Saturday, October 27, 2012

Act Like a Man

Have you ever heard someone say, "Act like a Man!"  We most likely have and would probably have different interpretations of what that means.  I have been giving much thought to what acting as a man looks like especially when I am confronted, or treated harshly by others for no apparent reason.  The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love."  I often wonder what should I do when I do not know what to do.  Prayer is one solution.  Every Wednesday night we have a time of prayer at Providence.  We have prayer time at home over dinners, or before we go to sleep, but what does one do when praying seems pointless and nothing changes.  In counselling others often I would encourage them to continue praying and, by digging into the scriptures to see what God's Word has to say, right, but often we tend to take the situation into our own hands instead of seeing what God would have us to do.  Will taking things into my own hands and finding my way to solve problems work?  As I look into scripture, I see that it has worked for many of God's children, lots of times.  King David, for example, took Bathsheba as a wife at the cost of killing her husband, but that did not make it right.  Samson took matters into his own hands, and it worked for a short time.  There are times when I as well try to make life work for me and my family by taking matters into my own hands.   While I have never stolen another man's wife, or ripped the gates off a city and killed thousands with the jaw bone of a donkey, I have at times tried to negotiate with God by doing what I think will impress Him.  Then when things go wrong I pout and whine, declaring, "Why have you brought me here just to abandon me?"

I recently had lunch with a guy I used to work with, and when he discovered that I counseled people including other pastors he said, "I never thougth they have real problems."  If perhaps you are reading between the lines we to have real problems just like everyone else, but one thing for sure is that I am learning that I cannot deal with these so-called problems the way as I have in the past.  I cannot take matters into my own hands as I used to, but instead I must put my heart and family into the hands of my God who, even when He seems far from me I know He is there, and I will "wait patiently for the LORD..." Psalms 40.  When I read the Psalms I am amazed at how they become more significant to me when I am desperate, or downcast.  Contrary to popular opinion, being a man does not mean I know the way, or have all the right answers, but as I read the Word of God it becomes exceedingly clear to me. "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love."  This is not the behavior of a wet nosed boy this is a man-sized job that can only be done when my faith is put to the test, and only then will I live "complete, lacking in nothing? James 1: 2-4.     

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Presidential Elections and Trusting God


In case you didn’t notice, it’s a presidential election year, which can be a trying time.  Since it seems that political campaigns are starting earlier and earlier, it’s probably time to retire the phrase “election season” and just go with “election epoch.”  There was a day when we could count on a good three and a half years of peace before experiencing campaign overload.  Not anymore.  If you have a TV, radio, computer, smartphone, or windshield, it is virtually impossible to not be overrun by campaign ads, private citizens’ opinions, talking heads, and headlines all declaring this to be “most consequential election in modern history.”  
Though the constant political news, polling data, and campaign strife can begin to wear on me, I’m thankful for presidential elections because they provide me with another occasion to rest in the sovereignty of God.  It cannot be denied that presidential elections are consequential.  History shows this.  But what we will never read in history books or the news is that every last vote cast serves the sovereign will of God, bringing about precisely what He has ordained.  And not only are the votes ordained, but the candidate that is elected has been chosen by God.  Romans 13:1 tells us that there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
If we believe the Bible, we must believe that no one becomes a president or senator or governor or school board member apart from the foreordination of Almighty God.  We also know that God is forcing all things to work together to conform His followers into the image of His Son (Rom 8:28-30).  That is, all things, including this election, are contributing to my sanctification.  So whether “my” candidate wins or not, the results of the election, including the possible drastic change in the direction of the country, will be used by the Father to make me more like Jesus. 
Beyond that, we know that God is moving history toward the return of His Son to set up His earthly kingdom.  Undoubtedly, every election, whatever the outcome, contributes in some way to preparing the circumstances for Christ to come back.  There is hope and rest in that.  So, whenever I hear about the election being consequential, I should keep in mind that the most glorious consequence will be a stage set for Jesus to return.
A few weeks ago, Pastor Rick mentioned during the Sunday morning announcements about how the attendees of the political conventions treated the Presidential candidates like gods, worshiping them.  All too often, even believers place their hope in a political candidate rather than in God.  But as believers in Jesus Christ, even as we participate in the election process, we must worship God and trust Him alone with our future.  He is sovereign and is committed to bringing about our ultimate good and His ultimate glory.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Call to Counsel


