I'M A CHRISTIAN...NOW WHAT?
Dear GIFU friends. I was recently asked to be the guest speaker at my home church in Montana; Grace Community Fellowship. The following is a transcript of the presentation. Some of the information will only be understood by the members of GCF but the main message I think is universal.
August 9, 2015 Presentation Transcript
Presenter: Mark Diaz
Church Bulletin: Our presenter today is congregation member Mark Diaz. His work is related to crises counseling, with membership in professional associations—American Association of Christian Counselors, Board Certified Family and group Christian Counselor (soul care provider) and Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society. Many of us have heard his remarkable comments during various church services and events, but none of us have known of his thirty years of experience as a volunteer Crisis Intervention Counselor. His sermon will be an exciting approach as to how we can all be crisis prevention workers while we fulfill the Great Commission.
The title of the Sermon is 'We Can All Be Soul Care Providers.'
The lead scripture is John 13:34-35.
Main Talking Points
“First of all I want to thank our Lord and this congregation for the honor of delivering today’s message. By the way, we will be covering a lot of territory in the next few minutes—if any of you would like a transcript of this presentation, please connect with me after the services and I will either email a link to the written transcript including the many scriptural references as well as the scholarly references, or I will get you a hard copy.
Also please understand that I am not nearly the polished speaker that Pastor Jim is (but then who is)—I hope to make up with substance where I lack in style (Could we see the lead scripture slide please)”.
Say a prayer of blessing.
Children’s message, prior to reading the lead scripture ask them to count how many times the words ‘love’ or ‘loved’ are used by Jesus in these two verses, have them SHOUT the word ‘love’ every time they hear me read it--ask them to give instances where they were sick or injured—who cared for them. Ask them why parents command us to do certain things like look both ways before crossing the street. Point out this is why Jesus commands us to do certain things—because He loves us and wants us to be safe.
“The lead scripture today is from John 13:34-35, Jesus speaking: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another--by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (NKJV)”.
Adult message: Let’s examine that scripture a bit: Notice Jesus is not suggesting or hinting that we should love one another, rather it is a commandment. This is a ‘new’ commandment—one we can all live up to.
His audience were mainly Jews at that point and they had been conditioned over many generations that the law, primarily following the Ten Commandments is how they could earn salvation. And these laws were the result of them rejecting God, over and over—one generation after another!
And all God ever wanted was to dwell with them and walk with them; commune with them just as they had seen Moses communing with God’s Shakina Glory cloud as He was leading them to Canaan. Just as Noah walked with God Who was waiting for him inside the Ark, Just as they had seen Abraham and the other Patriarchs walk with Him. So, in His wisdom God gave them the Ten Commandments, which no human could possibly live up to. He gave them the Ten Commandments in order to convict them, not save them, and now, according to hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, along comes their Messiah to save them.
So Jesus had been telling the original disciples (recorded in various scriptures) that He was there to fulfill all that the prophets had spoken in advance about Him, and this new commandment (John 13:34-35) is something each of us can live up to. We can all learn to love in God’s spiritually mature agape’ way and ad richly to our current lives.
After all, God is love and by loving one another, and all other people, we are truly following our Lord. In that way, because of what Jesus did for us God now can commune with us in our spirits, all we have to do is ask and then follow Him, He will always do the heavy lifting—in fact He already has.
The main message today is regarding the value of crisis prevention over the cost of crisis intervention—it is always better to be proactive and avoid a crisis rather than trying to clean up the aftermath of the crisis—and we can all participate in that effort; we are all called to walk next to those of us who are hurting the most.
The main subject today is how we can all be soul care providers. The three subtopics which tie into the theme are:
I would like to set this up with some background information on how to spot a healthy Christian congregation and a word of encouragement because Grace Community Fellowship is certainly a healthy flock, and this is why I say that (may we have slide A please):
When I first met this congregation about two and a half years ago and knew that I had to get to know you folks, and began to consider GCF my home church in Montana--I was just finishing a two year very intensive research study the title of which is How To Recognize a Healthy Christian Congregation.
