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What you will find in this post is the third part of an answer to a question raised by a reader about how to develop a stronger faith and overcome consuming lust. The third essential factor for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust takes us back to the basics again. Before i mention this third factor, I want to encourage you not to refuse to think seriously about it because in your judgment it is so basic. Remember the exhortation of Vince Lombardi on another front that we mentioned in the last blog: victories are won by paying attention to the basics and failure occurs because we fail to learn and practice the basics with abandonment. So here’s basic factor number three for developing a stronger faith and overcoming lust: to develop and sustain a stronger faith and a more robust fear of God you must consistently and submissively study God’s Word.
Sometime ago I wrote a book called The Twin Pillars of the Christian Life. One of these pillars was the pillar of fervent prayer that we mentioned in the previous post. The other factor that my book addresses is the pillar of Bible Study. These are the pillars of the Christian life on which a vibrant spiritual life must be built. Though very basic, we must understand that here can be no substitute for either these pillars. Mark it down, don’t overlook it: if you want to develop a strong faith that will overcome sinful patterns and a robust fear of God that is necessary for progress in the Christian life, you will never develop and sustain these essential qualities apart from fervent prayer and the faithful study of His Word. Again as mentioned in the former post, the battles of the Christian life are won or lost because people either faithfully practice or don’t practice these two disciplines.
The crucial importance of faithful and submissive Bible study is suggested by numerous verses in which the fear of God is mentioned. I will quote a few of these verses and, as I do, I will emphasize (underline) certain words that will help us to get an answer to the ‘yes, but how’ question.
1. Deut. 4:10 – “Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when the Lord said to me, ‘Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My Words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days they live on the earth…” (Deuteronomy 4:10);
2. Deut. 6:1,2 – “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you … so that you and your son, and your grandson might fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 6:1,2);3. Deut. 8:6 – “Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to fear Him” (Deuteronomy 8:6);4. Deut. 13:4 – “You shall … fear Him, and …listen to His voice…” (Deuteronomy 13:45. Deut. 14:23 “… in order that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always” (Deuteronomy 14:23); 6. Deut. 17:19 – “… and he shall read it (God’s Word) all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God” (Deuteronomy 17:19);7. Deut. 31:12 “…and all
Israel shall hear and fear.” (Deuteronomy 21:21);“Assemble the people … in order that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God…” (Deuteronomy 31:12);
8. Psalm 34:11 – “Come you children, listen to me, and I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Psalm 34:11);
From these verses we may draw several conclusions about how to develop and sustain the fear of God in our lives.
Several times we notice in these verses that hearing and listening are associated with developing the fear of God. Romans 10:17 informs us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” In other words, if we want to have a strong faith we must put ourselves in a place where we will hear God’s Word being faithfully preached. Faith doesn’t float around in the air and mysteriously grab us. God uses His preached Word to strengthen our faith. People who want to develop and sustain a robust fear of God must faithfully,diligently and attentively hear God’s Word being preached. This is one of theprimary instruments God uses in building this quality into our lives.
Still further these verses teach us that people who want to develop a stronger fear of God must make this a priority in their lives and they must do it regularly.
And, they must make sure that the preaching they are listening to is really an expository ministry. It is not some man’s ideas, it is not the theories of psychologists or philosophers or sociologists that promote the fear of God. It is the faithful proclamation of God’s Word. There can be no neglect, nor substitute for this.
The second conclusion we may draw from these verses we just read is set of verses that the fear of God is that developing and sustaining the fear of God will involve the use of the mind. To become God-fearing people we must be students, we must put forth an effort to learn. Being a student obviously involves studying. If you don’t study, you have no right to think of yourself or present yourself as a student. Sitting around watching television or even sitting in a church auditorium or classroom doesn’t necessarily mean you are a student or that you are learning anything.
You may just be sitting there occupying space. You may not be learning or retaining or processing anything that is being said. No one can be considered a learner unless they retain, process and benefit from what is being said. And, again please note that growing in the fear of God is associated with being taught, studying and learning the Word of God.
In our book, The Fear Factor, we define the fear of God in this way (and what we said about the fear of God can also be said about true faith): the fear of God is a reflex attitudinal and emotional reaction to an accurate understanding of who and what God is.
1. The word “reflex”indicates that our attitudes and emotions automatically respond to something. When our hand touches an extremely hot surface, we don’t have to tell our hand, nor make our hand move away from that surface. Because of the nerve endings in our hand, our hand just automatically jerks away from the hot surface.
