Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

September 4, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 3 Typical Steps to Spiritual Decline

3 Typical Steps to Spiritual Decline

The downward spiral of sin is a consistent pattern in human beings. Therefore, we must heed the warnings of Scripture to stay close to the Lord, walk in His ways, and keep short accounts with Him. Every one of us is susceptible to spiritual decline. Unfortunately, this decline is sometimes not recognized by the person who is sliding backwards until it is too late to reverse the immediate consequences. As a result, it’s not unusual for us to blame God for the painful consequences we bring upon ourselves. But the New Testament book of James lays the blame upon us, and describes the spiral this way:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:13-15

This is the sad reality of how temptation works. Our evil hearts are lured away by sinful desires. These sinful desires often become idolatrous, that is, they become more important than obeying and pleasing God. Our idolatries then take hold, producing more and more sin. And the Law of the Harvest (we reap what we sow) becomes our painful experience.

Repeatedly, however, God graciously calls us to repentance. He calls us to turn around. If we listen to Him then we are restored. But if we reject God’s offer, the downward spiral takes hold and we suffer increasing bondage, which ultimately leads to death. These are the main truths we see in 1 Kings 11.

Here the tragic compromise of King Solomon is an illustration of the downward spiral of sin. From this chapter, God wants you to be aware of three typical steps to spiritual decline so that you may be on guard for your own soul, and repent where necessary.

  1. Disregard for the Word of God leads to a diverted heart (vv. 1-8).
  2. Diversion of one’s heart away from righteousness leads to God’s displeasure (vv. 9-13).
  3. Displeasure from God invites His discipline (vv. 14-40).

Listen to the sermon, Spiraling Downward, here.

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August 31, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 6 Personal Responsibilities of God-Centered Worship

6 Personal Responsibilities of God-Centered Worship

Last Sunday, as we continued our From Garden to Garden sermon series, we spent our time with Solomon at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kings 8. Together, we took note of six responsibilities we must embrace in order to maintain God-centered worship.

To be God-centered in our worship we must…

  1. Recognize the priority and authority of the Word of God (vv. 1-9).
  2. Respect the glory and presence of God (vv. 10-13).
  3. Remember the promise-keeping character of God (vv. 14-21).
  4. Request a listening ear, and forgiveness, from God (vv. 22-53).
  5. Receive words of God’s blessing and promise (vv. 54-61).
  6. Respond with sacrifice and gladness in God (vv. 62-66).

You may listen to the sermon here.

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August 31, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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NUGGETS

Pastors and Suicide – “Pastors and congregations, this is what you need to know about your pastor and depression.” A sad, but necessary post from Kevin Carson.

FREE eBook “The Scars that have Shaped Me” – GET THIS BOOK!

New Biblical Counseling Resource Center – Check out this new resource center from the Biblical Counseling Center near Chicago.

The Power of Failure – “God can work through the mistakes we’ve made. It may not be clear right now how He’s using your pain or your mistakes. But He can use our failure to tell an incredible story of grace and redemption, encouraging others to seek Him in their failure.”

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August 29, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Does God Change His Mind?

Does God Change His Mind?

Some Scriptures seem to say God changes His mind:

And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart (Gen. 6:6).

So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people (Ex. 32:14).

God said to Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands” (1 Sam. 15:11).

At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.  Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.  So now then, speak to the men of Judah and against the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you.  Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds”’ (Jer. 18:7-11).

And rend your heart and not your garments.  Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness, and relenting of evil (Joel 2:13).

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them.  And He did not do it (Jonah 3:10).

But others seem to contradict:

And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind (1 Sam. 15:29).

For I, the LORD, do not change (Mal. 3:6).

These seemingly conflicting statements often create questions in the minds of Christians. If God is immutable (unchanging) and omniscient (knowing all), how can He change His mind? Doesn’t that cast doubt on the consistency of His nature and the integrity of His character? In answering these questions, two foundational truths must be stated.

