Category Archives: Counseling

Walking with Depressed Loved Ones (Pt 2)

Great strides have been made in the areas of diagnosing and treating clinical depression. For this we should be thankful for God’s grace and common grace that allows for discoveries into the human heart and psyche.

However, much wisdom in this area can also be gained by looking into various writings within the last 400 years or so. Recently I came across one such resource contained in the book written by Archibald Alexander titled, “Thoughts on Religious Experience.” Alexander was one of the founders of Princeton, which originally existed for the equipping and training of those who would be pastors. He was brilliantly insightful into the Christian life and all that entails, including the work of the Holy Spirit in the human heart.

In one chapter Alexander discusses some of the various spiritual and psychological maladies which we can encounter, including deep depression. This chapter mentions several prominent Christians who struggled greatly with depression and how they worked through such dark nights of the soul.

A very prominent focus of this chapter contains the insights of Rev. Timothy Rogers. Here is how Mr. Alexander described his condition: About the close of the seventeenth century, the Rev. Timothy Rogers, a pious and able minister of London fell into a state of deep melancholy; and such was the distressing darkness of his mind that he gave up all hope of the mercy of God and believed himself to be a vessel of wrath designed for destruction, for the praise of the glorious justice of the Almighty. As can be imagined, many interceded in prayer on his behalf and God did grant Rev. Rogers complete deliverance from his debilitating condition.

As a result of what he went through, Rogers published many treatises concerning what depression looks like and some of its causes. One of his most helpful treatises centered on how to be a blessing to those who were suffering from depression. I will quote here his insights.

“1. Look upon your distressed friends as under one of the worst distempers to which this miserable life is obnoxious. Melancholy incapacitates them for thought or action; it confounds and disturbs all their thoughts and fills them with vexation and anguish. I verily believe that when this malign humour is deeply fixed and has spread its deleterious influence over every part, it is as vain to attempt to resist it by reasoning and rational motives as to oppose a fever, or the gout, or pleurisy….”

“2. Treat those who are under this disease with tender compassion. Remember also that you are liable to the same affliction, for however brisk your spirits and lively your feelings now, you may meet with such reverses, with such long and sharp afflictions, as will sink your spirits….”

“3. Never use harsh language to your friends when under the disease of melancholy. This will only serve to fret and perplex them the more, but will never benefit them….”

“4. If you would possess any influence over your friends in this unhappy state of mind, you must be careful not to express any want of confidence in what they relate of their own feelings and distresses. On this point there is often a great mistake….”

“5. Do not urge your melancholy friends to do what is out of their power. They are like persons whose bones are broken and who are incapacitated for action. Their disease is accompanied with perplexing and tormenting thoughts; if you can innocently divert them, you would do them a great kindness, but do not urge them to anything which requires close and intent thinking; this will only increase the disease….”

“6. Do not attribute the effects of mere disease to the devil; although I do not deny that he has an agency in producing some diseases, especially by harassing and disturbing the mind to such a degree that the body suffers with it. But it is very unwise to ascribe every feeling and every word of the melancholy man to Satan, whereas many of these are as natural consequences of bodily disease as the symptoms of a fever, which the poor sufferer can no more avoid than the sick man can keep himself from sighing and groaning….”

“7. Do not express much surprise or wonder at anything which melancholy persons say or do. What will not they say who are in despair of God’s mercy…?”

“8. Do not tell them any frightful stories, nor recount to them the sad disasters which have overtaken others. Their hearts do already meditate terror, and by every alarming thing of which they hear they are the more terrified, and their disordered imagination is prepared to seize upon every frightful image which is presented….”

“9. Do not, however, think it needless to talk with them. But do not speak as if you thought their disease would be of long continuance, for this is the prospect which appears most gloomy to the melancholy….”

“10. It will be useful to tell them of others who have been in the same state of suffering and yet have been delivered. It is, indeed, true that they who are depressed by such a load of grief are with difficulty persuaded that any were ever in such a condition as they are….”

