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This site is edited by John Woodward M.Div., D.Min, who serves as Director of Counseling and Training at Grace Fellowship International in Pigeon Forge, TN

The J Curve

World Magazine’s Dec 7, 2019 issue awards J-Curve: Dying and Rising With Jesus in Everyday Life, by Paul Miller “ACCESIBLE THEOLOGY BOOK OF THE YEAR.”

Marvin Olasky summarizes,

 

Paul Miller shows how the Bible teaches a pattern of dying and rising in the form of a J: We need to go down to come up. His message challenges the part of American evangelicalism that values winning and defines success much as the broader culture does, with adulation of celebrities and equation of suffering with failure. Miller shows through many examples that being born again often means the death of some previous ambitions, but the J-Curve is not a one-time experience: Miller calls the J-Curve “the spine of sanctification” and “dying and rising with Christ the normal Christian life.”

Miller is the son of seminary professor, Jack Miller who piloted The Sonship Course. That notebook and audio series was inspired by his grace awakeing through meditating on the Epistle to the Galatians, such as:

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (Gal. 4:4-7)

The Sonship Course contains a helpful emphasis on grace, sanctification by faith and the believers identity in Christ. All of these themes are essential to revitalization.

World Magazine’s interview with Paul Miller is here: “Curving Heavenward.”

Another Pastor Finds Relief

Here is part of the spiritual journey testimony of Mark McKeehan who serves as Senior pastor of Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church in Knoxville, TN


My journey to the cross of total surrender was hard; in May of 2003, I was in Sherman, Texas, for Passion One-Day, which is a Christian conference designed for College students… That day as I finished praying, I could hear the song from Chris Tomlin called “Enough.” Part of the lyrics say, “All of you, is more than enough for all of me.” I realized Jesus is enough! He is enough when times are good and when times are not. That day, I began to understand and learn about total surrender. It was also the time I began to live open-handed. If I own nothing, then nothing can be taken from me!

I moved back to Knoxville, TN in April of 2006. For three years I was the Student Pastor at Chilhowee Hills Baptist Church. After three years, I was asked to transition to Lead Pastor. During the transition from student pastor to lead pastor I became close with a man named Blaine Anderson. Blaine quickly became a spiritual father to me, and he began using a term I had never heard before. The term was “spiritual world.” Blaine began to disciple me in the works of Holy Spirit and my spiritual eyes and ears were awakened even more. Finally, I had found someone who could explain to me what I wanted to learn so many years earlier. I began to meet with Blaine to talk about Holy Spirit and what he called the Spirit World. For the first time in my life, Holy Spirit became less of a mystery and I began to interact with Him as a person, as God.

Yet, about five years ago I was on the edge of burnout. The ministry at the church wasn’t bad, but the finances, people, ministry, staff and all the counseling sessions became too much for me. I felt like I was drowning with no lifeline. I wanted to quit, but I knew that would not honor nor glorify the name of Jesus. My identity was focused in temporal and wrong things. I would come in on Mondays and if our offering was good then I thought I was a good pastor. However, if the offerings were bad then I was a bad pastor. I also began to evaluate myself through the way I preached. If people responded, I thought I was doing well but if they didn’t then I thought I was failing. My identity was wrong, so therefore I was “feeling” things and thinking they were true when in fact they were just “feelings.”

I asked the deacons first, then the church, if I could take a one-month sabbatical. During my sabbatical I was introduced to GFI. I had heard of them before, but honestly, I never took the time to really listen. Now, feeling I was at the bottom, I started to listen to [the Church’s Discipleship Counselor] Hans Haun who had tried so many times before to reach out to me… After my sabbatical, I realized I needed boundaries or what I call “guardrails” in my life. One of those guardrails was to meet regularly with Hans.

At our first meeting, my life was changed! I sat in my office as I watched Hans draw out the wheel and line diagrams. As he explained the “Exchanged Life” to me I sat there thinking, “This is why I do what I do. This is why I react in emotion and I feel like a failure!” My identity is wrong, and self is leading my life. That day I began praying the “selfers” prayer of total surrender. I began to ponder Dr. Solomon’s statement, “We learn to be in experience who we already are in position.” I am seated with Christ in heavenly places. My identity is no longer in offerings or sermons. In Christ, I am chosen, I am called, I am beloved, and I am complete.

Now, I reckon myself dead unto sin and alive unto God (Romans 6). I understand that one of my greatest enemies is my flesh and daily I need to reckon that, in Christ, my flesh has been crucified with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). My identity isn’t in what I do, what I fail at, or even how I feel. My identity isn’t in what others think or say about me; good or bad. My identity is in Christ and I am who He says I am. He called and chose me before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4), which means He chose me before I could do anything to earn it or to do anything that would disqualify me from receiving it. He loves me not because of who I am, but because of who He is! I am complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10) and this means I lack nothing. I am deficient in nothing. I can no longer say, “If I had more grace or mercy then I would be a better pastor.” I have all of the grace and mercy I need because I have Holy Spirit in me. The power that has raised the dead, (Romans 8), is in me. Christ in me is the key that changes everything. So, Galatians 2:20 isn’t just a verse to memorize; it is my life. I died, I was buried, but I was also raised to walk in newness of life! My goal is to live surrendered to Jesus, walking with and being led by Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16). As I abide in Christ, then He can work through me and the works He does are perfect, just and good!…

“The Secret to the Christian Life”

In September David Platt, lead pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. preached two messages on “The Secret to the Christian Life.”

