Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

December 7, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS

The 50% Lie – “You’ve heard it repeatedly on radio, podcasts, and TV. You’ve read it in various books and articles. You’ve even heard it in your pastor’s sermon. The problem: it’s a lie.”

A Hidden Epidemic God Hates – “It seems appropriate to define domestic spiritual abuse before we go any further. Domestic spiritual abuse is using Scripture, biblical principles, or one’s spiritual authority to control a family member for selfish gain.”

Gender, Sexuality, and the Church – an upcoming conference you may want to attend

God Uses Damaged Goods – “When life hits us hard, we feel like something is broken and unfixable inside of us. We consider ourselves to be flawed and no longer valuable or desirable because of something we have done or something that was done to us. We believe our lives are ruined due to a tragedy or a painful history. Feelings of shame, guilt, and worthlessness become our identity and control our lives.”

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December 4, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Choosing Biblical Subjects for Meditation

Psalm 1 testifies of the immeasurable value of mediating on Scripture. The person who habitually ponders the truths of God will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. But where does one begin?

“The Scriptures are authored by the eternal God, the One who created billions of galaxies. We should expect to find this kind of breadth in His written Word. There is a quality to the Bible that can drown a scholar in its depths of knowledge; yet, at the same time, the Scriptures allow a young child to walk along its shores and understand simple truth.” So writes David Saxon in God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation.

Knowing the depth and breadth of Scripture, however, means the “child of God must know how to feed himself with bite-sized morsels rather than trying to swallow a dinner whole.” But how do we choose these portions? The author recommends Edmund Calamy’s “practical rules for choosing the right subjects for meditation:

  1. Be simple – pick out easy subjects
  2. Be balanced – don’t get stuck on one subject, but vary your choices
  3. Be practical – choose subjects that stir you toward holiness
  4. Be fitting – choose subject appropriate to your current situation

Thomas White “encapsulated one of the primary burdens of the Puritans in choosing the right subject. He said the believer must be flexible and choose what is fitting to his current circumstances in life.”

I agree with these recommendations. My personal practice has been to view the Bible as a pantry for my soul. Jesus refers to Scripture as our daily bread. But I don’t eat the same type of bread every day, since my soul’s needs are never exactly the same. I encourage you to do the same. Choose your Bible passages/subjects according to the current need of your heart. It does not have to be a large passage. Start small. The key is to get into the daily practice of musing over biblical truth so that your mind is renewed, and your life transformed.

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November 27, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Responding to the King of Kings

The last book of the Bible reveals what it will be like when Jesus returns (Rev. 19:11-16). Though containing details not previously revealed, this vision of the future, which John received from the Spirit of Jesus, is not new. Moses said to Israel, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God”(Deut. 10:17).

The book of Psalms continues to exalt God as Lord of all, repeatedly. Psalms, the Hebrew hymnbook, contains exhortations like this: Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever (Ps. 136:3). Even the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, acknowledged this to the prophet Daniel: The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings.”

And the New Testament apostles looked forward to the time when the Savior would show Himself in all the fullness of His kingly glory. And they always tied the second coming of Jesus to a call to holy living (1 Tim. 6:14-15).

This is all consistent with God’s holy calling for His chosen people, Israel. Israel was chosen by God—and set apart by God as holy—in order to be a light to the nations of whom God alone is the King. This is important for us to realize, since many Christians think of the concept of mission as a New Testament concept. The church, after all, is called to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations. From the beginning, Israel was called out from the rest of the world to bring glory to the Lord’s name. For example,

  • Genesis 12 – God chose Abraham and promised to bless all the nations through his descendants
  • Exodus – through Israel, and God’s deliverance of her, Egypt and the other nations would hear of the God’s glory. His name would be proclaimed throughout the nations.
  • King David – the seed would come through him. His family would eventually produce the one, true King.
  • And the prophets spoke often of this (Isa. 49:6, for example).

