Archive for May, 2017

Council of Counselors: Self-Forgetfulness / Date Ideas / Divorce Habits / Celibate Gay Christians / Life as Worship

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

Can Self-Forgetfulness Make Us Happier? by Randy Alcorn

Sometimes when times are tough, I have that same experience of losing myself during quiet times with God. Sometimes I have it when laughing with family and friends. Other times it’s when I’m riding a bike or listening to music or a great audio book. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis said of the humble person, “He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.” I’ve seen the truth of what Lewis and Tim Keller and others have discovered, experiencing my greatest happiness not simply when I think less of myself, but when I think of myself less. When I’m thinking most about Jesus and others, and least about me, I’m most fulfilled.

20 Ideas for Dating Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

Men, you need to come up with your own ideas for how to date your wife. You know your wife better than anyone else. Only you know how to best care for the woman God has given you. But, sometimes it helps to build off other people’s ideas in order to form your own. Look these ideas over.

12 Habits That Lead to Divorce by Dave Willis

How do we stop this epidemic of broken marriages? To bring it even closer to home, how should YOU protect YOUR marriage? I’m convinced that if you’ll avoid these 12 common bad “habits,” you’ll be well on your way to beating the divorce statistics and creating a healthy and happy marriage that will endure through every season of life.

Friends as Family Perspective by Mark Yarhouse

We are looking to enhance our understanding of the experiences of celibate gay Christians and their support system. We would like to interview friends who are close to celibate gay Christians or function as family in the lives of celibate gay Christians and could speak to that friendship. We would like to understand how people have built supportive friendships and to learn about the challenges, approaches, and your shared wisdom in building such relationships.

Worship Matters Video Intensive by Bob Kauflin

In 2008, Bob Kauflin wrote Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God, in which he sought to connect a biblical theology of worship with what worship leaders actually do on Sundays. Through the book, Bob builds congregational worship on biblical principles that transcend cultures, generations, and ethnic groups.

  • For a perspective on how the concept of worship is central to biblical counseling see the “What I’m Reading” section below.

What I’m Reading

aweAwe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do by Paul Tripp. Humans are hardwired for awe. Our hearts are always captured by something—that’s how God made us. But sin threatens to distract us from the glory of our Creator. All too often, we stand in awe of everything but God.

Uncovering the lies we believe about all the earthly things that promise us peace, life, and contentment, Paul Tripp redirects our gaze to God’s awe-inducing glory—showing how such a vision has the potential to impact our every thought, word, and deed.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

Jesus_Spurgeon

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

When Someone Resists Your Advice: 3 Questions to Consider

????????????This post was originally published on the CareLeader resource site on March 22, 2017. We asked pastoral counselor Brad Hambrick to respond to a question that pastors inevitably face: “If someone you counsel in your church refuses or ignores your counsel, how should that be handled?” Here are his thoughts.

This is one of the things that can be difficult when we are counseling others. How much is somebody obligated to follow the counsel of others in the church to preserve the fellowship and the unity of the body of Christ? I think if we’re going to answer that question, we have to deconstruct it a little bit. We have to look at its pieces and then come back and ask some further clarifying questions.

First consideration: Who’s involved in the conversation?

So we start with the question, Who are you? What is your role? Are you the pastor? Are you a deacon? Are you a small-group leader? Are you leading in a particular ministry area, like a recovery group? Are you a peer?

And then we ask, Who is the other person? Is the person somebody held to a higher standard like a pastor, a deacon, or an elder? Is the person a peer? Does the person look up to you in a position of authority, like a teacher? Different roles carry different standards that come with them. Thus, pastors and elders are to be above reproach, and in these cases you might come to the other person with an issue that compromises the person’s reputation in the community.

Second consideration: What type of advice was given?

Next we ask, What is the advice that you gave? Is it moral instruction? Is it significant, logistical instruction, or is it more casual advice?

Scripture, when it calls you to counsel and care for others, is not calling you to be a social engineer in their lives, arranging their lives in whatever way that you see best. It’s calling you to be responsible for those moral areas in which hearts tend to be bent and broken. We all need people who see our lives more clearly than we do. We all need caring people who can say, “I really feel like you’re falling into error.” If it’s a moral instruction, then you might come along with somebody else, like it says in Matthew 18, to tell the person that you’re really concerned about this area of his or her life.1 If it’s not an area of moral weight, then you probably don’t do that.

If, however, it is not a matter of moral weight, you might look at the friend and say, “Because of the issue we’ve been talking about, you’re on the brink of burnout.” Or, “I can’t necessarily say that what you’re doing is sinful, but it’s foolish enough to be dangerous.”

Third consideration: What type of resistance is it?

And then we ask the question, What is the nature of the resistance? Was the person flippant? Defiant? Forgetful? You can use this set of questions to decide how you should respond if the counsel you offer is rejected.

