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

A Time to Change

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . .(Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Introduction

Those who follow this blog know that for the past seven years I have published an article on the 14th of each month without missing a beat. Perhaps there was one or so published on the 15th. Whether or not quality is characteristic of this blog is for readers to decide, but consistency most definitely has defined my efforts put into this Website. Yet the 14th of October, November, and December passed without a peep from Contemplations. So what happened? Quite frankly a stroke happened. I got up on a Friday morning, October 9th, totally lacking the ability to stand or walk. Subsequently after calling 911, I was admitted to two hospitals and a rehab clinic, consuming the next 43 days of my life.

Additionally, those who follow this blog know that I’m fairly straightforward about my Christian faith. Part of this article will focus on how my faith informs my working through the challenges presented by my stroke. The epigraph from Ecclesiastes at the head of this blog is personally fitting because this is definitely a time to heal for me.

This blog, however, will address a broader form of healing than just a personal one. As a nation we need healing culturally and socially throughout all our institutions. I believe some of our institutions have outlived their usefulness all together. So another focus of this article will be on the change of emphasis that Contemplations will undergo in the future. A time to change is not directly expressed in Ecclesiastes 3, but it is implicit there if not explicit.

Healing Is Restoration

Having suffered a stroke I now know first hand what it means to live with a broken body. I lack the abilities to walk, swallow so as to take in solid food, and to see well. When I think of my prayers for healing, they are basically prayers for restoration. I pray that my body is restored to the capabilities that it possessed previous to the stroke. Faith is a multilayered thing. I hold fast to the hope that God will fully heal my body while simultaneously understanding there are no guarantees. There is at least one guarantee however. God will answer my prayers but in his own time and in his own way. Faith calls me to hold fast to God’s grace, his new mercies everyday, and his abundant lovingkindness. In doing so faith also calls me to wait for God’s timing. We are confronted with such tensions all through Scripture. We usually don’t get the full impact of them until they confront our lives in a real way.

There are nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5. One of them is patience. Although the Spirit provides these fruits for us, I know for certain that I was born lacking any patience whatsoever. And I have developed very little of it over the seventy-two years I’ve lived on this planet. My recovery from this stroke most assuredly entails an incremental process. Although I would welcome God’s blessing of exponential quantum leaps in the extent of my healing, it appears that I’m in this struggle for the long haul. That fact very well could mean that this is God’s way of helping me develop patience, not only in terms of healing, but also across vast areas of my life so that patience truly becomes a fruit of the Spirit I possess.

Patience involves not only wading through incremental steps of healing, but it also entails waiting on God’s timing. To respond to God’s call to be still and know that I am God at least requires patience if not all the other eight fruits of the Spirit and tons of Spiritual maturity. This is my time under the sun to see if I can face the challenges of compromised health concerns, which I’ve never had to face in my life until now. One thing is for certain. Whether or not I feel it at times or doubt it, Emmanuel – God with us – will be with me every step of the way.

The one lesson I’ve learned at this point that I can pass on to people is this. Do not take your good health for granted. It can be gone in the bat of an eye. Embrace your blessing of good health, and don’t squander your time, which is a blessing as well given to us by God.

Cultural and Social Restoration

Contemplations blog will undergo major changes. Although libertarian, I used to really keep my political beliefs in some back corner, rarely discussing them publicly and particularly not using this blog as a conduit for my political take on things. Well that’s about to change. I no longer believe such an approach is feasible. Culturally and socially this country is in turmoil, politically, economically, and morally. Our institutions have failed us. There is a heavy duty renovation needed throughout our society. Moreover, it’s the church and believers in Christ that need to lead the way to that renovation. We need to apply Biblical principles to all areas of life, from education to our workplace, and from our personal ethics to our engagement with political matters.

Having stated my position, let me say what this blog will not engage. I will not be writing anything to urge people to back certain candidates nor align with any particular political party. Our political institutions as they exist are miserable failures. Economically the country is sinking into an abyss as future generations are strapped with a twenty-three trillion dollar debt. The need for political action can no longer be about voting for the right people whom we naively believe will make the world right for us. Politicians will not accomplish such a feat because they simply don’t have the know-how to do so. On the one hand we must engage politically while on the other hand having as a goal to rid our lives of political interventionism. We must learn how to live free of the State. Given our present condition reclaiming our fundamental liberties will require a lot of relearning and new learning of ideas. Future blogs will explore many of those ideas that can help us counter the Statism in which we are ensconced.

