Emotions can sometimes wreck your day, can’t they? In this brief article, you’ll learn
- You are not alone,
- Emotions — including the hard ones — assist in your sanctification.
- 4 steps to emotional wellness
You Are Not Alone
Meet a former counselee I’ll call Linda, who feels like a twisted piece of metal. Among her emotional wreckedness: rebellious teen, overworked husband, tight finances, loneliness.
Her teenage son is a Christian but runs with the beer-drinking crowd and stopped attending church. Linda fears he may get in a car crash. Just as bad, her husband is travels for work most of the week. So loneliness darkens her days and nights. In addition, household finances are tight, and the roof is beginning to leak.
And her emotions have affected her psysically. She sleeps poorly, gets migraines, and feels anxious all day.
I and other biblical counselors — some are listed on my Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, by state and specialies — come alongside the hurting every day, listening, giving hope, isolating the problem, determining direction, and helping them implement God-honoring solutions that result in peace and contentment, and most important, God’s glory.
Emotions Help You Grow Spiritually
Emotions tell us something about our hearts.
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They are neither morally good nor morally bad. Consider Jesus. He expressed emotions and never sinned.
- ANGER: Jesus felt righteous anger while he turned over money-changers’ tables who were making his Father’s house a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13).
- SADNESS: He sorrowed over the death of his friend Lazarus. (John 11:35)
- FEAR: He feared the pain of dying on the cross. (Luke 22:42-44)
While Jesus felt a myriad of emotions and did not sin, you and I know that we often have ungodly thoughts (“Jerk, why don’t you learn how to drive?” or “No one loves me”) and act in ungodly ways (yell, pout, slam doors, and so on).
To help you achieve emotional wellness, may I share a four-step plan (adapted from Elyse Fitzpatrick, a leading biblical counselor)? It skims the surface. So if you you desire biblical counseling via Skype or in person, check out my counseling info page. We can work together on your emotional wellness.
4 Steps to Emotional Self-Care
God wants to free you from the emotions that lead to sin. So here are four steps to emotional wellness.
1. Agree with God that your current way of handling negative emotions is sinful and cease from it. The one who changes your emotions is the Holy Spirit as you cooperate with him.
2. Be convinced that God’s way of becoming emotionally healthy are right and begin practicing them. Again, this is accomplishes through relying on the power, strenth, and grace of the Holy Spirit, who cares for you and you enables you to achieve God’s purposes in you.
3. Seek to change the way you think and become conformed to God’s will, especially in the emotions you struggle with. Yes, God is able to change you and heal your emotions. Yes, he wants to.
4. Continue to engage in your new godly thoughts and behaviors even when you fail and need to repent.
Achieving emotional self-care is never easy, and in giving four steps, I do not imply that is is. Becoming emotionally well is contrary to “the natural man.” Indeed, it means saying, “Lord, your will be done” when our easy-to-deceive hearts insist, “My will be done.”
The Good News
The good news is, you CAN know peace and contentment. You CAN put away selfishness, fear, and your need to control. And you CAN fight anger and win. Yes, you CAN fall into the arms on God, not the pit of despair. All because of Jesus and his redeeming love shown on the cross.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
May I pray for you?
Heavenly Father, this one needs your touch. She needs to know you are real and you care and you love her. You know her struggles. You desire to heal her. May your will be done. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
SELF-CARE: The best self-care is a heart checkup.
In part one of this 3-part series, you’ll discover…
- Why you may bristle at the word “self-care.”
- A definition of heart checkup.
Self-care may sound…extravagant, even selfish. But for some of up — my old me! — I didn’t think I deserved self-care. Then I dared to ask myself, What’s my hangup?
Also I considered that Jesus took time to rest, didn’t he? He got away to the mountains and rejuvenated. He hung out with the broken people and lunched. I can imagine him smiling and laughing and cracking jokes.
And I asked myself, Am I denying the reality of my own humanity when I think I’m too busy to watch birds flit about my neighbor’s feeder? Or take time for a walk?
Could I reek with. . .twisted pride?
Reminder: The self-care of rest, exercise, meaningful work, eating well (and, for me, chocolate too!) isn’t selfish when your self-care is “onto the Lord.”
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
But divorced from a Godward focus, self-care can be selfish, wouldn’t you agree? Your motivation matters.
