Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

March 14, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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C. A. S. H.

We live in a time we could legitimately call “The Age of Discontentment.” People are striving, climbing, grabbing, stepping on others to get more—all the while being ungrateful for the amazing ways God has blessed them, and is blessing them. The glamorous lives of the rich and famous glitter before our eyes, compelling us to long for more. But this never-ending longing for bigger, better, and more, more, more will never be satisfied by worldly accomplishments or possessions. Instead, the hole we feel can only be filled by something infinitely more important—someone infinitely more important, who is worthy of our complete worship everyday.

One professional figure who illustrates this is Tom Brady, winner of five Super Bowls. The lack of satisfaction he articulated is an example of the deep discontentment that often accompanies the accumulation of wealth—even in the midst of huge success. Erik Raymond, author of Chasing Contentment, says of Brady,

Here’s a guy who has more money than he or his children will ever need, he’s been named MVP multiple times, he’s won five Super Bowl rings, he’s married to a supermodel, he has a beautiful house—he has it all. From a human perspective, he’s climbed to the top of the mountain. But it’s like he’s scratching his head with his five Super Bowl rings, grumbling, and saying, “There’s got to be more than this.” It’s like he’s watched an over-hyped movie.

This is a common theme for those who’ve reached the top. If you have gotten to that place, it is actually a tremendous blessing. You’ve seen the hole in the bottom and now the answer is to go to what the Bible says, which provides not only a diagnosis of the problem, but a solution to the problem.

The solution to the problem is to think biblically about money, wealth, and possessions—to keep Christ at the center of our relationship to material things. To direct your thinking, I will use the acronym C.A.S.H. This acronym will draw your attention to four key words which can be used to form a summary of the teachings of Scripture on the place material possessions should take in our lives. The Scriptures I draw your attention to in this post are from the book of Proverbs. It’s been said that if you could learn and apply all that Proverbs teaches about money it would be equivalent to a master’s degree in finance. So, it sounds like Proverbs is a good place to go for this topic.

C = CONTENTMENT

Contentment pertains to the heart attitude that reflects what we really worship. If we are discontent then that reveals our longing for complete satisfaction outside of God; it reveals that something else has captured our heart’s affection. If we are content then that reveals we are learning to get our identity and value and security from God. Randy Alcorn writes in The Treasure Principle, “As sure as the compass needle follows north, your heart will follow your treasures.”

In Proverbs 30:8-9, Agur prayed for the Lord to keep him from both poverty and riches. His longing was to be a man of integrity who would not tempted to steal because of need, nor would he turn away from the Lord because of wealth. Therefore, what he longed for was a heart of contentment.

Though neutral in itself, money has the capacity to be used for good or evil. This all depends on the condition of the heart the person who controls it. Money becomes dangerous when it captures our heart. When that happens, enough is never enough (See, for example, 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Loving Jesus above all things is the key to being content in life. This is the point of the oft-misused verse, Philippians 4:13.

A = ACQUISITION

Acquisition pertains to the manner in which we seek the increase of possessions. How exactly are we accumulating wealth? What means do we utilize to obtain material possessions? In Proverbs 6:6-11, King Solomon exhorts the lazy man to look to the ant. Why? Ants have initiative (they don’t have to constantly be told what to do), work diligently, and store up for the future. In these ways, they model wisdom. Therefore, Solomon exhorts us to follow the example of the ants. However, like contentment, acquisition and accumulation must be for the glory of God, not for selfish gain (see the Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12).

S = STEWARDSHIP

Stewardship pertains to the mindset which governs how we govern our possessions. Proverbs 27:23-24 exhorts the man who makes his living in an agrarian society to know the condition of his herds. For a herdsman to be successful, he must keep a close eye on his herds. He must manage his animals and crops well. In this, we are reminded of a key truth:

We are stewards of some things, but God owns everything.

God owns everything (Psalm 24:1). We are only the stewards of what belongs to God. Since we possess some things temporarily, how should we manage our possessions? Proverbs gives four guideposts:

  • Work hard (Proverbs 20:4).
  • Limit debt (Proverbs 22:7). [If you’re in over your head, check out this super helpful resource. Also in Kindle format.]
  • Budget spending (Proverbs 21:5, 17).
  • Save and invest for the future (Proverbs 13:11).

H = HONOR

Honor is the priority that puts everything else in its proper place. According to Proverbs 3:9-10, we are to bring to the Lord the “firstfruits” of all our produce. That is, every time income comes into our house we should give a portion of it to the Lord’s work. In turn, God’s blessing will abound.