This is where a passage like 1 Thessalonians 5:14 is very instructive, because it gives people different attitudes that they might have toward behavior that needs to change. This verse says if people are unruly—if they’re committed to their sin—then you should admonish them. Give a strong word of correction that you speak with a heartfelt urgency, because this issue really needs to change.

First Thessalonians 5:14 also says that some people are disheartened. They’re overwhelmed, and what they need is to be encouraged. You would say, “We’re here for you. You’re not having to do this alone. We see these fruits of grace in your life, and so we know that God is with you.”

And then the passage says if somebody is weak, that is, the person lacks the ability or the skill set needed in a situation, then you don’t offer words; you offer assistance. You “help the weak.”

At the end of the passage it says, “Be patient with them all.” Now if you are resisted, the last thing that you might want to be is patient. And Scripture recognizes that side of our hearts. But when you’re in the helping role, there is a higher calling of patience that’s upon you. When you are in a helping relationship, you are representing Christ’s agenda, and you shouldn’t be a distraction from what Christ wants to do in this person’s life.

Counsel of Counselors: Trauma and Breathing / Instagram Depression / Chronic Illness / Job-Fit / Cohabitation

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises and Your Vagus Nerve by Christopher Bergland

Diaphragmatic breathing (also referred to as “slow abdominal breathing) is something you can do anytime and anywhere to instantly stimulate your vagus nerve and lower stress responses associated with “fight-or-flight” mechanisms. Deep breathing also improves heart rate variability (HRV), which is the measurement of variations within beat-to-beat intervals.

This Popular Social Network Ranks as the Worst for Young People’s Mental Health by Quenton Fottrell

Instagram, an app that people use to share photos of their lives as seen through a series of flattering filters, was rated worst for the mental health of young people in a study by the Royal Society for Public Health in the U.K. The researchers asked nearly 1,500 British social media users aged 14 to 25 about five of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. The aim of the survey was to find out how they feel each of these platforms impacts their health and well-being. Based on the 14 health-related questions, Instagram came out the worst, followed by Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Building Relationships with Families Touched by Chronic Illness and Disability by Mary Tutterow

The numbers have grown too big to ignore. More than 65 million people, 29 percent of the US population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member—a child with special needs, a spouse with cancer, a parent with dementia, a family member with schizophrenia. So how will our churches serve these families—through all ages and phases of care? And it’s not just about those who are afflicted. What about those who are struggling to care for them?

10 Ways to Know if You’re on the Wrong Seat in the Bus by Chuck Lawless

Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, popularized the concept of “getting the right people on the right seat in the bus.” It’s not uncommon in church consulting to find church staff members who seem to be in the wrong seat. If you’re wondering about your role, here are some indicators of that possibility.

The Three Myths of Cohabitation by Andrew Palpant Dilley

According to a recent sociological study, cohabitation has a notably deleterious impact on one particular group: kids. “As marriage becomes less likely to anchor the adult life course across the globe, growing numbers of children may be thrown into increasingly turbulent family waters,” writes Bradford Wilcox in Foreign Affairs.

What I’m Reading

suffering langbergSuffering and the Heart of God: How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores by Diane Langberg. When someone suffers through trauma, can healing happen? And, if yes, how does it happen? Dr. Diane Langberg tackles these complex and difficult questions with the insights she has gained through more than forty years of counseling those whose lives have been destroyed by trauma and abuse. Her answer carefully explained in Suffering and the Heart of God is Yes, what trauma destroys, Christ can and does restore.

But it s not a fast process, instead much patience is required from family, friends, and counselors as they wisely and respectfully help victims unpack their traumatic suffering through talking, tears, and time. And it s not a process that can be separated from the work of God in both a counselor and counselee. Dr. Langberg calls all of those who wish to help sufferers to model Jesus s sacrificial love and care in how they listen, love, and guide. The heart of God is revealed to sufferers as they grow to understand the cross of Christ and how their God came to this earth and experienced such severe suffering that he too is well-acquainted with grief. The cross of Christ is the lens that transforms and redeems traumatic suffering and its aftermath, not only for the sufferer, but it also transforms those who walk with the suffering. This book will be a great help to anyone who loves, listens to, and seeks to help someone impacted by trauma and abuse. There is no quick fix, but there is the hope for healing through the love of God in Christ.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

Calvin and Hobbes gets deep.

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

Follow Up Resources for a Sermon from Amos: Robust Repentance

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon “Amos,” preached at The Summit Church Saturday-Sunday May 20-21, 2017.

Repentance-300x200This post is written for the individual who senses their need to repent (a major theme in Amos). But, as is true for so many of us, we so seldom fully own our sin that “the language of repentance” is not our native-tongue. If you need to shift from minimizing, generalizing, and blame-shifting in how to you relate to you sin to robust repentance the points below will be helpful.

There is no formula for repentance. The six points below are merely meant to help you experience the full redemptive impact of repentance. In this sense, repentance and God’s forgiveness can be like a smart phone. They have many features that we may not know are present or how to utilize. When we buy the phone, we get them all; but we do not get the full benefit of them until we realize they’re there and how to use them.

