All posts in counseling

The Crisis of God’s Call

Examining the Disruptive Call of God… Not long ago a young ministry leader facing a clear call wrote to me and asked about dealing with the painful reality when God’s call collides with everyone and everything you love and have given your life to. He is being called to leave people he dearly loves and a life he has spent years building by God’s grace. Now God is saying, “Follow me…” In my opinion, and personal experience, there are few things so difficult in life as that moment when God calls you away from good things. It’s truly a “lovest…

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10 Ways to “Force-Restart” Your Heart

Do you ever find your heart (emotions) at odds with your circumstances—in need of an “attitude adjustment?” It happens to all of us. Maybe you got some bad news, ran into a grumpy person, remembered some burden, picked up an anxiety, or just generally slumped into self-pity. Gray days and emotional lows are a part of our spiritual journey, and they are always deceptive! They always blind us to what’s really important, and what’s really good about our lives. A tweaked spirit can manifest itself in many ways—sadness, despair, discouragement, irritability, frustration, anxiety, self-pity, argumentativeness, anger, relational tension, and more….

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Passion—Life-Changing Lessons from Caleb!

Recently, in conjunction with our Sunday evening series from Joshua, I’ve been studying Caleb. Man, I love this guy! He just didn’t stop. He was a powerful picture of biblical, God-orientated passion in action. In Joshua 15, Caleb is 85 years old, and he’s waited for more than forty years to receive his promised inheritance. He’s one of the quiet “good guys!” He wasn’t front and center for most of his life, but he was passionate and faithful. He grabbed ahold of God and never let go. By the time we come to Joshua 15, Caleb is finishing strong. His…

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Best Books for Christian Parents!

Frequently someone asks what books I would recommend on youth ministry or parenting. They are generally the same books. While there are some good books on youth ministry, the most helpful to youth ministry are those on the family. Whether you are a parent, a youth pastor, or a pastor, I would urge you to read everything you can on biblical parenting and working with young hearts. Over the years, these are a few books that have been profoundly helpful to me as a parent and youth pastor. I encourage you to read and pass along the information found in…

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13 Critics You Should Listen To…

Critics are a dime a dozen, some should be heard but many are self-appointed sounding brass. The internet and anonymity empowers them. I’ve had my share is covert critics, and generally they are the same—intentionally deceptive and gifted at distortion. One thing is consistent, they NEVER contact me to get the truth. Truth would nullify their game. More than a decade ago I determined some guidelines regarding “who’s criticism I would hear.” Giving a “hearing to a critic is like giving the key to your spirit. You are not obligated to hear every random cynic. You are not under biblical…

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Like a Cardinal after a Storm

This morning I woke up to snow covered branches and rolling white drifts—the morning after a big storm. Amidst all the white, a flash of brilliant red caught my eye. A cardinal was blissfully darting back and forth from branch to branch across the yard—seeming to almost celebrate his survival. Two things struck me about this beautiful red bird… —He isn’t overwhelmed. The storm came and went. The season hasn’t surprised him. He’s enjoying this day and doing exactly what God made him to do. —He isn’t worried. There’s not a hint of anxiety. His creator is caring for his…

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Have You Ever Been Hurt at Church?

Have you been hurt somewhere in your past—at church? At the one place on the planet that was supposed to be an oasis, a safe-zone, a place of rest and restoration—were you somehow bruised or broken? While a more brutish person would say, “Get over it and get right with God”—it’s just not that simple is it? That’s the very spirit you ran from to begin with. Church is a bit of a paradox. It’s a placed filled with broken people, but it’s to be a place of love and grace. It’s a place where flesh comes to die. But…

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Is This a Book You Would Read?

I’ve never done this. Will you help me out? I’m completing a book project right now about the normal, authentic, daily Christian life. It’s a book about all the misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep us from enjoying our relationship with Jesus. It’s basically the truths that have kept me walking forward with Christ when so often I feel like a failure. The reason I’m writing it is that I have many new Christians in my world, and  I want to hand them something to help them understand that Christianity is a relationship not a religion. I’d like to get your…

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What Mary Teaches Us About God’s Will

In Luke 1, Mary’s world is disrupted by a Heavenly call. She had well-laid plans and dreams. Love, engagement, marriage, and a future. She had a good name and a gracious character. But God shattered her world with “His will.” You know, that fearful interruption to “our plans.” Why are we so scared by those terms—”God’s will?” Why does the unknown of God’s intentions bring such paralysis and self-protective instincts to the surface of our psyche? Why do God’s interruptions threaten us? And what does Mary’s response teach us about the will of God? Let’s consider it for a moment……

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Cancer (Hardship)—A Gift of God’s Grace?

Are you facing a hardship? It’s a gift. Sounds crazy, I know. But go with me for a moment. It’s been 29 months since my last cancer treatment. But the fruit (the effects of the journey) are visible nearly every day. Somehow in the middle of that battle, God said, “Your life will never be the same.” Well, now I believe Him. And now I thank Him, though at the time, I desperately wanted Him to get His hands off of my secure, predictable world. Cancer killed just about everything in me—except me. The most frightening part of the experience…

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Top Ten Thanks!

