People often ask why we are Conservatives in regard to Government and “suspicious” of the State in any presumptuous exercise of power.

People often ask why we are Conservatives in regard to Government and “suspicious” of the State in any presumptuous exercise of power.

We have our reasons:

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” Washington

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Jefferson

“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” Madison

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.” Adams

“When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic. Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Franklin

“This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.” Reagan

“The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Madison

“A government of laws, and not of men.” Adams

“Even the striving for equality by means of a directed economy can result only in an officially enforced inequality – an authoritarian determination of the status of each individual in the new hierarchical order.

If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.” Hayek

“Families are the Nurseries of all Societies; and the First combinations of mankind.” Cotton Mather

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Lincoln

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” Adams

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” Lincoln

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.” J. Quincy Adams

“I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Madison

“Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” Jefferson

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.” Washington

“Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.” Hamilton

“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.” Lincoln

“The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.” Adams

“The voice of the people has been said to be the voice of God; and, however generally this maxim has been quoted and believed, it is not true to fact. The people are turbulent and changing, they seldom judge or determine right.” Hamilton

“I have accepted a seat in the House of Representatives, and thereby have consented to my own ruin, to your ruin, and to the ruin of our children. I give you this warning that you may prepare your mind for your fate.” Adams

“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.” Lincoln

“Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” Lincoln

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” The Declaration of Independence – Jefferson and the Congress

Neiswonger

Holiness: Seeking the Savior’s Likeness

Class Calendar

I am currently teaching through a class on holiness. You can see the class calendar above. If you are interested in listening in each week, the class audio will be posted at the link below.

Bethel Grace Baptist Church – Holiness Seeking the Savior’s Likeness.

God bless,

Doug

Why I don’t write about the Mark Driscoll controversy

People keep asking why I don’t write about the Mark Driscoll controversy:

Being Reformed and Presbyterian and all that is supposed to give me some special insight on these things. Well, strangely I guess it does but not in the way people might think. Being bathed in the old mainline protestant waters of ecclesial polity does color one’s perspective on church discipline and the handling of controversy but not in a way that brings greater clarity. Instead it limits presumption and the tendency to believe just anything one hears that another has said or done. In the old church we go back to evidence more than spicy headlines.

Here are a few reasons that I have nothing to say:

1. I’m not a fan. I’ve listened to maybe two sermons and read a blog. I have little in the way of perspective. I’ve heard much more about Driscoll than I’ve heard Driscoll.

2. I’ve been in church a long time. Until there are clear, identifiable charges against someone that can be measured for accuracy with witnesses and evidence I’m not biblically allowed to make a judgement.

“Christianity Today”, “Relevant” and random theologian blogs are not approved sources I can trust for that kind of information.

3. I’ve read the many very public statements about Driscoll by those that say they know, including Pastors that were at one time on staff with him. Those statements taste of bitterness and severity.

More, there is rarely any substantial claim of error. Some might be categorized as “sour grapes” complaining that they did not have more power and influence in the organization. Or that their theology adopted a more liberal bent and they failed to bring about liberal reformation in the organization which for some reason they felt the need to do.

These are strange reasons.

4. Misty, smokey, cloudy accusations of implied character defects or attitudes are almost always gossip, slander, libel or some other kind of sin.

Christians are allowed to not like people but they are not allowed to write about it in public outlets. (Oy, if we could just publicly attack all the Pastors we don’t like we might be here all day).  Some of the most influential public statements about Driscoll carry strange entitlements that, “I would not have ever written so publicly about this but I sent him an email about it and he never got back to me…” or something like that; it carries little weight. This kind of thing does not grant someone immunity from biblical standards for public behavior. Christians have the greater duty to always presume the innocence of an accused party until there is a clear finding of guilt.

Some driving the controversy seem pleased with the ugly, public nature of the discussion; an airing of Christian dirty laundry of which we should all be ashamed. There’s an old Christian saying, “It’s better that a guilty man go free than that an innocent man be convicted” but with that, if you can’t get a conviction you let God sort it out. Troubling the entire church with personal gripes is almost always a vanity.

