Church & State

Introduction

Today we have reached the point of critical mass as to just how far we intend to let the State run roughshod over our lives. On one level, as people who live in a country, born of a revolution that established a republican form of government, all Americans face the challenge of how much power they are willing to grant the State to use in curtailing their liberty. As Christians, those who believe that Jesus Christ is sovereign King, Savior, and God, we have to ask ourselves what is the proper role of the Church in engaging the political realm. I believe that for far too long we of the Church have stepped aside from the fray, allowing the State to become the Leviathan that has overreached its proper and moral limits. As citizens the Church can and should speak to the legitimate limitations of the State.

Conflicting Views Within the Church

Those who believe in Christ hold conflicting views regarding the Church’s role in engaging political matters. Although there are many views and nuances, I believe there are three general positions commonly held among Christians. I designate them as passive observers, Romans 13 absolutists, and political engagers.

Passive Observers

The Christian author, Francis Schaeffer, first coined the terms upper story and lower story, describing those Christians who compartmentalized their beliefs so that their spiritual life makes little contact with their day-to-day affairs. Some in the Church hold that our Christian beliefs have nothing to do with the daily struggles we face in life. This is especially true when it comes to politics. Apart from voting, such individuals hold that Christians should not engage the worldly confines of politics. Such engagement, they warn, defies Scripture’s indictment to be in the world, but not of the world. Worldliness, according to Scripture, entails living in alignment with the world’s values rather than those precepts found in God’s Word that speaks to the way in which he would have us live. The passive observer equates political engagement with worldly engagement. They accuse Christians who are politically engaged with seeking ultimate meaning and purpose in worldly politics at worse. At best, they simply believe that Christians who are politically engaged are wasting their time on things that are not eternal. This is a startling example of Schaeffer’s notion of the upper and lower story split. Things in this life simply do not matter. The world as we know it is going to pass away. To spend any time on making it a better place to live is a worldly affair, hence, not a spiritual endeavor.

Romans 13 Absolutists

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement (Romans 13:1-2).

At first glance, this passage written by the Apostle Paul appears straight ahead with no clarification needed.A closer look at its context, however, raises some questions, especially when applied to the political context today in America. Following these verses, Paul states that rulers are a terror not to good conduct, but to bad. Hence, if one does good, he doesn’t need to fear the authorities. If he does wrong, however, then rulers are servants of God to punish evil doers. So the question arises – what if governments reach the point where they call evil, good, and good, evil? In other words governing authorities pit themselves against God’s precepts and law. What is our response to authorities to be then? Moreover, we have Biblical examples where Christians did not simply bow to worldly power. The Apostle Paul, himself, appealed to his status as Roman citizen when wrongly accused and arrested. When a Roman centurion struck him, Paul replied, Do you strike a Roman citizen? Additionally, the Apostles in the Book of Acts when ordered to cease proclaiming the truth about Christ replied, We obey God rather than man. The early Christians defied worshiping the Roman emperor as a god as well as breaking Roman law when they secretly met in the catacombs to worship. Romans 13 absolutists claim that verses 1-2 mean that Christians should obey the government no matter the context. As such they have given a carte blanche to the State, providing it with absolute rule over the Church.

Political Engagers

The Reformed Presbyterians heavily contributed to the values that shaped early America and that eventually led to its break with England. Many of what I call political engagers, can be found today within the confines of Reformed Theology. The aforementioned Francis Schaffer falls within that theological persuasion. Many of those who strongly advocate that Christians should be politically active and savvy are Reformed postmillennialists. Although it’s not the purpose of this article to stake out an eschatological position, I find that I like the work and thought that postmillennialists proffer. To be fair, not all political engagers hold to a postmillennial eschatology. Schaffer held a premillennial position. Having said that I would point to theologians, pastors, and writers such as Doug Wilson, Joel McDurmon, Gary North, R. J. Rushdoony, and James White as examples of those who believe Christians should actively engage the political realm. Although I may not agree with every jot and tittle of what these individuals say, I do like their optimism and the conjectures they offer for ways that Christians can reclaim the culture that we seem to have handed over to those who are diametrically opposed to God’s law.

Conclusion: Engaging All of Life

Reformed Theology and the postmillennialists cited above do not dwell solely on the political realm. They call for Christians to engage all of life’s endeavors – business, education, science, the arts, technology, politics, etc. – and take all these spheres captive in the name of Christ. Indeed I don’t see that any particular millennial position is required to agree with such a notion. We have witnessed over the past several decades, and particularly the past few years, an unprecedented growth of the State and its interventionist strategies that snake inexorably through all the nook and crannies of our daily livelihoods. The attitude that as Christians we should stand idly by and let Statism and its anti-Christian philosophy take over the culture due to some pietistic notion of worldliness seems self-defeating at best and cowardice at worse.

By God’s providential hand, we live in a republic forged out to some degree by Reformed theology by which we are a nation ruled by law, not men – Lex Rex. The call for Christians to actively engage all spheres of life is a transformative one. None of us know when Christ will return. But to merely sit by and wait for his return, doing nothing about the corruption of this culture, while some may see that as an option, I do not believe such passiveness to be a Biblical option. We Christians today have to confront the reality that we will not necessarily witness during our lifetimes the changes in culture that can occur if believers enter all spheres of life and place all their endeavors under the Lordship of Christ. That’s an overwhelming proclamation. None of us know how it will work out. But that’s not a reason for the Church to remain invisible in the midst of cultural battles.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that all three of these camps as I’ve designated them comprise believers in Christ. Hence, regardless of where we land on this issue, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and we should let unity rule rather than divisiveness. We need to learn how to agree to disagree, yet remain united.