“11. The next thing which you are to do for your melancholy friends is to pray for them. As they have not light and composure to pray for themselves, let your eyes weep for them in secret, and there let your souls melt in fervent holy prayers….”

“12. Not only pray for them yourself, but engage other Christian friends also to pray for them….”

“13. Put your poor afflicted friends in mind continually of the sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ. Often impress on their minds that he is merciful and gracious; that as far as the heavens are above the earth, so far are his thoughts above their thoughts—his thoughts of mercy above their self-condemning guilty thoughts….”

Over the next few blog posts I will interact more with some of these principles, but I hope that, like me, you are sufficiently impressed with the insights of this dear brother. I also hope and pray that you will find insight and encouragement to walk with your loved ones who are suffering.

Walking with Depressed Loved Ones (Pt 1)

During our current and challenging times, most of us have personally had to interact with issues such as fear, anxiety, grief, and depression. We have also had to deal with friends and loved ones who are struggling with one or more of these issues. As followers of Christ how do we understand these issues and how do we find the help we need to deal with these struggles with power and hope?

As a starting point I wanted to focus on depression. Now, depression takes place on a continuum that encompasses situational depression to clinical depression. For the sake of discussion I will take a look at clinical depression. A person who is clinically depressed is one who typically has great difficulty sleeping, eating, and functioning with common day-to-day activities. They find themselves having difficulty enjoying things that used to be easy and fun for them. For those in the throes of clinical depression, even such mundane tasks as brushing their teeth can wear them out physically. For them, the future looks bleak and one of their greatest fears is that they will stay this way forever with no way out.

How do we love and serve those whom we love who are struggling with this debilitating psychological and spiritual malady? For the uninitiated this can easily feel overwhelming. So, it is imperative that we gain insight into what is going on and what clinical depression entails. We must remember that this level of depression contains biological, genetic, and spiritual components. There is something going on with their body chemistry as well as their hearts, or souls. Biblical anthropology tells us that we are embodied souls, so we must take the physical and the spiritual aspects into account.

If they have not done so already, they should be encouraged to consult their physician about their situation. They might be good candidates for being placed on anti-depressant meds, which can help to lessen the severity of their symptoms so that they can return to some semblance of normalcy. Finding the right kind of medication and the correct dosage can take some time, but it often results in enabling the patient to be able to function better so that they can focus on working on some vital issues that are going on in their hearts.

As a counselor to those who were going through clinical depression, I want to be able to focus on delving into their heart and life issues and often the meds are necessary to enable them to have the energy and motivation to tackle some difficult issues.

It is important to emphasize that this can be a long and winding journey. Depression is not like treating a broken bone that needs to be set or treating a physical wound of some sort. No, depression is much more ethereal than this. We cannot put a hand on it and treat it accordingly. We cannot touch It. It is a great mystery and does not usually conform to rules of logic. We must never take the attitude that the depressed person just needs to “snap out of it.” A vital aspect of loving our depressed neighbor is that we must take their suffering seriously. As I tell my depressed friends, I don’t know what this journey will entail, but I am willing to walk through it with them.

Love means being committed to the process. Love means showing up and walking with them. We are not there to be experts who will give them some magic bullet that will enable them to
”snap out of it.” Love perseveres. This is the beginning point and the commitment we must make as we vitally depend upon prayer and the grace of God.

As we continue this discussion I will share with you some great counsel that was written over 300 years ago. Stay tuned.

Power is a Person

When it comes to biblical counseling, we at KAINOS believe that it must be biblically-based, Christ-centered, and grace-driven. You can find out in more detail what these concepts mean by reading the respective blogs here on the website.

The ultimate goal of this kind of counseling is to lead people to see particularly how relationship with Jesus is the source of the necessary power for transformation. In other words, while we might just want our struggles to be FIXED, Scripture teaches us that God has a much better plan for us since He desires for us to be renewed and continually revived through the power of the Spirit of Christ.