The New Testament teaches that the Lord has gifted all believers to be able to serve the body in specific ways (Rom 12:3-8; Eph 4:7-16).  He has gifted teachers to teach, administrators to administer, the merciful to show mercy, etc.  These spiritual gifts enable us to serve in ways that are not common to all believers.
But there are some capacities in which all believers are called to serve.  There is one in particular that some people are quick to resist by appealing to a lack of gifting.  It is the call to counsel.  Did you know that Scripture calls all of us to counsel?  It’s true.  
But before we look at some of those passages, we should recognize what counseling is.  Counseling is simply helping another person to apply God’s truth to his or her life.  Because counseling depends upon God’s Word and because there are other man-made methods of dealing with life’s problems, we call it “biblical counseling.”  There are some in the church who refer to it as “nouthetic counseling.”  “Nouthetic” comes from the Greek verb noutheteo, which is the word used in the New Testament for counsel, teach, and instruct.  A word search for noutheteo leads us right to those passages that call for believers to counsel one another.  A foundational passage is Romans 15:14, where Paul writes:
I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
Again, noutheteo is the Greek underneath “instruct.”  Now, the book of Romans was not written specifically to pastors.  Nor was it written to anyone with any specific set of gifts.  No, in Romans 1:7, Paul reveals exactly who the recipients are: To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.  Paul intended for every believer in the city of Rome to understand that they were able to counsel.  So was this some special arrangement only for believers in Rome?  No, of course not.  This applies to all believers of all times.
There is evidence in Ephesians 4 that such instruction is something that we are equipped to do through the teaching of the church.  vv11-12 read, And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.  This indicates that the members of the body are responsible for the work of ministry and not only the pastors and teachers.  A few verses later, it is revealed that part of this ministry is “speaking the truth in love.”  It is not only the leaders or the specially gifted who are to engage in this kind of ministry, but all the members of the body.
1 Thess 5:14 is another passage where we find noutheteo.  It reads, And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  This verse lays out the essential tasks of counseling.  We are to teach/warn, encourage, and help one another.  And where do we find the content of that counseling?  We saw it in Eph4:15 – we speak the truth, that is, God’s Word.  And once again, Paul is talking to all believers.
So we are all called to counsel – to speak the truth to one another, to warn one another, to encourage one another, to help one another.  And we do this by lovingly applying the Word to each other’s lives.
But if we think back to that passage in Ephesians 4, we see that our ministry to the body does require some equipping.  We all have the capacity to counsel, but we need to be equipped for it.  The equipping that you get through the diet of the Word at Providence is probably sufficient to be able to informally come alongside others and help them.  But there are counseling needs in any church that require a bit more equipping, equipping that prepares us to do what we could call formal counseling.
At this point in the life of our church, we have a relatively small number of people who are equipped for formal counseling.  We need more.  We need as many as we can get.  The more people we have who can counsel formally the more we will be able to not only meet the counseling needs of our members, but also to offer counseling help to our community, which really serves as a tool for evangelism.  
 I’d like to ask all of you to consider taking the time to be equipped for this kind of ministry.  You don’t have to ask yourself if you are gifted for it – the New Testament says that we all have the capacity to counsel.  It really is just a question of time and desire.  If you are having a difficult time finding where you can serve at Providence, consider the counseling ministry.
There are several opportunities within driving distance to get the kind of training necessary.  Clearcreek Chapel in Springboro will be offering biblical counseling training next Spring.  It consists of four weekends – one per month for four consecutive months.  You can click here for the details. We already have a couple of people who are making plans to take advantage of this training, so you wouldn't be going alone.
Training is also available at Faith Church in Lafayette, Indiana on Feb 10-15, 2013.  This is a great way to get the training knocked out in a short period of time.  Clear here for more information.
You may have some questions about what the training entails or what the counseling experience is like.  Whatever you want to know, I’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss it.  Just shoot me an email and we’ll schedule something.  You can also ask Amy Ebert or Susan CarterAsking questions or even getting the training does not obligate you to counsel formally.  At the very least, it will help you with your own sanctification as well as prepare you to informally help people whenever the need arises.  I can tell you this with confidence, though – formally counseling other believers is one of the most rewarding ways to serve the Lord.  All of the counselors at Providence would tell you the same thing.  There is nothing like watching God’s Word transform another person.  
Give it some thought.
Posted by Greg Birdwell

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