Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

November 11, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday – 22 Benefits of Fearing God

Flashback Friday – 22 Benefits of Fearing God

Today’s flashback was originally posted in November 2011.

In my review of some of the “husband books” in my personal library, I was paging through Wayne Mack’s Your Family God’s Way, particularly the chapter entitled “The Maximum Husband and Father.” Mack comments on Psalm 128:1-4.

“This psalm indicates that to be God’s kind of husband and father, you must be a man who fears God (vv. 1-4). An appropriate fear of God will make you an unusual blessing to your wife and children. It will make you attractive to your family. You will become an effective husband and father. The fear of God will be the soil out of which your positive influence will grow and the basic reason your family will arise and call you blessed.”

He then lists many fruits experienced in the life of the godly man, but which surely apply to any believer (male or female) who has a healthy fear of God.

  1. Receive divine instruction concerning the choices they should make (Ps 25:12).
  2. Are prosperous in the most important ways (Ps 25:13; 112:3).
  3. Experience God’s goodness (Ps 31:19).
  4. Are special objects of God’s protection (Ps 31:20).
  5. Have children to whom God shows compassion (Ps 103:11-18).
  6. Have descendants who will be great on the earth in the most important ways (Ps 112:2).
  7. Are motivated to be gracious and generous (Ps 112:4-5).
  8. Will be confident, courageous people (Ps 112:6-8; Prov 14:26).
  9. Will experience contentment (Ps 112:5-6, 9; Prov 19:23).
  10. Will be praying people whose prayers will be heard (Ps 145:19).
  11. Are blessed with wisdom (Prov 1:7; 9:10).
  12. Are teachable and peaceful (Prov 8:13; 14:26; 15:33; Acts 9:31).
  13. Are characterized by integrity and faithfulness (Job 2:3).
  14. Are considerate and kind (Ps 112:4-5).
  15. Are noted for constructive speech (Mal 3:16).
  16. Are patient, hopeful, and genuine (Ps 147:11).
  17. Persevere in doing what is right (Ps 112:3, 5; 2 Cor 7:1).
  18. Work hard, but are not so committed to work that they do not have time for enjoyment (Ps 128:3).
  19. Accept responsibility for their own families and yet are not overly responsible (Ps 128:3).
  20. Are devoted to their families and find them to be a source of great satisfaction (Ps 128:1-4).
  21. Delight in worshipping God (Rev 14:7).
  22. Love the Scripture and order their lives according to God’s commands (Ps 112:1; Eccl 12:13).
Truly, “How blessed is the man who fears the LORD” (Ps 112:1)!

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November 10, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Remedy for Discontentment

The Remedy for Discontentment

Discontentment is the fuel of consumerism. Unless an advertising agency is able to design effective marketing strategies, which feed upon discontentment in its targeted consumers, it will eventually go out of business. Therefore, discontentment is necessary for the existence of some businesses. Not all, of course. Many products and services are essential to our wellbeing, and we are very glad to become aware of their existence so that we may purchase or hire them. But many of the things we spend our money on are not absolute needs. Instead, they are wants, toys, or simple conveniences that make our lives a little bit easier and more pleasant.

Business leaders know this. That’s why they spend considerable amounts of money on advertising. For example, in the U.S. alone, $200 billion will be spent on advertising this year. Worldwide, it will be over $600 billion. A 30-second commercial in the last Super Bowl cost $5 billion. There is much power in advertising. Ad agencies know that an effective commercial leaves us feeling a little bit empty if we do not have the product that was placed before our eyes for a mere ½ minute.

  • It may be a car that we cannot afford, but will—if we drive it—project the image we want people to believe is true about us.
  • Or it may be a new, fancier cell phone that makes our 3-year old smart phone look really dumb.
  • Or it may be the latest diet pill that guarantees to shed 10 pounds of unwanted fat in two weeks without a minute of exercise.

If a commercial fails to produce at least a little feeling of “Oh, I wish I had that” or “I wish I looked like that,” then it has failed. Ad agencies are paid to do one thing: cultivate discontentment in our hearts. Notice, I used the word cultivate, not create. There is no need to create discontentment in our hearts, since it is already there. It is part of our sinful flesh. The Bible calls it covetousness. Covetousness is the “desire to have something for oneself, a craving or passionate desire. Three Hebrew words are translated ‘covet’ in the OT… To covet is to desire inordinately, to place the object of desire before love and devotion to God.”

