Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

December 6, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Who Is the Word that Became Flesh?

According to the website, Bethelemtravel.com, it is hard to predict how many tourists will visit Bethlehem during Christmas, this year, since this number is always influenced by the tension and events in the region. The number of visitors during Christmas in 2011 was the highest in a decade, mounting to 100,000 tourists. It seems the little town of Bethlehem is always humming with travelers from afar. Not much has changed in 2,000 years…

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, the Scripture says the city of David was jam-packed with people. Of course, they were not tourists seeking the once in a lifetime experience of celebrating Christmas in the city of Jesus’s birth, or there to purchase a nativity scene carved out of its native olive tree wood. They were there for a different reason.

Luke’s Gospel tells us they were there because Caesar Augustus had ordered for a census to be taken. Since everyone was required to go to “his own city,” Joseph and Mary were required to register in Bethlehem, the city of their ancestor David (Luke 2:1-5). The Bible says there were so many visitors when Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem, the hotels were all booked. When Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, “she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

Just as it was at the time of Jesus’s birth, most people will not grasp the magnitude of the event. Though as many as 100,000 people may celebrate this year’s Christmas in Bethlehem, one wonders how many of them will really understand the true significance of the incarnation. For many people, Christmas is not the most joyous time of year. Neither is it supremely about God. The ME-centeredness of the season and the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations robs many people of the joy of reflecting on God’s generosity in the giving of His Son.

For this reason, we must continually have our minds renewed by God’s perspective. Therefore, on each Tuesday of the month of December, I will share some thoughts on the significance of the incarnation, drawing from John 1:14.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

It is never wise to place one Scripture above another, for all is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). But, in my opinion, John 1:14 ranks among the greatest Christmas verses of all. What John reveals to us is distinct in its focus. In the Gospel of Mark, the life of Christ begins when he arrives at the banks of the Jordan to be baptized by John. In Matthew, we are taken back from Jesus to Abraham. And in Luke, the earthly genealogy of Christ goes back to Adam. But John goes farther back—back as far as one can go—to eternity past, where there is no beginning.

Who or what is this Word that became flesh? John informs us that the Word is God, and in 1:1-2 he reveals four characteristics of his identity. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. In these two verses, John reveals three attributes of the Word which expose His divinity.

He is eternal

John says the Word was in the beginning. Here is the eternality of God, of the Christ, as is revealed in other Scriptures. For example, Revelation 1:8 records the words of Jesus, I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The Old Testament prophet revealed the eternality of the Messiah, But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days (Micah 5:2). The Word that became flesh is the eternal God.

He is revelational

The Word is the divine logos, the speech of God. Logos is derived from the verb lego, which means to speak. It refers to the manifestation of the one who is speaking. The Word is the speech of God; He is the divine Communicator. He is the fullest manifestation of God. The logos is the supreme revelation of God. Later in the same chapter, John says Jesus has made the invisible God visible (John 1:18). Hebrews 1:1-2 testifies to this truth as well: God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. The eternal Word became flesh in order to reveal God to man.

He is relational

The Word was “in the beginning with God.” The eternal Christ enjoyed intimate fellowship with His Father and the Spirit from all of eternity. In the beginning, He was with God. Literally, face to face with God. Illustration: In his commentary, Herschel Hobbs tells us that,

In ancient times if one entertained two guests of equal rank they must be seated on an equal basis. If one were tall and the other short, the latter was seated on pillows so that when he looked at the former their eyes met on an even line. Neither must look down upon or up to the other. They saw eye to eye. They were pros, face to face, with each other. They were equal.

The word was with God—in equality and intimate relationship. In what is known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer, in John 17, He prayed, And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was (John 17:5). A little later, He continued, Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, in order that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

True Christians believe God is One, eternally existing in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three persons eternally co-exist in relationship to one another. The Father loves the Son and has authority over Him. The Son loves and obeys the Father. The Spirit is sent forth from both the Father and the Son, and has a main purpose of glorifying the Son of God. All three live eternally in perfect unity—they always have.

What a marvel it is then that one member—the Son—willingly obeyed the Father’s will, and the Trinity’s plan of redemption, in order to become fully human. Eternal God became human flesh. The eternal Christ became what He had never been before. He became flesh—and He did so in order to become the sin offering that you and I needed (Read Hebrews 10:5-7).

