Category Archives: Counseling/Pastoral Issues

Letter to a Parent who compares his children to others

Dear parent,
I understand the temptation to compare your children’s accomplishment with others (II Cor. 10:12). There is always a child who will outsmart yours; there will always be a child who will thrive in an instrument faster and more effective than yours; there will always be a child who is more skilled in a sport than yours. Yet, our hearts sink with despair when we allow ourselves to fall into that trap of comparing.

If you give in to that mode of thinking, you will rarely be yourself again. Beyond that, you will endanger your children from being and expressing their gifts for who God made them be. They will grow up feeling the weight of never being enough, never resting enough, and always trying to fit into an image you had for them, or worse, feeling incapable of living up to your golden standard.

Resist that temptation. Cheer your child. Gently direct them. Minister to them when they fail. Don’t bring child x into a conversation to highlight your own child’s shortcomings. Encourage their gifts and remind them they are loved when they get a lower grade, when they can’t play that piano piece just right, and when they strike out.

Yours truly,
Pastor Brito

Well-Behaved or Godly Children?

It needs to be stressed that our goal is not well-behaved children, but godly children. Godliness produces biblical joy and spontaneous smiles through life. There is a certain kind of well-behaved child that displays every sign of life but lacks a genuine interest in life. He says the right things, amens the Christian cliches and smiles at the mechanics of day-to-day interactions but within express a disdain for relationships and true holiness. Parents, don’t confuse both; cultivate “heart religion” by digging into your child’s emotions and imaginations. Bring out in daily conversations the heart of the matter so that the matters of the heart can be discussed and engaged. Don’t assume that right answers and right posture produce biblical godliness. Child-rearing is a daily interruption into a child’s life to awaken him from his slumber.

10 Tweets on the Care of Pastors

Pastoral theology needs to be considered afresh if it is to provide modern pastors the motivation to continue in long-term ministry. #10

If pastors are the priests of society, then they need to be restored and renewed first by the Great High Priest. #9

“It is I. Do not fear” is probably the most needed of Jesus’s statements for pastors today. #8

Pastors often interpret Jesus’ miracles as merely supernatural acts, but they are pastoral acts on behalf the Church. #7

Pastors need a pastoral view of the doctrine of union with Christ. We tire ourselves for others w/out ever resting in our Sabbath union. #6

In particular, pastors need to see Jesus’ earthly ministry as a way of shepherding. Jesus shepherds His church in every text. #5

The ministry of Jesus offers great encouragement to ministers, yet many ministers look to models rather than Jesus’ pastoral ministry. #4

There are many expectations laid at the pastor’s feet but rarely do people think of their responsibilities towards their pastor. #3

Congregations need to have long-term care for pastors; a neglected lesson which pastors don’t address for fear of self-promotion. #2

The care of pastors is neglected in the church because people perceive the pastor to have all the answers and not to feel pain. #1


Tenacious Biblical Fellowship

Paul Tautges in his Counseling One Another observes that one of the affects of relying on secular psychology has been the internalizing of the faith, thus leading to a departure from the Church. He writes that the early church would never have entertained such a strange notion. The Church was tenacious about its biblical fellowship. He observes:

Whichever surface motivations are involved, what should be of great concern are the immature, fleshly priorities that seem to drive too many of today’s Christians.

Instead of running from fellowship, Christian counseling draws the individual to the body where soul care and soul cure are the transforming features of the church. Therefore, to depart from church is to depart from healing.

Steps to becoming a better counselor in the Church

In a recent interview, Deepak Reju offered some helpful steps for those who would like to be better equipped to counsel:

First, find a discipler and a good, Bible-preaching, gospel-centered church. There is no legitimate substitute for living the Christian life out with a body of committed believers. As you grow and mature in the Christian life, so also will you be able and ready to help others grow, too.

Second, read a few basic biblical counseling books, articles or booklets that deal with a problem that you struggle with. You need to see how a profoundly biblical approach to problems stands as a stark contrast to how most of the world deals with sin and suffering.

Third, if you haven’t lost interest just yet, then read Paul Tripp & Tim Lane’s How People Change and Tripp’s Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. The former describes a theology of sanctification; the later describes a theology and methodology for counseling. Both are good intro texts into the movement.

Lastly, if you still want more, then pursue lay certification or formal educational training through the manifold of organizations or educational institutions that provide instruction and training in biblical counseling.


Five Ways to Apply Community

“Yes, I am convinced of the necessity of community. What do I do now?” If you’ve been aloof to the idea and are now prepared to engage this new world, you need to begin thinking carefully about incorporating community into your calendar. To do so, you need to budget your time. Community is intentional, which means you have to pursue it.

Here are five ideas to begin in the journey and joy of community:

a) Reserve a day each week for hospitality. Invite someone over for coffee/dessert or a meal. Pencil it in your calendar. Make it a priority.
b) If you are single/college student, invite someone from the church for coffee/drink. You may wish to invite an older saint in the church. We have a misguided idea that youth only spend time with youth. In a community, we are all one. The idea is to make an art of knowing others in the body and casual settings provide the right environment to hear others’ stories
c) If your church provides alternative gatherings (Bible studies, etc.) outside Sunday morning, be faithful to at least 50% of them. These activities provide opportunities to bond with fellow members. When people complain that they just don’t seem to fit in a church, it’s probably because they neglect these gatherings.
d) The Church is called to be faithful and your active engagement in her faithfulness makes her beautiful to the world. Every church has its own culture. What are you adding to make her a pleasing aroma in the eyes of non-church goers? How are you representing your community? Ponder these questions regularly.
e) Finally, be a force for peace in the community. It takes minutes to ruin communities, but a lifetime to preserve its peace. Be the ambassador of peace in whatever church community you are. Seek the well-being of the body by giving thanks to our Lord for incorporating you into His own body.