This reoccurring theme brings us to the end of the Old Testament. If you are tempted to wonder what a 4-chapter book from a minor prophet has to say to us, today, remember the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:6-11. But there is another reason to listen to Malachi. That is, being the last message of the Old Testament, it closes with the same message: The Redeemer is coming. Watch for Him.

  • The faithful Old Testament believers looked forward to the promised One.
  • As New Testament believers, we look backwards—we look back to the work of Jesus Christ, who is not only the promised Redeemer of Israel, but the one sent to redeem sinners from every nation.

The message Malachi delivered from God was meant to produce a longing for the Redeemer—the coming King. But before the hope of redemption could be announced again, God had some strong things to say to His people. His message may be summed up in five exhortations.

  1. Rejoice in the King’s demonstration of love (1:1-5). God reminds them of the unique, covenant love He has for Israel. It was based upon God’s sovereign grace, not their goodness—either real or potential (See, for example, Deut. 7:6-8).
  2. Repent of your dishonor of the King’s name (1:6-2:17). The prophet rebukes the people and priests of four sins, and calls them to repent: cheating God out of their best (1:6-14), unfaithfulness (2:1-9), intermarriage with unbelievers (2:10-12), and disregard for the purity and permanence of marriage (2:13-17).
  3. Return to dedicated service to the King (3:7-15). In this section of the book, the prophet confronts two sins (stealing from God, and arrogance).  When he confronts the people, he also calls them to return to a faithful life and service to God.
  4. Remember the discernment of the King (3:16-4:4). God will one day discern between the righteous and the wicked. The Day of the Lord is coming.
  5. Regard the decree about the King’s coming (3:1-6; 4:5-6). “Behold, I send my messenger” (Mal. 3:1). In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus explicitly says this “messenger” is John the Baptist. Jesus referred to John the Baptist as the “friend of the bridegroom” whose role is to announce the coming of the bridegroom. Through the prophet’s closing words, God gives consolation to the faithful remnant. God will justly punish all evildoers, and reward and bless the faithful remnant. The remnant is told to “watch for Elijah,” a type of John the Baptist.

The king has come. And when He came, He died in our place, and rose from the grave. He alone can save us from our sins. But He is also coming again. When He comes again, He will come not as Savior, but as Judge. Is Jesus your Savior? If you do not know Jesus as your King, then there is a day coming when you must face him as your Judge. If you don’t know Jesus Christ, then do not wait another second to turn to Him in repentant faith. Turn from your sins, and run to Jesus.

Listen to the sermon here.

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November 26, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS

How Do Pastor’s Pick Their Fights? – “We need pastors and elders who have enough self-control to avoid needless controversy, and enough courage to move gently and steadily toward conflict.”

5 Discipleship Dont’s – “In the church, discipleship is key to an individual’s growth and to the way they are made more into the image of Christ. The way we do this is a matter of life in Christ or death with our flesh.”

Good Financial Lessons from Bad Mistakes – “Financial mistakes can be a severe mercy God uses to reveal the idols, self-indulgence, or wrong attitudes about money that we have allowed to control our lives.”

Donald Whitney on the Gospel and Spiritual Disciplines – a sound and helpful 3-minute video.

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November 23, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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A Few More Christmas Book Sales to Check Out

Here are more Christmas book sales you might want to check out.

Grace Books Online – A large selection of LifeLine mini-books are ONLY $2/each! Be sure to check out their whole site.

Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service – For Christmas, CVBBS is offering FREE imprinting on Bibles and gift books. Also, an additional 10% off their already discounted prices on everything on their website.

WTS Books – Check out the annual Christmas Gift Guide from Westminster Books.

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November 23, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Thanksgiving Is a Spiritual Discipline

“In everything give thanks” is God’s command to every believer (1 Thess. 5:18). We must be told this because by nature we are not thankful people. It is more natural for sinners like us to complain and be ungrateful. Regrettably, Jerry Bridges is correct when he writes, “We are anxious to receive but too careless to give thanks. We pray for God’s intervention in our lives, then congratulate ourselves rather than God for the results.” Therefore, we must discipline ourselves to practice the discipline of thanksgiving.