5. The more aggressive commentary seems to grant itself a right to complain under the presumption that people need to be protected from Driscoll. I’m yet to see any clear statement of exactly what people need to be protected from. I have clear disagreements with many of Driscoll’s presumptions upon the biblical text involving everything from sex to how he chose to promote his book but I don’t consider any of these things I need to protect people from. It’s really a pretty strange focus for Pastor’s to take in regard to one of their own. If he were a unitarian or an open theist or a libertine I guess I’d feel a duty to speak out against the teaching but because he is protective of his ministry? Isn’t everyone? In fact, don’t they have a biblical duty to be so? Everyone with common sense is protective of their ministry.

One Pastor even went so far as to write that Driscoll, “destroyed people” that disagreed with him. That’s a pretty severe and easily provable charge that went forward without any evidence. The lack of substantiation alone would reduce the accusation to mere gossip. Pastors need to understand just as everyone else that they can’t say these kinds of things without sharing in the guilt they presume upon another. We need to see the destroyed people; we need to know their names and the measurement being used for “destruction”. Otherwise we can’t be a rational person and take this kind of thing seriously. The clergy does not get a free pass from the rules of evidence. Maybe he did destroy people, how would I know? But just saying it seems to lack both wisdom and charity. Public statements about other people that have not been substantiated through a trial and a finding of guilt are morally problematic.

6. I know this issue of having a trial seems like a lot to some people but there is no more dangerous thing in the church than the conviction without a trial. Churches have always had trials and courts. In this case the Elder’s board of Driscoll’s church did hear charges and found him not guilty of charges laid against him. Now many are trying to have an additional trial in the court of public opinion. They say things like that he is “disqualified from office” because of “attitudes”. Frankly, there is nothing in the bible about people being disqualified from public office because of attitudes. There are actions and doctrines and that’s all you’ve got to work with there. A problem with someone’s attitudes is something you’re going to need to work out for yourself.

If someone is accused of some sin they need to opportunity to hear the accusation, the witnesses against them, gather evidence on their behalf, to respond and if necessary to repent. Short circuiting the biblical witness isn’t good for anybody. Judgements made in haste are usually wrong and one side always sounds right until we hear the other side.

Just today I read that someone has 70 people with charges to be filed against the Pastor if he does not resign. This might sound intimidating and obviously it is intended to intimidate but also seems intended to cast aspersions. What are these accusations? Who are these 70 people? What will they say? How will Driscoll respond? This public proclamation was an unjust act. It could be interpreted as an attempt to declare guilt in the absence of a single proven accusation by creating the presumption that at least one of the 70 accusations would surely prevail. How could there possibly be 70 accusers if someone were not indeed guilty of something? And the answer is of course that we can’t answer that, because we have no idea what the accusations are, who made them or what evidence they bring to bear.

It’s salacious and gossipy and interesting on many levels but does not count as evidence for anything.

Don’t get me wrong. Pastor Driscoll could be guilty of anything or everything but so far he hasn’t been proven guilty of anything and that’s where this stands.

If we are to be Christians about this it may move no farther in judgement or conscience.

Here’s a recent letter from Mark Driscoll in regard to the controversy:

“Dear Mars Hill Church,

Thank you.

I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.

For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.

As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.

In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.

In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.

However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.

To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.

I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.

Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don’t want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.

To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.

I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.

Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the Father’s affection,

–Pastor Mark Driscoll”

Neiswonger

A 4th of July Testimony of Presbyterian Resolve

WE might underestimate how deeply American Presbyterianism was indelibly impressed by the American Revolution. Just as much, Presbyterianism was a defining characteristic of the War for Independence.

At the time Walpole addressing the British Parliament, said “There is no crying about it. Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson and that is the end of it.”

This theology of religious agitation and historical advancement was rooted in the fertile ground of John Calvin and John Knox, neither of whom had respect for theologies of that abandon the duties of civic virtue.

“These revolutionary principles of republican liberty and self-government, taught and embodied in the system of Calvin, were brought to America, and in this new land where they have borne so mighty a harvest were planted, by whose hands? — the hands of the Calvinists. The vital relation of Calvin and Calvinism to the founding of the free institutions of America, however strange in some ears the statement of Ranke may have sounded, is recognized and affirmed by historians of all lands and creeds.” E. W. Smith

The revolutionary sentiment was often considered a particularly Presbyterian sentiment and the theologies and sermons of the era not only promote religious zeal behind the concept of ordered liberty but the sheer force of the theology of the Westminster Standards applied to civics. Their Presbyterianism was not our Presbyterianism; they likely would have had a hard time recognizing their off-spring in the faith.