After each point, we will offer an area of self-assessment. These questions are meant to help you determine whether you are placing yourself in a position to receive the benefits God intends to provide through each aspect of repentance.

1. A desire to live for God and submit to His Lordship.

Repentance does not begin with remorse. If that were the case, then we would be saying the cure for guilt begins with feeling worse.

Repentance begins with a genuine desire to submit to God’s Lordship out of trust for His character. Repentance begins with the belief that what God wants for us is actually what is best. We trust God to lead our lives more than ourselves.

When we see God’s ways as best, we are sorry we strayed from them, but this remorse is not “icky” like shame; instead it is like the sense of reunion with a trusted friend after you realize you were wrongly upset with them and they graciously embrace the friendship again.

  • Self-Assessment: Are you surrendering to the Lordship of Christ because you trust his love for you or are you primarily seeking relief from unpleasant emotions and destructive habits?

2. An understanding of how our sin sought to replace God.

It is not just actions or distorted motives for which we repent. We repent for having replaced God with ourselves. 

The idols that fuel our sin want to control all of our lives; to interpret all the events and people in our lives. Repentance acknowledges this false worship as an affront to God and wants him to have his rightful place in our lives; allowing God to again rightly interpret the events and people in our lives.

  • Self-Assessment: Are you able to see the “against God” nature of your sin?

3. Brokenness over the nature of our sin.

A healthy life begins with recognizing our fallen human condition. Ultimately we sin because we are sinners. The myriad of factors that led to our sin are not the root cause. The root is that our nature has been distorted by the Fall (1 Cor. 15:21-22).

True repentance is not just sorrow over particular idols or behavioral failures but brokenness over our condition as a sinful person. When we acknowledge our depravity, we gain an accurate self-assessment that motivates us to perpetually rely on God. Realizing this is the perpetual need of every person allows for a non-shame-based honesty in which a real relationship with God can thrive.

Repentance is what allows you not to have to be either fake or fatalistic about your short-comings and perpetual struggles. Repentance allows you to be honest and have hope at the same time.

  • Self-Assessment: Do you resist seeing yourself and allowing yourself to be known as someone who is in perpetual need of God’s sustaining grace?

4. Expression to God.

After sin, our pride or fear causes us to hide from God rather than talk to God (Gen. 3:8). Too often we think that a directionless sense of regret for sin is the same thing as repenting to God.

You will not feel restored to God as long as you are avoiding God because of your sin. It does no good to address your repentance “to whom it may concern.” Any ambiguously addressed repentance is little more than talking to yourself differently. Talk to God when you repent so that you can know His response to your repentance.

  • Self-Assessment: Have you talked to God in your repentance? If not, might it be that your repentance seems ineffective because the “no one” you spoke to can have no power to forgive or comfort?

5. Faith in God’s willingness to forgive.

Repentance is an expression of faith. We come to God with nothing to offer in exchange for forgiveness. If we do not believe God will freely forgive, we will continue in our “try harder” or “hide more effectively” approaches that allowed our sin to fester.

All this does is inadvertently reinforce the false beliefs that our sin is good and God is mean. Unless we believe that God is willing to forgive on the basis of His grace and Christ’s death, then repentance becomes a form of penance that is more like putting peace in layaway than receiving a gift.

  • Self-Assessment: How do you view God (i.e., expression on His face, posture of His body, tones when He speaks, words that He says, gestures of His hands) when you come to God in repentance?

6. New direction of life usually expressed first by confession (to those we’ve offended and other Christians for accountability).

Repentance is our part of entering into or recommitting to a covenant relationship (i.e., like marriage) with God. This is why sin is frequently called spiritual adultery. 

Repentance is our vow-renewal ceremony that expresses our renewed commitment to covenant fidelity. Marriage ceremonies and vow renewals are not done in private. They are public declarations of who has our ultimate allegiance. This parallels why repentance doesn’t remain private. It is also expressed through confession.

  • Self-Assessment: Does it startle you to think of repentance as a vow-renewal ceremony? How does that image extend the implications of repentance beyond the moment of prayer?

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

 

Unhealthy Forgiveness: Why We Should Not Forgive Misinterpretations

forgivenessConsider these uncomfortable statements. Forgiveness is not always a virtue. Forgiveness can be offensive and destructive to a relationship. There are times when forgiving only reinforces our pride or blindness.

Think through these situations for a moment:

  • A husband feels hurt because his wife “disrespected him” when she asked a question about a decision he was making but genuinely didn’t understand (and he did not adequately explain).
  • A wife feels hurt when her husband “failed to pursue her” when his plans for their anniversary did not match what she was hoping for (but had never disclosed to him what she wanted).
  • A friend feels hurt when the other friend is “unwilling to invest in the relationship” but “investing” means matching the unhealthy, excessive commitment that the first friend gives to the relationship.

