Marital Abandonment

Dr. Ab AbercrombiePensive Woman

Don had been married thirty years to the wife of his youth. Together they raised three children, built two careers, and seemed headed for late-life contentment. Suddenly Don’s wife announced, “I don’t love you. This marriage has been a mistake from the beginning. I want a divorce.”

Janice had been married 19 years when her husband left her without explanation. Within weeks, he abandoned his job, relocated, and refuses to speak to his wife and children. As a stay-at-home mother, she is without financial support and terrified for her future. Her husband has “left the grid” and refuses to respond.

Both couples profess Christ and previously demonstrated evidence of salvation and fruit within their respective homes. Regrettably these stories are far too common within God’s Church, and the Body is facing an onslaught of spousal abandonment. There is increasing need for biblical counsel on this topic and we must examine God’s Word on the matter.

As a biblical counselor I have repeatedly heard that  “abandonment” is biblical grounds for divorce. I have heard it from pastors, leaders, and individuals who have been deserted. But does Scripture support this claim. Jesus said:

“It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE ‘; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matt 5:31-32).

Jesus never wavered on this point. No other reference to an acceptable divorce appears in Scripture. And even the matter of sexual immorality is to first be addressed under the biblical themes of forgiveness, reconciliation, and obedience to the admonition that God hates divorce (Mal  2:16).

Often the victim of abandonment will have no choice. The spouse who leaves may initiate a divorce and refuse reconciliation. On this point, the rejected spouse has little recourse. Yet too frequently, the abandonment results in a prolonged separation, with the absent spouse taking no steps toward a permanent ending. What then should be our counsel?

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Growing Families: Two Kinds of Seed

Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Wheat head

Parenting is a challenge.  In fact, it might be one of the most demanding aspects of the Christian life because the potential ramifications are so great.  And, when we consider the condition of our world and the deterioration of our culture, the task is even more daunting.

 If we look at the research concerning children, we could become very discouraged.  Psychiatrists and psychologists tell us we are approaching an epidemic of childhood mental illness.  Learning disabilities, clinical depression, attention deficit disorder, bipolar conditions, violent assault, disregard for authority, suicide, sexual promiscuity, and teen pregnancy are all on the increase according to the professionals.

And what explanations do the experts offer?  They tell us that there is an explosion of biochemical imbalances, genetic vulnerability, and organic illnesses to blame.

Their answer: medication management. Today, 40 out of every 1,000 children are taking anti-psychotic medications to control their behavior.  And this doesn’t include the millions who are taking medication for depression and anxiety!  Notice I said medication management not medical cure.  In truth, psychiatry and psychology has never cured anybody.  The best they can offer is to help someone remain comfortably sick while subduing their behavior.

But Scripture offers a very different explanation, and a different answer, for these problems. In God’s Word, there is a precise order for the home.  There is a clearly defined role for the husband and father; an explicit function for the wife and mother; and a system of training and structure for the child.  Scripture even goes so far as to prescribe a cure for disobedient, sinful conduct…His name is Jesus Christ!

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An Empowered Life

Dr. Ab AbercrombieMountain climber

 The biblical counselor often meets with individuals and families who feel “powerless.” In their horizontal orientation, they look about frantically for stability through people and life circumstances that fail answer their most basic need. Too frequently the counseling approach taken unwittingly perpetuates this process by addressing these external influences first, instead of seeking to alter the spiritual orientation of the counselee. Put another way, the solutions needed are not found in this world, but in the constant, abiding security of Christ.

In speaking of God’s Servant (Jesus), the prophet Isaiah invited Israel to “come” to the only sufficient source of provision, comfort, function, and life: [Read more…]

Circumstantial Spirituality

By W.P. “Ab” Abercrombie, Ph.D.Intense man dark

Recently I have noticed a trend in my counseling ministry I refer to as; “circumstantial spirituality.” In other words, many counselees become very spiritual at the time their sins are uncovered, only to return to the secular life when the crisis has passed. These are individuals who seek support because of exposure rather than conviction of conscience.

The challenge for the biblical counselor comes in helping this briefly spiritual person, stay in the light long enough for the true heart condition to be revealed. But such counselees are often intolerant of the glare of this heavenly illumination. Jesus spoke of this reality stating:

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Husband the High Calling of God

By: W.P. “Ab” Abercrombie, Ph.D. Serious Man

After decades of “wise” instruction from the likes of Sigmund Freud, Hugh Hefner, and Dr. Phil, we men should have ourselves, and our relationships, figured out. But for all of their theories and speculations, the world’s authority comes down to one basic belief: Focus on the self matters more than the selfless attention to our wives and children.

