Pastor Chad's Itinarary

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

"Burn Out! Depression! Mental Illness! (pt.1)"

This article is from Pastor James Bell. Pastor Bell has served SouthSide Baptist church in Gallatin, TN for 38 years. I found this article a great blessing to me, especially in my pursuit in becoming a biblical counselor for the glory of God. I pray it would help you better understand the issue with mental illness and how the gospel is able to cure and give hope to the hopeless.

BURN OUT! Depression! Mental Illness! part 1
A growing number of evangelical pastors and Christian leaders are in agreement that depression and suicide are usually the result of mental illness and have little or no connection to faith, beliefs, personal choices, or behavior.
In this article, we purposely leave out several names and locations because we want to search for truth apart from personalities and apart from specific people, families, and churches who have recently been in the midst of deep emotional trauma. Please measure all the quotes and comments made by the plumb line of the Word of God!

I. Pastors/Church Leaders: Mental Illness is the root cause of depression/suicide …

1. “Depression is not a moral flaw, a character weakness, a lapse in faith, or an excuse. It is an illness...”
2. "____________, pastor of ________________ Baptist Church in ____________, was the exception. He told his congregation he was in treatment several months before his suicide. ____________, worship pastor at the church, said he only now understands depression is a mental illness.”
3. A Counselor of pastors reports, “I was rock-bottom, felt that I couldn't take it anymore, and had contemplated taking my life on several occasions…
I was suffering from ‘depression,’ a common form of mental illness… Only absolute perfect spirituality – without a single lapse – could ever make one immune to an emotional break-down… It's not a sin to be emotionally ill.”
4. “During ____________'s tenure at __________Church, [it] became one of the fastest-growing churches in ______________. However, he resigned as pastor…after admitting to an affair. __________, his wife…, filed a domestic-violence petition against___________ shortly after the admission, describing him as "unstable, erratic and suicidal." [He recently committed suicide.]
5. A different pastor who committed suicide: “A member of the church, described his pastor as a very caring, upbeat guy that cared for people, especially with the kids. He was a good man who inspired… and showed no signs of trouble financially or otherwise.
However, his family revealed that____________ suffered from manic depression and was on medication. [A friend confirmed that]Pastor____________ had struggled with manic depression and had emotional issues, and had sought treatment.”
*** Dr. Richard Land, (a respected, conservative Southern Baptist), in an interview with The Christian Post, said of a pastor who committed suicide:
"My friend was sick. He was the most kind, loving, humble, most genuine, loyal person I've ever met in my life and he was sick. He had a sickness and that's it. He had a sickness just like somebody who had cancer and it was a sickness that was beyond his control," he said. "This is a diagnosable, physiological, neurological condition. It is not an emotional state. It is a physical mental illness."

*** Ed Stetzer, (another respected, conservative Southern Baptist), in a special article for CNN addressed the question of Mental illness and gave 4 bullet points of action for churches: “Mental illness is incredibly destructive… So, what can we do as people of faith to address issues of mental illness
1. Churches need to stop hiding mental illness. 
2. The congregation should be a safe place for those who struggle.
3. We should not be afraid of medicine. … Counseling will naturally be a part of treatment. But if we are not afraid to put a cast on a broken bone, then why are we ashamed of a balanced plan to treat mental illness that might includemedication to stabilize possible chemical imbalances?
Christians get cancer, and they deal with mental illness. We’ve long seen the value in the medical treatment of cancer. It’s time for Christians to affirm the value of medical treatment for mental illness as well.
4. We need to end the shame.
Mental illness has nothing to do with you or your family’s beliefs…”

*** ALARMING statistics about pastors:  “Members of
the clergy now suffer from obesity,
hypertension, and depression at rates higher than most
Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants
has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen...”
40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations.
45% of pastors’ wives say the greatest danger to them and their family is physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual burnout.
45% of pastors say that they’ve experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry.
75% report severe stress causing anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation.
1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to
burnout, conflict, or moral failure.

