Devotional Thought for Today – 04/14/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part XII

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In yesterday’s posting, we began looking at the various roles or positions that Chaplains can hold. We listed a total of 14 and I have broken those into 5 main areas:

  • Business
  • Disaster
  • Medical
  • Military
  • Public Safety

As we look at each of these areas I hope to expand upon them, give some idea of a job description, roles filled, and the need for the Chaplains in each. Under the heading of Business, I have grouped the following; Corporate, NGO’s and other Private Organizations, Sports Teams and Workplace.

People spend more time at work than anywhere else. But just because they go to work does not mean they’ve left their worries at home. Anxieties crowd out focused work time. Hospital visits create mounting unpaid days off. Illness and death devastate families and burden employees with skyrocketing health care costs.

Employees are not the only ones who suffer during crises. Time after time, employers repeat stories of inadequate workplace support programs and feelings of helplessness.

https://chaplain.org/mission/

First I had no idea the number of Chaplains serving in positions like this across America nor the need until I started looking for a Chaplaincy position myself. Jobs in corporate America kept popping up. I found the following job description helpful:

A corporate chaplain provides spiritually-based care to persons in the context of their employment, respecting the diversity of the workforce being served. They respond to individual and family needs, as well as work-life concerns such as job stress, coworker relations, and career direction. They also provide consultation to management about issues affecting employee and company well-being, including organizational change, ethical challenges, conflict resolution, team development, and outplacement. Corporate chaplains are called upon to lead first responder teams in the event of critical incidents affecting the workplace. Corporate chaplains are highly trained in the services they provide, whether this takes place on the corporate premises or externally at a chaplaincy provider center.

https://www.spiritualcareassociation.org/corporate

Employees in corporations big or small all have problems, many times they do not want or feel comfortable sharing those problems/issues with their boss or the HR department. That is where the Chaplain can be most helpful.

The same applies to NGOs, Private Companies, and Sports Teams. Remember as Chaplains our primary mission is to provide compassionate care, comfort, and counsel (4 C’s) to those assigned to us. Making our presence known in these businesses, being seen, being accessible, having an open-door policy, lets folks know they can come to you for those 4 C’s.

One thing we/I can never forget as a Chaplain is that the folks we serve may or may not have the same ideals, morals, or standards as we do. Therefore we must approach the position with a few assumptions:

  1. We strive to make folks better through the 4C’s
  2. We minister within the spirituality of those we serve, that is we do not impose our religiosity upon them
  3. Every person has some spirituality but not everyone is religious

This does not mean we “give up” our beliefs in order to serve, God forbid. It just means we do not serve with disdain, judgement or imposing our beliefs upon others.

Romans 1:1

In closing, you may have noted I left Workplace off the above list I did so purposely. Although it would seem to fit or even be another way of saying the same thing, here it refers to our own workplace. Many Chaplains (volunteer, part-time, etc.) are bi-vocational. As such, their other “workplace” is no less a place where they can be a servant of God and the Gospel of Christ.

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/14/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part XI

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Yesterday we looked at some dos and don’ts of Chaplaincy. Today I would like to explore two things, first the difference between Chaplains and Pastors, and the various positions or jobs that a Chaplain can hold.

1 Peter 4:10 - Each of you should use whatever gift you have r...

1 Peter 4:10

I am convinced that Chaplaincy or any Ministerial position (Pastor, elder, etc.) must be more than a job it needs to be both a calling from God and a gift of the Holy Spirit. If we approach this like any other (secular) job, what happens when we grow bored, are tired, or get a little burnt out? Do we quit on God? Trust me all of those are a reality in the hard roles of Chaplains.

Chaplains and Pastors usually differ in that usually whereever a Chaplain is serving there is not a Chaplain for every Christian denomination. In fact they maybe the only Chaplain for all denominations (this is real common in smaller jail settings; for example I was the only Chaplain for a 250+ person facility that housed Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, and others.) Pastors on the other hand rarely have a need to minister outside their church or denomination. Of course there are exceptions to both but the “norm” is such.

What is most important for us as Chaplains is what I have continued to refer to as our mission to provide compassion, care, comfort, and counsel no matter the individuals personal beliefs.

The roles of Chaplains are many. The Association of Professional Chaplains says: A chaplain is an individual who is ordained or endorsed by a faith group to provide chaplaincy care in diverse settings including, but not limited to:

  • Colleges and Universities
  • Corrections
  • Hospice
  • Hospitals
  • Long-Term Care
  • Mental Health
  • Military
  • Palliative Care
  • Sports Teams
  • Workplace

Here are some I think are also critical:

  • Business/Corporate
  • Crisis/Disaster Relief
  • NGO’s and other Private Organizations
  • Public Safety (Fire, Police, Etc.)

Can you add to the list? We will explore each in more detail over the next couple of days.

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/13/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part X

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Over the past 9 articles, we have looked at the basics of what a Chaplain/Ministerial duties or mission is (provide compassionate care, comfort, and counsel) and the Stages of Grief. We noted the importance of understanding what stage an individual is in so that we can better minister to their needs.

Today I would like to discuss some dos and don’ts that I have gleaned over the years. As a reminder, my primary duties as Chaplain have been with inmates (and ex-mates) and veterans, of that population however quite a few have had mental health, serious physical, terminal illness, or other issues that I hope to relate to all areas of Chaplaincy.

