Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

December 15, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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My Favorite R.C. Sproul Book Is No Longer in Print

“If we are to progress in godliness we need to fan the flames of a holy passion.” Almost thirty years ago, this sentence from the pen of R.C. Sproul gripped my heart. So when I heard of R.C. Sproul’s homegoing to heaven, I immediately thought of my personal favorite of his books. My mind still sees where I was sitting when I read the first chapter. Here’s what I wrote about it almost three years ago:

This morning, I found myself stirred to take off my shelf a copy of my favorite R.C. Sproul book, One Holy Passion: The Consuming Thirst to Know God (sadly, no longer in print). I remember buying this book in the fall of 1988 at our Bible college bookstore. It immediately impacted me and, since then, has become one of my all-time favorite books on the attributes of God. Here are some thoughts from Sproul about the matter of living with one consuming passion to know God, which results in following Christ.

A passion is a strong feeling, an emotion that is packed with intensity. At times it carries a sense of urgency.

Not all passions are holy. As fallen human beings we are often trapped in unholy passions. Our feelings are mixed. Then the Holy Spirit quickens us to a new life with new passions. But many of the old passions remain. We struggle with our feelings. Our affection for the things of God is locked in mortal combat with earthly concerns.

If we are to progress in godliness we need to fan the flames of a holy passion. We need a single-minded desire to know God. We follow Jesus who went before us. He was moved by a single passion—to do the will of His Father. His meat and drink were to do His Father’s will. Zeal for His Father’s house consumed Him. He was a man of holy destiny with a face set as a flint.

Jesus knew the Father. His knowledge of God was so deep, so profound that His entire earthly life reflected a single holy passion. Jesus revealed the Father to us and called us to imitate His own pursuit. His priority is set before us—to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

We are to press into the Kingdom of God, to storm it if we must, to seize the opportunity to know God. This quest is not casual. The pursuit is not cavalier. We are to be driven by a holy passion.

To know God better is the driving desire of the Christian life that God began in me in the early months of 1984 and, therefore, studying the attributes of God brings me particular joy. Therefore, I will always be thankful for the ministry of R.C. Sproul, who did everything in his power to exalt the Lord before our mind’s eye.

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December 13, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Gospel Meditations for Christmas

Gospel Meditations for Christmas is hot off the press, as part of the 31-day devotional series from the Christ-centered writers at Church Works Media. Here’s the endorsement that I wrote for this new advent resource:

“Rich, warm, beautiful! This book overflows with Scripture-saturated thoughts that will rivet your attention to the good news of Jesus Christ—the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Let these brief meditations move your heart to worship and adore the Savior.”

To give you a taste, here’s the reading for Day 1, He Is Our Peace.

Peace is a word that can describe relatively insignificant experiences such as a nice morning commute or a quiet moment in the living room after the little ones have been tucked in bed. Peace can also describe experiences that change your life, such as what occurs when a husband and wife are reconciled after unfaithfulness. Or peace can describe events that change world history such as the Paris Peace Treaties that brought a formal end to the Second World War. When Micah prophesied that the Lord would send a King Who would bring peace to His people, what kind of peace was he talking about? The New Testament reveals that Jesus was this long awaited Savior Who brings rich, multi-faceted peace to all who follow Him.

First, the Bethlehem-born King makes possible our peace with God. Humanity’s fundamental problem is that God’s just judgment is against us because of our disobedience. Our Creator gave us laws to live by. He said, “You must never love anything more than you love Me, never disrespect your parents, never lie, never flippantly speak My name, never desire things I haven’t given you.” Yet all of us disobey Him in these ways. So, God is at war with us because rebellion characterizes our lives. But God graciously sent His Bethlehem-born King to be our peace. Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. He lived in perfect obedience to God the Father, then died as the God-appointed Substitute for all who would turn from their rebellion and trust in His sacrifice. Paul wrote that disobedient sinners who trust Jesus are declared “not guilty” in God’s sight, and all who are “justified by faith . . . have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Experiencing this peace with God is the fountainhead of every other kind peace we can experience.

