Welcome, Christy Waulk!

Christy Waulk and family.
We're excited to officially welcome Christy Waulk to Baylight Counseling as our newest, graduate-level, biblical counseling intern!

Christy is the wife of Baylight's Founder and Executive Director, Joshua Waulk, and also serves on the organization's Board of Directors as Treasurer.

Christy's journey into biblical counseling began with her love, and commitment to one-on-one Christian discipleship in the church setting, as well as her work with placing and adoptive moms in the domestic adoption community. 

Christy's counseling work at Baylight will focus upon women's counseling issues, parenting (to include work with teenage girls), and adoption related matters. She is passionate about connecting wives, mothers, and girls to the love of Jesus Christ, and helping them learn to apply God's word to their lives.

Christy's educational background includes a B.A. from Campbell University ('00), and an MBA from the University of South Florida ('08). Most recently, she is completing an MA in Crisis and Trauma Counseling at Liberty University ('15), as well as biblical counseling certification from the Biblical Counseling Center in Chicago, IL.

If you or someone you know would benefit from a season of biblical counseling with Christy, she'd be honored to hear from you. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, you can contact Christy by phone at (727) 239-2596, or by Email.

Savoring Christ in the Sacredness of Sex

In his Introduction to "Sex and the Supremacy of Christ," Justin Taylor quotes author Bruce Marshall, who wrote, "The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” Marshall wrote these words in his 1945 novel, "The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith." 

I wonder if we might say, all these years later, that the young man is seeking "a god", but that the god he seeks is not the One who saves?

Whatever the case, what has become abundantly clear is that in our post-modern-turned-post-Christian, even post-secular culture (as Dr. Peter Jones suggests), a distorted understanding and valuation of sex drives much of American life. 

In light of this undeniable truth, some might be tempted to suggest, in a moment of sobriety, that our culture has valued sex too highly. But, in keeping with what C.S. Lewis wrote, I would agree that we're too easily pleased.

Here's what Lewis so cogently had to say:

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (The Weight of Glory)

In our American context, one of the many results of the sexual revolution of the 1960s has been a steady unbridling of the human heart's propensity to turn good things into god-like things. There are many examples of this phenomena, but sex possesses a unique, spiritual significance over the heart that is not easily surpassed.

Indeed, as Taylor goes on to write, "Sex is designed to be a pointer to God, not a substitute for God" [emphasis added].

In my counseling ministry, I frequently meet with men, even Christian men, who find themselves wrapped up in a life of secrecy, and shame as sexual sin engulfs their thoughts, their speech, and their actions. The end begins with enslavement, job loss, relational disfunction, and martial destruction. Estrangement from the life of Christ is the greatest risk of all (1 Cor. 6:9).

While more women than ever are thought to struggle against this pervasive sin pattern in their own lives, conventional wisdom, and my own counseling experience tells me that men continue to be those most at risk, with their families living in the fallout.

One researcher, quoted in an article at the Huffington Post, quipped, "We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography. We couldn't find any."

To this end, and because the mission at Baylight is to assist the church in its mission of making disciples, I'm embarking on the research, design, and development of a seminar project that will help cultivate in men a biblical, Gospel-saturated theology of sex.

This project will be much more than a list of "thou shall" and "thou shall not" imperative commands. Instead, it will assume that the men of our generation, in large measure, have never considered the good, and deeply theological purposes for which God created sex, and why, when experienced within those constructs, it offers us much more than "mud pies" in a spiritual slum.

Upon completion, we will offer this seminar project to local churches as a discipling event, targeting, in particular, men's groups.

The goal is to guide men away from the deceptive lies of the "pornification" of America, and towards the savoring of Christ in the sacredness of sex.

If this project, for any reason, is of interest to you, would you consider assisting me, commissioning me, if you will, by way of a tax-deductible gift, today

I anticipate that this project will take 6-8 weeks to adequately research, design, write, and prepare for presentation. The financial goal for the funding of this important project is $5,000.00. Your gift will take this project from concept, to completion, and will help deliver the help that men throughout our community and beyond desperately need.

I expect, as well, that as the material is delivered, men will come forward seeking biblical counseling for their own unique sexual sin issues. It's my desire to see them experience the life transformation that can only be had by the application of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their lives (Romans 1:16).

Together, and with the Holy Spirit's guidance, we can make a difference in the lives of individuals, and families.