Some of the things I find most important when dealing with individuals in the Stages of Grief, or the DO’s (I put them in alphabetical order)

  • Affirmation – reassure them that the feelings of grief are normal and support them in the process.
  • Acknowledgment– Do not try and sugarcoat the situation. I am not suggesting we be blunt, rude, or anything of that nature. I am referring to the language that Paul mentions in Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6.
  • Empathize – One of the best explanations for this I studied explained it this way; Pity: I acknowledge your suffering, Sympathy: I care about your suffering, Empathy: I feel your suffering, Compassion: I want to relieve your suffering. In short, empathy is sharing feelings of Grief with the individual, while Sympathy is feeling sorry for them. No one wants you to throw a pity party for them or feel sorry for them, they need you as a professional to provide Compassionate Empathy.
  • Listen – I do not care if you have to sit there for 15-20 minutes before they say 3 words, be willing to listen. everyone has a story and 99.9% need to tell it.
  • Listen without Judgement – Folks will not talk if they think you are going to censor their speech.
  • Truth – Always be truthful, if you don’t have an answer say so, do not “wing it” folks will see right through that.

Some of the most common MISTAKES I find when dealing with individuals in the Stages of Grief, or the DON’Ts (I put them in alphabetical order)

  • AdviceMy advice to you is…, that is not our mission, they are going to get that from the Job’s of the world. Stick to the mission and use biblical counseling.
  • Assume – Never assume you know what they need, yes they need Care, Comfort, and Counsel, but I am speaking of the application of that here.
  • CichésThey are in a better place now, It was God’s will, or At least he/she is not suffering. These may all be true but are of no help especially in the initial stages of Grief.
  • Criticism – Even unintentional, saying something seemingly as harmless as, I know but you can… tells them that you think they are doing something wrong and are criticizing or judging their actions. They are suffering enough we need not pile it on.
  • Mr. or Mrs. Fix It – Never promise what you can not do. Sometimes there are individuals beyond our help that need professional counselors.
  • Pity – See Empathize above
  • Story Time – Unless directly asked keep your war stories to yourself. They only distract from the issues at hand.

I hope these are a help, when I first became a Chaplain I was basically thrown to the wolves, with no training so I made many mistakes listed above. If you have anything to add to either list please comment below.


Prayer

Heavenly Father, I pray that no unwholesome words would proceed from my mouth, but that the words of my lips and the meditation of my heart may be gracious and good. I pray that my speech would give compassionate care, comfort and counsel to those whom I meet. All the while giving honour to Your name by speaking the truth in love. This I ask in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Modified from Source: https://prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Ephesians/4/29


Crisis Hotlines

855-FAQ-HOSPICE (327-4677) – Hospice Hotline

1-800-662-HELP (4357) Mental Health Hotline

1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-8255 Veterans Crisis Hotline

1-800-985-5990 Disaster Distress Hotline

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/09/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part – VIII

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Today we continue our series by looking at the last stage of the 5 Stages of GriefAcceptance.

Many times as Chaplains and Ministers we never see this stage as the individuals we are dealing with have gone home or moved to another facility. That does not make it any less important to understand, mainly because it is the goal or end mark of the grief process.

If I may use an analogy (I hope it is not to bad of one) I think of this stage like getting ready to move. Being retired military and a missionary we have moved many times over the years, to many to remember. Each time it gets harder to seperate from friends and family. Yet, that is just what we must do seperate the old and prepare for the new. As in moving we pack up our old memories and prepare to make new ones. That does not mean we forget them, never, we just pack up and prepare to move on from them.

Another caution is that someone showing signs of acceptance DOES NOT always mean a wholesale transformation out of Grief. Folks can slip back into “lower” stages easily, especially those prone to depression and other mental health issues. Restrained encouragement, can go a long way here when someone reaches out and shows the beginning signs of acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t mean someone is okay with the loss, illness, injury, situation, etc. it just means they have or are beginning to accept it as reality. The pain, anger, depression all seem to lessen and they can move on with life, albeit in a new way. One of the greatest tools in someones tool box is PST, Positive Self Talk. If they say it they can start to believe it. Here are some examples of this:

  • Death of a FriendI was so blessed to have many years with them and will always cherish those memories.
  • Job or Financial LossI will recover from this and find an even better job.
  • Terminal IllnessI will have an opportunity to get my affairs in order and spend time with friends and family
  • InjuryOkay, so I can’t climb ladders and work construction anymore but I still can ride my trike

Once again I think it prudent to state the mission of Chaplain/Ministerial personal is to provide Care, Comfort and Counsel for the Grieving. In this the Acceptance Stage, we need to be that encourager, God’s cheerleader if you will, reminding them of all He promises and the hope for tomorrow, The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army];

Habakkuk 3:17–19 (ESV) - Habakkuk 3:17–19 ESV - Though the fig tree… |  Biblia

Habakkuk 3:17-19


Additional Information/Resources:

Acceptance: Case Study

Kübler-Ross and Kessler use the story of Keith to illustrate the acceptance stage of grief.

Keith’s son was randomly shot by a gang member while walking home from a sports arena. In the months that followed his son’s death, Keith and his wife were consumed with anger as they spent their days and nights investigating their son’s murder.

