A Great Week, and Great Responses

Last week I had the privilege of delivering the Thursday night plenary address at the Biblical Counseling Training Conference in Lafayette, Indiana. The BCTC has been training pastors and lay leaders in discipleship and Biblical counseling for forty years and this year over two-thousand folks from around the world attended the conference and many more attended Thursday night's session via live stream. It was such an honor to share with one of the largest gatherings of Biblical counselors ever our vision of seeing the Church and Christian families become the safest place on the planet. If you were not able to join us live you can view the replay here. 

WATCH THE PLENARY HERE 

Our hope was to challenge and encourage Biblical counselors by acknowledging the severity of the problem, help recognize our own blindness to the systemic nature of violence against women, and to take a stand publicly. I am encouraged by the responses of fellow pastors and biblical counselors to this presentation. I know many people are disappointed in the church's past responses and rightfully so. We have done a poor job and must improve. But, the progress I observe is encouraging. 

  • Churches that never discussed domestic abuse are reading, learning, wrestling with, engaging, and building Biblical policies and practices to serve victims better. This growing process has literally saved lives. PTL
  • Training ministries that previously, rarely addressed domestic violence, and sometimes offered poor or counterproductive advice, are transitioning to healthy, honest, and humble positions on these issues. Last week's BCTC is an example of such movement. PTL. 

There are many more examples of how the sleeping giant is awakening and there is more work to do. I WILL NEVER condemn a pastor or counselor for addressing the problem. In fact, l praise those who do. At the same time, I want to help them clearly and more effectively speak truth. That is why on Thursday night we re-launched PeaceWorks University as a membership site for Biblical counselors, pastors, and people helpers. 

PeaceWorks University is a membership site designed to train and mentor biblical counselors and people helpers in ministering to those impacted by domestic violence. Currently PeaceWorks University features over thirty-hours of video based content from myself, several e-books, and resources from friends, as well as new resources added monthly such as our masterclasses with experts in the field, toolbox items, and Facebook live sessions with myself.  Our hope is that PeaceWorks University will become a place to build relationships, knowledge, and skill. I want to invite you to consider joining us as well.  

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PeaceWorks University will be extending our Founding Members' pricing of $10 a month or $100 a year through the end of the month of February (2018)! We have received lots of questions for more information about PWU so while we get those addressed, you still have time to subscribe at this affordable price. Visit www.chrismoles.org to subscribe. 

 

It is a BIG DEAL

Hello friends, before we jump into today’s post I wanted to let you know that I will be speaking this Thursday night February 15th at the Faith Biblical Counseling Training Conference on the topic of Domestic Abuse, How Can The Church Respond. This session will be available on Live Stream and you can join us by following the link below. 

VIEW LIVESTREAM

I hope you can join us. Now to today’s post.

Minimization

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8

Among the most common responses I hear when confronting a man about his abusive behavior is that of minimization. The goal is to soften the impact or severity of his behavior with excuses, rationale, or a dismissive attitude. The sentiment is that the events we are discussing are not as serious as they seem or that there is some kind of misunderstanding. In essence a reasonable person will see that what he has done is not that big of a deal. The result however of one’s consistent minimization is not that of removing attention but will in fact reveal your heart over time. You see with each attempt to reduce your responsibility, diminish the credibility of your partner’s concerns, and dismiss or deny the necessity of consequences you maximize your own self-importance. With each seed of minimization you sow the crop of pride continues to expand and a harvest of destruction is looming. I know you’re frustrated that others doubt you and that some even refer to you as smug or arrogant, but they do so because you are probably smug and arrogant. Your attempts to minimize your behaviors only draw our attention to the severity of those actions. The fact that you’ve hurt others is a real problem. It should not be easily swept away by minimizing the harm or ignoring the impact or potential damage you’ve caused. A major mistake that I have witnessed men make is diminishing the results of their abuse. Statements such as, “it’s not a big deal” or “this has been blown out of proportion” should be removed from your vocabulary in this instance. While guilt and the subsequent consequences of your sin are uncomfortable they are beneficial. It’s time you acknowledge the impact of your behavior. Is your spouse afraid of you? Are they always walking on eggshells? Are you reaping a harvest of destruction? Are you willing to take responsibility for these results?

Final Thought

Charles Spurgeon once said, “If your sin is small then your Savior will be small also. But if your sin is great, then your Savior must be great.” Let me encourage you to acknowledge and confess the severity or your sin.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”                                                                                                            1John 1:8-10

 

The Worst Kind of Counselor

Today's post is from my friend Joy.  The original post can be found on her blog at Called to Peace Ministries.

Recently, I began reading the book of Job in my quiet time. I love so much about this book, but I always find myself wanting to fast forward all the well-meaning advice from Job’s friends.  Job’s friends’ counsel seems all too familiar to one who has lived through, and helped others escape, the horrors of domestic violence. It is so easy for one who has never suffered intensely to come up with godly sounding advice, and even to misapply perfectly good scripture in a way that implies the victim surely must have done something to bring on the trouble.

In his book Domestic Abuse, pastor and biblical counselor Chris Moles mentioned his experience of being invited to speak to a group of Christian women in a support group for domestic violence survivors. The thing that stood out to Chris as he listened to these ladies share their experiences was that nearly everyone of them had reached out to their churches for help after enduring years of controlling and violent behavior, and the result in the majority of cases was that the church counsel had eventually turned against them. 

This common scenario usually goes something like this. A woman musters up the courage to reach out to her pastor for help. Sometimes he believes her (although he thinks she’s probably exaggerating the severity), but often he doubts her story. After all, he knows her husband to be a godly man. He then goes to the husband to ask about his wife’s allegations. The abuser explains to the pastor just how absurd that is. He indicates that has tried to encourage his wife, but she is clearly unstable and responds to his support with disrespect.

Afterwards, this man goes home and scolds or threatens his wife for talking to the pastor. In some cases, the result might be physical harm. When the couple goes back to the pastor later for counseling, the wife is strangely silent or perhaps too emotional. When the pastor asks her to voice her concerns, she gives a briefer, sanitized version of her earlier account, or defers to her husband. The pastor then gives some advice about how they can improve their marriage, assigns some helpful reading, and closes with a prayer. The husband approves, thanks him for his time and assures him they will work on things. The wife leaves feeling completely dejected. Even though she is clearly a victim behind closed doors, the counseling session put equal or even more of the burden on her to change the situation. Hopelessness begins to set in. Like Job she knows that the counsel they received completely missed the heart of the problem.

Over the course of time, counsel like this ends up harming rather than helping to restore abusive marriages. No matter how much scripture is quoted or how much this wife works on herself, things will likely go from bad to worse. That is because the true problem is hidden. In Job’s case, nobody involved knew the interchange that had occurred between Satan and God. His friends, being good students of wisdom, naturally assumed that Job must bear some of the responsibility. Even though there was truth in their words, they did not see the whole picture, and unfairly accused him. In the end, God was angered with their charges against Job.

In my 18 years of working with abuse victims, I have witnessed modern versions of Job’s counselors multiple times. In fact, I’ve been one myself. Before my marriage failed, I operated under the faulty assumption that marriages failed because people didn’t try hard enough. When two of my own family members experienced divorce because of abuse, I secretly judged them in my heart. Surely, they could have done something to make it work. I was far more concerned for their marriages than their well-being. In the end, I applied the same sort of counsel to myself, and ended up working on my marriage until I nearly lost my life. One day as I was crying out to God and studying his Word, I realized he cared more about me that that that broken covenant. I understood that there’s no way one person can make a marriage work if the other isn’t willing. Like the Pharisees, I had elevated an institution over the people it was intended to bless. While they missed the point about the Sabbath, I missed it about marriage. I failed to understand the true source of the problem, and consequently did more harm than good.

