Thursday, July 31, 2008

Suffering Causes Loneliness

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; "He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!"

Psalm 22:1-8

Imagination Practice

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

One thing that I have been wondering about, just as a general counseling question, is that often in counseling discussions I have run into people’s own failure of imagination being a stumbling block to their piety. I say, “God says that he wants your life to be full, and if you turn to him and trust and obey him, your life will overflow with living.” And they say. “It is hard to trust and obey because I just can’t imagine what a life full of living would be like.” And I say, “huh, I don’t know how to give you that imagination, you have to trust and obey to get it.” I have started “imagination practice” with my kids, so that their imagination will press them towards life, but how do you inspire dulled imaginations towards the liveliness of holiness? Perhaps I am thinking about counseling wrong (I am new at this), but sometimes it seems more like trying to crack walnuts with a sledgehammer without crushing the nut. I am not sure if there is an answer, perhaps you know of a book?

Thank you for all of the prayers,


Hi Jason,

The only thing I know to do for that imagination thing is to model it for people. That's part of what the Bible means when it calls for vision. The pastor needs to know what he is looking for and leading toward. The people are looking down at the dirt in front of them, but the pastor has to have his face looking forward to Jesus and spurring the people on to imitating him in this.

This is also the drawback in evangelism, Christians have a difficult time convincing others that there is more in Christ, if they don't see the more in Christ themselves. Spurgeon preached a sermon that touched on what we are talking about ( The name of it is "Joy, A Duty." It seems kind of funny to think about joy and rejoicing as a duty, something to be obeyed, gritted out, and brought kicking and screaming to. But there it is. Christians don't know what we are missing, because we've never seen it and don't realize that we don't have it—until their pastor gets a hold of it and models it for them. You need to give them something, someone, to imitate.

This is one of the great things about getting a new pastor. You're young, full of life, haven't been hardened or dragged down by the silliness of sin that people get themselves mired in. You charge along and bring the rest with you, don't let their complacency or watered-downness get you down. Your congregation, by and large, isn't like this, but you still need to constantly go to the well of life yourself and make sure that everyone doesn't slowly "calm" down into dreariness.

Here are some ideas of ways to be in front of your people: Let the love of God fill you up so that it falls out all over them. Constantly take them to where God is and ask, "Where is God in this?" of "How is God thinking about this?" Do that imagining thing with everyone. Ask them to imagine what it would be like if God really did fulfill his promises. What would it be like if God really did exist? What would it be like if we did what God said and he responded in the way he says he will? What would happen if God visited with us on Sunday mornings? What if all of this stuff we're talking about is true? Really true?

Get it in your bones first. Then let it rip with your people. I don't mean being obnoxious, but close. Be bold, be courageous, be like Christ.

I don't know of any books on this topic. I know of a lot of books that have inspired me along these lines at times. But I have to say, as schmaltzy as it sounds, the Bible gets me fired up more than any other book I know of. I can't even read it before I go to bed at night because I get all sorts of ideas and things to think about and can't go to sleep.

I can't remember if I've given the Smiths the bitterness booklet, but I can't imagine that I haven't. I do know that most people don't recognize bitterness in themselves, no matter how strongly you tell them. You've got to lead them by allowing them to evaluate themselves in the light of the word in each situation. Then when a pattern forms, they can see that they sin in particular ways at particular times.

Here are a list of things to ask to help someone see how their responses are sinful and how they are sinful.

1. Explain what happened: the general details.
2. What were you thinking or feeling during this event?
3. What did you do, or what was your response to this event?
4. Why did you respond this way? What were you seeking to accomplish?
5. What was the result? Did it accomplish what you were trying to do? Are you satisfied with how things turned out?
6. Where was God in this? Was your action, thought, response a godly response?
7. What could you have done differently? And how will you prepare your heart to respond that way the next time the same situation, or one like it occurs?