We live in a republic by God’s providence. Politicians are not our authorities. We do not obey men. We obey the law. Perhaps the ones being disobedient to government are not the ones who draw Constitutional lines in the sand and say to politicians, you do not cross here. Rather it is those who do not engage the political realm and work to set it right.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER/CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

When Doubts Arise

. . . as far as the east is from the west so far does he remove our sins from us. [Psalms 103:12]

Introduction

As Christians, do we really live as though God through Christ has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in a series of sermons that are a commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), explores the wiles of the devil, and the different ways in which he throws Christians into confusion, particularly about their salvation. One of the ways the devil comes at us is that he uses guilt about our past to make us doubt our relationship to God, leading us to question our salvation. How many believers get caught up in rehearsing their past then wondering how on earth they could be saved? Such guilt plummets us into doubting God’s promises and then into despair. However, regardless of our past, God’s promises through his Son, Jesus Christ, hold true for eternity. At the moment we trusted Christ’s Person and Work for our salvation, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment for that day when God redeems his possession (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Oppression of Doubts

As believers in Christ, many of us most likely have come face-to-face with the crushing doubts that make us question our salvation. In so doing, we have transferred the power of salvation from God’s work to our own efforts. Nonetheless, such doubts arise, and they are oppressive. Whether it’s in a counseling session, a church setting, a family gathering, or among friends with other brothers and sisters in Christ, we hear these doubts voiced by others, or indeed we voice them ourselves. How can we help those who state such concerns, and how can we seek help ourselves when we are thrown into an abyss of doubt? There are many ways within the Body of Christ to find support and guidance. But the Word of God is always one such rock to stand on. What I want to discuss in this article is Paul’s discussion of Abraham (Romans 4), and then what is called the faith hall of fame in Hebrews 11.

Abraham: Justification by Faith

The Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans (Romans 4) sets out to demonstrate that justification for our salvation comes through faith alone in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, not as a result of keeping the works of the law. Drawing on Genesis (Genesis 12- 25), Paul appeals to the Scriptures to show that Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). Consequently, Abraham was declared righteous by God three hundred years prior to when the law was given. Paul goes on to say in Romans 4:11-12, that the purpose of Abraham’s faith was to make him the father of all who believe apart from the works of the law or any form of works that man may devise. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations through his faith. God’s promise to Abraham has come true through Jesus Christ and the church of believers who have embraced Christ through faith alone. Throughout Romans 4, Paul lifts up Abraham as a man of faith, a man indeed whose faith did not weaken (Romans 4:19). Furthermore Paul claims that no unbelief made him waver concerning the promises of God (Romans 4:20).

Abraham in Action

Let’s consider Abraham the man.The Apostle Paul describes Abraham in magnanimous terms as one whose faith never wavered, and as one who continuously grew in his faith (Romans 4:20). One might be tempted to ask is this the same Abraham we read about in Genesis. This is the very man who lied about his wife twice as being his sister for fear of losing his life, not to mention placing her in danger of becoming another man’s concubine thereby undermining the promises of God.This is Abraham who impregnated a concubine to help out God with his promises. Yet Paul describes Abraham as one who was fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised (Romans 4:21). The Apostle Paul reiterates Abraham as the father of those who believe God by faith in his epistle to the Galatians (Galatians 3:6-9).

The Epistle of James: Faith and Works

James, the brother of Christ also exalts Abraham in showing that his faith led to fruitful works when he offered up Isaac, his only son, as an offering to God. He was then called a friend of God (James 2:21-23). No doubt, Abraham grew in faith, but like all of us, he was far from perfect. Additionally James cites Rahab as one who evidenced her faith through her works of allowing the spies of Israel into her city. She was also a known prostitute.

Hebrews 11: The Faith Hall of Fame

The author of Hebrews offers what has been called the faith hall of fame, a list of individuals from the Old Testament who are known for the power of their faith. Let’s considered some of the ones named there. Abraham is once again considered for the strength of his faith. Listed there are Abel, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Isaac, Jacob, Enoch, Sarah, Sampson, and David. Moses was forbidden to enter the Holy Land because he struck a rock in anger to obtain some water for those who had followed him out of Egypt. Isaac is listed for granting blessings to Esau and Jacob, yet he was tricked by Jacob to obtain the oldest son’s blessing for himself. Indeed Jacob is known somewhat as a trickster by character. Sarah laughed when God said she would bear a son during her old age. David faced heavy times of trouble for his adultery with Bathsheba. And Samson was known as a womanizer. The important point here is not the imperfections of the individuals mentioned here. The place these people hold in Scripture is due to the strength of their faith, which is to serve as an example for believers today. None of the sins into which some of these people fell are mentioned in the New Testament because they were cleansed through their faith. And that is the reason we are to remember them and hold them in high regard.

Conclusion

I have been in some dark places in my life at times when I turned my back on God and was not walking and being led by the Spirit. Instead I was sowing to the flesh. After confessing the sins I committed during those times, they still surface in my mind, whether it be by the wiles of the devil or my own guilty conscience. Either way, when I dwell on them and thereby doubt the promises of God, I disparage the work that God has done for my salvation through Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This verse implies that if we confess our sins and God does not forgive us our sins, in some way he is unfaithful and unjust. How can this be? His forgiveness does not depend on our confession, but in and through whom we confess, the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. For this reason, as I write this I hate to even mention the shenanigans into which the Old Testament figures fail even though they became part of the New Testament faith hall of fame. Yet their historical and biographical narratives are given to us via God’s Word for a reason.