In each of these brief vignettes it would be easy for the husband-wife-friend to say, “I forgive you,” and this would healthily remedy the situation. But in each case, forgiveness would be destructive to their own character and the relationship.

Why?

In each case the hurt being forgiven was based on a misinterpretation; forgiving would further ingrain this misinterpretation. Accepting this forgiveness offered would add a level of social reinforcement to the misinterpretation.

Consider each situation again:

  • The husband would believe that his communication about decisions was adequate and that anything that aggravated his insecurities was wrong.
  • The wife would believe that a truly loving husband should “just know” what his wife desired and that anything that disappointed her was a sign of a poor marriage.
  • The friend would believe their excessive needy-giving was the Christ-like standard for selfless sacrifice and that everyone else should match their unsustainable level involvement in the life of others.

What is the danger?

If we view forgiveness as only a virtue, then the husband-wife-friend would believe that they responded in “the biblical way” and that any resistance to their overture would reveal hard-heartedness on the other person’s part. Intentional or not, this is a form of manipulation. Even with the best of intentions (which is sometimes true), it contributes to the deterioration of the relationship.

What is missing?

These scenarios reveal a neglect of the guiding principles of Matthew 7:1-5, to take the log out of our eye first. When we fail to properly take into account or role in a relational hardship, even our most biblical practices become destructive rather than helpful. Self-awareness is an essential component of applying the Scriptures to our life and relationships as God intended.

If we do not see ourselves or the situation rightly, we are not applying the Bible to our life or our situation. We are applying the Bible to a figment of our imagination.

That is what is happening is each situation above. Forgiveness becomes a way that the husband-wife-friend tries to force the other person to live in their “alternative reality.”

What is an appropriate response?

If you are on the receiving end of unhealthy forgiveness a two-fold response is recommended: (a) empathy towards the hurt along with (b) an invitation to reconsider the interpretation.

An extension of forgiveness means the other person is hurt. Even if their interpretation is not true; their experience is real. A lack of empathy towards their hurt will only reinforce their interpretation that you are in the wrong.

We can only offer an invitation to reconsider the interpretation. If we aggressively refute the interpretation, a conversation will become a debate. In the context of hurt, this has a very low probability of being fruitful. Additionally, we offer an invitation because our interpretation may be wrong. Hearing from our friend may reveal things we missed in our initial experience of the interaction.

With that said, a response might sound like this:

“I am very sorry that you are hurt. I’m not sure I understand yet why my response-actions was inappropriate. I appreciate your desire to handle this situation as Scripture desires – with repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. Can we walk back through what happened to assess what should have happened and what reasonable expectations-responses should have been?”

If you get an affirmative response, there is the opportunity for both of you to learn and grow. Either or both of you may need to repent and forgive.

If you get a defensive or aggressive response (and the situation is significant or repetitive), then you may need to say, “I don’t think I serve you best by accepting your forgiveness. I believe I would be reinforcing an inaccurate interpretation of these events. Can we invite someone we mutually trust to help us discern how honor God and one another in this situation?”

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” or “Favorite Posts on Abusive Relationships” post which address other facets of this subject.

Council of Counselors: Sleep Disorders / Personality Tests / Living with Mental Illness / Autistic Pastor / Burnout

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

Sleep Disorders & the Glory of God by Eric Davis

We hear it time and again. “Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night.” “Not getting enough shuteye is a serious problem that can threaten your health and safety.” “Be a good steward of your body by sleeping eight hours.” Good suggestions, no doubt. But for those who suffer with sleep disorders, it’s a cruel tease. By sleep disorder, we’re not talking about getting four or five hours of sleep a few nights per week, but never getting a good chunk in a span of months. Ask someone with a sleep disorder when the last time they got six or seven hours of sleep, and they’ll be thinking back to a different decade.

Why You Should Stop Using Your Personality Test As A Crutch by Michael Kelley

Unfortunately, though, personality tests can go very wrong in one simple way: Your personality test is not a license to be a jerk.

Q&A: How Do We Ask for Help When Living with Mental Illness? by Amy Simpson

Question: Our daughter has a mental illness, and our whole family has had to make adjustments to help her. There are times when she does really well, especially when she does what her doctor recommends: gets enough rest, eats well, and works with her therapist. But sometimes things are really hard, and this has a big impact on all of us. We haven’t told many people about our daughter’s illness, but it would be nice if we could have some help and support from our church and from other people we know. But how do we help our church and community understand what we need? We aren’t sure ourselves!

How I Leverage My Autism for Pastoral Ministry  by Lamar Hardwick

On Monday, December 22, 2014, I walked into the office of my therapist. I sat down on her couch with my wife by my side. I took a long deep breath and slowly exhaled, waiting for answers to my 36-year-long question. She grabbed her clip board, glanced over the assessments we had completed in weeks prior, looked me in the eye, and uttered three words that changed my life: “autism spectrum disorder.” While the diagnosis didn’t change who I was, it did change my understanding of who I had been. In many ways, I have spent the years since that diagnosis learning myself all over again.

