Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

October 18, 2018
by Paul Tautges

Our Journey Home from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse

It’s hard for me to imagine something more horrific than the sexual abuse of children. Yet every one of our churches contains precious men and women who have experienced this abuse and, therefore, are in need of our compassionate ministry of grace. Because this need is so great, I am pleased to inform you of a new book/workbook written by two women who have been there. With grace and truth, Sue Nicewander and Maria Brookins bring the hope of the gospel into shattered lives. The authors share why they created this discipleship resource.

Treasure in the Ashes has been written because we are heartbroken by the number of women and men in our churches who suffer silently. For so many of us, the silence is deafening. Our hearts’ desire is that Treasure in the Ashes will be a voice of hope for those who suffer (whom we call learning friends) and a means of equipping those who want to help (whom we call leading friends). This study is a way for local churches and Christian friendships to become places of refuge and healing as we learn to bear one another’s burdens, not just emotion-ally, but purposefully.

We chose the subtitle Our Journey Home from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse for a few very special reasons.
Our: We are walking together in unity and faith as God leads us (Psalm 133, Galatians 2:20, and Titus 2). We are
not alone.
Journey: Life is a process of learning and growing (Psalm 23). We are pilgrims here, called to fix our eyes on Jesus as we travel through this life (Philippians 3:20).
Home: Home is a beautiful place of peace and safety in the presence of our good and merciful God, where we belong now and for all eternity (John 14:1–3, 23).

Treasure in the Ashes has been designed with the one-another relationships of the Bible in mind because we believe that hope and healing are found with God and his people. “Bear one another’s burdens,” Galatians 6:2 states, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up [her] companion….And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Here’s my endorsement:

Treasure in the Ashes is an instrument of healing grace. Whether you are a victim or one called to help those who have been abused, this Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated, grace-infused labor of love will wisely lead you through a painful past to the compassionate heart of the Savior.”

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October 16, 2018
by Paul Tautges

HELP! I Have Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Therefore, I want to bring to your attention a unique mini-book for every woman, HELP! I Have Breast Cancer, by Brenda Frields.

One of the beauties of God’s wisdom is the way he uses our trials to equip us to counsel one another—just as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. As a result, many times the best counselors are those who’ve “been there.” When we encounter various trials it is a comfort to know there are others who not only care, but also understand and, therefore, can truly empathize with our struggle. That’s why, as a male counselor, I’m excited to make you aware of a counseling mini-book for women. By being transparent about her own battle, and the fears that accompanied it, empathetic author Brenda Frields comes alongside frightened women to bring them comfort and hope:

“How did you react when you got the news? Even though I had entertained the thought that my biopsy would be positive, I still wasn’t ready when it turned out to be a fact. The words just seemed to hang suspended in space when my husband told me. Everything he said seemed muddled and fuzzy, almost as if spoken somewhere off in the distance. To be honest, I can’t tell you what he said after he said the word ‘positive.’ I knew that meant I had cancer. What about you?

  • Are you full of fear?
  • Are you in denial, trying desperately not to believe what you’ve been told?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Are you angry?

Angry, that was me! I wondered if God realized I had four very young grandchildren, all between the ages of four years and three months? Their moms needed my help, and, to be honest, I wanted to live to see them grow up. Didn’t God know that my sweet mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and needed me to help care for her? What about my husband? His job was very demanding. I didn’t want to be the one to add stress to his life. Besides, I had always planned that we would grow old together. I was ashamed of my initial thoughts because I really did know that none of this came as a surprise to God, and I knew I should be trusting him.”

If you know a woman battling breast cancer be sure to give her the gift of an empathetic counselor, another woman who truly understands. Give her the biblical counsel found in HELP! I Have Breast Cancer.

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October 15, 2018
by Paul Tautges

The Dirty Dozen of Unbiblical Parenting

*This is the fourth, and final, post from Counsel with Confidence by Joel James.