A well-meaning friend tried to tell Keith that he needed to “move on” and “accept” his son’s death, which only further angered Keith. While Keith could acknowledge the reality of his loss, it was unrealistic for his friend to think that Keith should have found some peace with it so soon after his son’s death.

After the killer was caught, Keith became consumed with the trial. After the trial was over and the killer was convicted, Keith had to contend with his grief and emptiness. There was no longer a trial to distract his attention.

In the 5 years that followed, Keith found acceptance, or so he thought. He felt the acceptance drain out of him when he heard that his son’s killer was up for parole. By the time the parole hearing rolled around, Keith was once again filled with anger. He attended the parole hearing and was struck by how quickly it was over. He saw the tears of the killer’s father when parole was denied. For the first time since his son’s death, Keith realized that there were other victims of this crime.

And for the first time, his anger was replaced by curiosity. Keith approached the killer’s father. He wanted to learn about the killer and what had led him to this place. Over the next few years, the two fathers formed an alliance to help gang members stop the violence. They visited many inner city schools to share their story.On Grief and Grieving, pgs. 27 & 28, Kübler-Ross and Kessler write: “Keith’s acceptance was a journey that was deeper than he ever expected.

“And it happened over many year, not many months or days. “Not everyone will or can fully embrace those who have hurt us, as Keith did, but there is always a struggle that leads us to our own personal and unique acceptance.”

5 Tips For Dealing with the Acceptance Stage of Grief

  • Understand that acceptance is learning to live with your new norm where your loved one is no longer here. Understand that you will never be okay with the fact that your loved one died. {or that you have a terminal disease, life changing injury, etc.} Acceptance is a process that we experience, not a final stage with an endpoint.
  • Be patient with yourself and don’t expect yourself to reach the acceptance stage of grief quickly. The process could take years. You could also ebb in and out of the acceptance stage.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily. Make a note of anything that gave you even the briefest moment of relief from your pain. As examples: a memory of your loved one that made you smile; a visit from a neighbour to see how you are doing; a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you look for things in your day that are positive, no matter how small they may seem to others. As you read back through your gratitude journal, you may find yourself growing in your “gratitude attitude”. Remember, acceptance may simply be having more good days than bad. {Write a prayer journal, keep promises fulfilled by God, think of Glories seen and known}
  • Find ways to commemorate the life, love and legacy of the person that you miss. {memorials are one thing, just be cautious not to “enshrine” someone to the point of idolizing}
  • If a year has passed since the day your loved one died {or life changing event occured} but you still feel “stuck” in your grief—your mourning still feels intense—see a professional therapist.

The above with my adds, from: 5 Stages of Grief & How to Survive Them


How can we learn to trust God like the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:17-19)?

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/06/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part V

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Today we continue our series by looking at the third stage of the 5 Stages of GriefBargaining.

Everytime I think of someone trying to bargain with someone, (I am speaking under duress of some sort) two things come to mind (neither advantageous), first is the legend of Robert Johnson the famous blues artist of the 1920-30’s. The story goes he made a bargain with the devil at the Crossroads of Hwy 49 and 61 here in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He fame and fortune were short live however as he died young in 1938. The second is folks who want to play let’s make a deal with God. Jewish talk show host Dennis Prager addresses the issue of deal-making in his book Think a Second Time:

I have come to realize that many religious people, of all faiths, believe that they should be able to avoid the calamities that afflict the less pious. They believe, in effect, that they can make a deal with God — ‘I’ll do what You want so that You do what I want.’

It should be apparent that both of these example do not have a “happy or expected ending.” This problem in both is selfishness. The person is asking for a self centered goal, I want because I want, or I am entitled to it and you shouldn;t withhold it from me.

In our study we need to remember a couple things. First Not everyone goes through all stages, or in the exact order. Yet Bargaining really does naturally follow Anger. Once the anger has begun to subsided we tend to try and work out solutions, anything to alleviate the pain we are in or anticipating, even if they may not be the most rational at the moment. It begins with trying to figure out how one could have and should have done things better and usually ends up with statements like:

  • ‘heal this person God and I will change my life around’
  • ‘I promise to be be good if you just let ____ live’
  • ‘I will get the counseling I need if you can stop him/her from dying or leaving me’

It is important to note that folks are feeling helpless both emotionally and physically and we can cause more harm than good if we approach this wrong.

Biblically the question has always been can we bargain with God? My answer is, Yes and No, which is probably not what you expected or wanted to hear. So let me give you some examples that seem to indicate we can bargain with God:

  • Abraham, in Gen. 18:16-33, when he pleads with the Lord over the fate of Sodom
  • Jacob, in Gen. 28:20-22, Jacob make a vow to God concerning finding a wife
  • Jephthah, in Judges 11:30-32, The Amorites have said no to peace so Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: ‘If you give the Ammonites into my hands…
  • Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1:11, Hannah is barren and made a vow, saying, “O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will…

If we look at each of the above scripture it would appear that these individuals struck a bargain with God, for God fulfilled their requests. All these folks had one thing in common they were desperate and seemingly had nowhere else to turn. Yet to imply they “Bargained” with God is to say they held a Low View of God. Which their stories reveal to be false.

For He has not despised nor detested the suffering of the afflicted;

Nor has He hidden His face from him;

But when he cried to Him for help, He listened.

