Archive for the ‘Biblical/Pastoral Counselling’ Category

I cam across this resource some time ago. They are definitely worth checking out but I can’t claim to give 100% backing to them because I haven’t watched them. However, worth checking out as a potential resource.

http://www.bradhambrick.com/griefseminar

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Some helpful thoughts here on an issue that affects all of us.

By Andy Constable

Life in schemes can be tough at the best of times. It is, sometimes, an extremely face paced, intense ministry. I know today as I woke up that I felt tired and distracted. The business of the next couple of weeks clouded my mind. Now at this point I could (a) get on with the day and get as much as done as possible but keep stressing. Or (b) I can commit these things to the Lord and refresh my soul for the day ahead. Now a lot of people will tend to do the former, get their heads down and batter through life’s problems. However, that’s not healthy at all. If we keep doing this we will burn out very quickly. We need to find a spiritual oasis in the middle of this stress. Here are some things I was reminded of as I spent time with the Lord.

Be Disciplined

We need to be disciplined in making time to spend time with the Lord. Some days we won’t feel like getting up early and reading our Bibles, but it’s so necessary. Paul, in his qualifications for deacons, says this in Titus 1:8: “Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” Discipline is key when you’re feeling stressed because it’s so easy to be lazy or to get distracted by business. Make that time to read your Bible and keep it regular.

Meditate on scripture

Christians in general are bad at spending time taking the Word of God from their quiet times into the rest of their days. We tend to read some verses and then forget about them as soon as we walk out the door. The Psalmist however said that he “meditated on God’s word day and night” This means that he spent time studying the scriptures, processing them and reflecting on them. The psalmist actually spent time taking God’s Word to heart and applying it to his life. This is something that is important for refreshing our souls in ministry. We need to fill our minds with as much scripture as possible in order to find peace, contentment and renewal of mind in the middle of stress.

Leave your worries with God

We need to spend concerted time committing our cares to the Lord. 1 Peter 5:7 says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God cares for us and we need to know this in the midst of ministry difficulties. However, what we need to watch out for is that we don’t commit our worries to God and then take them back again. It is important to commit them to the Lord and make sure they stay there. There can also be a tendency to think that God doesn’t want to hear about our silly stresses. We think “oh I’ll sort that out by myself because God has more important things to think about.” This is not the case as 1 Peter reminds us. Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you!

Remind yourself that you are not God

One of the things that every Christian is tempted to do is play God. In our pride we think we can do things in our own strength. Yet, it is wonderfully liberating in ministry to remind ourselves that God is in control of all things. He saves people, not us. He transforms people’s lives, not us. He works everything out for the good of those who love him, not us. The question is do we believe this? Or are we functionally playing God and trying to sort out all the mess by ourselves. This is both foolish and dangerous.

Remember there is an outside world

I think lastly its good to remember that this is a big, old world we live in. Often when we are stressed we focus on ourselves and think that we are the only ones grafting in ministry. It’s important to get our heads up and pray for those who are struggling all over the world to bring the gospel to their people. This gives us perspective. This reminds us that we have a great and powerful God who is Lord over ALL creation and ALL people!

It’s important if we want to survive in this ministry to put these things into practice. I could have ignored my time with the Lord this morning, battered on with the days activities and ignored Him.  But, instead, I took 30 minutes to be disciplined, meditate on scripture, cast my worries on the Lord, remembered that God sits on His throne, and prayed for some outside gospel ministries. This refreshed my soul and I found a little oasis in the middle of stress.

By Andy Constable

Anger is a problem with which everyone struggles. For some it is such a problem that it is destroying their lives. As Christians we are called to be self-controlled people who sew peace in our lives. But not all anger in the Bible is bad. Anger is a characteristic of God. Jesus was righteously angry in His ministry on earth. There is, therefore, good anger and bad anger. The question is are we channelling our anger in the right way?

Good anger’ is an emotional response to things like sin and injustice. It is a slow, self-controlled anger and is motivated by love. This kind of anger does not control us. ‘Bad anger’ is the opposite. It is explosive, irrational and, ultimately, destructive. So, what causes this bad anger in us? James 4:1-2 gives us some answers:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and you do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.”

The key is that our passions (or desires) are at war within us. The root of our anger is desires that spring from idolatrous hearts. When these desires are threatened we often react with anger. We all have things that we love more than God in our lives – these are called idols and the problem is that they can rule our hearts. Then, when these idols are poked and challenged by people we often react with anger.

