Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

April 6, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Mourning for Sarah

Mourning for Sarah

Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah.
And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan,
and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. (Genesis 23:1-2)

It’s heart-wrenching to lose someone you love. One with whom you’ve been through a lot. It can feel like a part of you died along with them, like your heart’s been ripped out. The Bible reveals Abraham felt this way when his wife died.

Sarah passed away at the age of 127, which was a typical lifespan during the age of the patriarchs. She was ten years younger than her husband, which means she was sixty-five the first time Abraham directed her to lie about her full identity as his wife, not only his half-sister (Genesis 12:10-20). At mid-life she was strikingly beautiful, which is why her husband feared that the Egyptian pharaoh would take her to be part of his harem. (Pharaohs had a bit of a reputation for stealing other men’s wives!)

In their 60-plus years of marriage, Abraham and Sarah had been through a lot together. Name changes for both of them. Several cross-country moves. Domestic conflicts. Real-life encounters with God and angels. A nephew’s narrow escape from fire and brimstone judgment. The trial of infertility, and the unsurpassed joy of giving birth to their promised son.

Shared life experiences bonded their hearts together like glue, as God had originally designed for the one-flesh relationship of marriage (Genesis 2:24).

But death ripped them apart.

And when it did, Abraham mourned and wept for her. “Here the Hebrew word sapad (‘mourn’) means ‘to tear the heart and beat the breast.’ The Hebrew word bakah (‘weep’) means to ‘lament with great sorrow.’” It was a heart-wrenching day for Abraham. Part of him died.

One step further on his grief journey, he purchased a cave from the Hittites, so that he could honor the love of his life by giving her a proper burial. Refusing to receive the plot of land without cost, thus displaying Sarah’s great value to him, Abraham insisted he pay “full price…for a burying place” (Genesis 23:9). But purchasing this family burial plot in the land of Canaan says something more—something about Abraham’s faith.

In his moment of deepest loss, Abraham fastened his faith to God’s promised inheritance. He anchored his aching heart to the faithfulness of God. He reminded himself of God’s promise to return his descendants to the Promised Land after their 400 years of enslavement in a foreign land (Genesis 15:13).

What are you looking at the most? Your loss or the promises of God?


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April 5, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on God Has Not Forgotten You

God Has Not Forgotten You

Has God forgotten to be gracious? (Psalm 77:9)

The pain of loss can lead you to feel alone, even forgotten. The lack of answers to your Why questions. A lack of a sense of what society calls closure; that is, the acceptance of what has happened and the transition to something new. The drying up of the stream of encouraging phone calls, or mail. In all of this, you may wonder where God is. Your heart may speculate whether he, too, has forgotten you.

But he has not.

The healing you long to experience may not come right away. It rarely does. It will take time. You need to accept that, and be patient. By the time the writer of Psalm 77 asked, “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” he had already been earnestly crying out to him.

“I cry aloud to God,” he begins, “aloud to God, and he will hear me” (v.1). Limping alongside his grief; intertwined with his pain, are cries of faith. “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted” (v. 2).

Fueling his cries of faith is the pain that will not go away, but lingers. Not physical pain, but the inner pain of sorrow. Loss. Hurt that persists. But God does not find this man’s questions offensive. No. God welcomes his lament.

“When I remember God, I moan, when I meditate, my spirit faints. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (vv. 3-4).

He moans, yes. But he moans in faith…to God. That is, his complaint does not flow from unbelief, but is evidence of an active faith—faith that longs for the completion of the incomplete, the resolution of the unresolved. When the aches of our heart thrust us toward the only One who can bring true, lasting comfort, then it serves a good purpose. Even if we can’t see anything good in the tragic event that triggered our grief.  

Pain has the potential to stimulate growth in our relationship with God, since it often reawakens us to eternal realities. In this way, God can use our sorrow to draw us closer to him.

You are not forgotten.

God has not forgotten to be gracious. To the contrary, it is because of his grace that he remembers you. He is nurturing your faith, so that it will not wither or get stale.

