Mailbag

The Mailbag: You need to set up an appointment with your pastor for counsel…

A family member and I had a falling out…

I’m unequally yoked in my marriage

We’ve got this situation with my husband’s ex-wife…

My adult child lives with us and has broken the law…

…what do I do? How do I handle all of this?

I hurt for so many of y’all facing difficult situations out there. Detailed situations. Complicated situations. Situations you desperately need some help with.

Situations I get emails and comments about that I deeply want to help you with, but I can’t, because it would be unbiblical and irresponsible of me to try to do so.

It would be irresponsible, because I don’t know you. I don’t know the situation or the other people involved. I don’t know the laws in your area. And, although I’m sure you’re all truthful when you write to me, I’m only getting your side of the story, so I’m not getting a complete picture of what’s going on. I could give you advice that might inadvertently prove wrong or harmful.

It would also be irresponsible to my family, because my primary duty is to serve them. If I tried to spend as much time as it would take to properly counsel everyone who asks me to, I would be neglecting my family.

It would be unbiblical because there’s no “stranger thousands of miles away on the internet” role for me in the framework God has set up for Christianity. God’s framework for Christianity is the local church, and in that framework, if you need counsel, the person God has designated to be your first point of contact in most situations is your pastor, an elder, or a spiritually mature brother or sister in Christ.

Not only would it be wrong for me to try to usurp one of those positions, it would be robbing your church of the opportunity to shepherd and disciple you one on one, face to face, for the long haul. And it would be robbing you of the joy and blessings of being ministered to by your church family. When you and your church walk through a situation like this together, it strengthens your bond, grows all of you, and increases your joy in one another.

But I don’t have a church. I promise I’m not trying to pile on here, but I need to take this opportunity to drive home to everybody who’s reading this who has been lackadaisical or defiant about finding a church: this is one of the reasons you need to find, join, and get plugged in to a good church. This is one of the reasons Scripture tells us that, for Christians, church is not optional and non-negotiable. That we’re to meet together more as the Day draws near, not less.

Furthermore, being faithful to a local body can sometimes help prevent certain situations from happening in the first place because you’re getting good, biblical instruction, “training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age”. (Titus 2:12)

If you’re not currently a member of a church (or you are and you’ve stopped attending), you need to make that right immediately. Disobeying God’s command for us to gather isn’t going to help your situation, and obeying it can do nothing but help.

If you’re not sure where to look for a solid church, start praying fervently for God to lead you to one. Then go to the blue menu bar at the top of this page, click on Searching for a new church?, and start by reading the materials in the “What to look for in a church” section.

But I’m hanging in there, trying to effect / waiting for change at a church that’s operating unbiblically and I don’t trust my pastor to give me biblical counsel. Believe me, I know from first hand experience exactly what that’s like.

(I also know that many readers’ knee jerk reaction will be, “Well, you need to get out of there and find a different church.” I get that, and in many cases that’s the right answer. But in other cases it’s not. There are lots of different reasons why someone might choose to weather a temporary storm at her church, and immediately bailing out isn’t always the godly answer.)

What about your Sunday School or Bible study teacher? A spiritually mature friend who’s also hanging in there? An older lady in the church? Think about it and pray for God to lead you to the right person who can help.

If you can’t find someone in your own church, what about a godly friend who goes to another (doctrinally sound) church? Talk things over with her. If she feels like your situation is outside her wheelhouse, perhaps she would be willing to introduce you to her pastor and he would be willing to counsel you. You could even “cold call” a pastor at a doctrinally sound church in your area and see if he counsels “walk-ins” who are members of other churches. It never hurts to ask.

If all else fails, see if there’s a church in your area that has an ACBC certified Biblical Counselor (this is not the same thing as a “Christian counselor/therapist”) available for counseling, or explore my Biblical Counseling resource in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

But there isn’t a doctrinally sound church in my area. I know that for a few of you, this is true. You live in a remote area where there are no churches. Or, everything close by is Catholic, or NAR, or progressive, and the nearest semblance of a doctrinally sound church is five hours away. You’re willing to make sacrifices to attend church, but there just isn’t one to attend.