PS 22:24

So how does this apply to Chaplains and Ministers dealing with grieving folks? First we need to encourage them to pray. We need to encourage them to pray in the right manner. Encouraging them to pray in a manner that Bargains or Negotiates with God is wrong. Praying to God for comfort, clarity, healing, etc. assumes He is sovereign over all things. It is not about making a trade it is about putting God’s will first. Now, caution here I am in no way suggesting shoving doctrine or theology down some grieving souls throat. I am encouraging Chaplains/Ministers to guide them (provide that care, comfort and COUNCEL) in praying correctly.

Okay, I hope you can see why I said Yes and No, while seemingly “bargaining” with God. Since God is in control of all things, He wants us to, and expects us to intercede, on behalf of others and even ourselves. This is where we can be most effective, when grief has no voice as I said yesterday, is can become malignant, our job as I see it (care, comfort and counsel) is to guide them (again for the short time they are usually with us) through the grief process. Here in the Bargaining Stage guiding them to “righteous bargaining” or properly put intercession.


How to Deal With Negative Emotions and Stress

How Do Christians Deal With Stress?

How to Overcome Negative Emotions and Feelings

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/05/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part IV

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As we continue this series, today will look at the second stage of the  5 Stages of Grief, ANGER. I remember one being told that “a good Christian never get angry” and being a young immature believer I thought that to be true, NOT!!! Christ was angry, are we not to follow His example? The difference is He had and so should we righteous anger at things that were an abomination against the Law(s) of God. One of the best explanations for this can be found here.

A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18

Of course in the grief process, the Anger with which we are concerned is slightly different. After the initial onslaught of emotions, including phase 1, denial, usually comes anger. Folks can be angry at any number of people or things and their anger can range from pent-up emotions to physical outbursts. Their anger is a result of their having lost control of the situation.

Some typical objects of anger are:

  • Themselves – Why couldn’t I help, I could have been there, I could have done something…
  • God -Why would God allow that to happen?
  • The deceased, or infirmed – How could they leave me?
  • The healthcare providers – They could have done more, they didn’t do enough, …
  • Hospitals – The VA *^#*^, We should never have admitted them there,
  • Anyone Offering Help – You don’t understand, you can’t know how I am feeling

Some Symptoms of Anger to look for are:

  • Irritability especially if it gets very bad
  • Ongoing preoccupation about what happened and why
  • Addictive or harming behaviors to self or others
  • Anxiety, Fear, Depression
  • There may be behavioral overreactions(outburst)

What can we do?

Again I can only go off my years first in counseling and then the practical application of all I learned when I have counselled others:

  • First is empathy and not simple sympathy especially in this stage. Someone who is angry even if not at you can easily turn on you (see last point above.
  • Second, allow the person to be angry, they need to get it out and not internalize it so it festers and grows malignant. Now of course we do not want them acting out harmful anger at themselves or others.
  • Try and ask probing questions, with grace and CAUTION, to get to the root of the anger, why are they angry, what is the true source of their anger.
  • If possible, offer to help them face the challenge, pray with them at a bedside, hold a prayer service, escort them to a funeral or gravesite, maybe speaking with hospital administration or a doctor…
  • Of course, if they seem stuck in the anger stage of grief, we need to make every effort to refer them to a certified Christian therapist, grief counselor, or psychologist.

Remember our job is to provide Care, Comfort, and (Short Term) Counsel while these individuals are assigned to us. We are not (at least most are not) long-term counselors, let us leave that to those professionals and be what God has called us to be Ministers/Chaplains.

Other Resources:

Dealing with Sorrow

Devotional Thought for Today – 04/01/2021

Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying Series – Part II

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Yesterday, we began this series by explaining the goal to be: to attempt to write a series of posts using mainly the Psalms as text that can be used to provide comfort to those Comfort for the Grieving, Hurting, and Dying. This was mainly to be from a Chaplain/Ministerial view but hopfully applicalble and helpfull to all.

For me, as a Christian Chaplain, all roads lead to Christ so our first post began with a quick look at Christ, the Great Physician. I can not imagine trying to comfort someone who is completely against the Bible (think Richard Dawkins) with scripture. So the first thing is a triage of sorts to find out about them. As I should have noted yesterday this is not a CONFRONTATION, but a friendly get-to-know-you session. Remember the goal, mission call it what you will of the minister/chaplain is to provide care, comfort, and counsel.

Lamentations 3:31-33

One of the first lessons I learned when dealing with those “suffering” was they are grieving. No matter the person or situation, loss of job, divorce, illness, death, etc. grief is inevitably involved. I began my Chaplaincy working with the incarcerated and even the toughest of those men and women, grieve (even if they don’t show it). Having a right understanding of the grief process is critical to ministering to them.

When I began my journey I was told and taught there were 5 Stages of Grief:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining
  • depression1
  • acceptance

1 Note some modern text now add two other stages in-between depression and acceptance. They are 1) The Upward Turn– This is where you finally begin to feel better and see the light 2) Reconstruction and Working Through – begins to start to work through the aftermath of loss and take control of your life.

The highlighted link above gives an expanded explanation of each stage. What is important is after meeting and “triaging” a person to understand what stage they are in. It is completely different talking to someone who is in the anger stage after a bitter divorce compared to someone who has just lost a loved one to cancer.

