Sophia’s Testimony

Excerpts

…Reflecting back to September 2018 when God revealed to me to seek out Cross to Life Discipleship Ministry for biblical counseling to August 2019 when I am writing this testimony, my experience can be summarized by the following four steps, through which God’s invisible but eternal presence and grace has been working in me to sanctify me to become the person He wants me to be. Indeed, God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and for those who are called for His purpose. What is His purpose for me? For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son Jesus Christ so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:28-29).

Step 1: Brokenness – I came to the end of my own resources.
I remember pastor Troy Dobbs sometimes quoted in his sermon that “brokenness is the blessing that nobody wants”. I agree. I don’t want to be broken, instead I want to be protected and shielded from hardship. But is my want realistic in life? Is my want the same as what God wants in my life?

Growing up in China before I came to US in my early 20’s for education, I had experienced hardship in life due to my parents’ turbulent marriage. Home environment was unstable, not nurturing, full of hostility of my parents against each other on a daily basis, and insecure. Suffering from youth in this environment had motivated my young soul to ask deeper questions about life, such as what is life, why I am here, who am I, where I am going, what is the meaning of life, why is there suffering, why human hurt each other, is there a solution for suffering, and is there hope? I didn’t find answers to my questions in academic success, career in prestige accounting firm, physical attractiveness, philosophy, and psychology. I was broken inside losing hope in life, then God saved me at His timing and in His way in 2006…

Step 2: Total surrender – Jesus Christ is not only my Savior, but also my Lord, and my Life…

Step 3: Identification – My union with Christ is not only head knowledge but also life experience.
I learned my identification with Christ in the following ways:
1) Identification in His death. He died for me (Romans 5:8). I died with Him (Romans 6:6).
2) Identification in His burial. I was buried with Him (Romans 6:4).
3) Identification in His risen life. I live with Him in newness of life (Romans 6:4-5).
4) Identification with His glory. I share the splendor of His Character by His indwelling life (John 17:22, 2 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 8:17-18).
5) Identification in His concern for a lost world. I have been sent as His ambassador to share His good news with a world that does not know Him (John 17:18-20, 2 Corinthians 5:19-21).
6) Identification in His triumph. He always leads me in triumph over sin (Romans 6:14), over circumstances (Romans 8:25-28), over Satan (Colossians 2:15).
7) Identification in His reign. I am to reign in life through Him (Romans 5:17). I will reign with Him (Revelation 5:10).
8) Identification as joint heir with Him. I share in all that He is (Romans 8:14, 17, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
9) Identification in His suffering. We suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17, Philippians 1:29, 1 Peter 4:12, 13).

Learning and comprehending my identification with Christ becomes not only head knowledge but also real experience. Somehow God has caused the biblical truth and teaching of union with Christ becomes realized. I experienced Him and His life in this process. My words fail to explain or describe it. I experienced deliverance and His life, His abundant life, truly wonderful beyond words. Galatians 2:20 is no longer a familiar and memorized biblical truth, but reality.

Step 4: Experience the Abundant Life of Christ – I experience the power and life of Christ in me in daily walk.
How to live the abundant life of Christ in me on a day to day basis? I learned that to cooperate with God and sail above life’s trials and challenges, I need to “spread my wings” through surrender and trust. I need to surrender to God’s control moment by moment (Romans 12:1,2; Luke 9:23) and trust fully in Christ’s indwelling presence to live through me moment by moment (Galatians 2:20, John 15:5). As I “spread my wings” through surrender and trust, let God’s Word dwell in me and maintain an attitude of praying (Colossians 3:16; Philippians 4:6,7).…

Read Sophia’s complete testimony here: Sophia’s Testimony

Spirit, Soul and Body

Pastor and international evangelist, Lester Sumrall, originally published this volume in 1984 as The Total Man. He has strong convictions about the importance of the spirit/soul distinction in man:

“In this study, I am going to help you understand yourself and therefore know  how to live. I want to make you aware of the three dimensional nature of the human personality. As long as you treat the human personality as a dualism [body and soul], you will never discover it. A psychologist or psychiatrist might be able to pick you to pieces, but he will not be able to put you back together again… He does not even know that man has a spirit. This is a very sad situation because man’s biggest problems are spiritual” (pp. 15,16).

The author’s pastoral concern is evident in the many practical points he makes about avoiding defeat and living a Spirit-filled, God-designed life. Discipleship Counselors appreciate the relevance of an accurate, biblical model of man since it relates to personal ministry.

As a leader who ministered in over one hundred countries, Sumrall’s diagnosis is worth noting: “In many churches as much as a third of the whole congregation is depressed and sad. They are not living in their spirit; they are [primarily] living in the soulical realm…God’s kingdom, which is in you, is God’s righteousness, peace and joy” (p. 78; see Rom. 14:17).

See John’s full book review: http://biblicalpsychology.net/

The book is available from the publisher here:  https://www.whitakerhouse.com/product/spirit-soul-body/

Discovering Rest

A common trait in the four new counselees that came in for appointments last week was the fatigue factor. Whereas conventional counseling would probably try to alleviate weariness through strengthening the clients’s coping strategies, Discipleship Counselors can reframe this need as an opportunity to discover “the rest of the Gospel” (see the book by Dan Stone). God’s provision is concisely summarized in this devotional article. – JBW

“COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST” (MATT. 11:28).

“Hard as it is for the believer to finally come to rest concerning his spiritual birth, it seems to be even more difficult for him to simply rest in the Lord Jesus for his life and service” (Miles Stanford).