In family counseling, you will encounter many unbiblical approaches to parenting. Some common ones to keep your eyes open for are listed below.

  1. Permissiveness. Parents who follow this strategy never tell their children No, Stop, or Don’t do that.
  2. Antagonist. Every conversation with their children turns into a battle. By the teen years, the battle usually goes nuclear.
  3. Positivist. Everything is directed toward building the child’s self-esteem. As a result, the child is entertained or coddled out of sinful behaviors and attitudes, rather than disciplined out of them.
  4. Behaviorist. External politeness, success, and conformity to social standards are good enough; there is no concern for the heart.
  5. Distracted parenting. A total lack of strategy due to parental busyness.
  6. Delegation. The parents believe that it is the responsibility of the church, the day care, or the school to raise their children.
  7. Pharmaceutical parenting. Medication replaces discipline.
  8. Quality time. The parents try to bribe their kids with a few fun outings amidst general neglect.
  9. Activity-driven parenting. The child is compelled to enter every club, concert, and contest available.
  10. Emergency parenting. The parents take action only when things get really bad, but then their efforts diminish again as soon as the crisis dies down.
  11. Decibel discipline. The child thinks: I don’t have to obey; Mommy isn’t using her angry voice yet.
  12. Throw up your hands in despair. The child runs the home due to parental exhaustion. The war is over; the child has won; and a three-foot-tall army of occupation runs the home.

Counsel with Confidence is available here.

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October 10, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 10 Enduring Qualities of Scripture

10 Enduring Qualities of Scripture

This week, I’ve been blogging about a new resource from Joel James entitled Counsel with Confidence. The following is drawn from the third chapter, “Sufficiency of Scripture.” A sound theology of Scripture includes a recognition of ten enduring qualities of Scripture.

  1. Inspired (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is utterly unique because God is its ultimate Author.
  2. True (Ps. 119:128, 142, 160; John 17:17). God knows everything and He never lies. Therefore, the Bible is absolutely true, categorically distinguishing it from any merely human book.
  3. Unchanging (Ps. 119:89, 160). There are over 250 different registered forms of psychoanalysis, and they consistently and vehemently disagree with one another in theory and practice. In contrast to the erratic, conflicting, and transient ideas of men, God’s Word, standards, and counsel are gloriously unchanging.
  4. Insightful (Ps. 119:99-100; Isa. 8:20). No man or woman has more insight than God. Since the Bible is incomparably insightful, integrating it with human systems of psychology will always be a process of dilution, not enhancement.
  5. Practical (Ps. 119:105). God’s Word is not a book of theoretical or arcane philosophical musings, mutterings, and meditations. It deals in a highly practical manner with the real problems of daily life, as anyone who has read the book of Proverbs can testify.
  6. Effective (Ps. 119:133; John 8:31-32; Rom. 6:17; James 1:21-25). When applied by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word effectively deals with the deepest human problems, including life-dominating sins.
  7. Nourishing (1 Tim. 4:6). For those who are starved emotionally and spiritually, God’s Word provides life-sustaining nourishment. Secular systems cannot nourish Christians’ souls because they fail to direct people to God and Christ (John 6:35).
  8. Surgical (Heb. 4:12-13). One of the accusations frequently raised against the Bible is that the Bible can only deal with counseling problems in a superficial manner. Using the Bible to deal with serious life problems is, allegedly, like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. In contrast, God says that His Word penetrates and lays bare the deepest aspects of a man’s being. Wherever integrationists got the idea that the Bible is a superficial tool for changing man, it wasn’t from the Bible.
  9. Accessible (Deut. 30:8-14). The keys to successful Christian living are not found in an elite, arcane psychological system. The principles that change lives are accessible to believers because the Bible is accessible to believers.
  10. Sufficient (Deut. 30:15-16; Ps. 1:2-3; 2 Peter 1:3; Ps. 119:24; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is completely sufficient to equip Christians for the work of helping people deal with their spiritual and emotional problems.

[Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Counsel with Confidence, a new resource by Joel James.]

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October 9, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 7 Theological Truths that Guide Biblical Counseling

7 Theological Truths that Guide Biblical Counseling

All counseling must be shaped by the following truths or it is not biblical.

  1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of biblical change (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 5:1; 6:16-18; 8:13). The gospel brings spiritual new birth, and it orients, guides, empowers, and dominates all of the Christian life following regeneration (Col. 2:6).
  2. Change is always possible for believers in Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 6:17-18). No Christian is so entrenched in sin, so dominated by his past, genetics, or anything else, that he cannot be changed by the work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Word of God applied by the Spirit of God is the primary tool for change (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Ps. 119:1, 24, 133). Living and active, inerrant, God-revealed, Christ-commended, Spirit-empowered—when it comes to changing people, there is nothing like the Bible.
  4. The heart is the place where real, long-lasting change takes place (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 10:5; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21-23; Matt. 12:34). The heart is where a person thinks, considers, analyzes, evaluates, feels, decides, and chooses—the mission control center of life, the real person on the inside, the inner man. Counseling is about changing a person’s heart or moment-by-moment thinking.
  5. God’s plan for practical daily change is: put off / be renewed / put on (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8-14). That plan includes the following components: put off, be renewed in your mind, put on true thoughts and righteous acts.
  6. Sanctification is a joint, divine-human effort (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:10). While regeneration, justification, conversion, and glorification are completely the work of God, sanctification is a God-empowered joint effort. Understanding that, biblical counseling avoids the extremes of mystical passivity, on one hand, and legalistic self-reliance on the other.
  7. Sanctification is a corporate project, requiring church life and input from other believers (Rom. 15:14; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:15-16; Heb. 10:24-25; Prov. 12:15). True change does not take place in the counseling room, but in the church, as a person is actively involved in both serving and being served by the body of Christ.

[Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Counsel with Confidence, a new resource by Joel James.]

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October 8, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Counseling Is Not a Formula

[Today’s post is written by Joel James, a pastor in South Africa, and is excerpted from the Introduction to a new resource, Counsel with Confidence.]

Counseling Is Not a Formula

There are aspects of every counseling situation that are the same—God, Christ, the gospel, sin, repentance, forgiveness, and so on. However, there are also things about each person and counseling situation that are unique. Therefore, a paint-by-number approach to counseling will never be successful.

That’s the inherent weakness of a book like this, and I want to acknowledge it up front. Therefore, avoid using the guidelines in this book as if they were Mr. Fix-It formulas that, if followed exactly, will guarantee success. As you use the principles in these pages, you’ll need to be prayerfully reliant on the Holy Spirit—flexible, wise, creative, and compassionate—carefully applying God’s Word to each person’s particular problem.

Furthermore, you’ll need to direct the people you’re helping to Jesus Christ, rather than just help them follow a “formula.” Counseling is first and foremost about encouraging Christians to pursue a vital, living relationship with their Savior: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). Both faith in Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the cross and daily dependence on Him are essential to biblical change. In order to make this book a quick reference guide, I haven’t restated those truths under each topic. To do so would be gloriously repetitive, but repetitive nonetheless. Therefore, I’m trusting you to keep in mind that all the principles and guidelines in the world won’t help a counselee if Christ isn’t at the center of his or her life. In fact, before you put this book on your shelf to await your first  counseling emergency, I urge you to read the chapter entitled “A Biblical Theology of Change.” It’s only a few pages long, and in it you’ll find a summary of the essential theological truths that underlie all the individual guidelines and principles of this book. In fact, if you aren’t an experienced counselor, the whole section, Counseling 101, might give you a valuable survey of the counseling and discipling task.

Counseling 101

Counseling 101 is the title of Part 1 of this new book. It includes chapters about a biblical theology of change, the centrality of Christ, the sufficiency of Scripture, wrong approaches to justification and sanctification, and other important topics.