One of the analogies that Jesus uses to teach us this principle is through his teaching on the Vine and the Branches in John 15. There we find that Jesus works in us in order to bear fruit. This fruit encompasses impact on the lives of others and our bearing the fruit of the Spirit of Jesus, namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We do not produce that fruit. No, the Holy Spirit produces that fruit in us through the continual renewal of our hearts. Our job is to abide, seek after, and cling to Jesus. He produces the fruit in our hearts and lives through the work of his Spirit. We are not passive in our abiding. But, we are passive in terms of the production of the fruit.

One of the great pictures that Scripture teaches us is that being in Union with Christ is not unlike being one in marriage. I have been married for 33 years now and I have been greatly changed through that union. My lovely wife and covenant companion has contributed much to my life and understanding through my “abiding” with her all these years. How much more is this true through my being in union with Jesus. Jesus imparts to his “branches” the life-giving “sap” that enables us to be changed more and more to reflect his character.

We are taught in Scripture that this process of transformation and change is called sanctification. While this is a messy process it is also a definite process that is leading us to God’s ordained ends. I love how David Powlinson described this process when he compared it to a person walking up some stairs while playing with a yo-yo. To us the up and down of the yo-yo is what our sanctification feels like. However, progress is being made up the stairs. So, we are on a definite trajectory of metamorphosis that takes place over time. IT IS WITHIN THE PROCESS OF THIS WORK THAT WE AT KAINOS SEEK TO COUNSEL AND GUIDE OTHERS INTO WHAT GOD IS DOING.

One of the reasons why this process can be so messy is because we are doing battle with sin in the world and the sin that is within our own hearts and lives. However, we have hope and power for this process. Read through Romans 6 and you will find that because we have DIED with Christ, we also LIVE in Christ. This means that sin no longer reigns over us. Outside of Christ we were under the dominion of sin. The evil one, flesh, and sin WERE our master. But, now, with Jesus as our Master, we have authority and power over sin and temptation.

Hear Paul clearly from Romans 6. He asks the all-important question, “How can we who died to sin still live in it?” He answers this question with a resounding NO, in that living in sin is completely contrary to living in Christ. How do we have this power and authority? In Christ, we have been baptized in Jesus’ death. This is in order that we are enabled to live in newness of life. Our old self, who we used to be, was crucified with Christ. This brought about the reality of our “body of sin” being brought to nothing. Through these means we are no longer enslaved to sin. Hear Paul’s great crescendo: For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

So, in each and every instance of temptation, we must give and present ourselves to God as instruments for righteousness. For these reasons sin will have no dominion over us.

We are in Christ because of the work of God. The work of transformation is definite and it is the Holy Spirit’s work. We trust in this work, we abide in Christ, we seek all of the means of God’s grace, and we live in the hope of our definite transformation through the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

All of this is because of being in union with this Perfect Person, the very God-Man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

LET US TAKE POSSESSION OF WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN TO US.

Living Out of Our Hearts

What is man? What does it mean to be human? When it comes to a biblical understanding of humanness, we see that Scripture defines humanness as being reflective of God. The Godhead said, “Let us make man in our image….” So, Scripture teaches that men and women are made in God’s image, which means that there are ways we are like God without ever being equal with God. God created us to think, will, and communicate. Since God is a community, we are created to live in community, outside of ourselves. Since the essence of God is love, we must see that we were created to love in a way that reflects God’s being and character. For example, beginning in Matthew 5:43, Jesus taught on what it should look like for us to love our enemies. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” This is how sons and daughters of God live because this is a reflection of the character and mercy of God, who makes the rain to fall “on the just and the unjust.” This is the essence of being an image bearer of God. This is the essence of humanness.