The Apostle Paul

In addition to the Old Testament saints, we could focus on the apostles and the actions they took in denying and fleeing Christ at his arrest just prior to his crucifixion. The Apostle Paul in a letter to Timothy calls himself a former blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13). Paul considered himself to the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1: 15). Yet for those of us who are frequently assailed by doubts due to our checkered and tainted past, I believe that Paul via the inspired Word of God should have the last say here. In his Epistle to the Romans he writes: For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Believer, is your salvation in Christ secure? Yes it is.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/August 14th, 2021

CHRISTIAN THOUGHT

Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Power Toward Us Who Believe

“. . . that you may know. . . what is his immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead. . . [Ephesians 1:18-20].

Introduction

When you think of the concept or power, what comes to mind? Political clout? Highly successful business people? Military strength? We all know individuals, historical and present, whom we would consider as powerful in some manner and on some level. As we read in Scripture, however, God provides us with a different take on the concept of power. I’m not taking a leap to what Francis Schaffer would call the upper story. God’s power is real for us on a daily basis. Yet I wonder if as believers in Christ, we understand what God has made available to us so that we can live the kind of life he desires for us?

God’s Power Toward Us

God’s power is manifested in many ways throughout Scripture. He spoke the universe and everything in it into being by the Power of his Word. We witness his power in the many miracles and signs he performed, both in the Old and New Testaments. We learn in the New Testament that God’s Word – logos – in the beginning is actually Jesus Christ. Christ’s many miracles of healing and raising people from the dead demonstrate God’s power. In Christian circles we hear the phrase the power of God tossed around quite often. I question if we believers truly comprehend the power of God available to our lives. I don’t say this as a criticism of anyone in particular. I feel at times I’m quite distant from understanding the true power of God. Yet the Apostle Paul, in the verses that form the epigraph to this article, affirms the power that God works toward us who believe in Christ as our Savior. The zenith of God’s power is witnessed in his raising Christ from the dead. Paul tells us that the might which God works in our lives is the same might by which he raised Christ from the dead. The whole of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful testimony to the riches that God has lavished upon those of us who believe in Christ.

The Counseling Process

As believers in Christ, we are in communion with God. Moreover, we are members of God’s household, children of God, which provides us with boldness and confidence to approach God as our Father. All the power and might that Paul describes in the verses penned above is available to us. Christian clients bring their concerns, doubts, pain, and losses in life into the counseling room. My message to Christians who seek me out for counseling is that they also bring into the room the power that Paul claims God works toward those who believe. Whatever circumstances clients face, God’s power and might are available to them to work through the difficulties that the world throws at them. Our work together is to labor toward clients’ understanding of how to access that with which God has already blessed them so as to apply it to the challenges they bring to the counseling room.

“In the World but Not of the World”

Just before presenting one of the most powerful and beautiful prayers recorded in Scripture, the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), at the close of John 16 Christ told the apostles that in the world they would have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he had overcome the world. An unfortunate mindset that we can fall into as believers is thinking that because of God’s power working toward us, this life should be an easy haul. Although God’s power works within us, the purpose of his power is not to provide us with a cushiony life. In fact, it’s just the opposite. God’s power works in us so as to strengthen us to take on the challenges that being in the world throws at us. As believers in Christ, we are not promised a problem-free life. What we are promised is a power that goes beyond all we can hope for or understand. Like everything else in the Christian life, we must place our faith in God’s promise that such power belongs to us. By God’s power, we take on the struggles, difficulties, and tribulations that life in this world brings upon us. I don’t wish to be silent about the reality that all of this is much easier said than done. Martin Lloyd-Jones, the great Christian writer, has stated that the major reason that believers falter in the face or life’s trials is that they don’t truly comprehend who they are as believers in Christ. I can most definitely attest to that through my own life.

Conclusion

For Christian clients who seek to work with me in counseling, one of the challenges we’ll take on is searching out how to apply God’s power, which is available to us, to not only the concerns you bring to the counseling room, but also to your life as a whole. This does not mean your concerns for which you enter counseling are shoved to the side for a theology lesson. Your struggles in life are front and center in our work together. It does mean that Christian counseling looks to draw on God’s truth as the means to work through the challenges that being in the world brings to our lives. It also means that I, as your counselor, must draw on that same power to do the best work I can for you. If I fail to do that, then I’m failing you as a client.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/July 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations for Christian Counseling: God’s Plan of Salvation

Introduction

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary on the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), depicts a meeting held before the foundation of the world among the three persons of the Trinity. What Lloyd-Jones calls the plan of salvation was established during that meeting, which finally came to fruition during and through the life of Christ.

Jones also states that when believers falter when facing struggles and difficulties in this life, it is because they fail to see the full implications of God’s plan of salvation. I agree with that assessment. This blog article explores how to apply the plan of salvation to counseling concerns when working with believers as a professional counselor.