The NT word refers to an “inordinate desire to have more.” Covetousness is one of the sinful attitudes of the flesh that we are commanded to put off as part of the old man. Colossians 3:5 commands us to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you [including] covetousness, which is idolatry.” Ephesians 5:3 mentions covetousness as one of the sins that is not even to be named among believers. In the Bible, covetousness is pictured as a grave sin that leads to a variety of other sins. This is why discontentment is a fleshly attitude we must fight against.

The danger of discontentment becomes real when the driving force in our lives becomes getting what we do not have, or acquiring what we subconsciously believe will give us joy. If we must have this or that, or this or that, in order to be happy or be fulfilled then we are on a deceptive path to inner peace. Now let me be clear. Covetousness certainly has a relationship with material possessions and riches, but that is not the only area of life where discontentment may be present.

  • You may be discontent with living your life under the radar and, therefore, crave popularity.
  • You may be discontent with being rejected by others and; therefore, work hard now to do whatever it takes to keep your friends—even if it means displeasing God.
  • You may be discontent with being a servant to others and; consequently, desire the power of a high position so that you may one day be the Big Kahuna.
  • You may be discontent with how God made you and, therefore, long to have someone else’s body type, someone else’s hair, someone else’s nose.
  • You may be discontent with your job and; therefore, always have an eye that is wandering, looking out for something better.
  • You may be discontent with discreet service to God and; therefore, find ways to toot your horn so that you make sure others appreciate you.
  • You may be discontent with your marriage, children (or lack of children), your health, or your fill in the blank.

We all have them. We all have our fill-in-the-blanks. We all face the temptation to be discontent, to be dissatisfied with where we are at in life. But at some point, if we are to experience true joy, we must each come to the place where we realize that chasing these things will never satisfy the deepest longing of our heart—the longing that God put there when He created us—which is to be fully at peace with Him and to be continually resting in His providential care.

Discontentment is not always obvious; it can be very subtle. At times, it may seem like a loud and obnoxious craving, but much of the time it is a hidden spirit of unrest—a lack of satisfaction with your status in life or even a secret dissatisfaction with God and His dealings with you. Whether loud or quiet, discontentment subtly leads us away from eternal priorities—leading us to make decisions which are based more on what we want out of the here and now.

Regardless of what our discontentment looks like, or motivates us to do, satisfying the inner cravings of our heart is something only God can do through His Son. A growing relationship with Jesus Christ is the only possession that satisfies, ultimately.

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Finding Contentment in Christ.

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November 4, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on REDEEMING THE GIFT – A Sexuality Conference

REDEEMING THE GIFT – A Sexuality Conference

blog-conf-bannerThere is perhaps no more pressing and critical issue in our culture and in our churches today than sexuality. God has designed us with a good and beautiful drive for marital intimacy, but ever since the fall it has been distorted — especially in recent years. And these destructive cultural morals are creeping into families and churches and are damaging relationships. Too often churches are reluctant to address these matters.

For these reasons, our church is hosting a conference to help bring much-needed biblical clarity to this important and timely topic. You’ll receive valuable guidance and useful resources that will help you navigate these times with courage, hope and wisdom.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

tim challiesTim Challies worships and serves as an elder at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario. He is a book reviewer for WORLD magazine, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and has written several books including The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment, The Next Story, Do More Better, Visual TheologySexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who are Sick of Porn; and HELP! My Kids Are Viewing Pornography! (forthcoming). He writes daily at www.challies.com.  Tim is the husband of Aileen and a father to three children aged 10 to 16.

paul tautges photo smallerPaul Tautges is senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, and author of eight books including Counseling One Another, Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer, Delight in the Word: Biblical Counsel for Everyday Issues, and others. He is also the consulting editor of the LifeLine Mini-Book series from Shepherd Press. Paul is a Fellow with ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors). He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of ten children (three married), and have four grandchildren.

jay younts pub photo 400x400John (Jay) Younts is the author of Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage: a biblical handbook for parents,and other materials on parenting. He is also the Shepherd Press blogger. He has been teaching and speaking on parenting issues for over 30 years.  He serves as a ruling elder at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He and his wife Ruth have five adult children.

