Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

December 11, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Dear Suicidal Friend, There Is Hope

In his excellent mini-book, HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal, police chaplain and pastor Bruce Ray, writes, “There is ultimately only one reason why people commit suicide. Most of them have not lost their minds, but all of them have lost hope. They have developed tunnel vision and cannot see any other workable options. Suicide is the only choice left that makes sense – i.e., the only option that to them seems reasonable.suicidal - small email

Hope, true hope, biblical hope, hope that grows out of that which is eternal—not temporal—is the remedy for the suicidal mind. Hope delivers from death (Ps 33:19).

There are many definitions of hope that I could mention here, but instead let me offer you mine. Hope is confident expectation in God to be faithful to fulfill each and every one of His promises.

Hope is in God. It is found in no other place. But what exactly does that mean? What mental ‘hooks of hope’ can we hang our thoughts upon? What truths must we continually feed to our idea-voracious minds in order that we might “not lose heart,” but instead ensure that “our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16)?

  1. Hope is God-centered. “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You” (Ps 39:7). Ultimately, hope is not found in anything, or anyone, outside of God.
  2. Hope is connected to Jesus Christ. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1). “Hope in God” is not possible unless we have been reconciled to Him through His Son, the one and only Mediator between God and sinners (1 Tim 2:5). In Christ, we have “a better hope” (Heb 7:19).
  3. Hope is the work of the Holy Spirit. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom 15:13).
  4. Hope is rooted in the resurrection. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor 15:19-20). Through Christ we are “believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that [our] faith and hope are in God” (1 Pet 1:21).
  5. Hope is not dependent upon hopeful circumstances. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18).
  6. Hope is focused on God’s promises. As believers, we live “in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:2).
  7. Hope is dependent upon God’s goodness and mercy. “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness, to deliver their soul from death and to keep them alive in famine” (Ps 33:18-19). Biblical hope never grows well in the garden of entitlement.
  8. Hope grows in the mind that intentionally chooses to remember who God is. “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 321-23).
  9. Hope is found in the encouragement of the Scriptures. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4). “My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word” (Ps 119:81).
  10. Hope is found in the saving gospel. “…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel” (Col 1:5).
  11. Hope is laid hold of by faith. “For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness” (Gal 5:5; C.f. Rom 5:2).
  12. Hope grows out of Christ-like character, which can only be produced in the fires of suffering; therefore, a believer should not seek escape from suffering. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom 5:3-4).

Finally, brethren, let us listen to and believe God’s benediction of hope that is obtained by grace. “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word” (2 Thess 2:16-17). Knowing this let us each determine to be dispensers of hope in a world filled with hopelessness.

[Note: This is a repost of a previous article due to the re-release of this mini-book with a new publisher.]

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November 22, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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14 Daggers that Help to Kill Worry

Faith battles are fought in the mind. In other words, what we say to ourselves controls much of what we do, whether right or wrong, true or false, which is the fruit of what we believe. Therefore, counseling ourselves with pithy statements rooted in biblical truth is an exceedingly important, but oft-neglected discipline of the Christian life. If you and I are going to walk by faith, not by sight, then we must consistently put to death the lies that our depraved hearts both produce and believe. One key area in which this discipline is so consistently needed—at least for me—is in the battle against worry.

Knowing this about myself, I chose to again mediate on the comforting, faith-building words of the Lord Jesus concerning God’s faithful care for His children, those whom He has redeemed by the blood of His Son. But, this time, I took a different tactic. I looked for key truths that I need to constantly speak back to myself. “Self counsel” is what we sometimes call it (Think Note to Self by Joe Thorn). It basically means that we learn the discipline of speaking biblical truths to ourselves in order to kill the lies that we so naturally believe about God and about ourselves. So, here are 14 truths that jumped off the pages of Scripture this morning, from Matthew 6:25-34. These truths, in turn, become reasons not to worry. Read Jesus’ words and then think about these simple truths.

