Eugene Peterson’s “Tell it Slant”-How not to be a Pharisee

In his book “Tell It Slant”, Eugene Peterson brings concepts from parables and prayers of Jesus to consider for counseling, personal living through heart-transformation, and for our progressive sanctification. Peterson uniquely speaks to the heart that is open to change and that is my goal as a biblical counselor–to speak to hearts for the purpose of redemptive, godly change.  However, as Christians we often believe that we have it all together and are not in need of change. We forget that no one is righteous and that Jesus came to call sinners (Rom 3:10; Mk 2:17). We are easily capable of being self-righteous instead of righteous through faith (Rom 1:17) in the sight of the Lord and in His atoning work on the cross, alone.

The sin of self-righteousness interests me as a biblical counselor in the area of self-examination and peer-counseling of my fellow ministry leaders. My first conviction came in the story “The Lost Brothers: Luke 15” in Chapter 7. Here, there are four “mini-stories” that show who the “lost brother” can be while Jesus does His authentic soteriological work. The first parable, known as “The Lost Sheep”, parallels the other three mini-stories in Luke 15 and highlights the degree that a Shepherd goes to rescue one sheep who strays from the flock. Peterson exposes the sin of the church, the heart-state of the Pharisee, at the point in the text just prior to the parable:

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And

the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying ‘This man receives sinners and

eats with them’” (Lk 15:1,2).

Just like the Israelites in Ex 16:2 who were dissatisfied with God’s way of provision of “bread of heaven” or “manna”, the Pharisees demonstrate discontentment and disapproval of God’s provision for salvation. They play judge and are self-righteous as if they know better than God. They “grumble”, or “diegongudzon” in greek–a word that has an onomatopoeiac sound of murmuring and muttering.  Like the Prodigal Son story, the pretense and posturing of the Pharisees prior to the Lost Sheep story exposes the heart of jealousy similar to the older son when his run-away brother returns (Lk 15:28-30). I can almost hear 99 sheep “baa-baahing” in discontentment while Jesus seeks to save the one lost! Instead of rejoicing, as the angels do in heaven, the Pharisees grumble about the way Jesus saves the unrighteous. Do we also forget that Christ gave us His righteousness upon our acceptance of faith? For “when a sinner receives Christ, he also receives the gift of Christ’s own righteousness.”

There are heavenly benefits in the kingdom for our works and therefore you need an “ego-check” if you are one who produces fruit for the kingdom. Peterson explains:

“For as long as we hold on to any pretense of having it all together we are prevented from deepening and maturing in the Christian faith. For as long as we avoid recognition of our lostness we are prevented from experiencing the elegant profundities of foundness…Eusebeigenic sin can be prevented. It is as simple as it is difficult: lay our competencies and skills daily on the altar.”

So, how can we operate in regards to the sin that can prevent us from loving our neighbor as ourselves? This eusebeigenic sin–sin that appears as righteousness– is something that develops in the church likened to what Peterson borrows from a medical term “iatrogenic”,  which explains how a disease can be developed in someone when being cured. We must therefore also call the aide of the church to bring awareness to this sin. In counseling, how are we to convict our brother or sister who is blind to sin that was actually formed in the church? My hope is that there is a way to rid ourselves of stumbling blocks that get in the way of unity while we humbly receive Christ, daily. A conscious recognition of our hearts is necessary.

“The best protection against eusebeigenic sin is an acute awareness of our lost condition in which we so desperately and at all times need a Savior.”  In the gospels, we observe many altercations of Jesus with various legalists to the extent that they are considered the outsiders of the faith:

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples:  “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach. They tie up heavy loads…aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others (Mt 23:1-5a)”.

Jesus certainly gives every Christian a clear message. He states that “teachers of the law” are in effect, judgmental hypocrites as they “do not practice what they preach” (Rom 2:1 paraphrased) but they care more about their image and appearance. I call this the “look at me” syndrome often found in church leadership that delights in “lording over” (1 Pet 5:3) others.  Peterson reiterates in chapter 11 that, “hypocrisy is slow-growing. In its early stages it is difficult to detect”.  We need to see the fine line between healthy leadership worth following and the act of dictatorial lordship. The works of teaching are in and of themselves useless unless the Holy Spirit is working in and through the teacher as a gift–always for the benefit of another, not yourself! Leadership can only be performed in humble obedience and surrender to Jesus or as Luke 3:8 reminds us to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. Timothy Gombis supports Peterson’s observations:

“While ancient and contemporary Pharisees imagine that their efforts bring

about cultural holiness are what moves God to save, Paul says it is completely

a matter of God’s gracious initiative. God does not want any boasting in his

radically new society, no one setting himself over others, no one claiming a cozier

relationship with God than others.”