Most people think the heart is the emotional part of a person. Scripture suggests that it is your mind, emotions, and will. It is the center of your being. You can compare it to a control center. Your heart controls what you think, feel, say, and do.
Proverbs 4:23 says it well:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
But there’s bad news. The Bible says your heart “tricks or deceives us into thinking that our desires are pure, that we want what we want because it is good and God approves,” writes Elyse Fitzpatrick, biblical counselor and author.
And this is why you need a heart checkup.
During the check up you’ll see whether your thoughts align with God’s thoughts. Also, you’ll find out if your actions and emotions are rotten or good.
By the way, in the counseling office, we focus on the heart. And when the counselee’s heart changes so does her life. But the goal isn’t life transformation per se; it is growth in Christlikeness.
3 Parts of the Heart
As mentioned, “heart” is the word the Bible uses for your mind and your emotions and your will altogether. Your mind, emotions, and will influence one another. Let’s look at the parts of the heart.
Your mind: Your mind involves your ability to understand, reason, and discern. It includes your beliefs and opinions.
Taken aback with news from angels about her son, Mary the mother of Jesus “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
The power of God’s word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
As a man thinks in his heart so is he (Proverbs 23:7, NLT).
Your emotions: You emotions include your moods as well as your longings, desires, and hopes.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation (Psalm 13:5).
If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts. . . (James 3:14).
Your will: Your will is the part of your inner person that chooses what actions to take. Your mind and emotions inform your will what to do.
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15).
Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth (2 Corinthians 12:6)
I pray this three-part series helps you understand why your do what you do, so that you can choose God’s best always. Next time will focus on your emotions and thoughts. If you haven’t signed up for my blog and complimentary eBook, please do. Then you’ll get parts 2 and 3 delivered to your inbox.
God bless you as we grow together.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
Food cravings come on quick and strong, don’t they? You’re driving along singing to KLOVE or whataver, and out of nowhere food cravings strike.You may crave a Snickers bar or chips or ice cream or a Ding Dong. Perhaps you crave strawberries, carrots, or freshly baked multi-grain bread.
Up the road sits a 7-Eleven, beckoning.
In this short article, let’s look at…
- Biological food cravings versus emotional food cravings
- A biblical solution to food cravings
Choose Your Choice
So what should you do when hit by food cravings?
A. Try your very, very best to ignore them.
B. Proceed to the 7-Eleven and get the goodies..
Well, it depends! Biological food cravings differ from emotional food cravings.
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It’s wise to fill the biological kind because your body needs what is craves. Just think of how delicious a glass of water is when you are super thirsty. So when you fulfill this type of craving, you’ll think and feel better. But fight the temptation of emotional food cravings. If you cave, you’ll feel worse, and you’ll miss out on God’s best too.
So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Biological or Emotional?
Here’s a simple what to tell whether your food cravings are biological or emotional:
When you have a biological food craving and fulfill it, you feel nourished. And it doesn’t take much food to meet such a need either. One bagel, a wedge or two of low-fat cheese, or a couple of chocolates–that’s it.
In contrast, emotional food cravings aren’t about food. They are an attempt to meet a need apart from God. An emotional eater looks for comfort in food. Sometimes it follows “I’m a loser” self-talk. And a small treat is never enough. Never.
Emotional eaters confuse love and self-acceptance with food. It is their drug of choice. Their god.
Solution to Food Cravings
The good news is by obeying and trusitn God, your can have victory over food cravings.
To have victory, you’ll need to break the vicious cycle of emotional eating.
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You can make this break when you begin desiring what God desires and, with God’s help, change your heart. Your heart is the immaterial part of you where your motivations, beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions reside.
For life transformation you need heart transformation!
God’s life-changing power helps you embrace a right perspective of food, make good and godly food choices, straighten out your thinking on food, and practice, practice, practice. A great resource with helps for those times you mess up — and we all mess up sometimes — is Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by biblical counselor Elyse Fitzpatrick.
God wants you to live life based on truth, not emotions. The truth of who he is. The truth of who you are. His truth is sure. Our emotions go up and down like an elevator.
Now emotions are fine; God gave them to us. You and I must not trust them to influence our decisions. We need to turn to truth.
10 Tips for Healthy Choices
Here’s truth talk on healthy eating. You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating:
~ Choose water over coffee and soda pop.
~ Shrink your portions by using smaller plates.
~ If you desire seconds, go for the veggies.
~ Eat at least five vegetables and fruits daily.
