thoughts help us develop habits that in turn drive our behavior automatically. In order to change attitudes and behavior patterns there must be a change in thinking. This is the core discipline of bringing every thought captive to Christ. If Christ approves the thought we can obey it, if he doesn’t, we must not allow it to influence our lives. We must continually set our minds on things above (Colossians 3:2), and think God’s agenda (Philippians 4:8-10).

APPLICATION EXERCISE

1. Why does thinking play such an important role in biblical counseling?

2. Why is negative thinking so dangerous?

3. How can a person change his/her thinking, and thus changed behavior.

4. How does “automatic thoughts” relate to biblical means of changing thought patterns?

5. How do you practice biblical thinking?

6. What additional observations do you have?

© Dr. JJ Turner and ©Jeremiah Institute - All Rights Reserved (usage)

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