Is it Time for More Positive Biblical Counseling?

Until the late 1990’s “there was a 17-to-1 negative-to-positive ratio of research in the field of psychology. In other words, for every one study about happiness and thriving there were 17 studies on depression and disorder” [The Happiness Advantage, 11].

Consequently, most psychologists spent their time helping people with problems get back to an “average” human experience. Their aim was to help people who were operating at sub-normal levels to get back to normal (e.g. sober up the alcoholic, remove anxiety, etc). Little attention was given to making people happy and optimistic, to lifting them above the average.

Positive Psychology
In 1998, Martin Seligman, then president of the American Psychological Association, rebelled against this imbalanced negativity and led a shift to studying the positive side of the curve, the above average, the “abnormally” happy, etc. Thus, “positive psychology” was born with the emphasis being “what works” rather than “what’s broken.” [12]

Instead of traditional psychology’s focus on “Why are people unhappy?” and “How can we help them out of the slough?” positive psychology asks, “What makes people happy?” and “How can we help them flourish and excel?”

Positive Biblical Counseling
As I survey biblical counseling literature, the ratio seems to be at least 17-1, negative-to-positive (and I’ve contributed to that imbalance.) If you asked most people what words comes to mind when they think of a biblical counselor, I don’t think “smile,” “laugh,” and “enthusiasm for life” would trip off the tongue (although there are some wonderfully cheery exceptions).

Isn’t it beyond time for biblical counseling to become a more positive movement? Yes, of course we must continue to get involved in the mess and rubble of people’s lives. But what about forging an additional positive path? Building another brighter dimension to the movement? Adding the banjo to the violin? Getting on to the front foot and leading people proactively rather than waiting for disasters and then reacting?

I’d like to see Biblical Counseling change the ratio by:

  • Getting Christians through the dark valleys AND leading them beside green pastures and still waters.
  • Wiping away their tears AND teaching them how to rejoice.
  • Fixing spiritual problems AND  promoting spiritual flourishing.
  • Targeting sins for demolition AND graces and gifts for strengthening and exercising.
  • Pulling the backslider out of the filthy ditch AND showing the godly new vistas of spiritual beauty.
  • Puncturing the pride of the arrogant AND building up the faith of the meek.
  • Removing despair AND instilling hope.
  • Quenching hate AND inflaming love.

Such pre-emptive, pro-active, and positive biblical counseling would not only enhance and strengthen an already strong and useful movement, it would also hugely bless God’s people, many of whom are tired with “average,” and who long to flourish, excel, and soar.

It might cheer us all up a bit as well.

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How Racism is Bad for our Bodies

In How Racism is Bad for our Bodies, Harvard researcher Jason Silverstein argues that “Stop and Frisk” is a large-scale threat to public health. Whether you agree with him on that particular issue or not, he does link to some stunning evidence on how discrimination increases the risk of depression, the common coldhypertensioncardiovascular diseasebreast cancer, and mortality. His article especially focuses on the impact of discrimination-related stress:

  • Being a racial minority leads to greater stress: In a study of 30,000 people, 18.2 percent of black participants experienced emotional stress and 9.8 percent experienced physical stress. Comparatively, only 3.5 and 1.6 percent of whites experienced emotional and physical stress, respectively.
  • This stress leads to poorer mental and physical health. This is not only because stress breaks the body down. It is also because stress pushes people to cope in unhealthy ways, especially when they are socially disadvantaged.
  • Just the fear of racism alone switches on the body’s stress-response systems: In a college experiment, when Latina participants thought they were interacting with a racist white partner, they had higher blood pressure, a faster heart rate, etc.
  • When conditions of social injustice affect this many people, and prompt poor health outcomes, risk passes down generations: At a time when the first generation of African Americans born in the post-Jim Crow Era is only 40 years old, it is probably not accidental that current life expectancy among African Americans resembles that of White Americans 40 years ago.

If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, Christians ought to be at the forefront of fighting discrimination in every sphere: political, ecclesiastical, cultural, legal, etc. But is fighting against racism enough? Is that going to remove these horrendous consequences quickly enough? Is there anything more positive we can do to improve the health and even extend the lives of African Americans, Hispanics, Scots (just kidding), etc.

Some, like Dolphus Weary, have argued persuasively for a sensitive and careful positive discrimination when employers have the opportunity to offer a job to equally qualified candidates.

While that’s a controversial issue, surely we can practice positive discrimination on a personal level. Is there anything we can do today in our interactions with people that will make them feel more loved, more accepted, more valued, etc.  It might be just an extra smile and thank you at the checkout. Maybe we can do or say something positive online. Or how about an encouraging word to a colleague, or even a complete stranger?

You never know, it could save (or extend) a life.

12 Sermon Introductions

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  1. The “Pay Attention” Introduction
  2. The Contextual Introduction
  3. The Background Introduction
  4. The Example Introduction
  5. A Contrast Introduction
  6. A Topical Introduction
  7. An Advantages Introduction
  8. A Seasonal Introduction
  9. A Question Introduction
  10. A Quotation Introduction
  11. A Statistical Introduction
  12. A “What would you do?” Introduction

For other videos in the How Sermons Work series click here.

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Children’s BIble Reading Plan

This week’s morning and evening reading plan in Word and pdf.

This week’s single reading plan for morning or evening in Word and pdf.

If you want to start at the beginning, this is the first year of the children’s Morning and Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Jason Henry, a missionary in Mongolia, has very kindly collated and produced the second year of morning and evening readings in Word and pdf.

And here’s the first 12 months of the Morning or Evening Bible reading plan in Word and pdf.

Here’s an explanation of the plan.

And here are the daily Bible Studies gathered into individual Bible books. Further explanation of that here.

Old Testament

New Testament

May God bless you and your children as you study the Word of life.