Four Practical Ways to Avoid Burnout by Eric Geiger

After posting a blog called “Four Warning Signs You Are Approaching Burnout,” I heard from several friends and leaders who were struggling with burnout or felt they were headed in that direction. They wisely recognized warning signs in their lives and were committed to making adjustments. Self-leadership is critical. We must lead ourselves well, and this includes leading ourselves away from burnout. If you cannot lead yourself, you will struggle to lead others. If a leader is unhealthy, all those around the leader are impacted.

What I’m Reading

sleepSecrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders by Dr. Craig Heller. For many of us, sleep is one of life’s greatest pleasures. For others, sleep represents a nightly struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, rest comfortably, and even remain safe until morning. But what is sleep exactly, and why must we do it every night?

 

Despite the fact that we sped about one-third of our lives in slumber, scientists still aren’t completely certain. Finding the function of sleep is one of the biggest—and most intriguing—challenges facing biologists today.

What is clear: Sleep is as essential to life as food and water. It impacts virtually every aspect of our lives, from our mood to the functioning of our organs, and it contributes to learning and memory, better performance at work, and a more healthy and productive wakeful life overall.

Tweets of the Week

Meaningful Meme

give_receive from Art Rainer

Follow Up Resources for a Sermon from Joel: Regret

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon “Joel,” preached at The Summit Church Saturday-Sunday May 13-14, 2017.

This post is written for the individual we can relate to Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you,” because they are in the midst of a season of regret when it feels like what has been destroyed will not be restored.

Dealing With Regret from Equip on Vimeo.

Presentation Handout: EQUIP_Dealing with Regret_Notes

Regret always begins as an opportunity; hence the disappointment. There was something we wanted to be an enduring part of our life that disappeared, was forfeited, or was lost. Regret is never just a moment, but a painful and pivotal change in our life story.

When we neglect mourning the hope that birthed our regret or focus exclusively on the moment in which regret began there are two negative consequences: (a) whatever guidance we receive feels light-weight and cliché, and (b) we miss most of what God has been, is, and wants to do.

In this presentation I walk through the life of Moses in light of his most regrettable moment (Numbers 20:1-13) to illustrate how God’s works redemptively in the midst of the things we regret most deeply.

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Emotions” which address other facets of this subject.

 

Forgiveness After Adultery: What It Is and Is Not

forgivingThis post is an excerpt from Step 7 of the True Betrayal seminar manual. If you read the content and feel like it is “ahead of where you are” or “too heavy for you,” then it is recommended that you start at the beginning of this resource.

What is the first thing you need to “do” with all you have learned, understood, and processed to this point [Steps 1-6]? Forgive. Before now forgiveness would probably have been only a well-intentioned promise. When we forgive we absorb the cost of someone else’s sin. But forgiveness should not be a blank check or it easily becomes foolish enablement or willful naivety. Jesus knew the cost of saying the words “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48) or “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11). Wise forgiveness, especially when it potentially leads to restoration, knows the cost of the check it writes.

Read Matthew 18:21-35. Notice that precise amounts are given for what is forgiven. Part of the benefit of Steps 2-4 was that you could know what you are forgiving. Too often a passage like this is used to imply that because the offenses against us are small compared to our offenses against God (which is true) that all offenses against us are small (which is false). In reaction to that logic we often resist forgiveness because the act of forgiving seems to minimize the offense. The act of saying, “I forgive you,” assumes the statement, “You wronged me in a way that should not be overlooked or minimized.” It should also include the assumption, “I am only able to assume the debt of your sin against me because God has assumed my debt against Him and promised to cover whatever losses I incur by forgiving others.”

“The fact is, what your spouse has done against you and God may be inexcusable, but it is not unforgiveable (p. 30).” Mike Summers in Help! My Spouse Has Been Unfaithful

So what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is the choice to no longer require someone to receive the punishment that their sin deserves. Forgiveness is an act of faith that trusts that the penalty for sin was sufficiently paid by Christ on the cross or will be paid by the sinner in Hell. Forgiveness is a willingness to treat the offender as gracious wisdom would allow given the offender’s response to their sin.

“Forgiveness is not a human function. You may have to begin by asking God to give you the desire to be obedient. There’s no sense in pretending (p. 170).” Gary & Mona Shriver in Unfaithful

Forgiveness vs. Restoration: These terms are distinct but have significant overlap. All restoration is rooted in forgiveness, but not all forgiveness will result in restoration. In the discussion below the tone of forgiveness implies a movement towards restoration. However, if your spouse is unrepentant of his/her sin, then your personal recovery may involve applying these principles without the particular applications made towards restoration.

Gary and Mona Shriver in their book Unfaithful describe five things that forgiveness is not (p.165-166; modified, bold text only).  As you read these use them to calm the fears of “I could never forgive because…” You will likely find that many of the things you say you could not do are not actually what forgiveness requires.