The wonder of Christmas is that God became man. The eternal Son of God became fully human in the person of Jesus Christ. In His earthly body, He revealed God. He demonstrated His deity in numerous ways, lived a sinless life, and then presented Himself to God as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. After experiencing death on the cross, He was buried. Three days later, He rose from the grave as evidence of His deity. Today, He sits at the right hand of God interceding for those who repent and believe in His name.

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, The Word Became Flesh.

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December 2, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Flashback – Does Romans 13:8 Teach It Is a Sin to Borrow Money?

[Almost 5 years ago, I posted this article. Since then it has been read over 18,000 times.]

Today, I am publishing an article I wrote to my congregation in 2006. Originally, it was written because our church was going through a financial stewardship curriculum that used Romans 13:8 to imply that all borrowing is sin, a misuse of the biblical text, which I sought to correct. Here’s what I wrote way back then.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8, NKJ).

Reading the above verse naturally raises the question, Does God’s Word prohibit financial debt? That is a very important question, especially in light of the following sentence from financial counselor and author, Ron Blue, “The financial area of debt is clouded with more emotion, misunderstanding, and poor teaching than any other area, with the possible exceptions of life insurance and tithing.”

To clarify the confusion surrounding a Christian’s relationship to financial debt we must let the sunlight of God’s Word burn away the fog by asking and answering two important questions.

DOES THE BIBLE TEACH BORROWING MONEY IS A SIN? – The simple answer is No. But first let me introduce the subject of debt by means of four biblical principles:

  1. The Bible teaches borrowing money automatically creates a servant/master relationship. This is a simple fact of life. Financial debt is a form of slavery (Prov 22:7; Deut 28:43-44). As a result of debt the borrower becomes the lender’s servant. The everyday reality of this is nakedly obvious. When we bring our paycheck home, after giving the first-fruits to our Lord, the bills piled up on the kitchen counter scream, “Pay me, or else!” Certainly we enslave ourselves through debt. Therefore, I think it is safe to assume most of us who are growing in stewardship also long for the day we are free from this servitude. We can all agree with Ron Blue that “…debt becomes a trap—getting in takes no effort, but getting out can be next to impossible….Getting into debt is as easy as getting down an ice-covered mountain. Getting out of debt is just as difficult as climbing that same mountain.” May God give us the perseverance to lace up the spikes and keep climbing!  The servant/master relationship created by debt can also build a wall between people. I remember, in times past, when I owed money to a family member and I could not go to a holiday gathering without thinking of my debt. I’m sure the other person did not think about it at all, but I, the borrower, certainly did and that perceived strain caused me to make every effort to pay off the debt as soon as possible. On one occasion I even took out a cash advance on a credit card so I could pay off a family member just so I could feel “free” in their presence. Talk about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul! Or was it “Borrowing from Citibank to pay Grandma”?
  2. The Bible does not denigrate financial institutions. Jesus often made reference to financial matters, however, He never painted the lender in a bad light. Instead He treated banks as a normal part of life and assumed the personal right to borrow money (Matt 25:27; Matt 5:42; Luke 6:35).
  3. The Bible warns against presuming on the future. One of the greatest spiritual dangers of debt is that it so easily allows us to presume upon God and the future. Ron Blue testifies, “I believe that in many cases, when we borrow money to fund one item, be it for the purpose of a new car, a television, a new home, a vacation, or whatever, we are putting the lender in the place of God. Who needs God to provide for us if someone will lend to us?” The Bible warns us to guard against making plans that presume on God’s will for our future (James 4:13-16).
  4. The Bible teaches that when money is borrowed there should also be a secure repayment plan. Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.” This text is clear. It does not say the person who borrows is wicked, but rather the one who borrows and does not pay back. In other words, what is condemned is not the borrowing itself, but the failure to repay. Therefore, the believer should desire to maintain a testimony for Christ by borrowing wisely, that is, by being sure he has means of repaying his debts. He should pay careful attention to the ratio between his debt and his income and assets. Commenting on Romans 13:8, James Montgomery Boice wrote, “There is no sin in borrowing the money as long as you are able to pay the interest and premiums according to that schedule.”