The church is filled with well-intentioned counselors who are doing the same thing to victims of abuse. Women in these situations have come to me baffled and hurt when the tables have turned on them. Rather than getting help they got blamed. I fully understand why God aimed his wrath at Job’s friends. They assumed too much, blamed too quickly, and refused to believe Job’s pleas of innocence- even when their previous interactions with him supported his claims. They even used their knowledge of God against Job. Rather than trying to understand the whole story, they arrogantly assumed and placed the blame where it did not belong. They were in a position to love and support, but instead added insult to injury, and as a result became the worst kind of counselors.

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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

Power

Power and control are central themes in addressing abuse. Abusers use power to gain or maintain control over their partners. Within the groups we lead, attempts are made regularly to facilitate discussion and reflection around men’s abuse of power in general and more specifically how individual members of our group have used power to control their partners. We highlight the impact of abuse, the motivation and the beliefs behind our behavior.

Power Over

“She just wouldn’t give in.”

“I had to get her under control before someone got hurt!”

“What was I supposed to do?”

Statements like these and many more are common among abusers and evidence the all or nothing thinking produced by lording power over others. When we exercise power over others we limit our options. The goal of power over is to remain in control and therefore narrows our thinking making it difficult, undesirable or perhaps most accurately unacceptable to consider any option that may diminish our power. This mentality denies feedback, isolates us and our loved ones, and for the Christian defies the very instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Power Under

Inevitably destructive men who claim the name of Jesus will bring up key Bible passages which they feel support their position to “keep her in her place” or “take control of the situation.” The assumption is that if they are called to “lead” or to be the “head” then they must take control. While there is much that could be said about headship and submission I tend to begin by challenging the sinful approach of power over with the words of Jesus. When Jesus was asked about the role of power in the life of a believer he spoke clearly and effectively.  Regarding positions of power Jesus said,

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over them.  But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

But among you it will be different. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of wiggle room here. When it comes to authority and power the world presses down, restricts, dominates, controls, subdues, and believers are to have no part of it; we are instead to serve. When the world demeans, we empower, when they control, we promote freedom, when they act superior we practice humility, when they reject accountability we submit. The bottom line is that we are different. A husband who lords abusive power over his wife is living inconsistent with the clear teaching of Jesus and it is safe to say that he serves someone or something other than the Savior. The heart of pride longs for power over, but the heart of Christ calls for power under.

With great power comes great responsibility.” –Uncle Ben from Spiderman

I know that power is a reality in the world we live. Generally speaking men are bigger, stronger, and faster than women. Whether we believe it is fair or just, men still hold a great deal of power socially, politically, and in most arenas of life. The question is how will we respond to this power? We as men can continue living in privilege with little or no thought to its impact on women or we can take responsibility, using our power and influence to serve and empower others. The more we practice power under by embracing humility, receiving feedback and criticism well, and recognizing others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) the more, I believe, we’ll promote a new paradigm of power under.

Peace

Am I Really Forgiven?

Today's post is by my friend Bev Moore.

Jill thought for a long time about God’s forgiveness. She had spent so many years dealing with feelings of condemnation and guilt.  What she was experiencing now seemed like a dream—something too good to be true. She was nervous that something was going to go wrong, or that maybe God was waiting to heap on the guilt the next time she messed up.

Many of our counselees can identify with Jill.  When they are introduced to the gospel—that they can be forgiven by God’s grace—it’s almost more than they can believe.  But by God’s grace they do believe!  Yet sometimes they feel uneasy but they’re not quite sure why.

One thing that really helped Jill was reading how Jesus demonstrated His love for a woman who desperately needed His forgiveness. It wasn’t hard for Jill to identify with the woman in this story. Jill got to see the love and compassion Jesus freely gave to someone like her.

It’s the beautiful story found in Luke 7:36-50 where Jesus was invited to dinner at the home of a Pharisee named Simon. While there a woman who had lived a sinful life came to the house with an alabaster jar of perfume and she wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. She kissed His feet and anointed them with the perfume. Simon was repulsed by what he saw and couldn’t believe Jesus could allow Himself to be touched by this “sinner.”  

Jesus knew what Simon was thinking and told him a story involving a moneylender and two men that owed him money and how the moneylender forgave both debts.  Jesus asked Simon which man he thought would love the moneylender more. Simon knew that the man with the bigger debt canceled would love the moneylender more. Here is how the rest of this scene played out:

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give Me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give Me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:43-50)

What a striking contrast between two people—a Pharisee, who placed his faith in his own self-righteousness and goodness, who erroneously believed he had a very small debt he owed to God, and believed he could earn God’s favor by keeping the rules. And a woman who knew she had a huge debt she owed to God and she could never even begin to repay Him, but who put her faith in Jesus. This woman was well aware of her guilt and her need for forgiveness. She knew she had to come to Jesus for the forgiveness she desperately wanted and needed.

For some, believing that God will forgive every sin is difficult to accept as true. Why? Here are several reasons to consider:

• We doubt that God will ever accept us after what we’ve done. We think that our sin is too big or too awful for God to forgive.

• We continually repeat our sin, feeling trapped in a never-ending cycle of defeat and despair.

• We fail to grasp the holiness of God and His hatred of sin so we fail to see our sin as a direct offense against God.

• We attempt to establish our own standard of righteousness and feel defeated and unforgiveable when our performance doesn’t measure up to our satisfaction.

• We fail to grasp the depth of God’s forgiving grace through the sacrifice of His Son’s life.

Jill was grateful for God’s forgiveness, but wrestled with this thought: “I just can’t forgive myself for the things I’ve done.” Very often we feel regret, shame, and condemnation for the things we’ve done that have caused us and others pain and heartache. It feels like we need to forgive ourselves, but it’s a misconception that we have wronged ourselves. Our sin is against God (and possibly others), and it’s His forgiveness that we need. We may feel the need to forgive ourselves so that we can feel better about ourselves, but nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to do this. Forgiveness was purchased for us at the cross because ultimately our sin is against God.

In order to get past the regret we have regarding our sin, we have to keep our heart and mind focused on the cross and what Jesus did for us there. When the devil wants to remind us of battles lost and tries to rub our noses in our failures, we can confidently say to him, “I am worse than you think, but I have a GREAT BIG GOD who is bigger than all my sin. He has washed me and made me whiter than snow through the blood of Jesus Christ!”

But what if I don’t feel forgiven?  Forgiveness is a fact, just like guilt is a fact. I don’t always feel guilt when I am guilty, nor will I always feel forgiven when I confess my sin to God and He forgives me. There may be residual regret and possibly painful consequences that are reminders of our sin. But we have to focus on the truth of God’s Word: if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we base our forgiveness on feelings, what does that say about what Christ has done for us? Could we be saying that not only did He have to die for our sin, but now He has to give us the feelings we desire in order to believe and/or feel we are forgiven? Are we saying that what He has already done was not enough? We can certainly spend a lot of time trying to feel good about ourselves, but that should not be the goal. We are to humbly live by faith in the truth, not faith in our feelings!  

We have to help our counselees focus on God’s Word and pray that the Holy Spirit will renew their minds with the truth so that they can walk in the light and in the precious freedom of God’s forgiveness.

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Bev Moore (M.A.B.C.) is on the counseling staff at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. She is married to George and they have two grown sons. She co-authored In the Aftermath: Past the Pain of Childhood Sexual Abuse. 

Sacred Cows in Church

Today's post is by my friend Joy and was first published on her blog at Called to Peace Ministries. 

When Christians Honor Institutions Over People

Recently our ministry hosted a conference on domestic violence in the church. We promoted it to pastors and church counselors, but the majority of participants turned out to be former and current victims of abuse. As participants introuduced themselves, I heard an all to familiar story. Several mentioned surviving abuse only to find themselves being hurt again by their churches.

