About gfischool

An equipping site of Grace Fellowship International

Suicide Prevention Resources

One of the important issues we may deal with as Exchanged Life Counselors is helping people with some degree of suicidal ideation. 

The Wed MD site observes,

“Many people have fleeting thoughts of death. Fleeting thoughts of death are less of a problem and are much different from actively planning to commit suicide. Your risk of committing suicide is increased if you think about death and killing yourself often, or if you have made a suicide plan.

“Most people who seriously consider suicide do not want to die. Rather, they see suicide as a solution to a problem and a way to end their pain. People who seriously consider suicide feel hopeless, helpless, and worthless. A person who feels hopeless believes that no one can help with a particular event or problem. A person who feels helpless is immobilized and unable to take steps to solve problems. A person who feels worthless is overwhelmed with a sense of personal failure.”

Ironically, Dr. Solomon found that people with severe depression can be easy to work with. They are flirting with the escape of death, yet there is a way to “die and stay here”–the Cross for the believer (Luke 9:23; Gal. 2:20). Former GFI board member, John Stevens, discussed the risk and the Christ-centered solution in his book (available in GFI’s bookstore):

Here is chapter 1: Suicide_Illicit_Lover_excerpt

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

To learn more about assessing the risk of suicide and how to respond, see

Jane’s Journey

We congratulate Jane Goins on completing he Exchanged Life Counselor certification this month! Jane and her husband live in Pigeon Forge, and in recent years she has assisted John with some counselees and has done some volunteer work at the office.

Her Three Cross Testimony is at her web site, Created4More.net.  And here is her testimony about her experience in the GFI equipping process:

“It has been an amazing experience to receive the benefits of this type of training, applying it to my own life and then having God-given opportunities to share this knowledge and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

“So, first of all, my own life journey through this Certification process was unique in the sense of how God went about bringing me along to this point in time.  I arrived in Pigeon Forge where God was about to show me my ultimate need to trust Him in a way that would change the course of my life. …Continue reading the full PDF


Ministering with a Testimonial Posture

“Those who are merely well-versed may be able to teach, but they cannot truly share; their understanding of the needs of the heart is deficient, and this becomes all too evident to the hearers. Head-knowledge (study) must be integrated with heart-knowledge (experience) in order for there to be Spirit-motivated sharing.” – Miles Stanford

One of our initial objectives in Christ-centered counseling is to offer hope.

Andrew Murray connected our experience with the offer of hope: “True hope makes all the difference to us in our ministry. Our expectations have been personally proven. It makes possible joy in the midst of sorrow, confidence in the midst of defeat. It changes our attitude toward those to whom we minister… It changes our prayer for them. We ask not for some little progress or partial blessing for them but for the Lord’s complete victory. It changes our teaching ministry to them. Instead of fearfully giving a little more of God’s truth, we confidently declare all the counsel of God. There is ever before us the joy of the finished work which we know the Lord is going to accomplish.”

A Hindu remarked to missionary and author, E. Stanley Jones, “Jesus has got into your blood, hasn’t He? Jones replied, “Yes, and I hope He has raised my temperature.” Jones went on to counsel us, “that which is to reach the heart must come from the heat. Deep must speak to deep.” [Psalm 42:7].” [2]

Charles Solomon taught in the GFI Workshop that this personal ministry is not only a message to communicate, but a relationship to be shared.

May we share the Exchanged Life message in personal ministry with a testimonial posture.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8).


[1] None but the Hungry Heart, 1/16
[2] E. Stanley Jones, The Word Became Flesh, p. 150.

Resources for Christ-Centered Recovery

Cherri Raws Freeman just published a new book on Christ-centered recovery ministry:

“For every person who has entered the destructive life of drug or alcohol addiction, a family is devastated and bewildered as to what they could have done to prevent their loved one from taking this route. Set Free: Finding Truth and Hope When a Loved One is Addicted discusses what addiction is, especially focusing on drugs and alcohol, gives insight into the root causes of addiction, compassionately discusses the impact on the family, and provides hope for being set free from the slavery of addiction for everyone involved.”

It is available as an ebook at Amazon.com and in paperback at Bookshop.org

Mike and Julia Quarles transitioned their Freedom from Addictive Behaviors Conference online videos to free access. The videos of their testimonies and Christ-centered recovery teaching are at FreedFromAddiction.org

Both of these resources are part of GFI’s Recovery Coach curriculum. Let’s pass the word along!

Online Training with Grace Fellowship India

Grace Fellowship International India is conducting online counseling training (in English) this fall. John has taught on The Five Steps of Spirituotherapy and Distinctives of Exchanged Life Counseling. Rob Semco has taught on The Patterns of the Cross

GFI associates in India that are teaching include Dr. Alex Matthew and John Zachariah. (The character “Alex the branch” in Mike Well’s children’s book, The Gardener’s Love, is named in honor of Alex Mathew.)