Therefore, borrowing money is always a matter of stewardship and good stewardship sometimes makes borrowing a viable option. As much as all of us would like to buy a house with cash the stark reality is that wisely managing a mortgage is better stewardship than spending the same amount of money monthly by renting a home. At the end of the first scenario you have a house that you actually own; at the end of the other you have nothing. Therefore, the issue is not always “to borrow or not to borrow,” but whether or not we can borrow wisely, thus ensuring wise stewardship is practiced and the testimony of the Lord is not harmed by foolishness or financial irresponsibility.

So, here is our first conclusion. The Bible does not teach that borrowing money is sin. However, it discourages debt and clearly warns against its practical and spiritual dangers thus compelling us to be wise stewards in the way we manage our finances. The basic conclusion is this. If you can avoid debt, avoid it. If you must borrow, borrow wisely with a secure repayment plan, paying it off as aggressively as you are able to, reasonably, in your present situation.

WHAT THEN DOES ROMANS 13:8 TEACH? We’ve already seen that the interpretation of the phrase, “owe no one anything,” as a complete prohibition of borrowing does not square with the whole counsel of Scripture. What then does it teach? That is the second question we must answer.

We need to recognize that when Paul instructs us to “owe no one anything except to love,” he is drawing attention to the supremacy and permanence of love, “for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” In other words, the one debt we will never be free from is the debt of love. Jesus said that the two supreme commandments–to love God and others–wrap up all God-pleasing decisions (Matt 22:40). In other words, if we always loved God with all our heart, soul, and mind; and if we always loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would never sin. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10). Biblical love, therefore, is the consideration of others as more important than ourselves. This others-focusedness is a fruit of the humility of mind we are called to imitate in Jesus: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Phil 2:3). It means that love is permanently supreme because selflessness brings glory to our Savior who humbled Himself to the point of death (Phil 2:8). The debt to love others sacrificially is the debt we will never fully repay.

Is it possible then to be debt-free financially and still not obey the command to love? Yes, unfortunately, it is. For example, the Christian man who, coming home from a seminar where he was taught that borrowing money is sin, and got the impression that being debt-free is the most important goal in life, decides to sell his house and cars and move his wife and twelve children into a camper certainly has a strong desire to “owe no one anything,” but is he acting in love toward his family? Is he, according to 1 Peter 3:7, living with his wife “in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel”? Is he paying the debt of love? Or if I seek to pay off our debts so aggressively that I leave my wife with not enough money to run the household, or to put decent meals on the dinner table, I may become debt-free, but am I acting in love toward her? As much as we all want to reach the goal of being debt-free we must guard against Pharisaical, false measurements of spirituality that feed our pride and minimize or sacrifice God’s call to “the greatest of these,” which is love (1 Cor 13:13).

But that interpretation still does not leave us completely off the hook since the context of “owe no one anything” demands a monetary application. “Owe” is the same word that is used in the previous verse of the dues that citizens owe government in the form of taxes and is part of the call to believers to model obedience to God via good citizenship (unfortunately, some of the worst tax evaders in our country are Christians, which simply should not be!). “The connection [between verses 7 and 8]”, said William R. Newell, “is direct: when you pay up all your dues, whether private debts or public, and have only this constant obligation before you,–to love one another, ‘Love must still remain the root and spring of all your actions; no other law is needed besides. Pay all other debts; be indebted in the matter of love alone.’” Therefore, we as believers should be very careful to always pay our debts, whether to the government or private business or individuals. This is an occasion in which I find the NIV rendering helpful, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” This places the emphasis on the faithfulness of repayment. In other words, “owe no one anything” means, “Pay your debts, Buddy!”

Conclusion: What have we learned? God’s Word does not forbid financial debt, but discourages it and warns of its bondage and its tendency to encourage us to presume on the future. Jesus affirmed the personal right to borrow money and called His disciples to responsible stewardship. Faithful stewardship requires paying our debts and only borrowing what we can responsibly repay. The only debt we will never be able to fully repay is the debt of love we owe to one another because of the supreme love of Christ.

The practice of biblical love toward one another is of greater importance than becoming, or remaining, financially debt-free. As we strive to reduce debt and be financially responsible, let us be careful not to sacrifice the greater for the lesser.