Second, the Bethlehem-born King gives us peace with others. To make peace among people in a dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-number-one culture requires a Leader Who can transform individual hearts from being driven by self-centered ambition to being controlled by unselfish love. Jesus can bring such relational peace (Ephesians 2:14), and every blood-bought local church should be a little (albeit imperfect) demonstration of Jesus’ ability to do so (Colossians 3:15).

Third, the Bethlehem-born King gives us peace through trials. While Christians live in a cursed, tumultuous world, knowing Jesus gives us “peace that surpasses all human comprehension” (Philippians 4:7). Jesus “guards our hearts and minds” with many “soldiers” of peace. One soldier is Jesus’ sovereignty: We know that Jesus is in control and coming soon to set things right, so we can “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). Another soldier is Jesus’ assuring presence: Through every tribulation Jesus is with us by His indwelling Spirit to assure us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15–23); He is with us in experiential empathy (Hebrews 4:14–16); He is with us in mystical union (Acts 9:4–5). Further, the soldier of Jesus’ likeness guards our peace of mind: We know that every ounce of hardship we endure is ordained by God to make us more like Christ in our character.

Finally, the Bethlehem-born King will soon bring complete peace on earth. Micah prophesied: “He shall be great to the ends of the earth” (5:4). Jesus’ government will eventually rule over every individual and every square inch of real estate on planet Earth. On that day He will end selfishness, discord, and war. And on that day we will proclaim that the Bethlehem-born King is our Peace in every sense of the word—spiritually, relationally, circumstantially, and internationally.

Let the gospel of peace “guard your heart and mind” with peace today.

To order this new booklet, visit the Church Works Media site.

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December 12, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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What Child Is This?

This past Sunday, we sang one of my favorite Christmas carols, What Child Is This? Written around 1865 by the Englishman William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898), this carol says so much about our wonderful Savior.

What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherd’s watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud—the babe, the son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear—for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him thru, the cross be borne for me, for you:
Hail, hail the Word made flesh—the babe, the son of Mary!

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh—come, rich and poor, to own Him:
The King of kings salvation brings—let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high—the virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born—the babe, the son of Mary!

The carol’s major theme is the humanity of Christ as the lyrics turn our attention to the child who is sleeping on Mary’s lap. Who is this child? It is God who became man: “Hail, hail the Word made flesh—the babe, the son of Mary!” It is the Eternal Word (John 1:1), who broke into human history as the God-man Jesus Christ, through whom God “is pleading” with sinners to repent and be reconciled to Him. As we examine the lyrics, there are three aspects to the life of Christ which emerge.

His Humble Birth
The Son of God was not born in a fancy, sterile hospital, but instead was birthed “in such mean estate.” His humble birth is explained in Luke 2:1-7. Be sure to take time to think about Philippians 2:3-7, which explains the selfless mindset which led to His entering this world of sinners.

His Humiliating Death
The carol also draws our attention to the cross, which is the reason the Son of God became incarnate: “Nails, spear shall pierce Him thru, the cross be borne for me, for you.” The author of Hebrews tells us that the Son of God took on flesh and blood in order to be our sacrifice (Heb. 2:14-15). Philippians 2:8 teaches us that the humility of Christ ultimately led to the obedience of death—“even death on a cross.” No more humiliating form of death existed in that day, but our dear Savior “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2) and humbly trusted His Father (1 Peter 2:20-23).

His Heralded Worth
The hymn writer is also careful to help us remember that it was a king lying in that manger—not merely a king, but the King. “So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh—come, rich and poor, to own Him. The King of kings salvation brings—let loving hearts enthrone Him.” Here we are reminded of the inestimable worth of Jesus Christ.

The life, death, and resurrection of Christ combine to give us the ultimate illustration of the biblical principle that humility leads to honor (See, for example, Philippians 2:9; Proverbs 15:33; 29:23; and James 4:6). This is the way it is in God’s economy. Those who clamor to exalt themselves will one-day be put to shame, but those who humbly submit to God and wait for Him to exalt them will one day be honored.