One common denominator in all grief counseling I have encountered is the lack of control someone feels. A common theme is “I could have or should have done…” Even if they do not directly blame themselves they feel a sense of loss of control so great it can in a sense paralyze them emotionally and even physically. That is where we as ministers/chaplains come in to provide that care/comfort and counsel helping them get through their situation.

One last reminder, as noted yesterday, that going it alone should never be an option for anyone. Be sure if you are not a Minister/Chaplain are experiencing grief, are hurting, or have suicidal thoughts you seek help immediately. see links here.

RESOURCES:

C.S. Lewis and the Five Stages of Grief

How to Cope with Grief

Understanding the Grieving Process – Focus on the Family

A Biblical Model of Grieving

Understanding and Recognizing the 7 Stages of Grief

Learning to be Teachable

Yesterday I posted on Proverbs 4:13 – Instructionand how important it is to take hold of the instruction God provides. Today I came across this in my Inbox and realized it goes hand in hand with yesterday’s post. We must be TEACHABLE in order to TAKE HOLD of the instructions of God. – Mike 


The Master's Seminary

Learning to be Teachable

Hohn Cho | 

History is filled with poor decisions—decisions that leave the world shaking its head, wishing things could have somehow just gone a bit differently. The following are several of the worst.

The Beatles were turned down by Decca Records in 1962 because one person at the label thought guitar groups were falling from favor. As it turns out, that guy was wrong. It is believed that one helmsman on the Titanic made a small steering error, and correction wasn’t made in time. Less than three hours later, the Titanic rested on the floor of the icy Atlantic. In June of 1812, an overconfident Napoleon Bonaparte sent his troops into Russia for certain victory which, according to Bonaparte’s calculations, would take no more than 20 days. Napoleon forgot to calculate supplies, freezing temperatures… and the entire Russian army. Napoleon lost half a million French soldiers on this quick and easy expedition.

It is hard not to stop and wonder, what “could have been” if these people had just stopped and sought the counsel of another? What if Napoleon had just stopped and made sure they had enough supplies to make such an expedition? Or if he asked what the weather was like in Russia? What if the helmsman had double checked his steering with another helmsman?

The world might be a different place if these people had been just a bit more teachable.  And just like history, our own lives are filled with (hopefully smaller, less catastrophic) poor decisions that could have benefited from greater wisdom.


If you want to be wise, you must chase after counsel


Chasing after counsel is at the core of what it means to be teachable. And teachability is one of the main themes in the book of Proverbs; it runs throughout the entire book. Here are just several examples: “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov 11:14); “Without consultation plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed” (Prov. 15:22); “Prepare plans by consultation, counsel and make war by wise guidance” (Prov 20:18); and “For by wise guidance, you will wage war and in abundance of counselors there is victory” (Prov 24:6).

The references could go on. But it should be obvious after this short list that the Scriptures praise the chasing of counsel, the asking of questions, and the seeking of advice.

But we might ask the question why. Why is chasing counsel so highly praised? What are the benefits of asking for advice?

Sometimes we are just too close to a matter to make a wise decision.

Often in confusing and complicated situations, our heart is just too involved in the matter to be able to clearly see the issue for what it is. The over involvement of the human heart is rarely a good thing. Just listen to what the prophet Jeremiah has to say about the human heart: “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). When we are too emotionally invested in a situation, our hearts have not only the potential, but the likelihood, of deceiving us. And the consequences can be daunting.

Solomon again writes, “He who trusts in his own heart is the fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered” (Prov 28:26). Solomon understands the danger of overinvestment.

This is where an outside perspective—someone whose heart is not overly attached to the issue—can be beneficial. He or she will bring a level of objectivity that would otherwise not be present in the situation.

When we chase counsel, we expose ourselves to others and their own wisdom in applying God’s word to their lives.

By seeking the counsel of those around us, we learn to get outside of ourselves. It teaches us to see our issues from another perspective. “Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding, But in the hearts of fools it is made known” (Prov 14:33). It gives us a tangible picture of how other godly men and women wade through the complications of life, and it just might encourage us to follow in their footsteps as they follow Christ (1 Cor 11:1).

Seeking advices teaches our hearts humility.

It requires humility to open yourself up to another person, to give another person the opportunity to say something that could potentially change our plans or challenge our pride. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov 12:15). There is humility in placing yourself beneath the counsel of another, even for a period, and just listening and learning from them.

In order to do this, we should proactively let others know that they have the right to speak into our lives. We should ask, and not just wait for people to offer us unsolicited counsel, which could be seen as prideful and unwelcome. We should strive to be known as someone who would be easy to advise. Far better to be a poor but wise young man, than even a king who cannot be advised (Ecc 4:13)… much less a pastor or elder, who is not to be self-willed (Tit 1:7).

But there are also dangers involved if counsel is sought incorrectly or unwisely. Here are some warnings on how to go about seeking advice:

Don’t seek counsel after the fact.

There is a common phenomenon where we can seek affirmation in the form of “counsel” after we have already taken action, rather than asking for advice before the fact. Sometimes this can be a genuine attempt to see if we did something right or how we could have done better. But often this is not the case. Often this later form of counsel-seeking is done in an attempt to get a pat on the back of approval. This can put others in an awkward position, because you’ve already done whatever it is you’re now asking for advice or approval for. Oh, you blew it there is not an easy thing for anyone to say, but it might be the correct response. Try to not put those around you in this challenging position—if you have any time at all, the right time to ask for counsel on important decisions is beforehand.  “A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word” (Prov 15:23).

