Sweet and Sound Affections

A Treatise Concerning Religious Affection, A Jonathan Edwards Reader,October 12, 2011 Church History heart attitudes as it relates to Practical Biblical Counseling methods,

Cinda Marturano, M.A.

“As apparent gold is tried in the fire, and manifested, whether it be true gold or no–faith being tried as gold is tried in the fire and becomes more precious.”  Here are the benefits to our affections in Christ:  Favor with God, eternal rewards and virtue of holiness versus the deep-rooted observed evils of this world that we oppose.  In addition, love to Christ who is unseen today is seen spiritually in the eye of the believer.  Joy in Christ is that we believe and hold the nature of the “unspeakable joy” which is “full of glory”, this joy does not corrupt or debase the mind, as carnal joys may.  Our joy is a “preliberation of the joy of heaven” raising our minds to the degree of heavenliness with the light of God’s glory to communicate outwardly.

The affections of the mind are the inclinations of the will of the soul as opposed to self-determination of will.  Inclination stems from perception, speculation and understanding and results in the decision of action one way or the other. The mind, body and heart are determinant vehicles with in our affections and “has the power of godliness in his heart, has his inclinations and heart exercised towards God and divine things”.

In biblical counseling, I have experienced what I term a charismatic-downswing with counselees who experience “high affections” on Sundays and are often depressed and sorrowful on Mondays and when with-out charismatic company. According to Edwards this could be someone “who did not manifest a right temper of mind, and run into many errors, in the time of their affection, and at the heat of their zeal; and because the high affections of many seem to be so soon come to nothing, and some who seemed to be mightily raised…seem to have returned like the dog to his vomit..and run from one extreme to another”. Are they in Christ Jesus and His promised sound and steady Spirit? Instead of diagnosing with melancholy at best or bipolar at worst, could they be experiencing “misplaced affections” based on a natural causation as opposed to a sound spiritual and doctrinal base of praise and love towards Christ. To teach them to distinguish between spiritual affections would be wise, what is of the heart and mind and what is of the emotion of the moment?

 To counsel how we differentiate to sound and “proper inclinations” is to love steadily in the counseling room. Thank you, Jonathan Edwards for this needed heart affection.

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What is Biblical Counseling in Deep Waters?

My Deep Waters Ministry (DWM) is a biblical counseling ministry that has 3 branches: Biblical Counseling, Christian Education & Discipleship Resources, and Missional work to the Homeless. If my personal ministry or a partner’s ministry falls in to these 3 categories, it is a DWM funded project, frequently with my oversight and involvement.

I counsel (one-on-one) in my home office or at various churches under the Pastor’s or Chaplain’s care, knowledge and follow up. I provide christian education and resources and sometimes funding for facilitation of small groups, and missional homeless advisement (an example is getting welfare secular youth into a Christian retreat along with a “faith essay” contest each year for the past 4 years). I work on a secular board of governance in the 5 county region welfare environment for homelessness of youth, representing myself as a biblical counselor, mentor and Christian voice in a sea of chaos.

I have partnered with Logan Hope school for a new small group after-school program for 8th graders for strengthening and encouragement and preparation for high school.

I counsel (generally) 7-8th graders at Logan Hope school, high school seniors in my immediate community (Conestoga HS, Berwyn and Great Valley SD, Malvern PA), college students and others who mainly suffer with anxiety.  Ministry fruit has appeared in heart-change, growth and transformation out of the painful depths of suicide, sexual harm and loneliness and depression struggles. I am a Senior High youth teacher at my weekly church youth group for high school girls, teach adult Sunday School on occasion and am a member of our church’s Missions Committee (Great Valley Presbyterian, EPC).

Let me know how I can extend the love of Christ to you this day.