Some of these videos are available at their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@gracecounseling2989

May God bless this online training and expand the ministry of GFII / GCI. Their web site is GraceCounselor.org

Who You are in Jesus Christ

Years ago a David Lyons of the Navigators wrote a booklet entitled Now That I’m Born Again. It’s based on what the Lord reveals in Ephesians regarding our identity in Christ.


Here is a list of gracious, New Testament affirmations about the believer with thanksgiving responses:

I am in Christ

Thank You for immersing me in Christ. Thank you for grafting me into the true vine.


I am blessed

Thank you for continually speaking well of me and favoring me in every possible way.

I am chosen

Thank you for picking me for yourself, like a groom marrying the bride he desires.

I am holy

Thank You for setting me aside for yourself, just like the best silver is set aside for special occasions

I am without blemish

Thank you that when you look at me, you do not focus on all my failures. Thank you for focusing on the best part of me, the part You have perfected, my innermost being.

I am adopted

Thank you, Father, that I am wanted. Thank you for coming to me, extending Your hand, pulling me to Your side, and making all the necessary arrangements to make me Your very own.

I am God’s child

Thank you for making me Your beloved child, in whom You are well pleased, for allowing me to bear your likeness, for making me your pride and joy.

I am free from sin’s power

Thank you for liberating me from my old master. Thank you for saving me from my enemy.

I am forgiven

Thank You that You now hold nothing against me. Thank you for not expecting me to make up for the ways I have failed you.

I am favored

Thank You for making me one of Your favorites. Thank You for hovering over me with a special loving attention, like a parent with a firstborn child.

I am wealthy

Thank You that as Your child I have an inheritance that provides all I need. Thank You that I will always have more than I need.

I am secure

Thank You for enveloping me in Your love so that I am sealed, secure and safe. Thank You for shielding and sheltering me by Your Spirit.

I am called

Thank You for giving me an exciting, fulfilling direction. Thank You for showing me why I am here and where I am going.

I am praiseworthy

Thank You for filling me with Your glory. Thank You for bragging about me as Your prized inheritance.

I am capable

Thank You that You love to show Your extraordinary power in me. Thank You that I am therefore qualified & able to do all You want me to do.

I am alive with Christ’s life

Thank You that since You came into my heart, I am born again – born from above and bursting with real life.

I am seated with Christ in heaven

Thank You for placing me with Christ in a position of extraordinary privilege and authority.

I am God’s masterpiece

Thank You for making me Your personal work of art. Thank You that I am the work of a Craftsman, not a mistake.

I am close to God

Thank You for not holding me at arm’s length. Thank You for pulling me to Your side in a prolonged embrace.

I am an insider

Thank You for making me a true citizen in Your kingdom. Thank You for making me a true member of Your household, no longer an outsider.

I am God’s mobile home

Thank You for moving into my heart. Thank You that I am now Your house, Your temple, Your tent.

I am promised great things

Thank You for making such priceless commitments to me. Thank You for letting me experience what others strive to obtain.

I am loved

Thank You for loving me the way I long to be loved. Thank You that I can’t wear out Your love. Thank you for continuing to win my trust by convincing me of the depth of Your love.

I am a new creation

Thank You for completely remodeling my innermost being, my spirit. Thank You that all things in me are truly new.

I am righteous

Thank You for making everything right in my innermost being. Thank You for placing the holy and living Spirit of Your Son in me.

I am the light of the world

Thank You for making the light of Your life shine in me. Thank You for making me Your flashlight, shining into the darkness around me.

I am nourished

Thank You for satisfying my thirst and hunger. Thank You for the Bread of Life that fills me. Thank You for the Living Water welling up in my soul.

I am cherished

Thank You for adoring and treasuring me, like a parent marveling over a newborn baby.

I am Christ’s body

Thank You that although You once lived among Your people in an elaborate tent, and then You walked among us in a Galilean body, now You truly live in me. Thank You that I am actually a member of Your body.

I am united with Christ

Thank You for becoming one with me, as a husband becomes one flesh with his wife.

I am strong

Thank You that with You living in me, I can face anything. Thank You that every battle, test and victory belong to You.

A scanned edition of this out-of-print booklet is available here:
Now That I Am Born Again combined file

Parable Videos

“And with many such parables Jesus spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it” (Mark 4:33).

A few months ago Shepherd and Associates launched a Christian videos channel on YouTube.com.


Description: “This channel features inspirational videos by Linda King. They communicate deep, spiritual truths to the mind and the heart by weaving together unforgettable images, inspiring words, and beautiful music. [In the DVDs] Free Study Guides are provided for each presentation.