For further help regarding financial management:

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November 30, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on What is the “Sin Leading to Death”?

What is the “Sin Leading to Death”?

This week, a brother in Christ asked me this question. So, I thought I would pass on my brief answer. First John 5:16 is a difficult verse. However, before explaining its meaning, read the full context.

14 And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. 16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death (1 John 5:14-17, NAS).

It seems best to me that we understand the sin leading to death as being the ultimate form of God’s discipline of a believer. Let me explain. The immediate context contains instruction concerning how to pray for fellow Christians. After reassuring believers of the confidence we possess when praying according to the will of God, John instructs us to pray for fellow believers when we are aware they are committing sin (v.16a). We should, as John says, pray “God will…give life” to those committing sin, rather than death. In other words, we should pray the Lord will convict and lead them to repent of their particular sins, so they might once again experience the vibrant life of fellowship.

However, as much as we would like, this will not always be the end result. God’s commitment to His children includes discipline, which is sometimes severe (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:1-11). It seems possible that even a Christian can become hardened in sin to the point that he will not respond to divine chastening, and God’s ultimate discipline on such a believer is to take him home to heaven in order to protect the testimony of Christ, and limit destructive consequences in the lives of those whom he influences. This is God’s choice and we should refrain from praying for it, since only God knows the extent of one’s hardness of heart; only God knows when a person has reached that point of no return.

All sin leads to death, ultimately, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  In other words, biblically speaking, all sin is mortal.  However, not all deaths are the result of a specific state of sin. Yet there are examples of God taking the lives of believers because He would no longer tolerate their sin. Here are three examples.

  • Believers who practiced deception – Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira were guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit when they donated a portion of the selling price of their real estate while claiming to have given it all. They were not obligated to give all, but chose to deceive the apostles in an attempt to gain man’s favor and praise. The result was that God immediately struck Ananias dead. Three hours later, the same fate fell upon his wife. God used such severe treatment to bring “great fear” upon the whole church (v. 11).

  • Believers whose behavior warranted church discipline – 1 Corinthians 5:1-5

The church in Corinth included a man who was guilty of incest. Instead of removing the man from the church, the congregation boasted of its love and tolerance. The apostle’s response was to turn this unrepentant man over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.

  • Believers who abused the Lord’s Supper – 1 Corinthians 11:27-30

The same church (Corinth) was keeping the local hospitals and funeral homes in business because so many were abusing the Christ-centered celebration of communion by turning it into a self-centered, gluttonous feast filled with contention. As a result, many were sick and others died.

These examples reveal that, even though God is exceedingly long-suffering, there are times His patience runs out with some believers. When this occurs, death is the final act of His chastening hand. This seems to be the best understanding of the sin leading to death. May the Holy Spirit keep all of us sensitive to His conviction, and repentant in our own spirit!

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November 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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4 Reasons to Give Thanks to God Forever

If you are a Christian, praise is not optional. The spirit of thanksgiving and the habit of thankfulness are to be part of what set you apart from the unbelieving world. For the believer in Jesus Christ, thanksgiving is not merely the focus of one day—as it is here in the United States—but it is to be a continual habit. In Psalm 30, David, the songwriter and king of Israel, resolves to thank God forever. The book of Psalms is the Hebrew hymn book, which was inspired by the Holy Spirit—as is all of Scripture.

Open your Bible to Psalm 30. Take a few minutes to read it and then walk through it with me.

Psalm 30 is one of the Thanksgiving Psalms which was sung at the dedication of the temple built by his son, Solomon. Here, David lifts up the Lord as the one who is worthy of praise. He resolves to give thanks to God forever, and his example encourages us to determine in our hearts to be people who are always thankful. He gives us four reasons.

Give thanks to God because He gives help when you are in danger (vv. 1-3).

“I will extol” the Lord, David says. The word extol is from the word meaning “to be high, exalted.” David is lifting God up in praise because it was God who lifted him out of all his trouble. “You have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me.” The Lord had drawn up David, as one is drawn from a well. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure (Ps 40:2).

As the chosen leader of Israel, David encountered many trials and tribulations. At times, his enemies overtook him, overwhelmed him, and appeared to have destroyed him for good. But God was with David. God had a plan. David was a great sinner like you and I, but in the end, David was vindicated as a man after God’s own heart. In the end, his foes were not able to rejoice over his destruction.