Blessings,

Cinda Marturano, M.A

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God-given Priorities

It was 1997 and I was a mom of a 4 year old son, Eric and 1 year old daughter, Bridget. Everyone was wanting my time; the church, the preschool, my family, my husband, my children, my neighbors and my friends. I had recently stopped working in the fast-paced industry of multi-media computer compilations and in international marketing and research and was prepared to be a pauper as a new “stay-at-home” mom. But we are rarely at home, are we? I had allowance of $5 a week for extra spending money as my husband and I made the checkbook balance each month. What could I do with this extra money?

The Lord gave me the kindest gift of His priorities and my husband’s travel to Marriot hotels allowed me one night free to have on my own to receive these priorities. I opened the bible for instruction as I was a new Christian, a born-again, having responded in faith to His calling in me to be Jesus’ very own child, sister, bride and servant. How would I get everything done for Him? That one night of refreshed contemplation made all the difference and now over 20 years is still my focus of priority.

The Holy Spirit of Christ gently instructed me, even as I drove towards Princeton, “I am your #1, First Priority, your relationship with me is primary, then it is your husband, he loves and needs you to love him and respect His gifts that I have given him, then your children are next. When you have a relationship with me, I will bless and grow your children as they are also my anointed and sanctified ones. Lastly, I will make time for my ministry to others through you, your community volunteer work and even a part-time job that will give you health and happiness”. My spirit confirmed with His Spirit a resounding “Yes”.

Thank you Jesus for my God-given priorities, in You, through faith alone in the work of Your hands. #Ushapedgospel

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“Draw Near to Me and I will Draw Near to You.”

Cinda Marturano, January 27, 2007—-Westminster Theological Seminary, Counseling in the Local Church class;

My first thought of the day is connected to my heart; “Lord, I’m being drawn by you to encounter you today and be close to you through the Holy Spirit. You approached me, belong to me and are with me today. I am yours and you are mine. We are a part of something together. Bless you, Bless me.” Is this a dream mode or a special place where we meet our God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit? Is He really “there” for us?

The fact that God makes Himself known to us in prayer is something that I want to share with other believers. Over the years of my Christian life I have experienced prayer in many different ways and modes; personally, in small groups, in large settings, corporately, and in conferences of thousands. One of the most honorable ways to pray is alone as Matthew 6:6 tell us to “go into your room, pray to your Father who is unseen…and He will reward you.” This time of prayer alone has its purpose as does praying in twos and threes.

Prayer can be a means to grow in faith with in the body of Christ and in the Redemptive community God desires for us to have. In groups, we can “do” prayer in many ways.

Establishing Prayer and Encouragement Partners (PAE) “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:20;

I see a need for established and organized prayer and encouragement partners (PAE) who will in essence be “peer counselors” within small groups, ministries and bible studies. This idea is nothing new, but an often missed need of commitment to each other.  Through prayer and accountability, relationships will strengthen, supporting the bedrock of Christ’s church, His people.  Peer counselors admonish each other, equally.  There is not a counselor/client relationship as traditional counseling takes place.

Why is prayer and encouragement so important to us believers? Our heart attitude is dictated by Ephesians 4:2:

“Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Built up and mature, we reach fullness of Christ and desire progressive sanctification so we can have oneness in Christ, the unity of believers.  We also need to call on our Father with a sincere heart out of our need, knowing that He is available, accessible and willing and waiting to help us.  Together, in pairs of two or three, we can uphold each other’s burdens, speak to God in the unity of the Spirit and know each other well.  This is redemptive community in action and interaction with God.

Meeting together to pray is a way to be understood and to understand your partner with an obvious and desired called presence of the Holy Spirit, our true comforter.  This peer counseling is supported through Christ and by others.  We witness change as our heart attitude learns to be humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love. Jesus’ truths will reign as we live it out.

Inception and Facilitation of Prayer and Encouragement Partners (PAE)

Prayer is for everyone in the church.  Yet many will not want to participate as a PAE. With the understanding that some with the gift of “faith” can strengthen another through this type of partnering, it will increasingly aide in biblical peer counseling. It will allow for a “new” method to add some fresh air to assist in the changing of hearts for all involved.  We will pray and counsel the word together.

