Be Anxious For Nothing…

Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Anxiety can be a confounding and debilitating force in one’s life…and believers are not immune to its affect. Consequently, anxiety is often referenced as the reason for entering counseling. Most who become overwhelmed by this issue have tried numerous approaches before contacting a counselor including prayer, Bible study, and other Christian disciplines. Yet they enter biblical counseling discouraged, fearful, and filled with self-condemnation centered upon what many refer to as a lack of faith.

Other believers have taken a secular approach to anxiety, seeking relief through psychotherapy, medication, hypnosis, and other stress management approaches. Worldly approaches often focus upon external factors and circumstances rather than the fearful heart of an individual. And, there is a growing attitude that excessive anxiety is biochemical, and can only be the managed medically. And while these approaches can yield temporal relief, they offer nothing that is spiritually curative.

The biblical counselor must not be overtaken by the horizontal clutter surrounding this matter. Rather, we must receive the counselee in whatever state they arrive for this divine assignment. It is not our role to rebuke the counselee for a worldly orientation or for the use of secular remedies. At the same time, we must be very careful not to endorse or promote anything but a spiritual/biblical plan of care and counsel.

The frustration sufferers feel concerning anxiety is real, and very likely, lengthy in its history. To intervene biblically will require much perseverance, holding always to the sufficiency of Scripture as our foundation and guide. Transformation and not relief, is our objective…looking for the natural byproduct of God’s Word changing the nature of an individual, rather than providing a temporal respite that does not endure. As Jesus taught the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13b-14).

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Fruit Sins and Root Sins

Dr. Ab AbercrombieRoots

In his Bible study entitled, “Behold Your God”, Dr. John Snyder provides an excellent teaching on “fruit sins” and “root sins” which has special relevance to the practice of biblical counseling. Within the study, Snyder emphasizes the importance of true repentance that reaches to the heart of one’s deepest spiritual condition so that character and identity are literally changed.

Fruit sins are defined as the behavioral expressions of an inner heart condition. As Scripture relates, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident…” (Gal 5:19a): they are obvious. Like apples hanging from a tree, these expressions of sin are dependent upon the root. In other words, an apple tree cannot produce pears nor an orange tree avocados. Consequently, removing the obvious fruit will not change the identity of the tree.

In human terms, the modification of behavior does not change the character of a man or woman. Only by impacting the root can the fruit be altered. Jesus taught this truth plainly, saying:

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matt 7:16-18).

Since fruit sins are visible, repentance often centers only upon what has been revealed or discovered. When a husband is caught in pornography he repents for what has been found out. When a wife’s excessive spending becomes apparent when hidden bank statements are exposed, she is sorry for the consequences of her actions. Both the husband and wife may then strive to stop their individual expressions of sin, and for a season, may be successful. But unless the heart issues are addressed (root sins), the behavior will likely return in its original or modified form.

This type of repentance is superficial and fails to address the true depth and scope of the spiritual problem. At the root of these issues there lies a much more insidious problem that is grounded in one’s identity, integrity, and character. Many of the most common and compromising root sins include idolatry, unbelief, selfishness, pride, unforgiveness, anger, wrath, and bitterness. Until the fullness of the heart is addressed, these core vulnerabilities will continue to yield behavioral sin.

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Pornography: Addicted or Enslaved?

 Dr. Ab AbercrombieChain broken

The Question of Addiction

There is a great movement underway to define pornography use as an addiction or dependency. Within this effort, there is even a call to define this particular issue a disease. As a Biblicist I would expect nothing less from humanistic, secular psychology, which has long been an advocate for excusing unhealthy conduct under the guise of illness. But to my surprise, it is not the psychologists who are to blame this time.

In fact, in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (5th Edition), pornography addiction was rejected as a mental disorder. In other words, the mental health profession does not acknowledge pornography as an addiction or illness (Cassidy, 2013).

When one considers the mindset of secular psychology, this point is understandable. In psychology normal is what most of the people do most of the time. Therefore, if most people use pornography, and most experience no consequence or distress in doing so, then the practice is not dysfunctional. Psychology considers pornography a problem only if there is a secondary or related effect like depression, anxiety, etc.

Yet when one conducts an Internet search, the term pornography addiction is proclaimed a medical fact by significant and influential leaders who ignore even scholarly research to advance their agenda. Regrettably the most outspoken proponents of this addiction model belong to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of our leaders have decided it is more compassionate to label Christians addicted and ill rather than sinful.

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“Do you wish to get well?”

Dr. Ab Abercrombie Sad man praying

As a biblical counselor, I sometimes encounter counselees who seem immobilized. They appear simply unable or unwilling to move forward, languishing in despair, relational struggle, and sin. Even when seeming to understand Scripture and claiming conviction, they remain unchanged.

In one such occasion I was helping Ron, a professing believer, evaluate his role as a husband and spiritual head of his home. Over three meetings we had examined his salvation and studied numerous scriptures pertaining to spiritual submission (Jas 4:5-8), authority (1 Cor 11:3), leadership (Eph 5:22-29), love (1 Cor 13:3-7), forgiveness (Matt 6:14-15), and accountability (Rom 14:11-12).

In each example the counselee expressed grief and claimed conviction to lead and love his wife as Scripture instructs. But near the end of the third meeting the discussion veered off course:

Ron: I know the Bible is true and God expects me to do these things. But how can I?

