SEMINAR FOR MEN & TEEN SON'S
Reflecting the Son's Character
for Our Father's Honor
POWER POINT as PDF
from the Men's Seminar
This page is a composite of a number of short articles written for counselees in the past. So, the content does not flow or transition as smoothly as it should. Hopefully if time allows, I'll rework it into a more cohesive unit :-)
Painful Pursuit of Pleasure
That Enslaves, but never Satisfies
Solomon in his wisdom wrote:
"Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.
I did not withhold my heart any pleasure, . . .
Then I looked . . . on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:10-11
Why is Solomon's statement above so true?
I'll never forget a picture of freezing, "Snow Monkeys", Japanese Macaques, who were desperately trying to warm up in one of the hot spring pools of water that dot their frozen habitat. Many people are like these monkeys, sitting around, miserably waiting, and hoping for something to relieve the pain and difficulties of this fallen, broken world.
Other people live hyper lives that often look like a rat in a running wheel, racing after some illusive pleasure. Watching the little rodents in those wheels always reminds me of the song "Can't Get No Satisfaction". From toddlers fighting over a toy, to an addict begging for a fix, a married couple arguing over who controls the money, nations bombing one another over a piece of land, it's obvious. Selfish desires are what controls the affairs of men. Our whole "global village" seems lost in a search for joy and fulfillment, but the world is looking in all the wrong places. In blind, almost obsessive pursuit, it can't find it's way home - to real peace. The only way home is the Gospel (good news), the way of submissive faith under the authority of our Creator God the Father, exemplified in the life and saving death of His Son, Jesus our Messiah. (
When one of our son's was seven and on his way to his sixth heart surgery, he began to really understand this truth.
As we drove along the highway, all of a sudden he said:
"Dad, I think I've learned what's most important in life.
It's not toys or being busy with fun activities.
It's relationships with the people you love - especially God."
See down below: "God's Simple A.B.C.'s for J.O.Y."
Attitude - Behavior - Countenance (rooted in the attitude of JOY, Jesus 1st, Others 2nd, Yourself 3rd
The Bible says:
". . . My people shall be satisfied with My goodness says the LORD." Jeremiah 31:14
"Now this is eternal [abundant] life, that they may know [intimately] Thee,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent" John 17:3
Decision Making & Counting the Cost
(Remember Esau & the pot of stew! Gen 25)
Man's Way (Flesh)
God's Way (Spirit)
If you follow your feelings and not God's Word, then you'll quickly escape pain, get pleasure, and change the circumstances around you. (Gen 3)
Short-Term PromisesIf you follow in faith God's facts, deny yourself, and take up your cross for His glory, then you will be transformed.
(Luke 9:23-26; 1 Cor 10:13)
Guilt, separation from God, fear, confusion, depression, and addiction to idols since the world's goodies never satisfy. They only enslave.
Long-Term ConsequencesIntimacy with God, blessing, forgiveness, peace, joy, self-control, freedom . . . .
. . . the fruit of God's Spirit.
(Gal 2:20; 4:19; 5:22-25).
Jesus warned that our real heart attitude, beneath our actions and affect, is revealed when the painful pressures of life squeeze us. In Mat 15:19, Jesus said that out of the heart flow all of the issues of life (thoughts, words, actions). Think about it. When you squeeze a toothpaste tube, it's not peanut butter that comes out. The squeezing just revealed what was inside.
If a person is drawing from the Lord in humble, submissive faith then the fruit of God's Holy Spirit comes pouring forth. But if its the fruit of the flesh (Gal 5) that comes to the surface, it simply proves that the heart was pursuing something less than God. For some people it might be drugs, for others it could be food, sex, money, toys, power, esteem, attention, or even another person. But, anything that is less than God, no matter how superficially and temporarily pleasurable, is an idol that can never satisfy. In fact, it eventually becomes boring. So the person trying to use it for fulfillment has to use more of it, and ultimately go after something stronger or more perversely destructive in order to get the same rush of fleeting pleasure that was previously experienced. Even if someone through will-power puts off an addictive behavior, without putting on (Eph 4:21-24) the attitudes and behaviors that come from the will submitted to Christ, then an empty vacuum is left that pulls them back into the old pattern. The problem is not the thing the person uses, but the heart motive that seeks to love and please self above God and neighbor (Mat 22:36-40; Romans 12:1-3; Rev 12:11). A person might not like who he is, but everyone loves himself from the moment he is born. One trip to an "all you can eat restaurant" proves this universal truth (Eph 5:29).
"Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. . . . . You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
. . . . Therefore submit to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:1-8
Satisfaction comes only when the "river of living water", God's Holy Spirit, is flowing - through a born-again heart - then out to others in love who are thirsty for satisfaction (John 7:37-39). Far too often, Christians function like stagnant pools, forgetting that it's better to give than to receive (John 3:16).
We need to counsel (disciple) one another so that our attitudes and actions become more and more in sync with the Lord's self-sacrificial will. Real joy comes only when we pray for our Father to burden our hearts with people, families, and ministries that we can bless in tangible ways. Only by turning our focus away from self, onto the desires of Jesus and the genuine needs of others can anyone find fulfillment. This is what it means to be filled full and overflowing with His Holy Spirit.
[Jesus said] "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life [Greek = psyche, for psychological happiness] will lose it. But whoever loses it for My sake will find it." Luke 9:23-26
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free . . . . whoever commits sin is a slave of sin . . . . if the Son shall makes you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:31-34
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" [Not addiction to things less than God]. Galatians 5:22-24
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have spoken to you, who believe in the name of the Son of God,
that you may know [for sure] that you have [right now] eternal life . . . ." 1 John 5:11-13
Painful Pursuit of Pleasure:
with God's A.B.C.'s
Profound Enough For any Ph.D.
John 15:5, 11-14 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. . . . . These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you."
Character consist of ingrained patterns (habits) of attitudes, behaviors, & countenance (Ephesians 4:20-24). Yet, only God's grace can produce the mature character of Jesus in us (Romans 8:28-29), as His Spirit rules as Lord over our thoughts, words, and actions (Gal 2:20; 4:19; 5:22-25). He does this through regeneration (spiritual rebirth - John 3), progressive sanctification (spiritual growth - Gal 5:25), then finally at the resurrection, glorification (a new body without sin - 1 Jo 3:2).
Our responsibility is to simply trust & obey His Lordship, by grace alone through faith alone. Faith is not a feeling, but an act of submission. The difference between demonic faith (Jam 2:19) and true saving, sanctifying faith is submission to Jesus, not just believing facts about God. The choice of faith is nothing mystical. It is simply a heart attitude that determines, "Who will be LORD: self or Jesus Christ?". Growth as a Christian simply involves learning to walk (march - stoicheo) so that the duration and frequency of a submissive character under His Lordship increases. In any moment that a believer is submitted to the Lord, the full fruit of Christ's character will flow through him like a river of living water (John 7:37-39). But when the heart attitude changes to self-will, the dam slams shut and the fruit of the flesh rises to the surface like old swamp scum. As a born rebel, these truths were hard to swallow. From my terrible twos to my hard-hearted teens, I insisted on doing it my way.
Please, think carefully about the following example. Suppose a Christian man stops a drug habit, yet at the same time he intends to continue an immoral life. Is this limited change in his life really from the fruit of the Spirit? No, because the Spirit's "fruit" is a singular, inseparable package. The Holy Spirit is a person, God Himself (Rom 5-8), not a program from which we can produce parts or pieces. So how and why did the drug habit stop? This question is always answered by examining the root, the intent, the motive, the attitude of the heart (Mat 15; Heb 4:12). Stopping the drug habit and not the immorality might have motivated merely by a desire to avoid embarrassment, or reduce the cost in money or other consequences. But very likely it was not the fruit of faithful, loving submission to the Lord - for His glory.
Once a person is born spiritually from above, his new relationship with God the Father is sure and secure for all eternity. But the daily intimacy of his fellowship and joy with God is dependent upon his ABC's (Philip 2:12-13; 1 John 1).
ATTITUDE (of Heart)
J -esus first:
Matthew 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' "This is the first and great commandment. "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
BEHAVIOR - (Thought, Word, Deed)
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
COUNTENANCE = (Face, tone, body language ....)