God blesses us financially so that we may invest more in His work. Randy Alcorn says it this way, “God prospers not to raise our standing of living, but to raise my standard of giving.” And yet, when our income increases so does our spending—spending on ourselves.

Remember what the apostle said in the book of Philippians? When commending the believers for their gracious giving, he revealed that he did not “seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (Philippians 4:17). Kent Hughes says it this way: “Money invested in the kingdom is the only money you’ll ever see again.”

Personal Takeaway: We are stewards of some things, but owners of nothing.

God owns it all and we will one-day give an account to Him as to how we managed what He entrusted to us. Therefore, let us honor God by keeping Christ at the center of our relationship to material possessions.

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Stewards of Some Things, Owners of Nothing.]

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March 14, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (March 14)

New Online Bookstore for Counselors – Steven Yu has just launched a new online bookstore. “Here at Biblical Counseling Books it is our desire to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ by providing a one-stop shop for counseling resources.”

Can You Lose Your Salvation? – A Truth in Love podcast with Bill Shannon of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA.

Can’t Say “No” – Ed Welch answers the question, “How would you help a woman who can’t seem to say “no”?

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March 13, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Sexual Detox for Men

While “it has never been easy being a guy, today the challenges to guys who want to be holy, who want to honor God with their minds and bodies, are tougher than ever.” For this reason, Tim Challies was compelled to write his blunt little book Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys who are Sick of Porn. This is a book I use in counseling men, and we stock in our church’s resource center. Sexual Detox has six chapters. In today’s post, I will simply introduce you to the flow of thought developed in the book. Later in the week, I hope to highlight one or two larger portions.

The book begins with a Foreword (which I always read!) written by four men in Tim’s church in Toronto, Canada. Since this book was birthed by a desire to help young men in his own local body of believers, this is a fitting way to begin the book. The Foreword explains why addressing this topic is crucial, why Tim was the right guy to write this book, and why you and I will benefit from its counsel.

Chapter One presents the reality of the problem of pornography in our culture and churches in a straightforward manner. It argues that porn is “The Monster in Disguise” because it is mocking, violent, and progressive. Chapter Two, “Pornography vs. Marriage,” explains why and how pornography distorts a man’s view of marriage, and argues against the idea that getting married is a simply solution to lust and self-gratification. Chapter Three picks up there by providing a brief theology of masturbation. After dispelling childhood rumors about masturbation, and correcting prominent Christian teachers’ approval of this “innocent” practice, Challies explains how the Bible speaks against self-gratification without specifically naming it.

Chapter Four explains how sex is a gift from God to be thoroughly enjoyed within marriage, as a means to bring God glory and strengthen the marriage union. Chapter Five, “Detox in the Bedroom,” addresses how the distortion caused by pornography impacts sex within marriage. Challies explains what sex is not and what sex is, a God-given means of serving our spouse. The final chapter is called “Detox in Your Soul.” This may be the most valuable chapter in the book because of its focus on the soul work needed to overcome the lure of pornography. Fear of God and hatred for sin are nurtured by meditating on Scripture and heeding it (Tim shares the four passages that impacted him the most as a young man). Tim exhorts men to use their “one secret weapon” to slay the monster of porn, and to make personal holiness their lifelong pursuit.

Though published seven years ago, Sexual Detox is still near the top of my list of the resources that I recommend and use when helping other men who are caught in the trap of pornography. I highly recommend it. By the way, last month Tim taught a breakout session on this topic at our church’s conference on biblical sexuality. You may be interested in the free audio download.

PARENTS, check out Tim’s brand new mini-book, HELP! My Kids Are Viewing Pornography.

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March 11, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Hope for Lonely People

“Hope sometimes proves elusive when we experience tough times. We tend to feel that our situation will never improve. But hope will get us through the darkest times. Hope is what keeps us from being overwhelmed by sorrow,” writes registered nurse and grief counselor Deborah Howard. She continues…

“Lonely people may benefit from frequent reminders of hope.  At this moment, you may feel like the sadness and emptiness will last forever, that you will never smile again, never love again and never feel better. But you need to recognize that you will not always feel as you do during these dark times. The truth is that with time your wounds really will heal, the pain will lessen, the sadness will diminish and laughter will return. You have a hopeful prognosis!  So keep that in mind. Don’t say no to hope.

So what is hope? It’s not a wish. Instead, it is a confident expectation. If we belong to Christ we have a confident expectation of His return in glory, a confident expectation that we will dwell with Him for eternity and a confident expectation that His promises are true. And among His promises is one that says that God works all things for the good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Our pain has purpose. It is not frivolous or pointless. It’s not a matter of bad timing or bad luck.  It is part of a well-designed master-plan devised by the Master. We can trust His promises because our faith is in Him. Elisabeth Elliot writes,

It is possible both to accept and to endure loneliness without bitterness when there is a vision of glory beyond. . . . In circumstances for which there is no final answer in the world, we have two choices: accept them as God’s loving choice for our blessing (this is called faith), or resent them as proof of His indifference, His carelessness, even His nonexistence (this is unbelief).