When I use the word “reflex” in association with the development of the fear of God or a stronger faith, I mean that when a certain thing happens we will naturally, automatically respond with the fear of God and have a stronger faith.
2. The word “reaction” in our definition conveys a similar idea. What we’re saying is that the fear of God (or a stronger faith) is more of a “reaction” than it is an action. It is something that happens rather than something we directly make happen. Only in an indirect way do we make the fear of God and a stronger faith happen. The fear of God happens because something else has happened. And unless that something else happens we will never develop and sustain the fear of God.
The question then is: what is it that causes the fear of God or a stronger faith to develop? What must happen for the fear of God to happen? The rest of our definition answers these questions.
1. The fear of God happens as we gain and maintain an accurate understanding of who and what the God of the Bible is. In other words, it happens as we hear and listen to God and His Word; it happens as we continue to study and learn, as we continue to accurately think about and meditate on God and His Word.
2. This is the method God uses to make our fear of God quotient stronger. You simply can’t expect to have a strong fear of God quotient if you are unwilling to be a perpetual student of God’s Word.
Interestingly, Psalm 19:9 makes this connection between the diligent study of God’s Word and the development of the fear of God unmistakably clear by calling the Bible “the fear of the Lord”. Obviously, the Bible is called “the fear of the Lord” because it is a primary means by which God develops and sustains this quality in our lives.
In his book on the fear of God, John Bunyan writes, “The fear of God flows from … a sound impression that the Word of God makes on our souls; for without an impress of the Word, there is no fear of God. Hence it is said that God gave Israel good laws, statutes and judgments that they might learn them, and in learning them, learn to fear the Lord their God …For as to the extent that a man drinks good doctrine into his soul, so to that extent he fears God; if he drinks in much, he fears Him greatly; if he drinks in but little, He fears Him but little; if he drinks not at all, He fears Him not at all.” (John Bunyan, ibid, p. 424)
So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the study of God’s Word a regular and diligent discipline in your life.. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture, as noted in the earlier part of this blog, makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully study His Word.
This, then, is the third factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of diligent and submissive Bible study..
John Bunyan was absolutely convinced that a diligent study of God’s Word played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the fear of God in our souls. He could hardly have made that point more clearly. According to Bunyan, drink much of the Word of God and you will have much of the fear of God, drink little and you will have little, drink not at all and you will have none is his conviction. And, according to the Scripture, he was right! This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor
(God willing, we will move on to another extremely important factor in the near future. I have just been dismissed from the hospital after a minor hart problem. So it may be a little while before I actually post the next factor, but Lord willing it will come. )
In this post, I’m continuing to respond to one of the questions a person who reads our blogs raised in the comment section to one of our blogs. One of the questions he asked was “how do you overcome unbelief and doubt” and the answer I’m giving this series is really related to the question how do you develop a more robust fear of God? But what I’m writing about in terms of how to develop a robust fear of God is the same answer I would give to the question “how do I develop a stronger faith and overcome unbelief”? (And as I previously mentioned, the answer I’ll give in this series of blogs is also the answer to another question raised by a responder about how to overcome consuming lust.) Now here’s an absolutely essential second factor for developing and sustaining a robust fear of God or developing and maintaining a strong faith: to develop and sustain the fear of god you must be devoted to fervent and persistent prayer. “You have not because you ask not” or because you ask for purely selfish reasons is the word of God that explains why the faith of many of us is weak (James 4:2, 3).
Several years ago when Vince Lombardi was a well known coach of one of the best and winningest American professional football teams he stood one day at the beginning of the season before his seasoned, very experienced football players and brought a stirring message to them. He was attempting to motivate them to become a strong, dedicated, skilled and winning football team. There they sat before him as a group of massive human beings eagerly waiting for instructions from their experienced and knowledgeable coach; there they sat wondering what pearls of wisdom about how to be a winning team would come from his lips. And what did he say? He said something similar to what he had often said and would often say in the future. It’s reported that he said something like this, “Gentlemen, if you want to be a good, strong, winning football team you must concentrate on the basics. The game of football is not really that complicated. When you boil it all down, the game of football consists of blocking, tackling, running, passing and catching and doing all these basics with abandonment. Let’s get back to the basics. That’s how you win football games by learning and doing the basics well. Teams lose football games because they neglect the basics.”
Well, the message that Vince Lombardi brought to his football team is the message I’d like to bring to Christians who want to build a strong faith in God and a robust fear of God. My message is, “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to get back to the basics. It’s time for us to learn and practice and do the basics of Christianity well and with abandonment. Instead of looking for new techniques and gimmicks for developing super duper Christian lives, for building a strong faith and increasing in the fear of God, let’s get back to learning and practicing Christianity 101. That’s how to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And failure to practice the basics well is why many Christians are losing the battles in their spiritual lives.”