“There are two stages in the Christian life. The one in which, after conversion, a believer seeks to work what God would have him do. The second, in which, after many a painful failure, he ceases from his works, and enters the rest of God, there to find the power for work in allowing the Father to work in him.

“It is this rest from their own work which many Christians cannot understand. They think of it as a state of passive and selfish enjoyment, of still contemplation which leads to the neglect of the duties of life, and unfits for that watchfulness and warfare to which Scripture calls. What an entire misunderstanding of God’s call to rest! Truly to rest in God is to yield oneself up to the highest activity. We work, because He worketh in us both to will and to do (Phil. 2:13). As Paul says of himself, ‘I labor, striving according to his working who worketh in me with might’ (Col. 1:29). Entering the rest of God is the ceasing from self-effort, and the yielding of oneself in the full surrender of faith to God’s working” (Andrew Murray)…

“TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN OF ME; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART, AND YE SHALL FIND REST UNTO YOUR SOULS” (MATT. 11:29).
www.AbideAbove.com

Addressing Risk Factors

One of the “wet blankets” that may hinder Discipleship Counselors is the fear of a lawsuit. Although informal peer-to-peer ministry seems to avoid this stigma, when churches and parachurch helpers move into a more formal pastoral counseling role, the risk factor may come up. How can these fears be addressed? How can the counselor take wise precautions?

Adopt and ethics statement

Although professional code of ethics documents are more detailed than needed and are biased with secular values and professional policies, the Discipleship Counselor can adapt and use a policy document. Here is an audio lecture on ethics by Dr. Cry Lantz:

http://gfirecovery.com/MP3/Cary_Lantz_ETHICS.mp3

and a sample document: Ethics Policy

In formal personal ministry, have a second person present or nearby for accountability (for the benefit of the counselee and the counselor).

Use relevant forms

When forms such as Informed Consent and Waiver of Liability are used, this documents that the counselee agrees to non-professional, non-secular, Christian personal ministry sessions. These forms should be signed and kept with the client’s case notes. Here are sample documents that can be edited:
Informed Consent Form sample
Waiver of Liability sample

Get insurance coverage

If you’re doing formal ministry (appointments, goals, secure notes, donations received, etc.), a liability policy is reassuring and also affordable (relatively speaking). Consider this agency that covers pastoral counselors for about $100 or so per year. (800) 421-6694
https://www.americanprofessional.com/covered-professions/clergy-pastoral-counselors/

As the apostle Paul admonished Timothy, let’s minister with integrity and confidence:
“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6,7).

JBW

Ways and Means

The government has a “Ways and Means Committee,” and likewise the Discipleship Counselor also needs to be sensitive to the “ways and means” of personal ministry.

Miles Stanford observed, “Truth based upon law will be presented legally–it will be legislated. Truth based upon grace will be shared graciously, in love. ‘Adorn the doctrine of God’ by ‘speaking the truth in love’ (Titus 2:10; Eph. 4:15).”

Dr. Charles Solomon named the Exchanged Life Counseling approach “Spirituotherapy” in honor of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit inspired His written Word, illumines it to the believer’s understanding, and intends to guide the discipleship process (2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 16:13).

A devotional writer counseled that “There are two things that have to be taken into account in communicating truth. Not merely should there be certainty that it is the truth from God, but it must also be suited truth to those whom you address … We are to serve under His direction, and according to His pleasure; not just because opportunity or need offers. We require His direction, and the knowledge of His pleasure…”

The way to counsel those in need is to be good listener, sharing relevant truth by means of the leading and enablement of the Wonderful Counselor. Keep praying for His work in and though the personal ministry process.

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:4-6).

JBW

Limitations in Secular Counseling Policy

Although it’s commendable that some Christian counselors gone through the academic and clinical requirements for state licensure, secular policies may limit spiritual and moral guidance.
For example, the ACA code of ethics states:
A.4.b.
Personal Values
Counselors are aware of—and avoid imposing—their own values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Counselors respect the diversity of clients, trainees, and research participants and seek training in areas in which they are at risk of imposing their values onto clients, especially when the counselor’s values are inconsistent with the client’s goals or are discriminatory in nature. https://www.counseling.org/
This policy implies that values are neutral or are limited to the counselee’s perspective. Case in point: discouraging abortion could be considered inappropriate because abortion is legal.
But all types of counseling assume a set of values and a process of gaining and applying wisdom. But whose values? What kind of wisdom?
Biblical guidance is summarized in Psalm 119:105:
“Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.”
If a Christian depends on a counselor who is bound to not give biblical guidance, the warning of Jesus comes to mind: “…They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14).
James compares two kinds of wisdom: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual… For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:13-18).
Therefore the Pastoral/Biblical Counselor should be up front about his/her model and values so that the counselee can freely decide if they desire Christian Counseling. The use of an informed consent form is important to document this mutual understanding. Here is a sample: Informed Consent
Note: When the counselee desires and agrees to Biblical Counseling, this does not imply any pressure tactics on the part of the counselor. There is always unconditional acceptance in the confidential helping relationship and respect for the counselee’s responsibility to determine goals and to make scriptural faith choices.
J.B.W.

Online Courses

Grace Fellowship has launched a new online course platform. Now students can register and track their progress for personal enrichment and mentoring. There are six course in “GFI Study Hall” and each is free. These courses are useful for counselee homework and continuing education.

Just visit, bookmark the site, and create an account there. The course portal is gfi.thinkific.com