Why? Because God lifted him up.

The inner pain of his suffering is honestly revealed in verse 2. “I cried to you for help…and you have healed me.” It’s interesting to me that when most Christians speak of healing their minds are solely fixed upon the human body—as if the focus and attention of our lives is on this temporary dwelling place. As if we are promised good health in this fallen world. As if that is to be our utmost concern.  However, there are other kinds of healing. There is a healing of spirit and soul which usually takes much longer than any of us realize. If you have ever been through a time of severe conflict, or have been personally attacked by hateful people—especially other Christians—you may find that the inner wounds take longer to heal than you had expected.

And yet, David speaks of God’s faithfulness even in this realm, too. Look at verse 3. It speaks volumes. Healing and restoration after a period of severe attack can only be fully brought about by the Lord, who is our healer. In times of danger, know this: God is your protector. Therefore, we must give thanks to God because He gives help when we are in danger.

Give thanks to God because He gives you a lifetime of favor, not anger (vv. 4-7).

“Sing praises,” David says, “O you his saints.” David calls those who trust in God to verbalize their thanksgiving. Saints are true believers, those who have been plucked from the pit of sin and given new life by the grace of God. The New Testament often designates believers as saints. The word is from hagios, meaning holy. Believers are those whom God has drawn up from the well of sin, and set apart for Himself. We are called to be holy since we are already holy (set apart) in position.

As saints, we must “give thanks to his holy name.” One significant reason God deserves our constant praise is found in verse 5. God’s anger is only for a moment and his favor is for a lifetime. You see, God’s anger is unlike ours. He is not quick-tempered, and His anger does not linger (Exodus 34:6).

God’s favor is for a lifetime. His goodwill and acceptance of us—in Christ—is forever. Ephesians 1:6 teaches us that God has accepted us in the beloved One, Christ. And Hebrews 2:11 encourages us by telling us that Jesus is not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters. Why? Because, in Him, we are declared righteous.

Again, the psalmist’s honesty is clear: “Weeping may tarry for the night.” Strong weeping and bitter crying are part of extreme trials and tribulations. But…“Joy comes in the morning.” The more you live a life dedicated to the Lord, the more you will realize that this life is not the source of your joy. The book of Job reminds us that “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Life in this fallen world will be filled with disappointments, even deep hurts—inner pain beyond description. But never forget this: When you know the Lord then joy will come. After your long walk through your God-appointed dark, foggy valley—when night never seems to end—there is a joy that will come in the morning.

O, suffering saint, know this. Believe this. Cling to this. One day, your sadness will turn to singing. This was a lesson David needed to learn. Previously, as verse 6 indicates, he trusted in himself, in his self-sufficiency. But God had to teach him that He alone is his mountain, his strong rock and, therefore, is worthy of praise.

Give thanks to God because He gives mercy when you are in despair (vv. 8-10).

Take a moment to read verses 8-10 again. In his moment of despair, David admitted that he needed a fresh supply of God’s mercy. When David sinned by counting the people it revealed that his faith was in his military strength, not in God. Therefore, Gad, the prophet, announced God’s judgment. In response, David said to Gad,

“I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the LORD for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Sam. 24:14). David knew that mercy only comes from God, ultimately. If you are in despair, don’t look to men for mercy. They will always disappoint you. Look to Jesus who is abundant in mercy. Remember the promise of Hebrews 4:15-16.

Give thanks to God because He gives you joy that surpasses grief (vv. 11-12).

Read (slowly) verses 11-12. It is God, and God alone, who is able to remove your garments of grief and sorrow and give you gladness in exchange. For a similar assurance, read Psalm 69:10-13.

Why has God done this for David? Why did God give him joy that surpassed his grief? So that, David said, “my glory (my soul) may sing praise your praise and not be silent.” God delights in our praise, and to generate that praise He walks with us through long, dark valleys of suffering in order to produce the kind of thankful hearts that bring Him pleasure. In Christ, there is a joy that surpasses all the griefs we have to endure in this life (Romans 8:18).

Look at the final sentence of Psalm 30. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Is this the resolution of your heart? Praise is not an option for the Christian. The spirit of thanksgiving and the habit of thankfulness are to be habitual in our lives.