What child is this?
• He is the almighty Creator who humbled Himself and was born of human flesh.
• He is the resurrected Savior who endured the humiliation of the cross to provide salvation for sinners.
• He is the exalted Lord whose humility will be rewarded with praise, for all eternity.

He is your Creator. Is He your Lord? Is He your Savior?

If not, come to Jesus today; respond in faith to His invitation: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  (John 5:24).

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December 11, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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His Name Shall Be…

Isaiah 9:6-7, which was proclaimed 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, is one of the most-often quoted prophecies of the Savior’s first coming, but the prophecy longs to be completely satisfied when Jesus returns a second time to establish His perfect reign on the earth.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this (Isaiah 9:6-7).

THE HUMANITY OF THE SAVIOR IS MADE CLEAR

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us.” This is the child who would be named Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). The Messiah would come into the world like any other man. This, of course, was fulfilled in Jesus according to Luke 1:26-31. The conception of Jesus was without doubt miraculous, as the third person of the Triune Godhead overshadowed Mary’s womb, but His birth was like that of any other man. In His humanity, Jesus was identical to us with the exception of sin (Hebrews 2:14-15). His sameness is essential to His being our Savior. Without His humanity, Jesus could not have been a genuine substitute for man’s sin; He could not have died in our place.

THE DEITY AND MINISTRY OF THE SAVIOR ARE ALSO MADE CLEAR

The four names that Isaiah proclaimed announced the deity of the Messiah and previewed His ministry.

1. His Name declares His personality: He is the Wonderful Counselor. When Manoah, the father of Samson, asked the angel of the Lord [the pre-incarnate Christ], “What is your name?” the “angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:17-18). Jesus is wonderful. One week before our Savior’s atoning death on the cross, the chief priests and scribes “saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant, (Matthew 21:15). As the Son of God, Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). As such, Jesus is the wonderful counselor.

2. His Name declares His power: He is the Mighty God. Jesus is infinite in power. He healed the sick, made the lame to walk again, and caused the blind to see. He cast out demonic spirits and raised the dead. He multiplied bread and fish and calmed the sea by the sound of His voice. John tells us in his Gospel, “Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). This is true, of course, because Jesus is God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:1). Jesus is the mighty God.

3. His Name declares His preexistence: He is the Everlasting Father. Jesus is the eternal Son of God, as He declared in John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’” When Jesus prayed His high-priestly prayer to the Father, He longed to once again share “the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (John 17:5). Micah had spoken of the eternality of the Savior hundreds of years before His birth, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). Jesus is one with the everlasting Father (John 10:30).

4. His Name declares His position: He is the Prince of Peace. Jesus gives sinners spiritual peace through faith in His death. Colossians 1:19-20 testifies, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Jesus also gives peace in a world of fear and turmoil. Jesus said to His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Indeed, Jesus is the prince of peace who alone can bring us into a relationship of peace with God.

One part of Isaiah’s prophecy; however, remains unfulfilled. But Jesus is coming again and will finish the prophet’s prediction. When the Savior returns as Judge and King—to rule and reign forever—the government will surely “rest upon His shoulders.” Until then, He reigns in the hearts of those who repent of their sins and trust Him as Lord and Savior.

Do you know Jesus?

Jesus is the glorious Savior whom you and I both need most. Do you know Him? Have you believed in Him? The salvation He provides for us is a free gift. Receive Him today. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

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December 4, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 14 Truths that Shatter the Lies of Disability

14 Truths that Shatter the Lies of Disability

[Please pray for me this week, as I participate in the annual Biblical Counseling Coalition summit in Atlanta. This year is especially exciting, as we discuss the subject of ministering to one another in disability. I’m humbled to have been asked to bring the main address on Wednesday morning. In light of this gathering, I thought I’d re-post an older article from a few years back.]

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One of the highlights of Desiring God’s recent conference, God’s Good Design in Disability, was the 10-minute testimony of Krista Horning. From her life’s painful and shameful experiences with multiple disabilities flows a beauty and grace that can only be explained by the mercy and wisdom of God revealed in the gospel.