“May all who see these videos come to know the Lord more deeply. I pray that He will encourage your heart as you discover that just as He created all of the treasures of nature with a reason & purpose, He has done the same for you. May these messages be continual reminders of His great love for you, His continual presence with you, & His deep desire to be known by you!

“These timeless, Biblically based videos are being used to bring inspiration, insight, encouragement, and the Good News of Jesus Christ to many people in many settings! May the work of our hands become tools in your hands for the Savior!”

Visit and bookmark this channel for personal edification and as a resource to help those whom you disciple: Shepherd and Associates Christian videos

The Context of Gender Identity in Christian Counseling

by John Woodward

Identity is an essential aspect of our self image. “Houston, we have a problem.” In our post Christian culture the belief in no absolute truth has allowed our society to drift into ethical confusion and subjectivity. Humanistic teaching, distorted values in entertainment, and peer pressure in social media have all contributed to create confusion about gender identity, especially in adolescents.

An example of the escalation in the gender identity controversy is an Internet article titled “81 Types of Genders & Gender Identities (A to Z List).”

An example of how this confusion impacts society is the controversy of transgendered athletes competing in female sports.

The Heritage Foundation published a helpful introduction to clarify the categories that are relevant to this subject: sex, gender, and gender identity:

“The best biology, psychology, and philosophy all support an understanding that sex is a bodily reality and that gender is a social manifestation of bodily sex. By contrast, ‘gender identity’ is an internal sense of gender.

Sex is a biological reality, referring to an organism’s overall organization towards sexual reproduction. … It’s the only way to make sense of the concepts of male and female.

Gender, by contrast, is the way one expresses their biological sex.
…Transgender activists deny that sex is a bodily reality. They argue that one’s perceived gender identity represents who a person really is even if it goes against their biological sex. They deny biological reality by suggesting that biological sex was merely “assigned at birth.”

Gender identity: According to the American Psychological Association, ‘Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else.’ It is distinct from either sex or gender. Activists claim it is a person’s ‘internal sense of gender.’ They also assert that it’s more than just male or female; it’s fluid and there is a spectrum of various options beyond man and woman, like ‘gender fluid,’ ‘intergender,’ or ‘non-binary.’ “[1]

As it is useful to distinguish some basic terminology related to sex and gender, it is important to be precise concerning different facets of one’s identity.

1. We have a human identity as those created by God in His image (Gen. 1:26; Psalm 8), although the image has been damaged (Gen. 3).

2.  We have a biological (sexual) identity as male or female (Gen. 1:27).

3. Our psychological identity has been shaped by positive and negative life experiences. Over the years we differentiate ourselves from others in the context of social interaction with family and friends. (Compare Matthew 16:13-17, as presented in GFI’s Exchanged Life Conference, session 1.)   Our psychological identity is affected by our unique version of the flesh and is subject to change.  Gender identity is an aspect of psychological identity. [2]

4. Spiritual identity: Our essential, ultimate identity is spiritual. If we have been regenerated by God’s Spirit through redemption, then we have a new, grace-based, secure, positive and unchangeable identity in Jesus Christ! (1 John 3:1-3).

As we guard against gender identity distortion and contradiction, we need to maintain a biblical worldview. Sue Bohlin of Probe Ministries affirms,

“That’s the key: we need to understand that this is really a worldview issue. Perspective is crucial. Where you start makes all the difference. If you leave God out of it, starting with the person trying to make sense of the feeling that one’s body is not aligned with their internal sense of gender, then confusion is inevitable. If people feel free to define themselves as they wish, then sex and gender can be seen as elastic or fluid—and manipulatable. It’s the modern-day expression of an Old Testament phenomenon that never worked out well, when ‘every man did what was right in his own eyes’ in the times of the Judges (Judges 17:6).” [3]

In his important book about how to Biblically navigate our gender-confused culture, Gary Yagel counsels parents to wisely address gender identity issues with their children. He summarizes “components of the biblical sexual identity script your teen needs”:

1. It must be rooted in gospel grace, so teens need know that the community to which they belong is the church, the Body of Christ…

2. It recognizes that as believers, their truest identity is to be in Christ and, through Him, the adopted children of God.

3. It explains why they don’t fit into the secular world around them.

4. It emphasizes that they are uniquely designed by God.

5. It motivates boys to pursue godly manhood and girls to pursue godly womanhood.[4]

As Yagel mentioned in point two (above), a key aspect in finding peace and joy is living  according to our spiritual identity in Christ.

Although this is our birthright, most believers have not appropriated this new identity. But welcoming our spiritual identity is more than learning about it. Identity flows from identification with Christ (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 5:17). And the Cross of Christ is central to this message and process. The deeper meaning of the Cross is explained in Roman 5:12-6:14 and further applied in chapter 8.