One dear lady said she left the church altogether after she reported the abuse and separated from her abuser. Her husband was in leadership at the church, and the other leaders believed his story over hers. Rather than finding help when she mustered up enough courage to reach out for help, she received blame. According to the church, she was desecrating the holy institution of marriage by separating from her husband, and there was no way she could convince them otherwise. Eventually, she chose freedom from bondage over the church, and she has been out of church ever since. She gets sermons online and on the radio, but she is afraid to trust Christians in a community setting again. There were other participants with similar stories, but most moved to other churches rather than leaving the church altogether.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this story over my years as an advocate of domestic violence victims. Why do churches so often seem to honor institutions over people? Apparently, it’s fairly common among religious people. Jesus regularly offended the religious leaders’ understanding of the Sabbath. In their eyes, he was constantly violating it, but Jesus responded with “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” In other words, when God ordains something, it is out of love for his people, but too often we get religious and elevate the institutions above the ones they are intended to bless. Even in ancient Israel this was a problem.

Say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am about to desecrate my sanctuary—the stronghold in which you take pride, the delight of your eyes, the object of your affection. The sons and daughters you left behind will fall by the sword. Ez. 24:21

It’s interesting to me that when God brought judgment on Israel, he even destroyed his own sanctuary. The thing he had set up as holy and valuable would become completely desecrated. As a parent, I know how difficult punishing my children could be—sometimes it hurt me as much as it did them. This had to be the case for God. He could no longer sit by and watch their self-destructive course, and the only remedy was severe consequences, because all the warnings in the world had not even fazed them.

They had turned his sacred sanctuary into an object of idolatry, and as a result he even allowed it to be destroyed. He cares far more about our devotion than any institution. The modern church certainly seems to have their own set of idols, and marriage seems to be at the top of the list. When we allow a good thing that was instituted by God become more important than those it was intended to bless, we miss his heart. It reminds me of the sacred cows in India. People die of starvation daily while they walk around unfettered and unused as a source of food.

In the modern church, marriage has become a “sacred cow.”  Yes, marriage is a wonderful thing, but when one partner chooses to break the covenant it can become a source of harm rather than blessing. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to save failing marriages, but when that is not possible, we must never condemn someone for leaving a harmful situation. God cares more about people than institutions—even those he established. Legalism cares more about the institutions, even when people are perishing in the midst. My heart grieves for people like that dear lady who came Saturday. Since she was not honored above her marriage, she has walked away from another institution (the church) that should be speaking life into her wounded soul.

Lord,  awaken your church, and help us learn to love you and your people above anything else– even good things you have ordained. Amen

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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

Telling the Truth To Yourself

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs 28:13

So often when I ask men to share with me how they came to be in a batterer intervention group I find they are eager to “set the record straight.” Generally speaking, most of the men I have worked with put forth a great deal of effort to convince me that they are in fact victims. Some will vacillate back and forth between excuses ranging from unfortunate circumstances to a feminist agenda bent on destroying families. Regardless of the rationale one truth remains consistent, they are being treated unfairly. The temptation for these men is to deny their own responsibility, usually by highlighting their partner’s problems. Many will insist she needs the class far more than they. Sometimes it may seem like I’m out to get them or that I’m unwilling to listen to their side of the story. The reality is that change will not happen in our own hearts as long as we continue to defend our own pride with lies or half-truths.

Put off Denial

Our pride convinces us that wicked behavior is sometimes necessary to maintain control or that malicious intent is justified when we feel wronged. This attitude may have led you to physically harm your partner or to call her ugly names. Perhaps you’ve thrown things across the room or punched holes in the walls to communicate you’re not pleased with her choices. If any of this is true than you may also find it necessary to hide certain details, bend certain truths to minimize your behavior while emphasizing the ways in which you’ve been wronged. This tendency toward denial is not going to help produce the change you really need. It’s a trap so devastating that it will not only destroy your relationship but will also ensnare your heart. I’m pleading with you to accept responsibility for your actions. Acknowledge the abusive behavior and the impact it has had on your partner.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”  James 4:8-10

Change is a difficult and often times a lengthy process that requires, among other things, taking responsibility. You must acknowledge the truth about yourself and put off the denial. Would you be willing to speak truth to yourself today?

“Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”  Ephesians 4:25

Final Thought

If I were to ask you about your abusive behavior what would say? Would your story include statements like these?

“I’ve done nothing wrong!”

“She knows how to push my buttons.”

“This is all blown out of proportion.”

Let me encourage you to recount the story again, but this time only focus on your actions. Fight the temptation to justify them, excuse them away or gloss over them. Make a list of the ways in which you harmed your partner. Have you physically harmed her? Have you called her ugly names? Have you damaged her reputation with lies? Telling the truth will not fix everything that seems wrong in your life right now, but it is a far better choice than lying to yourself and others.

 

Happy New Year

As we prepare to leave 2017 behind I wanted to take a moment and thank each of you who stop by the blog regularly. It is such a blessing to hear from so many of you who are benefitting from the blog, direct services, or training events we have been a part of this past year. 2017 was by far my busiest year of travel, teaching, counseling and coaching. This past year I was blessed to speak about once a month regarding the gospel and domestic abuse. I met with leadership from the Biblical counseling movement in the mid-west and west coast, Amish leaders in Indiana, Advocates in the south, seminary students, churches, shelters, and many more. God is truly at work within the church raising up wave after wave of advocates for peace and 2018 has the potential to see this movement continue to grow. With this growth in mind, would you consider joining me in prayer regarding three ministry opportunities we are pursuing in 2018?     

  • The PeaceWorks podcast

2018 will see the launch of a brand new free resource in the form of the PeaceWorks podcast. I have been recording, re-recording, and editing content for weeks now in preparation of the podcast’s debut. It’s not the highest quality show ever produced but we do hope the content will be rich and helpful. This year the podcast will feature survivor stories from individuals who have found hope and healing after abuse, interviews with experts in the fields of advocacy, counseling, and batterer intervention, and Q & A episodes where I will answer questions regarding addiction overlap, mental health diagnosis, church leadership engagement and much more. Look for the PeaceWorks podcast on our website or subscribe through apple podcasts. The first official episode is scheduled to drop on Tuesday, January 9th.

  • Hope and the Biblical counseling movement

Much has been said regarding the church’s failure to intervene on behalf of victims or to adequately speak to the issues surrounding domestic violence. This criticism is often warranted and no sub-culture within evangelicalism may have received more critique in 2017 than the Biblical counseling movement. I am so pleased by the recent interest and responses from within Biblical counseling as many wish to learn, grow, change, and provide a more robust understanding and response to the problem. The Biblical counseling movement represents thousands of evangelical Christians (mostly lay people) who are first responders within their local churches and communities and connecting this army with good resources and better training will be a tremendous win for all of us committed to reducing violence against women within the Christian community.  Please partner with us in prayer as I will be presenting on the subject of domestic violence at some of the largest Biblical counseling events in 2018.

o   Feb 11-16 Biblical Counseling Training Conference - Faith Church - Lafayette, IN

https://www.faithlafayette.org/biblical-counseling-training-conference

o   April 12-14 ABC National Conference - McKinney Bible Church - Fort Worth, TX

https://www.calledtocounsel.com

o   Aug 2-4 IABC International Conference - LIFE Family Bible Church -  Westminster, CO

http://iabc.net

o   Oct 1-3 ACBC Annual Conference - Southwestern Theological Seminary - Fort Worth, TX

https://biblicalcounseling.com/conference/abuse

  • PeaceWorks University

Finally, I am so excited to announce a new opportunity for people helpers through our website beginning this February. During the Faith Biblical counseling training conference we will be launching an updated version of our training program, PeaceWorks University. More than a training course we are currently updating PeaceWorks U to include all our current content on domestic abuse and new content updated monthly on an affordable subscription website. In addition to the hundreds of pages and hours of video content we have produced over the years PeaceWorks University will feature monthly masterclasses with experts, monthly additions to the toolbox such as possible homework, infographics, etc and monthly live Q and A through the community forum. Not only will PeaceWorks University allow us to connect more regularly and with more purpose but it will also serve as a network for like-minded people helpers. Be on the lookout for more info in February including the opportunity to become a founding member and lock in to the lowest rate imaginable.