Jesus called sinners to become the righteousness of God and that includes the hearts of those of us who forget to rely upon Jesus for righteousness and can turn the church into a legalistic sea of Pharisees. The modern church is the “Israel of God” (Gal 6:16) which is now the legitimate righteousness in the new life in Jesus, not a church of only law-keeping, but a church that lives by faith (Rom 1:9). The true people of God are those whom believe in Jesus the son of God, faithfully, internally and of the heart (Rom 2:29) prior to any work to accomplish or law to maintain. It is Jesus’ righteousness that makes us acceptable to God and only through humble and realistic self-examination can this be accomplished. Our own righteous works are of no value to God. But righteousness in faith is a gift of God and as we humbly receive, enjoy and exercise it, it replaces our self-derived sanctimoniousness and posturing. We are able to help the lost brother continue on in progressive sanctification if we also humbly remain in Jesus.

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Reflections of Light

I was babysitting my youngest brother in 1974 by taking him for a walk in the neighborhood, holding his hand. We saw a glimmering light on the ground and approached it. “What is it?” 2-year-old John asked. “It’s a piece of broken glass” was my response as I picked it up, “but the light is a reflection from the sun”. “Reflection”, John repeated knowingly. What contemplative light was brought to my young toddling brother in a simple yet complex process from as far away as the sun is from the earth. A beam of truth during our afternoon walk. The light of the world works similarly. You see, it is a man. And Jesus is the Man, the second Adam, the son of men and we see His particular and reliant attributes in the book of John. Key verses remind us of the beautiful complex nature in the deity of Christ, his relational position in the trinity “being one with the Father” and being full of grace and truth (Jn 1:1; 1:14; Rev 19:13). He is our flawless light reflecting the glory of heaven. He is available to “whomsoever” believes in Him (Jn 3:16) and also tells us that His work is to believe in Him (Jn 6:29, 1 Jn 3:23).

Jesus is the Light of men and has been from the beginning of eternity. Did God not create the world by saying “Let there be light (Genesis 1:3)” as “all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Jn 1:3-4 ESV). He is the man that gives us life (Jn 10:28) and not just a stone of life, but “more abundantly”, giving us fullness of life so that nothing can take us away from His hand (Jn 10:28;17:12, 18:9). This security is the focus of our abundance, something anticipated while participating in at the same time. We show our love for one another, encouraging, helping, loving and supporting His sustaining hand in life (Jn 13:35; 1 Jn 4:20). There is no other way to life except in Jesus the Light of the World. He is one with the Father (Jn 10:30; 14:9). One of my favorite functional facets of our divine Man, Jesus, is that He is our Light. The gospel is encompassed in the fact that we do not have to live in darkness, but let it be exposed by Him, and live in the Light reflecting on His holy glory.

When was the last time you walked with your brother and pointed out the Light that overcomes darkness? It’s time for Reflection.

“Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

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Counselor’s tool-Use A Song

How can we help those who are suffering, feeling confused or stuck in life?—Use a song! In this case for a teen who is depressed and in order to bring out heart pain or to jumpstart discussion about their present futility, even a secular song can offer the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. For a seeker or even unchurched non-believer as well as those with faith, the song, “Feeling Good” can be used to point the heart of acceptance found in a new life in Christ (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15, and Eph 4:23, 24). The original song, written by Cy Grant, has been remade by many artists. A later version by the band Muse might be a song that resonates in the heart of a depressed teen (if not, you can ask them what their favorite songs or artists may be). Although we tend to not saturate our biblical therapy in secular psychology like David Burns (author of the book, “Feeling Good”) may offer, it is still helpful to climb out of depression, not perpetually embracing pain and this can be accelerated with musical aides.  The lyrics to “Feeling Good” are:

“Birds flying high you know how I feel, Sun in the sky you know how I feel, Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel.  It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.  Fish in the sea you know how I feel, River runnin’ free you know how I feel, Blossom in the trees you know how I feel. It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.  Birds flying high you know how I feel Sun in the sky you know how I feel.  Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel. It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.  Fish in the sea you know how I feel.  River running free you know how I feel.  Blossom in the trees you know how I feel.  It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.  Dragonfly out in the sun you know what I mean, don’t you know.  Butterflies all havin’ fun you know what I mean.  Sleep in peace when day is done And this old world is a new world.  And a bold world for me.  Stars when you shine you know how I feel.  Scent of the pine you know how I feel.  Oh freedom is mine.  And you know how I feel.  It’s a new dawn.  It’s a new life for me and I’m feeling good.”

The dissection and discussion of “Feeling Good” during a therapy hour can easily lead into heart-discussion then towards guidance about living a redemptive, new life in God’s created order. While relating to your counselee by the line “you know how I feel” and so does our omniscient Jesus, start with the simple “smell of the pine” or “seeing the birds in the air” then go into heart-pain. The “whole creation groans (Rom 8:22)” so we can bring an existential biblical concept from this song into alignment with healthful living, since we all “groan” and wait for the day of complete redemption–a way to relate to and process depression NOW. We are waiting in the “not yet” for fullness. Having a focus on the created order, going for a walk outside to think and heal helps see how redemption does and will take place personally for them. It is very possible for a depressed teen to sing, play or just listen to Muse’s version of “Feeling Good” to spark some relation to new life in Christ–in their present life while offering out the hope of the now and the not yet of our fallen world transitioned into a whole new world; inside of their hearts today and into their future.

Romans 8:20-25  New Living Translation (NLT)

Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.  For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.  We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.  But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)”

 

Cinda Marturano, M.A. “Counseling Tool #2, Deep Waters documents”.

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Burden Bearer

http://cinda-lifetogether.blogspot.com

 

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Be Mindful of the LORD in your life, He is there.

Mindfulness Meditation in the Light of Scriptural Thinking:

Biblically speaking, we know that grace and peace have been multiplied to us in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:2,3). We are reminded of our character and knowledge rooted in God and especially to remember our forgiveness and root of our faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross (2 Peter 1:5-9), we know that we do not have to have “mindlessness” but instead have sound thinking that is transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Elsewhere in scripture we are assured that we can:

“Be still and know that I am God”- Psalm 46:10

“Cast all of our anxieties on Jesus because He cares for us”-  1 Peter 5:7

“Not have a spirit of timidity”- 2 Timothy 1:7

“Suffer but,through a spirit of soundness guarded by doctrine”- 2 Timothy 1:12-14

“Possess grace, not by works”- Romans 11:6

“Have Single-mindedness and stability” – James 1:8

“Take hold of the Lord’s patience”- 2 Peter 3:15

“Know God, be at peace and have goodness”- Job 22:21

“Stand firm”-1 Peter 5:10

“Have Peace that transcends understanding”- Philippians 4:7

In this case, Ticht Naht Hahn, a Buddhist Mindfulness Meditation teacher, may agree that our object of mindfulness is God Himself! These verses standing alone are not remedy “scripts” to prescribe necessarily but would be viewed in context of the bible story and directive counsel with the presenting problem as a functional relationship to the heart. Steadfastness and transcendence benefits include a renewal of our spirits within us, strong hearts of flesh, trusting in God, and having perfect peace in Christ Jesus.

In Christian living, we expect to suffer, while living godly lives that may find us in a persecuted state for the work of the Lord. Accepting our sufferings for the glory of God and benefit of others is a key sign of maturity in the faith. By no means am I blending the secular and Buddhist-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Biblical Counseling, but they do not cancel each other out completely, either. We have the same physiological brain and mind of the rest of the human race today, right? With a general and significant exception in faith in Christ Jesus, we can compare ourselves to our neighbors in the ACT and mindfulness professions in the areas of soundness, mindfulness, meaningless conundrum (life has no purpose) and problems that cause us to strengthen our minds, but our mind is a biological component of our body as the temple of the Spirit of God.