Maintaining an attitude of thanksgiving expressed through constant prayer provides at least six benefits.

Thankful Prayer Reminds us that God is our Provider (1 Tim. 4:4–5). Scripture teaches that all food is from God and therefore should be recognized as such by offering a prayer of thanksgiving to him: “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4–5). Jesus even modeled this for us in the account of the miraculous feeding of 5,000 men and their families. The gospel of John is careful to note that before Jesus distributed the loaves and fishes he had already “given thanks” (John 6:11). As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, their faithful shepherd Moses reminded them to be thankful: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you” (Deut. 8:10). It is assumed that, because food is God’s provision to us, we will bless, or thank, him for it.

Thankful Prayer Brings Glory to God (2 Cor. 9:12–15). One of the reasons Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthian church was to challenge them to get back on track concerning their giving to the Lord’s work. False apostles, who attacked Paul’s leadership by accusing him of being in the ministry for the money, had led the believers astray. Therefore, Paul called them to follow the example of the Macedonian believers, whose sacrificial giving had become well known. He believed with all his heart that “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). The apostle identified one aspect of this bountiful harvest as the thankfulness that the believers’ giving produced in the hearts of the recipients and, ultimately, the glory that was received by God (2 Cor. 9:12-15). Because these believers were sensitive and generous toward meeting the needs within the Lord’s work, their giving overflowed “through many thanksgivings to God.”

Thankful Prayer Proves We are Filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18–20). Believers are not to be controlled by alcohol (or, by application of biblical principle, any other foreign substance): “do not get drunk with wine,” but instead “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be willingly controlled by him by means of daily submission to the Word of God which he inspired. When this is true we speak “to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with [our] heart to the Lord” (v. 19), and we also give “thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (v. 20).

Thankful Prayer Combats Anxiety and Invites Peace (Phil. 4:6–7). Thankfulness is a mindset; it is a choice. As such, it is a remedy for worry. Philippians 4:6–7 instructs us to “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Why did Paul add the words “with thanksgiving”? It is because an anxious spirit cannot coexist with a thankful one. Thankful prayer summons the security guard called peace to stand post at the doors of our hearts, forcing out worry and forbidding its reentrance.

Thankful Prayer Reminds Us that Christ Alone Qualifies Us to be God’s Children (Col. 1:12). The apostle Paul frequently prayed for the spiritual growth of believers under his care. At the end of the list of spiritual qualities, which he asked God to produce in the hearts of the Colossians, is that they would always give “thanks to the Father, who has qualified [them] to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Col. 1:12). When we pray we must never forget that the only reason God hears us is because Jesus, our mediator and advocate, intercedes for us at that very moment (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1; Heb. 7:25). Though we are sinners by nature, thought, and deed, God graciously receives us through faith in the sacrificial death and bodily resurrection of his dearly beloved Son. Thankfulness protects us from the prideful thought that we possess even an ounce of virtue in and of ourselves that obligates God to listen to us. We come to God’s throne of grace in prayer because of Christ and Christ alone (Heb. 4:15).

Thankful Prayer Recognizes God as the Source of Strength (1 Tim. 1:12). In times of weakness we discover just how strong the strength of God is. This is a lesson that God taught Paul by permitting Satan to afflict him with a “thorn in the flesh,” which the apostle repeatedly pleaded with God to remove. However, although Satan’s goal is always to kill and to destroy, God had certain plans to use that thorn to further the development of Christlike character in the apostle. God knew that Paul was susceptible to the pride of self-sufficiency and therefore he needed to learn that the strength of God was made perfect in his servant’s “weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

[This post is excerpted from my book, Pray About Everything.]