In Psalm 86:11 the Psalmist is an example for all of us who want to be more God-fearing in our approach to life. Here we find him praying, “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” David who wrote this Psalm teaches us several things about becoming a more God-fearing or a person with a strong faith. One, he makes it clear that you have to begin with the heart. The fear of God (or strong faith) is developed in the heart before it is ever experienced anywhere else. If we have a powerful fear of God it will emerge from the heart. If we lack the fear of God, something is wrong in our hearts. Two, David realized that for a person to have a robust fear of God his heart had to be united. David knew that his heart was the mission control center of his life; he realized that if his heart was not united nothing else would come out right in his life. He was aware that a double hearted or triple hearted or quadruple hearted person is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). He knew that his heart was the reservoir from which all of the issues of life flowed (Proverbs 4:23). He realized that frequently our hearts are divided in terms of their focus. He knew that sometimes our hearts begin to drift or become distracted from what is really important.
Sometimes we lose our focus, and like Martha, we become focused on many things rather than the one thing that is needful (Luke 10:38-42). Sometimes our hearts get out of control and run off in many different directions. Sometimes we forget that the fear of God should be a priority issue with us. David knew that he couldn’t control his heart on His own. He knew this was too big a task for Him. He knew that if his heart was to be united, God had to give him strength to do it. This petition was both an expression of his desire and also an expression of weakness. He realized he desperately needed the help of God if he were to have a united heart controlled by the fear of God.
In essence, David has learned the lesson about prayer that Jesus was teaching in the model prayer He gives us in Matthew 6:9-13. In this prayer Jesus used different words than the ones David did, but the meaning is the same. He said that when we pray we should begin by praying that God’s name (which represents who and what He is) would be hallowed. And what is it to hallow God’s name? It is to set it apart as holy, unique, worthy of reverence and holy respect. By indicating that this is the first petition we should pray, Jesus was teaching us that reverence for God should be a primary focus of our lives and prayers. And, the fact that he taught us to pray that God’s name would be hallowed indicates that we can’t do this without the help of God.
Developing and sustaining a healthy, robust fear of God should be a primary emphasis in our prayer lives. We will never be able to give God the respect and reverence that is His due apart from His help. You show me a person who isn’t praying the way David prayed in Psalm 86:11 and the way Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:9 and I’ll show you a person in whose life the fear of God or his faith in God is very small or non-existent.
So to develop a robust and influential fear of God or a stronger faith you must make the acquisition of such a matter of fervent and persevering prayer. Scripture makes it clear that faith in God and the fear of God are His gifts to His people (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Galatians 5:22, 23; Jeremiah 32:39, 40). And along with that, Scripture makes it clear that God bestows these gifts on people who fervently and faithfully ask Him for these gifts (James 4:2; 5:17; Matthew 7:7 – 11; Luke 11:13).
This, then, is the second factor in answering the questions: how can I develop a strong, robust fear of God? How can I overcome unbelief and doubts? How can I overcome consuming lust? If you are serious about overcoming unbelief and doubts and lust you must make sure that you are fervently practicing the privilege of devoted prayer. This, again I say, is only one of many factors, but it is a foundational factor. I close this blog with a paraphrase of a statement made by John Piper. He wrote, “Much prayer, much power; little prayer, little power and no prayer, no power.” Well, I say, “Much of the right kind of prayer, much faith; little prayer, little faith and no prayer, no faith.” (God willing, we will move on to other factors in the near future.)
THOUGHTS AND QUESTIONS ABOUT CHURCH LEADERSHIP
In Acts 14:23, we read that “they” appointed elders in every church. Who were the “they” who appointed elders? Well, the “they” of verse 23 must be interpreted in the light of the “they” of verses 21 and 22. Clearly the “they” of verses 21 and 22 refers to the missionary team of Paul.
I Timothy 3:1 along with many other passages indicate that elders are overseer. What does it mean to be an overseer? Are elders to be underseers who wait for the congregation to make the decisions and then follows through with their orders? Are they to check everything out with the congregation? Where does the checking out begin and where does it stop? How much and how little do the elders have the congregation vote on? On what issues should they do this and on what issues should they not do this?
In I Timothy 3:4, 5 the Bible says that elders are responsible to manage the church of God? What does managing involve? Does this mean that the elders should put everything up for a vote and then simply orchestrate what the congregation has decided? Where does managing start and where does it stop?