I hope this helps,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

When I Kept Silent

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:1-5

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More on the CCEF Conference

I don't know how to do that link thing on my blog so you'll have to go here to see what they're talking about.

CCEF Conference on Addiction

Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) Announces
2008 Annual Conference - The Addict in Us All

Addiction sounds ominous, and it is. Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and gambling tear families apart and ruin lives. But this conference is about more than the junkie scoring dope or the alcoholic hiding vodka around the house. Even the average person gets stuck in negative behavior patterns. Overeating, shopping, sexual temptation, people’s approval, even love…everyone struggles with something. And everyone faces moments of despair and thinking that change is not possible.

Is it possible to change longstanding behavior patterns? The faculty and counselors at CCEF believe that God can change the despairing and the stuck—no matter what they are struggling with. CCEF’s 2008 Annual Conference “The Addict in Us All” slated for November 14-16, 2008 at the Valley Forge Convention Center and November 13 Pre-Conference hopes to accurately represent what God says to stuck people and those who want to help them.

Keynote CCEF speakers and noted authors Drs. Ed Welch, David Powlison, and Tim Lane, along with
Mars Hill Church Senior Pastor/ best selling author Mark Driscoll will lead the weekend to explore how God pursues those who have given up all hope for change. A team of experienced biblical counselors, including CCEF faculty, Dr. Mike Emlet and Winston Smith, will lead general sessions and special sessions on topics that include Addicted to “Yes”: The Approval Junkie; Addicted to Love; Teens and Addiction; and This Is Your Brain on Drugs.

We are delighted to have Keith and Kristyn Getty returning again this year to lead worship. The Gettys continue to tour the world promoting their album, In Christ Alone.

Since 1968, CCEF has set the pace in biblical counseling teaching people how to explore the wisdom and depth of the Bible and apply its grace-centered message to the problem of daily living.

For registration details visit and click on “Annual Conference” or call 1-800-318-2186

Friday, July 25, 2008

Who Leads the Courtship?

Dear Pastor Lawyer,

As Christ speaks to the disciples in John 14:1-4, we get the sense of the Jewish marriage tradition inferred throughout the "marriage parables" of the gospels—predominantly the unknown hour of the bridegroom's return. Your definition of courtship was that the father of the young lady was actively and authoritatively engaged in the process. In fact, one could say the father of the bride really holds the majority vote.

Yet, in John 14:1-4, and building on the inferred Jewish tradition, such as Edersheim describes in Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, it is not the father of the bride, but the father of the groom who directs the major movements. He is the one who determines the house his son is completing is satisfactory for the son to go retrieve his bride—thus the "only the Father knows the hour..." passage (Matthew 24:36) found in the Olivet Discourse.

In many places in the Bible we see Christ speaking of the Father as directing the Son to get His bride, but in courtship nowadays we confer controlling authority to the father of the bride, do we have some of the authority apportionment in courtship misplaced?

Thanks, Bill

This is a good question Bill.

We see the patriarchal organization of the process of marriage all over the Bible just like you do. And thus we think there is nothing wrong with that system in a social context where that system is in place. So we see it as not being sinful to do it that way. But we do not see it as normative.

What we do see as normative is that "a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife" (Gen. 2:24; Mt. 19:5). We also see that the father is the head of his household as normative and this would include his daughter because she lives in his house and has his name. Since the father is the head of his household he has the responsibility for making sure his daughter marries a godly and good man.

We also don't necessarily see these two positions as in conflict with each other. Genesis 24 recounts the story of how Isaac got his wife. Abram sent his servant to his home town and told him to get Isaac a wife. This fits with the pattern you are asking about from the patriarchal view. When the servant got to Haran he went through Rebeckah's father to have Rebeckah go with him to marry Isaac. This fits what we see as the normative view.