  • The immutability of God applies to His nature, essence, attributes, and preordained purpose. The Bible makes it clear that the character of God does not change (Ps. 102:26ff; Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:12), and there is no variation in Him (James 1:17). His counsel and purpose stand forever (Ps. 33:11; Isa. 46:10; Heb. 6:17); His unconditional promises are sure (1 Kings 8:56; 2 Cor. 1:20); and His lovingkindness, righteousness, and justice will remain for eternity (Ps. 103:17; Isa. 28:17). So it is clear when the Scriptures refer to God as changing His mind, it does not mean that God Himself changes.
  • The immutability of God does not prevent Him from changing his dealings with changing men. Though some of God’s promises are unconditional, that is, He will fulfill them regardless of man’s actions (Gen. 9:8-11; 15:12-21), many of the blessings and promises of God are designed to be dependent upon man’s obedience or disobedience. However, this in no way makes man sovereign or God dependent upon him. It is simply God allowing man to operate as a responsible moral agent as he was created.

Therefore, the statements that seem to indicate God changes His mind are expressions of the conditional nature of some of His commands or threats of judgment. In other words, His threats of future judgment upon His disobedient people or His promises of blessing upon His obedient people were tests of the heart intent of man. Under these circumstances, when man changed for the good or the bad, God dealt with him accordingly. Walter Kaiser explains it well, “whenever God does not fulfill a promise or execute a threat that he has made, the explanation is obvious: in all these cases, the change has not come in God, but in the individual or nation…Repentance in God is not, as it is in us, an evidence of indecisiveness. It is rather a change in his method of responding to another person based on some change in the other individual” [Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, pp. 114-115]. Repentance is for man not God.

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August 22, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Anxiety Distracts Us

Anxiety Distracts Us

Anxiety is so much a part of our lives that it’s natural for us to frequently talk about it. However, defining it can be another story. Defining anxiety, and understanding how it works, sometimes seems like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. Our definition doesn’t quite hold. Anxiety is an emotion. We know this, but it’s more than a feeling. Anxiety often includes a physical reaction, but it’s more than that, too. So what is anxiety, exactly?

The writers of the New Testament employ two different, but related, words. Care is a noun that is connected to a verb which means to draw in different directions, or distract. So, to be anxious means to have a distracting care, to have our mind and heart torn between two worlds. For example, Jesus uses the noun form when he warns against thorns choking out the Word of God which is intended to produce faith. He identifies these thorns as “the cares of the world” (Mark 4:19; Matt. 13:22), or “the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). These Scriptures reveal that anxious cares are typically earthbound; that is, they are tied to our earthly life. In other words, the cares that most often accompany anxiety are temporal, not eternal.

Consequently, these cares divide our mental energy and cloud our spiritual vision; they keep us focused on the here-and-now instead of the future-promised-but-not-yet. Anxious cares form cataracts over our spiritual eyes. These anxieties cloud our sight; they hinder us from keeping heavenly things in clear focus, or keeping diligent watch for the return of the Lord (Luke 21:34).

To sum things up, anxiety distracts us from what is most important. It trains our eyes to see only what is before us at the very moment. It exerts great effort at keeping our vision fixed on the horizontal—on the things of the world—instead of vertical, on the things of God. For this reason, Jesus commands us “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt. 6:25). But then, immediately, he also directs us to “Look” somewhere else (Matt. 6:26). By looking at the birds of the air, and the flowers of the field, we can jog our memory and shift our focus to the heavenly Father who promises to provide better care for us than he even does for them.

Instead of allowing our minds to be distracted by the troubles of today, Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33). As we discipline our mind and heart to keep eternal matters at the center, the earthly distractions will gradually fade. Yes, some may remain in our peripheral vision (especially if they pertain to our responsibilities), but they will not distract us from what is most important.