Here is an example of the kind of fire that peppered Presbyterian sentiment of the era: http://www.bcgv.org/_images/DavidJonesSermon.pdf

They were Postmillenial and unashamed of the immediate application of Christian theology to time, place and circumstance. The idea of a Christianity without a transformative effect upon “culture”, the political landscape and the social condition of the people would have seemed wholly alien to them. Such theologies were rare but for the Quakers, Shakers and Amish; it would likely have been considered by them outside the scope of Christianity.

Modern Presbyterian historian D.G. Hart makes an ongoing effort to track the deep differences between traditional American Presbyterian sentiment in regard to its inherently “political” nature as opposed the Dutch Continental strand of reformed thought, much more amenable to monarchy, subjection and indifference to the course of civic virtue. His historical works are perhaps the most biased I’ve read that can still be called history but are useful for dates, events and the names of the parties. He’s not wrong about the deep divides but doesn’t seem interested in grasping the traditional Presbyterian arguments against contemporary versions of Presbyterianism. 1 The American revolution was a Presbyterian religious war against what they perceived to be dominating Papists and Anglicans. Methodists were Anglicans, Baptists were rare and there weren’t enough of anyone else to make them numerically significant.

“When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians.” Size

Did they think they were entering the “promised land” or that they were in the subject condition of “exile in Babylon”, intended by God to suffer the weighty hand of evil empires (Horton, Van Drunnen)? They considered slavery in the promised land their condition and the war against domination by the English analogous of putting off the chains of the Amalekites and the Philistines. They had a duty to resist and a duty to free themselves of paganization and tyranny. Religious freedom was better than life and death was preferable to religious compromise; they were willing to die even for their neighbor with whom they disagreed about matters of theology so that both might worship in accord with conscience and best understanding.

The majority of those with whom D.G. Hart has to do in interpreting the record of contemporary Presbyterianism had no experience or history in Presbyterianism, by his own description arriving from nationally, ethnically and religiously Dutch Reformed backgrounds and uncomfortable with American Presbyterianism. In this he does help us to see vast differences between the path and trajectory of the Dutch Netherlands civilly and religiously from the United States civilly and religiously. That Continental theologies tend toward the abandonment of the civic realm to ‘secular’ powers, personalizing religion and religious ethics while American theologies are prone to the formally predictable effects of God’s providential care in history.

The Christian concern for the political life of the community is a trait of traditional American Presbyterianism (by way of the English and Scottish reformations and revolutions) while ideas of two realms, one sacred and one secular, one of Christian obedience and one of natural law and civil domination by the elite is not. We might also argue that one is true civil Calvinism and one is not, but for another occasion.

The American Presbyterians saw the American experience as that of a new Jerusalem, a “city on a hill”, while the Amsterdam theologies were powerfully influenced by German Pietism. The Kantian religious explosion was beginning at that time but dominated the thought of Continental religion for the next 200 years through the rise of “Critical” approaches to knowledge and Holy Scripture.

We see these in Hegel, Barth and Brunner but no less in the PCUSA today.  “The quest for the historical Jesus” and “the New Perspective on Paul” were both sown in this field.  The Enlightenment glorification of autonomous reason raised an anti-enlightenment tension in the seminaries with the abandonment of reason as applied to religion and the interpretation of Holy Scripture, and brought about a crisis in American theology from which we are yet to ‘emerge’.

Neiswonger

 

 

1. Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church by D.G. Hart and John Muether.

A few rules for the beleaguered marital heart

The most dangerous mistake married couples make is to put off marriage counseling too long in relation to the need. Other than that here are a few rules for the beleaguered marital heart.

A few rules:

1. Things don’t tend to just get better.

2. If left to themselves conditions and issues tend to get progressively worse or more intransigent.

3. Words are the most harmful things a person can misuse in a marriage; after that actions then failures to act.

4. Silence is worse than miscommunication. Miscommunication is curable through explanation or learning to understand one another; silence is deafening.

5. Don’t ignore or repress characteristics, clues or knowable conditions when choosing a spouse.

6. Romantic love tends to grow, recede and resurge at unpredictable times in a perfectly normal relationship.

7. Planning or scheduling intimate time together is fair, responsible and if spontaneous time is rare or awkward, absolutely necessary.