There were lots of other ways people got hooked up in the Bible, but the woman is always her father's daughter and the man is always the man. We don't have any problem imagining that in a godly family the son would pay very careful attention to what his father says about marriage generally and specifically (e.g. setting up house, preparing a career, childraising, etc.), but when the Bible specifically says a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, that means that a father should probably be raising his son in such a way that he will be prepared to leave when he wants to get married. In a godly context I can't imagine a wise son ignoring or not asking for his father's input, but the view that the son needs to go through his father in the same way that a son needs to go through the woman's father is not normative—simply allowed.

In a nutshell I would say that the father of the young man should be training his son to be a good husband and be a part of his choice of a wife, as wisdom will allow, and he should train the young man to be a man and prepare him to leave home when he is ready to find a wife. The young woman's father should be training his daughter to be a good wife some day and should be intimately involved in the process of picking a husband for her. His activity in her marriage should be, in a Biblically normative way, something that she expects and loves. The two positions are not necessarily exclusive of one another and should work very well together.

I hope this helps.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Commencement Speech

Someone sent me a link to this speech. I though it was great. Because it makes so much sense to me, I always wonder how anyone could believe the goofiness of the liberals. I would be interested to chat with someone who was a liberal and who had answers for the points this fellow is making.

Hatred Directed Upwards

"Egalitarianism, the prevailing and acceptable religion of our generation, teaches not a love of equals but a hatred of superiors" (Steve Schlissel, Christian Culture in a Multicultural Age, p. 146).

I borrowed this quote from Doug Wilson’s blog.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pre-Wedding Jitters?

Hi Tony,

Fighting, in your situation, is not always a bad thing. If you are fighting because you are treating your fiance like you are already her head, but you are not, it makes sense that fighting might occur. I've seen it before, and in these cases, the wedding vows to submit make all the difference. Before the wedding you fight because you think you'res the head (but you aren't, yet) she doesn't submit because she doesn't need to (which she doesn't). But after the wedding they get along fine because the proper covenantal relationship is in place and both people are living according to the Bible.

Another option is that you are on different theological pages. She is a modern egalitarian woman who thinks she knows her mind and isn't about to submit herself to your or anyone else's authority. You are living in the Biblical world where God has placed you in a relationship that mirrors Christ and his church. You are the head of your family and you love your wife and want to do everything for her.

If this is the case, you need to do some serious thinking in a big hurry. If this latter situation is the case, you will never have peace in your home unless you become the milquetoast submissive one in your family. And if you do, neither of you will ever be happy. You will be frustrated because God made you to be the man in your home and she will be frustrated because you won't lead.

There might be a third option. It might be that if you wined her and dined her to win her and have stopped doing those kinds of things because of the other things going on she is feeling abandoned. This is not necessarily an intellectual thing, but emotional. And this is something that you need to remember for the rest of you life. Continue to date your wife. Don't stop dating and flirting with and buying flowers for, and holding her hand, and kissing her, and hugging her. Never stop treating her like you did in the first place, not for a day, an hour, or a minute. Continue to make love to your wife and pour yourself out to her. You need to fulfill your wedding vows and make her the most beautiful woman in the world. Chase her around, love her, nurture her, encourage her, tell her she's the most beautiful woman around. Complement her at every turn. Enjoy her presence, cherish her ideas, listen to her expressions of how she is feeling. And commit yourself to doing this forever.

When you have children, never let them come between you and your wife. You are married to her, not to them. Always make her the number one priority in your life.

I am working on a DMin at Westminster Theological Seminary. I have finished all the coursework and tests and have only the final project to complete the degree. It is in Biblical Counseling. I don't know if you need to take a whole course on counseling to learn how to live with God and others. I would suggest reading books by Powlison, Welch, and Tripp. These guys are really good at caring for the people they minister to. In Powlison's book Seeing With New Eyes, for example, David has a chapter called X-Ray Questions. In this chapter he lists a gazillion kinds of questions a person might ask in order to find out what really makes another person tick. In Depression: A Stubborn Darkness, Ed Welch feels like he is inside the demon of depression as he writes about how to help people who are living with malady. The book is really good for how to deal with depression, but I thought it was even better for how to be empathic with people who hurt and how to care for people in a way that brings God honor. Everything I've read by Welch and Powlison have been really good. Paul Tripp's book Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands is very helpful for a basic starting point in counseling others and for thinking about what you can do to examine yourself.