My research led me to know several healthy congregations in Helena, as well as several congregations with major issues--and even a handful of congregations which are blatantly cruel and therefore very ill spiritually; a couple of congregations that I know have ceased to exist because of their lack of gentleness and kindness—they head-butted and trampled God’s entrusted flock.
I can tell you that Grace Community Fellowship is an extremely healthy, vibrant congregation!
The three main pillars that must be strong for a congregation to be healthy are (1) Love; in this case we are talking about agape’ love—God’s unconditional love which we are to model—the love that states ‘I’m going to love you (even our enemies) whether they love us back or not’. (2) Integrity to God’s Word and (3) Prayer. Thanks to God’s Grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, Pastor Jim and Dianna have not only taught these three pillars, laid their foundations and worked with you and God to build them, but have made them strong with the spiritually contagious way they live their lives.
Love, Integrity to God’s Word, and Prayer are the three pillars on which every healthy congregation must be built.
Regarding the first pillar of love; Pastor Jim has so often correctly pointed out that love is relational—Christianity is relational—relational both with God, knowing His Will; His personality and character just as we know any other person, and secondly relational with all of those around us. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes! Who is my neighbor? Everyone is my neighbor!
To care for others is to show them love—love is a verb and must be demonstrated. It is as Jesus tells us “But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue [alone], but in deed [action]… (1 John 3:17-18 NASV)’.
Love is more than a warm Oxytocin-induced feeling of security (which it is in the physical) but in order to be made real love is a verb that must be demonstrated—it is an action word. And this congregation has this pillar of love and shares it with tremendous strength.
Integrity for God’s Word is the second pillar a congregation must have to remain healthy, and GCF has a stubborn integrity for God’s Word. I know of no other congregation in the area that has been more refined through the fire of integrity and knows firsthand how to protect God’s Word regarding what Paul refers to as ‘doctrines of demons’—how to spot them and how to graciously and proactively deal with them—to do this with such Grace that no split occurred, no division or fractures in the Body of Christ—quite the opposite; multiplication, not division is what has occurred here.
Under the old Mosaic Covenant they would stone false teachers and false prophets—today, because of God’s period of Grace and Jesus’ sacrifice, we don’t stone the false teacher, we just stone their words, in a loving, scholarly, Christ-like manner.
Prayer is the third pillar on which a healthy congregation rests: Prayer is communing with God--learning His Will through learning His personality and character—what Christians often call developing a personal relationship with Him; and know that He is aching to commune with each of His children, especially those of us who are the most broken.
Prayer is how we commune with God and if a congregation is not corporately a house of prayer, how can they possibly know God’s Will on anything? How can they receive the wisdom He promises? Without asking for His brilliant ideas (which we would never have on our own) we are left with our own human thinking. He promises us wisdom, His Wisdom in abundance (James 1:5) why would we want to be limited by our strictly human ideas, which are a minefield of the enemy’s--when we have access to God’s Will; His ideas?
I can tell you, as an objective viewer for the last two and a half years or so, that GCF is overflowing with prayer warriors—in fact this congregation is abundant with the strength of all three pillars—Love, Integrity to God’s Word and this certainly is a house of Prayer.
Do not allow the enemy to distract or discourage you—and he will try—but remember that even though we are still searching for a pastor, we always have the Good Shepherd and this faithful family—our human shepherd will arrive in God’s time—please keep the search committee in prayer for continued wisdom and endurance.
The Good Shepherd will never let us down—He is the perfect, consistent, always available parent—The Parent, both the mother and father none of us ever had in the natural.
As good as any human parent can be, we are still broken humans trying our best to get along in a currently broken world. All human parents find themselves on their last nerve from time to time. There are times when we are harsh, blunt, preoccupied and selfish—and then, the healthy parent will feel convicted, go to the child, apologize as a sign of grief, and earnestly work on their humanness.
