Testimonies of Transformational Change

“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy” (Psalm 107:2).

One of the appealing traits of Exchanged Life Counseling is the fruit that the Holy Spirit so often produces. Testimonies of grace-oriented life change validate the truth and glorify the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6).

The discipler/counselor does well to have many examples of testimonies that he/she can learn from and refer to, such as They Found the Secret (V .R. Edman) and Exchanged Lives! (John Best). Books of testimonies by Charles Solomon include From Pastors to Pastors: Testimonies of Revitalized Ministries, Handbook to Happiness (chapter 8), and Discipling the Desperate.

Video testimonies are also making an impact. Here is one by my friend, Aaron Kim, that is reaching many on Youtube. May God use such testimonies to encouraged those in need of hope, and direct them to Christ-centered solutions.

Guaranteed Ability to Cope – His Sufficient Grace

by Joe Fornear

Life can be overwhelmingly hard and the temptation to despair can be great. Happened to me when I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic melanoma in 2003. I was soon after given the prognosis of “days to live.” The cancer and it’s cures were far more than I could personally handle emotionally, physically or spiritually.

I’m so glad, however, that the Lord displayed His amazing grace and powers through human followers, like Job and Paul. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul lists among some of his hardships the following experiences, any of which would devastate most of us!

  • Many imprisonments
  • Beaten times without number
  • Five times he received thirty-nine lashes from the Jews.
  • Three times he was beaten with rods
  • Once he was stoned
  • Three times he was shipwrecked, once floating in the ocean for 24 hours

“The 6 rounds of chemo whipped me” doesn’t quite rise to the level of “I was whipped by a leather whip with metal shards in it 195 times” (five times thirty-nine)! Paul desperately sought God to remove these trials, eventually God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What does “sufficient grace” mean? Here are five elements to the grace He supplies:

1) He gives HIS peace – In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

2) He gives peace that surpasses understanding – Philippians 4:7 – “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

3) The love of God is poured out within our hearts – Romans 5:3-5 – “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

4) Inexpressible Joy – 1 Peter 1:8 – “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.”

5) Joy that’s better than the world’s joy – Psalm 4:7 – “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Don’t ever fall into the trap of despair, God can handle your battle through you!

In His Grip,
Joe and Terri Fornear

(used with permission)

Stronghold Ministry

About Stronghold Ministry

 

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.