  • Reflect: What earthly cares are currently distracting you? What preoccupies your mind?
  • Act: In a journal or notebook write down everything you are currently anxious about.
  • Act: Now turn your Care List into a Prayer List. Take each care to the Lord in prayer. Ask God to show you which cares relate to responsibilities, which you then need to act upon, and which cares you need to entrust (release) to him in faith.

[PRAYER REQUEST: This post is from a 31-day devotional, which I am currently writing. The book will be released sometime in 2019. I’m asking my readers to please pray for me as I write, that the end product will be biblical and helpful to others. It’s a challenge to write a book about anxiety while being anxious, as my first draft deadline approaches.]

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August 21, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Life-Transforming Worship

David’s life was transformed by his knowledge and worship of God. That was the point of last Sunday’s sermon from one of our pastors, Ed Fedor. In this exposition of Psalm 145, we learned of three aspects of biblical worship, and two attributes of God which motivate us to worship.

  • Worship is personal (vv. 1-3).
  • Worship is generational (vv. 4-7).
  • Worship is evangelical (vv. 8-13a, 21).
  • Worship the God who is gracious (vv. 13b-17).
  • Worship the God who is near (vv. 18-20).

Listen or watch to Life-Transforming Worship.

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August 18, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS

NUGGETS

10 Ways to Comfort a Grieving Person – Beautiful counsel from Nancy Guthrie.

Social Injustice and the Gospel – John MacArthur nails it.

De-Mystifying PTSD – Part 1 of a helpful podcast from the BCC.

Pastoring Amid Depression – Helpful counsel from the For the Church blog.

New “Practical Shepherding” Women’s Ministry – This is encouraging news from Brian Croft.

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August 15, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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MMR School of Discipleship

Last week, my family was blessed to attend family camp at Miracle Mountain Ranch in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania. While there, we learned of another of their ministries called the School of Discipleship. This one-year program is a biblically-based Christian discipleship and leadership program designed for high-school graduates who are committed to developing Christ-like character and spiritual maturity. They aim to accomplish this through mentoring relationships and growth in godly disciplines toward the goal of becoming a person of influence for Jesus Christ. The School of Discipleship offers the opportunity for believers to focus on strengthening the biblical foundation of their faith through the four components of the program. They begin by establishing a deeper relationship with God, recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their lives. They continue by equipping themselves through unique hands-on experiences and structured classes. Then they are involved in extending their field of influence through Christian leadership in the ministry and outreach of Miracle Mountain Ranch. As their skills in establishing, equipping, and extending increase, the discipleship students then have the responsibility for evangelizing, responding in obedience to Christ’s command to make disciples. Opportunities for effective Christian leadership results from the integrity and maturity they build throughout the year in the School of Discipleship.

If you know someone who may benefit from this one-year program (especially if they love horses and the outdoors) encourage them to check out the School of Discipleship.

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August 14, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on An Interview About My Book “Discipling the Flock”

An Interview About My Book “Discipling the Flock”

Today, Books At a Glance published a recent interview that I did with Fred Zaspel. In the interview, Fred asked about the goal and purpose of my book, Discipling the Flock, focusing most of his attention on the second chapter. He then wrapped up the interview by asking what I believe authentic church growth looks like.

Zaspel: Tell us first what your book is all about. What is the contribution you are hoping to make?

Tautges: The book is about the need to balance the public ministry of the Word to the gathered church, with the personal ministry of the word to individual sheep.

My hope is that God will use this little book to nudge pastors and elders back to the immeasurable privilege and indispensable task of shepherding the flock of God by means of teaching the Word of God and caring for the souls of men and women.

Zaspel: I’d like you to address the specifics of chapter 2 in a minute, but first, give us a broad overview of what “faithful shepherding” is. What is it you are after?

Tautges: According to 1 Peter 5:2, the main function of pastors and elders is to care for the flock of God: “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight.” Addressing the Ephesian elders, Paul says essentially the same thing when he exhorts them to be “on guard for yourselves and for all the flock.” Faithful shepherding consists of caring for the overall spiritual well-being of God’s sheep, which requires feeding them the Word of God, leading them by example, and protecting them from spiritual hazards.