RESPONSE: Sadly, pastors are in the forefront of those who are failing to win the battle against depression.
[Just so you will know— this article is not written from a painless ‘ivory tower!’ I had many a secret but serious battle with depression and suicide in teen years; and for the last 45 years as a full time pastor I have had my own battles and tendencies— not made easier in seasons when the Church environment was, shall we just say, less than loving!] 
REALITY: The evidence is strong— many pastors and denominational leaders are in agreement that, generally, emotional/mental ‘break-downs’ are the result of the ‘sickness’ of mental illness;
AND THAT generally such ‘sick’ folks are no more responsible for these SICKNESSES than they would be for ‘catching’ the flu;
AND THAT such sick ones should avail themselves to psychological counseling and quite possibly to prescription drugs;
AND THAT such sick ones need an affirming, loving Church environment where their BEHAVIOR will not be examined for any possible sin or belief connections.
[It is worthy of note that several of the pastors who have committed suicide in the last few years were going to counseling and were taking prescription drugs.]
SAD REALITY: In all that I read from the pastors and church leaders I found NO GOSPEL.
I ALSO FOUND that anyone who does not ‘buy’ the teaching that depression is fundamentally only a ‘sickness’ in the same way as FLU is a sickness— such ones are basically CONSIDERED to be ignorant of the ‘truth’ of modern science and they are UNLOVING.
HOWEVER, as I continued to research I also discovered that there are growing numbers of Psychiatrists who do not agree with the pastors/church leaders!

II. Disorders are not a “Disease”

Yes, I know that there are many psychiatrists who would agree with the pastors. Indeed, such ones have successfully sold their unproven, non-scientific theories to the pastors and the multitudes!
As a result, on any given Sunday, from the pulpit to the back pew— many are relying on prescription drugs to handle life. Nevertheless, there is a growing voice from psychiatrists who are deeply alarmed and they are ‘blowing the whistle!’

Psychiatrists/Physicians admit—
Disorders are not a “Disease!” 