Hope provides the stability and consistency that keep our souls on the right path. Elisabeth Elliot says, “It is resting in the perfect confidence that He will guide in the right way, at the right time.  He will supply our need.  He will fulfill His word.  He will give us the very best if we trust Him.”

Deborah’s little book, HELP! I’m So Lonely, is compassionate and designed to give the lonely person some practical, biblical steps to move them beyond their pain. If you are lonely, you will be ministered to by it. If you know someone who is overcome by loneliness, then why not get them a copy and drop it in the mail along with a “praying for you” card? That’s what I did yesterday.

Also available in Kindle format.

OTHER MINI-BOOKS BY DEBORAH HOWARD

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March 11, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (March 11)

What Does “The Shack” Really Teach? – Paul Young’s new book exposes his heretical doctrine and, thus, his denial of true Christianity.

Christian Unity in the Essentials of the Gospel – “Grounded in the essentials of the gospel, we are willing and eager to partner with other like-minded and like-hearted believers, and grant liberty and charity on some of the non-essentials.”

For When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong – Jason Ho explains the benefits of physical weakness.

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March 9, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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HELP! My Kids Are Viewing Pornography

“I hear it so often: ‘Help! My kids are looking at porn!’ Not long ago, one mom wrote to say that she and her husband had allowed their preteen boys access to the Internet to play a video game, thinking they had taught and trained the boys well enough to resist whatever temptation they might encounter there. They were wrong, and had just learned that for the past four months, when Mom and Dad left the house for a date or to run some errands, the boys had been looking at pornography. What should these parents do? How should they respond? Another mom told me of a friend whose little girl had been waking up in the mornings and using the family’s iPad to look at porn. She was only a child, but was already hooked on pornography. What should this mom do?

Most men my age, or older, remember a day when pornography was rare and taboo. Pornography has existed as long as the camera has existed (and before that in more rudimentary forms, I’m sure), but has been difficult to find and has always carried some level of stigma. Today, the tables have been turned and porn has gone mainstream. Instead of being a shameful addiction it is now the punch line in jokes, the subject of sitcom episodes, and porn stars are even admired. It’s probably significant that we don’t speak of “porn actors” but “porn stars,” as if there is something inherently glamorous in their line of work. Books and magazines encourage us to enjoy pornography, to allow it to add a little spice to our relationships. Clearly, we live in a day when it is much harder to avoid pornography than it is to find it.

And then there are the scary statistics which reveal that men and boys are consuming porn as never before. Additionally, women and girls are now being introduced to it and even being encouraged to regard it as normal for the female gender. A recent email haunts me. It came from a girl of fourteen who found herself battling addiction to pornography. Porn is now a mark of our culture, a part of our lives. The sexuality of a whole generation of children is being formed not by talks with their parents, but by professional pornographers who will do anything (anything!) to fuel an increasing desire for greater perversity in order to increase their own business profits.

Our children will be exposed to pornography— make no mistake about it. If not through school, it may be through the church, or it may be through a seemingly innocent Google search. But sooner or later our children will see pornographic movies and images. And we, as parents, need to be prepared.”

Written by Tim Challies, those paragraphs from the Introduction to a new mini-book should deeply sadden you. If they don’t then you have been desensitized by the immoral culture in which we and our children live. “But what am I to do?” you ask. “Does it even pay to try to curb this epidemic?” If you are a loving parent or grandparent then you already know that you must. As a father and grandfather, myself, these words grieved me deeply the first time that I read them. And the sobriety of them still has not worn off. So, what are we to do?

So, let me encourage you to fight the good fight of faith and holiness by informing you that real help has arrived. HELP! My Kids Are Viewing Pornography is a 64-page, pocket-sized book written by Tim Challies. It will walk you through, step-by-step, the development of a Porn-Free Family plan. Biblically-wise parents recognize that our task involves both loving protection and wise instruction—all of which should reflect our understanding that the deepest problem lies in our children’s hearts. Therefore, in addition to providing practical wisdom in this Internet age, this resource directs you to repeatedly take your children to the gospel, the heart of Jesus to save us from sin, and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image of Christ.

As the consulting editor for the LifeLine Mini-book series, I want to make you aware of this important new resource. Get print copies from the new Biblical Counseling Books website, or in Kindle format from Amazon.