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November 21, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Announcing 3 New LifeLine Mini-Books

As series editor for the LifeLine Mini-books from Shepherd Press, it’s a pleasure to let you know about three new titles to be released in a couple weeks. These are now available for pre-order.

HELP! I’m Anxious (Philip De Courcy)

An increasing number of us are worrying ourselves sick—about the past, the present, or the unknown future. Here Philip De Courcy carefully distinguishes right concern from unhealthy anxiety, and using Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount shows us how we can have victory over worry by entrusting ourselves fully into the caring hands of our heavenly Father.

HELP! My Parents Abused Me when I was a Kid (Joshua Zeichik)

Christians who experienced abuse from their parents when they were children yet want to obey God’s call to honor their parents face a dilemma. How can they show forgiveness and attempt reconciliation, while at the same time deal with their instinctive responses and protect themselves from further abuse? Joshua Zeichik uses biblical examples to explore right and wrong responses to abuse, before suggesting practical steps that honor God and lead towards freedom, peace, and joy.

HELP! I’m in a Painful Marriage (Carrie Foldberg)

Many women find themselves in deeply painful marriages as a consequence of their husbands’ behavior. Struggling with feelings of embarrassment, shame, or resentment, they can easily fall into hopelessness. Carrie Foldberg, from her experience as a wife and as a biblical counselor, offers practical guidance and solid biblical hope for all suffering wives and directs them to fix their gaze on Christ and listen to his counsel.

You will want to get these for your one-another ministry and your church’s resource center/bookstore. You may view the entire LifeLine mini-book series here.

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November 20, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Every Pastor, Counselor, and Ministry Leader (and every Christian) Should Read this Little Book

This past May, at the Basics Conference at Parkside Church, I picked up a copy of a new book from Reformation Heritage Books. The book’s simple, one-word title caught my eye. Nothing in my memory indicated that I’d ever seen a book on this topic: Graciousness.

So, I thought, “Why have I never seen a book on this topic until now?” Not that there never has been one, but if there was then I’d never seen it. So, I grabbed a copy. A few months later, I was looking for a small book to read on a short teaching trip, and threw it into my backpack at the last minute. I was so glad I did! On the flights there and back I devoured it. Now, I’m reading it a second time…but not alone. Our church staff is reading it together, discussing one chapter at a time in our weekly meeting on Wednesday morning.

Written by seasoned pastor and counselor, John Crotts, who serves Faith Bible Church in suburban Atlanta, Graciousness challenges and edifies us all. Chapter 2 is entitled “The Graciousness that You Need.” In this chapter, the author surveys four key passages in the New Testament that help “strengthen our grasp of the breadth and significance of biblical graciousness.” These passages reveal four virtues of biblical graciousness.

  1. Graciousness humbly seeks to strengthen others. When the apostle Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians there was much arrogance showing up in different ways in the church. Specifically, their pride was connected to their love for knowledge at the expense of love. “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1). Crotts explains, “Instead of letting their theological knowledge flow through their hearts into loving actions, they became filled with pride.” In contrast, “love uses theology to build up other Christians.” Why? “The Bible’s standard for speech is incredibly high. Every word that comes across a Christian’s lips must be infused with grace in order to build up the people who hear. There are no vacations or coffee breaks permitted in order to unleash harsh, critical, unkind, or harmful speech—a believer’s mouth must always be on duty, speaking good words in good ways at the right time.”
  2. Graciousness accompanies truth in mutual ministry among Christians. Ephesians 4:11-16 describes how God causes genuine church ministry and its corresponding growth. “The major means of ministry given to the church for this equipping and ministering is the Word of God. But a critical component of the comprehensive strategy is that the Word must be communicated to others in a particular manner: ‘But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head….The goal of this truth-and-love ministry is comprehensive growth in Christ.’”
  3. Graciousness evidences trusting God to change others. Paul’s instruction to Timothy is to even be gracious when correction is necessary (2 Tim. 2:23-26). “A gracious heart exuding kind and gentle manners can accomplish correction.” In contrast, “Pragmatists justify using a harsh, aggressive, firm, and often loud tone of voice when they deal with those who disagree with them. They rationalize that their harshness lets their opponent know how serious they are about their point of view. Such contests can be won because of intimidation and submission rather than because the other person is persuaded of the disputed truth claims.”
  4. Graciousness creates gospel openings with unbelievers. Colossians 4:5-6 exhorts every believer to season their speech with grace, as they season their food with salt. “As food becomes more appetizing when proper seasonings are applied, so also gracious conversations create positive interest and opportunities for deeper explanations of the gospel sources of the sweetness. The Lord has dealt kindly with His people, and He calls them to emulate His example in their dealings with fellow believers as well as with outsiders.”