1. “No behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That’s not what diseases are. Diseases are malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain. Typhoid fever is a disease. Spring fever is not a disease; it is a figure of speech, a metaphoric disease. All mental diseases are metaphoric diseases, misrepresented as real diseases and mistaken for real diseases.”  “There is no blood or other biological test to ascertain the presence or absence of a mental illness, as there is for most bodily diseases. If such a test were developed … then the condition would cease to be a mental illness and would be classified, instead, as a symptom of a bodily disease.” — Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, New York University Medical School, Syracuse
2. “There are no objective tests in psychiatry- no X-ray, laboratory, or exam finding that says definitively that someone does or does not have a mental disorder.” “there is no definition of a mental disorder.” “It’s bull—. I mean, you just can’t define it.” — Allen Frances, Psychiatrist and former DSM-IV Task Force Chairman
3. “Virtually anyone at any given time can meet the criteria for bipolar disorder or ADHD. Anyone. And the problem is everyone diagnosed with even one of these ‘illnesses’ triggers the pill dispenser.” — Dr. Stefan Kruszewski, Psychiatrist
4. “Despite more than two hundred years of intensive research, no commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders have proven to be either genetic or biological in origin, including schizophrenia, major depression, manic-depressive disorder, the various anxiety disorders, and childhood disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity. At present there are no known biochemical imbalances in the brain of typical psychiatric patients— until they are given psychiatric drugs.” — Peter Breggin, Psychiatrist
5. While “there has been no shortage of alleged biochemical explanations for psychiatric conditions… not one has been proven. Quite the contrary. In every instance where such an imbalance was thought to have been found, it was later proven false.” “No claim for a gene for a psychiatric condition has stood the test of time, in spite of popular misinformation.” — Dr. Joseph Glenmullen, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist
6. “We do not have an independent, valid test for ADHD, and there are no data to indicate ADHD is due to a brain malfunction.” — Final statement of the panel from the National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on ADHD
7. “The way things get into the DSM is not based on blood test or brain scan or physical findings. It’s based on descriptions of behavior. And that’s what the whole psychiatry system is.” — Dr Colin Ross, Psychiatrist
8. “Psychiatry has never been driven by science. They have no biological or genetic basis for these illnesses and the National Institutes of Mental Health are totally committed to the pharmacological line. … There is a great deal of scientific evidence that stimulants cause brain damage with long-term use, yet there is no evidence that these mental illnesses, such as ADHD, exist.”  “In reality, psychiatric diagnosing is a kind of spiritual profiling that can destroy lives and frequently does.” — Peter Breggin, Psychiatrist
9. “There’s no biological imbalance. When people come to me and they say, ‘I have a biochemical imbalance,’ I say, ‘Show me your lab tests.’ There are no lab tests. So what’s the biochemical imbalance?” — Dr. Ron Leifer, Psychiatrist
10. “In short, the whole business of creating psychiatric categories of ‘disease,’ formalizing them with consensus, and subsequently ascribing diagnostic codes to them, which in turn leads to their use for insurance billing, is nothing but an extended racket furnishing psychiatry a pseudo-scientific aura. The perpetrators are, of course, feeding at the public trough.”— Dr. Thomas Dorman, internist and member of the Royal College of Physicians of the UK
 11. “No biochemical, neurological, or genetic markers have been found for Attention Deficit Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, anxiety, compulsive alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, gambling or any other so-called mental illness, disease, or disorder.” — Bruce Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Commonsense Rebellion
12. “Unlike medical diagnoses that convey a probable cause, appropriate treatment and likely prognosis, the disorders listed in DSM-IV [and ICD-10] are terms arrived at through peer consensus.— Tana Dineen Ph.D., psychologist
13. “Psychiatry’s claim that mental illnesses are brain diseases is “a claim supposedly based on recent discoveries in neuroscience, made possible by [brain]imaging techniques for diagnosis and pharmacological agents for treatment. This is not true.” —Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry, New York University Medical School,
The above sampling of quotes from psychiatrists are quite revealing— especially in the light of the dogmatic statements from highly respected preachers:
*** Dr. Land: "This [depression/suicide] is a diagnosable, physiological, neurological condition. It is not an emotional state. It is a physical mental illness."—
*** Dr. Stetzer: “… if we are not afraid to put a cast on a broken bone, then why are we ashamed of a balanced plan to treat mental illness that might include medication to stabilize possible chemical imbalances? Christians get cancer, and they deal with mental illness. We’ve long seen the value in the medical treatment of cancer. It’s time for Christians to affirm the value of medical treatment for mental illness as well… Mental illness has nothing to do with you or your family’s beliefs…”
RESPONSE: Yes, multitudes have already ‘bought’ the counsel set forth by pastors and other Christian leaders.
These pastors and Christian leaders are promoting mere psychological theories- not science!
Most tragic of all is that NOT ONE OF THEM zeroed in on
the power of the gospel of Christ to give spiritual backbone to
saints in the midst of deep trials. They voted for an approach
laced with mind changing, life altering drugs which create more
slaves, zombies, and suicides than they do positive deliverance.

QUESTION: Is there no longer any place for a Biblical faith? Is there no longer a place for the GOSPEL of God which EMPOWERS saints to win over even the deadliest of mental/emotional/spiritual sins and demons; and/or over the mysterious trials of life?