Don’t shop for counsel.

This can be so deceptive—because it can seem to smell so strongly of humility. But it’s not always humility. Those who shop for counsel are often those who know that seeking advice is the wise thing to do, but whether they admit it to themselves or not, these people often already know exactly what it is they want to do. They are just looking for someone to rubber stamp their solidified plan.

This is what often happens: the shopper begins to ask for advice. The responses are consistently opposed to what he has in mind as his desired course of action. So, he keeps asking. And he keeps asking. And he keeps asking. Until he finds someone who backhandedly suggests that it is permissible, or even just fails to strongly oppose the thing the shopper wants to do.

Many have done (and will continue to) do this in the area of dating. It is common among young Christians to struggle with the impulse to date an unbeliever—after all, we’re not going to get married or anything; it’s just fun getting to know her. Nine people in a row might tell this smitten young believer, Yep, don’t do it. That’s just foolish. It too often results in disaster. But then there is the tenth person. This is the one who says, You know what? I actually dated my wife when she was an unbeliever, and she ended up getting saved.

Sir, you have wisdom from above!

Our shopper is done shopping for counsel. He’s found what he was looking for. This is the danger of shopping for counsel. It is one of the most toxic forms of selective hearing, because it completely fails to listen. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Prov 12:15).

Be careful of the quality of your counselors.

If we are people who value the word of God, we need to seek advice from those who know and love the word of God. This will generally (but not always) be found in older, more mature believers. It should be those whose Christian walks we respect.

It is so important to find those who earnestly want to please God more than they want to please us. It can be our tendency to run to those whom we know will support us no matter what, but we need to find those who would be willing to tell us things we might not be eager to hear. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov 27:5-6).

It would typically be a benefit to include people who are in authority in some way over you in this group, whether that be parents, mentors, or pastors. This can help to honor and strengthen that relationship, and it can also allow those who are responsible for you before God to be able to give an account (Heb 13:17).

Keep numbers small.

Unless you are considering waging war, you will probably want to keep your number of counselors relatively small. “A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov 18:24). Remember this: quality of counselors is by far more important than quantity. If you have one wise person in your life who knows and understands you, go to that person. “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov 13:20). He or she will be more valuable than half a dozen pieces of advice from those who may not know you or your situation as well.

Be sure to provide quality information.

The counsel you receive is only as good as the accuracy and completeness of the information you provide. You will skew the quality of the counsel you receive by the quality of the information you share. If you paint a picture that everything is great when it is not, no matter how skilled the counselor, he or she won’t be able to care for you in an informed manner. In the same way, if you only ever cry on someone’s shoulder and never share the good, the counsel you receive will not be as helpful as it could be. If you are seeking counsel about your marriage, but you neglect to mention the weekly screaming matches, you will likely receive poor counsel. The mantra of garbage in, garbage out applies well to counsel. Remember the wisdom of multiple viewpoints to get to the truth of a matter, “The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17).  And if you’re the only one “pleading the case” when you seek counsel, as is often the case, you have a greater burden to represent the entire matter as objectively as you can, as a matter of integrity. “The integrity of the upright will guide them, But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them” (Prov 11:3).

Our Hesitation

If pursuing counsel is so clearly and consistently praised in Scripture, why is it that so few Christians seem to seek it?

There might be a host of reasons why believers don’t often turn to others for advice. But sadly, it can often be because we are too wrapped in pride and self-sufficiency. I got this is the anthem of many Christians, but Scripture simply refuses to agree with that bold assertion. Solomon again writes, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Prov 26:12). The Scripture readily calls a fool anyone who insists upon his own way and refuses to seek advice. I would earnestly plead with you, don’t do that. Don’t be a fool.

Develop a habit in your life of leaning upon those God has placed around you for advice. You don’t need to ask a friend every day what you should eat for lunch. But develop that habit in the more important things of life, whether that be job changes or matters of parenting or issues in marriage. You will teach your heart humility, and God esteems and gives greater grace to the humble (Jas 4:6).

 

 

The Whole Counsel of God

bible

Published on 26/Jul/2015 Author directorfsm@gmail.com 

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

– – – Acts 20:26-27 (ESV) All text ESV unless noted

            There is a plague that has invaded our country and it started in the “Christian” churches. It is a plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency. What is this plague I am speaking of? It is none other than the proper preaching of God’s word.

This plague started with men and unfortunately in more recent time’s women preaching only portions of God’s word. These men (we will not mention the women again as the bible calls only men to preach) as well intended as they may have been; failed in their duty to do as Paul declared in our text today, ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’

So what is the whole counsel of God? It is the “good, the bad and the ugly” to quote a spaghetti western movie title. It is man’s sin and total in ability to do good apart from God. It is God’s hatred of sin and the sinner while at the same time being fully capable of expressing love to us while we were yet in our sinful state. It is the whole Word of God not just the parts we like or understand and certainly not our pet theological topics. It is one reason I am so guarded against those who insistent on topical preaching each week. That type of preaching usually leads to a lack of “declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

 A. Carson[i] :

Explains what Paul meant this way: “When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

 What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God’s revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively.