The Plan of Salvation

Martyn Lloyd-Jones envisions the meeting of the Godhead in eternity past this way: Before the foundation of the world the Father authored the plan of salvation. The Son was appointed to carry out the plan by taking on flesh, being born as a human, and eventually taking on the sins of the world. He would die unjustly via crucifixion and then be raised from death three days afterwords. Jesus would accomplish the work the Father sent him to do, and he would then ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Almighty. After his ascension, Christ would send the Spirit to indwell and strengthen each believer as a downpayment for what believers would ultimately receive in the presence of God.

The first words Jesus uttered in the High Priestly Prayer is the hour has come. The plan of salvation that the Triune God laid out in eternity past unfolds in history. The hour is not an arbitrary point in history. It does not occur as happenstance or in some peradventure manner. It is a specific point in time, predestined by the Godhead to come to past in the exact moment and manner in which it did. Jesus prays this prayer right before going into the Garden of Gethsemane where he will be arrested, turned over to the authorities, both of the Sanhedrin and the Romans, and eventually tried unjustly and crucified. Christ said several things while dying on the cross. In one statement he cried out loud, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? This very moment too was decreed in eternity past, when the sins of the world were to fall on Jesus Christ. Nighttime had indeed fallen.

The Plan of Salvation: The Blessings of God

For the believer in Christ, God’s plan of salvation bestows all the blessings and power that one could hope for, but not come close to imagining. In Christ, we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). God has lavished us with all the riches of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through Christ, we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins (Colossians 1:14). In his prayer to the Father, Christ states that of all the ones the Father gave him for purposes of their salvation, he lost not one of them. This truth applies to believers today as it did to the disciples at this time. The Apostle Paul claims for I am sure that neither death nor live, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

What also applies to us is the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends to heaven and sits down at the Father’s right hand. He had already told his disciples earlier that it was a blessing that he was returning to the Father because only then could he send the Spirit of Truth. As believers when we believed in Christ as our savior, we became indwelled by the Holy Spirit. Hence, we can be strengthen by him to live as God calls us to live. In addition to all of these blessings and many more not touched on here, God works his power toward us with the same might by which he raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 1:20). Martyn Lloyd-Jones believes that many Christians live fearful and weaken lives because they do not understand and thereby do not access God’s plan of salvation and all its blessings and power that are available to them who believe in Christ.

The Plan of Salvation: In the Counseling Room

Although night fell at the crucifixion, sunrise came and the light of day shone brightly the third day after Christ was laid in the tomb. The resurrection placed God’s stamp of approval on the life of Christ, illuminating the fact that he had accomplished God’s work, borne the sins of the world, and ushered in the New Covenant of salvation in his name. One of the final sayings of Christ while on the cross was it is finished. The Son of God completed what the Father had sent him to do. All the blessings from God now accrue to those who believe in Christ for their salvation. These blessings belong to us believers to draw upon daily to navigate the ups-and-downs of life.

What does this mean in the counseling room as Christian clients and I work together? First, for prospective clients who are believers, it means that you bring into the counseling room with you all these blessings and power that are freely bestowed upon you when you believed in Christ as your savior. God’s power is available to you every hour of everyday. Many times, what we lack as Christians is a full understanding of what the plan of salvation means for us. We lack an understanding of salvation, its necessity and how it came about through Christ. And we fail to understand the abundance of blessings available to us through Christ. We have access to God through Christ that we can claim with boldness and confidence.

The Plan of Salvation: What It Doesn’t Mean

Just before Christ turned his eyes to heaven to speak forth the High Priestly Prayer, he told his disciples in the world you will have tribulation. He added that they shouldn’t worry because he has overcome the world. What the plan of salvation doesn’t necessarily promise us is a rosy life without any difficulties or concerns. As one who experienced a stroke several months back, I can attest to that fact. Like all individuals, Christians lose their jobs, go through financial difficulties, contract cancer, and face all the difficulties that life throws at them on a daily basis. Hence, Christians clients bring many of those concerns to the counseling room. Counseling does not and cannot provide clients with a guarantee that their lives will be problem free. In fact, God’s Word promises us that we will face tribulation in this world (John 16). Indeed, God designs difficulties in life to test our faith.

Conclusion

Counseling from a Christian perspective is not about discounting clients’ concerns and replacing them with a theology discussion. Clients’ concerns are front and center when we work together. However, the one thing I do believe is that as Christians, clients and I possess a foundation on which we stand to navigate our way through the uncertainties of life. As believers, we can explore how to access the promises of God through his Word to embrace the power he has granted us in Christ to work through challenges that life throws at us. Although there are no human guarantees, God promises us he is with us through everything we face in this life.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/June 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations for Christian Counseling: The Greatest Commandment

And he said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40, ESV)

Introduction

I’ve said before that I consider myself to be Christian who happens to work as a counselor. Such a claim may appear to deemphasize either my being a counselor or a Christian while highlighting the other. That conclusion would be wrong. Reformed Orthodox Christianity forms my worldview, so it is part of everything I do, including my work as a counselor. If the statement deemphasizes anything, it’s the sacred/secular dichotomy. Individuals live and work within the framework of their worldview whether or not they are aware of it. I don’t think of Christian Counseling as a trade name or a brand. I seek by God’s grace to live out my worldview in everything I pursue.

What Christ called The Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:37) provides solid ground for a Christian worldview. I believe it is important for clients to know where I stand and what they might encounter by working with me as their counselor. The worldview by which we live is not something we can set aside at our convenience for a the purpose of expediency.