But I also know that for some, what this means is, “My ideal church isn’t located within a 15 minute drive of me.”

I’ve addressed these scenarios in detail in some of the links above, so, long story short: check every single church search engine at the Searching for a new church? tab to make sure you haven’t overlooked a good church within achievable driving distance, move, or look into church planting. And, above all, pray that God would provide you with a good church.

But for the purposes of this article, if there isn’t a doctrinally sound church in your area, many of the same suggestions above will apply: talk to a godly friend, Zoom with a solid pastor friend in another area, or visit my Biblical Counseling tab (linked above).

But couldn’t you just recommend a book for me to read that addresses what I’m going through? No, I probably can’t, primarily for the very simple reason that there are thousands of books out there on zillions of topics, and I haven’t read them all. And if I haven’t read a particular book, I don’t know if it’s doctrinally sound, and I don’t know if it adequately addresses your issue.

Additionally, while good books can be somewhat helpful in a general, “one size fits all” sort of way, no book is going to address all the specifics of your particular situation. But a one on one, ongoing counseling or discipleship relationship with your pastor or a godly older sister at church can.

Let’s (I’ve been guilty of this too) be careful not to fall into the subtle mindset of, “If I could just find the right book, it’ll be the magic bullet to solve my problem.” I can practically guarantee you, it won’t.

All of that being said, if your pastor recommends a certain (doctrinally sound) book while he’s counseling you, by all means, read it. If the friend you’re talking things over with says, “This book really helped me a lot in when I was in your situation,” go for it. As you’re pursuing one on one, face to face counsel in the context of your local church, go ahead and read up (I’d recommend anything from Grace to You, Ligonier, or anything written by the folks at the Recommended Bible Teachers tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.)

I’m not saying good books aren’t helpful. I’m just saying books alone aren’t a substitute for godly counsel from real, flesh and blood brothers and sisters in Christ.

Life can be hard and painful sometimes. God knew it would be, and He knows the best way to help us. That’s why He gave us the church.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Uncategorized

A New Addition: Biblical Counseling Resources

If you’ll scroll up to the top of this page, you’ll see a new addition to my resource tabs – the one that says Biblical Counseling Resources.

Often, women write to me needing help with difficult and complex life circumstances. It would be neither ethical nor effective for me to try to assist them via e-mail. They need someone who can sit down with them face to face for the long haul and help them walk through the situation biblically. A good biblical counselor can be a Godsend in situations like these.

So, what is biblical counseling? How can someone find a biblical counselor? Interested in training to become a biblical counselor? It’s all at the new resource tab, but I need your help.

My Searching for a new church? resource tab has been very successful in “matchmaking” readers with doctrinally sound churches, and that has been, in no small part, thanks to your recommendations of good churches. So once again, I’d like to ask for your help – this time, to build a list of recommended biblical counselors.

If your doctrinally sound church offers biblical counseling or you know of a good parachurch biblical counseling ministry you’d like to recommend, please explore the new tab (to see whether it’s already listed) and then add your recommendation to the comments section below.

If you’d like to make a recommendation, please be advised:

•The recommendation must be for a biblical counselor or counseling ministry. Recommendations for Christian counselors, therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, life coaches, etc. will not be accepted.

•The biblical counselor must have been trained and certified by a reputable biblical counseling organization or seminary.

You must include the website of the church, counselor, or counseling ministry you are recommending. Recommendations not including websites will not be considered.

If you know of any biblical counseling certification training programs or doctrinally sound Christian universities or seminaries that offer degree programs in biblical counseling, check to see if yours is listed, and, if not, recommend away!

Thank you for helping me help hurting women get the resources they need.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Sexual abuse, Feminism, Serpent seed doctrine…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!


Can you please suggest an iPhone app Radio station that plays biblically sound worship, praise and messages?

A reader asked this question via Facebook recently. I mostly listen to podcasts, and though I’m aware of a few good sermon apps, I wasn’t familiar with any apps that provide both sermons and music. I asked my Facebook readers for some help and got lots of great answers. You can check out their suggestions here (even if you’re not on Facebook). I’m not personally familiar with all of these sites and apps, so use good discernment and make sure everything they’re teaching lines up with Scripture.