May we have God’s love and wisdom as we disciple and counsel in a gender-confused culture. James 3:17,18 describes the qualities of divine wisdom that we need: “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.”

[1] https://www.heritage.org/gender-identity/1-what-are-sex-gender-and-gender-identity

[2] Subjective “gender” first emerged in the humanities wing of secular universities in the 1970’s.

[2] Sue Bohlin, “Transgender Children” https://probe.org/transgender-children/

[3] Gary Yagel, Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth in a Gender Confused World (Fort Lauderdale, FL: D. James Kennedy Ministries, 2018). 75-77

Put off and Put On

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds…assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:17,22-24 ESV emphasis added).

To put off fleshly behavior and put on saintly behavior is a central emphasis in Nouthetic biblical counseling. We see this emphasis as more successful on the resurrection side of the Cross (Gal. 2:20), as the context in Ephesians and Colossians indicates. Since we value the clarified message of identification with Christ, it is important to help the counselee discover that the old man has already been “put off” at the Cross.

“knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him…”(Rom. 6:6a)

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9)

Then why does Paul exhort us to put off (present tense) the “old self” in Ephesians? Looking more closely, the text refers to what is “in reference to your former way of life” (NASB). By metonymy, Paul refers to these old patterns as “the old self.” In other words, we are to remove the old, dirty “clothes” that are still in the flesh closet

Also, see how our new identity is established in the next verse, Ephesians 4:24: “the new man has been created (anew) in righteousness and holiness.” This refers to our new human spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).

Mike Wells illustrates the need to put off the phantom of our old identity: 

“I once asked a woman to purchase a rag doll and write on it the adjectives that best described her before coming to Christ, both positive and negative. I then instructed that she set the doll in a chair and adore it, beg it, plead with it to help, and condemn it. When she got sick of trusting something lifeless, I wanted her to go bury it in the garden and then pray to Jesus, the One whois Life. I knew she would have an immediate release, since there is nothing His nearness will not cure. I then warned her that one day she would call me, depressed, frustrated, and in the same condition I first found her. When she called, I would make her go to the garden, dig up the old doll, dust it off, put it in a chair, and begin the whole process anew. Once again when she got sick of it, she could bury it and worship Jesus. However, as the years went by, the trips to the garden would become less frequent, and the doll would eventually disintegrate! When we trust the old man, the Adam life, the fallen nature, our frustration is not coming from a battle between the old man and Christ, but from trusting something that is dead. Again, bury it!” (Mike Wells, Heavenly Discipleship, (Littleton, CO: Abiding Life Press, 2006), p. 23., quoted by John Best in The Cross of Christ, p. 91).

May God give us wisdom to show the good news of identification with Jesus Christ and facilitate “put off/put on” in the proper context with grace motivation and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.


Counseling Conversations

In his course on The Pastor as Counselor, Dr. Brad Hambrick identifies four kinds of counseling conversations. Let’s consider these in light of the Exchanged Life Counseling approach.

1. Inquisitive / Reflective conversation. This describes an assessment conversation. This type of dialog uses more active listening and encourages the counselee to open up and helps him/her become more self aware. In our model this would describe much of the initial phase–the “presenting problem” conversation.

2. Perspective / Narrative Reframing conversation. This kind of conversation seeks to put a life struggle in a larger, redemptive context. This is often important because they have inaccurately defined the challenge they are facing. In our model this type of conversation emerges from the the history taking process. The counselor takes a social, psychological, and spiritual history not only to get a context of the presenting problem(s), but to move toward reframing the counselee’s struggle as a journey from the self-life condition to the Christ-life condition (Gal. 2:20). 

3. Directive / Character Formation conversation. This kind of conversation combines biblical direction and moral guidance. This is more needed when confusion, distraction or rebellion are holding back the counselee. This aspect of counseling is more common in “phase 4” of Exchanged Life counseling–on the resurrection side of the Cross. In other words, the counselee will respond better to directive counsel about specific behavior change after he/she has tapped into the power and freedom of knowing Jesus Christ as Life and Liberator. (See GFI’s “Four Phases of Counseling” lecture and chart.)

4. Supportive / Relief Focused conversation. This conversation is about how to help alleviate suffering, exploring practical ways of improving the counselee’s situation. Early in the process this should reflect the care of the counselor, and may help the counselee move forward in the heart-oriented counseling process. However, in the Exchanged Life model, some of the suffering may be “reframed” (in a sensitive way) as part of the “crowding to Christ” process. The Circle of Serenity teaching is a practical tool that helps the counselee to live from the resources of the indwelling Christ, while gaining discernment in practical problem solving. [See the Christ is Life Conference, sessions 4 and 8.]

Adapted from The Pastor As Counselor course. To see Dr. Hambrick’s overview in his Nouthetic context, see his blog post at http://bradhambrick.com/