~ Choose whole grains.
~ Limit your consumption of sugar.
~ Skip foods with ingredients you cannot pronounce.
~ Sit down during meals.
~ Eat slowly.
~ Remember eating becomes sacred when it becomes worship.
Remember the Bible verse I mentioned? So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Let this command guide your motivations and desires.
When you do, then everything — from washing dishes and sweeping floors to helping your children with homework and writing blog posts — can be worship. As long as you line up your thoughts with God’s, the simplest things become sacred.
And so it is with food.
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Sharing hope with your heart,
Books, books, and more books. Here are the top biblical counseling books of 2016, rounded up by guest writer Dr. Bob Kellemen. Enjoy!
If you are a counselor, pastor, student, one-another minister, small group leader, or spiritual friend, you want to know the most helpful books about the personal ministry of the Word— using God’s Word for helping hurting people.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the top 16 books published in 2016 about biblical counseling or important to biblical counselors.
I’ve selected these books on the basis of their biblical depth, relevance to life, practicality for one-another ministry, faithfulness to the sufficiency of Scripture, application to progressive sanctification, and by surveying what leaders in the biblical counseling world are saying about them.
1. Biblical Church Revitalization
Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for Dying and Divided Churches, by Brian Croft, Christian Focus
Biblical counseling is a discipleship ministry of the local church with a mission not simply to be a church with biblical counseling, but a church of biblical counseling. The biblical counseling vision is to saturate the entire congregation with confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture for daily life and ministry. Brian Croft shares that mission and vision. His book, Biblical Church Revitalization, is like engaging in a dozen biblical counseling sessions—for the whole congregation. Pastor Croft walks readers through the process of biblical church health—church progressive sanctification. Every church can benefit greatly from his wise biblical counsel for congregational renewal.
You can read a review of Biblical Church Revitalization by Erik Raymond here.
2. Biblical Counseling Guide for Women
The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women, by John Street and Janie Street, Harvest House
As the modern biblical counseling movement has matured, its resources have progressed from foundational materials for general counseling issues to in-depth materials for specific counseling needs. The husband and wife team of John and Janie Street model this development in their book The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women. They use real-life vignettes, biblical wisdom, and counseling principles to address 17 relevant issues that women commonly face. The embedded discussion questions make this book valuable not only for individual use, but also for small group interaction.
You can read a review of The Biblical Counseling Guide for Women by Jenny Bergren here.
3. Counseling One Another
Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship, by Paul Tautges, Shepherd Press
In Counseling One Another, Paul Tautges builds the theological underpinning for biblical counseling in a way that is both comprehensive and compassionate. This book demonstrates a staunch commitment to an expository, exegetical examination of counseling as presented in God’s Word. Any pastor or lay person wanting a foundational starting point for understanding Christ-centered, comprehensive, and compassionate biblical counseling in the local church would be wise to read and apply Counseling One Another.
You can read a review of Counseling One Another by Zack Ford here.
4. Devoted to God
Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification, by Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth
Glorifying God by becoming more like Christ is the heartbeat of biblical counseling. Sinclair Ferguson shares that passion. In Devoted to God, he offers a lifetime of biblical study as he exegetes 10 central biblical passages about progressive sanctification. His gospel-centered, relevant, practical, in-depth approach makes this an instant classic on the topic of growth in grace.
You can read a review of Devoted to God by Tim Challies here.
Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus, by Mark Dever, Crossway
Mark Dever’s latest book, Discipling, is part of the Nine Marks Ministries series “Building Healthy Churches.” Like each book in the series, it is a succinct yet robust biblical exploration of local church ministry. Just as biblical counseling seeks to equip the entire congregation for one-another ministry, so Discipling aims to cultivate a discipleship mindset throughout the entire body of Christ. As the subtitle suggests, this book provides the how-to of congregational discipleship.
You can read a review of Discipling by Casey McCall here.
6. Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk
Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk: Why and How Christians Should Have Gay Friends, by Brad Hambrick, Cruciform Press
Brad Hambrick thinks deeply about complex life and ministry situations. That’s certainly the case in Do Ask, Do Tell, Let’s Talk. He notes that most conversations about same-sex attraction have become polemical and political rather than pastoral and personal. His desire in this book is to be a resource God uses to grow His people into excellent ambassadors—friends to their classmates, colleagues, and family members who experience same-sex attraction.
