• 12 Biblical Portraits of Anxiety

    Posted on October 21st, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 7:

    A Dozen Biblical Portraits of Anxiety


    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx.


    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love?

    Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.


    The Bible Is Relevant


    Some people talk about “making the Bible relevant.”


    We don’t make the Bible relevant. The Bible is the most relevant book ever written.


    In fact, we have to work hard to make the Bible irrelevant. We have to work hard to make the Bible boring.


    Other people talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures. I believe 100% that the Bible is sufficient. However, far too many people fail to link the sufficiency of Scripture with the relevancy of Scripture.


    We should never talk about the sufficiency of Scripture without also emphasizing the relevancy of Scripture.


    The Relevancy of the Bible and Anxiety


    What does all of this have to do with an anatomy of anxiety?


    Some people think that the only biblical reference to anxiety is Philippians 4:6. They also tend to act like the only biblical counseling that we need to do for a person struggling with anxiety is to quote, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”


    That’s an amazing verse, but the Bible is not simply a “concordance” on anxiety where we tell people, “take two verses and call me in the morning.”


    The Reality of the Bible: The Agony of Anxiety


    The Bible presents an amazing array of an anatomy of anxiety. I want to share just a small sampler of those to whet your appetite. These verses and passages realistically depict the agony of anxiety.


    The Bible is real and raw. It tells about real people with real problems. It presents real answers from a real God.


    One of the myriad beauties of the Bible is it teaches us that we are not alone. Others have suffered like we do now. And others have found victory. This sense of “universality”—that others are in the same boat, encourages us when life beats us down.


    A Dozen Biblical Samplers of the Experience of Anxiety


    If you are struggling with fear, panic, worry, or anxiety, consider the following samplers as just a few passages you can turn to that depict struggles with fear and anxiety in other godly men and women of the Bible.


    *Psalm 27: When fear assaults, David seeks God’s face.


    *Psalm 34: Read of David’s fear and broken-heartedness and God’s care and cure.


    *Psalm 46: Learn of God’s strength and ever-present help in our trouble and anxieties.


    *Psalm 55: David’s thoughts trouble him—ever been there? He is distraught—been there, done that! His heart is in anguish within him; terrors of death assail him. Fear and trembling beset him; horrors overwhelm him. He casts all his cares on Jehovah; He cries out to Jehovah in distress. He pleads for God’s sustaining care.


    *Psalm 91: This psalm has been called the 911 Psalm. When you experience terror and foreboding and feel like life is an unavoidable snare and trap, call God’s 911 hotline and find God to be your refuge and shield.


    *Psalm 109: David candidly speaks of his wounded heart (109:22). He is poor and needy, shaken and fading away (109:23). Attacked by others, he clings to God.


    *Psalm 116: The psalmist is overcome by trouble, afflicted, and dismayed, overly concerned, imprisoned by anguish. Where will rest be found?


    *Matthew 6:25-33: Jesus’ teaching on worry and trusting Father’s good heart.


    *Matthew 10:26-31: Jesus’ teaching on fear and trusting Father’s affectionate sovereignty.


    *John 14:1-31: Jesus’ loving message to His disciples and to us—when our hearts are troubled, when we feel orphaned and all alone, where do we find peace? Do not let your hearts be troubled.


    *Philippians 4:1-20: A classic passage on anxiety—but note that it is a passage in the context of a book. It is not simply a verse to quote like waving a magic wand.


    *1 Peter 5:5-11: Another classic New Testament passage in a wider context that includes not only casting our care on God who cares, but also discusses vigilance (5:8)—sound familiar?


    What About You? What About Your Friend?
    If you are struggling with fear, anxiety, panic, worry…don’t simply read these passages. Feel them. Live them. Experience them. Write a personal paraphrase of them. Memorize them. Meditate on them.


    If you are helping a spiritual friend who is battling anxiety…don’t simply preach these passages at your friend. Discuss these passages. Interact about them. Dialogue about them. Trialogue about them–you, your spiritual friend, and the Ultimate Spiritual Friend. Have your spiritual friend write a personal paraphrase of the passage.


    The Rest of the Story


    I invite you to return for part eight where we’ll share personal expressions of the agony of anxiety from others who have struggled through it. You are not alone.


    Then in part nine and beyond, we’ll explore some causes of anxiety.


    All of our discussion is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.

  • The Best of Books on Theology and Counseling

    Posted on August 30th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Kellemen’s Christian The Best Of Guide

    The Best of Books on

    The Theology of Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation


    Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide: Making your life easier by finding, summarizing, evaluating, and posting the best resources on a wide variety of topics from a Christian perspective.