Krista began her testimony with these words: “People ask me how I live with disability. How do I live with disability? …For me, disability is the deep hurt and shame that says I am not accepted. Disability says ugly things to me. It tells me I am alone. I am different. I am worthless. I am weak. It tells me my life is hopeless. Disability lies to me and sometimes it is easy to listen and believe. Sometimes I don’t want to live with disability. Sometimes I don’t want to be who God made me to be. [But] God tells me the truth. So I keep listening to Him. He opens the eyes of my heart and I believe. I trust Him and His words. God says beautiful things to me. Listen.”

  1. God tells me He is in control of everything in the world, including my disability, all of our disabilities (Exodus 4:11).
  2. God tells me I am not alone (Isaiah 43:1-3).
  3. God tells me He will always help me (Psalm 121:1-8).
  4. God tells me He has called me for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
  5. God tells me that nothing in this world is greater than knowing Him (Philippians 3:8-10).
  6. God tells me He is more interested in my heart than my outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).
  7. God tells me He gave His only Son for my sins (Isaiah 53:4-5).
  8. God tells me He has a special plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).
  9. God tells me He is changing me to be more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
  10. God tells me nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
  11. God tells me His grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
  12. God tells me I have hope (Romans 5:3-5, 8).
  13. God tells me He is good (Psalm 34:1-5, 8).
  14. God tells me this life with disability is short, but I will spend forever with Him (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18).

Krista’s testimony then closes with these powerful words:

For now I live with disability.
Disability still says ugly things to me.
Disability is a part of this broken sin-filled world.

But God has so many beautiful things to say.
And so I’m filled with hope.
God’s words grow louder and louder in my life.
The glory of his grace and mercy grow stronger and stronger.

I need to listen to his words.
I want to listen to his words.

God’s words change everything.
God’s beautiful words have changed my life.
And that is how I live with disability.

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November 29, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Praise God for His Intervention

In Psalm 18:30-50, David praises God for intervening in his circumstances and coming to his aid when he needed it the most. Today, God wants you to give thanks and praise for three specific ways He intervenes on your behalf.

Praise God for renewing you with strength (vv. 30-42).

David gave clear testimony as to the source of his strength. His strength did not originate within himself, but it was from the Lord. It was from the Lord whom Isaiah would later direct Israel to: the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

God was a shield in battle (v. 30) and equipped David with strength (vv. 32-34). God defended the glory of His name through His servant David (think Goliath). And David was able to be this courageous because He knew the Lord was with him and the Lord was his strength. Therefore, he testified “your right hand supported me” (v. 35), “you gave me a firm footing” (v. 36), and “you equipped me with strength” (v. 39). This is more than military strength, though. God gave David spiritual strength (fortitude, endurance) to persevere.

Are you tired? Is your spirit worn down? Go to the Lord for your strength. Know that His strength is made perfect in your weakness. Pray Ephesians 3:16 for yourself, “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” Trust the Holy Spirit to give you strong courage when you need it most.

Praise God for restoring you from (after) strife (vv. 43-45).

David praised God because He “delivered [him] from strife” (v. 43). God delivered David, making him head of nations, giving him military superiority. God certainly gave him the victory. Near the end of his life—in the last letter he wrote—the apostle Paul gave the same testimony of God’s intervention in his troubles and conflicts (2 Tim. 4:14-17). What Paul experienced is what Jesus had predicted in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

When you have been through severe conflict you don’t necessarily bounce back right away. Healing takes time. But know this: God is your healer. He will restore you in His time and according to His perfect plan. Some of you, I am sure, have been through very painful conflicts in the past. Perhaps you still feel wounded. By His grace, and through the love of the brethren, God will heal your hurts and restore you. Lean on Him. Lean into Him. He heals through the ministry of others. Don’t try to do it alone. As you receive His means of grace, the Lord will heal and restore you. You will not be the same; that is true. But you will be more like Christ because of having fellowship in His sufferings.

Praise God for recovering you in (through) salvation (vv. 46-50).