Thank you again for your partnership and prayer. "May the God of all hope, fill you with joy, and peace." 

-Chris

Herod, Jesus, and the Power of Christmas

Today's post is by my friend Greg Wilson. 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the Roman-appointed monarch over Judea was Herod the Great, an abusive tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. Though he was an Edomite, not a Jew, and his loyalty was to Rome rather than his subjects, he valued the title “king of the Jews”. And Herod had been ruthless in procuring that title and ensuring that he kept it. He seized power in 37 B.C. by leading an army of 36,000 into Jerusalem and taking the city by force for Rome. He took captive many Jewish leaders, including over half of the Sanhedrin (the equivalent of their supreme court), whom the Romans promptly executed. Herod’s thirst for power eventually led to the execution of his wife and two of his sons.

Enter Jesus in Matthew 2: Eastern astrologers show up in Jerusalem inquiring about the One who has been “born king of the Jews.” (v. 2) The wording is important. The wise men are not asserting that this child was born "to be the king", but that he was “born king”. They believe a new king has been born and they are going to worship him. Herod is troubled (v. 3), because he is entitled. And all Jerusalem is troubled with him because when an abusive man is troubled, everyone else is troubled too! Herod manipulatively seeks to get the wise men to do his bidding by lying to them, saying that he wants to worship him too. (v. 8) And when his malicious scheme is foiled, Herod goes on a murderous rampage in Bethlehem, intent on extinguishing any possible threat to his power. (v. 16-18) Ironically, Herod’s “power” was ultimately illegitimate. He was not able to hold onto what he never truly possessed in the first place. Concerned more for saving his throne than saving his soul, he ultimately lost both.

How different is Jesus! Our Prince of Peace (Is 9:6) came “not to be served but to be served, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10:45) Rather than seizing power, Christ gave it up. He did not consider his position as equal with God something to be held on to, but rather emptied himself by becoming a slave, by “being born in the likeness of men”, and by becoming obedient, even to death on a cross for us. (Phil 2:6-8) While Herod refused to let go of a throne he never truly possessed, Jesus left a throne he could never lose to grant full and free salvation to all who would believe in him. That is the power of Christmas.

What do you want so badly that you are willing to hurt others and sin against God to obtain? How does a thirst for what you want drive you to abuse power and control? What does strength in weakness and serving instead of being served look like for you this Christmas?

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Greg Wilson (MA, LPC-S) is currently completing his Doctor of educational ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Greg has a full-time clinical practice, specializing in working with families, couples, adolescents and men. His experience working with families includes pre-marital and marital counseling for couples, as well as work with parents and teens. His practice includes work with male perpetrators of abuse/domestic violence, sexual addictions, adolescent life-stage issues, marital conflict, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Greg also serves as a deacon of care at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and is a certification curriculum facilitator for the Association of Biblical Counselors, where he is also a member of the advisory board for their Center for Professional Soul Care. Greg also is a trained mediator, and he has met all the state requirements to perform mediation services in Texas. He trains lay counselors in the church and through the Association for Biblical Counselors and consults with church leaders on matters relating to biblical soul care.

 

Why Nobody Believes the Victim

Today's post is by my friend Joy and first appeared on her blog at Called to Peace Ministries. 

How Churches Unwittingly Promote Domestic Abuse

The other day I sat down with a precious daughter of the King and listened to her story. As survivor of domestic violence and advocate for victims, I almost knew the ending of the story before she got half way through, because I’ve heard similar accounts so many times. Once again, I was grieved to hear that another church had turned its back on a faithful member, and embraced the abuser. Once again, I saw the hurt and bewilderment that comes from being first abused by the one who promised to love and cherish till death, and then suspected (even blamed) by the church entrusted with the care of her soul.

I’ve worked with victims of domestic violence for nearly 20 years, and in all this time a several common patterns have emerged, but the most egregious is that when they finally get up enough courage to reach out to their churches for help, the overwhelming majority of them are not believed. Pastors have come straight out and told me they believed the victims were making up lies in order to deliberately destroy their husbands, or others have said that that it’s nearly impossible to know who’s telling the truth in such cases.  Several times, pastors and church counselors indicated that my judgment in advocating for victims was certainly clouded by my own history of abuse. In one case, I prayed that God would not allow me to be fooled. I went back and interviewed 17 people who had worked with or knew the couple in question, and the only evidence of lies I could find were those told by the abuser, yet the church continued to believe his story rather than hers.

Why in this world is this such a problem? As I’ve continued to ponder this question, I come up with several possible answers.

  1. Victims are taught to cover up and hide the abuse, and most do not come forward until the pain becomes unbearable. Being in an abusive relationship is a bit like being in a cult. Victims are conditioned to protect and make the abuser look good to the outside world. Many times they’ve done such a good job that people naturally doubt their stories.
  2. Abusers can be the nicest folks you’ll ever meet! (At least in public they are). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been shocked to find that someone I admired and respected within the church turned out to be abusive. One of the common traits of an abusive person is the Jekyll/Hyde syndrome. They are often charming and charismatic in public, but cruel and demanding in the privacy of their own homes. Since they may seem more put together and stable, it is easy to assume that the anxious wife is the main source of the problem. 
  3. Abusers work very hard at discrediting their victims. Over the years I have seen abusers spread deliberate lies about their spouses being unfaithful, mentally unstable, unfit parents and so on. Once a man a man came up to me and indicated how glad he was that his wife was taking one of my classes at church. He said “Maybe you can help her,” indicating that she was deeply troubled. Months later, she came to me in tears about the way she was being treated at home. However, because this man was considered to be a leader in the church and because of his earlier conversation with me, I found myself doubting her story. She did seem frazzled and unstable. It was only my training in domestic violence that enabled me to keep an open mind, and refrain from making her feel foolish for coming forward. The interesting thing is that she wasn’t even sure of what to make of what was happening in her home. She didn’t really come to accuse him; she came to ask me if her perspective was wrong, and if she was overreacting to his treatment.
  4. Misplaced Biblical Doctrines on Male Headship. Although I tried to deny its existence for years, I have become painfully aware that many non-abusive Christian men hold beliefs that encourage abuse. I have seen pastors take the side of abusers whose biggest complaint was that their wives were not being submissive. On more than one occasion I have heard church leaders discuss church discipline against women for being “unsubmissive.” Experts in domestic violence are clear that a sense of entitlementis a foundational element among those who perpetrate violence at home, and harsh interpretations of biblical passages on male headship can serve to support that sense of entitlement. The Greek term for submission in the New Testament, hupotassō, indicates yielding for the sake of order. Even more conservative scholars recognize that it is not something that should be forced.* Yet, churches often unwittingly foster abuse when they attempt to force something that was intended be voluntary.
  5. The Belief that Domestic Violence is Provoked. Even when victims have sufficient evidence to prove abuse, many counselors and pastors operate under the faulty assumption that they must have done something to set their abusers off, or that the violence was mutual. While there are some victims who do play into the violence, the majority I have known have done everything in their power to avoid it. They describe it as “walking on eggshells.” The sad part is that they can never predict what might set it off. For one woman, leaving a cup in the sink caused her husband to flip out, for another a misplaced hairbrush led to destruction that looked like a war zone in her home. It takes very little to provoke an abuser, and victims can never do enough to prevent the violence. There is never an excuse for domestic violence, and counsel that questions how the victim might have provoked the abuse is not only counterproductive, it serves to enable the abuser.