Later in I Timothy 5:17 Scripture talks about the elders ruling? What does that mean? Again, should they put everything up for a vote and let the congregation decide how they and the church should function on issues not clearly spelled out in Scripture?
Chapter 5:18 – 25 gives instructions about how elders should be selected, taken care of, treated and even disciplines. Well, to whom were these instructions primarily given? Who was responsible to do these things? I think I Timothy 1:1, 2 makes it very clear that Timothy as a prototype elder/pastor was responsible to carry out these instructions. Certainly every elder will want to seek the counsel of, gather the opinion and affirmation of godly people. It would be foolish and prideful as well as unbiblical for elders not to do this.
Moving on – what did Paul mean when he said that it was the responsibility of Titus who was functioning as an elder/pastor at the church in Crete to set in order what remains and to appoint elders in every city (1:5). Was he telling Titus who again was a prototype of all elders and pastors to put these issues up to a vote? And when he told him in 1:10, 11 to silence the “rebellious, empty talkers’ was he suggesting that it was necessary for Titus to call a congregational meeting and ask the congregation for their approval before he did this?
And what did Paul mean when he wrote to the Thessalonians and told them that the elders had charge over them in the Lord? What does it mean to have charge? What was the nature of their authority? Certainly it involved faithfully preaching God’s Word and commanding people to obey it? But did their authority extend to other congregational issues such as scheduling the time of the services, choosing what hymns should be sung, choosing the days on which special services were to be held, selecting elders, selecting Bible Study materials, etc.? Did they first have to bring these items up to the congregation in terms of the decisions that were made? Having “charge” must mean something.
Why have elders at all? Why not just have congregational meetings? Why should it be necessary for the elders to be prudent and hold fast to the faithful word if what they do must first be submitted to the congregation for a vote? What is the point to having elders and calling them overseers if they are primarily followers when it comes to important issues of congregational life?
Scripture calls elders Shepherds (Acts 20:28; I Peter 5:1, 2). What does it mean to be a Shepherd? Does a shepherd have any responsibility to lead – to set the pace or should the sheep be doing the leading?
And what about Hebrews 13:7? What does verse 7 mean when it says that Christians in the congregation should imitate the faith or faithfulness of their leaders? What does Scripture mean when it speaks of the fact that the leaders are to lead Christians. What does it mean to lead? Certainly elders are to lead by teaching the Word of God, but is that all the Bible means by leading. What about issues where there is not a clear thus saith the Lord? What about issues where we can’t turn to the Word for specific direction? As mentioned previously, certainly in keeping with Proverbs 15:22 and 11:14 any godly elder will be interested in the perspectives of the people even as any godly husband who is charged with the responsibility to manage and lead his wife and family will seek the counsel of his wife. And unless he has some very good, in most cases biblical reason for not following her counsel he won’t do something which she strongly opposes. In similar fashion godly elders will avoid being authoritarian. Certainly they will consult with the people over whom they have God given leadership responsibilities when making important decisions. Certainly, as godly husbands will listen to their wives, godly elders will listen to their people and be slow to do anything with which the people in their church disagree unless it is specifically commanded by Scripture.
And what does Hebrews 13:17 mean when it says that the people of the church are to obey their leaders and submit to them? Certainly this doesn’t mean that church members are to obey and submit to their elders on issues that are contrary to Scripture? Nor, does it mean that Christians are obligated to obey and submit to their elders on issues to which the Scripture does not speak or even give guiding principles. But when it comes to matters related to the elders fulfilling their God given responsibilities such leading the church, feeding and teaching the church, caring for the church, protecting the church, motivating the church, watching over the souls of the people in the church, guiding and overseeing the church, disciplining wayward church members and rescuing people who have gone astray, the members are responsible to obey and submit to them and do their best to make their ministry a joy and a delight (I Thessalonians 5:12,13; Hebrews 13:17).
And incidentally, if you want to read more about the biblical concept of leadership in the church and what it means for Christians to obey and submit to their elders, you will find more exposition of these issues in a book that David Swavely and I wrote called Life in the Father’s House. You may order a copy of this from www.mackministries.org or http://www.audubonpress.com.
My son, the other blogger on this site asked me to answer the question: How have you normally dealt with a person who just won’t stop talking? A conversation dominator in counseling? So here goes!