You can read a review of Do Ask, Do Tell by Sam Allberry here.
7. The Dynamic Heart
The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience, by Jeremy Pierre, New Growth Press
A stereotype of the biblical counseling movement states that biblical counselors focus primarily on external behavior. Jeremy Pierre’s work, The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, should put that perception to rest. Dr. Pierre presents a compassionate, comprehensive biblical understanding of people—image bearers who are spiritual, relational, social, rational, volitional, motivational, emotional, and physical beings. He examines every aspect of the heart in light of our coram Deo existence—we were designed as in-relationship-to-God beings. Pierre demonstrates how a biblical psychology (understanding of the soul) is essential for biblical counseling (bringing Christ’s redemptive hope to the whole person).
You can read a review of The Dynamic Heart by Theron St. John here.
8. Good and Angry
Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness, by David Powlison, New Growth Press
David Powlison is a brilliant thinker. He also happens to be an extremely compassionate counselor. That combination is fully evidenced in Good and Angry. With winsome wisdom, Dr. Powlison enlightens us to the God-intended purpose of righteous anger and to Christ-redemptive hope for addressing unrighteous anger. This book is not just helpful for anger; it is a model for how we can take every aspect of our emotionality to the cross.
You can read a review of Good and Angry by Tim Challies here.
You can read a review of Good and Angry by Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition here.
Home: How Heaven and the New Earth Satisfy Our Deepest Longings, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Bethany House
Penned by Elyse Fitzpatrick, Home is not a journey-to-heaven-and-back tell-all memoir. Thankfully. Instead, it is a long-for-heaven-and-live-for-earth biblical narrative. We often hear, “that person is so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good.” Home encourages us to be so heavenly minded that we are of great earthly good. Even more than that, it invites us to sample a small taste now of the eternal banquet of relational satisfaction we will experience when we are forever home with our heavenly Father.
You can read a review of Home by Aimee Byrd here.
10. Marry Well, Marry Wisely
Marry Well, Marry Wisely: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation, by Ernie Baker, Shepherd Press
In Marry Well, Marry Wisely, Ernie Baker pens a pre-pre-martial manual. In doing so, he doesn’t simply equip us to answer the question, “How do I choose the right spouse?” More importantly, he prepares us to answer the heart question, “How do I become prepared to be the right spouse?” This blueprint establishes the firm groundwork of a Christ-centered and other-centered mindset that is essential for being a godly spouse.
You can read a review of Marry Well, Marry Wisely by Theron St. John here.
Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp, Crossway
Few things seem to drive us toward an external focus more than the challenges of parenting. Everything inside and around us screams, “Fix it fast!” In, Parenting, Paul Tripp directs us away from a “fix it” focus to a focus on love Him (God) and love your child (care for your child’s heart). Tripp moves us away from a works-based, pharisaical mindset to a grace-based, gospel attitude in our homes.
You can read a review of Parenting by Heidi Strawser here.
12. Theology of Biblical Counseling
A Theology of Biblical Counseling: The Doctrinal Foundations of Counseling Ministry, by Heath Lambert, Zondervan
Of all 16 books on this list, A Theology of Biblical Counseling by Heath Lambert is the most important book for those wanting to understand the doctrinal basis of biblical counseling. Lambert, the Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC), explains that “Counseling is a theological discipline” (p. 11). Lambert models that truth in each chapter, as doctrine comes to life in real ministry to real people—dramatically demonstrating how theology intersects with the lives of actual counselees.
You can read a review of A Theology of Biblical Counseling by David Dunham here.
13. Tying the Knot
Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong and Lasting Marriage, by Rob Green, New Growth Press
If Ernie Baker’s book (Marry Well, Marry Wisely) is a pre-pre-marital book, then Rob Green’s Tying the Knot covers the classical pre-marital topics. However, it does not cover them in the classical way—simply as relational skills to be mastered. Rather, this nine-session study directs couples through issues such as conflict, expectations, communication, finances, and intimacy—showing how couples can face each with Christ at the center of their marriage.
You can read a review of Tying the Knot by Tim Challies here.
14. The Vine Project
The Vine Project: Shaping Your Ministry Culture Around Disciple-Making, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, Matthias Media
The Vine Project by co-authors Colin Marshall and Tony Payne is the sequel to The Trellis and the Vine. In the prequel, Marshall and Payne cast the vision for an Ephesians 4:11-16 view of pastors as equippers. In The Vine Project, they put feet to that vision by providing practical insight into the local church disciple-making process.