    The Twenty Most Influential Books on

    The Theology of Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation


    Note: The following books focus on a theology/theory of biblical counseling and spiritual formation. They do not highlight methodology/practice. They focus on a broad theory of people, problems, and solutions. They do not highlight specific “issues” in “counseling” (such as depression, anxiety, etc.).


    Note: For the sake of space, I have not reviewed each of these books. However, I do have a 55-page document that reviews over 125 books on Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation: http://bit.ly/sYx1U. The fuller document explains that I do not endorse everything in all the books below. That’s why my subtitle to this post is: “The Twenty Most Influential” rather than “The Best Of.”




    Adams, Jay E. A Theology of Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.


    Anderson, Neil T., Terry Zuehlke, and Julianne S. Zuehlke. Christ-Centered Therapy: The Practical Integration of Psychology and Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.


    Bredfeldt, Gary J. and Harry Shields. Caring for Souls: Counseling Under the Authority of Scripture. Chicago: Moody, 2001.


    Clinton, Tim and George Ohlschlager, eds. Competent Christian Counseling, Volume One: Foundations and Practice of Compassionate Soul Care. Colorado Springs: Waterbrook, 2002.


    Collins, Gary. Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide. Revised edition. Nashville: Nelson, 1988.


    Crabb, Larry. Understanding People. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.


    Eyrich, Howard A. and William L. Hines. Curing the Heart: A Model for Biblical Counseling. Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2002.


    Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2001.


    Johnson, Eric. Foundations for Soul Care: A Christian Psychology Proposal. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007.


    Jones, Ian. The Counsel of Heaven on Earth: Foundations for Biblical Christian Counseling. Nashville: B&H, 2006.


    Jones, Stanton and Eric Johnson, eds. Psychology and Christianity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000.


    Kellemen, Robert W. Soul Physicians: A Theology of Soul Care and Spiritual Direction. Revised Edition. Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 2007.


    Lake, Frank. Clinical Theology: A Theological and Psychiatric Basis to Clinical Pastoral Care. Vol. 1. Lexington, KY: Emeth Press, 2006.


    Lane, Tim, and Paul Tripp. How People Change. Second Edition. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2008.


    MacArthur, John F., Jr. and Wayne A. Mack. Introduction to Biblical Counseling. Nashville: W Publishing Group, 1994.


    McMinn, Mark. Psychology, Theology, and Spirituality in Christian Counseling. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 1996.


    Peterson, Eugene. Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005.


    Powlison, David. Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition through the Lens of Scripture. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2003.


    Pugh, John. Christian Formational Counseling: The Work of the Spirit in the Human Race. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, 2008.


    Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2002.


    Important Stuff


    *Your Guide: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC, is the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries (www.rpmministries.org) through which he writes, speaks, and consults to equip God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth. He blogs daily at http://rpmministries.blogspot.com.


    *My Necessary Disclaimer: Of course, I don’t endorse everything in every article, book, or link that you’ll find in Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide. I report, you decide.


    *Your Suggestions Are Welcomed: Feel free to post comments and/or send emails (rpm.ministries@gmail.com) about resources that you think deserve attention in various categories covered in Kellemen’s Christian The Best of Guide.

  • Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical

    Posted on June 10th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    Why Some Biblical Counseling Is Only Half Biblical

    Part One: The Gravity of Grinding Affliction

    By Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., LCPC


    *Note: If you find yourself upset that I am saying that some biblical counseling is only half biblical, then I would ask you to be sure to read my comments at the end of this blog post. Thanks!


    Thankful for Modern Biblical Counseling


    I thank God for modern biblical counseling and biblical counselors. I consider myself one of them. That’s why I direct the Biblical Counseling and Spiritual Formation Network 


    I also know that any human “movement” is imperfect and that all human beings are finite and are born fallen. Thus, we need to and are called to learn from one another.


    My Premise: Half Biblical Counseling


    Having said that, here’s my premise:


    Some modern biblical counseling considers the seriousness of sin—sinning, but spends much less time equipping people to minister to the gravity of grinding affliction—suffering.


    When we provide counseling for sin, but fail to provide counseling and counselor training for suffering, then I am of the conviction that such biblical counseling is only half biblical!


    My Premise Expanded: One-Quarter Biblical Counseling


    Throughout this blog post mini-series (first run from June 1 to June 18, 2009), I will develop a further premise:


    Even when some biblical counselors do address suffering and sufferers, their focus seems to be upon “directive” counseling that exhorts the suffering Christian to be faithful. When we provide only or primarily directive exhortations to faithfulness, but fail to engage in biblical “sustaining” (empathy, compassionate commiseration, weeping with those who weep, sharing Scripture and soul, “climbing in the casket”), and when we fail to engage in biblical “healing” (encouragement, collaborative exploration of biblical responses, trialogues, spiritual conversations, scriptural explorations, “celebrating the resurrection”), then such biblical counseling is only one-quarter biblical. 