One answer to that question is the one I observed Bob Newhart giving on his television program when counseling a woman who said she was panic struck by the thought of being buried in a box. When this woman told him her problem he asked her if she was ready for the answer. She said she was and then asked if she should write his answer down. Newhart said that he didn’t think she’d need to do that because his answer would be only two words and he thought that most people could remember the two words without writing them down. Then he said, “Here are the two words: Stop it.” When she tried to bring up other problems he would either say, “We don’t go there” or “Stop it.”So my advice to the counselor who has a person who won’t stop talking is that he/she should say and keep saying, “Stop it” or “We don’t go there.”
Actually I’m just joking in what I just wrote. In reality, Newhart’s solution is only a part (the last part) of what I would do. There is much that I would do prior to using the Newhart technique. Before I lovingly and yet forthrightly told this person to “stop it” I would want to investigate this persons reason for wanting to dominate the conversation. Proverbs 18:13 warns us about answering a matter before we have really investigated what is going on. There may be many reasons why a person dominates the conversation in counseling and you can be fairly sure that if that person dominates the conversation in the counseling session they are also doing that outside the counseling session. This person’s behavior in counseling then becomes a counseling issue with which the counselor must deal.
Here are some of the most common reasons why a person may dominate conversations in or out of the counseling session:
1). Pride – Romans 12:3; 3 John 9, 10; Prov. 18:2;
2). Selfishness – lack of love for God and others – 2 Tim. 3:2;
3). Fear of silence, not wanting to appear dumb – Prov. 29:25;
5). Past training – parental influence, example, neglect;
6). Poor listening habits on the part of other people or on the part of the speaker;
7). Desire to control what is discussed thereby avoid talking about unpleasant issues – avoidance technique;
8). Desire to force other person into submission, convince, overpower;
9). Ignorance of the harm it does – Prov. 17:9;
10). Frustration, anger, desire to punish the other person;
11). Most important reason why some people overtalk = impure heart – Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45.
That brings us to the issue of how to help a person overcome the problem of talking too much or, in biblical terms, the problem of being a “babbling fool” (Proverbs 10:8, 19 in or out of the counseling session. Here are several suggestions:
1). Identify that the person has a problem in this area – mention your observation and give reasons for your observation.
2). Then ask them whether or not they recognize that they are doing this.
3). Then ask them to answer the question why they think they are doing this? Help them to identify the reason for their overtalk – why do you think you practice overtalk?
4). Have them read chapter 7 in Your Family God’s Way and take the inventory about the forms of overtalk at the end of the chapter and also have them complete the inventory about the reasons for overtalk at the end of the chapter.
5). Have them study and reflect on the Scriptures that deal with overtalk such as Proverbs 10:8,19; 17:9; 15:28; Ephesians 5:3,4.
6). Have them memorize such verses as Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 17:27, 28 and review these verses regularly.
7). For a period of time have them keep a daily journal in which at the end of the day they evaluate their communication efforts in terms of times they dominated and why they did it.
8). Remind them that overtalk that violates biblical principles is sin. .
9). Tell them that if they practice overtalk that violates biblical principles and if their reasons for overtalk are sinful, they must confess their sin to God, ask Him for forgiveness and help.
10). Instruct them to make themselves accountable to someone else who will remind them when you are guilty of overtalk.
11). Give them an assignment to memorize and regularly pray the prayer of the Psalmist – Psalm 19:14; Psalm 141:3
12). Have them memorize and regularly pray the prayer of Elizabeth Eliot.
“Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me wisdom to keep silent when silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.”
13). Explain and apply the truth of Matthew 12:34, 36, 37 and Proverbs 4:23; 27:19 to them.
“The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart…Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Ask them what they think these texts mean and how they apply to them. Make sure you tell them that these texts mean that our words are important; that they mean God listens to our speech and remembers what we say; they means if they are violating God’s will in this area by dominating conversations of life they should want to change. These texts mean that if we are violating His will to our attention we will be concerned about it and that if we are guilty of overtalk in any of the ways we’ve mentioned and for any of the reasons we’ve mentioned we’ll want to change because this kind of behavior is displeasing to God and because it will hinder our relationships with and our godly impact on other people.
These texts mean that if our behavior violates God’s Word the ultimate problem is not with our behavior; it is with our hearts. They mean that change must begin in the heart through recognizing the problem, confession, repentance, faith, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, getting their heart cleansed from sinful motives and filling their hearts with godly thoughts and desires and disciplining themselves to put off this unbiblical behavior and put on godly speech patterns through practice – Matthew 12:34; Proverbs 4:23; James 4:8; I Timothy 4:7.
Then after working though all of these issues in counseling if they still continue the practice of dominating the conversation in counseling you may use the Newhart technique and say with emphasis, “Stop it” and “We don’t go there” because it is displeasing to God and will hinder your effectiveness and fruitfulness for Him in this world.