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March 9, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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1st Annual Biblical Counseling Conference in Chicago

“Restore Hope” is the theme for the 1st Annual Biblical Counseling Conference hosted by the Biblical Counseling Center on Saturday, April 29th. This conference will equip and encourage you to restore hope to the hurting in your church and community. The conference is geared toward all church leaders, from pastors and care ministers, to Sunday school teachers and small group leaders, and anyone who is interested in the one-another ministry of discipleship.

I’m honored to be one of the main speakers, along with Alan Benson. In addition to main sessions, the BCC’s experienced teachers will help you restore hope to the hurting, including struggling married couples, the divorced, adoptive families, the addicted, and the grieving. A teaching track on Basics of Biblical Counseling is also available as well as a seminar on starting a biblical counseling ministry.

WHEN: Saturday, April 29, 2017, from 9AM to 3:15PM

WHERE: BCC’s Schaumburg site at Bethel Church, 200 N Roselle Road, Schaumburg, IL, 17 miles from O’Hare International Airport.

COST: $25 per person, $15 per student ~ lunch is included in cost when you register by April 25.

REGISTER: Visit the Conference page at Biblical Counseling Center’s website or phone us at 847-398-7193.

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March 8, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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The Tender Pity of Jesus toward Sinners Like Us

Yesterday, I was reading about the tenderness of the Lord Jesus in A Puritan Theology. The particular Puritan, whose writings were the basis of the chapter, is Thomas Goodwin. Goodwin (1600-1680) was an English Puritan theologian and preacher who also served as chaplain to Oliver Cromwell. One of the treatises for which he was well known was the book entitled The Heart of Christ in Heaven toward Sinners on Earth. In this book, Goodwin “asserted from the Holy Scriptures that Christ feels strong affections, deep compassion, and emotional sympathy toward His suffering people even while seated at God’s right hand.”

Arguing from Hebrews 5:2, “He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since He himself is beset with weakness,” the Puritan was convinced that “even our foolishness and sinful choices awaken Christ’s compassion. Goodwin drives his point home with a bold comparison. He writes to believers: ‘Your very sins move him to pity more than to anger…even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease, or as one is to a member of his body that hath the leprosy, he hates not the member, for it is his flesh, but the disease, and that provokes him to pity the part affected the more.’ If your child becomes very sick, you do not kick the child out; you weep with him and tend to his needs. Christ responds to our sins with compassion despite His abhorrence of them.”

Later, the authors continue, “Today in heaven, Jesus in His human nature knows everything that happens to believers on earth. Jesus says to His church in Revelation 2:2, ‘I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience.’ This is possible because Christ’s human nature is filled with the Holy Spirit beyond measure, and the Spirit is like Christ’s eyes in all the earth (Rev. 5:6). Knowing our distress, He remembers how He felt when facing similar miseries. Christ even knows the experience of sin’s guilt and the horror of facing Christ’s wrath against sin. Although personally sinless, Christ bore all the sins of His people. His knowledge of our pain along with the memory of His pain moves His heart to overflow with compassion.”

Hallelujah! What a Savior!

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March 8, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS (March 8)

Six Ways the Church Can Stand with Women – “Do you know what women need more than anything, though? What everyone needs. We desperately need to know, and be reminded, that Jesus came, died, and rose again so that all women might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).”

Am I Overprotecting My Son? – “Sadly, our culture—and the culture within the Christian church—is more about making well-manicured, polite gentlemen than strong, fearless men.”

A Hope that Groans – “Our groaning hope helps locate us in God’s story of redemption. This is a life of waiting in the middle, a life longing for home.”

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March 7, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Living Single in a Married World

According to a 2015 article in Christian Women Today, more than 50 percent of the adult population (older than age 16) is single. And yet, when you are the one who is single, it can feel like you are the oddball, that everyone else is married. Living single in a married world presents its challenges. Though singleness has freedom and perks, it also has its pitfalls. Loneliness is one. Feeling like the 5th wheel is another.

The unintended attitude found in some churches adds to the problem. One writer says, “In many churches, singleness is treated as a disease to be endured while you’re stricken with it, and to be cured of as quickly as possible.” So, to help us think rightly about this important topic, I decided to include it in my current sermon series, Christ-Centered Living.  Let’s begin with four foundational thoughts derived from Scripture.