Let us take Jesus’ example of prayer in John 17:20-23 to heart:

“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.“

We are under Christ Jesus alone with our spiritual gifts of faith and encouragement and in the Lord when we love each other in a concrete way through spending time praying with and for another. Who are your PAE partners? We have drawn near to God and He is nearer to us because Jesus is here with us as our ultimate Counselor.

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Psalms, the Gift that Gives to Your Heart

The Psalms are the Gift that keeps on Giving for the Sufferer of Anxiety and Distress, but How? In relationships with the faithful:

Last week when I met up with a fellow Biblical Counselor turned Chaplain in Washington DC we had time to encourage and mutually edify one another in the Lord. And the Museum of the Bible and Tomb of Christ exhibit at Nat Geo even added more reassurance of our faith in Jesus by knowing the Master of History is with us now, proving Himself as the Living Word. Jesus confirmed who we are in loving service for the sake of others by spending time together while we sought His presence to guide us.

In our exchange, the study of the Psalms for a need at a senior citizen’s home in Baltimore came up. It would bring about much-needed small group interactions and build, hopefully, more trusting friendships. By having the Psalms read and discussed in order to share the heart and the eventual telling of  their own great life stories, the group will make the inroad of knowing and trusting God in their lives together. To share in love and mutuality of understanding could be part of the needed growth. Our discussion of the Psalms also encouraged us to speak honestly about our own pains, misunderstanding and aggravations in ministry. And the blessing was continual then and even now at this writing.

On the way home to Philadelphia, driving in the snowstorm, a counselee of mine called to talk about stresses of how everything seemed to be intensifying in her life and how the accumulation of stresses are so real. As a college student, the first week of December usually provides nail-biting behavior inducement, no doubt with exams, papers due and lack of sleep. Since I had to keep my eyes on the road more than usual, and still wanted to bring Christ into our discussion, I quickly recalled the discussion with my colleague on the Psalms. If it would work for the senior center, why not a college student? Asking her to go to her bible and open it to a chosen Psalm, she came up with Psalm 31 “Into Your Hand I Commit My Spirit”,  and read it aloud to me. Audible through my car speaker system, I pulled out 3 verbs for her to hold on to for this week of abnormality. I reiterated these words in conversation of how God does indeed make Himself known to her and is always with us in our suffering.

What 3 verbs speak to you? How do they express your heart pings and pains? And what life situations do you find them in?

Psalm 31, a Psalm of David:

“In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me!

Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily!

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me!

For you are my rock and my fortress;

and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;

you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.

Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.

I hate[a] those who pay regard to worthless idols,

but I trust in the Lord.

I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have known the distress of my soul,

and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

you have set my feet in a broad place.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eye is wasted from grief;

my soul and my body also.

10 

For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my iniquity,

and my bones waste away.

11 

Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,

especially to my neighbors,

and an object of dread to my acquaintances;

those who see me in the street flee from me.

12 

I have been forgotten like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.

13 

For I hear the whispering of many—

terror on every side!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.

14 

But I trust in you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my God.”

15 

My times are in your hand;

rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

16 

Make your face shine on your servant;

save me in your steadfast love!

17 

O Lord, let me not be put to shame,

for I call upon you;

let the wicked be put to shame;

let them go silently to Sheol.

18 

Let the lying lips be mute,

which speak insolently against the righteous

in pride and contempt.

19 

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,

which you have stored up for those who fear you

and worked for those who take refuge in you,

in the sight of the children of mankind!

20 

In the cover of your presence you hide them

from the plots of men;

you store them in your shelter

from the strife of tongues.

21 

Blessed be the Lord,

for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me

when I was in a besieged city.

22 

I had said in my alarm,[b]

“I am cut off from your sight.”

But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy

when I cried to you for help.

23 

Love the Lord, all you his saints!

The Lord preserves the faithful

but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.

24 

Be strong, and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the Lord!

 

The Psalter, in German, 1545 translated by Martin Luther, Wittenberg, Germany:

 

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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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