So, we are much more than physical beings and we are much more than just minds. There is an aspect of our humanness that is almost mystical and ethereal. There is a vital aspect of humanness upon which we cannot place our hands because it is essentially spiritual and “psychological.” The root of the word psychology emphasizes the centrality of the soul and not the mind. Biblical psychology emphasizes the influence of the heart upon the mind. As humans we are essentially embodied souls. So, if we deal honestly with people, we must relate to them as spiritual beings as well as physical or mental beings. This aspect of humanness is not appreciated nearly enough in western culture. Our culture tends to reduce humans to scientific animals and that all of man’s ills are curable by science. However, science cannot touch the human soul. There is no medicine that can cure the human soul, or heart. So, this means that we are completely dependent upon God for changed hearts and lives.

Let’s consider some key passages of Scripture that deal with the human heart.

—Matthew 5:18-19–“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

—Jeremiah 17:5-9–Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

—Romans 10:9-10–“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

—Psalm 73:26–“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Matthew 6:20-21–“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Proverbs 4:23–“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

So, in a summary fashion, what do we learn from these heart passages, which, by the way, are only the highest tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the heart passages? We learn that what makes us “unclean” as sinners is what comes from our hearts, and not what comes into our minds or bodies externally. We see that our hearts are the basis of our characters and our hearts are the seat of our devotion to God. Paul teaches us that true conversion and salvation takes place in our hearts and is reflected in our confessing Jesus as Lord with our lips. We are reminded that God is the strength of our hearts and is the Rock on which we stand that cannot be moved, even though we certainly shake and quake in fear. Jesus reminds us that our hearts are the seat of our worship and is reflective of what/whom we truly worship and is directly influenced by what we treasure. Lastly, we learn in Proverbs that our hearts are precious and hugely significant and that our lives are directly influenced by the disposition of our hearts.

Let’s put some shoe leather to these principles with a practical example of how to deal with an issue like anger from our hearts. What is the cause of anger? Why do we get angry? Scripture tells us that anger in an of itself is not necessarily a sin. “Be angry, and don’t sin.” However, how do we deal with sinful anger that is directed toward another individual because of something they said or did toward us? Many techniques and strategies have been offered by many sources. Some say we should go out in the yard and beat a tree with a bat, or pound a pillow. This might provide some temporarily relief, but it cannot get to the “heart” of the matter. So, let’s consider David’s teaching in Psalm 4.

He acknowledges that he is angry and tells himself and his hearers to not sin in one’s anger. So, this is a good check for us. We must seek to never speak to someone out of anger. When we do speak in anger we usually regret this and say unnecessarily hurtful things.

Then, David tells himself to search his heart and be silent. David realizes that his anger is not expressed in a vacuum, but it is an expression that comes from the heart. So, it is helpful to examine our own hearts and ask such questions as, “Why am I angry? Why did I react in anger at this particular situation? Why did I react in anger at the particular words that were said? Is my anger pointing to an idol or something of which I do not want to let go?” Take the time to examine your heart.

Lastly, David counsels us to “offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.” Bingo! Ultimately, anger has to do with worship and trust. Our hearts are never passive and are constantly evaluating and interpreting what is going on around us. Do we at all times worship God, or can we have functioning, false idols in which we trust for relief, peace, and comfort? These things have no power against anger in terms of rooting it out of our hearts. Worship and trust go hand in hand. Sinful anger is rooted in a failure to trust God. Anger is a way of trying to gain control over situations that have not gone our own way.

So, we live out of our hearts. Our hearts are the seat of our emotions, values, and loyalties. It is out of our hearts that we live and behave. In order to see real change in our lives our hearts have to be changed. In Christ we have new hearts that are able to love and value God’s pleasure above all else. We are enabled to live in such a way that flows from Jesus being our greatest treasure and to live more stable lives recognizing that God is the Rock of our hearts forever. We must grow into and live out of pathway characterized by faith that works through love.

Through the ministry of KAINOS we truly seek to get to the “heart” of peoples’ struggles. We know that God is after transformation and not just change on our own terms. At KAINOS we believe that God’s plans and dreams for us are much bigger and better than our dreams for our own lives. So, we seek to walk in the path of God’s wisdom, counsel, presence, and power with others who find themselves struggling with the various challenges in their lives. We seek to counsel, minister, and love, as fellow strugglers, with others, and learn what the worship of God from the heart looks like in all areas of life.