WOMEN’S SESSION SPEAKER

bobette-head-shotBobette Hatteberg is the Children’s Ministry Director at Cornerstone Community Church. Bobette and her husband, Scott, have been members of Cornerstone since 1990 where Scott serves as an elder. She is a certified biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and a former music therapist. Bobette directs Cornerstone’s nursery program, children’s Sunday School and various children’s events. She also teaches for Cornerstone’s Motherhood Connection, a ministry for mothers of preschool children, as well as marriage and parenting small groups alongside her husband. Bobette and Scott have two children, Alyssa and Adam.

SESSION TOPICS

  • The Goodness of God’s Original Design
  • The Design Distorted
  • The Internet: Applying God’s Wisdom
  • Everyday Talk about Sexuality
  • Men’s Session: Sexual Detox for Men
  • Women’s Session: Conversations about Womanhood
  • God’s Grace for Sexual Sinners

REGISTRATION

Through January 8, 2016

  • Individual: $30
  • Couple: $50

January 9th and after

  • Individual: $50
  • Couple: $75

For more information, and to register for this crucial and timely conference, click here.

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October 28, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday – God and Politics by Mark Dever

Flashback Friday – God and Politics by Mark Dever

Today’s flashback is from this past February.

In a presidential election year, it is good for us as Christians to think and rethink our relationship to governmental authority and its temporal role in the plan of God. To this end, I recommend to you Mark Dever’s little book, God and Politics: Jesus’ Vision for Society, State and Government. This 55-page easy read is based upon a sermon and, therefore, reads more like a pastoral letter than a book, which I see as a positive. Since it is published by 10 of Those, which intentionally prints small, inexpensive books that are biblical and accessible, church leaders may easily consider gifting it to their congregations. Let me summarize this little book for you.

A Pagan State is a Legitimate State and Christians Are Good for a Nation

The book is both an exposition of Mark 12:13-17, in which context Jesus makes the statement, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The exposition includes a brief biblical theology of human government and the relationship of God’s people to it. In Jesus’ statement, Dever says, Jesus “establishes a biblical theology of government, and He applies it to the new phase in history of God’s people that He was beginning. While it is going too far to say that Jesus’ statement here established a wall of separation between church and state, or made the state secular; I think Jesus’ affirmation of paying taxes to the Roman government does show that even a pagan state is a legitimate state. That was an amazing thing for Him to say.”

Recognizing that God is sovereign over all human government leads Christians to trust Him enough to “usually obey it. Authority by its very nature reflects God….The purpose of all government should be to bless those within the scope of its authority….It is in our nature as Christians to be good citizens, but no earthly kingdom is to be identified as uniquely God’s people.”

Christians Are International

The emphasis on this truth is the greatest strength of this little book. By reminding us of God’s worldwide vision for redemption, and the temporal usefulness of national governments, Dever repeatedly draws us back to the centrality of the gospel. In our trust in God to deal with human governments that do not reflect His character, “Christians are freed from supporting any one particular nation. We are freed to support whatever government there is for whatever land God has called us to live in….Christians are like cockroaches. We can survive anything by the grace of God. We are not dependent on just governments for the gospel going forward….Now, we are an international people, not fundamentally a people of one ethnic group with promises running in one ethnic line.” It is through the church preaching the gospel to all nations that God will accomplish His international purpose to call a people for Himself out of every nation, tongue, tribe, and people (Read Revelation 4-5).

Earthly Authority and Christian Obedience are Both Limited

The authority of human governments is not absolute; God’s authority is. He alone is sovereign. Therefore, when the commands of human authority conflict with the commands God’s Word has placed upon us as believers, we must obey the higher authority. To make this point, Dever shares a bit of history from his own local church.

“Our congregation in Washington DC was begun in 1878 with 18 articles about what we believe to be true. Article 16 says, this, ‘We believe that Civil Government is of Divine Appointment, for the interests and good order of human society; that magistrates are to be prayed for, conscientiously honored and obeyed.’ And you think, good, that is a good biblical statement, but that’s not all. There is one last phrase, ‘Except only in things opposed to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Lord of the conscience and the Prince of the kings of the earth.’”

I recommend God and Politics to you because one of the troubling patterns we see every time there is a presidential election is the confidence and hope that Christians put in human government and leaders. Yes, we should pray and vote and proclaim God’s righteousness. But, in the end, let our daily joy not be dependent upon the wins or defeats of our “favorite candidate.” Let us worship and serve God and hope only in Him. There is a day coming—when the Lord Jesus returns—that earthly government will work the way God intended.