Dad, would you share:
How have you normally dealt with a person who just won’t stop talking? A conversation dominator in counseling?
BIOPSYCHIATRY Psychiatry is back or is it? That’s the question I responded to in a letter to a friend who has been influenced by relatively recent ideas about why behave badly.
I’m writing this letter to share a few of my thoughts and concerns about understanding the causes of and solutions to what the Bible would call ungodly, sinful behavior. In a recent class which you attended I made a strong point about the importance for Christian counselors put ting biblical labels on the problems of people. I warned against the danger of being reductionistic. I wanted students to know that the broad spectrum of what the world may call schizophrenia or other so called serious psychological problems may have many causes with one of them being something physiological or organic.
In my own counseling experience over the last thirty or more years, I have encountered in counseling a number of people who have been labeled schizophrenic who have never had any serious physical tests to determine the presence of physiological factors. These people were labeled that way because the physician or psychologist saw the symptoms mentioned in the DSM 4r and concluded without any physiological evidence that the person was suffering fro m a disease called schizophrenia. My point in saying what I said to my students was that they should not let the bizarre stuff frighten them. I encouraged my students to send counselees with bizarre behavior to get a thorough check up but I also wanted them to look for garden variety biblically identified problems. In my judgment, doing otherwise destroys hope in the counselee and the person who may be trying to help. It is my conviction based on clear biblical teaching that wrong, unbiblical thinking and behavior messes people up in many ways and sometimes results in weird and bizarre conduct. I believe that if we buy into the world’s definition of the nature and causes of all schizophrenic behavior we have locked a person into hopelessness. And I simply will not do that.
I agree with you that some (? much) bizarre behavior may be manipulative or learned patterns of response and behavior and other bizarre behavior may be connected to something with an organic basis. But since I’m not omniscient and since I can’t quickly distinguish between the non-organic and the organic when I encounter in counseling a person with bizarre behavior I begin to counsel the person looking for the things the Bible indicates may be connected to strange behavior and then go on to present the biblical solution.
To this point in history there have been at least three periods of history where the pendulum has swung to biopsychiatry for diagnosis and solution to human problems. One followed the Civil war where the rage was “neurasthenia”; a second was during the 1940’s and 1950’s where the solution to serious problems was electro shock therapy or having a lobotomy and now since the early 1990’s the emphasis is has been on genetic structures and brain chemistry. In biopsychiatry, the solution for problems that involve clearly unbiblical behavior and ways of living is directed toward localizing brain function, greasing the neuroelectrical system and buoying up our chemistry.
I simply have problems believing that the solution to what the Bible would identify as sin is found in any of these things. I have a theological presuppositional problem as well as a historical problem with that kind of approach. I do not believe because of my biblical anthropology and hamartiology that the main cause of or solution to severe or less severe problems with anger, fear, pride, selfishness, sexual promiscuity of any kind or violence can be relegated to the realm of the organic or genetic. I do not believe that in reference to behavior that the Bible calls sinful behavior (I John 3:4; James 4:17) that we are helpless pawns of our physiology.
And one more thing, as I’ve stated previously, it’s true because we are sinners that some bizarre behavior may be manipulative behavior and, in some cases, it’s probably true that some organic difficulties may make it difficult for a person to concentrate or think constructively or process information, but how do I know which it is? How can I distinguish between a problem involving an physical inability to think and a problem involving a person that is practicing manipulative behavior or that is trying to avoid responsibility or that just doesn’t want to hear what is being said (biblically the old stick your fingers in your ears trick – Acts 7:57)?
In counseling a real person, when I see bizarre behavior, do I assume that the person with bizarre behavior has an organic difficulty or do I realize that the person may have developed a pattern of tuning out, of running away in his mind and that that person may have become very skillful at spacing out? How do I distinguish between someone who has through practice of unbiblical thinking and ways of handling life withdrawn more and more from reality and the person who is manifesting psychotic symptoms related to genetic issues?
Another question – did the genetic difference suddenly appear or was it there all the time? If so, why wasn’t the person behaving weirdly previously? If it was there previously, can the person’s bizarre behavior be totally connected to the genetic issue or is there more involved? It seems to me that to prove that any one genetic difference is the cause of what is called schizophrenia or any other so called psychological problem you would have to prove that no one who is not schizophrenic had that genetic difference. What is the proof that a genetic malfunction is the cause of schizophrenia? Could that genetic difference be true of a person, but not necessarily the cause – perhaps it is one of many things.