  1. God commands me not to worry; worry is sin (vv. 25; 34).
  2. The essence of life is something more significant than material provision (v. 25).
  3. The birds don’t worry, fret, or hoard; yet their needs are met (v. 26).
  4. God feeds the birds that are not made in His image (v. 26).
  5. I am more valuable to God than all the birds combined, because I am made in His image (v. 26).
  6. Worry does not lengthen life (v. 27).
  7. The flowers are clothed by God (vv. 28-29).
  8. God will clothe us (v. 30).
  9. Worry is rooted in unbelief (v. 30).
  10. Worldly people worry; it’s characteristic of unbelieving pagans (vv. 31-32).
  11. Our heavenly Father knows our needs (v. 32).
  12. All our material cares will be taken care of by God when we pursue Christ and His agenda, first, above all (v. 33).
  13. Tomorrow will take care of itself (v. 34).
  14. Today has enough trouble; I don’t need to create more by borrowing from tomorrow (v. 34).

So much of our battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil is fought in the realm of ideas–thought patterns (2 Cor 10:3-4; Eph 6:17). To defeat the lies that we so easily believe we must take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. What truths do you find in this passage that would help you kill worry?

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November 19, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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To the Man with an Unbelieving Wife

“There are plenty of stories about the Christian woman who has an unconverted husband, one who hasn’t put his trust in Christ as Savior. But what about the marriages in which it’s the other way around? Too often we neglect the topic of how a believing man is to live with his unbelieving wife.” So writes Larry McCall in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church and I must concur. This is a reality for some men, but the counsel—at least published counsel—is scarce. So, let me summarize for you the counsel given by Pastor Larry in one of the appendices of his book.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ but your wife isn’t, you are not alone. There are couples who both were unconverted at the time of their wedding, and later the husband was saved but not the wife. A number of men have married someone who claimed to know Christ, only to find out later that her profession of faith was merely insincere words uttered to get the man to marry her. Some Christian men—maybe hoping that the spiritual situation would improve after the wedding—knowingly chose to marry their sweethearts who were still without Christ.

Here are biblical principles to guide in these three situations:

  • If you knowingly married a non-Christian then you need to deal with your disobedience to the clear command of 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with an unbeliever…” You need to confess your rebellion against God and receive His gracious forgiveness.
  • You need to realize that your situation does have its peculiar difficulties. A Christian and a non-Christian have very different value systems by which they live and make decisions; they have different priorities in life.

How does a Christian man live peaceably with his non-Christian wife? McCall writes, “Commit yourself to loving her in the following ways.”

Pray persistently. Sometimes a Christian husband tries to coerce his wife into becoming a believer. Understand that God alone saves. “As a backwoods Christian man once exclaimed in this simple but profound way, ‘If God don’t turn the lights on, they don’t get turned on!’” Pray the Lord turns the lights on.

Live consistently. “We’re all hypocrites in some ways, but as much as you can, by God’s grace, consistently reflect the character of Christ in your daily life….Seek to honor the Lord in your home by providing a godly influence.”

Love unconditionally. “Loving a person with radically different priorities and passions has its challenges, but seek to love your wife without conditions. Assure her of your unswerving commitment and devotion to her even though she doesn’t share your commitment to the Savior.”

Lead gently. “Being a Christian husband means leading your home in the ways of Christ, even if your wife doesn’t wholeheartedly support you in it. You still have the responsibility to provide spiritual leadership to your wife and children.

McCall then provides the following encouragement: “Following the biblical principles we’ve looked at in this book, we might apply Peter’s counsel for converted wives with unconverted husbands (1 Peter 3:1-12) to the opposite situation, paraphrasing it like this: ‘Husbands, in the same way love your wives as Christ loves the church so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their husbands, when they see the sacrificial love and humble service of your lives.’”

[My fuller review/summary of Larry McCall’s book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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November 17, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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RESOURCES: Adoption

Here’s another resource page for your one-another discipleship counseling ministry…

BOOKS/BOOKLETS

JOURNAL ARTICLES/BLOG POSTS

AUDIO/VIDEO TEACHING

If you are aware of more helpful biblical resources on the subject of adoption, please drop me an email. These resource lists are works in progress.