Charles H. Spurgeon told his students, "Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy." Yes, he rightly understood that depression is not necessarily traceable to personal sin. He wrote, "Spiritual darkness of any sort is to be avoided, and not desired."  
But he also wrote, "I note that some whom I greatly love and esteem, who are, in my judgment, among the very choicest of God’s people, nevertheless, travel most of the way to heaven by night."
In Lectures to my Students, Spurgeon set forth reasons believers fall into discouragement or sadness and he offered Biblically based hope for those so overtaken.
[COMMENT: INDEED, in a fallen world, there are many ‘SPIRITUAL NIGHTS!’ 
Job had a few!! And we know that they were not rooted in any sin in his life.However, to win those battles he needed communion with God and to be teachable in the presence of God. He did not need humanistic Christian or secular counseling and/or drugs.
Be it Job, or Elijah, or Jonah, or Jeremiah— the solution to depression was found in FELLOWSHIP with and in humility before God.
Cain, who was angry and depressed— his problem WAS A SIN problem. He rejected repentance and things got worse! (Gen. 4:5-7) The Prodigal son had a sin problem. He repented, and things got exceedingly better, to put it mildly, Luke 15:11-24.]
Being well taught in the Word and ways of God, Spurgeon was clear that SUFFERING is a normal part of life in a fallen world:
"Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promisedtribulation in this world." Moreover, Spurgeon knew that one of the benefits of our various sufferings is that we "may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people."
As we know, God moved the Apostle Paul’s pen to tell us that God "comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."(2 Corinthians 1:4)
THEREFORE, LET US ONE AND ALL: 1. Go to God. 2. Receive comfort. 3. Become a comforter!
Spurgeon had to deal with very severe physical pain from gout. It is known that he might be WEEKS AT A TIME in bed agonizing with excruciating pain.
On one such occasion he wrote the church family he served, "I have been brought very low… My flesh has been tortured with pain and my spirit has beenprostrate with depression. . . With some difficulty I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope."
NOTICE: His testimony is encouraging and faith building. He had severe physical sufferings and he had ‘dark nights of the soul’ or depression/burnout. IN THE MIDST of the darkness and groaning he looked to the LORD and PRAISED HIM, regardless.
Thus, he was NEVER CONSUMED or destroyed by the pain, the depression, or the trials. 
Moreover, he did not allow these ‘circumstances and situations’ to become EXCUSES— not for himself nor for his students. To the students he said,
"These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness," "They may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish."
[COMMENT: In recent times as I looked back upon the difficult, painful circumstances of my youth — to which my responses in those days flung me into deep dungeons of depression, rage, and more — those times ultimately proved to be the best training for God’s calling upon my life. This reality astounds me.
DON’T MISS this awesome word and poem found on Joni Eareckson Tada’s website:
LET US NOT UNDER ESTIMATE PRACTICAL HELPS! IN SPURGEON’S CASE, he needed to learn to give his physical body rest.
WEEKLY: He often  preached ten times a week, answered a multitude of letters, taught in the pastor training school, administered an orphanage, did personal counseling, wrote for publications, entertained guests at his home, shepherded a church plus his own family; and ministered to his bedridden wife!! Thankfully, the church finally insisted on him taking vacations.
Thus, Spurgeon wisely taught his students,
"The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. . . Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength."
On October 19, 1856, when Spurgeon was only 22 years old, he was preaching for the first time in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall in London. Literally thousands had gathered. Suddenly FIRE broke out. Seven people were killed and many injured. Spurgeon wrote,
"I was pressed beyond measure and out of bounds with an enormous weight of misery. The tumult, the panic, the deaths were day and night before me, and made life a burden."
AGAIN, BAD THINGS happen in a fallen world. The crushing blows can be beyond words. As to Spurgeon, because he was a man in Christ who would always turn to Christ for refuge, he was able to give testimony of HOPE:
"The fact that Jesus is still great, let his servants suffer as they may,piloted me back to calm reason and peace. Should so terrible a calamity overtake any of my brethren, let them both patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God."
"The lesson from wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble."
YES, the circumstances of life can be as varied as the seasons of a year. Over them or other people we generally have no control.
We have various temperaments/personalities, as well as various physical ailments and/or limitations; along with emotional scars.
We have consequences from our own failings.
And sometimes, along come ‘mysteries’… situations and stuff which we do not understand.
Then there is the significant issue of the maturity of our faith.
And what of the ‘trying of our faith’ which is much more precious than the ‘trying’ of gold!!?
Spurgeon said,
“Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide.
Bottom line: In responding to mysteries, failures, trials, troubles, tribulations, and dark nights of the soul— many are ready to excuse all manner of behaviors and point us to drugs.
Their message is popular and pleases the masses— but it leaves you without hope and deliverance.
I am thankful for C. H. Spurgeon modeling the freeing power of the GOSPEL. Let us follow, as he followed the LORD!  (Article, TO BE CONTINUED)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"The Tale of Two Deceivers"

We have all been victims of deception, whether it be from someone lying, stealing, or just being deceitful to us. Nonetheless, these types of actions can often leave us bitter and angry at that person or persons if it's not repented of and left with God (Heb.10:30). This is what we read in Genesis 30-31-- a tale of two deceivers.