I find it very interesting that research seems to indicate that often the time of life when the weird stuff seems to manifest itself is when a young person leaves home (one family systems therapist observed this and wrote a book which I think was called Leaving Home; others have observed the same phenomena). Research also seems to indicate that the person who manifests this bizarre behavior often comes from a seriously disturbed family. Then too, another time when bizarre behavior often manifests itself is when a person is old and seems to be experiencing senility or Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have seemed to indicate that there are times when schizophrenic behavior in older people is also related to a lack of meaning and purpose in life. They have nothing to live for, nothing really to occupy their minds. Giving them something to live for and helping them to understand that they can make important contributions has helped some of them to get rid of their bizarre behavior and begin to live meaningfully and in touch with reality lives again. I saw that very thing happening very recently in a counseling case with an 85 year old person in the last few weeks. I’m not suggesting that all bizarre behavior with older people is related to a lack of meaning and purpose for life, but I do believe that it is sometimes the case. I fully believe that if we don’t fill our minds and lives with the right stuff all kinds of weird stuff can happen.
Anyway, these are some of the things I’ve been thinking and struggling with recently. I pass them on to you for your consideration. Thanks for listening or reading.
The title of this post is also the title of a new book I’ve written and recently had published by Focus Publishing. In the book I attempt to deal with what has been called the common cold of mental ailments from a distinctly biblical perspective.
The back cover puts it this way: if you are not facing the problem now, you know someone who is or one day you will personally face it. Moreover since this is true, it is my conviction that it is important for all of us to know how to deal with depression as God intended. It is my conviction that each of us needs to know how to define and describe depression accurately ahd biblically; we need to know how and why depression develops and we need to know a biblical procedure for defeating or preventing depression for our own sakes and for the sake of helping others.
The question is: do you know how to do these things? You can and you should. So get to work studying Scripture on the subject and after you’ve done that you may want to do more research by reading the book Out of the Blues.
I’ve been reading a book which includes brief biographies of some very useful Christians from the past, one being a biogrpahy of David Brainerd, another of Henry Martyn and still another of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. One of the things that struck me was the fact that though all of these men died when they were around 30 years of age they left a mark for Christ that is still going on today.
While the question what made them such effective servants of Christ could be answered in many ways, I was challenged by a statement about M’Cheyne that I believe in part explains a reason why he was so mightily used of God in such a short period of time. It comes from the book They Were Pilgrims written by Marcus Loane. As I share this excerpt with you I hope you are as challenged and encouraged by it as I was and that you will join me in praying that God would make us more like M”Cheyne who so wonderfully reflected our Savior Jesus Christ.
Marcus Loane writes: “The secret of his success … was his faithfulness to the Word of God with tenderness for the souls of men. He went about his work with an air of reverence which made men feel that the majesty of God was in his heart. There were few who could exhort the guilty in more searching or tremendous terms; there were few who could address the troubled in more gentle or persuasive terms. Andrew Bonar once told him how he had chosen for a text the words with regard to the doom of those who forget God and are sent to hell (Psa. 9:17). M’Cheyne at once asked him:’Were you able to preach it with tenderness?’ He knew that there is an enormous difference between a voice that scolds and a heart that yearns…It is not by threats and thunder, but by love and pathos that hearts are made to melt; it is not by words that scorch and condemn, but by a heart that bleeds to bless that souls are won. M’Cheyne himself preached on eternal destiny as one whose heart was wrung with a sense of anguish. He did not spare his hearers a word of truth; still less did he spare his own feelings a stab of pain. … J. H. Jowett once said that his severities were terrific because they were so tender…. Both the motive and the power in all such preaching may be discerned in his sermon an a broken heart and contrite spirit. ‘It is not’, he said, ‘a look into your own heart, or the heart of hell, but into the heart of Christ, that breaks the heart. Oh, pray for this broken heart!'”
Scripture admonishes us to get rid of “all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander … along with all malice and (that we instead should) be kind to one another (and) tender hearted…” (Ephesians 4:31, 32). M’Cheyne put these commands into practice in his life and ministry and, in so doing, experienced the blessing of God in his life and ministry. I am challenged to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to develop more of this tenderness in my own life and I hope you will be also.
I'm never going to be on Larry King Live and I'm thankful for that. People like Dr. Mohler and Dr. MacArthur do an amazing job at it and I'm glad they do. I do think it is fun though to listen to Larry's questions and think about how I might answer if I were in that position.
For example, take last night's discussion about homosexuality.
Larry King asks… click here for the rest of the article.