In my experience, the factors above explain the main reasons nobody seems to believe the victim. Of course, I know saying they’re never believed can’t possibly be true, but it sure seems to be that way far more often than not. Sure, there are false accusations in the world, but they are the vast minority of cases. Research shows that an overwhelming majority of abuse accusations can be substantiated, yet in all my years of dealing with domestic violence victims, nearly all were doubted or even blamed for their marital problems when they reached out for help. They couldn’t all have been lying, but that was the consensus among the church leaders who were petitioned for help. Sadly, even in cases where the truth of the abuse came out beyond dispute, the bulk of the burden was placed on the victims to improve the situation. Many were told to do more to make their husbands happy—to submit, have more sex, read their bibles or pray. Unfortunately, such advice only serves to promote an abuser’s sense of entitlement, and encourage cycle of abuse.

God’s heart is for those who are oppressed and maligned, and he hates it when justice is perverted in his name. “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Is. 1:17). Yet, too often those who claim his name are unwittingly doing the exact opposite. I am not writing this in order to condemn. I certainly understand how easy it is to unintentionally promote wrong for “righteousness” sake. For years, my own convictions on marital submission and divorce made me a lousy friend to those who divorced as a result of abuse. I was so opposed to divorce that I encouraged them to stay in situations that were clearly destructive. My beliefs also served to ensure the eventual failure of my own marriage. I thought I had to submit to any and everything my husband demanded. In the end, my strict beliefs only served to promote his sin, and the cycle abuse worsened over time as I gave in to it.

The only way to overcome abuse is to, first of all, admit the truth. That requires believing it when it’s presented to you. Being able to recognize the truth often requires specific training on the dynamics of abuse. There are well-established typical patterns common to most cases. Overcoming abuse requires holding the abuser accountable, rather than making the victim responsible. It all starts by listening and being open to believe the oppressed who come to you for help. My prayer for our churches is that we will open our eyes to the epidemic of domestic violence in our midst, and learn to be the solution rather than part of the problem.


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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

The Beauty of Confrontation

Today's post is by my friend Beverly Moore. 

Many people cringe when they hear the word “confrontation.” Some say they prefer surgery to having to confront someone. You also have the other end of the spectrum—someone always ready to sniff out sin and get in someone’s face about it. As Christians, it’s very important to have a biblical view of confrontation.

A Biblical Definition of Confrontation

A biblical definition of confrontation is having a face-to-face encounter with someone in order to bring biblical truth to bear on an area of concern. This is to be done with humility and motivated by love for God and love for the person confronted. We are to speak the truth in love to glorify God and benefit the person.

Why Should We Confront?

We all fall short of the glory of God, and many times we don’t even see the sin that has us trapped (1 John 1:8). The Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These verses make it clear that rebuking and correcting are to be taken seriously, practiced regularly, and to be done for the glory of God and the furthering of His Kingdom.

When we confront, we’re demonstrating love for God and obedience to Him. We’re also demonstrating love for the person. We’re more concerned about honoring God and the spiritual well-being of the other person than we are about our own comfort. When we’re reluctant to confront we sometimes rationalize and justify with thoughts like: What if she gets mad? What if I hurt his feelings? What if she doesn’t like me anymore? This reveals what we’re truly worshiping—the love and acceptance of others. When we confront, we have to be willing to risk the person’s rejection or anger for the sake of God’s honor.

How We Should We Confront

Our goal should not be to inflict pain or seek revenge. Our goal is to honor God in everything we say and do, including confronting someone. Start by praying diligently for your own heart as well as the other person’s heart before confronting, and pray diligently after. Trust God to help you, knowing He will give you the grace you need to obey Him. Trust also that He will work in the heart of the other person.

Galatians 6:1 says that if we see a brother or sister who is caught in a sin, we should restore him or her gently. Restoration starts with loving confrontation. We need to be willing to go to this person and show him his fault (Matthew 18:15). I’m not advocating becoming this person’s personal conscience or play the junior Holy Spirit. But sin that is damaging the person’s testimony as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and is clearly in violation of God’s Word, should be confronted firmly but with gentleness and respect.

Start by asking questions rather than assuming you know exactly what’s going on. Proverbs 18:13 tells us to listen first, then answer. If you’re concerned about something you see in a person’s life, explain what you see and ask for help to understand what’s happening. Do this with humility, not with a self-righteous, judgmental attitude. When we go with a humble attitude, we’re demonstrating we’re fully aware we don’t have it all together either and we need help just as much as them. We’re just one unworthy servant trying to help another unworthy servant glorify God.

Confronting an unbeliever of sin affords this person an opportunity to seek God’s forgiveness. In the case of child sexual abuse, confronting the perpetrator can bring reconciliation—with God and the one sinned against. (If this is the situation, please seek wise counsel on confronting a perpetrator.) View this as a golden opportunity to share the gospel with them. Explain how you’ve experienced God’s love and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and how you desire that for them too. We can’t personally rescue people from hell, but we can point them to One who makes forgiveness and salvation possible.

Points to Consider When Confronting

If we haven’t made it a habit to speak truthfully and lovingly to the people in our lives, practicing transparency and approachability, confrontation could seem very fearful. It’s important to focus on pleasing God rather than our feelings of fear. We have to set our hearts and minds on the things above rather than on the things of this earth (like our own comfort or ease).

The goal is to obey God by following His commands. Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love, and Ephesians 4:29 instructs us to speak words that build up, not tear down. Our words should benefit the one listening. This doesn’t mean we should skirt around the issue to be confronted, avoiding calling sin sin. But it does mean that we speak the truth without compromise while at the same time not attacking the person.

Responses

Be prepared for unexpected responses. We have to keep our expectations in check. How we hope the person will respond can’t be the goal. We should be prepared for a response of anger or denial. We have to leave the results up to God. A person’s initial response may be one of anger or hurt, but allow time for the Holy Spirit to work in his or her heart.

Confronting others is not always easy and can seem unkind. Yet in reality it’s a loving thing to do. We can follow Jesus’ example as He demonstrated honor for His Father when He confronted while on earth. Lovingly confronting, rebuking, and correcting demonstrates we are living for the King and the Kingdom. In all things, may God be glorified!

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Bev Moore (M.A.B.C.) is on the counseling staff at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN. She is married to George and they have two grown sons. She co-authored In the Aftermath: Past the Pain of Childhood Sexual Abuse. 

 

Why Your Church Needs a Domestic Abuse Policy

Today's post is by my friend, and skilled Biblical counselor, Greg Wilson. Greg has been working to develop and implement policies and procedures for domestic violence prevention in the local church. 

Most churches have a child protection policy in place. If not, your church definitely should implement such a policy for the protection of your most vulnerable attenders and members – the children of your church. But there is another type of wickedness that afflicts many vulnerable children (as well as spouses and intimate partners) within the church, and far fewer churches have policies in place to protect them from it. This evil is known as domestic abuse, domestic violence, intimate partner abuse, or intimate partner violence, and it is rampant in our society. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men experience it in their lifetime, and 1 in 15 children are exposed to it each year (90% of those are eyewitnesses). While child and student ministry resource organizations have labored tirelessly to help churches understand the need to make child protection policies and procedures like volunteer applications and screenings, check-in systems, two-volunteer rules, and visibility guidelines standard practice, there are very few who are arguing for similar policies and protocols for responding to the disclosure or discovery of emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, psychological, or physical abuse between spouses or intimate partners. Yet this type of abuse is prevalent within society and within the church and is often also bolstered by systemic factors unique to and highly valued by Christian churches, such as our high view of marriage, our theology of suffering, and the belief held by many that God has designed men and women to function differently in the home and the church. To fully protect the families in your church from oppression, your church needs a domestic abuse policy as well as a child protection policy. A domestic abuse policy is going to help your leaders protect families in your church by answering two questions: “What is domestic abuse?” and “How do I respond to a disclosure or discovery of domestic abuse?”.