The Counselor’s Perspective

First of all this Commandment means much more to me than my role as a counselor. It informs the way I should approach all of life in every sphere of engagement. That means spiritually, morally, ethically, and mentally. It pertains to every sphere of life – relationships, work or career, individual pursuits, and setting of priorities. There’s no sacred/secular dichotomy here, no five o’clock world where I clock out on some things and then live another existence. There’s no compartmentalizing of life’s endeavors where my spiritual life is totally divorced from the work I do.

The Commandment calls on the believer to love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Biblically, these terms are difficult to define in specific ways. The heart is usually thought of as the seat of understanding, as well as the seat of the emotions and will. The soul pertains to what some call the living powers. We are to offer our lives to God. The mind addresses the intellectual life and powers of an individual. Taken all together, the Commandment adjures us to love God with all our powers and faculties, that is with everything that makes us into who we are individually. After all, God created us, not as a mass collective, but as individuals. Hence, The Greatest Commandment calls on us to love God with all that we are.

All of this means that everything I do must be done with this Commandment in mind, including the work I do as a counselor. Although we all have our good and bad days, my hope and prayer is that what individual clients encounter in my office, me, is the person who lives out this Commandment. Because it informs how I engage all of life, it is a bed rock foundation for my worldview. And it means that I am to engage and treat all my clients the way in which God has engaged and treated me. Anything less is not sufficient.

The Client’s Experience

If The Greatest Commandment provides a foundation for the counselor’s worldview, then what does this mean for clients? Responding to the lawyer Christ added a second commandment that he said was like the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Seeking to test Jesus, the scribes and lawyers ask him: Who is my neighbor? Jesus then told the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). From this parable we are to understand that anyone in need is our neighbor. When clients enter counseling with me, I’m called upon to fulfill this commandment. I am to consider my clients’ needs as important as my own.

This is something that I hope Christian clients, at least to some extent, already understand. A common ground exists between Christian clients and me as their counselor. This is no less true, moreover, for clients who are not believers in Christ. The thing lacking between me and non-Christian clients is that common ground I have with clients who are believers in Christ. I and non-Christian clients may have worldview clashes that play out in values conflicts. This is why it is important that all clients know my worldview before entering counseling with me. Nonetheless, believer or unbeliever, any client who enters my office is my neighbor whose needs I should consider as important as my own.

Conclusion

In his response to the lawyer’s question regarding The Greatest Commandment, Christ concluded: On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. The Greatest Commandment provides a rock solid foundation for a Christian worldview, informing all spheres of life. It is not a foundation merely for work as a counselor, but for all of life itself. A counselor who is a Christian lives and works within the framework of a worldview that he believes to be true – the Truth. As such, I’m to live and work as God has called me to do, and to love my neighbor as myself. Called to understand the agape love of God, I’m called to love my neighbor as God loves me. This I can only do by the power of the Holy Spirit strengthening my inner being. It is not merely a commandment that Christians somehow obey by their own powers and faculties. It calls us to a relationship with the Living God – to know him as Abba Father (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). A Christian’s approach to all of life is a spiritual one. The work of counseling, like any other part of life, is a spiritual endeavor.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/May 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations for Christian Counseling: Client Expectations

Introduction

When clients decide to enter counseling, the task of finding a counselor is a daunting one. When searching websites or online directories, it can feel like a crapshoot. If you make the choice to enter counseling with me, a Licensed Professional Counselor, who practices from a Christian perspective, what might you expect? And as importantly, what are some specifics you should think about when choosing a counselor?

Christian Counseling

I presume that if you choose to work with me, then you are most likely seeking a counselor who works from a Christian perspective. My claim to be a Christian counselor, however, does not in-and-of-itself clarify everything clients might want to know. I hold a Reformed Orthodox view of Christianity, so I’m neither Catholic nor Neo-Orthodox in my Christian beliefs. I believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ. That means from a counseling perspective, I will draw heavily on Biblical principles as we work through any concerns you bring into counseling. I will want to explore your own understanding of your faith and how much of a role it plays in your life. In addition I will want to understand how you size up your personal relationship with God. There are certain premises I hold if counseling from a Christian perspective is to progress as it should.

Some Basic Premises

I believe that every concern and struggle we face as part of the human condition has something to say about our relationship to God. Moreover, our struggles in life can be addressed through our relationship to God. This does not mean that because we encounter problems in life there is ipso facto something wrong with our relationship to God. It does mean that we have to look to God to see what he is trying to tell us while we are in the midst of our struggles. Many times clients simply want problems resolved quickly, that is fixed. From a Christian perspective, everything we face has meaning and a purpose to it. A Christian approach to counseling does not make light or minimize your struggles and pain. It seeks to place such experiences in proper perspective.

We all engage life with a set of beliefs and values. Hence, working with me as a counselor means we will explore what beliefs an values you hold, particularly as they surface in relation to the concerns you bring to counseling. Individuals tend to be more or less aware of the beliefs and values they hold until they encounter difficulties in life. Clarifying one’s foundational beliefs and core values can help one understand why one acts or reacts the way one does when faced with life’s challenges

From a Christian perspective, exploration of one’s core set of beliefs and values must take place in light of one’s faith and relationship with God. I believe the more fully and more deeply we develop our relationship with God, the better perspective we will have on life and how to engage both its blessings and struggles. What I hope that a Christian perspective to counseling provides for people is Biblical knowledge that they can use to face any kind of difficulties and struggles that life throws at them.

Questions Clients Should Ask

How do I know if we will work good together?

