Wednesday, December 29, 2010

David Powlinson on "Life Beyond Your Parents' Mistakes"

David Powlinson is a well-known CCEF counselor, writer and speaker at biblical counseling conferences. Also a member of the Board of NANC, he has produced many books, presentations and mini-books on a variety of practical topics. Along with Ed Welch's writing, I find Powlinson's material to be extremely helpful...not just as a biblical counselor in training, but for my own personal edification.

This week, CCEF's publishing arm, New Growth Press, made a free download available of Powlinson's "Life Beyond Your Parents' Mistakes: The Transforming Power of God's Love". In the 32-page booklet, Powlinson deconstructs the Freudian myth that human beings cannot experience God as Father without having had a loving, nurturing father figure. It is just such reasoning that has led to unhealthy dependency on the counselor, which often accompanies psychology-based therapy. This view also promotes the myth that "re-parenting or corrective emotional experience" is needed in order to know God as He is. It also begs the questions Powlinson raises:
"Are there any people with bad parents who have a great relationship with God? Are there any people with good parents who have a rotten view of God?"
Powlinson uses Scripture to counter this man-centric reasoning, which distorts the nature of the human heart and the reasons why people believe lies about God. Seeing God through the lens of an abusive, remote, or disinterested parent denies the power and truth of how God actually works through His Word and Spirit. Axiomatically, insisting that one must first experience a corrective human relationship to believe the reality of God's fatherly love is essentially to turn Almighty God into an almighty psychotherapist.

It is a sad fact that those of us who had abusive parents (especially of the "religious" variety) often project those images onto the true God. There is a hurt and a betrayal that doesn't just go away the moment we became Christians, and Powlinson acknowledges this. However, having sinful (or even evil) parents, of course, does not mean God is that way, so why do we often twist our view of God? Powlinson doesn't let us off so easily - and his clear, compassionate but uncompromisingly biblical angle makes us sit up and listen.

Other titles by which God identifies Himself include King, Shepherd, Master, and Savior. If human equivalents of these descriptions are corrupt, does that influence the way we see God? Not usually. Powlinson writes:
"Clearly, our fallen experience need not control us. Yet for many, the truth that "God is Father" seems to be the exception. They do feel that their knowledge of God the Father is controlled by the earthly parallel. So we turn to the second question: Must your own father dictate the meaning of that phrase until a substitute human father puts a new spin on it?"
This backwards, create-your-own-god philosophy comes from Freud and Erikson, not the Bible, and caters to our sinful tendency to find excuses and reasons for unbelief. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are prone to look for excuses and blame outside ourselves for our false beliefs and sinful behavior. (Case in point: try convincing a bulimic, even a Christian one, that bulimia is not a 'genetic disease'. Now insert a mental image of me tearing my very long hair out. Okay, illustrative rant over -- back to correcting our view of God.) 

As with any false belief or assumption, this view of God as remote, severe or capricious must be countered with Scripture itself - the living and active Sword of the Spirit, and the only way God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. Powlinson points out that we change when we see what God tells us about Himself, as portrayed in Isaiah 49:13-16 (a nurturing Comforter); Psalm 103:10-13 (compassionate Father); and 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (gentle, encouraging and comforting Father). Ultimately, the sacrificial love of Christ in coming to die for rebellious children displays the pinnacle of what God's fatherly love is - an historical fact from which counselees often feel disconnected.

Of course, these are only a very small sample of all the Scriptures revealing God as the perfect Father; one of the specific steps Powlinson recommends the reader take is to go through the Bible, finding specific truths that contend with the lies and cravings he identifies in his thinking about God. "There ought to be a battle going on within you daily as God's light and love battle your darkness," he advises.

This booklet is extremely helpful not only in defining the problem, but also in countering it on biblical terms and pointing the reader back towards the only source of truth and help - the Word of God - for the solution. Additionally, in true biblical counselor form, Powlinson leaves the reader with nine well-thought-out, probing questions to work through in order to identify and change warped thinking about God, due to parental abuse or poor relationship. I plan to tackle them myself, and expect it will take me at least three months to fully explore and resolve them. God desires His children to know Him as He is, not to view Him through the warped lens of fallen humanity! This little book is a helpful, convicting resource to help Christians struggling with a "dysfunctional" past not to use that as an excuse to keep God at arm's length. I highly recommend it for counselors and counselees alike.