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November 14, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Replacing Fear with Awe

stormWhile spending time in Psalm 104, this morning, the study notes in the ESV Study Bible directed me to the Gospel of Mark. In verse 7 of the psalm, the songwriter says, “At your rebuke they fled [the waters after the Great Flood]; at the sound of your thunder they took flight.” In reference to this, the editors of the study Bible note the following: “Mark may have had this text in mind when he wrote that Jesus ‘rebuked the wind’ and commanded the sea (Mark 4:39).” So, I turned to Mark 4:35-41 and read through it a few times (Mark 4:35-41). Here are just a few quick thoughts that jotted in my journal.

Jesus is sovereign over the storm. When Jesus—and only when Jesus—commanded the storm to cease, did peace take over and reign. Jesus had all things totally under control. Evidence of this is the fact that He was fast asleep on a cushioned bench at the boat’s stern!

The disciples were controlled by fear, not faith. In fact, Jesus told them that they had no faith. Now, He was not saying they had lost their faith in Him, but that their fearful response overshadowed the evidence of their faith in the compassionate care of God. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Their response to the storm gave the appearance that they had no effectual trust in the Lord. How often we do the same! When we allow fear to control our mind and heart then it is as if our faith has been set aside.

Beholding the mighty works of God shifts the mind from fear to faith. When the disciples saw the power of the Word of Christ, their fear of the storm (which was very real) changed to fear of God. Their awe of the Savior overshadowed the awfulness of the storm. In other words, the fear that controlled and crippled them was replaced by a greater fear—fear of the One whose sovereign power reigns over all. In turn, this brought stability to their faith.

What are you fearful of today? Turn your eyes upon Jesus and His mighty works and let your fear be replaced by awe.

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November 11, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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4 Reasons a Husband Should Pray with His Wife Consistently

In a previous post, I passed on biblical encouragement and counsel from Larry McCall’s book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. Today, I pass on another portion in which he gives to us four reasons we should persevere to pray regularly with our wives.

Prayer with our wives teaches us humility and opens our hearts to God’s grace. We desperately need God’s grace in our own lives as men and in our marriages, don’t we? Our attempts to make life work, to make our marriages work—on our own—are futile and foolish. So, what gets the attention of our grace-dispensing God? Humility. Both Peter (in 1 Peter 5:5) and James (in 4:6) echo Proverbs 3:34, when they write, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The very act of praying does humble us. And humility draws the grace of God that we so greatly need.

Prayer with our wives can help us develop an increased intimacy with God. To be honest, I have often treated prayer as a means of presenting God with a grocery list of my needs and desires. But prayer should be—and can be—so much more. When I pray with my wife, I can pursue a deeper intimacy with the Lord myself while encouraging my wife to develop her own closeness with the Lord at the same time.

  • As we devote time and attention to the Lord, our bond of affection with Him grows.
  • As we reflect back to Him in prayer what we adore about Him—His attributes of greatness and grace—our hearts grow warmer.
  • As we recall in His presence what we appreciate about him—the many acts of kindness and forgiveness He has shown us—our grateful affections increase.

Praying with my wife promotes an increased intimacy with the Lord who bought us. Let’s experience with our wives the benefit promised in James: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (4:8).  Prayer with our wives strengthens our marriage bond. As we pray with our wives, we hear their hearts, gaining insights into their desires, concerns, and fears in a way that might not be revealed as freely in any other venue. A husband can connect with his wife in a “soulish” way as he listens to her pour out her heart before the heavenly Father. The husband, in turn then, praying for her concerns, confirms his unity with her. He reminds her of his own confidence in God’s commitment to her welfare. Husband and wife develop an intimacy in prayer that cannot be matched in any other way. Praying together is not merely the uniting of two bodies; it is the uniting of two souls—true spiritual intimacy.