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April 4, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on How to Find Joy When You’ve Lost It

How to Find Joy When You’ve Lost It

Psalm 30 reveals David as a man who ultimately triumphs in joy, and through joy. But it was not always that way, all of the time. In his journey from sorrow to joy, we see why the Holy Spirit preserved this song for us.

Over the past 5-7 years, the Lord has drawn me back into the Psalms too many times to count. And Psalm 30 has become a personal favorite. So, back in the dead of winter, when invited to kick off Psalms of Joy, a sermon series at Tri-County Bible Church in Madison, Ohio, my heart was drawn again into Psalm 30.

  • If you are fighting for your joy, Psalm 30 will minister to your heart. I guarantee it.
  • If you know someone who is going through a very difficult time, or is depressed, then pass it on. Or why not listen to it together?

Listen to How to Find Joy when You’ve Lost It.

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April 3, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on You Cannot Live On Bread Alone

You Cannot Live On Bread Alone

[Jesus] answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

The Bible is the living word of the living God. Therefore, you cannot live without it. If you try then your soul will shrivel up and die. It’s been that way from the beginning.

God brought the universe into existence by the power of his spoken word (Hebrews 11:3). Then, after forming the first man and woman out of the dust of the earth, God breathed his life into them, and they became living souls. Souls who could not live without God. Designed that way.

Nonetheless, tempted by the devil, they tried to live apart from the Creator’s sacred oversight. Neglecting God’s words, they lost sight of him. And the death spiral began. They became afraid. So they ran and hid themselves (Genesis 3:1-11).

But the Lord of grace pursued them. Immediately, he provided a sacrifice to cover their shame. He restored their relationship to him, so they could again walk with him—in his presence—by faith, and according to his word.

And so it must be for you and me.

We come to know the Lord through the saving knowledge of the gospel. We embrace Jesus as our sin-bearing Savior, and begin a new life, as new creations, under God’s sacred oversight (2 Corinthians 5:17). Still, however, we are tempted to live without his words.

But we cannot.

This is what the Son of God says…to the devil.

Again, the same devil tempts a man to ignore the word of God. But this time it’s not just any man; it’s the Second Adam from above. Jesus responds to the temptation by throwing Scripture back at Satan. “It is written,” he says, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” First directed at Satan, these words are meant for all of us—even you.

Your physical body might be able to survive on physical food alone. Your brain will continue to function, your heart will keep pumping blood. But you won’t really be alive. Alive unto God, that is. Your soul cannot really live without spiritual bread, without “every word that comes from the mouth of God.” If you haven’t realized this yet, you must. Your spirit cannot thrive without Scripture. It is the soul-satisfying food your heart should delight in (Psalm 119:16, 77).

My friend, I don’t want you to merely survive your time of suffering. I want you to thrive.

(Full disclosure: One of my goals for this blog is to get you into the Bible daily. Is it working?)

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April 2, 2019
by Paul Tautges
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Please Pray for My Writing

Dear reader: Thank you for reading this blog. It’s humbling to me that you would use up a few minutes of your day to do so. Blogging is a joy to me for many reasons. Here are two:

First, writing is a necessary discipline for my own progress in the Christian life. I learned this many years ago. I write in order to process my thoughts and wrestle with what the Spirit is teaching me through the Word. I actually cannot live without writing.

Second, I write because I want to help you grow in grace (2 Pet. 3:18). Back in the late 1980s, through creating a study guide for the church we helped to plant in Kansas, I fell in love with the book of Colossians. Specifically, the Lord captured me with Colossians 1:28-29 as my “life verses.” They captured for me the essence of what I believe the Lord wants me to do with my life.


Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

Writing to encourage you helps me to think that perhaps I may be used by the Lord to help you grow to maturity in Christ.

As it happens, however, there are times my blog writing morphs into something more. So, I say all of that to say, will you pray for me? I have two book manuscript deadlines that I’m working to meet. One is a devotional on grief and loss. You may have guessed that already, since so many of my recent posts are on that topic. Please ask the Lord to fill me with energy, clarity of mind, and warmth of heart.