Until then, our calling is to live as good citizens, to recognize that our heavenly citizenship is infinitely more important and valuable than that of this earth, and submit every area of our lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

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October 26, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Think On These Things

Think On These Things

Continuing from yesterday, we need to take heed to the command given to us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Here the apostle commands us to set our mind on that which fits 6 positive qualities. He uses words that were popular in moral philosophy. By doing so, he is demonstrating that—in Christ—the believer’s thinking is now to be different.

Think This Way

These six qualities form a comprehensive and Christ-like pattern to set our minds upon, which in turn will shape the pattern of our lives. According to Psalm 19, there is no more reliable guide for judging our thoughts than Scripture. At the conclusion of his exaltation of Scripture as being the true revelation of God, David prayed:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Therefore, as we work through Paul’s list of qualities of godly thinking, I will first demonstrate to you how the Bible meets all criteria. Then I will strive to apply it to other areas of our life.

Think about what is true in thought, character, and deed. The word true means trustworthy. The Scripture is inspired by God and is; therefore, fully true (2 Tim. 3:16). Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them with the Word, Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). The psalmist testified, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Ps. 119:160).

When our mind is filled with God’s truth then our lips will speak truth, we will be men and women of proven character, and we will honor those who consistently demonstrate they are trustworthy. Let us pray like the psalmist: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11).

Think about what is serious, or worthy of reverence. The word honorable was used in the Greek world to describe what was serious, sublime, dignified, majestic, or august. The adjective was frequently used for divinities and related holy things, for example, the temple, the law, and the Sabbath (P.T. O’Brien).

How do we think reverently about holy things? By thinking according to the Word of God. According to Psalm 119:38, the Scriptures produce reverence in our heart: “Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You.” The more time we spend in God’s Word the more it will lead to reverence.

In other words, you cannot consistently read the Scriptures and be a half-hearted, nominal Christian. God’s Word is alive. When you meditate on Scripture then you encounter the living God. And when you encounter the living God you cannot help but have your thinking changed.

We live in a day in which reverence for God has been virtually lost—both in the world and the church. Too often, lofty reverence of the holy God has been sacrificed on the altar of man-centered entertainment. Some Christians believe reverence is an outdated, Old Testament concept. However, in Hebrews 12:28 we read:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Though this verse is often used in evangelism that was not its original purpose. This warning is written to believers to call them to acceptable worship. God deserves our reverence and awe. The apostle is commanding us to think about things that are reverent, not cheap and frivolous. God forbid that we would become casual with the almighty God!

Think about what is just, or according to God’s standard. The word just refers to that which is according to divine standard, and thus leads to fulfilling our obligations to God and others. God himself is righteous, as Psalm 145:17 testifies: “The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.” God loves justice (Isaiah 61:8).

To think about what is just means to think according to God’s standard. There is only one reliable way to do that, by thinking according to the Word. “Righteous are You, O LORD, and upright are Your judgments” (Ps 119:137).

Think about what is pure, reflecting the holiness of God. Originally, the word pure was used of deity, coming from a verb which meant to stand in awe. Later, this meaning was transferred to purity of character as a moral quality. We live in a world that is immoral; impurity reigns as a dominant quality in our age. But, as believers, we are called to be pure. We are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15). In Philippians 2:14-15, we are called to live purely in this corrupt world.

Proverbs 30:5 says of Scripture: “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him” (HCSB). James says, “The wisdom that comes from Christ is first pure.” Therefore, we must guard our minds by thinking on that which is pure. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Guarding our hearts includes the responsibility to guard our thinking.

Think about what is attractive and agreeable. The word lovely refers to what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Surely the Word of God fits this definition!

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. – Psalm 19:10

First Timothy 2:10 says Christian women are to be known for the godliness of their adornment. Their primary focus is not to be on their exterior appearance, but on the godliness of their heart, their inner person. They are to be adorned with modesty and self-control and with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. Titus 2:10 exhorts employees to be submissive; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. Philippians 4:8 commands us to think about things that are lovely, pleasing in God’s sight.

Think about what is well-sounding, worthy of commendation. Commendable refers to that which sounds good. O’Brien says “the word is used to express ‘what is kind and likely to win people, and avoiding what is likely to give offence.’”