Verse 46 is a triumphant declaration. “The Lord lives! He has intervened for me!” Why? Because He is “the God of my salvation.” Verses 47-48 summarize the saving deliverance of God. The Lord “rescued” David (v. 48). I could have used the word “rescued,” but intentionally chose “recovered” instead. Our world likes to speak of people as always being in recovery. The recovering alcoholic. The recovering drug addict, etc., as if to imply that a person is always in the process of recovering to the healthy state. It implies that one never truly becomes a new, changed person.

But the hope of the gospel is greater. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave to fully recover us for God. If you know Jesus Christ then your life has been recovered for God’s purposes. Yes, you may continue to battle certain temptations for your remaining years on earth, but that is not what defines you. In Christ, God has redeemed you from the slave market of sin. You now belong to Him. He has recovered you from a life wasted on sin and given you victory in Christ.

In Christ, Romans 6:10-11 is true of you: For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. As believers, our sins and weaknesses do not make up our identity. Our identity is bound up with who Jesus is. We should enthusiastically praise God for this great salvation!

The Lord is worthy of this praise “among the nations” as, together, we “sing” His praises (v. 49). And this praise will go on forever. Why? Because of Jesus, the Son of God, is also the son of David. Therefore, David’s “offspring” will forever sing praise to God.

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. You may also want to listen to the previous two sermons from Psalm 18.]

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November 28, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 3 Reasons I Published Another Book on Prayer

3 Reasons I Published Another Book on Prayer

Prayerlessness may be the most serious sin problem in the church today. Why do I say that? Because the absence of prayer is fueled by prideful independence, which God actively opposes (James 4:6). Who among us wants to be a practical enemy of God? I don’t think any of us would answer “Yes.” And yet, I’m afraid, we tempt God to oppose us more often than we realize.

Too often prayer is an afterthought, but it was not to the New Testament church. Far from being a leftover offered to God once their primary energies had been dispensed on the “more urgent” activities of church life, prayer was considered by the early believers to be a staple they could not live without. They were truly God-dependent people. Therefore, I wrote this book to help us learn from their example, to cultivate a spirit of God-dependency among us, and to teach a basic theology of prayer that every believer can embrace. Having been in pastoral ministry for over 25 years, here are three specific observations that prompted me to write Pray About Everything.

Continue reading the original post at the Biblical Counseling Coalition website.

You may also be interested in my other book on prayer, Brass Heavens, which explains six reasons our prayers sometimes go unanswered.

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November 22, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Attitude of Gratitude – A Popular Rerun

The Attitude of Gratitude – A Popular Rerun

**This is a rerun of a popular post. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! As always, thanks for being a faithful reader of this blog.

In Luke 17:11-19, 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 renewing your mind with Scripture, read the book Counseling One Another.]

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November 16, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Benefits of Psychiatric Diagnoses to Ministry

4 Benefits of Psychiatric Diagnoses to Ministry

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, 4 Problems and Pitfalls of Psychiatric Diagnoses, we’ll let Mike Emlet encourage us to think more about the psychiatric diagnoses that are now part of our world. In Chapter 9, Emlet writes, “I want to focus on the potential usefulness of psychiatric classifications at the micro-level, in the context of one-another ministry.” He then goes on to describe four ways psychiatric diagnoses may be of value to Christian ministry.

  1. Psychiatric diagnoses organize suffering into categories that prompt focused attention. “Put another way, the DSM helps you identify patterns of experience. It makes you aware of human struggles you perhaps didn’t know existed and therefore encourages a caring and careful exploration of such struggles.” A diagnosis may identify a clustering of experiences which then “can send us back to Scripture to further understand and develop a biblical perspective of what they saw in incomplete ways.”
  2. Diagnoses remind us that this person’s experience is indeed different from mine. “This keeps us from oversimplifying and suggesting well-meaning but potentially superficial approaches to a person’s struggle….It’s easier to minister to someone very similar to us. It’s more difficult with someone different from us. A diagnosis waves a yellow caution flag that says, ‘Slow down! Be quick to listen and slow to speak! Take the time to discern the complexity of this person’s struggle as a sufferer and sinner before God.”
  3. Certain diagnoses suggest particular patterns of severity and danger. “If you don’t see a symptom within a larger context in which certain thought processes, emotional fluctuations, and actions hang together, you run the risk of minimizing potential danger.”
  4. Some diagnoses remind us of a more central role of the body in a person’s struggle. “Psychiatric diagnoses remind us that we are embodied souls. We know this clearly from Scripture! But functionally speaking, we sometimes over-spiritualize troubles with emotions and thoughts.”