Above it all, however, you need to maintain a constant walk with God. This means reading your Bible every day and doing it in such a way that the things you read come out to you over and over all day long. You'll be saying things like, "Oh, that reminds me of something I read this morning." Or things that happen that will constantly remind you that you need to be praying for whatever you are involved in. God will be next to you, with you, you will be constantly aware of his presence with you in all that you do. This is how a person is transformed from the inside out.

I hope this helps,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Loving Your Wife

Hi Wilbur,

Again, I'm very sorry for your situation. I have a few suggestions. As you know I don't really know you and what I do know at all is from what you've told me. And from what I know about other men who are in similar situations to yours.

It sounds like you are a very cerebral fellow. It sounds like you think more than feel. You work with computers, play with machines, and do a lot of theological thinking and studying. There's nothing necessarily wrong with this-- unless your wife is a woman. I don't mean anything that follows to come across in a demeaning way. I'm simply telling you that women and men are different and you are going to need to relate to her differently than you do to men. Most women do a lot more feeling than we men do. This means that if you want to relate to them you need to do it in a much more touchy feely way. You can talk about thoughts, but often you'll get along much further if you talk about feelings--and often these come out the same way, really. So instead of a fellow saying something like, "This is the way it is and that's final!" Rather he should say something like, "Let's talk about this topic for a few minutes (and then actually discuss it, being careful to listen to her point of view)" he'll get much further along in life. Even if the results are the same in the end. Also, discussing what he'feels like doing with his wife really gets a lot from the relationship. Did I mention that it is a relationship? That means you need to find out about how she is feeling as well as sharing your thoughts on the various things. But knowing this, in your case, will only help in the future.

Let me ask you this: when was the last time you apologized to God for the state of your family? Further, when was the last time you apologized to your wife for the state of your family? The Bible tells us that since we men are the heads of our families, that when things go sideways, we are responsible before God for that sideways movement. If your wife sins, she will stand before God for her sin, but so will you because her sin is your sin as the leader of your family. You can read more about this in Pastor Wilson's Federal Husband. When was the last time you confessed any sin to your wife? If you haven't confessed your sin to her, that's where you need to begin. Do not lay her sin in front of her, only yours. It may be something like, "Please forgive me for not being a better example of a godly Christian man, I've been sinful in this for a long long time and I'm begging you to forgive me." You might continue by letting her know that from now on you are going to work very diligently, by the strength of God, to live in a way that is pleasing to God and this will begin by doing a better job of loving your wife.

Here's the next step: What sorts of things did you do to get your wife to marry you in the first place? Did you wine her and dine her? Did you flirt with her, smiling coyly and sending her little notes? Did you ask her to dinner and to the museum? Did you pray for her to be filled with Joy? What kinds of things did you do back in the day?

I would suggest that after you confess your sin to your wife, as a second step, begin loving her again. Bring her a flower every day. Write her a note or letter explaining to her the things you love about her and value in her. Make it as mushy as you can. If you aren't a mushy guy, become one. Get some poetry books and fill your mind with sloppy, lovey, emotional goo and then let it ooze out on your wife. If she rebuffs you, go more slowly, but let the love of God transform you into a romantic fool. Take her on dates (planned and spontaneous), hold her hand, lean on her in lines, go shopping with her, sit and watch TV with her, or sit and read your Bible while she watches TV.

In all of this let the joy of God pervade every fiber of your being. Become a joyful Christian man in every area of your life. Do a study on the demeanor a Christian ought to have and then adopt it. Don't let the circumstances of life rob you of your joy in any way. Become like Christ with regard to joy.