Genesis 4:6-7 "So the Lord said to Cain, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen (become depressed)?'"
Examples: "Eating Disorders"
The good news is that the Lord's Spirit and His profoundly simply Word are sufficient for all counseling problems of the non-organic soul (psyche). Man's theories say that anorexia and bulimia are unique, modern problems requiring an esoteric, therapeutic formula to overcome. But remember the fruit of God's Holy Spirit listed in Galatians is God's sufficient solution: God's Way is the Person of Jesus, not a program (Gal 5:22-24, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control").
Any soul (psyche) problem is merely a package of basic biblical, relationship issues (pleasure, fear, guilt, anger, trust, confusion, pride, etc.). Destructive eating patterns, like other bad habits, are symptoms of desires that are out of priority.
These desires for pleasure are not wrong in and of themselves. But the Bible clearly tells us that we must choose to put our desires in the right order of priorities J.O.Y.. Otherwise we end up on a never ending road in the (Pro 14:12). You "can't get no satisfaction", unless you are filled full with the Lord (Jer 31:14; Eph 3:14-21).
Remember, that Gen. 3, Mat 4, Gal 5, James 1:13-15, and 1 John 2 tell us that there are three categories of self-pleasing desires which tempt us at the root of "fleshly" fruit (symptoms). These root motives/attitudes are the:
1. Desire (epithumia) of the flesh (desire for physical pleasures like food, drugs, sex, etc.).
Anorexia often occurs when a person becomes enslaved to the pleasure of being esteemed by others as beautiful (which she defines as thin). When this prideful desire for esteem is placed above the commitment to please God and bless others, then enslavement escalates, just as Romans 6-8 describes. Nothing brings true satisfaction other than submitting to God and letting His Spirit love others through you like a "river of living water" (John 7:37-39).
Bulimia often results when a person becomes enslaved to two conflicting desires. One is the desire for the pleasure of eating favorite foods. The other is the desire to be esteemed by others as beautiful (thin). And, the only way a woman can indulge in both pleasures is to "binge" and then "purge" (vomit) so she doesn't get fat. As with anorexia, this pattern of enslavement develops when the choice to please self is greater than the desire to please God and bless others (Romans 6 & 12:1-3). Also, an underlying pattern of bitterness often (but not always) accompanies sinful patterns of attitude and behavior. The bitter pattern looks at life and ungratefully complains: "This is not fair, I deserve better than this".
Some folks who struggle with these patterns are simply ignorant of how to overcome them. Others know exactly what the real problem is, yet in rebellion they refuse to submit their desires to the Lordship of Christ's authority. Instead of following Jesus as Lord and Master, the Way of the Son in self-sacrifice for other's needs and God's glory, they have chosen the "way that seems right . . . but ends in death" (Proverbs 14:12). What we all need is the profoundly simply counsel of God's Word for abundant joy (John 15:1-13; Eph 5:17-18), patiently ministered one to another.
"Now we exhort you brethren, warn those who are unruly,
comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all."
"Brothers, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself."
G.A.P. - Guided Application Project ©
Bridging the GAP from ignorance to knowledge
to submissive action for God's Glory:
1. Temptations: What pleasures are you tempted to use above God for satisfaction?
Solving People Problems
soli deo gloria
Practical Soulcare to © L.E.A.D. One Another
(L.E.A.D. = Loving, Equipping, Accountability, Discipline)
Five Parts to the Process:
1. People (Socialization) (manthano)
2. Purpose (Teaching) (didaskalia)
3. Problem (Convicting) (elegchos)
4. Plan (Correcting) (epanorthosis)
5. Practice (Training) (paideia)
This is the heart and core of God’s sufficient plan for overcoming "people-problems". On this foundation, any person or family can learn and apply the Bible’s practical principles for forgiveness, communication, decision making, marriage, child training, etc.. Yet without this foundation, any counseling efforts would be, as Jesus said in Matthew 7, like building your home on shifting, unstable sand. And when the storms and stresses of life come against a home or life built on shifting sand, it falls apart.