Please visit us at www.kainosliving.com. Please partake of the blogs and the daily devotionals. Also, you can listen to some sermons that we hope and pray will be a blessing to your soul.

Join us as we seek to understand more fully what it means to be renewed in heart and purpose.

What Does It Mean to Be Grace-driven?

How does growth happen in the Christian life? How are we being transformed to conform more and more to the image of Jesus? How does real change happen?

I have had many dear brothers and sisters in the Lord come to me with struggles and issues in their lives, and what they wanted most was for me to FIX them. Well, as I told them, I had really good news for them. I told them that God’s plan was not to fix them, but to transform them. Typically, when we say we just want to be “fixed,” what we mean is that we do not want to struggle anymore, but we want the problem gone! It is like the old Calgon commercial, which had the tag line, “Calgon, take me away,” as we bathe in the luxurious bath water with this glorious substance in the water. Unfortunately, this is a very superficial way to think about our struggles, problems, and sin.

In 2 Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul makes a profound statement, when he said that as we BEHOLD Jesus, we are are BEING TRANSFORMED. Now, this work transform in the Greek is in the passive tense. This means that we are being acted upon. We are not doing the transforming. No, the very Spirit of Christ within us is doing the transforming. But, are we doing anything? Yes, we are beholding Christ in the gospel. We are contemplating Christ as we consider His life, His work, and the sealed, finished work, which he did on our behalf. In Christ, we are changed and being changed. In Christ, we are born again and are new creations. In Christ, we are sealed in the Holy Spirit as a down payment of greater glory to come. So, we must take hold of that for which we have been laid hold of, and to grow up into our glorious new identity.

As a young lad I would sometimes put on one of my Dad’s dress shirts. Now, it was so large that it would engulf me. It did not fit. But, over time, I grew up into it. Truth be told I more than outgrew it as I became a hefty young man!! But, the analogy holds. We are being enabled to grow up into the very righteousness that we have already obtained in Jesus. In other words, we are being transformed to live lives of active righteousness through the righteousness of Jesus that is already accredited to our accounts. It is as if we are growing up into the righteous robes of Jesus with which we are already clothed.

So, is this through sheer hard work? Well it is hard work. But, there is a difference between “believing effort,” and unbelieving effort. In I Corinthians 15, Paul stated that because of the grace of God at work in him, he worked even HARDER in his calling of being an apostle. How does grace lead us to work harder? Well, I think Paul was working out of his understanding that he was working for One who already fully accepted him and he was working out of this acceptance, steadfast love, as well as working out of a sense of rest and peace. Paul was highly motivated by the perfect love of his Father that ushered forth in his being fully forgiven through the one who gave his life for him, even Jesus. So, as Paul stated, it was the love of Christ that controlled him. That is grace at work.

Consider Paul’s rhetorical questions in Galatians: Did we receive the Holy Spirit through works of the law or by hearing with faith? Does God work miracles through us through the works of the law of by hearing with faith? Having begun by the Spirit, are we now being perfected by the flesh? Faith drinks deeply from the wells of grace and puts one in contact with powerful resources and tools that change and transform us over time. Faith beholds and works through the means of love. Love, of course, is the summary of all of God’s Law. Grace, hope, faith, and love are like inextricable links of a marvelous chain. 

God’s grace does not change the call to obedience. But, it certainly changes our motivation for obedience. Our active righteousness must be preceded by and fed by the “passive” righteousness of Jesus, which we receive by grace through faith. 

So, the ministry of KAINOS, will seek to equip others to walk hand in hand with Jesus rather than with themselves and their own efforts. We will seek to lead others to see that they must put no confidence in their own flesh and efforts. Their heart-based confidence must rest in Jesus and that for which He has grabbed hold of us.