Conclusion

Progressivism and political-correctness have taken over our educational institutions, our political institutions, and social media. It is a time for change. Political quietism is no longer feasible because it has led to the surrender of our personal liberties to collectivized power comprising people who believe it’s their place to design life for everyone else. Their modus operandi is other people’s money and a government printing press that continues to inflate our currency while plunging the country deeper into debt. For those of us who want to counter this progressive onslaught our political engagement must not be about getting the right people in office. We must take back our communities and defeat the rise of Statism that defines the day. I believe we can accomplish this feat only by choosing to apply Biblical principles to all areas of our lives.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D, LPC-S/December 25th, 2020

General Essay

.

A Life of Reading: A Christian Perspective

Introduction

My pastor today made a point about how Christians should surround themselves with good books. I couldn’t agree more. Since my early twenties back in my college days, I have developed somewhat the good habit of reading. I say somewhat because one, I could read much more than I do. Two, I’ve fallen on the bad habit at times of reading works that I wish I hadn’t wasted my time pursuing.

This is the fourth of a series of articles in which I explore working as a counselor who holds a Christian worldview. In the first two articles I explored what a Christian worldview entails. In the third article, I discussed my preference for working with Christian clients although I work with clients who hold a variety of worldviews.

I end this series addressing a life of reading, and why I think it is important for Christians to be avid and good readers. With that in mind, I also offer a list of books I’ve read, mostly written by Christians that I think other believers might find useful in developing their thoughts about how we engage this world and what it throws at us everyday. Anytime we discuss reading various authors, it is important to note that our first attention must aim at reading God’s Word, the Scriptures, everyday. The Bible becomes our standard to which we measure and compare anything else we read and study.

Christians as Avid Readers and Thinkers

Why? Why should Christians become energetic readers and thinkers? Do not the Scriptures warn us not to succumb to the philosophies of the world? Did not the Apostle Paul claim that knowledge puffs up? Does not the Word of God challenge us that although we are in the world, we are not to be part of the world? The short answer to all these questions is yes. It is for this reason, however, that I believe it is important that believers become avid students and critical thinkers regarding the worldviews that surround them and can so easily capture them if they are not careful.

The Technological Age

As Christians we live in a world inundated by social media. We are all engaged on a daily basis not only with television, but also the Internet, alternative podcasts, and various websites that proffer readers and listeners to consider. We are surrounded by what is touted as Information Age. How are Christians to navigate the flowing rivers of information with which they face everyday?

I believe it is important that we engage this age of excess information with a well-honed critical eye. We take in information nearly every hour of everyday, whether or not we realize it. We surf the Web. We listen to various podcast lectures. We view a plethora of YouTube channels that flood us with a variety of worldviews, opinions, and sales pitches, touching on anything from for whom we should vote, what we should value, how we should spend our time, or what we should purchase. Our minds are constantly assaulted by the tons of airwave information bytes that flood over us like ocean waves.

Jesus Christ answered a young man’s question regarding what is the greatest commandment claiming we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul. Note in that statement, all our mind. God created our mind. We are supposed to use to his glory. That means we are supposed to use it in the best way we possibly can, not wasting it on things that are unimportant. A well-honed mind is a critical mind, meaning we should develop the ability to weigh things and discern rightly about them.

I would not make this a legalistic rule, but I personally believe that the less time we spend on social media and television, the better. Turn off the television, shut down the computer, and open a good book. Good books are ones that are going to make us think about how we should live in this fallen world, as Christians believe it to be. Well written essays, treatises, and other forms of non-fiction should lead us to reflect upon our worldviews, beliefs, and values. Simultaneously, we bring to those works our thoughts and beliefs that we have already worked out as Christians to see how an author’s thought aligns or misaligns with what we believe spiritually. This is not to say that the only works we should read are ones with which we are fairly certain that we already agree. For sure, take on challenging works, never forgetting who is our foundation. We should engage the thought of the day, while making sure of our principles so that we can face the ideas that might counter what we believe.

Sharpening our minds begins, I believe, by drastically reducing the time we spend on social media.

Centuries of Works at Our Fingertips

One of the things the Information Age has going for it is the cataloguing of works that have been written over several centuries. As believers in Christ, we have the early Church Fathers who wrote theological treatises, early Church histories, and Christian devotionals, all of which we can engage for our personal edification. We can read about how early Christian churches developed their ideas around the great creeds. We can plumb the histories regarding how early Christians dealt with heresies, theological error, and outright false teachings. We can learn about saints from early Church history and how they dealt with persecution and attacks due to their faith. We can study the philosophical battles that Church practitioners had to face across the centuries. We have a plethora of works we can read and study, beginning right after the time of Christ, moving on into the Middle Ages, and into our modern era regarding the history of the Church, doctrine, and specific individuals that have impacted our faith in various ways.