 It embraced God’s purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped), an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope), the conduct expected of God’s people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).”

Before we go further it is critical, that if we are calling ourselves Christians we agree that there is only one AUTHORITY and one STANDARD for which we must adhere. That is the Word of God. Are you a child of God calling yourself a Christian today?

How do we know we are a child of God?  We obey His laws first and foremost. 1 John 5:2–3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

But Jesus in His earthly ministry also made is perfectly clear we are to pay tribute to those God has appointed over us.  Matthew 22:20-22 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

             Of course some modernist have tried to twist scripture and say the above was for taxes only but Paul in his Epistle to Titus clears that up. Titus 3:1 (KJV) Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work

We are however, as Christians, are to question tasking’s by those appointed over us to insure that they are in compliance with the Word of God. Acts 5:29 (KJV) Then Peter and the [other] apostles answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men. The Word of God always trumps the law of man. If this is your AUTHOIRY and STANDRAD you can proudly wear the name badge Christian.

So now let us look at a few examples that maybe we do not have the whole counsel of God on. Let us start with the one that has been most recently been in the headlines as the U.S. Supreme Court made it’s in my opinion unconstitutional decision.

Homosexuality and Same Sex Unions have become the rage. The liberal media has waged an all-out persecution crusade against anyone who exercises their constitutional right to freedom of religion by refusing to support these schemas. We have been fed a steady stream of lies and innuendo in order to get the minority agenda passed. Sadly even the pulpits of evangelical churches have been wrongfully preaching half-truths and or just as bad messages of hate.

Let us look at the Whole Counsel of God:

  1. It is a sin Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. There are no mincing words here. Others words for abomination include: outrage, disgrace, horror, hatred, atrocity. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 defines it as: “Extreme hatred; detestation”
  1. Those engaged in it cannot go to heaven 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality. God’s word is clear. Those who actively engage in this sin are condemning themselves to hell.

         

  1. The cause of Homosexuality, transgenderism etc. is the evil in our hearts our own sinfulness: Romans 1:24-27 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. The homosexual agenda would have you believe people are genetically wired to be that way. That is a bold face LIE. God’s word again is clear it is our selfish sin.

 What should be the Christian’s Response to the Homosexual?

In his article Christianity and Homosexuality Matt slick explains[ii]

“Just because someone is a homosexual does not mean that we cannot love him (or her) or pray for him (or her). Homosexuality is a sin, and like any other sin it needs to be dealt with in the only way possible. It needs to be laid at the cross and repented of.

 Christians should pray for the salvation of the homosexual the same way they would any other person in sin. They should treat homosexuals with the same dignity as they would anyone else because, like it or not, they are made in the image of God. However, this does not mean that Christians should approve of their sin. Not at all; Christians should never compromise their witness for a politically correct opinion that is shaped by guilt and fear.

 In fact, the following verses should be kept in mind when dealing with homosexuals. “Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.   6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person,” (Col. 4:5-6). “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith,” (1 Tim. 1:5).

 You do not win people to the Lord by condemning them and calling them names. This is why God says to speak with wisdom, grace, and love. Let the love of Christ flow through you so that the homosexuals can see true love and turn to Christ instead of away from Him.”

So how do you love your homosexual neighbor without committing the other BIG controversy of our times Judging others. Have you noticed the one verse that both Christians and non-Christians (especially those in jail and prison) can quote is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.

The problem arises when we try and apply modern understandings to ancient Greek text. Webster’s Dictionary of 1828 (all verses KJV) gives me one of the best understandings of the word:

  1. JUDGE, n. [L. judex, supposed to be compounded of jus, law or right, and dico, to pronounce.] This refers to the man, the one sitting on the bench or in the case of the scripture; God.
  1. JUDGE, v.i. [L. judico.] This verb for the most part, is what bible is referring to and primarily to sub definitions #1 and #4.
  1. To compare facts or ideas, and perceive their agreement or disagreement, and thus to distinguish truth from falsehood.

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment John 7:24

  1. To form an opinion; to bring to issue the reasoning or deliberations of the mind.

If I did not know the originals, I should not be able to judge, by the copies, which was Virgil and which Ovid.

  1. To hear and determine, as in causes on trial; to pass sentence. He was present on the bench, but could not judge in the case.

The Lord judge between thee and me. Gen.16:5

  1. To discern; to distinguish; to consider accurately for the purpose of forming an opinion or conclusion.

“The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” Psa. 37:30

            Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment 1 Corinthians 1:10

             Read 1 Corinthians 6-1-5 we are called to judge others for someday we will judge the angels. Unless you are willing to Judge others how else can you/we fulfill the mandate in Romans 16:17-18 Amplified Bible (AMP)17 I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them.18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people]. You must be able to identify, then avoid and or weed out those who are set on causing trouble in the fellowship of God. It is your duty. You cannot do that if you are unwilling to judge others.

JUDGE, v.t. To hear and determine a case; to examine and decide. To preside over a legal case, this rules us out. Yet that is what many have a tendency to want to do.

JUDG’ER, n. One who judges or passes sentence. Again only God and those whom he appoints to the bench have this authority. The rest of us only have authority to Judge as it pertains to discernment. Yet this is the one that everyone jumps on fast. We will condemn someone sure enough quick and easy without the least bit of biblical backing; just give us half a chance. This is what Christ spoke of in Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

I recommend always judging using the following guidelines:

1) Judge using scripture alone. This is RIGHTEOUS JUDGEMENT!!!

