Thursday, February 27, 2014

You Know You Do

Go on. Admit it. You talk to yourself. You know you do. We all do. More than we realize. And what we say to ourselves is way more influential than we'd probably admit.

Paul Tripp's recent "Wednesday's Word" blog post is a really helpful word for those of us who talk to ourselves too much, and not enough. Don't miss the reflection questions at the end!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Follow Up to Sunday's Passage on Partiality

Whitney Miller pointed out this post to Tyler as a great follow-up application to James 2:1-13.

Title: "What Do Unbelievers Really Need to Hear When They First Enter Your Church?"

It starts out:
It’s Sunday morning. You’re standing near the front doors, greeting people as they arrive. Then you notice a new couple walking in, a single child in tow. It’s obvious this is their first time. They don’t greet anyone by name. They stand out of the flow of traffic, hesitantly, with a touch of awkwardness, unsure what to do next. A great chance to welcome a new family! you think. So you go up, introduce yourself, and ask how they found out about your church. “We read about your parenting class on your website,” they tell you. “We could use some parenting help! We don’t believe in traditional marriage, but ever since we decided to live together four years ago we’ve committed to be the best parents we can be for our son.” They smile. You cringe. What do you say?
What would you say?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Where Is Biblical Counseling Most At Home?

Bill Armstrong recently sent me the link to a great article on biblical counseling in the local church. You can read it here. It's written by David Powlison, one of my favorite sources for wisdom in the biblical counseling realm. He lays out 5 advantages to counseling taking place and being centered in the local church. 

Here are advantages #2 & #3 to encourage you to read the whole thing
Here is a second advantage. It is a premise of biblical counseling that people are not just “problems.” They are not defined by a “diagnosis.” People come with gifts and callings—from God himself. They have a new identity—in Christ. All of us are given a role to play in the greater whole: regardless of physical or mental abilities, or education, or age, or any of the other human differences. ... The call to serve others brings dignity, purpose, belonging, identity, and participation. A woman coming out of drug addiction and poverty was moved to tears of gladness by the simple fact that she was personally invited to help another family in need. She contributed five meaningful dollars and a Saturday morning to helping them. Instead of being seen just as a “needy, troubled” person, she, too, could give, and it meant the world to her. 
Here is a third advantage. Anyone can help anyone else. God delights in apparent role-reversals. Counseling in a church context is far richer than “designated expert” meets with “needy client.” I’ll never forget a story that my former pastor, Jack Miller, told about his sister-in-law. She was mentally disabled and lived with him and Rosemary, his wife. As a result, “Aunt Barbara” was a natural part of the church body. One day on the way to church, Jack was grumbling about the rainy weather. Aunt Barbara, in her simple 5-year-old way, said to him “But Jack, the sun is always shining. It’s just behind the clouds.” God used that like a lightning bolt. God is always shining, no matter what his providence displays on the surface. Out of the mouth of a woman with a child’s mental life came words of faith that blessed the pastor of a church of 800 people. That’s the body of Christ!
As Powlison says at the end of his article, professional parachurch biblical counseling has its place. We are immensely grateful for the ministry of people like Jeff Stark. But we also must embrace the centrality of the local church for biblical counseling. All Christians are called to encourage one another and bear one another's burdens. We all need wise counsel and this should and will happen very informally over coffee, in our home groups, while moms are talking at the playground, etc. There are also times of deeper struggle when you need someone who is especially committed and equipped to provide this kind of counsel in the church. Along with the pastors at Bethel, there are several others who are committed and equipped for this kind of ministry. If you're looking for someone to meet with, please let me know and I'd be happy to recommend one of them to you.

It's very appropriate that Bill sent this article, because he and Barb live out this vision in their own commitment to biblical counseling in our local church. They take this role so seriously that they invest a week each year to get further equipped by attending the Biblical Counseling Training Conference at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. They also encourage others to go along. They just returned from this year's conference, having taken two ladies along with them. Maybe you should consider joining them next year!

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Is Gossip and What Do I Do With It?

We've only made it through chapter 1 of James in our Sunday series, but we've already seen repeatedly that James has much to say about the tongue (see 1:9-10, 13, 19, 26; 2:3, 12, 14, 18; 3:1-12; 4:11-12, 13, 15-16; 5:9, 12). Our speech, as Jesus said (Luke 6:45), reveals our hearts.

One of the sins of the tongue that James is aiming to kill is gossip.

What is Gossip? 

Kent Hughes gives some wise guidance in his excellent book, Disciplines of a Godly Man (HT: JT):  
Gossip involves saying behind a person’s back what you would never say to his or her face. Flattery means saying to a person’s face what you would never say behind his or her back.

Let's "receive the word with meekness" and take aim with James at our own hearts and speech.

Prov 26:20-23:
For lack of wood the fire goes out, and
where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. 

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
they go down into the inner parts of the body.

Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.

So, how do you know if what you want to say is gossip? As you examine your own heart, apply the "face" rule and the golden rule:
The "face" rule: If you wouldn't say it to their face, don't say it to someone else's face.
The golden rule: Would I want someone to say this about me to someone else?

And how do you know if what another says to you is gossip? What do you do when someone begins to feed you gossip morsels?

Hear and heed this wisdom from Ray Ortlund, Jr.:
What is gossip? It is not necessarily false information. Slander is false. Gossip might include true information, and maybe that’s why gossip doesn’t always feel sinful. What makes it sin is, first and foremost, that God says it’s sin. But gossip spreads what can include accurate information to diminish another person. That is not how people behave when they are living in the power of the grace of God.
What should we do when a conversation starts slipping into gossip? We should immediately challenge the sin: “Hey friend, sorry to interrupt, but this is gossip. So here’s the deal. This conversation is now on hold until you go get _________, and then you can start over and say whatever you feel you must say right to his face. I am willing to be a witness to that conversation, but I will not participate in gossip. What do you choose to do?” Amy Carmichael established this rule at her mission station: “Never about, always to.
And his fitting conclusion: 
“Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). Therefore, let’s always ask ourselves, “These words about to rise up out of my mouth or go out through my keyboard – do they build up? Am I being constructive? If the person I feel like discussing were here with me right now, how would his presence change what I feel like saying?”