Then, do all of the above with your daughter--even the dates. I take my daughter on a date every week and have since she was born. I want to make any young man who wants to marry her work really really hard to take her love and respect away from me. And I want the same for my wife. I work very hard to keep the love and the flame alive in both of them.

I'm not saying I have sexual relations with my daughter, but I do touch her a lot in affectionate ways. The three of us sit together on the couch to watch TV and it gets hot and sweaty and we love one another. Holding hands, giving foot rubs and back scratches and enjoying one another. We play games, go for walks, bike rides, go for ice cream, even wander the isles in the hardware store wondering what all these cool doo-dads are for.

If your wife and daughter don't respond to anything you do, do it for the Lord. God says love your wife, nurture her, cherish her, husband her with every fiber of your being. It doesn't say anything about doing it if she responds favorably (though that is much more fun), it just says obey God and do it joyfully. If your wife is acting this way because you have led her to be this way, your change will also affect her. If there is something else, your affection will reveal this too.

If I was right about the kind of man you are in the beginning of this letter, you need to do a lot of changing of your mind and behavior. You may need to watch some James Bond movies to learn how to be a romantic man. You might need to read some Louis L'Amour to learn how to be a manly man. You may need to read some Jane Austin to learn how women think and feel. If you do, do it. It won't hurt you and it will make you a better husband and father. One other thing that might really help, go visit a Charismatic church and let the emotions get to you. Feel Jesus. Feel his embrace. Feel his love, his joy, his peace. Don't pay attention to the goofy theology, just get the feeling--love Jesus. Get fired up for Christ. Do whatever it takes to love your wife and daughter.

I hope this helps,

Christopher & Karyn Miltenberger

A Wedding Homily
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are gathered here this afternoon to unite this man and this woman in the bonds of Godly and Christian marriage. Before we do however, I need to take a few minutes to say a word of exhortation and commissioning: first, to the bride and groom as part of their preparation for their life together. Second, to those of you who are still in the preparation stage of marriage. And also to the rest of you who need a kind reminder of the vows your took and the journey you are currently on.

When God created Adam in the garden and presented him with Eve he did it with adventure in mind. Think about some of the things that spring to mind when you hear the word adventure: Thrills, wars, battles, terrors, fear, courage, heights, depths, dangers, defeats, victories, enemies, friends, and all sorts of other things. Think about the stories you’ve read over the years that were written in imitation of the way God created the world: the Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, A Tail of Two Cities, even books like Pride and Prejudice, and on and on we could go. God created Adam for adventure and he created Eve to help on the adventure.

How do we know it was an adventure? Look at the first command God gave Adam and Eve: Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 1:28). If that isn’t an adventure I don’t know what an adventure would look like.

When God sent Adam on his adventure he gave him strict guidelines to follow: He said, you can do anything you want to achieve your goal, but don’t eat from that tree over there. Essentially God was telling Adam do what you want, only trust me as you go. Follow me, do what I do, walk in my footsteps, let me lead, let me tell you what you need to know when you need to know it, let me be God and you be my Adam—my people.

But Adam didn’t follow the directions and he was removed from the garden. He lost his relationship with God, his ability to follow, his exalted status—but he was still on the same adventure. Now it had gotten much more difficult because Sin was a new wrinkle, a huge wrinkle in the equation. Before, the difficulties were manageable, now they were terrible. Before Adam only had to wait on the Lord, now things were actually out to get him. Sin made the adventure much more dangerous.

You, Christopher and Karyn, live in the world Adam caused to be cursed. And you are also about to enter into the great adventure that Adam muffed up. But you need to know that the holy one came, died on the cross and rose from the dead, and thus has assured us that you can be victorious in your pursuit of the adventure because God is the author of this story and he loves you and he wants you to succeed with all wonder and amazement and glory and honor. But let me tell you a few things in preparation for this adventure.