This is an important lesson for us. The message of the cross will be offensive to some unbelievers—God’s Word promises that (1 Cor. 1:18). However, even though our message may at times be offensive, our manner should not be. If the manner in which we converse with others about spiritual matters is offensive then we are more of a hindrance to the Spirit’s work than an aid.

God’s Word and the works it has recorded are most definitely commendable: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Ps 145:4). The more we mature in Christ the more we are able to discern what is commendable; that which is well-sounding. We are called to think on these things. We ought to strive to live in a way in which our lives commend our message; our testimony speaks for itself. In 2 Corinthians 10:6-18, the apostle draws a contrast between people who commend themselves and those who are commended by God; those who let their godliness speak. The more we think about things that are well-sounding the more we will—in the end—be commended by God. According to the apostle, these qualities will ensure that what we think about will be excellent and worthy of praise.

Walk This Way

The more we meditate on the Word of God the more we think on things that are pleasing in His sight. And the more we think on these things the more our lives will begin to follow the pattern of godliness that Scripture lays out for us. This is the natural progression described by the apostle. Too often, Philippians 4:8 is treated in isolation of the verse that follows it. But verse 9 reaffirms that right thinking leads to right living: “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

*This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Think Right, Do Right.

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October 25, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 5 Reasons What We Think Matters

5 Reasons What We Think Matters

Philippians 4:8 is a key verse for every Christian to meditate upon, since it describes what we should meditate upon.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

However, before we get to the what let’s think about the why. Why does it matter how we think? As long as we do right, or do our best to “be good,” does God really care how we think? Think for a moment about 5 reasons our thinking matters to God.

  1. Prior to the new birth, our thinking was futile and our understanding darkened (Eph. 4:17-18). While we were under the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil; our thinking was vain. It was without purpose–from a divine perspective. We were ignorant of godliness because our understanding was held captive in darkness.
  2. At the new birth, we receive the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God (1 Cor. 2:11). You will need to listen to the sermon linked below for a fuller explanation of this Scripture. However, suffice it to say that this is truly amazing and spectacular. Just as you spirit is the only one (besides God, of course) who knows what you are thinking–until you choose to reveal it by your words or actions–the Holy Spirit knows the thoughts of God. That same Spirit dwells within each believer.
  3. Knowing the mind of God—because He is God—the Holy Spirit has revealed the mind of God in the Scriptures and, therefore, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:12-16). those who truly know Christ have all they need to know how to think according to God’s standards. Because the divine author of Scripture now lives within us, as believers in Christ, we have the ability to know the mind of Christ, which is revealed in the Scriptures. The Bible is the mind of God in written form.
  4. As new creatures, we are now called to put off our old self, including old ways of thinking, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds (Eph. 4:22-23). Sanctification is not merely–nor even primarily–interested in outward behavior, but on changing our thinking patterns to match up with God’s Word.
  5. As we renew our minds with the Word of God, our life is transformed, which results in the fulfillment of the will of God (Rom 12:1-2). Transformation of life and change of heart cannot take place without renewal of mind. That is a foundational truth.

As new creatures in Christ, we have every divine resource at our disposable to be able to develop a truly Christian mind. This matters to God. Tomorrow, we will look at 6 positive qualities that the apostle calls us to think upon.

*This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, Think Right, Do Right.

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October 20, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 3

Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 3

In the previous two posts, we took heed to several of God’s commands and admonitions found in Philippians 4:4-7, which are related to the human struggle with anxiety. On Tuesday, we took note of every believer’s obligation to rejoice at all times (v. 4) and our calling to be people who are known for their gentleness (v. 5). Yesterday, we examined in detail the two-fold command to not be anxious about anything, but prayerful about everything. Today, let’s consider the promised result of this life of habitual prayer: inner peace.

As dependent children, we must make our specific requests known to God; we must verbalize our needs to Him while recognizing that confidence in prayer comes from Christ, not from ourselves (1 John 5:15). God knows our needs, but there are many times He will not meet them apart from prayer. He is absolutely sovereign, but in His sovereignty God has also ordained that some things not happen until we pray.

3 CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PROMISED INNER PEACE

What will be the result of this kind of prayer? The peace of God will take control of our heart and mind, forcing anxious thoughts to leave and keeping new ones from entering in. This peace comes through prayer and has three characteristics.