This question revolves around the therapeutic relationship and the therapist-client fit. It is a question that all clients should consider. I offer all clients a free consultation for the first session. Although it’s no guarantee, it gives clients an opportunity to know me, see how I work, and a glimpse into how our work together will proceed. Each therapist and client has his or her worldview that will shape the way work proceeds from session to session. As a counselor who works from a Christian perspective, I let my worldview be known upfront. Hence I hope clients seek me out because they want to work with a therapist who holds such a worldview. In the first meeting both I and prospective clients can get a good sense as to how well we might work together. If a particular client decides that working with me is not a good fit for him or her, I can gladly offer referrals for other counselors if the client wants that information.

Are you simply emphasizing Biblical knowledge and theology while making the concerns I bring into counseling of secondary and tertiary importance?

Absolutely not. This is an excellent question and one that clients should ask of all therapists, regardless of their Spiritual or philosophical worldview. Clients’ presenting concerns are always front-and-center to our working together. Clients have the right to know what worldview I hold and how I understand the human condition and the struggles and difficulties human beings encounter in life. I will not set aside my worldview anymore than I would ask clients to set aside theirs.

Are you merely trying to proselytize clients to the Christian faith or to a particular brand of theology?

The square answer to this question is no. As a professional counselor, I’m here to help people work through the life struggles they bring into the counseling office. Because this question surfaces at times is the reason that I put forward my worldview upfront. People should know that in contacting me they are approaching a counselor who is a Christian, and that my worldview does inform and frame the way I work. I’m neither trying to play tricks on people nor am I trying to smuggle my worldview into the backdoor to spring it on anyone. If clients want to understand more about my faith, they are free to ask, and we can have that discussion if clients so wish.

How do you see Christianity as a way to help me with the concerns I bring to counseling?

That question calls for entire blog post, essay, or even a book length discussion in-and-of-itself. I believe in my core that the struggles we face in life unfold in God’s providential control over our lives. The problems we encounter, the pains we experience, and the difficulties that come our way can all be worked through by developing our relationship with God in a manner that helps us know him more fully and more deeply. Rather than discounting our concerns, a Christian perspective not only views an individual’s problems and pain as real, but it also provides a way to put our lives before God into proper perspective. I make no bones about it, a Christian perspective to counseling is a Spiritual approach.

What about clients who are not Christian?

I work with clients who hold various worldviews. Again they should know where I’m coming from as a Christian, but our work together will take on a more secular tone given that I want to try to meet them where they are in their life journey. If clients who are not Christians want to discuss my faith and beliefs, then as previously stated, I’ll most definitely have that conversation with them, as well as offering them referrals to others with whom they can explore the Christian faith.

I’m a Christian, but what if I don’t agree with your theology?

No two individuals agree on everything. As in any counseling approach, we will discuss in the process of therapy any therapeutic impasses or ruptures that occur while we’re working together. I highly encourage clients to be open about what they like and do not like about our sessions together. Disagreements are not only welcomed, but highly encouraged because such work is part and parcel of the counseling process.

Conclusion

This short blog barely scratches the surface of not only what counseling entails, but also in particular what a Christian perspective to counseling will entail. Along that thematic line, I have future plans to author some blogs that are titled Foundations to Christian Counseling, each blog with a different subtitle that focuses on a theme described in the subtitle. For example, this specific blog addresses client expectations. I hope through this series of articles to more fully explicate what a Christian approach to counseling involves.

John V. Jones, Jr, Ph.D., LPC-S/April 14th, 2021

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Foundations For Christian Counseling: Providence

Introduction

This month I’m returning to some counseling themes on Contemplations. After all, to address the world of professional counseling is why I established this blog in the first place. In particular I want to discuss counseling from a Christian perspective. I have written about that perspective before here, here, and here. Some time has passed since I published those blogs, and I have come to realize how experiences that life throws at us shape our understanding of and our relationship with God.

The providence of God is something that must be trusted. No finite and fallible human being can fully comprehend it, figure it out, or explicate it. When human beings even try to do so, they cross a barrier that is not theirs to cross. Providence is an attribute of God in which we rest rather than know fully. It hopefully leads us to more prayer with God. Knowing that God is in control of all things helps us develop perseverance as we face the aftermath of certain experiences. And it helps us develop that thing called patience, an attribute that seemingly always alludes our grasp. It is meant to bring us peace, not total comprehension.

An experience that life threw at me occurred on October 9th, 2020. I got up that Friday morning and came to realize that sometime during the night while sleeping I had experienced a cerebellum stroke. My life took a different turn at that point. (I have written some about that experience here.) My stroke cast me on God’s mercy. And it definitely has had an impact upon my faith. And I still have a long way to go in facing what my life will be like in the future.

Providence and Prayer

At first glance providence and prayer appear diametrically opposed to one another. If God is providential over all that will occur, then why pray for particular outcomes in our lives? Such tensions are replete throughout Scripture. On the one hand, God’s eternal existence cannot be contained by space and time. On the other hand, the space-time continuum is where human beings live out their daily existence. Throughout Scripture we are exhorted to pray and meditate on God’s word. Both prayer and reading Scripture are pathways to knowing God. Prayer in particular is personal communication with God. God knows we are needy, and he exhorts us to place our needs before his throne of grace. The providence of God is that in which I rest; prayer allows me to develop a personal relationship with a providential God. As much as anything else in our lives, God is providential over our prayers. Moreover, our prayers are answered by God. In other words, God hears and responds to our prayers. Rather than a contradiction, God’s providence is an open invitation to constant communication with God.