Common Problems Addressed

In Part 2 of Joel’s new resource, he includes biblical guidance to counsel yourself and others about a number of common struggles, including:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety, Worry, and Fear
  • Bizarre Behavior
  • Chronic Fatigue or Pain
  • Crisis Counseling
  • Decision-Making
  • Depression: What Is It?
  • Depression: How to Counsel It
  • Eating Disorders
  • Forgiveness
  • Growing Old
  • Homosexuality
  • Money: General Principles
  • Money: Requests For Financial Assistance
  • People with Painful Pasts
  • Pornography
  • Repentance: Real or Not?
  • Self-Esteem: When Low Is High
  • The Unpardonable Sin
  • Work

If you are new to the ministry of counseling, or need a fresh reminder of how sufficient the Scriptures are for personal ministry, check out Counsel with Confidence.

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October 5, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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New “Counsel for the Heart” Resources

At this week’s ACBC conference, Shepherd Press unveiled a new category in their book offerings for biblical counseling and discipleship. It’s called Counsel for the Heart.

Shepherd Press publishes books for the heart. The books have to be gospel centered, heart focused, and life changing. And so it is that a new category or imprint has been established, a range of books that are very specific in the application of the gospel and the whole counsel of God to the hearts of individuals. As we thought and prayed about this, it seemed good to define the category in this way:

Resources for Word-Based Transformation and Practical Discipleship

Jim Holmes shares more about the three books that recently kicked off this new book category.

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September 25, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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3 Promises God Wants You to Trust

Jeremiah prophesied to the southern kingdom of Judah before and as the people were taken away to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar. Chapter 32 of this prophetical book, which I preached last Sunday, is the center of a three-chapter section in which God gives hope through prophecies of restoration. “I will bring back” is the key phrase. Here Jeremiah reminds the people that, though judgment is coming, God will keep the promise he made to their fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This chapter reveals three ways God wants you to trust His promise-keeping character.

  1. Trust God’s promise to watch over His Word (vv. 1-15).
  2. Trust God’s promise to discipline those He loves (vv. 16-35).
  3. Trust God’s promise to never turn away from those who belong to Him (vv. 36-44).

Listen to the sermon here.

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September 17, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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What Is Sacrificial Giving?

For the past week, I’ve been reflecting on the portion of Scripture where the apostle Paul lifts up certain Christians in the region of Macedonia as an example of sacrificial giving.

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. (2 Cor. 8:1-5)

Here are some simple observations:

  • The personal experience of God’s grace in salvation led to generosity. Their generous giving was then referred to as a specific “grace of God.”
  • Sacrificial giving was a source of “abundant joy.” Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
  • They continued to give generously, even when their checkbook balance and net worth said they were crazy. Even in “poverty” they “overflowed in a wealth of generosity.”
  • Grace produces a desire to give more, thus creating personal initiative. They were “begging” the apostles for more opportunities to give.
  • Sacrificial giving of their finances resulted from the offering of their lives and bodies to God as a living sacrifice. “They first gave themselves to the Lord.”

Hindrances to Generosity

There are many hindrances to generous giving, but I’ll mention three.

  • Heart hindrance: If our hearts and lives have not been surrendered to God as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1-2) then generous giving will always be an inner struggle of the will. When our life is surrendered to God then our money comes along with it.
  • Love hindrance: If we love the world and the things in the world then our love for God is superficial (1 John 2:15-16).
  • Debt hindrance: According to the Federal Reserve’s latest numbers, the average American household carries over $137,000 in debt. Of that, $16,000 is on credit cards. Therefore, we should ask ourselves, “What would the freeing up of that money mean for our families and our churches?” What of the interest alone? What ministry involvement and spiritual blessings are we saying No to because of being handcuffed to our creditors?

What is sacrificial giving?

