Aug 29, 2017
“Resolve by the grace of God that you will have regular seasons for examining yourself and looking over the accounts of your soul” (J.C. Ryle).
Today’s Biblical Counseling class at Africa Renewal University continued to focus on methodology. We considered how counseling involves a focused ministry of the Word – that counseling often aims to “call to remembrance” things that the counselee previously learned, but needs, in the moment, to treasure, trust and obey. We looked at ways to wisely utilize various forms in the Bible: Psalms, prayers, and short stories. As David Powlison puts it, we “connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life . . . a timely text brings truth down to a consumable size . . . change walks out in the details.”
However, our consideration went beyond the application of truth to our counselees’ lives. The initial emphasis was to apply the “living and active” word (Heb 4:12) to our own hearts. When the Psalmist exclaims, “the unfolding of your words gives light” (Psalm 119:130), the immediate context is his own life. Those words are followed by appeals to the Lord: “Turn to me and be gracious to me . . . Keep steady my steps . . . Redeem me . . . Make your face shine upon your servant and teach me your statutes” (verses 132-135). The quote from J.C. Ryle – at the top of this post – was written atop a critical task I gave to my students in today’s class, what I have entitled the “Self-Counseling Assignment.” It is a call to open their hearts to the Spirit’s scrutiny, to lay bare their often-unruly desires and unbelief. It is a call to transformation and spiritual growth, to the glory of their Savior.
Our class is characterized by many sobering moments, but times of hilarity also pop up! Today the students set out to do practice counseling of a very difficult case. Though the case details were challenging – the person acting out the part of the reluctant counselee was I. My impersonation of a Kenyan immigrant to Uganda was sure to bring laughter (and it did)! The students plowed through, however, and asked good questions to ascertain the real issues and measure the havoc done to ‘my relationships’ by long-term unresolved anger. The picture above shows one of the more ‘serious’ moments from this exercise.
Overall it is a delight to teach and interact with these pastors. Time and time again we end up spending profitable time wrestling through real marriage and other challenges they face in their churches. Their confidence and hope builds as the days go by, and this is a great joy. We still have lots to cover in the next few days, and I pray that I can finish well. Please join me in this prayer.
Short-term team member