  1. There will be no marriage in heaven. In Matthew 22:30, Jesus said, For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage…
  2. Therefore, marriage is a temporal, earthly picture of something more important. Ephesians 5 teaches that marriage is a picture of the love of Christ for His bride, all whom He redeems with His blood.
  3. Jesus experienced the fullness of human life, yet He never married. Jesus was fully man and fully God. He was without sin. He did not miss out on anything essential to being human; i.e. marriage.
  4. Singleness is a gift from God to some for the purpose of more dedicated service. In First Corinthians 7:25-35, we find the most extensive teaching on singleness is found later in that chapter (7:25-35). Some of the single men and women Paul addresses are already engaged to be married, while others may remain single.  He begins this final section of the chapter by reiterating his guiding principle: remain as you are.

APOSTOLIC RECOMMENDATION (vv. 25-28)

The Corinthian church was being influenced by something called asceticism. Asceticism is the religious mindset that believes self-denial is the ultimate virtue. It says, “I am spiritual because of my self-denial.” This often results in comparison, thus, “I am more spiritual than other Christians because of what I’ve given up for God.”

Therefore, Paul corrected their error—commanding husbands and wives to not neglect each other (7:1-6). But now he turns to the singles, specifically those who were engaged to be married. Because of their infatuation with asceticism, engaged couples were probably being told that it would be more spiritual to call off the wedding than to follow through with it. So, Paul wrote to set the record straight and relieve their false guilt.

He does this by giving them his personal recommendation: I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment. He does not mean that what he is about to say is not important, or not inspired by the Spirit. He simply means that he has no direct teaching of Christ to refer back to, but still his advice is sound because, by the Lord’s mercy, he is trustworthy.

Paul’s conclusion is, it is good for a man to remain as he is. Paul agrees with their emphasis on singleness, but disagrees with their reasons. Therefore, he encourages engaged couples to continue with their wedding plans if that is what they desire. However, Paul personally thinks it is good to remain single in view of the present distress (v. 26). He then gives two reasons.

APOSTOLIC REASONS (vv. 29-35)

Paul’s reasons for recommending singleness are clearly pastoral in nature. He is not pitting singleness against marriage, or vice versa. Both marriage and singleness are biblically acceptable according to the will of God for each person.

  • Reason #1: Because believers now have an eternal worldview (vv. 29-31)

The believer’s eternal perspective places this life in its proper place. It is just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away (James 4:14). Therefore, we should hold loosely to the things that are a part of this life only. The believer with the correct perspective does not allow himself to become totally engrossed in the things of this world.

Everything we enjoy in this life is a gift from God. The problem arises when we hold onto the gift too tightly, acting like it will last forever. To hold loosely to the things of this world means we recognize they do not give us our chief meaning and fulfillment in this life. Instead, we should be driven by our relationship with God, our love for Christ, and what matters for eternity.

  • Reason #2: Because of the reality of earthly concerns (vv. 32-35)

The second reason he recommends singleness is that he wants them to be able to concentrate fully on serving Christ. I want indicates his concern is again purely pastoral. It is his personal recommendation, what he thinks is best. Marriage and family bring with them a multiplication of earthly concerns, which distract from serving Christ. Paul’s preference is that other believers be like him, that is, that they are free from these distractions.

APOSTOLIC RESOLUTIONS (vv. 36-38)

Paul closes out the chapter with two resolutions for the single and engaged.

  • Resolution #1: He that is convinced he should marry should marry, it is no sin (v. 36).
  • Resolution #2: He that is convinced he should remain single should remain single (vv. 37-38).

Both singleness and marriage are gifts from the Lord. It’s good for us to remember that. Singleness is not a problem for the one who is given that particular gift. Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “If you are single today, the portion assigned to you for today is singleness. It is God’s gift. Singleness ought not to be viewed as a problem, nor marriage as a right. God in his wisdom and love grants either as a gift.”

I’m single. What should be my focus?

  • Concentrate on your relationship with Christ. Pursue Him and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Seek Him first (Matthew 6:33).
  • Relate to other singles in purity, as fellow members of the family of God (1 Tim. 5:1-2).
  • Don’t date until you are ready to be married. Dating is not for recreation, but for marriage preparation. [Get this mini-book: HELP! I’m Confused about Dating.]
  • Make growth in godly character your priority. (Titus 2 contains instruction for both single men and single women)

A word to the church…

The local church is the family of families—it is the family of God. Some of us are married, while others are single. Our station in life should not segregate us. It should not keep us out of each other’s lives. Instead we must all be diligent to maintain the unity of God’s family through humility and love for one another. Let us work hard to include each other in our lives.

Let us remember this: What unites us is not our marital status. It is our status as co-heirs of the grace of God in Christ. What we have in common is we have a common Savior. Though a church may have various ministries for different seasons of life, which allows for focused teaching, I believe it is unhelpful to over-program the church.

So, whether you are married or single, the call of the Lord is the same: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Living Single in a Married World.]

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