Sacrificial giving is giving beyond our means. It’s no secret that we are part of a generation known for living beyond our means. What would happen if we all determined to change one letter in that phrase? From living beyond our means to giving beyond our means? Let me say it this way: If your giving to the Lord does not hurt, or infringe upon the comfort level of your lifestyle, then it’s not sacrificial. If your giving does not stretch you, and stress your faith, then it most likely is not sacrificial. Remember, faith is a muscle. If you never go to the gym then don’t expect to be able to bench press more than 100 pounds. With that analogy in mind, if you’re unwilling to take the risk of stretching your faith then your spiritual growth will be stunted, and eventually your faith muscle will atrophy.

This week, take some time to meditate on 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, and ask the Lord to work in your heart. Ask him what changes you need to make to your lifestyle and financial stewardship.


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September 13, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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The Gospel and Grief

[Note: Today’s post is from Bob Kellemen, and is the Introduction to his new daily devotional on grief.]

Grief. It comes in all forms and fashions, because loss comes in all shapes and sizes. When we think of grief, our souls tend to focus especially on the devastating grief that accompanies death.

Yet life is filled with daily mini-caskets—losses great and small. A critical word. A critical accident. Betrayal, rejection, a stab in the back. The terminal diagnosis. Separation and divorce. A church split. A prodigal child. Job termination. The list, sadly, goes on and on.

The gospel. We know it has everything to say about grace for sin. But does the gospel have anything to say about grace for grief? We know that Jesus came to save sinners, but does he understand and care about our suffering?

He understands. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief ” (Isa. 53:3). Jesus intimately and intensely experienced grief, sorrow, loss, and pain.

He cares. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4). The intensity of his sympathy made him feel your grief as his own—and then do something about it. He came to crush sin, Satan, and death so that one day there will never again be separation, suffering, sorrow, crying, grief, or pain (see Rev. 21:4).

The author of Hebrews, who was steeped in Old Testament passages like Isaiah 53, adds his assurance of Jesus’ compassion, care, and comfort and of the gospel’s help, hope, and healing. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16). Jesus is not only a man of sorrows; he cares about your sorrow. Jesus is not only acquainted with his own grief; he is acquainted with your grief.

A Grief Journey with Jesus

And not only is Jesus acquainted with your grief, he is always with you in your grief—he walks with you in the cool of the day, and he journeys with you in the ups and downs of your grief (see John 14:1–6; 16:33). Grief is not a series of stages that you complete in some stereotypical consecutive order. Grief is a very individual process—a personal journey that we take with our personal suffering Savior.

What Isaiah predicts and the author of Hebrews declares, the Gospels describe. From birth into a broken world, to death at the hands of a sinful world, and everywhere in between, the Gospels guide us on a grief journey with Jesus. The sorrows of Jesus appear on every page of the Gospels. Jesus lived, breathed, walked, and ministered in the midst of scenes of sorrow.

And the Jesus of the Gospels is not only the caring Shepherd—which brings us amazing comfort. He is also the sovereign King—which instills us with amazing confidence. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Heb. 4:14). We entrust ourselves to him because he sovereignly shepherds us—guiding us to the green pastures of mercy, grace, and help as we walk through our valley of the shadow of death.

When life is knocking us down, how do we hold fast? We hold fast by holding on to Jesus, who is holding us close to his heart. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Isa. 40:11).

In Bob’s devotional, you will journey together with Jesus, applying the following gospel truths to our grief journey:

  • Jesus is a suffering Savior who is intimately acquainted with our grief. It’s normal to hurt.
  • Jesus is a compassionate Savior who lovingly consoles us in our grief. It’s possible to find comfort in our hurt.
  • Jesus is a healing Savior who compassionately speaks eternal truth into our earthly wounds. It’s possible to grieve with hope.
  • Jesus is an empowering Savior who mightily enables us to comfort others with the comfort we receive from God. It’s supernatural to love in the midst of loss.

Grief: Walking with Jesus is now available for pre-order. This book is part of an exciting new series edited by Deepak Reju, and published by P&R Publishing, called 31-Day Devotionals for Life.

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