    The Evils We Have Suffered and the Sins We Have Committed


    Over a quarter-century ago, when I was a seminary student, “counsel wars” erupted over two “competing models” of counseling. As I watched the wounded souls strewn across this Christian battlefield, I kept saying to myself:


    “Surely the Church has always been about the business of helping hardened and hurting people.”


    After over twenty-five years of biblical and historical research, I can assure you that the Church has always been about the business of helping hardened people to deal with their sin and helping hurting people to deal with their suffering.


    When we fail to deal with both, then our biblical counseling is, at best, only half biblical. Frank Lake says it well,


    “Pastoral care is defective unless it can deal thoroughly with the evils we have suffered and with the sins we have committed. The maladies of the human spirit in its deprivation and in its depravity are matters of common pastoral concern.”


    When the Rubber Meets the Road


    Of course, every Christian biblical counselor is loving. As bearers of God’s image and as renewed image bearers because of our redemption in Christ, we all love the people we minister to.


    And, of course, every Christian biblical counselor spends time at the bedside of a cancer victim, or at the gravesite of grieving loved ones.


    But please hear this. That does not mean that our focused approach to biblical counseling comprehensively emphasizes suffering and sin.


    I’d ask you to do this. Browse through some of the comprehensive biblical counseling texts. Review your notes from a biblical counseling training seminar. Read the typical definitions of “biblical counseling.” How much time is spent on how to deal with sinning counselees versus how to help suffering counselees? How often is “suffering/hurting” included in definitions of what makes biblical counseling biblical?


    In my book, Soul Physicians, I attempt to address both sin and suffering throughout, and I add two core chapters on biblical sufferology. In my book, Spiritual Friends, half of this biblical counseling training manual focuses on equipping counselors to provide sustaining and healing care for suffering counselees (pages 39 to 214).


    Now, let me be clear—my works are just as imperfect as any other books. I am not saying that I’ve cornered the market on the perfect balance.


    I am simply saying, when the rubber hits the road, when we train people in our books and in our seminars, when we offer definitions, when we launch lay counseling ministries in our local churches, are we dealing both with the evils we have suffered and with the sins we have committed?


    Where Do We Go From Here?


    I know, you have a million or even a bazillion questions. I’m glad. So do I!


    This is just one post in a series of blog posts. In future posts I’ll try to address some of the questions that I imagine that you have. Questions like:


    1. So, are you watering down sin?


    2. So, are you saying that Christ came to heal our suffering and not to save us from our sin?


    3. So, are you saying that our primary problem is our suffering rather than our sin?


    4. So, has anyone else in Church history ever said we must focus on both sin and suffering?


    5. So, what would it look like to focus on both sin and suffering?


    6. So, what’s your definition/description of truly biblical counseling?


    7. So, why do you think this “imbalance” exists?


    8. So, how can we equip people for comprehensive biblical counseling?


    9. So, how can we shape biblical counseling so that it deals comprehensively with real life issues?


    10. So, how can biblical counseling become a natural part of one another ministry in the local church?


    I’ll address questions like these and quite a few more.


    *Note: Why I Am Addressing This Topic


    All who have followed my ministry know that I am about bridge-building and not about wall-building. You might wonder then, “Bob, why blog about something that is surely to be controversial?”


    Those who follow my ministry also know that I am about equipping God’s people to change lives with Christ’s changeless truth through Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling and spiritual formation.


    Biblical counseling that fails to deal with suffering, fails the test of Christ-centered, comprehensive, compassionate, and culturally-informed biblical counseling. I would be a hypocrite to my calling if I remained silent.


    Others might wonder, “Are you talking about a particular ‘model’ of modern biblical counseling, or about a particular person or persons who are writing today?”


    No. I am not. This is not an attack against. These blogs are not directed toward any one person or group.


    These blogs are directed to all of us—myself included—who love biblical counseling. They are for all of us—myself included—who need good Bereans to help us to assess how biblical or unbiblical our approaches to biblical counseling truly are.


    Still others might wonder, “But why not at least name names?” Frankly, I am not called to be part of the growing blog movement known as the “Discernment Movement.” Their calling seems to be to call out publicly those they feel are psycho-heretics. I have no desire to engage in such tactics.


    If my blog posts were an “academic” tome, then for scholarly purposes I would quote some people directly. But these are simply blog posts and I am not attempting to demean any person or group.


    Additionally, some pastors, student, lay people, and counselors who may practice “half biblical counseling,” are “nameless” to me. I have had numerous godly, mature Christians tell me of pastors and others who have confronted their sin but never comforted their suffering. It would be neither possible nor wise for me to try to name names.


    I write to help, not to hurt. I write to equip, not to attack. I write to start a conversation, not to finish one.


    Please join the conversation.