1. Forgiveness is not containing or restraining hurt and anger.

If this is how we conceive of forgiveness, then forgiveness becomes a synonym for being fake. Forgiveness becomes a form of self-imposed silencing rather than other-minded expression of grace. With this bad definition of forgiveness, we resist godly self-control in the name of resisting hypocritical forgiveness.

“There are a couple of principles that can help you deal with unresolved anger. Don’t allow your anger to control you. If we are out of control verbally or physically, we are in sin. And the truth is that no real work gets done in that atmosphere… Additionally, it is important to understand that processing and venting are two different things (p. 152).” Gary & Mona Shriver in Unfaithful

Forgiveness is what allows us to express hurt as hurt rather than hurt as anger. Even after forgiveness the hurt still hurts. It is just that after forgiveness the penalty for that hurt which anger tries to generate has already been relinquished by the forgiver. When you forgive you are not making a commitment not to hurt. You are making a commitment about what you will do with hurt when it flares.

2. Forgiveness is not letting someone off the hook.

Forgiveness is the complete opposite of saying, “That’s okay.” If the action being forgiven were “okay” then no forgiveness would be needed. Forgiveness is not the same as saying, “This is finished. Nothing more needs to be said about this.” Forgiveness is the start of restoration not the culmination. When God forgives us He does not assume we are a “finished product.” God remains active in our life to remove the sin He forgave. Similarly, when you forgive your spouse that is the beginning of restoring the marriage to what God intended it to be and which may involve continued dealing with fall out of his/her sin.

“Forgiveness is an important part of recovering from adultery, but forgiveness isn’t God’s way of ‘dropping the subject’ (p. 18).” Winston Smith in Help! My Spouse Committed Adultery

3. Forgiveness is not an excuse.

Forgiveness does not reclassify the offense from a sin to a mistake. Mistakes are excused. Sins are forgiven. Sometimes we resist forgiving because we do not want to ratify this perceived downgrade in the significance of the offense. Forgiveness is not a downgrade. Forgiveness inherently classifies an offense at the top level of wrongness.

On the opposite side of making an excuse for your spouse’s sin, is over personalizing his/her sin. While your spouse’s sin was absolutely against you, it may or may not have been about you. As you seek to express forgiveness by not dwelling on your spouse’s sin, you may have to battle against validating each way your imagination can conceive that your spouse’s sin was “meant” to harm or insult you.

4. Forgiveness is not forgetting or some kind of sentimental amnesia.

Forgiveness is not the culmination of a journey but the commitment to complete a journey. Forgiving does not require a rush of warm emotions towards your spouse that are consistently stronger than the emotions of hurt you feel towards his/her sin. This conception would make forgiveness a state of being to achieve rather than a promise being given.

A naïve-amnesia view of forgiveness implies that your spouse’s struggle with lust is over and that any future offense can/should be responded to without reference to past/forgiven sexual sin. Forgiveness does mean that you will allow unclear facts to be examined before making accusations and that progress would be considered in determining how to respond to a relapse. The social network each of you have built while working through False Love and True Betrayal, should allow for these assessments to be made in a wise, healthy manner.

So what does forgiveness mean you are committing to do with your memories, fears, and imagination? Forgiveness does not add anything new to how you respond to your memories, fears, and imagination that wisdom did not already advise before you forgave. The patient honesty that was outlined in Step 2-6 is the kind of response you should give. Forgiveness is not a commitment to become non-emotional ; but honoringly emotional.

5. Forgiveness is not trust or reconciliation.

The next section will talk about the process of restoring trust. But, for the moment, know that forgiving and trusting or forgiving and saying things are “back to normal,” are not the same thing. If you feel like you have to be “there yet” in order to forgive, then this belief will impair both your ability to forgive and progress towards restoring the marriage.

Read Ephesians 4:31-32. This passage describes where you should be at this stage in the process. There should be a commitment to put away “all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander (v. 31).” Forgiveness is when you make this commitment, not the declaration of its completion. After reading this section on forgiveness in light of the journey you have been on, how do you understand the phrase “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (v. 32)” differently? What is different in how you view your forgiveness from God? What is different about what you believe God is asking of you towards others?

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Adultery” or “Favorite Posts on Pornography” post which address other facets of this subject.

Council of Counselors: Too Tired for Sex / Body-Soul Care / Life Expectancy / Unfair Parenting / Distracted Prayer

This is a weekly post that highlights resources from other counselors that I have found helpful. The counselors may be from the biblical counseling, Christian psychology, integration, or secular counseling traditions. By linking to a post, I am not giving it my full endorsement, I am merely indicating that I believe it made a unique contribution or raised an important subject for consideration.

When You’re Too Tired for Sex with Your Spouse by Lauren Lambert

Sex can be complicated to discuss because it’s personal and intimate. But I want to talk about a specific sexual struggle: the exhausted married woman who doesn’t feel like having sex with her husband, but should do it anyway. She doesn’t have complicating factors like marital abuse happening in her life. She doesn’t have sexual traumas making sex difficult for her. She’s just tired.