When we get angry, it is important, therefore, to be looking below the surface and into the heart of the issue. We live in a culture that likes to blame outside circumstances for our reactions. We say things like “he made me react like this.” But the Bible says that our reactions to life’s situations simply reveals what we really love most in life. They reveal something sinful about us. So how do we begin to address our heart issues?

I always say to people that our ‘bad anger’ will never be totally eradicated in this life because we have layer upon layer of idols. But, what we can work on, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is how we process anger and repent of it. Some questions to ask yourself are: 

When do you get angry? How do you get angry? Why do you become angry? 

Take a situation when you last got really mad and process it. Break down the situation and work through those questions. Then when you get mad again, repeat. Try to identify what your real heart issue is.

The key to all of this, of course, is repentance. We need to repent of the things that we love more than God. Then we need to run back into His merciful arms. It is only His grace, given through the gospel, that can truly transform our hearts. Only the gospel can challenge our hearts and teach us to love righteousness at the same time. This is key in our battle against ‘bad anger’.

The problem that most people have is that they don’t (or don’t want to) get to the heart of their issues. As James teaches, we get angry because “we desire and do not have.” But, these desires must be challenged and rooted out by the grace of God if we are to channel our anger towards sin and injustice. Sometimes I look at my own anger and wonder why I can’t get as passionate about my sin as I do about losing control or comfort. The problem, again, is my idolatrous heart and the things that I love more than God.

Allow the Holy Spirit to challenge the heart, repent and we will sew peace and self-control instead of unrighteous anger.

By Andy Constable

Last week we started by looking at some of the things we need to know when we are discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ and are rebuilding their lives. We looked at some of the things that you the discipler will need to look out for. This week I want to look at some of the things we need to teach our new converts. What do they need to know from God’s Word? What do they need to learn quickly? This is key in our discipleship because what we teach can really give them a foundation to walk with the Lord.

The first thing we need to teach former drug addicts are the tools to say ‘no’ to temptation and the reminder to run to God’s forgiveness when they mess up. Every Christian is faced with temptation and a drug addict’s temptation is very prevalent with drug friends and dealers all over the place. We need to be teaching that they can say ‘no’ to these temptations because the Holy Spirit is now living in them. The good news for a drug addict is that Jesus Christ liberates them from bondage to sin. He gives them a new heart and desire to love God more than anything else. This is a great encouragement to someone who has come to Christ and has been heavily addicted to drugs for a long time. Jesus Christ sets us free and gives us the tools to keep us free from slavery to sin.

Alongside this, we need to teach our disciples a deep thankfulness for the grace of God when they do mess up. This is inevitable because we all fall, but the problem is that we often don’t teach people how to come back to God after a slip up.  We teach our new Christians that the bar is high for every Christian as God calls for total devotion and obedience to him. He says ‘be perfect as I am perfect’. But, we also teach that when we mess up to run to the grace of God. We teach them not to hide sin with religious works and language but to flee to the forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, we need to give our disciples the doctrines that lead to godliness. One of the things that we find in housing scheme ministry is that people working in these areas often ignore teaching people the doctrines of God’s Word. They say: “just give them Jesus not all that dusty theology stuff.”  When Paul is leaving his church in Ephesus he says this to the Elders that: “he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Paul didn’t just teach them the bits of the Bible he enjoyed or thought they could grasp but he taught them the whole counsel of God. Sometimes there can be a presumption that people in housing schemes are not bright enough to learn the doctrines of God, but that is not the case at all. I find that it’s often the s0-called ‘mature’ Christians who don’t really understand the doctrines very well and so can’t explain them properly to new believers. We should not shrink back from teaching the whole counsel of God to people. New Christians are thirsty for the truth.

The main reason for teaching doctrine is that Paul says in his letter to Timothy that it leads to godliness. The knowledge of the truth of the Bible empowered by the Spirit helps us to grow. For example, if we are teaching about the need to be selfless then we can teach them about the Trinity. We can show our new Christians how that selflessness is rooted in the very being of God. We can teach them how Father, Son and Holy Spirit selflessly serve each other and bring glory to one another. It’s a doctrine that leads to godliness. We want to give them as good a foundation from God’s Word as we can!

Thirdly, we need to teach our disciples that we are there for them. One of the things that new Christians find in schemes is the lack of community. Many churches meet on a Sunday and then on a Wednesday. This is not enough community for a person who has a lot of time on his/her hands. Many former addicts find it difficult leaving their drug addict pals behind because they were constantly there for them. The drug community often do community better than Christians. They look after each other, they listen to each other, they are eager to help and spend much of their lives together. When we are discipling former drug addicts it’s going to be important to give them care, support, and friendship. Not once a week, but regularly. In Niddrie we try to have regular meet ups and have lots of community events centred on food. This gives a natural arena for new people to come into and get to know their new Christian family.