"Everywhere you look in the world, it seems, there are reminders that life is war. We are not playing games. Heaven and hell, Jesus says, are in the balance." John Piper, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

Benedict Arnold and the Putting Off of Sin

"Let me die in this old uniform in which I fought my battles. May God forgive me for having ever put on another." Benedict Arnold

Those are the unverifiable, now legendary, said-to-be last words of one of history's most renowned traitors. A once important figure in America's Colonial Army and fight for independence, Benedict Arnold's life came to an end in 1801, in London, with his legacy, his very name, in fact, becoming a colloquial term for what it means to be an untrustworthy double agent.

Although Arnold had at one time put on the uniform which represented freedom for what would become the United States of America, he exchanged the glory of that fight for reasons not entirely well known, perhaps pride and money, and put on the coat of another.

In counseling, as well as in my own life, I'm often confronted frequently by a similar phenomena, that is, the failure of us all to consistently obey the Bible's repeated commands to put off the lusts, passions, desires, and deeds of the flesh (those old, earthly, sinful ways), and to instead put on Christ, and His righteousness (that which brings glory to God).

What is frequently at issue in counseling is a matter of spiritual warfare, where the counselee struggles with the natural consequences of temptation and desire giving birth to sin. All to often, promises of repentance, and declarations of remorse give way to repeated acts of high treason against God and family. As hope for progress wanes, the question is often asked, why can't I change? 

To be sure, this pairing of put off/put on can be difficult to grasp intellectually. What must begin in the heart (putting off the desires of the flesh), must then manifest itself outwardly in visible, sometimes tangible life change (putting on Christ leading to life transformation). Whatever is not clear at face value, we know that it's a matter of faith, and that failure to pursue it often spells spiritual disaster for all who rebel against it.

The apostle Paul, in Romans 13:11-14, instructs his audience concerning this critical matter of what amounts to preparation for spiritual warfare in what Paul understands to be the final days of redemptive history (v.11). Having exhorted his audience to love one another, Paul warns the church at Rome to "discard the deeds of darkness" (HCSB), and to "put on the armor of light" (v.12). 

He then instructs the church to "walk [live] with decency," and offers a brief list of examples of the types of pagan, sinful behaviors found in the world of darkness: orgies, drunkenness, sexual impurity and promiscuity, quarreling, and jealousy. While this list wasn't intended to be exhaustive of the many ways the human heart expresses its depravity, I can't help but notice how common even these few matters of the heart are in the counseling room. Despite our great technological advancements, there truly is nothing new under the sun.

Finally, and perhaps by way of a slight re-stating of his earlier commanding thought, Paul instructs the church again in verse 14 to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ," followed by the injunction to "make no provision" (ESV) or "make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires" (HCSB). Here, in the last phrase of this important passage on biblical living, I find a place where many who come for counseling intentionally scuttle their own sanctification, and chances for spiritual growth and drawing nearer to Christ.

It isn't very often, perhaps never, that I counsel with someone lamenting the effects of sin in their life who says to me, "I didn't realize that was sinful, or contrary to God's law." Instead, they readily confess the thing they came to counseling about as sin, and they may even repeatedly state their desire to rid themselves of it (i.e. anger, pride, jealousy, pornography, etc). 

For a short while, through homework assignment, participation in church community, and prayer, they may even show outward signs of change, but eventually, for some, those old patterns of living come roaring back to life. In some cases, those are the people I will never see in counseling again. They simply fall away as they give themselves over once more to the desires they never fully put off.

In time, what I sometimes learn, perhaps from a family member or friend of the person, is that all along, despite appearances of change, the person had been holding onto secret desires, harboring scandalous thoughts and intentions of the heart, and even scheming of ways to subvert and circumvent the biblical counsel they had been receiving.

They were, in every way, walking in a manner similar to that of a spiritual Benedict Arnold, making provision for their lust by preparing aforethought to turn their backs on their stated allegiance to God, family, friends, and even their church.

At the time of the Revolutionary War, treason was punishable by death. Indeed, one of Arnold's co-conspirators was captured and hanged. While I'm not familiar with Christ's church hanging anyone today for treason against King Jesus (that is, after all, what sin is), my fear is that we're tempted to treat sin far too kindly, and make provision for it inwardly, even as we battle against it publicly.

Theologian Sinclair Ferguson, in his book, "John Owen on the Christian Life," quotes Owen as saying that, "Custom of sinning takes away the sense of it; the course of the world takes away the shame of it; and love to it makes men greedy in pursuit of it."

In light of Paul's commands to put off sin and put on Christ, we might add to Owen's wise words that making provision for sin keeps alive for the future what ought to be mortified in the present (i.e. put to death). 