A faithful shepherd is committed to leading God’s sheep toward maturity in Christ. This means we view our divine assignment under the umbrella of the Great Commission to make faithful disciples of Christ. This is a stewardship which requires intensive labor. This is modeled by the apostle in his words to the Colossians,

We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Col. 1:28-29).

Read the whole interview here.

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August 9, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Redefining Addiction to Pornography

Redefining Addiction to Pornography

Christians are in a dangerous predicament today: we do not know where to look in God’s word for the solutions to our problems. So writes, Rachel Coyle in HELP! She’s Struggling with Pornography. She continues, “this is often because we use non-biblical words to describe problems and struggles. It is not wrong or sinful to use words such as addiction, but it does pose some potential problems. When we do not use biblical terms to define our struggles, it is easy to think the Bible is not adequate to address all the problems of life. We find ourselves turning elsewhere for solutions to sin. Let’s get back to the Bible and develop the skill of biblically defining the problems with which we struggle. Identify the biblical terms that describe sexual addiction in the following passages:

For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness … (Romans 6:19b)

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

… [B]y what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. (2 Peter 2:19b)

God addresses sexual addiction in terms of slavery to sin and idolatry.

Addiction Redefined as Slavery to Sin

Every one of us is born as a slave to sin: “[W]hen you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods” (Galatians 4:8). We are not inherently good. We are inherently sinful. We come into this world separated from god, being dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). Praise God that Jesus Christ can set us free from slavery to sin and make us servants of righteousness and children of God (Romans 6:16–18). But freedom from slavery to sin does not mean we will never sin again. Even believers in Christ continue to battle the flesh—indwelling sin. This is why the apostle Paul penned these words:

… [W]alk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Galatians 5:16–17)

By nature, sin enslaves. Hebrews 12:1 says that it “easily entangles us.” By our choices and habits, we can even put ourselves in bondage to particular sins (“sins,” not “sin” in the general sense, as we are born in bondage to sin). Forming a habit of any sin—from complaining to lying or pornography—leads us into bondage to that sin. Remember 2 Peter 2:19b: “… by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” When you are overcome by a particular sin, you are enslaved to it. Pornography and masturbation both have the capacity to overcome your mind and body so that you find yourself thinking about it anytime, anywhere. You plan it, plot it, and pursue it. And this happens again … and again. You can almost feel the weight of steel chains around your mind and your body! This is slavery.

Addiction Redefined as Idolatry

What do you think of when you hear the word “idolatry”? Bowing before wooden objects or clay statues? Actually, idolatry is an issue for all of us. A key passage on this subject is Ezekiel 14:1–11. I encourage you to find a Bible and read through the whole passage. Notice from the following verses what God says about the residence, result, and his requirement concerning idolatry:

  • The residence of idolatry: the heart. “[T]hese men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity” (v. 3; see also v. 7).
  • The result of idolatry: separation from God. “[T]he hearts of the house of Israel … are estranged from Me through all their idols”; “… anyone … who separates himself from Me …”  (vv. 5, 7).
  • God’s requirement: repentance. “Repent and turn away from your idols and turn your faces away from all your abominations” (v. 6).

We all have the tendency to give other people or things God’s rightful place. We worship something other than God, thus committing idolatry that only he sees. Idols of the heart are formed when we do not heed the instruction in Hebrews 12:1 to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,” but put those stumbling blocks right in front of us instead. Addictions are good indicators that heart idolatry is going on. One definition of addicted is: “devoted or given up to a practice or habit …” (emphasis mine). That sounds like worship to me. Involvement with pornography is the fruit of an idolatrous heart. There is something you want more than pleasing the Lord Jesus and honoring Him, something you want more than being content with what God has (or has not) given to you.

[Today’s post, as well as yesterday’s, is excerpted from HELP! She’s Struggling with Pornography.]

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