Jacob's desire was to marry Rachel.  Instead, he was tricked into having children with Leah. As you read through chapter 30-31, Jacob ends up with 12 sons by 4 different women (Bilhah, Zilpah, Leah, and Rachel). Being the "deceiver," Jacob bargained with Laban to leave his presence only to shepherd his flock, allowing him to choose the livestock for himself. Thus, Jacob ended up with the best of Laban's flock and his two daughters. Genesis 31:20 says, "And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee."

Laban was just as much a deceiver or liar as Jacob was by making him serve him 20 years rather then 7 years for his daughter. Laban becomes drastically upset after Jacob flees and takes his daughters, livestock, and the household gods. Although Jacob was unaware of the household gods being stolen, it was Rachel who had stolen them. Not only were Jacob and Laban great deceivers, but even Rachel had shown her heart by being deceitful and a thief as well. 

However, in Genesis 32:36-42, Laban comes searching for his household gods and livestock. Jacob ends up having a heated discussion with Laban over the matter. Jacob is upset (Gen.31:36) by Laban imposing himself upon Jacob and his family, searching for his stolen gods that Jacob knew nothing about. Jacob pleas before Laban and reminds him he had faithfully served him, yet he was treated with disrespect and contempt.

After pleading his case before Laban, Jacob shares some insight we do not see from Laban or any other character in this narrative. Jacob tells Laban, "If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Issac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night."

In other words, God took a desperate situation (by man's eyes) filled with people's personal sin and brought about good for Jacob and glory to Himself. By the way, the Scripture is filled with narratives just like this one. Examples we see throughout Scriptures include Genesis 22 (Abraham and Issac), Genesis 50 (Joseph and his brothers), and Exodus 12 (Moses and children of Israel). But, most notably is the story of Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Sinful man looked at the situation as one of desperation and hopelessness for this man who claimed to be God in the flesh, lived a perfect life, and unable to save Himself. Yet, on the third day, He rose from the tomb and conquered death, hell, and the grave, making satisfaction for all those who would believe upon Him.

What we can glean from Genesis 30-31 is: no matter how desperate you think your situation is; no matter who has tricked, deceived, or wronged you, God knows. He sees your affliction, your hurt, and disgust.  Flee to Him.  Seek Him, and He will comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"A Prayerful Plea to Know and Do God's Will"

This was my prayer for myself and the body of Christ at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church this morning:

Read and meditate on Colossians 1:9-14. 

“A Prayer for Pleasing God and Obeying God’s Will”
Just some devotional thoughts from this moorings' meditation. I pray this would be a blessing to you this morning.

The outcome for the child of God who seeks to know and do the will of God in their life. As you seek the will of the Lord through His Word "knowledge and obedience" (v.9) you will produce fruit. So, what are you producing in your life?

1) You will bear fruit in every good work; increasing in good deeds for other people (v.10)
2) You will be increasing the knowledge of God (v.9
3) You will be strengthened with all power; you will get stronger in endurance (circumstances) and patient (with difficult people) with joy. I don’t run from difficult people, rather we love them more with joy. (v.11)
4) You will give thanks to the Father for the glorious gospel, which saved you and caused you to now seek His will and obey His Word. Therefore,  you will increase in being thankful for the gospel(v.12).

How’s it going? Are bearing fruit in serving others?
How’s it going? Are you learning more of Him?
How’s it going? Are you being strengthened by enduring difficult circumstances? Are you bearing in patience with joy?
How’s it going? Are you increasing in your thankfulness to the Lord for the gospel of Christ?