Our minds need constant renewal as Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. After renewal or regeneration of our spirit and mind, what do we do when our minds are prone to erroneous thinking and become stagnant?  Perhaps we think we are suffering but we truly are not, we may be catastrophizing, thinking all is loss, but we are reminded that fullness can take root. In the parable of Jesus in Mark 4:26-29 we see growth, almost unknowingly and unusually slow at times:

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Buddhist mindfulness observes nature as well, yet the Christian sees a naturally ordained order from our Creator. Jesus’ analogies are rooted in provable truths of the universe.

Our organic hearts also can contain fullness. Ephesians 3:17 shows of the fullness as a striving in sanctifying our minds so that Christ may dwell in our hearts in faith in brokenness and maturity.  Our minds are being sanctified along with the rest of us. In Dr. David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls-The Revolutionaries” (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 25, Spring Issue #2, page 6) he states:

“Wise counseling recognizes that the Bible mandates development of a comprehensive pastoral theology distinctly different from prevailing cultural paradigms.  A ‘biblical counseling movement’ has arisen to tackle this intellectual and educational task, and has set out to address the counseling needs of the church with the specific goods of Scripture.”

The worldly view has moments of peace and tranquility as does meditation and its use in ACT and other therapies to stay our anxieties or depression, but the Christly worldview truly lives in the present. We are reliant on direction of scripture to bring us into our worldview in the kingdom of God. In this continuum of sanctification, our future invades the present with the blessing of the “hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.” (Hebrews 6:19).

ACT lives in a world of dissatisfaction, living from gratification to gratification (although a practicing and peaceful Zen-Buddhist may disagree here) but the Biblical Counselor knows that God works in process and through godly contentment. That process is a continuum of progress emphasizing joy. We have a transformation that moves us from “glory to glory” as 2 Corinthians 3:18 confirms:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The kingdom with in us is blessed of God with two main expressions. First is peace, coming from an integrated mind with Jesus through the Word, keeping us in perfect peace because our minds are steadfast on Him (Isaiah 26:3).  All parts of our mind are in harmony with one another, we don’t have two tracks to switch off and on, we are complete, even with in our sufferings-this is known as being single minded.  Our discipline in the fruit of the Spirit is with self-control.  We do not allow an ill-thought to take root when we have discerned minds that are captive to Christ’s thinking (2 Corinthians 10:5). Peace is the birthright of the believer and evidence of fruit of the Holy Spirit in their life.

Secondly, we have the expression or emotion of joy!  In 2 Corinthians 13:14 we are confirmed to have obtained grace, love and fellowship with the triune God!  Through obedience and “abiding”-the staying power to remain-we are given full joy (John 15:11).  To have the mind of Christ is true mindfulness that gives us a blessed outlook on life in general.

We are transformed by Christ’s likeness. When we err, we ask for forgiveness and forget our past sins to move forward in the process of sanctification, even of our thoughts and anxieties. We are reliant on His Holy Spirit. The redeemed become like Jesus in His peace, with a cleared mind. When we have set-backs, we trust that God is working things out in the process for a greater good that we would not have known otherwise. We can perceive this process and progress in God conforming us to the image of Christ through our unforeseen blessings and unseen yet definable values; love, joy, and peace.  Jesus, Himself, is our peace. He suffered immensely to be able to remove the sin from our lives completely. This removal process is sanctification, becoming like Jesus more and more as we grow in faith, demonstrating this soundness that comes from knowing Him.

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DeepWaters Philosophy

Basic philosophy and vision

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. ” speaks to God’s redeeming power to rescue and save us, deliver us from any trouble. We seek Him while He may be found, while He is near to us. God forgives mercifully and protects us from threatening forces beyond our comprehension. He gives us our well-being, so we go to Him first and sometimes with the aide of another, scripture as our guide and prayer as our monitor or focus. How do we do this? Wisdom speak that is induced by the Holy Spirit for the blessing of another and the ability for a biblical counselor to draw out from the heart that which must be exposed in man. A counselor with understanding, given only for the blessing of another, can do this (2 Cor 1:3-7). You can go through DeepWaters and be refreshed and revived at the outcome. Let me know if you are interested in this type of counseling.

Apply for a grant: Contact Cinda Marturano, cmarturano@comcast.net for application

Based on Psalm 18:16, Proverbs 18:4 and 20:5

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