Do you have advice on Christian women and feminism? I have friends who are reading Jesus Feminist. The title makes me cringe.

Secular feminism is not something I handle a whole lot here on the blog, although I have touched on it in these articles:

Toxic (Evangelical) Femininity

Feminist Infiltration and the Emasculation of Christian Men

6 Reasons Godly Women are Stronger Than Feminazis

 

I would recommend that you head over to Sheologians. Summer and Joy have done several very good podcast episodes and articles on the history of feminism and its current influence on society and the church. I cannot remember whether they covered Jesus Feminist or not, so you may want to make use of the “contact us” link at the top of their site and ask. (Tell them I said hi!)


My husband and I are having sexual problems that stem from the fact that I was molested as a child. What should I do?

I have intentionally left out the specific details of this particular reader’s question, first, in order to protect her identity, second, because I have no doubt that many readers have this same general question, and third, because, being a stranger on the internet, I am not the person who can best help anyone in this situation, so I can only give a very general answer anyway.

I grieve with those of you who have had this terrible sin perpetrated against you. I hope the person who abused you was caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is also my prayer that God has taken what was meant for evil against you and used it for good in your life by drawing you to Himself, teaching you to depend on Him, and deepening your walk with Him.

As I mentioned, although I’m humbled and honored that readers sometimes reach out to me for help with staggering griefs and difficulties, I would be doing you a disservice if I tried to help you via e-mail or a blog article with complicated personal problems that require ongoing counseling from someone you have (or can develop) a face-to-face relationship with.

Generally speaking, it’s important that you understand that, as a child, the abuse was not your fault, regardless of how you responded to it at the time. A physiological response (orgasm) to the abuse does not mean you enjoyed being violated, wanted it to happen, or were “asking for it”. Neither does having kept it a secret, being friendly with the abuser, “allowing” the abuse to continue in order to receive gifts from the abuser, etc. You were a victim.

It’s important that your husband understand that the sexual difficulties you are experiencing are no reflection on him. Sex is a very personal thing, and he may be incorrectly assuming that your aversion to sex is an aversion to his performance or to him, personally. He will also need to come to grips with the fact that there’s no quick, cut-and dried, three or five or fifteen step plan to “fixing” this. It will be a growth process for both of you.

Assuming you’re in a doctrinally sound church, I would urge you and your husband in the strongest possible terms to set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling. Shepherding your souls through life’s difficulties is part of his biblical job description, and if he went to a decent seminary, he was trained in marital counseling.

If you absolutely don’t think you could look your pastor in the eye during the sermon every week after discussing such personal matters, ask him for a referral to a certified biblical counselor (not a “Christian counselor” – biblical counseling, formerly called nouthetic counseling, is different) who can help you and your husband heal by learning and walking out in your marriage the Scriptures that apply to your situation. If your pastor isn’t familiar with biblical counseling, find a referral through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, the counselor search links here, or contact a nearby (doctrinally sound) seminary or Christian university and ask if you can speak to someone in their school of biblical counseling.

I know it seems like it will be painful and embarrassing to discuss this situation with a third party, but don’t let it continue to fester. It will destroy your marriage. Getting biblical help will set you and your husband free.


What are your thoughts on a woman teaching an introductory class in biblical Greek to adults (men and women) at church?

Not knowing the context and spiritual climate of your church and assuming the class is taught in the same way other academic foreign language classes are taught – alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, etc. – I don’t see any more problem with it than if she were teaching French or Swahili or Chinese.

The biblical prohibition against women teaching men has to do with women instructing men in the content of the Bible, not the language the Bible was originally written in. Greek is just a language like any other. It is not holy or special just because that’s the language the majority of the New Testament was penned in. (Actually, the opposite is true. Greek was the most widely spoken language of the time, so God used it to get His Word out to the largest number of people.)

Even if the teacher has the class translate portions of Scripture or uses a word or phrase from a Bible verse to illustrate the meaning of a word – assuming she doesn’t veer off into preaching on that verse – she is still teaching a language, not giving Bible instruction to men in the way prohibited by Scripture.