Discerning & Decision Making According to God's Will
(see also Seminar Samples: "Logikos Thinking" & "Deceptions"
Faith vs. Presumption, and the common claim - “God told me . . .”.
Recently I’ve had a number of students, friends, and family tell me that God spoke to them through impressions, visions, feelings, and coincidental circumstances. I won’t share any of these individuals' “impressions” since they are personal to them, but I believe you would be surprised at the content of many. What they don’t realize is that many of their revelations contradict not only each other, but Scripture as well. Unaware of this, they remain convinced that they now know God’s direction for their life, through these subjective, conflicting experiences. I too once believed and made decisions in similar ways. However, I am now convinced, by Scripture, that there is a better way.
Over the past 25 years of counseling families, churches, and even many well known pastors, both locally and nationally, it’s become clear that there may be a need to voice a further caution about current claims of personal, direct, extra-biblical revelation. Many of these same people, in private counseling, have admitted that they have never been certain about when or if their impressions were really from God. This uncertainty existed in their hearts, even though they and many of their friends regularly used phrases like, “God told me”, “The Lord spoke to me”, or “I feel like God is leading me to BLANK”.
Far too often today, Christians are embracing and teaching unbiblical, mystical, and subjective methods for discerning God's will and making important decisions. Many of these methods are more akin to Eastern religions and new age philosophy than God's counsel in Scripture. Not only does a mystical method of trying to discern God's will lead to uncertainty, but even when sincerely used, such phrases make it hard for friends and accountability partners to challenge a questionable impression. Please think about it. When a person says that his or her decision came directly from God, such a claim in effect tells others that they cannot question its legitimacy, practicality, or biblical harmony.
Please carefully examine Scripture to answer the following question. Surely the Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of selfish sin, judgment, and righteousness, but:
Prior to the completion of God’s written Word (Greek term, the Graphae), the Lord spoke miraculously to specific individuals in history, and these events are recorded for us in Scripture. Adam, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles all received God’s Word in a direct, personal, and special manner. All of these were instrumental in delivering the Scripture, the Bible, that is, God’s Word to us. In the days of Israel before Christ came, God gave His people certain methods that no modern church believes we are to use today, such as casting lots, or using the Urim and Thumim. Those methods were given by God for a specific time and a specific purpose. Similarly, God gave new, direct revelation about His Word and His Will, through His Holy Spirit and His angels, during the time when written Scripture was being delivered by God to His people (Moses, David with the Psalms, Solomon with Proverbs, the Old Testament prophets, Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament authors).
Different sections of Scripture are given for different purposes. Some are historical recording the past, some are prophetic foretelling the future, and others are didactic instruction for current life.
For example, the Gospels are the historical record of Jesus’ ministry, while Acts is the historical record of the Apostles’ ministry, and the Revelation is mostly a prediction of the last of the last days. The Epistles, however, are the specific and particular guide book for the church, the Body of believers, that is, you and me today. This begs an important question. Do the Epistles teach us to feel for impressions or look for mystically coincidental circumstances to discern God’s will and Word for our decisions and directions? Please think carefully and biblically about this modern mystical method of discerning God’s will and His Word for making decisions. Remember the Reformation. It centered on correcting the great errors and abuses that resulted from years of following extra-biblical revelation in the institutionalized traditions of the Roman Church/State. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) was the heart cry of the reformers, who were tortured and killed for their strong stand on objective, written Scripture alone as God’s only Word to us.
The Epistles (letters) to us believers in the Church (built on the foundation stones of the Apostles), give us a much more sure and peaceful way to discern, objectively, God’s will, Word, and direction for our lives (1 Peter 1:1-21). One reason some folks shy away from the biblical method given in the Epistles is because it requires time, effort, study - that is, homework. When I've described these biblical principles for "biblical" discernment to some folks in counseling, many have responded with reactions like, "But that would take too much time studying Scripture". Yes, and the Epistles do command us to study Scriptural principles for marriage, financial management, parenting, leadership, witnessing, etc, and then to apply them to our current circumstances. This takes a lot of time and work that our fast-food, subjective, and experiential culture is not conditioned to do.