Monday, January 6, 2014

"Spiritual Disciplines for 2014"

    The life of a Christian is one of discipline; therefore, the intake of God's Word is one of the most important disciplines a believer can enjoy. Reading the Bible for God's people is more important for their soul than their daily intake of nutrition for their physical bodies.  This year, Pleasant Hill Baptist Church will read through God's Word together again systematically. For the last three years, we have worked through Robert Murray McCheyne's reading plan, which has been a great blessing. This year, however, we will use Crossway's chronological reading plan. This plan will carry God's people through the Bible chronologically and lay it out in the order the events took place. 
    Another spiritual discipline which PHBC will undertake is the memorization of God's Word. Psalm 119:11 reminds us of the importance of knowing God's Word when the Psalmist says, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." Over the last couple of months, PHBC has had a "PowerVerse" of the month, which the church family would work on memorizing throughout the month. This year, PHBC will take the challenge to memorize one of the most encouraging, Christ-exalting, God-centered chapters throughout the New Testament. By God's grace, we will work on memorizing Romans chapter eight (the whole chapter) for the year of 2014.
     But, why do Christians practice such disciplines? 
1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, "Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train (discipline) yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."
     So, what are your spiritual discipline plans for 2014? Why don't you join PHBC and take the journey with us as we discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness? 

Friday, January 3, 2014

" A Parents Guide in Shepherding Your Child's Heart

     This morning I was counseled by a dear brother on shepherding a child's heart. So often in evangelical Christianity, parents seek to force their children to be obedient through "behaviorism"  (behavior modification), rather than  a "heart change." As long as our children say what we want them to say like, "yes maam or no, sir" we are happy they are being obedient and respectful, while all the while their hearts have not been changed toward God nor their sin.
     I wanted to share an article by Margy Tripp entitled "What If It's Too Late." The article deals with some basic and very practical ways to shepherd your child's heart, even if you think its too late. Let me just say, it is never too late. Also, I want to encourage you as parents to take the time to shepherd your children's heart regardless of their age or where they are at in life. Remember to be gospel centered, grace saturated, and long-suffering, as God in Christ has been with you and I.

Here is the article...

What If It’s Too Late?
By Margy Tripp

Many parents read or hear Shepherding a Child’s Heart and grow discouraged. “It’s too late to shepherd my children!  We lost control years ago!”  They realize that the early opportunities to shepherd respect for authority and character have been lost to the convenient, worldly, and manipulative methods of behaviorism. For some the circumstances of life have interfered with the nurturing process – i.e. jobs, broken marriages, divorce.   The fruit is painful!  Teenagers raised with behaviorism, especially when it is mixed with some form of Christian values, are often sullen, bitter, and rebellious OR arrogant and legalistic.

If either of these descriptions is true in your home, take heart.  All is not lost!  Remember, it is always God’s work of grace that brings our children to repentance and faith, not our works or our children’s works (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  Our skill in parenting is not the deciding factor in our children’s response to God.  God’s call to parents all along the path of childrearing is to keep the ground of the heart “plowed up” with God’s truth (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 145:4ff).  Beyond that, it is the work of God’s Spirit.

Often, out of ignorance of the Scriptures or poor training in God’s way, parents forge ahead with the Bible in one hand and the parenting methods of their parents or the “experts” in the other hand.  They earnestly desire to “train up a child in the way he should go…”, but are not well equipped to do it God’s way. That was our experience.  Perhaps this has been your experience as well.  You find yourself now, hearing the call to shepherd your children with the nurture and admonition of the Scripture, and you wonder why you didn’t hear this years ago.  Wherever you are now, God calls you to take hold of the plow.  When and where you heard biblical truth about childrearing must be left to God’s sovereign purposes.  Start now to shepherd your child’s heart!  But how can we hope to “plow up” hearts that have already become hard?

Children allow resentment and bitterness to grow up in a heart that has been devastated by hurt and the painful circumstances of life in a fallen world.  These are hearts that have not been plowed up be God’s truth in God’s way.  This process of plowing up the hard hearts of children and teens is “disarming rebellion”.  Let me summarize the process, which will be expanded on in later issues.