First, you have been created for this adventure. This means that everything you are and everything you will ever be is made for adventure. Your souls long for it, you yearn for it, you’ll do anything to have it and to enter into it. Mankind has always sought for adventure in small ways and in large. Whether it be flying to the moon, or going to the bottom of the sea, or looking into the smallest particle of God’s good creation. Men and women are always asking questions like: What if I were to do it this way? What if I tried this? I wonder if it would work better, be stronger, fly higher, be more efficient if…God made people to be adventurous. This is because he is adventurous; we love adventure because he loves adventure. So, never squash the yearning for adventure. Always look for ways to enjoy the things that God has given you to enjoy. Be eternally grateful and learn to rejoice in every aspect of life that God sets before you as part of the adventure of the life that he has given you.

Second, know that every adventure has its down sides. Adventures are never all calm waters and flat seas. You will always have a demon, or an enemy or something that temps you to leave the God who loves you. There will always be something that will tempt you to take matters into your own hands and do it your way instead of God’s way. Avoid those temptations, cling to Christ, fight mightily with every weapon at your disposal to walk with God—at times run with God. Suffering, for the Christian is normal in this life. Study this, learn about it, embrace it and know that it is part of the adventure that God has called you to.

Finally, let me give you a few practical words before I lead you in your vows:
Right now, you are in the process of leaving your parents and cleaving to your spouse. You Christopher have left your father and mother and are taking a bride, a new wife, and creating a new family. That should, in one sense terrify you. But it should also fill you with great joy. Aren’t adventures grand?

And Karyn, did you notice that your father is giving you away? You used to be his, now you’re not and in a few minutes you will belong to this character standing here? Your father has poured his life into raising you in a way that would qualify you to stand where you are right now. That knowledge should terrify you and fill you with great joy at the same time. Aren’t adventures grand?

But get this, the two of you are no longer members of your previous families, you are a new family, a new unit, a new entity on the grand adventure commissioned to fill the earth and subdue it. Here’s where some possible problems will arise:

Christopher, where did you learn to be a husband? And Karyn where did you learn what to expect of a husband? Karyn where did you learn how to be a mother and a wife? And Christopher where did you learn about what to expect of a wife and mother? What happens when some catastrophe comes up? Can you see where a possible problem might arise when you do what your father would have done instead of doing it the way her father would have done it? Or if you do something the way your mother would have done it instead of how his mother would have done it?

Aren’t adventures grand?

The way to solve this problem is to know that it exists and to work together to both anticipate with love what will come and to understand that these differences are part of the grand adventure itself. Rejoice that she is just like her mother in this. Rejoice that he is just like his father in this. Work together to come up with your own ways of doing things, independent of what your family you left did them.

This brings me to the second (and final) application: in a minute you are going to vow that you will forsake all others in your allegiance to one another. What this means is that you are becoming a unit, a team, you two are becoming one. You need to realize that your mother and your father are no longer your authorities. Christopher your wife is your number one priority in life. The bible commands you to love your wife by laying down your life for her. There is no more important person in your life than your wife. This means that you may not put anything between you and her: no parents, no siblings, no hobbies, no children, no other women or men, no job or career move, nothing shall come between you and your wife. You must fight to the death, anything that tries to pry you apart.

And Karyn, your mother is still your mother and your father is still your father, but if there comes a time when your daddy says one thing and your husband says another, you must remember that you have forsaken all others and you must cling to your husband with every fiber of your being. And if one day your little boy falls and skins his knee and your husband treats him in a way that seems to you to be mean, you will suck it up and submit to your husband. You will not let your children come between you and your husband. Neither will you let anything in life come between the two of you.

The two of you are a team, a unit, one man: it is you against the world. You are on a glorious adventure for the glory of God in the strength of the Spirit of God, in Jesus’ Name, charging out to multiply, fill, and subdue the world.