Here are the top ten things that come to mind when I think of giving thanks! 1. Jesus—Saviour, Redeemer, Counselor, Mighty God, Creator, Healer, Advocate, and Friend. The best thing in life is to know Jesus, rest in Him, trust Him, and enjoy His unconditional love and absolute acceptance. “…and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) 2. Health—While cancer could return, I’m just grateful for health in this moment. God has granted me more breaths to enjoy and serve Him in life with my family. This is…

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The “Heaven’s-Eye-View!”

Looking into a fog? Struggling to see a solution? Confused, frustrated, wanting God to “make the crooked places straight?” Facing a difficult decision? Trying to untangle a messy place in life, marriage, family, or ministry? Is it complicated? Be careful. Wait. Step back. Breathe. Pray. Pray some more. Respond—don’t react. Oh, how we hate to wait. But we can’t pray if we don’t wait. Waiting precedes praying. And praying precedes peace. And peace precedes insight. And insight precedes right decisions. Wait, pray, peace, insight, decision—in that order. Let the peace of God rule in your heart. Be still and know…

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Do You Have a Problem Saying “No?”

Do you ever real trouble saying “no”? Many people do. And those same people are often overwhelmed with commitments to others and expectations of others. Saying “no” for some people is nearly impossible. If this is you, take a moment and consider a few things: Why do you say “Yes”?  There are likely several reasons why saying “yes” is important to you. First, you probably have the gift of helps—a God given desire to truly be a help to people, to the point that it pains you if you can’t. Even good gifts require us to set limits and boundaries….

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The Power of Your Words…

Have you thought about your words lately? They are powerful! They either build or destroy. They either encourage or discourage. They either pick up or put down. Words are weighty—powerful influencers. Words stay with people—for a long, long time. James compares words to fruit and water—things that are consumed and digested. What takes seconds for you to speak will find it’s way into someone’s spiritual digestive system and either poison or nourish them for years! For the good or the bad, words don’t just impact once. They impact over and over. Things you say today, write today, post today will…

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When You Don’t Know What to Say…

A friend of ours has gone through unthinkable hardship in recent years. In fact, this hardship is so massive and so devastating that, when I see this friend, I really have no idea what to say. And so the temptation is to avoid the conversation. To say nothing. Don’t ask. Don’t call up the emotions. Don’t touch the nerve-center that is so sensitive. After all, what can you say? Is there any right or helpful thing to say? When there are no words to adequately comfort or help with such massive injustice and loss, is there anything you can say?…

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How to Survive a Tough Transition

One year ago, our family began the most difficult transitional challenge of our lives. God called us away from comfort and security, and into a journey of seeing a hurting church revitalized by His grace. We were terrified. In many ways, we still are. But a nearly a year into it, God’s grace has sustained us and taken us on a journey we would not trade for anything. God has been glorified at EBC, and He is moving in people’s hearts and lives. That makes the journey worth every step. Yet, the transition has been pretty tough at times—planting new…

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What Happens to Our Youth Group Grads?

It’s the time of year when many of your teenagers are graduating from high school and from the church youth group! What’s next for them? I mean—what’s next for them at your church? What’s next for them in ministry? Some go away to college. But many stay close to home. Is there ministry for them  now, like there was when they were “in the youth group?” In what ways will your church love, include, disciple, and invest into your post-high school students? Is there ANYTHING—any group, any class just for them? There should be! Right now! This is the people-group…

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8 Ways to Help Those Who Grieve

This week our ministry has experienced a devastating loss. Angie Larson—one of the sweetest Christian ladies I’ve ever met, and a joyful servant at Emmanuel Christian Academy, was suddenly taken home to Heaven on Friday morning. For Angie’s husband, five children, and our ministry family, this loss is indescribably painful. And the grieving process has really only just begun. There’s a very long road ahead. It’s hard to know what to do in times like this. There are no good answers. Emotions are overwhelming. And yet, more than ever, times like this call for care, shepherding, and lots of prayer….

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Five “Ministries” That Kill Real Ministry

(I use the word “ministry” in this post tongue in cheek.) It seems that some leaders and Christians have appointed themselves to unhealthy “ministries.” These are “ministries” that stifle the gospel, oppose growth in grace, quench the moving of the Holy Spirit, and kill the body life of a healthy local church. These are “blinding” qualities—those born in arrogance that cause me to be blind to my own weaknesses and lifted up as the judge of others. As a spiritual leader or Christian—here are five “ministries” I desperately want to avoid: The Ministry of Anxiety—Causing those around you to live…

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When You’re Spiritually Numb…

Have you ever been completely bewildered? Emotionally, spiritually, or relationally numb? Wondering where you are in life, how you got there, where God went, and what to do next? Are you there now? You’re not alone. But you are vulnerable. Life’s biggest mistakes are often made right where you are right now. SO… before you do the wrong thing, stop, take a breath and consider these thoughts: 1. God has not forgotten you. Wonder where He is? Think you ran far from Him? He’s right there and He knows exactly where you are. Turn to Him and wait upon Him….

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