Yet, divorce rates continue to rise, infidelity is rampant, fatherless homes are the norm, and the use of psychiatric medications for daily functioning has skyrocketed. The problem may not be the availability of information, but rather the reliability of its wisdom.

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Counseling Young Couples and Families

By: Pastor Larry Creamer

The Impact of Biblical Counseling

Valley Baptist ChurchPre-marriage young couple embrace

Biblical counseling is having a significant impact toward fulfilling our purpose of “Preparing People to Meet Jesus” here at Valley Baptist Church.  This is taking place on three distinct levels.

First, we now have about 16 people who either have completed or are working toward certification in biblical counseling in a congregation of about 200 in average attendance.  In October of 2009 we began the ValleyConneX Biblical Counseling Center staffed with our counselors on Thursday evenings from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Other appointments are made during the week as the counselors and people coming for help are available.  From about a month after we began this ministry we have had a steady and sometimes almost overwhelming stream of people coming for counseling.  The counseling center ministers to people from both the church and the community.

Second, people in the church are approaching the people who have been through the certification process for help.  Since we have a wide variety of people who have been trained as biblical counselors, it is not hard to find someone with whom they have a natural connection.  I have realized that many or even most of these people would not have come to the pastor or made an appointment at the counseling center. So rather than having people hurting to the point of desperation before seeking help, they are approaching these counselors in a time of need but before the situation becomes critical.

Third, people in the church who have no formal training in biblical counseling are becoming more sensitive to assignments God is placing before them.  They are realizing that a believer, filled with God’s Spirit and armed with God’s Word, can effectively minister to others.  They also realize their need for accountability and instruction, so they are seeking out our trained biblical counselors to guide and mentor them through their ministry to others.

The story of Jeff and Mary Ann provides a snapshot of what God is doing.  They came to the counseling center at a time of desperation in their marriage.  Here is their story in their own words:

Biblical Counseling through the BCI institute saved our twenty five year marriage. It really helped us do a 180 degree turnaround from where we were.

We had tried other Counselors, including “Christian Counselors” and we knew that we would be on a five year plan with them. We really needed help now and didn’t think a drawn out process of talk therapy was going to work.

A friend who had been through the BCI program told me over lunch to go see Pastor Larry Creamer and the next day my husband called and set up an appointment. I figured, what could it hurt? I (Mary Ann) had been planning a new life after our last child left for college.

My husband Jeff had been withdrawn and had anger issues that he wasn’t able to resolve. Pastor was able to biblically show him truths about anger and discuss repentance and Godly sorrow with him. We had been Christians for many years and had not understood the difference between asking for forgiveness and true repentance.We believe because he is the spiritual leader in the home that as he changed, I was able to see my sin and heart issues.

We are now both focusing our lives on Jesus Christ and have renewed our commitment to each other based on God’s word and principles.

This type of counseling was direct, truthful, honest, and powerful. It was presented in a spirit of love and genuine concern.

Jeff and Mary Ann

The rest of that story is that Jeff and Mary Ann are now a part of the Valley church family and are working toward certification in biblical counseling.

Dr. David Penley defines biblical counseling as intense discipleship.  The church is the natural setting for discipleship.  Our goal is to move people from intense discipleship to ongoing discipleship for the glory of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The biblical counseling training has been a vital part of reaching this goal here at Valley.

Larry Creamer

Senior Pastor, Valley Baptist Church

Director, ValleyConneX Biblical Counseling Center

Repentance and Forgiveness in the Family

Couple argue back to back Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Actions and behaviors are damaging. Things said and done between people often provoke emotions that are hurtful, even destructive, over time. Often, it is the root of bitterness and unforgiveness that lies at the core of unresolved issues and without attention, can deceive and destroy the peace of our relationships. Unforgiveness undermines:

  • Our relationship with God and places us in a state of disobedience.
  • Our communication with loved ones and provokes a state of disharmony.
  • Our self-awareness building instead a response of righteous indignation that becomes impenetrable and condemning over time.
  • Our willingness to reconcile, resting instead in our “right” to feel as we do, justifying the return of sin for sin, reviling for reviling, and evil for evil.

The Bible is clear concerning this topic…the heart condition of unforgiveness is unacceptable to the LORD who calls believers to display His character and standards toward others. Jesus said:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matt. 6:14-15). [Read more…]

Marriage God’s Way: The Wife’s Call

By: Dr. Ab and Karen AbercrombiePre-marriage bride & groom hold hands

Excerpt taken from: CHRISTIAN SHRINKS Answer ALL Your Questions…(No Couch Required), Xulon Press, 2005.