Counselor: What do you mean?

Ron: How can I lead when my wife will not cooperate? How can I love someone who is cold and distant?

Counselor: So you are unable to obey God’s teaching because of your wife’s condition?

Ron: I would be a better Christian if I were married to a godly woman. I just don’t see how I can do anything until she gets it together.

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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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Love Her Into Submission…

Dr. Ab Abercrombie  Pre-marriage young couple embrace

Christian men everywhere unite! It is time to help our wives toward biblical obedience once and for all! Women everywhere should answer their scriptural mandate:

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph 5:22).

I know you have done everything to get these “weaker vessels” (1 Pet 3:7) in line. But in your frustration you have  abdicated your responsibilities. In response the women were left to dictate the order in your home, define the family’s spiritual focus, work long, tiring hours away from the children, and run the churches you attend. No matter how much you complain, criticize, yell, sulk, or withdraw, those women just keep assuming control and overriding your authority.

But while you believe that you have exhausted your options, I bring one last hope for turning this mayhem around. It is a tricky maneuver to be sure; they will never see it coming…Let’s love them into submission!

Yes it is challenging and no it won’t happen overnight. But take heart…if we persevere these unique creatures can be transformed into wonderful helpers designed just for us! (Gen 2:18).

Step 1…Become a man under authority…

Submission conveys love, trust, and respect for authority. It depicts a willingness to sacrifice one’s desires in service to another. I know it has been a long time, but think back to high school physics class and recall the most basic physical law: “Every action yields an equal and opposite reaction.”

According to God’s Word, when you learn to submit (conveying love, trust, and respect), your wife will be compelled to do the same. Speaking of Christ, Paul wrote:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Eph 1:22-23).

All authority belongs to Christ. A submitted man recognizes and honors this truth first and foremost. Seeking surrender and humility before the Lord presents a model for the wife to follow. An obedient man is a trustworthy and reliable leader because his motivations are not selfish, but rather his existence and aim is to the glory of God.

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“Catch Me Daddy…”

Dr. Ab AbercrombieCatch me Daddy

Recently my daughter came to visit from college…only this time she was accompanied by her fiancé. When exactly did my “baby” become this beautiful, 21 year-old, young woman?  Sarah’s unbalanced toddle has been replaced by a determined, self-directed gait. Her moments of uncertainty and hesitation have long yielded to a spirited confidence and an independent mind. And her ready compliance to her father’s authority now struggles, resists, and even rebels, as she tries to work out who she is and where she is headed.

I love her energy, zest, and spirit for life. I am grateful for her poise. But I would be less than truthful if I said I didn’t miss the soft, submissive two-year-old who held tightly to my finger as we walked down the street; who called for me when she was unsure; who trusted every word I spoke as truth and brilliance; and who believed Daddy could do anything!

So many times we played together in the bay behind our house as she freely explored the water, fish and hermit crabs? Hundreds of times she stood on the pier and shouted, “Catch me Daddy” as she jumped into the water, supported and protected by my waiting arms. I am proud to report that I never dropped her, not even once! She was fearless because I was there, overseeing her every move. I was vigilant in my watch for anything that would harm her, and she knew she was safe in my care.

Today, as a burgeoning adult, Sarah is nearing the end of her college career and the beginning of married life. As she has grown, she has become confident in her own care and is convinced that my abilities have been previously overrated!  It’s a struggle watching my baby grow up…painful really. Sometimes it is especially difficult when I know she needs me, but refuses to call.

As a young adult her signals are harder to read. Instead of asking permission, she asks for forgiveness; instead of seeking my approval, she demands my agreement; and rather than holding tight she is pulling free. But in the midst of all the turmoil and confusion, if I listen really hard, I can still hear her cry: “Catch me Daddy.”

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False gods and the Sacrifice of Children

Dr. Ab Abercrombie

Blonde girl smiling

 After receiving God’s magnificent grace and abundant supply throughout the generations, the Jewish nation was quick to forget and ultimately reject the God of their salvation. Frequently following God’s rescue and provision, His people would attach themselves to foreign nations for support and protection. In doing so Israel would adopt the traditions, culture, and gods common to the nation upon which they depended.

An excellent account of this occurs in Ezekiel 16 where God, through the prophet, describes how He rescued a lost, despised, and hopeless people (Israel), giving them life and identity as His own children. Using the parable of an abandoned newborn, God illustrates how He rescued and raised the rejected infant to maturity, only to have the child devote its heart to a foreign god (Ezk 16:1-19). In their idolatry, God’s people turned even to the literal sacrifice of their children.

“Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire” (Ezk 16:20-21).

 When New Testament Christians read of such abominations in Scripture, we often have difficulty relating and fail to see its application. After all we no longer witness children placed in the sacrificial fire to honor Molech or Ashtoreth. But as a biblical counselor I would suggest that idolatry is alive and well and children are indeed offered on the altar of countless “high places.”

The worship of self is primary and has fragmented the biblical home into pockets of individual gratification, personal goals, rights and entitlements. Biblical order is often abandoned because God’s structure interrupts one’s selfish ambition (Phil 2:3-4), calling instead for the glory and magnification of God above all else (Mark 12:30).

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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:

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