Emlet concludes this chapter with the following admonition: “At the end of the day, the goal is not simply to confirm or condemn a given diagnosis but to carefully, persistently, lovingly, and biblically bring God’s redemption to bear upon people who struggle with the problems encapsulated in a diagnostic description.” The DSM is not our guide book for life. The Bible is our governing authority. But understanding where people are at, and where they are coming from in their own assessment of their struggles, is the work of biblical love and helps us to bring the hope of Jesus Christ to their deepest needs.

When a person’s diagnosis becomes their identity, we can better understand what they are experiencing and believing about themselves. We can then bring correction and renewing of mind to where it is needed. The title of Mike’s book is instructive: Prescriptions and Descriptions. The DSM may be helpful to describe human behavior, but Christ, the gospel, and the whole counsel of God in Scripture prescribe the remedies. If you are a “people helper,” and are interested in learning more, you will benefit from this book. I am currently in my second read-through.

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November 15, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Problems and Pitfalls of Psychiatric Diagnoses

4 Problems and Pitfalls of Psychiatric Diagnoses

When it comes to psychiatric diagnoses and Christians, we are typically too warm or too cold. Michael Emlet, from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF), calls this The Goldilocks Principle. Either we are too warm (too accepting) of diagnoses, or too cold (too highly suspicious). As a biblical counselor and former practicing physician, Mike encourages us to come to a more balanced understanding so that we may minister wisely in today’s over-diagnosed culture. His goal is “neither to vilify nor vindicate the psychiatric diagnostic system but to help those who struggle with disordered thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.”

Last month, at the ACBC conference in Jacksonville, I picked up a copy of Mike’s new book, Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses & Medications. After spending the first few chapters explaining how we got to where we are today, Chapters 4-7 describe four weaknesses and limitations of psychiatric diagnoses.

  1. Psychiatric diagnoses are descriptions, not explanations. In other words, a psychiatric diagnosis may describe for us a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior, but it cannot give us the reason behind them. In this way, it is deficient. The diagnosis cannot tell us the why behind the what. We need a Christ-centered worldview derived from Scripture to help us understand the causes of human behavior. We then counsel the heart behind the behavior. Emlet writes, “In our medicalized and pharmacologically-driven culture, the average person often assumes that each diagnostic entity is primarily caused by a clear and specific brain dysfunction. But there is very little evidence to support that assumption.”
  2. Psychiatric diagnoses have the potential to abnormalize the normal through over-diagnosis. “The proliferation of diagnostic categories mean that more people may be caught in a particular diagnostic net over time.” Emlet balances this with a warning to those of us who minister to others. “Putting someone in a diagnostic category who technically doesn’t meet the criteria doesn’t mean that the person isn’t struggling! Diagnosis or not, we need to listen well to people’s stories.” Amen! We need to learn to listen well.
  3. Some psychiatric diagnoses redefine behavior that Scripture would characterize primarily as sin. “Some psychiatric diagnoses ‘medicalize’ sinful behavior….We should take care that behaviors that are first and foremost violations of the first and second great commandments to love God and others (Matthew 22:34-40) are not neutralized, sanitized, or fully excused by a particular diagnosis.”
  4. Social-cultural values influence the inclusion or exclusion of specific diagnoses from the DSM and impact the prevalence of diagnosis. Emlet explains this pitfall with two illustrations: homosexuality and ADHD.

Emlet wraps up his discussion of these four pitfalls with the following summary: “The concerns with the diagnostic system when considered together suggest that psychiatric diagnoses have less functional authority than we might initially believe. The DSM may be the best secular classification system available, but it remains fraught with difficulties identified from within psychiatry itself.”

If you are a “people helper,” and are interested in learning more, I recommend this book to you. I am currently in my second read-through.

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