You can read a review of The Vine Project by Kevin Halloran here.
15. Visual Theology
Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God, by Tim Challies and Josh Byers, Zondervan
As a long-time follower of Tim Challies’ blog, I enjoyed the foundational material that eventually developed into Visual Theology. In the able hands of Challies and Josh Byers, those blog posts translate extremely well into book form. Visual Theology is powerful because it aligns with how God communicates in His Word, how Christ taught people, and how God designed our minds to think—visually, with imagination, in pictures and images. Biblical counselors can learn much from this book about communicating truths not only in words, but also in images and illustrations, especially to this visually-oriented generation.
You can read a review of Visual Theology by Aaron Armstrong here.
16. What Grieving People Wish You Knew
What Grieving People Wish You Knew about What Really Helps (and What Really Hurts), by Nancy Guthrie, Crossway
Nancy Guthrie is one of the foremost Christian writers on loss, grief, hope, and healing. What Grieving People Wish You Knew is the fruit of a lifetime of sharing the comfort she has received from Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Her narrative reads like a biblical counseling training manual for gospel conversations for suffering. Pastors, counselors, and spiritual friends can all learn much from her biblically compassionate writing.
You can read a review of What Grieving People Wish You Knew by Rachel Hurst here.
Dr. Robert W. Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D.: Bob is the Vice President for Institutional Development and Chair of the Biblical Counseling and Equipping Department at Crossroads Bible College, and the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries. Bob was the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. For seventeen years he served as the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. He has pastored three churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-six years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters, Naomi, Penelope, and Phoebe. Dr. Kellemen is the author of thirteen books including Gospel-Centered Counseling.
Is “biblical counseling” the same as “Christian counseling”?
Very often it’s not.
I’m going to share a short story of what I learned the hard way. I want to spare you unnecessary pain and confusion. Sound cool?
Before I made an appointment with a “Christian” counselor, I wish I had heard these words from Pastor John MacArthur: “Modern psychologies use hundreds of counseling models and techniques based aon a myriad of conflicting theories, so it is impossible to speak of psychotherapy as if it were a unified and consistent science.”
And this from Elyse Fitzpatrick:
Sadly, what Christian women need to know to live an abundant life is not found in many of today’s ‘Christian’ self-help books. Instead of guidance in knowing and pleasing God, which is the way to finding abundant life, we are given man-centered philosophies on how to love ourselves more, how to get more out of life, how to assert ourselves.
Our greatest need is being ignored.
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What we need most of all is to know God.
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I pray you’ll have more discernment than me when you decide to reach out for help. Would you like a great way to find profiles of excellent female biblical counselors who have been vetted? Check out my Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.
Finding a Counselor the Old Way
In my early 30s, I grabbed the phone book — Google had yet to come on the scene — and looked up “counseling,” searching for a Christian counselor. I figured he’d counsel by the Bible. Foolish me.
We prayed once in a while, but he also encouraged a crazy technique called transference. I became to depend on him for my happiness. I wanted his approval not God’s And every time I left the counseling office I felt worse, and my “counselor addiction” grew.
He said this transference meant I was healing. I was getting worse! He said to expect this as I got better emotionally. Are you shaking your head?
To make a long story short, for my emotional and spiritual health, I had to ditch this counselor.
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Quick. (It took my a year and I half to figure this out!)
God through the Word set me free. Good-bye, confusion. Years later I stumbled on true biblical counseling. What a difference!
Embracing the Best
Here’s the great definition of biblical counseling out there. It’s by Bob Kellermen.
If you ever need help, as I did, as we all do from time to time, contact me. Biblical e-counseling is effective and affordable. Most of my clients need eight visits or less (in person or by Skype).
Here is part of Bob’s definition. I made a few edits but kept the meaning fully intact.
Biblical counseling is not “beating people over the head with the Bible.”
Nor is it saying, “take two verses and call me in the morning.”
And it is not one-problem, one-verse, one-quick-solution.
Biblical counseling depends upon the Holy Spirit
to relate God’s inspired truth
about people, problems, and solutions
to human suffering and sin
to empower people to exalt and enjoy God
and to love others
by cultivating conformity to Christ and communion with Christ
and the Body of Christ.
Question: Have you had a bad Christian counseling experience? Share in Comments, below.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,