Holy Complaint

There is a sort of holy complaint to God (Ps. 142:1-2). In fact, God calls us to complain; to plead our cause. Not all complaining is created equal. But there is a kind of complaint that is both defiant and dangerous. Complaint can be defiant when we treat God like a magic genie. But God does not exist for our needs, we exist to satisfy His will (I Thes. 4:3). He does not promise to take away our problems nor console us in our unrepentance.
But there is a complaint that is also dangerous because God is a consuming fire which is why for a complaining people having God close is dangerous business. Holy complaint desires the warmth of God’s fire, “Lord, hear my plea.” Ungodly complaint tests the Lord of the fire, “Lord, can’t we have better manna tomorrow!” And when the latter happens continually, the world can no longer distinguish between light and darkness.

When Being Busy is Not Enogh

C.S. Lewis once said that a Christian can’t always be defending the truth, sometimes he needs to feed on it. Over the years I have seen Christians exhaust themselves in ministry work. They overwork, overreact and sometimes enter into long stages of depression. And while depression can be rooted in many things, it is likely that many become overwhelmed not by the work of the ministry, but by doing ministry by the power of their own work. Even our Lord rested and refreshed himself for the work ahead. To be busy is not always a badge of honor, many times it is a badge of dishonor. We are created for Sabbath and when we don’t honor Sabbath we are acting as anti-image bearers. We are created to rest in the finished work of Jesus. So, as the weekend approaches, feed on God’s truth. The weight of the world is not on your shoulders. Jesus carried the world for you. Feast and rest in this truth.

Combativeness is not a gift

Combativeness is not a gift nor a virtue. I try to convey this to my boys every day when they fight or are unkind to one another. The goal is kingship. Kings control themselves and their emotions for the sake of the people. So too, boys need to control their tempers and their bodies for the good of their siblings. Fathers, therefore, need to stress a kind of gracious convictionality. We do not wish to see our boys fall for every new trend nor feel as if every battle is a battle worth fighting. Combative fathers can easily lose their sons or create combative heirs. There is a lot more to be said here, but perhaps this will stir some fruitful conversations.

Angst in America’s Adolescents

Time Magazine’s new edition entitled: “Anxiety, Depression and the American Adolescent” is a fascinating journey through the angst of this millennial generation. While they are easily stereo-typed as undisciplined and shallow, the story and the psychology behind it are rather complex. The author offers solutions, even helpful ones, but forgets the centrality of internalized religion in the formation of healthy adolescence. One author states that we are “the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all.” Problems range from “hyperconnectedness” to “overexposed.” These are real problems which I have tried to address in other environments. The further dimension to the angst of our age is the excessive expectations placed on our children, the author asserts. The college application process has become more demanding forcing many teens to abandon real face-to-face interactions to virtual relations in order to keep up with the demands of education and the need to qualify for scholarships.

Parents fail to provide the kind of psychological support to provide adolescents the mental assurances that their worth is not found in their grades but in something else. The author, however, fails to incorporate the ultimate rationale for the modern adolesccence angst; namely, the absence of Christ Jesus in their formational years.

As Christians we need to create an environment for our children where proper pressure is placed, but not abused; where grades play a role in their formation, but not the essence of their identity. We need redeemed intellects and beautiful hearts. Therefore, we need to re-analyze the expectations we have for our children and ask if such expectations meet the standard Jesus set for his own disciples: “What profit is there if someone gains the world (academic, athletic, etc.) but lose his own soul?”

Our society is undergoing a general angst. Technology, academic and social pressures exist, but the fundamental angst of our teenagers is a distorted view of their own reality and identity. We need to remind them of who they are daily, continually, lest their problems consume them and they lose sight of whom they serve.


My friend Carmon Friedrich adds this insightful note to my original post:

There was a very sad case here of a young woman whose parents ran a Christian camp. She worked there from childhood, heard many good talks about faith and life. She was gifted and beautiful and got a scholarship to college, where she went to live in a dorm and was under a great deal of pressure to perform, both in sports and in her classes. She was a perfectionist, comparing herself with others and feeling like she needed to live up to the expectations of others, who praised her for her gifts and beauty. The first semester she had a psychotic break, and her parents were so surprised and saddened and went to help her as best they could. Because she was over 18, they were limited in what they could do, but she agreed to go to a treatment center. She went back to school after that for a time, and went as an outpatient for continued work on her mental instability. One day they were to pick her up from an appointment and when they arrived, the center said she had walked away after being dropped off. She disappeared. For weeks, the family and friends searched for her, especially looking around the area of the camp run by the family, suspecting she may have gone there. Finally, the mother discovered her daughter’s body hanging in a tree, where the girl had killed herself.

This Christian girl heard the truth about who she is in Jesus, but somehow those other messages and pressures to perform were so strong and overwhelmed her. Combined with genetic predispositions and environmental factors, some people struggle to make sense of it all and it’s important to address every aspect of their anxiety or depression. Your assessment of the fundamental need for getting priorities straight and removing those pressures to perform and conform to the wrong standard is so important. Augustine talked about a proper ordering of affections, and sending messages to our children about their value coming from what they do rather than who they are in Christ are very destructive.