On the other hand, our Good Shepherd is never harsh and He is never too busy—His heart aches for each of His children to be close to Him, all we have to do is ask--He is always available, and He knows how to guide us into a life of fulfillment. Let’s begin the main message:
How many here were born into a dysfunctional family? All of us were raised in dysfunctional families; in fact there are no perfect families in this temporarily broken world. And quite often, as a culture we want to scour and scourge those who are hurting—shun them, look down and condemn someone who does not reach our high opinion of who we think they should be—but guess what? ALL of God’s children are beautiful to Him! So who is wrong? God or us as a culture?
I love the way Dr. Tim Clinton, President of the American Association of Christian Counselors, put it in one of his lectures: “The Christian army, by in large, is the only army in the world that shoots its wounded and then buries them alive—the good news is that Jesus did not do that, neither do we”.
Every Believer in this room, with God’s Holy Spirit working in and through them, can help our wounded to heal before they are in crisis-- we can all look for and fulfill opportunities to be Soul Care Providers. Let’s define that.
By the way, when you think of Psychology, please throw out Sigmund Freud—his theory of psycho-dynamics is based, not on the scientific method of test and retest reliability, rather his theories are based solely on his opinions garnered from a very twisted childhood.
His entire worldview and so-called theories were based on his belief that all little boys want to murder their father and marry their mother, and vice versa for little girls (it is called the Oedipus Complex) —it doesn’t take a PhD in Psychology to figure out how his head worked.
And when you think of science, please do not think of Charlie Darwin—the author of the weak theory that everything, including life, came from lightening striking rocks and water. This thesis grossly defies the laws of thermodynamics that state it is impossible to create something from nothing.
The evolutionists universally agree on the ‘Big Bang’ theory which states that prior to the event the universe was completely devoid of either energy or matter, this agrees with Genesis. But then something occurred, according to the evolutionists, which no secular scientist can explain; all of a sudden the laws of thermodynamics were put on hold by no one, and everything was created from nothing. Well, Christians know how that all happened, our Creator spoke everything into existence.
For the evolutionists the event of absolutely nothing suddenly turning into absolutely everything becomes explained in murky language—they kind of skip over that part and fast forward to trying to explain that mysterious moment away and pretend to know that life began when lightning struck rocks and water; the spark of life began.
Their approach is called circular reasoning and their assumptions are invalid and self-defeating because it takes us right back to the first question; so where did Charlie Darwin’s lightening, water and the rocks come from?
Only Creator God, the Great Causer of the universe could speak everything into existence. In fact many Creationist Evangelists such as Dr. Kent Hovind and others have used true science for decades in debunking the very weak thesis of evolution. True science is a systematic study of the Creator’s workmanship. So let’s first take a look at what Psychology is.
The root word to psychology is the Greek word psyche which means soul; it also means butterfly—like a butterfly the human soul can go from a type of worm crawling the ground, imprisoned by its own limitations—into being a beautiful, intricate creature which has been delivered from its imprisonment.
There is a saying in Christian Psychology: ‘Change is inevitable, growth is optional.’ Like a worm that becomes a butterfly, the human psyche (soul) is able to become a new creation just as Paul writes in Ephesians 4:24; and 2 Corinthians 5:17.
Life is full of pain in this currently broken, untrustworthy world but we read ahead, our team wins (Revelation chapter 21). The good news, here and now, is that life can only be fulfilling by relationships with God and people. A huge part of every human relationship comes when we help others heal; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and/or physically—these things are all inter-related and often occur simultaneously. We can all be soul care providers, can all be encouragers and help others avoid crisis—and we know it is in God’s Will that we do so.
I have some thirty years of volunteer Crisis Intervention Counseling in my background and I am now at the end of my fourth year of formal studies in order to officially, eventually make professional Clinical Psychology my life’s work (God willing).
Watching and helping a person blossom as their life heals and they discover their journey with God can be very rewarding.
During the next few minutes we will examine how the need for trained Psychological Therapists is a burgeoning field, Christian Psychology is an effective means of therapy, and how the field of Christian Psychology is pleasing to God—but the overarching message is that we can all be soul care providers in order to prevent crises. It is much better to prevent disease and cut it short than to deal with it after it manifests.