Graciousness is a uniquely-helpful book. You should get a copy. Read it. Then form a small reading group with a few other believers for the purpose of discussing it. Sadly, churches committed to sound doctrine, and biblical counseling, are not always known for their graciousness. So, I like to imagine how churches might be more Christlike if we would all prayerfully read and apply the counsel found in this little book.

It’s also available as an audiobook, and eBook.

You can also get it from Westminster Books and CVBBS.

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November 12, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Ways to Return to the Word

4 Ways to Return to the Word

In Nehemiah 8, we see the beginnings of spiritual revival, which comes as the people return to the Word of God. At this point, the Jewish people have been in exile for many years, but they have begun to return to Jerusalem. This return did not come all at once, but in two waves, separated by 58 years. During this span of time the events of the book of Esther took place, which we learned about last week.

Like Esther, Nehemiah was a Jew who found himself in Persia, in the capital city of Susa—and in the palace of the king. Nehemiah’s name means “Jehovah comforts.” Through the ministry of this man, God would bring comfort and new hope to His people. He would rebuild the walls of the city, and lead them in spiritual reformation.

The book of Nehemiah opens with him receiving news from his brother. Jerusalem is in a sad state. Its walls are broken down. Therefore, even as the exiles return, they are vulnerable to their enemies. Immediately, Nehemiah prays to God. He confesses his sins, and the people’s sins. And he asks God to grant him favor in the eyes of the king, as he prepares to make a request. Hearing Nehemiah’s request, the king gives him a leave of absence to return to Jerusalem. He also gives him letters bearing the king’s seal, which serve as a passport for travel, and as the promise of the king’s provision of all the supplies he needs to rebuild the city walls.

Chapter 2 also introduces the antagonists, Sanballat and Tobiah, who make Nehemiah’s job as difficult as possible. But in Chapters 3-7, we see Nehemiah persevere through much trouble, and the people rebuild the city walls (see 6:15-16).

Now, Chapter 8 begins with the people all gathered in the city square, in front of the Water Gate. Here we see the people listen and respond to the Word of God. It’s been 70 years since the captivity began. It’s been a long time since they attended Bible study. And they are starving for the Word.

God is now moving among them. He’s orchestrating a revival. And the revival will be the direct result of their response to the Word of God. From this passage, God wants to speak to each of us. He wants to start a revival here at Cornerstone. But for that to happen, you and I must return to the Word. Nehemiah 8:1-12 reveals four ways God wants us to return to the Word.

  1. Return to the Word with resolution (vv. 1-3).
  2. Return to the Word with reverence (vv. 4-8).
  3. Return to the Word with repentance (v. 9).
  4. Return to the Word with rejoicing (vv. 10-12).

The lovingkindness of God is the underlying hope we see in this period of Israel’s history. But the lovingkindness of God is not just for Israel. God’s grace and mercy is available to sinners of all kinds. It comes to us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus died for sin, and rose again, grace and forgiveness are received through Him. If you feel you have messed up your life too much for God to accept you, then you are wrong. Jesus did not come to save the righteous, but sinners. And Jesus invites you to come to Him.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

You may listen to, or watch, yesterday’s sermon here.

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