Let me end with a challenge from Paul. He says this in Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Pray for us as we continue to minister amongst drug addicts on the scheme. It is a joy to see them saved and leave their lives of addictions behind. But, remember in your ministry, to teach them the tools to say no to temptation and run back to Jesus when they get in trouble, to teach them the doctrine’s that lead to godliness and to be there for them in constant loving community.

By Andy Constable

Last week we were at a conference for gospel centred churches who are working in housing scheme/housing estate ministry. The conference was focused on the book of Titus and the main speakers did a great job at expounding it for the context of estate ministries. One of the things that struck me at the conference was Titus 1:1: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Duncan Forbes spoke on this passage and made a great point that we are to explain the truths (or the doctrines) of the Bible to new believers (in fact all believers) because they lead to godliness. One of the doctrines that we need to know well is the doctrine of the Trinity and its application to believers. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about this important doctrine for our lives.

Firstly, the Trinity challenges us to be gracious people. Before the world began there was no, ‘you and me’. There was no world, no stars, no galaxies, absolutely nothing. There was simply God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in perfect harmony, unity and love. There was perfect serenity and peace. Ed Sanders calls this the ‘Happy Land’ of the Trinity. God was happy and satisfied and needed nothing else because He was and is completely sufficient in and of Himself. And then God spoke and He created this universe and, eventually, you and me. He didn’t need to, and didn’t have to, but He did because everything is an overspill of His great love. All creation is an act of grace. Our lives are an act of absolute mercy. The world and all its fullness is not something that we deserve to have but its something that God created because of His great love. This is the very core of His character.

This grace is further shown in the fact that He then sends the eternal Son to die on the cross to buy back a people that He had originally created for his glory. The cross shows what has always been at the center of God’s character – grace. Everything we have, including our salvation, is undeserved. He doesn’t need to save us. But He chose to save us because He is gracious. This challenges me deep down. We live in a culture that is inherently self-centered. We give us little as we can away and keep as much as we can for ourselves. We are to reflect a God who is constantly giving to us by giving to those around us in time, energy, and finance.

Secondly, the Trinity challenges our individualistic society. Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in perfect harmony with one another. They are one and three, three and one. God is a community. And then God created humans to reflect this community. The Trinity says to itself in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” As one famous person said: “no man is an island.” We cannot live a full life without a network of relationships around us because we are wired to be in relationships. We are created with community in our DNA. In contrast, we live in a society that tries to push people away. We live highly privatised lives and try not to share too much with those around us. This has taken root in our churches. We see each other on a Sunday and a Wednesday and try to bypass people in between. And we wonder why nearly 1 in 4 people suffer with depression and isolation? In Acts 2:42 we see the model we are called to reflect as the Apostles met regularly with the people, preached, prayed and everyone shared everything with one another. The is something that challenges my way of life and the choices I make.

Thirdly, the Trinity challenges our selfish nature. The Godhead lives to serve one another and love one another. The Son is obedient to the Father and wants to bring Him glory. The Holy Spirit wants to point people towards Christ. They don’t live to serve themselves but each other. This is a challenge to a human race that looks after number one first. We sort ourselves out first and make sure we are all right but Father, Son and Holy Spirit are other centered. They are all co-eternal and co-equal. Think about this verse from the gospel of John (chapter 17) when Jesus prays to the Father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Now think about the conversations that we have everyday. We want respect. We want glory. We want adoration. We want to serve ourselves. But Jesus Christ came to earth and wanted to glorify His Father and carry out the work that He had been given before the world even began! God’s very nature challenges us to serve and to not look to our own interests first. God’s very nature challenges us to bring Him glory alone!

The Trinity is a complex subject but at the heart of understanding as much as we can, there are deep truths that we can use to apply to our lives. Let us continue to study God’s very nature not simply so that we can know God but so that we can reflect His character in our lives. He is a gracious God who calls us to be gracious people. He is a communal God who calls us to live in community. And He is a selfless God who challenges us to be selfless people. These doctrines can change churches and housing schemes and nations.

The issue, as per usual, is all over the media once again. Hats off to the homosexual lobby for keeping this issue alive. I read somewhere that there are less homosexuals in our country than evangelicals, but whilst we all waste time fighting about hymn books and the use of drums in worship, they have mobilised behind a common cause to great effect. Many Christians are confused at worst, and ill-informed (biblically) at best when it comes to some of the nuances of the current debate.

Christianity Today have written an article showing some of the demographics and cultural changes in Evangelical Christians toward the issue (particularly the young). It is worth a look here.