The biblical way is not easy, but it is more sure and more worthy of your trust and practice. Instead of wondering whether some inner impression is intuition or indigestion, our loving Father has written a sufficient Scripture filled with profoundly practical principles that are applicable to any situation. We don’t have to search like a scavenger hunt for one and only one specific direction from God. When seeking a life direction or trying to make a major decision, we often find many possible options. Which one is the best? Is there one best decision? God’s principles often allow for many different godly, biblical choices for jobs, potential spouses, ministries, etc that do not violate any biblical mandates. Our loving Father promises to be with us as we pursue the burdens and desires of our hearts, so long as they do not violate his written, objective Word. This is good news. It brings peace and an exciting, joyful, adventure in service for Him and others.
Now, in the church age, the New Testament is clear about what method believers are to use to discern God's will and make decisions. Now that God's written, objective Word is complete ("The Bible"), believers are to prayerfully depend upon His written Scripture for this process. God's profoundly simple, church-age process can be understood, remembered, and applied using four simple terms:
Prayer - Principles - Providence - Practice.
Please remember, dependence upon God's Holy Spirit is equally as important as dependence upon God's Word, yet the role of the Holy Spirit in the church age is different than it was when He led men to write Scripture. Now, the Holy Spirit's role is to convict us of righteousness and sin (right and wrong), but He does not give us new, direct, detailed, and specific revelation to add to Scripture. He reminds us of biblical principles we have learned (if we took the time and effort to obey God and learn them). He also convicts us through our conscience, producing the awareness that certain desires are selfish, dishonoring to God, and destructive to others.
Please keep these foundational, cornerstone truths in mind as you read further, and especially as you seek to discern and decide for Jesus glory, others' benefit, and for your own J.O.Y. (Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last).
1. Prayer - James 1:2-8
Questions to Ask Yourself, About God's Principles:
Is my decision based on careful thinking about God's Word, or merely human reasoning, or a strong feeling, or some other person's opinion?
3. Providence - Proverbs 16:9; Psa 41:13; Romans 8:28-29
Count the Cost
One final set of principles must always be considered, that is the short and long term effects of your decisions, and the potential deceptions. Man's way promises quick relief from trials and struggle.
Finally, if you're still very unsure of your decision, then seek the guidance of an abundance of counselors (mature elders who know Scripture well, and who reflect Christ's image). (Prov 11:14; Heb 13:7; 1 Pet 5:5)
** If you're a wife, the best place to start for advice is your husband, before your pastor (1 Cor 14:33). Pray and trust God to use your husband, even if he hasn't been studying Scripture or following God. As you walk with your husband through trials, he won't see you as his enemy, even if his decisions don't work out well. Why not? Because you will have been his cheerleader, not his nagging coach. By the way, if you nag him into doing what you think is best, and your way turns out to fail, then he will be tempted to blame you. If his way fails, then he won't have you to blame, and will only have God to argue with. Let God convict him, while you love him and show him you're his supportive helpmeet. That doesn't mean you always agree with him, merely that you are committed to walk with him, under the delegated authority God gave him as a husband. My wife, Linda, was such a good cheerleader when we first got married, that it encouraged me to trust God, study Scripture, and lead our home.
** Your family should seek discipleship counseling from their own church, whenever possible, because your pastors and members know you and your needs best. Going to another church or worse to a paid professional (hireling) is not God's design. Trust God to use the structure and strategy He has commanded us to build and use, that is the local church. If your church is not equipped to help you, then ask them to see many of the training materials and organizations we offer and recommend on our website (http://www.soulcare.org).
Recommended Further Reading:
- Decisions, Decisions, by Dave Swavely (2003). Dave's book is an excellent resource for everyone, especially in a day when wise, biblical discernment has been replaced by subjective feelings. This book is both biblical and practical, and it is simple to understand and apply.
- Led by the Spirit, by Jim Elliff (2002). This little book is an excellent tool for objectively rather than subjectively discerning the will of God as you make decisions in your everyday life. Christian Communicators Worldwide, 816-453-6903]
- Found: God's Will, by John MacArthur. John's gift for concisely conveying our Father's profoundly simply counsel has produces one of the easiest books on decision making to read, understand, and apply.