Question:

Hi. I have written to you before and asked questions. Your responses are very good and biblically related. I just was wondering, though, if you have had any teaching or training as a counselor? I have read many of your responses to others as well. I noticed that some people are asking legitimate questions, some are using trickery, and some are downright rude. I just wondered how you, as a person, handle and recognize which is which. I just read one of your responses, about a husband's jealousy. I thought about it, and realized I would not have recognized this. So, I just wondered if you have had training as a counselor, or if your training and teaching all come strictly from the Bible? And if so, does this come under the duties of a preacher?

Answer:

There are numerous ways a person can learn about any subject. You can take classes, but even that would be inadequate because sometimes you just need experience to see when certain ideas need to be applied. I teach computer programming at a local community college every once in a while. I tell the students that they must do the homework. They can sit in a class all day and think "this is straightforward" until the time comes to do it from scratch and all of a sudden they don't know where to even start. The same idea applies to any other subject, including giving biblical advice.

One of duties of a preacher is actually seen in the Old Testament. When the people came back from captivity, a copy of the law was found and it was read in everyone's presence.

"Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:7-8).

It is one thing to know the words, and yet another deeper thing to know how to apply them to your life. One of the duties of a preacher is to deliver God's message and help people see that it isn't just words. You can see this in Paul's instruction to Titus,

"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things -- that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. ... Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you" (Titus 2:1-10, 15).

Most of what I know and do is based on reading the Bible and the experience of helping people apply those principles to their lives. Each time I do so, it is a learning experience for me as well. It is the main reason I enjoy answering people's questions. It makes me sit back and ponder what passages would best answer this person's particular question.

I have taken a few courses in counseling, but I found them to be of little use. Most are caught up in worldly wisdom and miss the greater picture. I also read a great deal. I have shelves full of books on various topics. If someone asks me about something I haven't considered before, I start digging. First is to find all I can in the Bible concerning the subject, but second is to find some examples of others addressing the same issue because at times I will find that I missed an important avenue toward the answer.

In answering questions, I strive to follow Jesus' example. As you read through his answers, you will often find him pointing out a different path. When you think about it, that is often where questions arise. People see certain choices and conclude that these are the only choices, but none would lead to a good result. Their own fixation on those choices keeps them from examining the whole issue. I try very hard to look at what is being asked and see if there is something that is being overlooked. It is surprising how often the overlooked choice is the best answer.

Experience (the school of hard knocks) has taught me that people are not often honest. Thus, I also look at questions to see if the person is being fair and honest in their statements and questions. I look for inconsistencies because there is one truth, but the path of deceit has innumerable branches. I happen to be blessed with a fairly strong memory. Sometimes I will notice that notes come from the same person, but the details changed between them. I try to point these out in my answers.

I also look for what is not said. People tend to word things to shed a positive light on themselves; thus, negative points are skipped or downplayed. But sometimes those very points that they don't want to talk about are the keys to why they are having problems. In the letter that you cited, that was a particular red flag in the note. You will notice that in the entire description the husband is put down, but the wife portrays herself as completely innocent. In my experience that is very rarely the case.

As you read through the answers, I hope you notice that I try to explain why I reached the conclusions that I made. I hope that readers learn more than just the answer to a particular question. I'm hoping they also gain some experience in seeing more that what is presented. It is that insight which will help them in future problems.

None of this is to say that I'm perfect in my answers. I do the best that I can with the limited information that I am given. I miss occasionally, but even these are times for me to learn and become better in the future.

Thank you for your reply. It is very informative. I want you to know that I have read many of the questions and answers, and have found that several do apply to my own life and study of the Bible. I didn't know that this would happen, but I do now realize that the answers you give do help me to focus on particular details, in the Bible and in my own life, and come to a better understanding of myself and the world around me.

I have been in counseling for a little while now, and find it severely wanting. Friends of mine, actually, my foster father and mother from my youth, both Christians, recently volunteered to help me with counseling, from a Christian viewpoint. He is a preacher of the gospel. I do intend to discuss several issues with him, and will refer to what I have learned from you as well.

You wrote a sentence which I find very important to me. I have seen this in my own life.

'It is one thing to know the words, and yet another deeper thing to know how to apply them to your life.'

When I was young and still attending services, I thought I was OK, and knew what this was all about. The act of going to church, praying, fellowship, and all the other aspects of actually being and living as a Christian.

However, later, life got even tougher, and I fell. I fell hard, and that was many years ago. I am only just now beginning to be able to pick myself back up, and start over.

Now, I wonder about myself and that time. Did I ever really know what I was doing? Was I going to church just because others said it was the right thing to do? Or did I go for some other reason? Just what did I understand about being a Christian during that period of my life? Why didn't I get it? And why did I fall out of the Christian life? Why did I not see what was happening?

Now, the words that I remember from then have new meaning. I am astounded at myself that I did not see the deeper meaning. Maybe I couldn't at that time. But this is one reason why I keep coming back to your site. The way you answer such a vast array of questions on so many subjects, yet at the same time, are able to pick out those that are insincere, it seemed to me as though you had a degree from a university. And well, you just sounded like a counselor.

In several of the questions asked, I see myself. Even some of those who are not being honest, and insincere.  The answers given, actual instruction from Jesus and the apostles, make clear what some of my own problems are and where I need to work on changing things.

Well, I guess I took the long way to saying thank you for your time and knowledge. I know I will have more questions.

What you are seeing is what God stated before through Isaiah, "Whom will he teach knowledge? And whom will he make to understand the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just drawn from the breasts? For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little" (Isaiah 28:9-10). Everything can't be known at once. You have to have some foundation and some personal growth before the next idea can be added. Those in turn allow you see even greater and deeper things. Since the growth is gradual, you often don't notice the changes until you look back and see the difference.