Considering Body and Soul in Counseling: Psychotropic Medications by Sam Williams

Psychotropic medications are a sensitive topic; most people you talk to will have fairly strong opinions about whether or not they should be used in treating a host of life’s problems. In thinking about this, though, it’s helpful to take a step back and consider who we are as human persons. In doing so, this helps us understand where life issues fall on the spectrum between spiritual problems and physical problems. Once we understand where a particular issue falls on that spectrum, we can better assess the place that psychotropic medication may have for a given counselee.

Life Expectancy Can Vary By 20 Years Depending On Where You Live by Rob Stein

New research documents significant disparities in the life spans of Americans depending on where they live. And those gaps appear to be widening, according to the research.

7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Our Children by Tim Challies

Parents, do not provoke your children to anger lest they become discouraged, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” This single sentence combines the New Testament’s two most prominent passages on parenting and, as I said yesterday (see Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children!), offers a significant warning to parents: We can parent our children in such a way that we provoke them to anger and discouragement. There are times when we so provoke our children that anger is the fitting and inevitable response. Today I want to offer a few ways that we, as parents, may provoke our children to that kind of anger and discouragement.

7 Ways to Fight Distraction in Prayer by Gavin Ortlund

Distraction can be a huge hindrance in our prayer life, but I’m also discovering it provides an opportunity for growth. Here are seven strategies for fighting and harnessing distraction to deepen and direct our prayers.

What I’m Reading

what you loveYou Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith. Who and what we worship fundamentally shape our hearts. And while we desire to shape culture, we are not often aware of how culture shapes us. We might not realize the ways our hearts are being taught to love rival gods instead of the One for whom we were made. Smith helps readers recognize the formative power of culture and the transformative possibilities of Christian practices. He explains that worship is the “imagination station” that incubates our loves and longings so that our cultural endeavors are indexed toward God and his kingdom. This is why the church and worshiping in a local community of believers should be the hub and heart of Christian formation and discipleship.

Following the publication of his influential work Desiring the Kingdom, Smith received numerous requests from pastors and leaders for a more accessible version of that book’s content. No mere abridgment, this new book draws on years of Smith’s popular presentations on the ideas in Desiring the Kingdom to offer a fresh, bottom-up rearticulation. The author creatively uses film, literature, and music illustrations to engage readers and includes new material on marriage, family, youth ministry, and faith and work. He also suggests individual and communal practices for shaping the Christian life.

Tweets of the Week

https://twitter.com/Serena_Marie_/status/832624323722481664

Meaningful Meme

happy

On the Lighter Side

Because, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” Proverbs 17:22.

For the NBA fans out there.

https://twitter.com/MarkJonesESPN/status/860569482514714624

Follow Up Resources for a Sermon from Hosea

This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from Pastor J.D.’s sermon “Hosea,” preached at The Summit Church Saturday-Sunday May 6-7, 2017. This post is written as a letter to an individual in the throes of adultery; someone in the role of Gomer. Even if you are in the Hosea role, hopefully this post can offer you a new way to pray for your wayward spouse and resources to aid you in this painful season of waiting.

hosea

Friend,

I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter. I can only imagine that it is hard for you to believe that anyone can understand what you’re going through. You are making some of the hardest decisions of your life in the name of love and, no matter what you do, people you love are going to be hurt deeply. That would leave most people feeling both trapped and highly defensive.

To make matters worse, those who knew you and your spouse as mutual friends or have a Christian background overwhelmingly take the position that you should end your affair and pursue your marriage. They make it sound “easy” and “obvious;” which only supports your belief that no one understands.

Furthermore, it leaves you feeling very alone and as if your adultery partner is the only one who can sympathetically understand. Who do you talk to in order to get unbiased advice? Is there unbiased advice? After all, you’re going to choose one path and radically alter the lives of many people you love dearly. That’s likely why you’ve tried to live in two worlds until now.

Let’s start with this reality: you are going to choose. You are going to choose to pursue a life with your spouse (and children, if you have them) or your adultery partner (with your children passing between homes in a blended family, if you have them). Unless you delay until your spouse and/or adultery partner abandons you, you will make a choice between these two options.

More than mere choosing, you are going to choose not knowing the outcome. You do not know if your current marriage will get better (supposing you had grievances about how it was before). You do not know if your spouse will be able to forgive you or will be willing to work on restoring the marriage (regardless of what your spouse says in the time after your disclosure or their discovery of the affair).

But, your potential future with your adultery partner is equally uncertain, although it likely doesn’t feel that way now. To this point the affair has been a fantasy. In reality, you know less about what this relationship will be like than you knew about what your current marriage would be like when you were dating and engaged. An affair is a relationship built on deceit and artificially fueled by the passion-allegiance of a shared secret and not having to bear the weight of day-to-day life. The story line of “forbidden love” evaporates as soon as there are “shared responsibilities” and no “them” to keep “us” apart.

