“Say It Ain’t So…”

Dr. Ab AbercrombieSay it ain't so…photo

You may remember that oft-quoted plea that is a part of baseball lore, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” In 1919, famous baseball player “Shoeless Joe” Jackson was accused, with several teammates, of betraying the fans of the game by “fixing” the World Series, after the highly favored Chicago White Sox lost the championship to the Cincinnati Reds. After Jackson’s testimony before a grand jury in 1920, a young, faithful, and believing fan begged his hero to deny the charge of betrayal: “Say it ain’t so…”

I feel similarly as I write this article and plead… “Say it ain’t so…Al (Mohler)!” “Say it ain’t so…John (Piper)!” I am a fan of these leaders and highly value their teaching. But recently both have taken positions on the sin of pornography that are confusing and potentially dangerous for the Body of Christ. Both have offered endorsement of psychology and neuroscience, proclaiming this form of sexual immorality a biological addiction.

This may seem a minor thing; a frivolous matter of semantics; but it is far more insidious. This is especially true for teachers with  sizable platforms and influence. Bear with me as I discuss why this matters.

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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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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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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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