The White Horse Inn have produced a thought provoking and stimulating paper discussing some of the nuances of the debate. Read it here . Consider the following quote as an example:

Same-sex marriage makes sense if you assume that the individual is the center of the universe, that God—if he exists—is there to make us happy, and that our choices are not grounded in a nature created by God but in arbitrary self-construction. To the extent that this sort of “moralistic-therapeutic-deism” prevails in our churches, can we expect the world to think any differently? If we treat God as a product we sell to consumers for their self-improvement programs and make personal choice the trigger of salvation itself, then it may come as a big surprise (even contradiction) to the world when we tell them that truth (the way things are) trumps feelings and personal choice (what we want to make things to be).

They then produced an extremely helpful follow up paper here on how to respond “Christianly” to the issue. Highly recommended! Read Part II here.

The Blazing Center take a different approach. There is a short essay here by Stephen Altrogge on what to do when people put “story above scripture”. Worth reading here.

The Gospel Coalition (Justin Taylor) have produced a series of four DVD clips and various articles and helpful resources on their site. Take your time ploughing through this lot here. Highly Recommended.

Likewise, EPM (Eternal Perspective Ministries) with Randy Alcorn have a whole host of pdf and video resources on the topic on their site here.

Kevin De Young has given 5 reasons why Christians should continue to oppose gay marriage here.

Finally, from a non-Christian perspective, The Daily Telegraph had an interesting take on President Obama’s recent announcement on the issue. Read it here.

I continue to pray for faithfulness and deep, gospel driven, biblical thought as we seek to engage with these issues and apply them to our own contexts.

I am a physician with but one medicine to prescribe, and that is the gospel of Christ. It may need to be applied in various ways, various aspects of it may need to receive the right emphasis, and it may need to be administered in the right form. But only the gospel of Jesus Christ can heal the deepest wounds of the human heart and enable us to prosper according to God’s design, bringing glory to our Lord.

So says Bill Kynes on a recent Gospel Coalition posting. See his article in full here. There is no more important treasure to our own souls, and to those to whom we minister, than the wonderful, saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Somebody once asked me why I feel the need to preach the gospel in every sermon on a Sunday. My answer? “Because we forget it every day of the week and we need to be reminded of its necessity and our personal need of returning to it again and again.”

Have a great, gospel centred  day today.

By Andy Constable

The last couple of weeks have been particularly tough and tiring in Niddrie. One of our “pre-interns” who was getting his life together in Christ made a very unwise decision to leave the structure of our tailored discipleship programme/life to go back to his home town. The decision was not prayerfully considered, biblically based or with the Lord in mind. The young man in question simply got bored with following God’s will. This was heartbreaking to watch as we had heavily invested the last 6 months into his life. We had prayed with him, walked with him, and taught him the gospel as faithfully as we could. We had him stay in our house and he had become part of the family. The whole process was demoralising and spiritually draining. It felt like we had been punched in the stomach and left winded on the ground. How do we pick up the pieces when this happens?

Firstly, we need to rest in God. The week after the person had left to go back to his sinful lifestyle, I was absolutely shattered. I walked around like a zombie and found it difficult to engage with people. There was a need for sleep on one level but also my soul needed to find rest in God. Investing in any person is a tiring experience and I needed God’s grace to strengthen me.

Secondly, we need to root out any idols. After the person left, I felt like my hopes and dreams had been robbed and that there was no way forward. You see I had put my trust in the wrong things. This time of unrest brought forward the idols of my heart. I had trusted in the ramifications on my ministry of this person getting their life together. I had wanted recognition, respect and glory for the part that I had played in investing in this person’s life. A day after the person had left I read Psalm 62 and verse 6 challenged my heart attitudes. It says this: “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.” This just wasn’t true in my life at this time and I needed to repent. God was not my rock and my salvation. When difficult things happen we see where our hopes and dreams really are. And if it’s not on God then we need to repent and put our trust in him and him alone.

Thirdly, we need to remember that God is in control. When the person left I was left wondering what God was up to. This was of course an arrogant thought but one that crossed my mind. How could he let this person go? How could all that hard work come to absolutely nothing? Does God know what he is doing? My very wise wife reminded me of this verse from Isaiah 55:8: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” The Lord always knows what he is doing and is always in control. His ways are not our ways and we need to always trust that he is working out his good and perfect will. When people walk away from the Lord we need to trust that God is sovereign and that his plan is perfect. He is just and gracious and far above our understanding.