Indeed, as Owen himself would write in "The Mortification of Sin," that, "The mortification of indwelling sin remaining in our mortal bodies, that it may not have life and power to bring forth the works or deeds of the flesh is the constant duty of believers."

Not all counseling scenarios are driven by active, ongoing sin, but many are. And, many are perpetuated by our reluctance to put to death the desires of our flesh, choosing instead to keep them hidden and alive by the making of secret provision for them.

Hear again the words of John Owen:

Do you mortify; do you make it your daily work; be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

Book Review: Scripture and Counseling: Part Two: The Richness and Relevance of God's Word

The following is part two of my chapter-by-chapter review and interaction with the individual parts of Scripture and Counseling, the newest offering from the Biblical Counseling Coalition, and Zondervan Academic.

Scripture and Counseling: Chapter One: The Richness and Relevance of God's Word: Kevin Carson

The sufficiency of Scripture may be one of the most unifying principles for those within the biblical counseling movement. And, it may be one of the most divisive for those who stand opposed to its objectives.

But, what would we say about the necessity of Scripture, or its relevance to life? Is the Bible written clearly enough so as to be useful in counseling? Does it even have enough depth to reach the deepest levels of modern suffering? 

Or, as secularists would have us believe, is it merely an ancient book written to an ancient people, thereby rendering it obsolete in the face of more modern, sophisticated psychotherapy?

For the Living About the Living

Speaking to this issue, Kevin Carson opens Scripture and Counseling with a chapter that fulfills the books stated goal, which is to help the reader "regain [their] confidence in God's word as sufficient to address the real issues we face today." Simply put, Carson writes, "The Bible is addressed to the living about living" (p.29).

The title of Carson's chapter, "The Richness and Relevance of God's Word," reveals a clue as to the substance of his writing. It is the right opening salvo in a book dedicated to lifting up the centrality of the Gospel in biblical counseling. In this chapter, Carson lays a foundation for the chapters that follow.

While offering a wealth of theological reflection concerning the role of God's Word in counseling, tied together with a variety of biblical passages for the reader to consider, Carson helpfully provides a series of real-life counseling scenarios that bring home four critical points, namely, that Scripture is necessary, relevant, clear, and profound (p.31). 

Indeed, if Carson is correct in saying that the Bible is addressed to the living about living, then those who struggle with the effects of sin and suffering in a broken world must find hope for healing in its pages. Were this not possible, were it not true, then the argument for the Bible's sufficiency would be a broken cistern.

Unique Content and Character 

Carson, however, builds the readers trust in the sufficiency of Scripture for counseling by showing how both its content and character are unique (p.31). Concerning these two issues, Carson writes: 
  1. Without the Scriptures, it would be impossible to know our purpose in life or how to live out that purpose. 
  2. The supernatural character of the Bible highlights the Bible's authority, inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy.
As to the believer's purpose in life, Carson shows how God, working through the Bible in the power of the Holy Spirit intends for Christians to be transformed into the likeness of Christ. But, what Carson has to say on this issue isn't ethereal, but tangible, and therefore hope-giving:

The Bible plus circumstances provide the believer with the ultimate opportunity to grow and change. It is in these individual, yet essential, moments of life where the follower of Christ chooses between bringing glory to God--which is Christlike--or not. (p.34)

Rich and Relevant

This opening chapter to Scripture and Counseling provides the reader with an encouraging view of the Bible as God's special revelation of both Himself, and His counsel. It justifies the title, and affirms for the reader that Scripture is, in fact, both theologically rich, and utterly relevant for all of life, and all of life's problems.

For the counselor, Carson reminds that, "The Bible teaches us about God, people, and problems" (p.46). For the counselee, Carson encourages that, "God is doing more than just wanting us to change a thought or a behavior" (p.46). And, for the church, he exhorts, "The depth of God's wisdom given to us as believers surpasses the knowledge and insight that can be gained from any other source" (p.43).

A Needed Reminder

As a biblical counselor, Carson's chapter has re-filled my heart with enthusiasm for God's Word by reminding me of its necessity, relevance, clarity, and profundity. It is a chapter that reorients the heart away from "the nomenclature of secular psychotherapies to real, dynamic, true, and significant issues of life in Christ" (p.45).

Thanks to Carson, the biblical counselor can once again pick up the written Word of God, confident that what they hold in their hand is indeed sharper than any two-edged sword, and uniquely capable of discerning the thoughts and intentions of the human heart (Heb. 4:12).

Kevin Carson serves as pastor of Sonrise Baptist Church, professor of biblical counseling at Baptist Bible College, and is certified by the ACBC.