Recognizing Abuse. The reason that many churches do not respond well to domestic abuse is because most church leaders don’t know what it is. Your church’s domestic abuse policy must define domestic abuse in such a way that your volunteer and staff church leaders know how to recognize it. While it isn’t always easy to spot initially, Chris Moles, Leslie Vernick, John Henderson, Steven Tracy, Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, and Diane Langberg, among others, have offered up definitions and characteristics to help church leaders discern when abuse is taking place in a relationship. There are very consistent elements to each of these definitions: a pattern of behavior, selfish intent, the misuse of power and control, and a wide variety of manifestations: economic, emotional, psychological, spiritual, sexual, physical, and verbal. Your policy needs to clearly spell out what abuse is, and also what abuse isn’t (a marriage problem, an anger problem, a legal problem, the other spouses’ problem, etc.). You want those who read your policy – members, lay leaders, elders, deacons, staff – to know clearly what meets the requirements for domestic abuse and to be able to recognize perpetrators and victims in their midst.

Responding to Abuse. It’s not enough that your church be able to spot domestic abuse. They must also know how to respond appropriately. Your members and leaders must know, for example, that the safety of the victim takes precedence in the immediate wake of a disclosure or discovery of abuse. Who should be notified? Are there confidential means for victims to notify church leaders that they need help? Whose responsibility is it to come alongside and care for identified victims of abuse? What resources in your church and community are available to assist victims? What is a safety plan and how can one be developed and implemented? Your policy must also spell out when and how abusers are to be confronted. The general rule of thumb here is that a perpetrator should only be confronted after the safety of the victim has been assessed and reasonably secured, and only with the victim’s advice and consent. Whose responsibility is it to confront an abusive man? How would such a confrontation take place. (This is one of the most dangerous times for victims.) What church and community resources exist for perpetrators of abuse? How is the church discipline policy engaged? How is repentance discerned? Finally, your policy will need to address marriage reconciliation. You will want your members to understand that a perpetrator’s reconciliation to the Lord must precede their reconciliation to their spouse. Your policy should clearly state that individual counseling for both the victim and the perpetrator is advisable initially, and that couples counseling should only be attempted when both counselors and both partners are in agreement that the time is right. Your policy will also want to be clear about how the church will minister to both partners (assuming that both are members and both remain under the care of the church) in the event of a prolonged separation, and you will also want to be clear about your church’s policy on divorce in the event of unrepentant domestic abuse.

Caring for the Oppressed, Correcting Oppressors. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov 31:8-9) A well-written, well-executed domestic abuse policy and protocol tells your community and your members that your church is serious about the mandate God gives us to care for the oppressed and to lovingly and humbly confront and correct oppressors. It can make your church a safer place for the vulnerable, and a place where abusive people will not be allowed to continue their abuse.

 

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Greg Wilson (MA, LPC-S) is currently completing his Doctor of educational ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Greg has a full-time clinical practice, specializing in working with families, couples, adolescents and men. His experience working with families includes pre-marital and marital counseling for couples, as well as work with parents and teens. His practice includes work with male perpetrators of abuse/domestic violence, sexual addictions, adolescent life-stage issues, marital conflict, anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Greg also serves as a deacon of care at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, and is a certification curriculum facilitator for the Association of Biblical Counselors, where he is also a member of the advisory board for their Center for Professional Soul Care. Greg also is a trained mediator, and he has met all the state requirements to perform mediation services in Texas. He trains lay counselors in the church and through the Association for Biblical Counselors and consults with church leaders on matters relating to biblical soul care.

Discovering Her Journey - Validating Her Pain

Today's post is written by my friend Evelyn Colon. Evelyn is a facilitator, trainer, and ICDVP with FOCUS ministries. You can learn more about FOCUS ministries at www.focusministries1.org

As she sat down she was noticeably anxious.  Her heart was pounding, her breathing was erratic, and she was visibly shaking.  Thinking she needed a minute to gather herself, I asked her if she needed a drink.  That’s when she tearfully launched into a vivid description of what “he” did to her. 

Two days prior her husband had “gone off.”  “He grabbed me by the neck and choked me until I couldn’t breathe anymore,” she cried.  “I passed out.  Just look at me.”  The bruises looked like two thumb prints and multiple fingers that had reached around to the back of her throat.  “Tim, I couldn’t breathe.”   

She wasn’t remembering the incident; she was reliving it in front of me.  In the world of counseling, we call this trauma.1

When you hear the cry of the broken and hurting, how do you respond?  Are you compelled to turn compassion into action?  Or perhaps you’re too busy to get involved in messy situations where you may be asked to trade your comfort for other peoples’ lives – people like Bethany and Bill.

When Bethany married her high school sweetheart, Bill, she trusted him completely, looking to him as the spiritual leader of their home.  Bill was charming and likeable.  As the son of a missionary pastor, he knew the Bible from cover to cover.

Although Bill and Bethany appeared to be a loving couple at church on Sundays, behind closed doors he was a batterer who controlled and assaulted Bethany with caustic words and closed fists.  The man with whom she had chosen to spend the rest of her life threatened her with guns and knives.  For thirteen years she endured verbal, psychological, spiritual, sexual, and physical abuse.  Bethany represents 31 % of all married women who will experience physical violence in their marriage.2

By the time Bethany arrives in your office, she has become emotionally numb.  She appears to be in suspended animation, convinced by her abuser that she is a total failure needing to be “fixed.”  Life seems meaningless and hopeless.  Through years of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual assaults, Bethany has experienced death -- death of her dreams, death of her future, death of herself.

She does not reach out to others for fear of not being believed and to protect the reputation of her husband.  She wonders if God really cares, and if the Lord does care, whether he really has the power to change things.

YOUR RESPONSE

As her pastoral counselor (advocate), how will you breathe life into Bethany’s soul?  Your counsel will either keep her in bondage or provide options that lead to spiritual and emotional freedom to become the woman God had in mind when she was created.  (Eph. 1:5,6; Eph. 2:1)

Below are three scenarios describing a possible response to Bethany’s initial visit.  Which one best describes how you would handle this difficult situation?

Response 1: Get Both Sides.

  • Because you have known Bill for many years, you have trouble believing he is capable of doing the things Bethany has described.  You call Bill later today to get his side of the story.  Thinking Bethany may be overly sensitive or suffering from an emotional breakdown, you feel it is in the best interests of the church to ask her to step down from her teaching position in children’s church.  Doing so will allow her to focus on her marriage.  You explain and perhaps identify a time when she and Bill can meet with you together?

Response 2: Prioritize the Marriage – Starting with her

  • Perhaps you believe your primary goal is to help couples reconcile. You outline a course of action for Bethany – encouraging her to work on her unforgiving attitude and offering tips how to avoid pushing Bill’s buttons.  You recommend weekly counseling sessions with the couple and give Bethany a brochure about a weekend marriage retreat where the couple can reconnect.  Then you pray with her to heal the marriage and to give her strength to work harder on changing her own behavior.

Response 3:  Secure Her Safety First

  • After Bethany shares her story, you assume she is telling the truth and ask strategic questions to determine her level of safety.  You offer several options and wait for her response.  If she is in imminent danger and willing to accept help, you take immediate action to provide shelter by placing her in a safe home, a hotel, or the local women’s domestic violence shelter or a church or agency that will respond immediately to meet her needs.  You also offer her your support if she chooses to contact law enforcement or seek legal advice from an attorney.

Reflecting Jesus

Which scenario reflects Jesus as he stood and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

Regardless of the scenario you choose, the first step is to listen without judgment to the victim’s story and then to validate her pain. It is important to clearly communicate that God does not condone abuse, that the Lord wants us to be safe.  Even if you wonder about the accuracy of her story, the most important responsibility is to focus on what Bethany is telling you.  Stay alert for signs of abuse as her story unfolds.3

What Jesus are you introducing to this victim?  Is it the Jesus of compassion that is exhibited throughout Scriptures?  “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness” (Ps. 31:1).  “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry” (Ps. 10:17).  

I would have given anything to hear these words of affirmation that I am loved by the King and as the body of Christ they will surround me with love, hope and assurance to understand my need and more importantly, to validate my pain. But instead, the Elders of the church called me in for three meetings, felt led to give me a five-inch binder of prayers for the next 365 days, with a follow-up call that I was removed as a ministry leader. 