Thanks for your prayers.

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April 2, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Jesus Is An Understanding Priest

Jesus Is An Understanding Priest

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Genuine sympathizers are not a dime a dozen; they are hard to find. They are rare, like expensive jewels. But this is exactly what we need when we hurt. What a priceless treasure it is, then, to have a Savior who is the most loving, understanding, and compassionate priest of all!

What sets Jesus apart from all other human priests, both in Bible times and today, is that he is both the priest and the sacrifice. He is the only priest who never needed to make atonement for his own sin, but only for the sins of others (Hebrews 7:27). Therefore, Jesus alone is qualified to offer himself as the last and best High Priest, the full and final sacrifice for sin—once for all—never to be repeated again.

More than that, while he lived in this fallen world he faced every temptation known to man, and still fulfilled God’s law “without sin.” He is a high priest who truly understands what you fight each and every day. He knows your joys and your sorrows. He knows your losses and your victories. He knows you better than you even know yourself. He will help you.

This is good news. Jesus, the Son of God who “has passed through the heavens” now sits at the right hand of God (Hebrews 4:14; 10:12). As the ascended High Priest, he sits with power and authority. Power to heal. Authority to forgive. Power over sin and death. And authority to grant personal access to the very throne room of God. Every need you have can be brought directly to God through him.

It is important to be reminded of these fundamental truths, since loss has a way of enabling fear and grief to erode the edges of our faith. When this occurs, it is more important than ever for us to “hold fast our confession” of faith. We persevere through the valleys of sorrow and pain by strengthening the grip of our faith on the immovable mountain of God.

Since Jesus is our priest, “all the promises of God find their Yes in him” (1 Corinthians 1:20). Promises like this one:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.

(Psalm 121:1-3)

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April 1, 2019
by Paul Tautges
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Continue in Prayer

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)

Maybe you always know how to pray. I don’t. There are times I can’t find words. Times I can’t seem to articulate my needs to God, especially in times of grief and loss. But at the same time, I want to obey the apostle’s command to “continue steadfastly” and be “watchful” in prayer, and consciously thankful.

When I sense this is the case, I lean on others. Sometimes I pray through one of the Psalms, making the words my own. Or I thoughtfully pray another person’s prayer, like one from Valley of Vision.[1] Or I ask a spiritual friend to pray with me, and for me. When I practice any of these, I am helped. My spirit is strengthened. Peace and joy return. Today, I want to do that for you.

Pray something like this…

God of all comfort, who comforts your children in times of affliction, comfort me. Nurse me with your grace. Heal the ache that gnaws at my heart. Help me remember Jesus and his incomparable suffering, so that I will run to him as my faithful and empathetic High Priest (Hebrews 4:15).

God of peace, guard my mind in this time of confusion and transition (Philippians 4:6-7). Help me to daily bring to you the innumerable questions and “what ifs” which swirl in my mind. Thank you for Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who has the power to calm any storm (Mark 4:39).

God of justice and righteousness, steady my mind with the understanding that you know all things, which includes the state of the souls of my loved ones. Aid me in prioritizing my own relationship with you, and to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you, my God (Micah 6:8).

God of mercy and grace, help me to be aware of your presence as you walk with me through this valley of sorrow (Psalm 23:4). Today, help me realize you have already filled my soul’s pantry with a fresh supply of grace-gifts, mercies which are new this morning (Lamentations 3:23).

God of truth, increase my appetite for your Word, as my daily bread, so that my hurting, sometimes-doubting heart will feed on your faithful promises (Matthew 4:4). Lead me to the streams of living water which flow from Christ who says, “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14).

On days when I don’t know how to pray, help me to rely upon the Holy Spirit to pray for me “according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Amen.


[1] Arthur Bennett, Ed., Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1975).

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March 29, 2019
by Paul Tautges
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Bringing Refreshment to Others

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains…(2 Timothy 1:16)

Have you experienced the power of encouragement in a time of loss or abandonment? I remember many times over the years when God provided a faithful believer who was others-focused, who came alongside to strengthen my hands for his work.