Prayer with our wives gives us the opportunity to seek the Lord’s help in our marriages, our families, and our daily lives. How often have we failed to find solutions to our problems and resorted to prayer only in desperation? Our Lord wants us to come to Him with the concerns of our hearts and the problems with our lives. He paid an inestimably high price—the precious blood of His much-loved Son—to give us this access to His throne room. Let’s faithfully commit to heed the call of Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

[My fuller review/summary of this book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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October 31, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Husbands Are Imperfect Mirrors

mirrorThe following biblical encouragement and exhortation is from a fellow husband striving to grow in Christ, Larry McCall, in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. As I read through it a second time, I am reflecting deeper on the portions that I highlighted the first time. I will share a few in the next week, or so. Larry writes:

Two little words in Ephesians 5:25 intimidate me: the words just as. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” How can you and I ever match that kind of love?

Before we give up, deciding the mission we’ve been given is impossible to carry out, it might be wise to listen to pastor and writer Alistair Begg, who writes, “While human men cannot match the degree of love Jesus displays (since His love is divine and infinite), they are to love in the same manner.” In other words, although we husbands are imperfect reflections of The Perfect Husband, He has commissioned us to love our wives in the same manner as He loves His bride.

  • Love unconditionally. Since His love is unconditional, ours must be also…consider Christ’s example that we love our wives without conditions—not held in reserve until we feel loved or respected by our wives, not based on our perception of our wives’ lovability, not withholding love until they fix themselves up physically, emotionally, or attitudinally. If, by God’s grace, we choose to love our wives irrespective of our perception of their worthiness or responsiveness, we mirror Christ’s unconditional love.
  • Loving sacrificially. Similarly, our Christlike love for our wives should be profoundly sacrificial. While we may hear the occasional story of a husband who literally sacrifices his own life to save his wife’s, few of us will be called upon in God’s providence to pay that price. However, we make other sacrifices. It is worth our time to consider these heart-searching words from Christian radio host and author Bob Lepine: “It is often harder to live for your wife than it would be to die for her. It involves dying daily to your own desires and dreams. In the end, sacrificial love involves a willingness on the part of a husband not only to prefer his wife as more important than himself (see Philippians 2:3), but a readiness on the part of a husband that nothing will supersede his marriage covenant. It’s the kind of love that never gives up.” What evidences of selfishness do I see in my life as a husband? Am I withholding my time, my affection, my words of affirmation and appreciation because I’m not willing to set aside my own priorities? In what ways is the Lord calling me to “die to myself” so that I can better reflect Christ in my sacrificial love for my wife?
  • Loving voluntarily. Our love must also mirror Christ’s voluntary love for His bride. Paltry tokens of love pulled out of us by our desperate wives or pushed out of us by a marriage counselor are less than sufficient. We must continually run back to Christ, soaking in His gracious love for us so that we will be moved to love others—especially our precious wives. Let me paraphrase the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 4:19-21: “We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his wife, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his wife, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom He has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his wife.”

So, brothers, though we’re imperfect, God commissions us to love our wives just as Christ loves His bride, the church. Let’s devote ourselves to studying Christ together.

[As stated earlier, the above counsel is from Larry McCall, in his book Loving Your Wife as Christ Loves the Church. A fuller review/summary of this book is posted at Books At a Glance.]

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October 30, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Grace Erased $3,185.28

eraserGod knows we are forgetful people, even as Christians. Therefore, He is gracious to bring to our minds—over and over again—the abundance of His grace toward us in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The other day, when I returned home from work there was an envelope waiting to be opened. The return address informed me that it was from the cardiologist who performed the stress test my primary physician had ordered at the end of last year. Two trips to the Emergency Room and two EKGs in less than six months were cause for concern. He was pretty confident that it was Stress Cardiomyopathy, and not heart attacks, but ordered the stress test in order to be absolutely certain. Though we were thankful the stress test confirmed his suspicion, we were left with a bill that exceeded $3300, which our insurance would not cover. As a result, we’ve been making small monthly payments as we are able and communicating regularly with the doctor’s office, making clear our intention to pay off the debt completely, and requesting their patience. As a result, they asked me to fill out an application for a long-term repayment plan. Frankly, the application was submitted so many months ago that we finally gave up that any response would ever come, even a No. But then the letter came. I opened it with cautious anticipation, hoping for a reasonable payment plan that would be workable for us. Instead, I was blown away.