Some Christian teachers discourage talk of such a “secret”, but this is a biblical concept. In the New Testament, “mysterion” occurs 27 times, meaning “hidden thing, secret, mystery…”  It occurs twice in Colossians 1:25-27: “I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach… (emphasis added).

Grasping the personal significance of this mystery is not automatic; that is why the apostle prayed for the Ephesian believers to be illumined (Eph. 1:17,18).

David Platt is the founder and president of Radical, and author of books such as Radical, Radical Together, Follow MeCounter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.

The Secret to the Christian Life…Continued from Radical on Vimeo.

The Digital Revolution: What Leaders Must Know

Pure Flix Alliance alert:
“The culture is changing rapidly – all you need to do is turn on the television during ‘family hour’ to see the major shift. Christians are called to be the salt and light of this ever-darkening world and how we respond to the shifts in culture – both in and through our family/community – will be our legacy.

“The Digital Revolution:What Leaders Must Know eBook is designed to equip the pastor, ministry leader and leaders of Christian-led organizations with solid insights on the media landscape. Just one asset is the chronology of the important events and significant studies that provide the backdrop to where we are today and how we can move forward with impact.”

Download a copy here: https://pureflixalliance.com/resources-alliances-2019/

 

Reducing Pastoral Counseling Risks

One of the “wet blankets” that may hinder Pastoral Counseling and lay church-based Discipleship Counseling 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 Pastoral 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/dicipleship 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).

Wealth, Walk and Warfare

The Wealth, Walk and Warfare of the Christian by R. Paxson is a classic devotional exposition of the Epistle to the Ephesians. Here is an excerpt:


The Saint in Christ

2:1. ” You [were] dead. ” 1:20. ” Christ [was] dead.”

“You [were] dead.” – How can a dead man be made a live? “Christ [was] dead.” What an amazing answer! Christ, the source of all life, even life itself, dead! This is the almost unthinkable thing that grace has done. It has put Christ, the sinless One, in the sinner’s place. “The wages of sin is death”; “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” [Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4,20]. The penalty must be paid, and there was no other way to do it. He bore the sinner’s sins by taking the sinner’s place.

2:5. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ.”

Believing upon Christ as his Saviour and receiving Him into his heart, the sinner becomes the possessor of eternal life and is made one with Christ. Shall a live man remain in a grave?

1:20. “Christ raised from the dead.”

2:6. “And hath raised us up together with him.”

The grave could not hold Him that was alive. Neither can it hold the quickened sinner. The grave of sin is no place for a saint. An evangelist said in a meeting, “We shall never be anything but sinners saved by grace, with one foot in sin and one foot in grace.” Never, oh! never, according to Ephesians. If 2: 1-10 teaches anything, it is the exact opposite of such a statement. True, the sinner is saved by grace, and by grace alone, and this fact should ever be kept fresh in his memory, that he may forever praise God for His wondrous goodness. But it is equally true that through God’s grace the believer in Christ has left forever the old position in sin, and has come into a totally new position in Christ. Indeed the sinner has become a saint. God lifted him altogether out of that awful pit of sin and placed both feet on the solid rock “in Christ” wherein he is to walk in the future, as in times past he walked “in sin.” How could a saint walk worthily (4:1) with one foot in sin and one foot in grace? It is just such teaching and such practice that excuses the and inconsistent walk of many a Christian. Being raised together with Christ, the saint is now to walk in newness of life. To do this Christ must become the Life of his life.

But God’s grace is not yet exhausted, nor His redemptive plan completed. Wherever Christ is the Christian must be, for he is now bound together with Christ for all time and eternity. Christ and the Christian are eternally one. The earth could not hold the risen Christ any more than the grave could retain the dead Christ, for His redemptive work demands something more.

1:20. “He set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”

2:6. “He made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

Dare we believe this glorious truth that He who went down to the very deepest depths of sin for us now carries us up to the very highest heights of glory with Him? That is hardly the way to put the question. Dare we not believe it? God has written both of these truths in His Word and, if we do not believe the latter, we do not really believe the former. God has said it, and to disbelieve is to make God a liar.

“Made us sit together.” – Seated; how restful and relaxed it sounds! Yet how many of us are most of the time anything but that, but rather buzzing around in a fretful, feverish fashion which is far more earthly than heavenly in the impression it makes upon the world about us.

” In the heavenlies in Christ.” – Yes, at home in the heavenlies, where our citizenship really is (Phil. 3:20). Not visiting this glorious place from time to time as trial, sorrow and conflict drive us to a higher plane, but settling down in the heavenlies in possessive and permanent occupancy as our abiding-place…

Download the exposition of Ephesians 2:1-10 here (PDF): 825_The_Creation_of_a_Christian