Providence & Perseverance

The dictionary provides us with varied nuances of definition for the word perseverance. The following comes from dictionary.com: to persist in anything undertaken; to maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty and discouragement; to continue steadfastly. All three of these definitions relate well to the Christian faith, but I particularly like the second one. The early church faced constant persecution and believers encountered daily challenges to their faith. In more than one epistle the Apostle Paul exhorted the church to persist in the cause of Christ in the face of what appeared to be overwhelming odds. Paul viewed even his several imprisonments as God working out his providential plan for the church. Because of God’s providence, Paul did not falter in his apostolic duties, and he did not want believers to become discouraged among the churches to which he ministered. Throughout Scripture we read how various individuals viewed what appeared as tragic circumstances as falling under God’s providence. Joseph in the Book of Genesis is a prime example. If we take a close hard look at the political landscape today and its response to the church, we can easily recognize that the culture in which we live is still at odds to the cause of Christ. Knowing that God is in control of everything allows us to persevere in a fallen world that is not friendly to the message of Christ. So yes, we as believers in Christ are to continue steadfastly and maintain our purpose in building up the church. I realize that this steadfastness is easier said than done. To take captive every sphere of life to the cause of Christ requires that we strongly trust in a providential God who will grant us the strength to persevere toward our purpose in Christ.

Providence & Patience

Providence and patience appear to be the most logically connected attributes one can imagine. Yet many people will claim that as a personal character trait, patience is on the bottom of their list. Galatians 5, however, lists patience as a fruit of the Spirit. I have to admit that across my seventy-three years on this earth, patience is a fruit that I haven’t cultivated very well. The importance of harvesting this fruit of the Spirit is seen in the fact that impatience is actually a lack of trust in God’s providence over our lives. Having been hit by a cerebellum stroke, being wheelchair bound, and facing other challenges like testing positive for COVID are experiences that have taught me the importance of patience even though I haven’t cultivated it the way that I would like. Going back to prayer, patience is something for which I pray while at the same time acting as though I really don’t want it. When connected with providence, however, patience is simply letting God be God in our lives. It is our being still and letting God be God. Patience entails our waiting on God and letting him work out the details of our lives. It involves our learning how God does in fact work in our lives. All of this is so much easier said than done that to simply say to someone be patient is so much shallow nonsense. For one to have the patience to abide in God’s providence, one must cultivate his or her relationship with God. Because I believe that patience is one of the most difficult fruit of the Spirit to grow in our lives, I think it is one of the most important to develop. I have come to expect that we will continue to face daily challenges and difficulties in this life that throw us back onto trusting God’s providence in our lives. This will be true even post stroke and other major challenges that life throws at us. Providence calls us to enter God’s rest, to be still and quiet, and to wait on God’s working in our lives. Patience as a fruit of the Spirit requires true wisdom as discussed in the Book of Proverbs that comes with a deep relationship with God.

Providence & Peace

Jesus Christ is our peace. This was announced on the night of his birth. In Christ God has been propitiated and his wrath turned away from us because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to those who believe in him. Through Christ, we have been brought near to God. We are no longer enemies of God, but we have been reconciled to him. We are justified before God by our faith in Christ. And we are redeemed through the work of Christ on the cross and by the power of his resurrection. Therefore, those of us who were once at enmity with God now through Christ are at peace with God. God’s plan of salvation is the ultimate example of God’s providential concern for humankind on the earth. But he is also providential in our sanctification, our day-to-day lives with all its blessings, struggles, and hardships that we undergo. If God is providential over our lives, we can enter his rest and find peace in the truth that he is working out our sanctification and spiritual growth through all we encounter in life. Our peace is grounded in God’s unchanging character – his grace, mercy, and lovingkindness. For example, on my part, I have to trust his providential working regarding my stroke. I may come to understand that to a larger or smaller degree, or perhaps not much at all. If the latter, I must trust that whether or not I understand the why of my stroke, that it falls within God’s providence and his loving concern. Demanding that God answer all our questions about the difficulties that befall us will only disturb our peace. For our peace comes by resting in his providence.

Conclusion

When we face hardships in life, we all want them resolved as quickly as possible. Christian clients enter counseling with the same hopes as anyone facing difficult challenges in life. Although not a popular position, I believe the focus for Christian counseling should be engaging clients to develop their relationship with God. This is not, however, at the expense of also focusing on the concerns that clients bring into the counseling room. This is a both-and process, not an either-or decision. As individuals develop their relationship to God, knowing God on a deep level becomes the foundation for future life challenges that clients will face. The desire for a quick fix of life’s problems tends to draw us away from resting in God’s providence. The desire for immediate relief clashes with our need to be patient. Moreover, it robs us of our peace because when quick fixes don’t work, we easily become embittered, angry, and frustrated. Impatience tends to interfere with our prayer life because we begin to think what’s the use; prayer isn’t helping. An overwhelming desire for a quick resolution of life’s challenges also interferes with our ability to persevere. This is not to say that some personal concerns do not lend themselves to shorter resolution than others. But major life challenges tend not to be of the kind that can be quickly resolved. Resting in God’s providence means signing on for the long haul, if not now then sometime in the future. Even though we can’t totally comprehend it, having some insight into God’s providence produces wisdom, which will provide a firm foundation for facing life’s challenges and working through them in a productive manner.