This begins to get at why you haven’t already chosen. If you are like most people in your situation, you are looking for the route by which no one gets hurt, or those who get hurt, hurt the least. This is another fantasy. Sex forms a bond (I Cor. 6:16). When you sever either relationship, there will be pain. One or both relationships will die and your choices will be the largest deciding factor in which one. This is not meant to be a guilt-statement, but a reality-statement to sober you to the situation you have created.

Please keep reading. I recognize these words are painful. But if they are true, which I doubt you can deny, they merit your attention. This is not a choice you want to make by accident. It is too important to too many people you care about to allow that to happen. If you love anyone in this scenario besides yourself, you will quit stringing everyone along.

Chances are you’ve come to this point many times in your own internal dialogue since your affair began. The dead end has likely been, “But what do I do? There doesn’t seem to be any good options.” Then life goes on, so you continued living a double life.

In this letter, I want to offer you a path forward. I do not pretend it to be easy. But, be honest, neither path is going to be easy, so that shouldn’t be a criteria.

  1. Choose. The longer you delay, the more angst you create for everyone and the more pain that will result when a choice is finally made. You do not honor or care for anyone well by delaying. It is the epitome of selfishness to make people you allegedly care about to wait. The fact that you’ve allowed things to go this long should cause you to humbly question how wise and loving your intentions have been about this affair.
  2. To honor God, choose your marriage. Your spouse is not the primary person you’ve offended with your unfaithfulness. To make this decision as if your happiness and pleasure is the primary concern reveals a decision making process that will undermine either relationship. It is not hyper-spiritual to say that self-centeredness will destroy any relationship. It is common sense. I would encourage you to reflect intently on Luke 9:23-24 as you consider this decision and the overall direction of your life. If you are a Christian, this is the life you chose. It is a good life with a faithful God, if you will return to him and trust him with your life and marriage.
  3. Be honest. Often, in a crisis, we believe a “step in the right direction” is a monumental step of faith. We want full credit for partial honesty. This is why too many marriages die the death of a thousand confessions. It’s not the infidelity that kills them, but the pattern of incremental-partial honesty. Don’t say “yes” to “Have you told me everything?” unless the answer is actually “yes.” More damaging than your infidelity is your post-infidelity dishonesty. You might ask, “How much detail is needed to be honest?” That is a fair question and here is guidance on the subject.
  4. End the affair definitively. The longer you vacillate, the more pain and turmoil you will create for everyone. There is nothing pleasant about this step. Rarely does it provide the emotional affirmation that often comes with making a right choice. But it is essential to restoring any emotional or relational sanity to your life. “Closure” in an adulterous relationship is a fiction that inevitably leads to relapse.
  5. Don’t do this alone. Chances are, as your affair grew, you began to separate yourself from the people you previously considered to be trusted voices and examples of character. It is hard to be around people you respect when you are knowingly doing something dishonorable. Reconnect with these relationships. This will require a comparable level of honesty as you’ve given your spouse in point #3. But, unless you let these people in, then the only voice advocating for your walk with God, the restoration of your marriage, or providing you emotional support will be your hurt spouse.
  6. Have a process to guide you and your spouse in the recovery process. “What will we do after I open the Pandora’s Box of being honest about my affair?” Realize this box will be opened either voluntarily or involuntarily. This is the question that keep many people in your situation silent. The False Love (for you) and True Betrayal (for your spouse) materials are meant to be complementing studies to guide couples in situations like yours. They can be studied with a pastor, trusted mentor couple, or counselor (see point #5).
  7. Don’t confuse marital restoration with marital enrichment. This is the most common mistake after a marital crisis and will result in comparing dating-phase-affair with recovery-phase-marriage. Doing the things you should have been doing all along (dating, listening, flowers, sex, etc…) will not resolve infidelity. Marriage restoration is taking a relationship that is broken and making it functional. That is the focus of the False Love and True Betrayal seminars. Marriage enrichment is taking a marriage that is functional and making it excellent. That is the focus of the Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage seminar series; which would be a quality series to study when you complete the False Love and True Betrayal materials.

These steps may seem daunting, and they are challenging. But I believe they represent what it means to honor God in your situation. As you’ve wrestled with the question of, “What do I do now?” I believe you will come to see that they do represent God’s best for you and your family; as such, they are for your good and not just your moral obligation.

As you come to the end of this letter, I would ask you to do two things. First, sincerely pray. Don’t just reflect in your mind and see what feels best, but have a conversation with God about what he would have you do. Ask God, “What would honor You most in my situation?” Second, call a friend. Quit waiting and talk with someone who has the best interest of you and your marriage at heart. Isolation will result in continued procrastination. Don’t leave yourself the option of waiting.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I pray you will follow its counsel and walk in integrity and faith. Yes, the road ahead is hard, but any alternative road without the blessing and favor of God is harder.

If this post was beneficial for you, then consider reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Adultery” or “Favorite Posts on Pornography” post which address other facets of this subject.