In hindsight, I believe they thought in their hearts they were doing the right thing…but instead, it completely re-victimized me.

 

1.Dr. Tim Clinton, President, American Association of Christian Counselors, Author of Turn Your Life Around; Breaking Free from Your Past to a new and Better You;

2.Katherine Scott Collins, Cathy Schoen, Susan Joseph, et al, Health Concerns Across a Women’s Lifespan; 1998 Survey of Women’s Health, The Commonwealth fund, May 1999.

3.Brenda Branson/Paula Silva, Violence Among Us Ministry to Families in Crisis, 2007

 

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Evelyn Colon is a Illinois Certified Domestic Violence Professional, since 2011 and Abuser Intervention Facilitator since 2012, She has volunteered as a Hot Line Domestic Violence Advocate for a western suburb domestic violence shelter for women in 2009-10. Evelyn joined FOCUS in 2007 as a leader and facilitator for FOCUS Support Group Ministry. Since then, she has founded a Women’s Ministry on Domestic Violence and has been hosting monthly meetings out of her home to keep the victims. She has also created and hosted several successful seminars and conferences where she was presented an Honorary Award in giving back to the community. Evelyn has a heart for hurting women and has ministered to those women in the Christian community that have experienced domestic violence and abuse. She is also a trainer at Partners in the Journey seminar, training for Faith Base Domestic Violence. In 1990, Evelyn was an active volunteer as a Rape Victim Advocate in the medical field.

How can I prove to my wife/girlfriend that I won't abuse her again?

Today's post is part two in a series by counselor Allison Stevens. Read part one here.

We must be careful not to make sweeping promises never to abuse our partners again. When we do that, it puts the focus and pressure on your partner and the relationship instead of keeping it on you and doing the work of recovery for yourself.

The first step of doing the work of healing and recovery for yourself means that you can admit that your actions have been abusive. Have you acknowledged to yourself and to your wife/girlfriend that you’ve been physically abusive? Have you admitted to her that the pattern of calling her names, putting her down, trivializing her feelings and guilting her into doing things she doesn’t want to do have been emotional and verbal abuse? Have you apologized for the unwanted sexual advances, telling her no one else would ever love her? These are just a few examples of abusive behaviors in which you may have participated. It’s important, for the restoration of your heart, soul, and mind, to identify abusive attitudes and behaviors and admit them to yourself and to your partner.

Second, are you consistently seeking professional help from a trained therapist in domestic abuse? A therapist can help you identify abusive attitudes and behaviors, help you see the difference between relationships built on power and control and relationships built on equality, and show you how to develop empathy for your wife and children. Seeking help from a professional puts the focus back on you, which is where it needs to be, not on your spouse or girlfriend. An abuser, like most of us, cannot address his issues alone; he must avail himself to a therapist experienced in domestic abuse.

Third, support her decision to be safe. A separation is important so that you understand that she will not tolerate the kind of treatment you’ve given her and that you need help. Some husbands make it difficult for their wives to stick it out because they beg, plead, argue, and demand them to come home too early. They call the pastor and tell him that his wife is out of the “will of God” by not submitting to his “authority” by coming back to him. After all, the husband reasons, he’s remorseful, he’s come before the church, and now he’s ready to be a better husband. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pastors and therapists fall for this manipulative strategy and join the abuser to put more weight on the wife to get back home before it’s time. Rushing the process of growth and healing is a sure sign that the abusive husband is indeed not interested in true growth or healing.

Any manipulation to get your wife back home or to let you come home too soon is a serious warning that you’re remaining in a place of power and trying to control her and the situation, instead of treating her with mutual equality, love and respect.

It will take a significant amount of time for you to address the reasons why you relate to your partner abusively. The road to wholeness requires that you stop making empty promises that puts pressure and focus on your spouse. Instead, focus on your healing by admitting that you’ve been abusive, get professional help, and support your partner’s decisions towards safety in herlife and relationships.

A Word To Men Who Abuse

There is a section of the West Point cadet prayer that I recite in our classes occasionally and perhaps it will be a help to you today, “Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half-truth when the whole can be won.” I know you want me to understand your point of view. I’m sure you’re desperate to have someone hear ‘your’ side of the story, but I want to challenge you to slow down for a few moments, to listen and choose the more difficult but rewarding road of responsibility. If you’ve been confronted for your behavior I know the temptation is to throw out the thousand and one excuses for what you’ve done, but that’s not going to help you and only adds to your partner’s suffering. I want to challenge you to take a break from defending your position and acknowledge a simple truth. Your behavior, attitude, words, and/or motives have hurt your spouse. True transformation requires accepting responsibility for you alone without the clutter of excuses, or justifications. Let’s begin by putting aside the tactics that tend to trap us in the way of easy wrongs. This may be hard to hear and you may find it difficult or painful to look in the mirror, but if you stick with it and take these words to heart there is hope. No, taking responsibility will not fully restore what’s been broken, it will not get you what you want and may in fact be painful, but it can be a step in restoring your soul, and possibly your relationship with God.

Final Thought:

After David’s sexual assault of Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah it was the sharp words of a friend who was willing to say, “Thou art the man!” that pointed David down the difficult road of admitting his sin, the harsh reality of the consequences he’d created and finally a spirit of humility. It was in that spirit that he penned these words in response, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” I pray you’ll choose the more difficult right today by accepting responsibility.

Peace, Chris

How will I know if my abusive husband won't abuse me again?

Today's post is part one in a two part series by counselor Allison Stevens. 

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees he won’t abuse you again. If your husband has physically harmed you, and/or had a pattern of verbal, emotional, or mental abuse, you are not obligated to stay with him as his wife. Physical and emotional safety are foundational in marriage; without it you don’t have a marriage, you’re in a prison and you’re the prisoner. No one should judge you if you can’t continue in this earthly hell and end your marriage.

But if you’ve decided, for your own reasons, to try and make the marriage work, and you’re safe from your abusive husband and he’s getting help from a therapist who’s trained in domestic violence issues, and you are making this decision on your own (no one has pressured you to stay in this marriage), then there is an important clue you should look for to know that your husband is making progress and is less likely to hurt you again in those ways.

You will see that he supports your decision to be safe. He won’t burden you with guilt to come back home to “get the family back together” before you’re ready or before he’s ready to have you back. Some husbands make it difficult for their wives to stick it out because they beg, plead, argue, and demand them to come home too early. They call the pastor and tell him that his wife is out of the “will of God” by not submitting to his “authority” by coming back to him. After all, the husband reasons, he’s remorseful, he’s come before the church, and now he’s ready to be a better husband. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some pastors and therapists fall for this manipulative strategy and join the abuser to put more weight on the wife to get back home before it’s time. Rushing the process of growth and healing is a sure sign that the abusive husband is indeed not interested in true growth or healing.

Any manipulation to get you back home or to let him come home too soon is a serious warning that he is remaining in a place of power and control over you. He’s operating out of inequality instead of mutual equality, love and respect for you. He is nowhere near ready to restore your marriage. And if you are extremely tempted by his cries for help, you are not ready to put your marriage together again. You also have more work to do on yourself.

The decision to stay in and work on an abusive marriage is a serious one and shouldn’t be taken lightly. One must realize that it is a long road to recovery; it will take a significant amount of time for the abuser to address his issues that cause him to relate to you from a place of power instead of love. And one of the best markers that he’s on the road to wholeness is that he is supportive of your decision to separate until you’ve both experienced a level of health and healing that will ensure the greatest level of safety in your relationship.

 

 

Lies Victims Believe

Today's post is from my friend Joy.  The original post can be found on her blog at Called to Peace Ministries.  