(To download the free book, go to New Growth Press's Facebook fan page.)

Friday, December 24, 2010

American Roots, Slavic Zeal, Divine Will

The book that I spent over a year editing, translating and formatting for my former Bulgarian pastor, Rev. Hristo Kulichev, has been reviewed by William Fillebrown in "The Congregationalist Magazine".  The original review is viewable on page 21. A mutual friend of mine and Pastor Hristo, Anne, tipped me off that it had been reviewed - she was disappointed that my name was not mentioned, as the book would not be available in English had I not volunteered my time to edit and produce it. Still, I personally am very glad that Rev. Fillebrown has given it such a glowing endorsement, as it will greatly stirr interest among American Congregationalists with an interest in Church history! May God get all the glory.

Review of Heralds of the Truth:

The History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria
by Hristo Kulichev, 184 pages, $12.00

Our friend Hristo relates the birth and grown of his nation’s evangelical church

by William Fillebrown

Pastor Hristo and Tsvete Kulichev are dear to our hearts. They have visited our churches and stayed in our homes. We have heard their passion and their pain as they have told their stories time and time again. We have marveled at their resiliency and commitment to the gospel.

In 2006, I was part of a group that visited Bulgaria. While in Plovdiv, we visited the church planted by the Rev. William and Susan Meriam, missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, who died tragically in 1862. Their story of sacrifice made the experience of leading devotions from the pulpit of their church profoundly moving for me. Multiply this experience exponentially and you will have a sense of the significance and value of Hristo’s second book, Heralds of the Truth: The History of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria.

The fact that the book exists is a miracle in itself. The earlier portions were duplicated on a mimeograph machine many years ago. Over time, all but one copy was lost. Providentially, Hristo and his brother Dimitar came into possession of that one copy. To this, Hristo has added material that brings the history up to date.

My overwhelming impression on reading this book was of hearing the voices of a great cloud of witnesses. Names, dates, and events are listed; but behind them all is a zeal for the gospel born of a deep love of God and a compelling passion to proclaim Christ to the unreached and to live out a genuine faith that affects and impacts every facet of life. The movement of the gospel in Bulgaria began with American Congregationalist missionaries, but it was taken up and fueled by the Bulgarian people themselves. In some regions, Bulgarians advanced the gospel without the aid of missionaries. The common approach was simple: Booksellers went from town to town, selling books and preaching. They planted house churches, many of which grew into larger congregations and erected houses of worship.

We can only imagine the stories beneath the words that describe so plainly the efforts to reach the people of Bulgaria. Those who advanced the Gospel were driven by a desire to reach all kinds of people, regardless of who they were—Turks (oppressors), Gypsies (social outcasts), or even Communists enemies of the gospel).

There is evidence of many failures, and doors were slammed shut. But there is greater evidence of the supernatural work of God in opening doors and changing hearts even in the most desperate and seemingly impossible situations and circumstances. One line in the book is written in all capital letters. It summarizes the message of the book and epitomizes the history of the Evangelical Church in Bulgaria:


I am deeply grateful that this book has been written, so that the names of these servant saints will be recorded and remembered, and that Hristo’s story within the larger story of Bulgaria will be known. My prayer is that they will stand as a testimony to the faithfulness of God and will inspire us to greater efforts for the gospel and God’s Kingdom.

Since 2000, the Rev. Dr. William P. Fillebrown has served as pastor of Chiltonville Congregational Church, Plymouth, Mass. He and his wife, Deborah, have served Congregational churches since 1976. His 2007 doctoral degree in Ministry to Postmodern Generations has ignited his passion to convey the gospel generationally and internationally.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Radio Interview on My Book, Bulimia & Biblical Counseling

I just did a radio interview on my upcoming book, "Redeemed From the Pit: Biblical Repentance and Restoration from the Bondage of Eating Disorders". You can listen to the podcast here: Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors: Marie Notcheva on Freedom from Bulemia

The host, Lucy Ann Moll, is a biblical counselor herself. She was interested in hearing about how one overcomes bulimia in the strength of Christ; what repentance looks like; and how one goes about renewing her mind with the Word of God.

If you listen to the podcast, please leave me a comment as to what you thought. Any feedback is welcome, so I can improve my presentation and better glorify God in the future!

Thanks. :)