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Give Thanks to God Forever.

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November 23, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Nuggets of Wisdom

Nuggets of Wisdom

10 Questions to Ask Your Family at Thanksgiving Dinner – Donald Whitney provides questions designed to spark not only conversation, but also dialogue relevant to the season.

A Counselor’s Checklist – A wonderful evaluation tool from David Murray.

5 Common Marriage Counseling Mistakes – As pastors and counselors, we need to step back from these emotionally charged encounters and carefully consider how to help the hurting couple.

10 Things You Should Know About Physician-Assisted Suicide – Important counsel from Christian physician John Dunlap.

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November 22, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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How to Have a Quiet Time with God

Some Bible-believing Christians call it My Quiet Time; others refer to it as “having my devotions.” Regardless of what name you attach to it, one of the most common disciplines for believers who are hungry for spiritual growth is a daily (ideally), personal time with God. To encourage personal worship, as a spiritual discipline, I have taught through the following Bible study outline many times over the past 25 years. Perhaps you will find it encouraging and helpful, too.

Definition of a quiet time: A quiet time is an unhurried time of intimate fellowship with the Lord during which the Spirit speaks to us through the Word, the Bible, and we speak to our heavenly Father through prayer.

  • This demands that we be a listener (Psalm 27:8).
  • This demands that we be a learner (Luke 11:1).
  • This demands that we be a pray-er (1 Thess 5:16-18).

Examples of people who practiced quiet times: Consider two examples of prominent men who maintained regular times of fellowship with God. And most exemplary of all, of course, is the Son of God. If Jesus the Son of God “needed” to spend quiet time alone with his Father, how much more do we?

  • David (Psalm 5:3; 88:13; 143:8).
  • Moses (Exodus 19:3; 24:13).
  • Jesus (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12).

Benefits of a quiet time: There are many benefits to a regular time of personal worship. Consider the following, for example.

  • It helps to give an eternal perspective to your day (Col. 3:2).
  • It provides spiritual food for growth (Matt. 4:4; Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
  • It enables you to seek God’s guidance (Ps 119:105).
  • It may keep you from sin (Ps 119:11).
  • It brings joy to your discouraged heart (Ps 16:11).
  • It provides fresh spiritual water to renew your mind (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:26; Phil 4:8).
  • It provides a regular time for self-examination (Heb. 4:12; 2 Cor. 13:5).
  • It encourages confession and, thereby, helps you to keep short accounts with God (1 Jn 1:9; Ps 51:1-7).
  • It keeps you walking in step with the Spirit (Rom 8:5; Eph 5:18; Col 3:16).

Hindrances to having a consistent quiet time: When it comes to keeping this daily habit, multiple other activities compete for our attention and our flesh fails in so many ways. Consider five examples of hindrances.

  • Laziness (Prov 13:4; 2 Pet. 1:5).
  • Lack of spiritual appetite (1 Pet 2:2).
  • Other books (Eccl 12:12).
  • Pet sins (Ps 66:18). [Full teaching on this and other hindrances in Brass Heavens]
  • Busyness (Luke 10:38-39).

Practical suggestions: Here are some action steps…

  • Put this time into your daily schedule.
  • Find a quiet place, free from distractions.
  • Work out an agreement with your spouse that you need this time.
  • Have someone hold you accountable.
  • Use a written prayer list or journal.
  • Write our memory verses on 3×5 cards.

These are just a few suggestions to get you going or restart an old habit that has died. Whatever pattern you find successful for you is the way to go. The key is to be regularly feeding your soul with the Word and talking to the Lord in prayer.

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November 18, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday – The Attitude of Gratitude

Flashback Friday – The Attitude of Gratitude

Here’s a flashback from 5 years ago.

In our Lord’s Day service yesterday morning we studied Luke 17:11-19 together. In this text, Jesus heals ten lepers, but only one returns to give glory to God by thanking Christ. The root reason the one man returned to thank God, whereas the other nine did not, is that his heart had been changed by Christ. He had not merely been healed of physical leprosy, but the Savior more importantly healed the leprosy that covered his heart—sin. Verse 19 says that this one’s faith made him well. “Well” is from sozo, meaning “saved.” What distinguished this one man from the other nine is not that his mother had been more successful in teaching him to say “Thank you,” but rather that he had been made a new creature in Christ. This truth of conversion then led us to the third chapter of Colossians where we see very clearly that the apostle’s exhortations concerning thankfulness grow out of his new-creature-in-Christ theology.