As I said, I don’t know the context and spiritual climate of your church so there could be other factors along those lines that need to be taken into consideration as to whether or not it’s wise for a woman to teach this class, but strictly speaking as to whether or not it’s a violation of Scripture, no.


Do you have any teachings on the implications of the serpent seed doctrine?

No, I’ve never written about it because, until I was asked this question, I’d never heard of it.

I did a brief search, and I would say that the implications are racism, false doctrine, and poor hermeneutics. Apparently, the gist of this teaching is that when the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden, a sexual encounter took place between the two, leading to the conception of Cain. Therefore, everyone who is descended from Cain was conceived from the “serpent’s seed” and is of the devil.

This is a concoction of an evil imagination and has no basis in Scripture whatsoever. In fact, Genesis 4:1 clearly tells us who Cain’s father was. Even Cain’s name tells us God caused Eve to conceive him:

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”

I mean, that’s pretty much a mic drop moment with regard to this ridiculous “doctrine”.

Here are a couple of good resources explaining more:

What is the Serpent Seed doctrine?

The serpent seed and the Kenites


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Guest Posts

Guest Post: How to Do Biblical Self-Counseling

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

How to do Biblical Self-Counseling
by Lara d’Entremont

I can be far too dependent upon others for growth and change. When a problem, question, decision, or sin becomes apparent in my life, my first step is to run to the comfort of others and seek their help. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; believers within the body of Christ are meant to support and build one another up. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (NASB).

However, the book of Galatians doesn’t end there. If we keep reading, we find an interesting exhortation: “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.” (vv. 3-6).

So while fellow believers are to help, support, exhort, and encourage us, there comes a time when we must bear our own load and deal with our own sins. While your fellow sisters in the faith may be able to point sin out to you, give you advice to overcome it, keep you accountable, and pray for you, there comes a point where you need to step up and actually do something. We cannot rely on other people to change us and fix our issues. We need to do biblical self-counseling.

This is what Paul called, “Working out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). In other words, this is our side of sanctification. In realizing all this, I was intimidated. If you are feeling that same overwhelm, don’t panic; I have a few steps to help you.

Step One | Choose an Issue to Work On

It may be tempting to become distressed by all the sins in your life and feel hopeless (at least that’s what I often experience). But we can’t allow that to discourage us. Instead, simply choose ONE issue to attack.

Once you choose your sin or issue, find a journal and write out this problem in detail, explaining what it is, when it shows up, what causes it, and why you should stop it. I would also suggest doing some biblical research and finding a few Bible verses to support your decision and writing them down to memorize in the future.

At this point, you should also be confessing to those who have been effected by this problem, especially God. He’s the one our sin is truly against, and we must own up to it. Remember, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9 NASB).

Step Two | Create a Thought Journal

You will want to create a thought journal in which you track when the problem shows up. Here is a list of things you could include in your thought journal:

  • The temptation/sin/emotional issue
  • The circumstance:
    • What happened?
    • Who was involved? What did they do and/or say?
    • How did you respond? (To the people and/or situation)
  • The unbiblical thought & response
    • What did you want in that situation?
    • What did you get that you didn’t want in that situation?
    • What were your sinful thoughts in this situation?
    • What was sinful about how you responded? (provide Scripture)
  • The biblical thought & reaction: (provide Scripture for each answer)
    • How could you have reacted biblically?
    • How could you have changed your thinking to be biblical?

Answering questions like these will help you to see if there are any common denominators in your problem and help you root out the true root sin. For example, you may realize that your anxiety comes up whenever there’s a financial issue, which then leads you to realize that you love money too much. Knowing that, you can now better attack the sin; rather than managing your anxiety symptoms, you can work on loving money less.

If you would like a journal for your specific issue, you can find a few like that here.

I suggest keeping this journal during the entire process so you can see how you are improving on the issue as you go.

Step Three | Develop a Plan of Action

Now that we have a sin to attack and are learning what the root cause may be, we need to determine a biblical plan of action.

Start with choosing a few Bible verses to memorize. People sometimes undervalue the power of memorizing Scripture, but it is a great tool for overcoming sin. The Psalmist knew this: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11 NASB).