First, we must understand the resistance.  Children become “armed against” ungodly methods of constraining and controlling behavior.  This is particularly evident where Christian faith and behaviorism have been mixed together, wittingly or unwittingly, to keep control.  The truth is, Christian faith and behaviorism don’t mix!  Over years of manipulation, whether it is positive (rewards and incentives) or negative (everything from authoritarian rule to carefully executed punishments or anger and rage), children come to feel justified in their resistance and rebellion (Proverbs 18:19).  Parents perceive the resistance as resistance to God and Christian faith.  However, what they observe may be resistance to unholy methods of discipline and correction.   Because parents are God’s tangible representatives, children increasingly attribute to God the ungracious and manipulative treatment experienced at the hands of parents.  Therefore, they resist God’s authority and resist our attempts to discipline and direct as agents of this God.  It is important for us to identify the source of resistance.

Second, determine to make allies of your children rather than adversaries.  The adversarial relationship that fills the void of meaningful relationship must be broken.  The parent must initiate this.  Talk to them, not once, but often.  Acknowledge your mistake in mixing God’s direction for parenting with the methods of the world – behaviorism.  Identify the means of behaviorism you have used and why they are wrong.  Ask forgiveness for anger, legalism, manipulation, disapproval, (of the emotional sort), threats and guilt trips.  Give your children a biblical picture of shepherding.  Pray with them.  Show them that you want to shepherd them in the same way Christ shepherded you—He looked at the world through your eyes.  He came along side you to comfort and encourage you, even in your sin.  He promises to be with you and to help you walk in His ways.

Third, give your children time to “digest” all you have said and invite them to respectfully ask questions, to tell you ways your previous methods have hurt and confused them.  Don’t defend your past practices; rather help to facilitate your child in expressing the issues that have made them feel justified in their rebellion.  Gently, without accusation or inflammatory language, instruct them to a correct understanding of your parenting where their assessment of your discipline is unfair.  Assure your children of your desire and determination, by God’s grace to learn new ways of bringing discipline and correction to them that will not foster strife and division.  Be quick to genuinely seek forgiveness when you fall into old patterns.

Fourth, tell your children clearly what you expect of them and discuss those expectations with them in ways that they can accept, even if they don’t agree.  This has mostly to do with the way expectations are presented – not as a new set of rules or hoops to jump through – but as standards which we (parents) insist on for your (children’s ) good and God’s glory.  Tell your children what they may expect from you – everything from your response to their behavior to the consequences they may bring on themselves (sowing and reaping) as a result of their choices.

Fifth, PRAY!  While we are not assured that our confessions and honest efforts to reestablish relationship will produce change, we do have the testimony of David in Psalm 51:10-17.  “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.  Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
 There is something in the humility of confessing our sins that loosens our tongues and gives us the right to speak.  Our children become armed against our ungodly methods of constraining and controlling behavior.  Only taking away their armament will open the way for renewed relationship.

When children have hardened their hearts with the justification that parents have been harsh, uncaring, self-serving, indifferent to their needs and desires, sinfully angry, vengeful, controlling, manipulative, two-faced, inaccessible, proud, or hypocritical in parenting, there is only one solution.  It is that described in James 4.  If we are to disarm rebellion, we must confess the ways we have had alliances with the world in our child-rearing methods – even if it was out of ignorance.  We must ask forgiveness of God and our offended children.  We must humble ourselves in the repentance process and draw near to God in His Word by His Spirit.  In doing so – we “disarm” our children and teens. If they resist further, they have nowhere to hide from the conviction of God’s Spirit because we have removed all the justification due to our own sin and failures.  They must deal with God!  We do not want to be an impediment to our children facing the reality of their rebellion against God.  Removing our offenses clears the path to God’s convicting power.

If you are thinking now, “You just don’t know my teenager!”, you’re right. I don’t.  But God does.  And He is able to make your humble obedience to His truth effective and productive in your home!  We’ll talk about this more in future articles.

In all these efforts, we must by God’s grace exhibit the fruits of the Spirit and the whole armor of God.  Remember, this is not another exercise in behaviorism.  This is a spiritual endeavor—a holy mission.  Be sure your own heart has known the master’s plow – that strong roots and good fruit are evident.  Otherwise, your work will be in vain and you will reap harder hearts than before!  Our hope is this, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”  James 3:18.