Let’s begin by examining the burgeoning need for professional and volunteer counselors.
There is a growing need for Clinical Psychologists, especially faith based Christian Psychologists.
In the book Caring for People God’s Way (2005), Drs. Tim Clinton and George Ohlschlager state that : “…a Gallup poll suggest that above 60% of prospective clients prefer Counselors with spiritual values and 80% want their beliefs brought into the counseling process…and yet only 33% of [secular] psychologists [state that faith] is among the most important factors in their lives…what’s sad is the gap between persons needing help, and the lack of trained individuals available to provide quality care”.
According to the latest U.S. Government Bureau of Labor Statistics the need for Psychological Counselors is expected to grow “22 percent from 2010 to 2020 as people continue to turn to Clinical Psychologists in ever growing numbers to help solve or manage their problems”. This growth rate is about one-third faster than that of all other occupations across the board. There simply are not enough trained Counselors to fill the ever growing need.
The American Psychological Association supports this concept of disparity of need, especially in rural and high crime, low income regions of the United States. There are more than 4,000 local sites receiving in excess of 4 billion dollars each year which serve The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) in an effort to fill this gap. Yet, there is a shortfall of thousands of trained Psychologists each year, Psychology is a burgeoning field.
This brings us to our second main point, the effectiveness of Christian Psychological Counseling (May we have slide B please).
Christian Psychology has proven to be a powerful healing force in the lives of many people.
Let’s look at a list of examples that Dr. Neil T. Anderson documents in his book Discipleship Counseling (2003 p. 11) regarding one study which was completed in Tyler Texas that corroborates the effectiveness of Christian Counseling after just one extended counseling session. There was follow-up three months later with the respondents in order to learn their progress. Notice these remarkable results:
Depression: Down 57%
Anxiety: Down 54%
Fear: Down 49%
Anger: Down 55%
Tormenting thoughts: Down 50%
Negative habits: Down 53%
Self-esteem: Up 56%
The really exciting part is that Anderson reports similar results using trained lay Counselors--Volunteers. It does not require a four year degree to become a Soul Care Provider—there are many fine resources from which to be trained and credentialed—we will touch on that more in a few minutes.
This brings us to our third and final point (May we have slide C please)
Christian Psychology, whether as a vocation or as volunteer, presents great opportunities to help others heal in ways that are pleasing to God.
A. God has compassion for the sick (Matt. 8:16-17; 4:23; 9:35; 12:15; 14:35; Luke 6:17-19; Acts 10:38)
B. Healing begins in the mind; one’s thoughts regulate health (Proverbs
23:7; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Eph. 4:22-24; Romans 7:23; 12:2; 2 Timothy 1:7).
C. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher (2 Peter 1:21, 1 John 2:20, 27).
D. The Holy Spirit is the Guide (John 16:13; Romans 8:14).
E. Finally, God uses spiritually mature Christians as vessels for purposes of healing (James 5:13-15; Mark 16:17-18).
Effective ministry is actively cooperating with the Holy Spirit. He gives you a sensitivity, wisdom and guidance you could not possibly possess on your own.
So, now down to the nuts and bolts—what does this look like in a practical application? Well I’m glad you asked! We have a guest today, many of you know Carol Harak. In addition to being a fearless door-to-door evangelist, she has also been a crisis intervention worker for many years. I have asked Carol to take some time and share some of her thoughts and experiences with us.
After Carol speaks I would like to invite anyone in the audience to ask questions for further discussion—even if you think the question might be off point, if it is something that burdens you, please feel safe in asking it here.
As we have just seen, there is a tremendous need for Christian soul care providers, this is a rewarding field, and it is an occupation which offers many opportunities to expand your horizons while doing God’s work. If you are looking for a rewarding vocation, or seeking to volunteer in a rewarding avocation, you might want to explore the field of Christian Counseling.
Are there any questions?”
What Is The Soul?
“Now that we have defined what psychology is; the study of and caring for the soul—one might ask what is the soul?