Important Side Note: Please make sure you don’t take a random verse and rip it out of context. Instead, study the passage and make sure it means what you have interpreted it to mean. This will also be helpful in both your memorization and conquering your issue.

Along with the Bible verses, find some biblical material to read on the subject. When I was working at my anxiety, I read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges, which taught me why I did not need to fear but instead trust God wholly. I suggest looking for resources on ACBC’s approved reading list.

Through doing those steps, you should be able to create a put off (sins to stop) and put on (righteous actions to start) list. If you were struggling with anger, your list may look like this:

Put Off:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Impatience
  • Listening to angry music
  • Hitting things
  • Unkind words

Put On:

  • Kindness & patience
  • Trusting God with how people react
  • Praying in moments of anger

Finally, find at least two or three accountability partners to keep you on track. This doesn’t mean confessing to two people who will never bring this up again. Find people who will be intentional and love you enough to ask, “Did you sin today? Did you remember to put on patience?” Find people who will remember you in prayer and are mature in their faith to provide biblical guidance.

Step Four | Rely On God

At this point you’re probably feeling one of two things:

  1. Easy enough! I’ll be on my way to overcoming this sin on my own in no time.
  2. It’s too much! I’ll never be able to do all this on my own.

Neither of these feelings are biblical or helpful to the self-counseling process. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:12-13 NASB).

To the person who thinks this is easy and will be finished before the end of the week, remember that you are a depraved sinner incapable of change on your own. You are utterly dependent on God in this. That means it’s in His timing and His power. So put off your pride and conquer your sin with reverent “fear and trembling” knowing that it is “God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

To the discouraged person, you are right that you cannot do it on your own! Congrats on humbly recognizing your own inability. Now, find courage and confidence, because you have the Holy Spirit working in you. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Find your boast in your weakness, realizing that your ability to conquer sin is found in the power of God.


Lara d’Entremont is a child of God, a wife, and Biblical Counselor in training. Having been made new by God and completely transformed by Him, her desire is to point others back to that same gracious Saviour. Find more of Lara’s writing at her blog, Renewed in Truth.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Mailbag

The Mailbag: What are some biblical ways of addressing my child’s mental illness?

 

My adolescent son has been engaging in recurring sinful behavior that I believe might have led to a mental illness. He recently attempted suicide and his doctor believes medication is the best treatment option. I don’t know what to do. I just know I want my child to be safe. I know you aren’t a doctor, but I was wondering if you had any advice about other things we could try instead.

I know this is a really difficult situation, and I deeply wish I could be of more help. However, as you rightly pointed out, I’m not a doctor and don’t know your son’s situation, so I wouldn’t dream of suggesting changing or stopping any particular treatment.¹

In addition to working closely with your son’s doctors, I would recommend a few things:

1. Continue to pray for his salvation and repentance. Share the gospel with him and point him to Christ whenever you have the opportunity to do so, but use wisdom and be sure you’re not pushing him past what he can deal with at the moment. Trust the Holy Spirit to do the work on your son’s heart that only He can do.

2. Set up an appointment with your pastor for counseling- for you, your husband, and any other children still living at home. If your son would be willing to see your pastor for counseling – in addition to any other treatment he’s receiving, not instead of – that would probably be beneficial as well. Your pastor should have received training in counseling in seminary and can help guide your family through this situation.

3. If your pastor is unable or unwilling to counsel you (or in addition to your pastor’s counseling), you might want to seek out a Certified Biblical Counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. This is not secular counseling with a Christianish tilt to it, but counselors who have received extensive training in Scripture, theology, and counseling to help you apply the Bible to your situation as you walk through it, and help your son understand his sin and the gospel. They are very helpful, and I highly recommend them.

As I said, I wish I could do more to help. I can’t imagine how painful this must be for you. I’m taking a moment to pray for you now, and ask everyone reading this to pray for this family as well.


¹A brief note to my readers- I know many of you strongly disagree with psychological and psychiatric treatment. There are many aspects of these disciplines which I disagree with as well. However, it would be dangerous, unethical, unwise, and ungodly for me to recommend for or against any specific type of treatment in this forum. Any comments suggesting this parent should discontinue any type of mental health treatment her child is currently receiving will not be published.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.