 

How Things Our Abusers Told Us Keep Us from Answering God’s Call

Working with people who have suffered domestic abuse can be the most rewarding and frustrating job in the world. It’s rewarding, because many of the survivors I work with develop a depth of faith that most Christians can’t even imagine. They face impossible situations and tremendous loss. Many lose nearly all their worldly possessions and face sudden financial ruin. They are often stalked and in imminent danger. Some even lose custody of their children, because their abusers are able to afford expensive attorneys, and they have no choice but to go to court without representation.

I could go on and on telling stories of injustice and intense suffering, but the point is that in extremely trying times, my dear friends learn to hold on to God in a way that is simply incredible. They probably don’t know it, but as I sit and listen to their stories in counseling sessions and support groups, I am in awe. I’m in awe of God’s faithfulness and their ability to rise above the pain, even when everything, and everyone, on earth has failed them. It is simply incredible to watch God turn ashes into beauty, and that’s what helps me maintain motivation to continue doing a work that can be exceptionally difficult.

I wish I could say that all the folks I work with “get it”—that they suddenly have an epiphany and learn to cling to God and prove Him faithful, but that’s simply not the case. Many let their pain become their identity, and they stay emotionally crippled for life. It’s so hard to watch these precious souls struggle. Sadly, they are alienated from the very One who can bring healing, because their image of Him has been warped by abusive people who portrayed Him as harsh and demanding, rather than gracious and merciful. All we can do is show them His love, and pray that someday they will come to realize the truth. However, many remain victims and never move on.

Believing lies about God can keep folks in the victim mode, but there are other lies that prevent them from reaching their full potential. Even some of my friends with extraordinary faith in God never seem to get past believing destructive lies about themselves. So many times when I reach out to survivors to help with our ministry I see an all-too-familiar hesitation to help. It’s not that they don’t want to, or that they don’t have the heart for it. It’s because they don’t think they’re worthy. They seem to think they’re too broken, and they need to get their own lives together before they can possibly think of helping others.

There’s a familiar pain in their expressions that tells me they’re still believing the lies their abusers told them. “There’s no way you could ever do this.” “Do you really think anyone cares to hear anything you have to say?” “You’ll make a fool of yourself when they find out who you really are.” Almost every time I see it, I want to shake them and say, “Don’t you realize how incredible you are?! You’ve beaten all the odds, and come out shining like gold. You’re an amazing woman of faith! The world needs your voice.” But for these folks, it’s easier to believe truths about God than about themselves. Until they do they’re missing His best for their lives, and opportunities to bring Him glory.

Have you ever been told you have nothing to offer? Has someone made you doubt the incredible gifts God has given you? Is buried shame still controlling your decisions? If so, I implore you to reject the lies. Perhaps a flawed and insecure person has caused you to doubt your calling and your identity as His child, but the Perfect One is still calling. He still wants to use you, and He sees you as worthy (1 John 3:1, Eph. 2:4-7). He doesn’t want you to wait until you think you’ve got it all together, because if you do, you may never find His purpose for your life. He delights in using broken people for His purposes, but you have to choose to believe Him above the lies of a deceiver. The Truth will set you free, and when you receive it, you will be His instrument to help others find that same freedom


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Joy Forrest has been an advocate for victims of domestic violence since 1997. She holds an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and held the position of Community Educator for Safe Space Domestic Violence Services in Louisburg, NC from 2000-2001. She has served as a biblical counselor in church settings since 2004. Her own experiences as a former victim of domestic abuse, along with her involvement with Safe Space and church counseling, caused her to see a major need for churches to become better equipped to help families affected by DV. In January 2015, she helped establish Called to Peace Ministries to promote domestic violence awareness, particularly within the faith community. Joy is also a Certified Advocate with the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Learn more about Joy at www.calledtopeace.org

Prayer and the Harsh Husband

Today's post is by my friend David. You can read more from Pastor Dave at www.pastordaveonline.org

"The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16b).

It is astounding to consider all that God delights to accomplish through the prayers of His people. Prayer is powerful, and yet it is also connected to the character of those who pray. The prayers of a "righteous man," we are told, are powerful. Likewise, Peter warns men that the way they treat their wives directly impacts their prayers. Character plays a part in our prayers. Men who are harsh with their wives should not expect God to respond to their prayers.

In his first epistle Peter addresses significant matters of the home. Chapter 3 focuses in on the dynamics of husbands and wives and the conflicts that can arise in their home. He begins his instruction with the wife, explaining how she ought to respond to a husband who "does not obey the word" (3:1). He shifts gears then to speak to this very husband. He states:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (v. 7)

It's worth considering the specifics of this command.

The passage begins with the words "likewise," which refers back to duty of submission incumbent upon all Christians (it is mentioned in 2:13, 18, and 3:1). Husbands are commanded to submit in service to their wives. The same principle is at play when Paul speaks to the Ephesians. Just before outlining the specific responsibilities of husbands and wives in chapter 5, Paul establishes the universal principle of mutual submission (5:21). Submission is not simply a wifely duty, it is a Christian duty and therefore husbands are commanded to do it too.

Husbands are to "live" with their wives "in an understanding way." A man's submission to his wife begins with the practice of consideration. Living with you wife in an understanding way means to be considerate of her needs, concerns, desires, and hurts. It means to be sensitive and attuned to her. Husbands who dismiss their spouse's feelings or worries, who downplay or minimize her hurts, who outright ignore her interests are not fulfilling this mandate. A husband who puts his own interests, desires, concerns, and needs ahead of his wife's is failing to fulfill this command. Often men will couch their own selfishness in the language of "leadership," asserting that they must do what is best for the family. It just so happens that what is "best" is often what they want. They rarely, if ever, make sacrifices and even when they do it comes with a great deal of passive aggression and displeasure. Godly husbands, on the other hand, are deeply concerned to understand their spouses, and live with them in a sensitive and attentive manner.

They are to be honoring, as well. The language of "weaker vessel" is not intended to communicate inferiority, since it is pointedly followed by the truth that wives are "co-heirs" with their husbands. They are equals. The language of "weaker vessel" is about care. The "weaker vessel" is a reference to a highly prized possession. Think of it in terms of the difference between a Ming Vase and a cheap Wal-Mart imitation. The valuable vase is protected, cared for, valued enough to be look after with intentionality and precision. Husbands are to honor their wives by caring well for them. They ought to seek with all diligence to protect them, provide for them, and preserve them in physical, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual ways.

All of this, Peter warns, is to be done in order that your "prayers may not be hindered." That means that where husbands fail at this their prayers will be hindered. The husband who is harsh and selfish yet maintains that he is a godly man whose life is marked by spiritual growth and faithfulness is deceived or deceptive. God himself refuses to hear or answer the prayers of such a man. His prayers are not "powerful in their working" precisely because he is not a "righteous man." Character impacts prayer.

Husband, evaluate yourself. Think carefully about the nature of your home, the culture, the interactions, and the relational dynamics. Think about how you esteem your spouse. Think about how your wife expresses herself. Does she feel safe to disagree? Does she feel honored in disagreements? Does she feel her opinions are valued? Furthermore, do you respect her views? Do you ask for her opinion and listen carefully? Can you identify your spouse's greatest fears, desires, and needs? Would your spouse agree with your assessment? How do you handle conflict and disagreement? How do you respond when you are told "no"? Is your authority more important than your spouse?

Think carefully about these issues because how you relate to your spouse directly impacts your spiritual life. The prayers of a harsh husband accomplish nothing. That will only change when such a man prays a prayer of repentance and seeks to live that out with his wife.

 

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Dave Dunham is a biblical counselor, writer, and currently serves as associate pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, MI.

Pastor Dave blogs at www.pastordaveonline.org  

Free Resource When Violence Comes Home

We are excited to share one of our favorite free resource from our friends at Our Daily Bread ministries.

Spousal abuse is one of the most rapidly growing problems in our culture today—even within the church. Gain insight into the causes and effects of marital abuse and find out how you can respond with godly intervention, as co-authors Tim Jackson and Jeff Olson offer help for both victims and offenders.

Download here. Free E-Book

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