Today began with some delicious homemade waffles cooked by my host, Jon Greiner. They were excellent. The Greiners have sure been looking after me where while I am away. After the 25 minute drive to Faith Church, I settled into my seat in the front row for a day of learning. I was not disappointed!
Our first session was with Brent Aucoin entitled, “The Counsellor’s Study of God’s Word.” This was a very helpful look at hermeneutics. I have had plenty of courses on hermeneutics over the years, but a refresher never goes astray! Hermeneutics is the study of Bible interpretation. And it is an important study, because as brother Aucoin pointed out, the Bible only means one thing! It is our task to make sure we arrive at the accurate meaning of the text! The way brother Aucoin wove together the words of Jeremiah in 29:11 with Daniels prayer of repentance in chapter 9 of the book that bears his name was very helpful. Literal hermeneutics yields fruitful results! It also helps us guard against a “what does this passage mean to you” type of approach! His insight into the purpose for communication was very helpful. My take away sentence from this session was simply this: “Communication helps us to know the communicator better.” This has great application to John 1:1 too!
If the first session was intellectually challenging, the second was spiritual and emotionally challenging. The second session was present by Dr. Garret Higbee. Dr. Higbee taught us about helping the sexually abused. Because sexual abuse is so heinous, even talking about it can be a struggle. He gave us many practical tips for counselling survivors and those who struggle with the after affects of abuse. as part of his session he introduced us to Kimberly Clark who shared her story of being abused by her uncle. Her insights into the kind of things people say to a victim of abuse – which they should not say – will hopefully help me be more sensitive when I speak to people in the midst of this suffering. My take away sentence from this session – which came from Kim was this: “Jesus absorbed my shame on the cross.” These are hope-giving words to a wounded soul!
From the session on sexual abuse we moved to a session on PTSD. Dr. Charles Hodge, an M.D. from the area and a counsellor at Faith Church walked us through how to help those who suffer from PTSD. His session highlighted the sovereignty of God in the midst of our suffering. If God is sovereign, and the Bible says he is, then we need to see our circumstances, bad or good, as being under God’s divine control. My take home sentence from this session – which might be difficult for suffering people to hear is this: “You can make a bad situation worse by a poor response.” You can do little to control your circumstances, but you do control your response to it!
Next, Randy Patten from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, spoke to us about the need to be good listener. Talk about a convicting presentation! His practical session emphasized many of the Proverbs which deal with the use of the tongue and the need to listen well. Man, I needed to hear that! The take-home sentence form that session was this: “We need to listen with the ears of God that we might better speak the Word of God! This was a much needed rebuke to me and my own counseling and pastoral ministry!
The next session was with Stuart Scott on the reality of Spiritual warfare in the family. Tins wasn’t anything weird, with instructions on how to cast demons out of your children or anything like that, it was simply a very biblically based look at the reality of spiritual warfare. Satan is real. His influence is real and we need to be aware of his strategies and intentions to harm those doing God’s work. Although I was a little tired by this point in the day, I did enjoy his session. My take home sentence was this: “If we are not heavenly minded, we will not be any earthly good.” Although that was a quote from Richard Baxter, a pastor in the UK in the 1800’s, Dr. Scott quoted it, and I like it, so I shared it!
Brad Bigney joined us next for a session on making much of God in your counselling. He is a dynamic and hilarious speaker, and was very engaging. His simple promise was that we need to, as counselors make sure that we do not become so focused on the imperatives of the scripture – Do this, do that – that we forget the indicatives of scripture – the passages which teach about God and who He is. Excellent session, helpful reminder! My take home sentence: “You can’t take people where you haven’t been.” That helped me to remember that I can’t expect people to follow Jesus and know God – if I am not following and knowing him myself!
Finally, I finished the day with a session on “Counselling from the Cross” with Elyse Fitzpatrick. What an encouraging hour as she explained the role that the love of God should play in our counselling. We must remind people about Jesus. It is the love that God has for us in Christ that leads us to change. Thoroughly scriptural, Elyse’s presentation is also heartfelt and engaging. One of my favorites to be sure. I’m still chewing on this sentence: “When I know God’s love, I don’t have to scratch around to find love from others, but I can freely love them.”
Speaking of chewing, I made it back the Greiner’s in time for a steak dinner! It was late – around 8:00pm, but I have been well fed (in body and in spirit)
Be well – I’ll see you Sunday, Lord and weather willing.