2) If scripture is silent so should we be. Let the Elders of the church deal with the                                                                                                                              B I G issues.

3) Pray for discernment from God

4) Never be disrespectful or degrading

5) Always be truthful and merciful

6) Always judge yourself FIRST

Back to our main text I hope you can see the importance of seeking out the “whole counsel of God.” By picking and choosing what we want to hear, preach, study or teach we are in danger of the very sinful acts that we may be trying to avoid.

John Piper [iii] 

has an excellent article on the subject: in it he says: I see three unmistakable implications from this verse:

“1. Knowing the Whole Counsel of God Knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Look carefully at this and you’ll see why I say it like that. You cannot say from verse 27 that a person has to know the whole counsel of God in order to be saved. A person doesn’t have to know it! What you can say is that if an elder doesn’t teach the whole counsel of God, he may be an accomplice in someone’s destruction. And if a person MAY fall short of heaven because of an elder’s neglect in teaching the whole counsel of God, then knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven….

 Why did God elect his bride the church before the foundation of the world? Why did he create the universe and mankind in his image? Why did he permit the fall into sin? Why did he choose the nation of Israel? Why did he give them the law? Why did he have animal sacrifices and a tabernacle? Why did Jesus come into the world? Why did he preach the kingdom of God? Why did he die and rise again. Why did the Holy Spirit come? How is God fulfilling his purpose and counsel today by calling and regenerating and justifying and sanctifying a church from every people and tribe and tongue and nation? How will he bring this age to a close? How should we then live? What is the unified, whole counsel of God that holds all this together and gives it meaning?

 That is what we ought to be teaching our children—faithfully, systematically, and with so much life and power that the beauty of it shines for them.

 The first thing to say from verse 27, then, is that knowing the whole counsel of God helps people get to heaven. Otherwise Paul would not have said that he is innocent of their blood because he taught them this whole counsel.

 Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God The second thing to say from verse 27 is that people should want to learn the whole counsel of God. Biblical Christians hunger to know the whole counsel of God.

 This text clearly teaches that elders are deficient and may be guilty of someone’s destruction to the degree that they do not declare the whole counsel of God. It must follow that the people of the church are also guilty to the degree that they are not interested in the whole counsel of God. If not teaching it is a sin, then not wanting to be taught it is a sin.

 So the text clearly implies that Christians should long for the whole counsel of God the way a baby longs for milk. Once you understand this verse, disinterest in the whole counsel of God implies disinterest in the means of salvation. Because the text says that Paul will be innocent if someone fails to be saved, because he gave the fullest means of salvation—the whole counsel of God.

 Courageously Teaching the Whole Counsel of God Finally, the last thing to say about verse 27 is that elders should be courageous in teaching the whole counsel of God.

This idea of courage is implied in the phrase, “I did not shrink from declaring to you . . . ” This means that there are parts of the whole, unified counsel of God that might make an elder want to shrink back from teaching them. They might be hard to understand. Or they might be uncomplimentary to human pride. Or they might demand radical obedience. And so the elders might be tempted to declare only part of God’s counsel—the part that is easy and that they know people especially like. But that would be a shrinking back from declaring the whole counsel of God. It would be cowardice not courage.

And that brings us back to the point made at the beginning—obedient life—courageous life in this case—is just as important as accurate doctrine. For Paul the two were inseparable: I did not shrink back—that is, I am a certain kind of person. I declared the WHOLE counsel of God—that is, I taught a certain kind of doctrine. That’s what we must aim at together: a courageously obedient kind of person, and a unified, whole counsel of God.”

Piper is so right. It is what the pulpits across America today need, men of courage and conviction to ‘to declare to you the whole counsel of God.’ He is also quite correct in his assessment of what is needed in the pews across America. It is men and women not just “Wanting to Learn the Whole Counsel of God” I dare say DEMANDING to learn the whole counsel of God.

             My friends we hear so much about being “fed by the spirit” when folks go looking for a church. As if it is some emotional sensation they must experience each time they are at church building. That is hog wash. There may be a spirit moving upon these churches but it might be the Holy Spirit.

The duty of the Church first and fore most is plainly stated in the Bible. It is to PREACH the Gospel. Romans 10:14 (AMP) But how are people to call upon Him Whom they have not believed [in Whom they have no faith, on Whom they have no reliance]? And how are they to believe in Him [adhere to, trust in, and rely upon Him] of Whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?

As we have just learned those standing in the pulpit must be preaching the whole counsel of God if the plague that has resulted in ignorance, distortion and deficiency is to be reversed. Is your church “declaring to you the whole counsel of God?” If it is not you need to find another church.

In HIS Service

Mike

_______________________

[i] —D. A. Carson, “Challenges for the Twenty-first-century Pulpit,” in Preach the Word: Essays on Expository Preaching: In Honor of R. Kent Hughes, ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson [Crossway, 2007], pp. 177-178; bullets and italics added

[ii] Christianity and Homosexuality by Matt Slick http://www.carm.org/

[iii] John Piper The Guilt of Giving Part of God’s Counsel, April 16, 1989 ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org