The letter began, “Dear Paul, Balance due: $3185,28 [the balance was crossed out with ink and followed by a handwritten zero, -0-]. We have granted funds to your account for 100% of the charges incurred.” My breath was taken away. As tears welled up, I quickly photographed the letter and texted it to my wife, to which she replied “Wow! I can’t believe it. Praise God!” The Lord continues to amaze us, as He faithfully cares for us.

God Is ‘Every Day Faithful’

Earlier this year, we went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which has led us to make a number of small and major decisions in an all-out effort to eliminate as much debt as possible, with the goal, for my family’s sake, of eventually getting completely out from underneath the financial bondage which I had failed to carefully avoid. But God is always faithful, “every day faithful,” as our 7-year old recently said at the supper table when I shared with the family what God had just done through the cardiologist’s gift (They had no previous knowledge of any doctor’s appointments or hospital visits so they listened intently with eyes wide open).

Our little guy is right. God is “every day faithful.” We have a Savior who never gives up on us as He never ceases to patiently sanctify us by His grace. He did not give His life for us, and allow His blood to be shed for us, only later to abandon us to ourselves. No, our Redeemer never leaves us and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). There are so many truths He is bringing to the forefront of our minds as we strive to learn what it means to walk, by faith, more faithfully—day by day—with Him walking by our side. His rod and staff really do comfort, train, guide, and protect us (Psalm 23:4).

Our Sins Are Erased Because Jesus Paid the Bill

The letter from the cardiologist was a shot in the arm in another significant way. Not only did it stimulate within us praise for God’s undying faithfulness to care for His children (Matthew 6:25-34), but it illustrated for us, again, what it really means to be forgiven—to have our sin debt erased. Because of the satisfactory death and resurrection of the Son of God on our behalf, God has personally crossed out our debt and placed a handwritten zero where there was once an enormous, too-big-to-ever-repay balance. Why? Because at the moment of repentant faith; He granted to us (to our spiritual account) 100% of Jesus’ righteousness. “He [God, the Father] made Him, who knew no sin [God, the Son] to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is nothing left to pay. On the Cross of Calvary, Jesus took our punishment for us and now, by faith, we are received by God as His adopted sons. What greater treasure could we ever possess?

Friend, do you have this freedom, the freedom that Jesus alone gives? Come to Him today, by faith, and He will release you from the debt of your sin and give to you His gift of eternal life.

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October 22, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Biblical Counsel for Women Facing Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer - small email sizeOne 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 new discipleship counseling booklet for women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. By admitting her own fears and struggles, 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 another woman who truly understands. Give her the biblical counsel found in HELP! I Have Breast Cancer.

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October 17, 2014
by Paul Tautges
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Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Men

Miller bookSince I am a biblical counselor and reviewer of books, I often receive copies of new resources from publishers. Last week, Baker Books sent to me a copy of Keith Miller’s new resource Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Men. This title rounds out a trilogy of resources from Keith and his wife, Patricia, both of whom teach at Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri.

Quick Scripture Reference for Counseling Men is for counselors, pastors, men’s ministry leaders, and any Christian man who wants a user-friendly quick reference guide to Scripture. Scripture passages are conveniently gathered under 120 topics that concern men, including anxiety, burnout, career, commitment, depression, divorce, envy, faithfulness, gambling, homosexuality, integrity, leadership, marriage, money, reputation, suffering, temptation, wisdom, and more. Perfect for counseling or for personal study and memorization.

Other titles in this reference series include:

This helpful series can be purchased from our friends at Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service.

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