Here’s a project for you. Take some time this week in your personal, family, or small-group study to mine some treasure from Colossians 3:1-3; 15-17. Here are four practical application points to get you started.

  1. Recognize gratitude as an attitude of the new self. The third chapter of Colossians is all about putting off the old man and putting on the new self, who is being renewed day by day according to the image of Christ (v. 10). Therefore, we conclude that ingratitude is a characteristic of the flesh, the old self. We really must get beyond the simplistic belief that being thankful is simply what polite people do. The issue is much deeper than having good or bad manners. The absence of a grateful spirit is contrary to our new calling in Christ, which is why the apostle teaches elsewhere that complaining produces an ugly, dim witness for Christ (Phil 2:14-15).
  2. Let the peace of God rule your heart through prayer (Col 3:15; Phil 4:6-7). An attitude of gratitude is directly connected to whether or not the peace of God is a ruling motive of our heart. Peace of God is different from peace with God. Peace with God is positional—we are no longer enemies of God, but submissive kingdom-citizens, children, and friends (Col 1:21-22; 1 Jn 3:2; Jn 15:15). The peace of God is experiential—a calm assurance that guards our inner person through the Spirit, Word-based trust, and prayer (Rom 14:17; Isa 26:3; Phil 4:6-7).
  3. Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, which leads to singing Christ-exalting songs (Col. 3:16). As we take time to meditate on the Word of God it sinks deeply into our very being—challenging and changing our mind’s thoughts and heart’s motives—producing joy. This joy then produces a desire to sing Christ-exalting praises throughout the week. A few questions: When do you sing praise to God? Is the corporate gathering of God’s people for worship the only time you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? If so why? What changes do you need to make concerning your intake of the Word of God or the response of your will to biblical truth? It seems clear from this text, and its parallel in Ephesians 5:18-20, that a thankful spirit flows from a heart touched by grace, controlled by the Spirit, and fed by the Word. What’s going on in your heart?
  4. Carry out all of your work diligently, for the glory of Christ, with thanksgiving (Col. 3:17). Every task that is assigned to us as believers is sacred. It is an opportunity to show forth the glory of the One who has saved us from the penalty and power of our sin. Doing all things “in the name of Christ” means to do all our work with diligence while “giving thanks” through Christ to the Father.

As you delve into this life-transforming text of Scripture may the Lord richly bless your life with an ever-growing attitude of gratitude.

[To learn more about the discipline of renewing your mind with Scripture, read the book Counseling One Another.]

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November 17, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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The Giver’s Life Is Enriched by God

Hitchhiking on Tuesday’s post, let’s think a little more about the heart of giving. Particularly, let’s think about 2 Corinthians 9:6-11, in which the apostle continues his admonition.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.

According to this passage, one result of grace-filled giving is that the life of the giver is enriched. The point, Paul says, is clear: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” In other words, the bounty of one’s harvest corresponds directly to the scope of his sowing. This corresponds to the principle revealed in Proverbs 11:24-25, One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

A man may enjoy all his grain by eating it himself, or he may sow some of it and reap a bountiful harvest. This truth should challenge each of us to ask, “Am I a hoarder or a sower?” But you say, “Doesn’t the Bible say I should be a saver?” Yes, but there is a difference between saving and hoarding. In the end, hoarding is self-destructive; hoarding hurts the one who is selfish, as Solomon taught us in Ecclesiastes 5:13, There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: riches being hoarded by their owner to his hurt.

In Jesus’ story of the rich man who kept building larger barns to store all of his junk, it is the hoarder, the man whose faith is in his finances, and not in God, who ultimately suffers most. In the parable about the rich young man, found in Luke 12:20-21, “God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’  “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Too often, the worship war over money is prevalent.