What is Living and Active and Sharp? Several of the words I’m using as a title for this post are found Hebrews 4:12. They are words that are used to describe what God’s Word, the Bible, is and can do. They are accurate, of course, because they are part of God’s inspired and infallible and inerrant Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). And, for that reason alone, I believe what they say about the Bible. God cannot and will not lie and, consequently, I do not need proof or confirmation of their validity.
However, because they are true, I expect that when I rightly understand and apply God’s Word in my own life and in my ministry to others, God the Holy Spirit will make them just what He says they are – living and active (powerful – KJV) and sharper that a two- edged sword. And, again and again I have seen Him use His Word in that very way.
Recently, as my wife and I counseled a lady and her husband we saw God do this in a vivid way. This woman had been identified by a physician as a manic depressive individual (bipolar depression) and had been given medicine to treat this condition. When she and her husband evidenced some concern about taking her taking the medicine, a friend of hers encouraged her to come to see us for biblical counseling. We set up an appointment with them and had them fill out the Personal Data Inventory forms prior to the first session. During the first session we reviewed the forms and gathered a lot of information about her background and the development of what the physician called her manic depression. (Incidentally, I’m using this counseling account with her permission to do so.)
Interestingly enough, as is so often the case in my counseling experience the physician had made her diagnosis (?) purely on the basis of the woman’s description of her family background and emotional and behavioral symptoms. In other words, no physiological tests had been run to identify some chemical or hormonal or glandular malfunction. The assumption, as is often the case with some people hepers in the medical realm, was that her emotional and behavioral symptoms coupled with her family background was all that was needed to make the bipolar diagnosis.
In our initial sessions we discussed a biblical perspective on depression and also talked about some possible explanations for the upswing side of the depression. I presented some information about manic depression to them from Dr. Robert Smith’s book, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference and also asked her to read some books I had written dealing with a biblical perspective on the definition, development, dynamics and defeat of depression.
In the course of our initial counseling sessions I also presented to them Bunyan’s description of Christian’s depression and release from depression in The Pilgrim’s Progress and spent some time explaining, illustrating and applying the relevance of I Corinthians 10:13 to out problems. As follow up assignments I asked her to read, highlight, digest and apply on a regular, daily basis the information found in the following books: Down But Not Out (subtitle – A Biblical Perspective on How To Get Up When Life Knocks You Down), Out of the Blues (subtitle – A Biblical Perspective on Overcoming the Blues of Depression and Loneliness) and A Fight to the Death (subtitle – Taking Aim at Sin Within). I also instructed her to complete the application question assignments at the end of each of the chapters she read.
She immediately began to voraciously read and gain biblical insight and help from these biblically based books. As she disciplined herself and used the resources of God’s Word, God the Holy Spirit began to immediately use His “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” to make some changes in her life.
That God had prepared her for understanding, believing and applying His truth is evident from this note she wrote to us shortly after we began to meet wit her. In this note she wrote: “These have been two trying weeks for me, but then I read the words from the pilgrim’s progress – that moving through the prison out of the castle, one would need to apply determination, as each door becomes more difficult to open. I realized the urgency of keeping within the thoughts of God, meditating continuously, digesting and aligning ALL thoughts accordingly. Some ungodly thoughts I have considered as very insignificant – but have found one cannot compromise or relax, as it is these little foxes that destroy the vineyard … now I see “take every thought captive”.
I Pet. 5:6 – 7 has pulled me through this week & I have witnessed God’s faithfulness that in the appropriate time He does uplift those humbled beneath His hand.
I am just giving a quick over view of my 2, now moving into 3 weeks; one thing is certain, I have never before been this excited about God’s Word – God has significantly opened my eyes into the wonderful gift He has come to give us – how, within 14 years of being a ‘born again Christian’ I have not come to this simple understanding confirms to my heart that only God can open eyes, for the truth to set me free was with me, yet I did not see.”
She then went on to write that her desire was to continue “to learn as much as possible, to see God’s Word so simplified, yet so powerful – amazing!”
That note was written about eight weeks ago. Since then we have continued to see spiritual growth and development in her and her husband. God is fulfilling through His Word and by His Spirit the desire she expressed in that note. We saw her yesterday and, though she has recently experienced a set back at work, she is handling it well and moving on as she relies on God’s promises and His sustaining “amazing” grace. She stands as testimony to the fact that God’s Word is indeed living, active, powerful and sharp enough to cut through, then cut out and also replace the unbiblical thoughts and intents of our hearts that harass us and keep us in bondage to various kinds of problems.