Finally, we need to continue to invest in others. As Mez said to me several times during that week: “you need to get back on the horse, and get back on quickly.” Even though 5 new people professed faith the same week he walked away, I still wanted to remove myself from investing in anybody else because I was tired and honestly couldn’t be bothered. However, when someone walks away we need to invest our attention elsewhere. Jesus was clear through the Parable of the Sower that many seeds will be planted but only the ones who remain are saved. This is how we need to view ministry. We need to keep spreading the seeds of gospel, discipling people and pray that some seed will fall on the good soil because God will produce a great crop through them.

Ministry in schemes is tiring. We invest our lives in people and when they walk away from God it’s heartbreaking. But we need to keep putting our hope in Christ, remind ourselves constantly of God’s sovereign hand and keep sharing the gospel with people! Please pray as we continue to work in this area.

By Andy Constable

Four weeks ago, at 11pm on a Friday night, our door bell rang. My wife and I were asleep and we ignored it because we thought it was kids messing about. But it rang again and so I got up and opened the door to find our neighbour at there. She apologised for waking us up but thought we would like to know that our car windows had been smashed. I peered out at our car and saw the glass all over the floor!  All four windows had been smashed. I looked up and down the street to see if anyone else had been affected but no other cars had been touched! Working in housing schemes can be tough. We face vandalism, threats and people laughing at us for our faith. But how are we to react? What should we do when people are against us?

Well, I believe that Psalm 59 gives us some answers. King David is in a far worse predicament. Saul, the king of Israel, has sent men to kill him and they are waiting outside his house! What does he do? He could go out and kill them or hide in his house and hope they don’t find him, or run (which he eventually does). We read that the first thing he does is pray. This psalm gives us 5 steps that should direct our prayers when we are facing hardship.

The very first thing that David prays is to be delivered. Verse 1: “Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me…” When we are facing opposition the first thing we want to do is sort out things ourselves. We want to get our family to safety or confront those who are attacking us or do our own thing. But David prays before he does anything else and asks to be delivered from his troubles! The first thing my wife and I did, when we found out our windows had been broken, is to pray. This is not because we are super spiritual but because we had nowhere else to turn! We need to commit things into God’s hand when enemies are against us. We need to ask for God’s help. He is our deliverer from troubles and the one we must turn to.

The second thing that David does is pray through the problem. In verse 3 he writes: “For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord…” David articulates to God what the problem is. We know that God knows exactly what’s going on because he is omniscient. But it’s important to communicate with God what’s going on for our own soul. The worst thing we can do when we are going through difficult problems is to keep it to ourselves. We need to share with God what is happening. David has men after him even though he has committed no sin and so he speaks to God. Tell God what your difficulty is. Share with him what is going on in your life. Be specific.

Thirdly, David reminds himself of who God is. He writes in verse 8: “But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision. O my strength, I will watch for you, for you, O GOD, are me fortress. My God in his steadfast love will meet me…” It’s so easy when the world is against us to forget who our God is. When the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we often look inwards and diminish the size of God. But when we are being attacked we need to look outwards to God and remind our souls of His attributes. He is our strength, He watches over us, He is our fortress, and He is a God of steadfast love. These truths help us trust in Him and brings peace to our souls in the midst of distress.

Fourthly, David prays that his enemies would be consumed. He writes in verse 12b-13: “For the cursing and the lies that they utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth.” Now this doesn’t sound very Christian does it? Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek and forgive people who sin against us? This is a ‘both and‘ answer. Yes, we are to pray for our enemies, but I think that it’s biblical and right to pray that God would judge people according to His will. David is not going out to murder his enemies but is leaving judgment in God’s hands. And the reason he wants judgment is so that they would know that God rules. When we are attacked by people we can pray that people would know God’s judgment so that they would know who really rules the joint. This is not a bitter prayer but a righteous prayer with the right heart attitude.

Finally, David worships God. In the final verse David writes: “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.” David ends his prayer by singing praises to God. In verse 8 he is reminding himself of who God is but by verse 17 he is praising and singing to the Lord his God. This is surely the ultimate purpose of any kind of suffering that we face: worship. We go through difficult times to appreciate who God is all the more. When we suffer our hearts are challenged, changed, and transformed from the reliance of our worldly idols and back toward the one, true God. David doesn’t end with bitterness. His heart is right and he is singing to Him! This should be the same for us all.

If you are working in a housing scheme then difficult times are ahead. You will be reviled, laughed at and even physically threatened and/or even assaulted. But, remember this Psalm, remind yourself of who God is and pray that your enemies would know God’s righteous judgment and turn to worship Him all the more! Let me end with these words from James 1:2-4: “Count it ALL joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”