However, the apostle counters our false worship of material resources by admonishing us to be gracious givers. Going back to 2 Corinthians 9, we notice that gracious giving should be a priority of weekly worship gatherings. And it should be planned and cheerful (v. 7). And the one who gives generously and faithfully will be entrusted with additional spiritual responsibilities and riches (vv. 8-9), which will result in “the harvest of your righteousness.” In other words, giving out of the obedience of grace leads to spiritual growth. Stingy Christians are often immature Christians and they will remain that way as long as they attempt to serve two masters. But grace-filled givers are “enriched in everything” (v. 11). Most importantly, spiritual riches. Eternal riches.

So, as expected, Jesus was right. It really is more blessed to give than to receive. At the end of the day, we must come to the realization that we cannot out-give God. Considering the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how does God want you to make adjustments to your giving habits?

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, The Joy of Gracious Giving, Part 1.

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November 15, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Announcing the New Director of the BCC

curtis-solomonAs a council board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, I am excited to inform you that the BCC is entering new and exciting territory. The diversity of the council board is broadening and leaders from many countries around the world are participating in the work of the BCC. In the kindness and providence of our God, the ministry of the BCC is taking on a global scope and mission. In response to this expanding vision we have been praying for God to raise up a full-time BCC Director. We believe the Lord has generously brought a gifted man to provide the consistent and sensible leadership necessary for the next phase of coalition-building worldwide.

Read the announcement about Curtis Solomon…

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November 15, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 3 Qualities of Grace-Filled Giving

3 Qualities of Grace-Filled Giving

“It is more blessed to give than it is to receive.” That’s what the Lord Jesus said. The Apostle Paul quoted these words to the Ephesian elders while reminding them of his own pattern of personal sacrifice on behalf of God’s church (Acts 20:35). This simple statement from the lips of the Son of God serves as a concise summary of a biblical principle; that is, God blesses faithful, generous giving.

This is not the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel so popular today among celebrity preachers; the silly message which says, “If, today, you give God $1,000 then He will give you $2,000 tomorrow.” That is a false gospel, an unbiblical lie commonly propagated by religious charlatans. However, even if some people abuse and misuse it for their own personal gain, there is a basic biblical principle which we must not ignore. Consider two examples from God’s Word:

Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Malachi 3:7-10)

There is much to learn about the joy of giving—too much to teach in a simple blog post. However, let me draw your attention to a key passage that we need to understand and heed. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, the apostle instructs the Corinthians by lifting up some specific believers as an example to follow. By doing this, he demonstrates what faithful, generous giving looks like and lays a foundation to build his instruction upon.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

The example of the giving churches in Macedonia provides three admirable qualities of grace-filled giving that we should follow.

Grace-filled giving is sacrificial.

The believers in Macedonia were not wealthy. In fact, the opposite was the case. They experienced “a severe test of affliction” and lived in “extreme poverty.” Yet, they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” Faithful, generous giving does not procrastinate. We should not wait until we can afford to give generously to the Lord’s work through the church, we should give first and then learn to live on the rest.

Grace-filled giving is selfless.

The believers in Macedonia were more concerned about the needs of the apostles than they were about their own dire straits. They did not give merely what they could afford to give, but gave “beyond their means.” So earnest was their desire to give to the work of the Lord that they begged the apostles for more opportunities to give as a “favor.”

Grace-filled giving is spiritual.

The believers in Macedonia gave generously because they “gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” Giving their money to the Lord’s work was the natural consequence of the surrender of their wills to God in obedient submission. This is really important for us to realize. Our giving is not a financial decision, ultimately. It is first and foremost an issue of our heart. When our hearts have been overcome by the grace of God toward us through Christ Jesus, giving our material resources is no longer a battle.

As the apostle finishes using the Macedonians as an example for us to follow, he lifts up the Lord Jesus as the ultimate example of grace-filled giving. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” Jesus, the Son of God, eternally lived in infinite riches in the glories of heaven. Yet, He left that wealth to live a sinless life on this earth, in poverty, in order to give Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. As a result, you and I may become spiritually rich as we embrace the Lord of the gospel and live in light of His saving grace.

Generous giving is a reflection of the grace of God toward us in Jesus Christ. It is a response to the gospel. Take a moment to consider your giving to the Lord’s work through your local church. Is it faithful? Is it generous? Is it an accurate reflection of the grace of God?

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, The Joy of Gracious Giving, Part 1.

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