The apostle Paul had such a man by his side. He is one of the lesser-known servants in the biblical record. His name says it all. Onesiphorus means “profit bringer,” and that is exactly what he was. As Paul sat in a Roman prison, and thought about the last words he would pen under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the name of his faithful friend could not help but come to mind.

As a preacher of the biblical gospel and the whole counsel of God, Paul was accustomed to abandonment. Like Jesus, he had many people who wanted to come along for the ride, but when commitment to the ways of God and the Word of God meant discomfort and even persecution, the crowd departed and he was left with a faithful few. Onesiphorus was among the faithful few. He stood in direct contrast to those mentioned in the preceding verse, who had “turned away” from the apostle (2 Timothy 1:15).

Onesiphorus “often refreshed” Paul. This is the only occurrence of the word refreshed in the New Testament. It paints a picture of one who provides a cool refreshing breeze for one about to faint.

The next verse says that when “he arrived in Rome, he searched for me earnestly and found me” (2 Timothy 1:17). Onesiphorus did not sit around waiting for opportunities to serve. As soon as he learned of a need he acted on it, even if it meant searching a Roman prison to find his brother in the Lord. Being a faithful encourager requires initiative. It involves searching out ways to refresh other believers, even if it means personal sacrifice or inconvenience. The refreshing example of Onesiphorus is worthy of imitation.

Sometimes when we are grieving deep loss we unintentionally turn too far inward. Sometimes we nurse our own hurts for too long, or at the expense of noticing the needs of others who are also hurting.

Is there someone you can refresh today?

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March 28, 2019
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Feed Your Soul More than Leftovers

Feed Your Soul More than Leftovers

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentation 3:22-23)

As a child, I didn’t mind eating leftovers. Mom’s spaghetti or chili tasted even better after a day in the refrigerator. Now I enjoy leftovers even more, since they help to stretch our family’s food budget. But I can’t eat leftovers every day. New, fresh food is required to maintain good health.

The same is true for my soul…and yours.

Yesterday’s promises are good and helpful, but something more is needed to nourish a thriving relationship with the Lord. Your soul also needs new mercies from God, which he provides every morning. It was this way for Jeremiah, as he grieved the loss of God’s city.

The prophet wrote the book of Lamentations after Jerusalem had been destroyed by God’s enemies. We might imagine Jeremiah sitting on a hillside, quill-in-hand, overcome with grief as he watches smoke rise from the rubble, remembering the city’s former glory. Though Judah’s loss was a result of their own neglect of God’s Word, the manner in which the prophet brought his grief to the Lord provides a beautiful example for us to follow regardless of how loss enters our lives.

The prophet begins by humbly bringing his despair to God in prayer. Then he deliberately remembers the unchanging character of God. This, in turn, leads to spiritual refreshment and renewed worship. The two verses at the top of the page are the turning point of Jeremiah’s lament.

Read them again.

The prophet rooted his hope in the unchanging character of God: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” In the verse preceding this, he reveals to us that this (the steadfast love of the Lord) is what he chooses to “call to mind,” which becomes the reason he can then say, “I have hope” (v. 21).

The steadfast love of the Lord is sometimes translated “the Lord’s lovingkindnesses,” from the plural form of the Hebrew word chesed. It’s used 250 times in the Old Testament, and is almost untranslatable to English. It includes nuances of loyal love, faithful mercy, unfailing love, and kindness. In the Old Testament, it’s the closest equivalent to the New Testament concept of grace. “His mercies” are related to the Hebrew word for womb, and communicate tender care and affection. Yahweh’s grace and tender care never come to an end. They never fail. Never cease.

They are new every morning.

This means when you woke up this morning there was a fresh supply waiting for you. Just like God provided his people with manna every morning for forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35; Nehemiah 9:20–21), so you woke up to fresh mercies for today.

Say to God, “Great is your faithfulness.”

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