8. Your spouse is the primary human relationship you have in this world; kids come next; then parents; don’t mess that order up because it will eventually cause harm.

9. The simple, common and normal things will always cumulatively out weigh the “big” things, events or communications.

10. Anger, fear, pride, vanity, lust, envy and complacency are the marriage killers. They are not rules to be followed but virtues to be cultivated in yourself and your spouse. Handle them or they will handle you.

 

neiswonger

So what does “Christian counseling” entail?

Family-Counseling

Well it’s not the same as secular counseling but since secular counseling is usually framed in the traditional shell of Christian counseling there will be similarity.
Christian counseling is the response to an emotional crisis serious enough to cause a disruption in life, behavior or relationships.

Counseling isn’t reducible to just getting together to talk about things but it’s not just giving out sage advice either. There is an important interactive element and the intent to move toward some kind of resolution.

So it isn’t psychology? Well certainly there’s a healthy bit of psychology in it because psychology is the applied understanding of the human soul and why we do the things we do. We can’t get by without a bit of Christian psychology and certainly Jesus spent a lot of time teaching us the inner contours of man’s battle with himself.

Here’s one of the most important things about counseling, it’s supposed to go somewhere. It’s self involved but not self resolving. It should never be an ultimately selfish endeavor. From a Christian perspective every bit of the counseling process is to restore the relation of the person to God, their neighbor and their own well being but in that order. Of course these are inter-related aren’t they? Could we think that a person could be O.K. in the absence of a good relationship with God? He’s our Father but along with that our closest and most enduring relationship. We quite literally exist because He holds us in existence; the Apostle Paul spoke to this by saying that, “in Him we live, and move and have our being”.

As such most conflicts of the soul are by nature of the case something to work out with God, but it’s not really that simple, is it?

It’s not usually the God-conflict that brings one into counseling care but more immediate personal or inter-personal relationships.

When a person can’t get along with themselves or another that’s where the rub comes in. Anxiety, despair, depression, anger, loneliness and sadness are the most common personal symptoms bringing someone into a counseling situation. Most substance abuse and sexual problems also flow from these which are not directly addressable as “sins” when we talk about what we mean by them in a counseling situation but conditions of the soul, the causes and resolutions to be addressed.

When a person isn’t relating well to others that’s what we’re talking about when we get into “marriage counseling”, “family counseling”, “group counseling” and intersession.

Let me say something very controversial and generally disliked but incontrovertibly true: every conflict in a marriage is ultimately a problem in the relationship with God between one or both of the parties. So in a marriage when some kind of crisis has risen to the place where one or both of the spouses are reaching out for counseling the elephant in the room is always going to be “Where are we missing the will of God for our lives?”

Happiness is very important; the Bible doesn’t anywhere imply that being unhappy is a good in itself, but happiness isn’t to made an idol either. It’s where and when and how we want to be happy that is usually the fatal flaw in our spiritual resilience. If we want to be happy in a way that harms our selves, our neighbor or our relationship with God that’s going to be something that will inevitably need to be addressed.

This comes up quite a bit with drug and alcohol counseling. We might see the entire sweep of drug and alcohol related problems (different but related to any addictive behavior from tobacco to pornography) as seeking happiness through artificial and illegitimate means. There is a happiness that is true and a happiness that is false; there is a holy happiness and a worldly happiness that merely covers the place where happiness should be.

When we come to a marital interest and unhappiness in the relation there might be hidden somewhere or in plain sight, something somewhere that speaks of a dissatisfaction with God and His hand in our life. There are many ways to study the avoidance of our Heavenly Father’s good pleasure in what He made us, where He has us, what He wants us to do, where He wants us to go, what He would have us suffer for the sake of Christ but therein lies the “secret” of life, if there is one.

It is that humble submission to the details of divine providence is an unavoidable element in the emotional well-being of any Christian life.

While it is certainly not all there is to happiness in the Christian life, no happiness that is deep or lasting will be had without it.

It is the vantage point from which all of the other joys that we think of as easy or lesser find their frame and reference. So we move toward an understanding and apprehension of this one thing as the platform for building every other thing, and them toward joy and peace.

Neiswonger