This has been the subject of continued discussion among Biblical scholars for two thousand years. I believe I have found the most plausible explanation but please understand that the answer is strictly an academic exercise and my opinion regarding explaining what the soul is has nothing to do with one’s salvation because salvation is a free gift that comes with dedicating one’s life to our Lord Jesus.
Salvation is the same for all—living forever in communion with God as we continue His work doing what we were specifically created for and therefore find perfect fulfillment in.
God does not require anyone to be a scholar in order to have salvation--in fact very few of the original disciples could even read or write. Peter and John were fishermen and had no need for university degrees and yet they were the ones God used to confound the highly educated Sadducees and Pharisees as recorded in Acts 4:13— They may not have had university scholarship but what they did have was the power of God’s Holy Spirit, the Teacher and the Guide—just as we do today.
So what is the human soul? The terms soul and spirit have been discussed at length throughout philosophy, literature, and religion. Even scientists have ventured remarks about the soul. Often, though, soul and spirit are interpreted to mean the same thing and end up being used interchangeably.
This can lead to the question, “Is there a difference between the soul and the spirit, and does it really matter if there is"?
Regardless of what philosophy, literature, religion, or some scientists say, we have to ask, “What does the Bible say?” The Bible clearly makes many references to both. So what does God’s Word say about our soul and our spirit? And why can knowing this be a crucial factor in our spiritual progress and relationship with God?
Are they the same thing?
1 Thessalonians 5:23 says, “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ".
This verse clearly tells us that human beings are made up of three parts—the spirit, soul, and body. In the original Greek language, the conjunction “and” in “spirit and soul and body” indicates the three are different from one another. So, just as the body is separate and distinct from the soul, the soul is also separate and distinct from the spirit.
Hebrews 4:12 makes an even finer distinction, saying, “For the word of God is living and operative and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart". From this verse, we can understand that the soul and the spirit are so close to one another that the two require the word of God to divide them, to separate them from each other.
Based on these two verses, we can conclude that our soul and our spirit are not the same thing. In fact, it is evidently not only important for us to see that they are distinct components, but also to discern one from the other.
What are God’s intended functions of the spirit and the soul?
God created human beings with three parts—a spirit, soul, and body—and their corresponding functions for His Glory.
It’s not difficult to realize that our body functions to allow us to interact with the physical world and the things in it through our five senses.
The function of our spirit, on the other hand, is a little less obvious. Its function is spiritual—to contact and receive God Himself, to potentially be in constant communion with him spiritually. Once we receive the Lord into our spirit by believing in Him, we can live our human lives in continuous contact with the Lord by using our spirit.
So what about our soul? Our soul is basically who we are—our mind, our emotions, and our will. But the function of our soul is to express God.
In Luke 1:46-47, Mary said that her soul magnified the Lord. To magnify something implies that something hidden is made large, or expressed, for all to see. First, Mary’s spirit exalted in God; and then her soul magnified the Lord. Her praise to God issued from her spirit and was expressed through her soul. Her spirit was filled with joy in God her Savior, and her soul manifested that joy for the magnifying of the Lord. She lived and acted in her spirit, which directed her soul, which influenced her flesh.
Here we begin to see the answer to the question of whether it matters that the spirit and soul are different from each other. Mary magnified the Lord in her soul (mind, etc.), but she first enjoyed and experienced Him in her spirit (pure communication in the spiritual realm). We can never express God starting from our soul (mind, etc.) alone.
We can try to copy Him by trying our best to be good and godly, but even this always falls short of truly expressing God. This is because the true expression of God must come from our spirit, with God as its source and with our soul as its means of expression, influencing the physical. This is what it means for us to express, and therefore magnify, the Lord.
How can we express God?
God became a man called Jesus Christ. Throughout the course of His human living, Jesus expressed God fully. When we believed in Him, Christ came to live in our human spirit, regenerating it with His divine life. Now we have another, healthy source to live by—God Himself. We can live by this source by using, or exercising, our spirit.