We have no excuses when it comes to what is available for us to ready and study. The issue becomes is what and how we prioritize our time.

Where We Spend Our Time

When it comes to the specific works we read, we will get various opinions from the many solid believers out there as to what should be the focus of our time and study. If I wanted, I could create another series of articles about all the things we could read that would edify us as believers, including works that would challenge us in many ways.

Instead what I will do is simply list some authors that I think any believer will find helpful in the development of his or her faith. In so doing, I am just dipping a toe in water that contains fathoms more that I could discuss.

The Early Church Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers could keep one busy for some time to come. One couldn’t do much better than picking up some works by Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, or Origen of Alexandria. All of these authors contribute a Mother Lode to the history of the Church. The one early writer that one does not want to miss, however, is Augustine of Hippo, who authored The City of God, and Confessions. Augustine is foundational to what would eventually take place in the Reformation, and saints of Christ still read his works to this day. There are numerous others besides these that one can explore.

Reformation Writers

When it comes to the Protestant Reformation, believers for sure want to engage the writings of both Martin Luther and John Calvin. I know of a set that comprises fifty-five volumes of Martin Luther’s works alone. Don’t let this fact overwhelm you. The editors of these Luther’s massive works are Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann. Anyone interested in reading some of Luther’s works can access this collection and choose the particular works one would like to read and study. His Freedom of the Christian is an excellent short work to read and a good solid beginning regarding his thought.

When it comes to John Calvin, the work in which to delve is his Institutes of the Christian Religion. One can find this work in a two-volume set, edited by John T. McNeill and published by Westminster Press. The Institutes is basically Calvin’s systematic theology, covering major theological subjects that are important to believers who want to be on sound footing regarding their theology.

Modern Writers

The theological treatises of the Early Church Fathers and the Reformation Fathers represent some intense reading indeed. I encourage any believer, however, not to shy away from delving into those works. You can glean from them if you put in the effort and time.

Works that reach back to the more modern era, say from the 17th to the present century are also available for our edification. Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and B. B. Warfield come to mind. Hodge’s Systematic Theology is a wonderful work to study regarding Reformed theology.

When it comes to the 20th century, personally, I would begin with writers such as Francis Schaeffer, James Sire, and C. S. Lewis. Both Schaffer’s and Lewis’ works can now be obtained in Collected Works sets. They are worth owning, and readers can survey them in terms of what they want to read. Both Schaffer and Lewis shaped my thinking as a young believer, helping me understand that being a Christian is a thinking individual’s life. We don’t turn off our mind when we become Christians. Lewis’s fictional works too are fun to read.

James Sire is a Christian author who for most of his life has written for Intervarsity Press (IVP). As a Christian thinker he explores philosophical avenues that deal with various worldviews. His work The Universe Next Door was instrumental in shaping my thinking about worldviews and how to think about and critiques various philosophical frameworks to which people might hold and try to live out. Another work by Sire, Habits of the Mind, impacted my thinking heavily, especially as a believer who is interested in the place of scholarship in the Christian life. I have probably read just about everything Sire has written, so I highly recommend him for any believer who is interested in how we fulfill the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our mind.

Os Guinness is another IVP writer who has branched out over the years who I highly recommend as well. His early work, The Dust of Death, is one I strongly suggest, even though it surveys the decade of the tumultuous 1960’s. I don’t think it’s dated, and it can be critically studied to think about what is happening today in our postmodern era. A work by Guinness that I passionately recommend is his book The Call. In this book, Guinness discusses how we come to understand our calling before God. It is not a work that sets out to answer specific questions, such as what my career should be as a Christian. It provides a framework, however, for us as believers to think and pray about such questions along with a host of other questions we may want to explore regarding our lives.

There are so many others I could list, but this short blog article cannot possibly cover them all. Garry Friesen, Mark A. Noll, John Lennox, Gene Edward Veith all come to mind. Readers can easily build a reading list, drawing from James Sire’s bibliography from his work, Habits of the Mind.

Conclusion

The main issue, believer, is that you should challenge yourself to read deeply, study thoroughly, and use your mind to God’s glory. This will look different for each believer, but the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our mind, is not a relative one. It is not one to be shirked.

For those believers, like myself, who are therapists, it is important that we engage our clients, particularly Christian clients, on a deep level that helps them build their Biblical knowledge, their theological study, and their personal relationship with God so as to navigate a postmodern world that is anything but friendly to a Christian worldview.

John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/September 14th, 2020

THEMATIC/WORLDVIEW