John V. Jones, Jr. Ph.D., LPC-S/ March 14th, 2021

GENERAL ESSAY

I

Ideas Shape Our Lives

Introduction

If we truly desire the liberty to shape our lives as we see fit, then we need to take stock of the ideas we clam to hold. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but many see our culture today as living the logical conclusion of The Closing of the American Mind. Not only are people unaware of the core ideas they hold, but they also do not even care or believe that ideas carry weighty consequences for their lives. We all hold ideas about living whether or not we are aware of them. Moreover, aware or not, we act on the ideas we hold.

Last month’s blog linked to an article from the Mises Institute authored by Jeff Diest. I’m going to tap the wellspring of knowledge from that think tank once again, linking readers to an interview that Deist does with Tom Woods on the importance of reading books. Obviously, the interview is not merely about reading, but it’s about challenging people to think about what they read so as to clarify the ideas they have about living out their lives. Consequently, Deist and Woods discuss deep reading as opposed to mere pleasure reading. The links below take readers to the Podcast interview and a couple of short bios for Jeff Deist and Tom Woods.

The Case for Reading Books: Jeff Deist & Tom Woods (Mises Institute)

If individuals desire to clarify their ideas, then thought-provoking reading is a must. Deist and Woods make the case for what they call heavy lifting in reading. Below are links to the podcast discussion with Deist and Woods, followed by links that provide short bios for the two discussants.

Podcast Jeff Deis-Tom Woods Interview

Jeff Deist Bio

Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Bio

Conclusion

There are several key takeaways from this podcast. First, mindless reactionary activism will not form a pathway to reclaiming individual liberty for our society. Neither will simply showing up for national elections on election day. Second, if we want to reestablish individual liberty as a core value for our existence, then we need to think about and clarify the ideas we claim to hold. Such clarification can take shape through what Deist and Woods discuss as heavy lifting reading. Hence they make the case for reading books that will shape how we engage life, particularly for those of us who claim to value individual liberty.The ideas we clarify for ourselves become the foundation for actions we take rather than thoughtlessly reacting to events around us. Individual liberty must stand on solid ideas.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/February 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER [AOP]

The Power of Ideas [AOP]

Ideas have consequences. Today we are engulfed in a culture of activism that possesses no foundation of thought or reason. So I thought I would kick off 2021 by providing a link from the Mises Institute, featuring an article by Jeff Deist, Welcome to Post-Persuasion-America. On Christmas and New Year’s days I published two short blogs about changes taking place on Contemplations. I thought Jeff’s article would be an excellent one to jumpstart 2021. The link to the article is below followed by a second link that provides a short bio of Jeff Deist.

Welcome to Post-Persuasion-America by Jeff Deist

About Jeff Deist

Conclusion

One far reaching takeaway from Jeff’s article for me is the vision he has for the Mises Institute whereby a few stalwarts are influenced by the Institute’s ideas, and those few begin to influence others within their own spheres. Albert jay Nock called them the remnant. There’s no save the world message here by populating Washington DC with the right people. Localism is key to reestablishing individual liberty one locale at a time. I encourage readers of this blog to visit, read, subscribe to, and support the Mises Institute.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/January 14th, 2021

ANALYSIS OF POWER [AOP]

What Lies Ahead?

Introduction

The Christmas blog article delineated some future changes that will occur for Contemplations. I decided that a New Years publication should provide some finer detail as to what those changes will look like on this Website. Then January 14th will kick off a new era for Contemplations. Basically this blog will comprise three thematic emphases: 1) General Essays; 2) Analysis of Power (AOP); and 3) Book Reviews. I will delineate each of these below to some extent.

General Essays

The General Essays on Contemplations will take the form they always have taken, exploring various ideas, general information, critical inquiries, and responses to events socially and culturally. Because I inaugurated this blog to address the world of professional counseling, I will continue to focus on that work as long as I’m involved with it. Presently I’m approaching retirement mode as a counselor, so I don’t know how long I’ll be professionally involved in that field. Unlike the other two modalities, General Essays will not have a common theme or content from article to article. The articles will focus on what I think is timely and on what happens to pique my interests in the moment.

Analysis of Power (AOP)

Analysis of Power (AOP) will contain articles that most definitely take on a common theme. The content for AOP stems from my conviction that the major challenge to a free society today is the onslaught of Statism. These articles will entail a critical inquiry into the State and its abuse of power. Power is the enemy of true liberty. Hence articles related to this theme will also explore how we can counter the rise of the State. I will discuss ideas such as nullification, Convention of States (COS), and Austrian Economics. I will also discuss Biblical principles applied to our understanding of government. I believe that if we are to defeat Statism, the church has to lead the way in that fight.

Book Reviews

The Book Reviews modality is self-explanatory. I will utilize this modality to write reviews of books that I think are important, both from the past and in the present. Aligned with AOP, I will review books from the Austrian Economic camp, libertarian authors, as well as authors who are stanch anti-Statists.

Conclusion

Progressivism and political correctness with its woke culture have permeated institutions of education, politics, economics, and religion with a set of values that can only be characterized as collectivist, if embraced, will lead to the loss of individual liberty. This Website will highlight authors and thinkers that provide contrasting sets of values, if embraced, will lead to the restoration of individual liberty and the application of Biblical principles to all areas of life.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/January 1st, 2021

GENERAL ESSAY