In Romans 8:4 and 1:9, the Bible charges us to walk according to our spirit (that part of us that is communicating with God in the spirit realm), that is, to have our life and living according to our spirit, and to do things in our spirit, not our soul—one’s soul is constantly being educated about God by the spirit which comes alive once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. In this way, the source of our living is God Himself with His life in our spirit, not from our own human thoughts and feelings alone.
We can live in such a way by contacting and enjoying Christ in our spirit and allowing Him to grow in us day by day. As we do this, His life will spread from our spirit into our soul so that we can genuinely express God in the physical more and more. The key is to use our spirit to experience Christ every day—constantly as fully as is humanly possible.
Let us then define the soul as the essence of a person’s life experiences (synonymous with one’s mind)—and more than that it contains God’s inherent design features (software) such as one’s conscience. Many of the scholars use the example of a computer to help grasp this concept.
If we use the computer analogy we would compare the human body with the hardware of a computer system. The keyboard, CPU, monitor, etc. are all hardware—they are tangible; you can see and touch the hardware. The hardware of a human would include everything in the physical—the body, including the brain is hardware.
Regarding the brain, it is not the mind. The mind is that intangible thing that includes the operating system (inherent knowledge such as a conscience that God has built into our operating system) which resides in the soul.
The soul is analogous to a computer’s software—the intangible part of the computer which cannot be seen. So the mind is a part of the soul. The brain, the physical part of human hardware, takes in gazillions of pieces of data through our five senses, sorts and processes the information and from that information we make decisions and take actions—as a Christian, one’s now living spirit influences the soul which influences the flesh.
Adam and Eve’s spirits, not souls or bodies, died the very day Adam and Eve rebelled against God—they became separated from Him spiritually.
It is the spirit that comes alive again when one becomes a Christian. Just as Adam and Eve separated themselves from God by their rebellion, through Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice one’s spirit comes alive in potentially constant communion with Him (as we choose) and we can once again walk with Him as He originally intended.
And as that spirit, which can now walk with God as Adam and Eve did before the Fall, grows and matures, the fruitages of God’s Holy Spirit begin to blossom and fruit as well, as Paul writes: “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance [self-control]….(Gal. 5:22-23 NKJV)”.
It is through this transformative process that the spirit influences the soul (the mind and God’s inherent ‘programming’ such as conscience) which then influences the body—this is the creative process that makes the “new man”, the new creation come alive that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:21-24; “…if indeed you have heard Him [Jesus] and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man [former self] which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind [soul, which can now commune with God through their now alive spirit], and that you put on the new man [mind-set which precedes behavior] which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness".
We cannot be righteous and holy 100% of the time in the physical, but our spirits can be renewed through communicating directly with God therefore influencing our souls (the essence of who we are) as well as our flesh, that which carries out action in one’s life, in order to serve as a witness to our Creator (the Great Commission).
So, one’s spirit is that part of a person which comes alive upon salvation through Christ, one’s soul is the essence of that person (mind, experiences, and God’s blueprint for a fulfilling life such as a conscience, free will, etc.), and one’s body is the physical part which lives in this currently broken world; being influenced by one’s soul, which is influenced by one’s spirit.
I like the example of a musician, especially a musician who is a composer of music which is meant to worship God. The inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit into their spirit as God’s pure communication. The musician’s spirit then delivers it to the soul (mind), the musician hears the words and tune in their soul (mind) and translates it to the flesh which plays an instrument and sings.
Only through Jesus’ sacrifice, and the power of God’s Holy Spirit can one’s spirit, soul, and flesh become integrated into a life that is fulfilled now, and into eternity.
Each of us here can be soul care providers—in fact, Jesus commands it: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another--by this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another…” (John 13:34-35 NKJV).
Are there any questions?
Since I posted this piece several days ago, Gail Christie posted a link featuring an interview by Kenneth and Gloria Copeland with Dr. Caroline Leaf. She is one of my favorite teachers in the neurosciences (which are finally catching up with God's Word!). Thank you again Gail :)