THE WOMAN’S CALL

What does the Bible say about the wife’s role in the marriage and home?

God’s Word tells us that the wife is indeed unique, created in a manner unlike any other creature.  Do you realize that God spoke the world and all its creatures into existence?  He made man from the dust of the earth brought to life by His very breath.  But, God created woman from the rib of man.  God didn’t do this because he needed a spare part!   We see this as the ultimate expression of intimacy between a man and woman, and it reflects the Creator’s plan for oneness in the marital bond (Gen 2:1-25).

God could have created woman through any means, but He chose this rendering of life so that man and woman were forever to be “one flesh” (Gen 2:24).  This reality does away with the idea that husbands and wives are to be independent of one another.  Instead we are to relate in an interdependent way.  Each is different, yet each bears gifts and strengths central to the union.  Remove the idea from your mind that dependency is bad.  God requires our dependency on Him and has joined husband and wife in just such a manner.  Early in Genesis, God describes the primary role of woman:

“…I will make him a helper comparable to him.” (Gen 2:18b)

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Marriage God’s Way: The Husband’s Call

By: Dr. Ab and Karen AbercrombieWedding hands

Excerpt taken from Christian Shrinks Answer ALL Your Questions…(No Couch Required), Xulon Press, 2005

What does the Bible say about the role of the husband in the home?

Biblically, the man is called to be the priest of his home.  He is directed to love, honor, protect, and lead; indeed he is held to a very high standard of accountability.  One of the first instructions given to the husband is the most basic, yet the most demanding:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her. (Eph 5:25)

This scripture is a powerful calling.  It is an instruction to minister to our home as Christ ministered to the church.  If we are to love as Jesus loved, then we are to be close and active, not distant and passive.

There was nothing passive about our Lord’s love for us.  God could have loved us from the heavens, but instead drew near and demonstrated His love in an active, behavioral expression.

Jesus touched (Matt 8:1-3); He healed (Matt 14:14); He instructed (Mark 10:1); He provided (Mark 6:37-44); He prayed (John 17:13-21); He forgave (Matt 9:2); He resisted temptation (Heb 4:15); He served (Mark 10:45); and finally, He sacrificed all (John 19:30).

Using our Savior as the template of comparison, allow us to inquire:

  • Do you touch your wife as Jesus touched?  His touch was filled with understanding and compassion.  It was a touch that gave but did not take.  Touching your wife physically in this way assures her of your commitment and love for her (2 Cor 7:3).
  • When your wife is in pain, do you promote healing?  Our wives need to know they can bring their injuries and needs to us.  They need us to be engaged, interested, and invested in reestablishing their peace (Gal 6:2).
  • As the spiritual leader of the home, is your study of God’s Word faithful so that you can instruct and encourage your wife? A man cannot feed others unless he is fed.  Your fervent attention to learning the Bible will allow you to lead your family from a Christian worldview and will transform not only your message but also your heart (Heb 4:12, 1 Cor 14:35).
  • Are you providing for your family’s financial needs and security?  So many families today are overburdened by debt and commitments beyond their means, creating tremendous stress.  Financial problems are cited as the second leading cause of divorce.  Fiscal responsibility and leadership from the husband is central to protecting the home (1 Tim 5:8).
  • Are you in prayer for your wife and with your wife?  Do you make it a priority to lift her needs to God and to share the intimacy of prayer together?  Research tells us that less than 1 percent of couples who regularly pray together get divorced (Jas 5:16).
  • Do you forgive as Christ forgave?  Can you resolve and release the issues that divide you, or do you harbor them in your heart, allowing anger and sin to take root?  Studies tell us that the capacity to forgive is fundamental to the maintenance of good healthy relationships (Eph 4:26-27).
  • When temptation comes, what do you do?  There is no safe level of thought or deed when it comes to sin.  Any compromise or concession made by the man will affect his family (Gal 5:9). Boundaries are essential if we are to preserve the marital covenant.  We must actively pursue God’s cover and protection for our homes on a daily basis (Eph 6:10-18).
  • How do you serve your bride?  Whether in small matters or large, serving our wives is one of the foremost ways to demonstrate honor.  It expresses consideration, it defines her as valuable, and it produces a climate of mutual respect and loyalty.  Do something unexpected that reminds her of her precious place in your life (John 13:14-15).
  • Finally, is your love sacrificial?  Jesus gave everything for those entrusted to His care, and husbands are called to do the same (Luke 9:23). What can you sacrifice today that will bless your wife?  Is it time at work, hours watching T.V., attitudes or ambitions, behaviors or habits?  If it limits or injures the marriage, it needs to go.

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