  • This inner peace is an indescribable calm. First, it is a calm that defies description, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension.” It cannot be fully understood. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Jesus offers an indescribable calm in place of our fears. Many times, as it is with me, this peace does not come until I seek out other believers to pray with. Brother or sister, if you battle anxiety you need to find a regular prayer partner or share your need with your small group. And brother or sister, if your spiritual friend struggles with anxiety then reach out to them for the purpose of coming alongside them to pray with them. One of the most devastating things I have ever encountered in my Christian life was when I asked several men to come pray with me on a regular basis, but not one of them thought it was important. This lack of biblical love led to deep disillusionment. The good that’s come out of my experience; however, is that I now regularly hear from others that my commitment to pray with them is a profound help to them. Friend, be a wise and good counselor. Pray, pray, pray with your spiritual friends who are struggling; make time for them.
  • This inner peace protects emotional and mental stability. The second characteristic of this peace is that it protects emotional and mental stability. It “shall guard your hearts and your minds.” The word guard is a military word that paints a comforting picture. It refers to a garrison of soldiers on duty. When we pray, God dispatches a whole garrison of soldiers to surround our heart and protect it from anxious thoughts and worries, thus keeping them from disturbing our peace and; therefore, preserving our mental health. This reminds us of a wonderful promise in our older Testament: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
  • This inner peace uniquely belongs to believers. The third characteristic of this peace is that it uniquely belongs to those who are “in Christ Jesus.” In other words, this indescribable calm cannot be experienced by the unsaved person because it is only found in Christ. Let me say it another way: If you are not at peace with God then you will never experience the peace of God. Being at peace with God means that you know in your heart that your sins have justly been dealt with on the Cross of Calvary and you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your crucified and risen Lord and Savior. He is the One who has made peace with God for you. He is your one and only Mediator. “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Are you at peace with God? If not, you will never experience the peace of God to overcome anxiety. This peace is in Christ. Turn to Him today in repentance and faith.

If you are already saved by Christ then rest in the peace that He has already provided. Remember His promise: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

3 KEY LESSONS

So what has the Holy Spirit taught us these past few days?

  1. First, we are commanded to rejoice. This joy is a choice of the mind and will. It is an affection of the heart that comes to those who are in Christ. Therefore, when we are walking in the Spirit we can overcome any fears we may have, and not allow our circumstances to control our emotions.
  2. Second, as followers of Christ we should be known for our gentleness and meekness. Being angry and hateful makes the gospel look ugly. Let us be sure our demeanor makes the gospel attractive.
  3. Finally, as we learn to cast all our cares upon God in prayer His peace will force anxiety out of our mind and heart, leaving no room to be consumed with worry. God-dependent prayer is a key element in the divine remedy for anxiety.

Go to Him in prayer and let Him send His peace to set up a guard around your heart that says to worry, “You are no longer allowed entrance. Do not disturb the peace.”

**This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, which you may listen to here.

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October 19, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 2

Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 2

In Philippians 4:6-7, we find additional help for our soul’s battle with anxiety, specifically the divine help that comes as a result of prayer. Yesterday, we took heed to God’s command to rejoice at all times (v. 4) and put on the character quality of gentleness (v. 5). Today, we need to take heed to God’s command to be anxious about nothing, but prayerful about everything.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

You may have noticed that the command to not be anxious is preceded by a direct promise of the nearness of the Lord and the surety of His return (which the apostle called our attention to, earlier, at the end of the third chapter). What a wonderful promise in our times of anxiety and an incentive to pray! God promises that His peace will take control of our hearts and protect us from anxiety as a direct result of prayer. The text reveals two steps for attacking anxiety when it attacks you.

Worry about nothing (6a).

Verse six commands, “Be anxious for nothing.” The noun form of anxious, or “care,” is probably connected with merizo, which means to draw in different directions or distract. The verb “to be anxious” means, therefore, to have a distracting care. Anxiety divides our mind and heart causing us to feel and sometimes even appear to be double-minded. At heart level, anxiety is fundamentally a form of fear which is often rooted in unbelief. Since the Lord is near and trustworthy, the apostle commands us to be anxious about nothing—nothing in our present, our future, or even our past.

Can a person really be consumed with worrying about their past? For sure. It is called regret. Martyn Llloyd-Jones, who was a medical physician before God called him to be a pastor, wrote about this in his helpful book entitled Spiritual Depression. “Let us then lay this down as a principle. We must never for a second worry about anything that cannot be affected or changed by us. It is a waste of energy…You can sit down and be miserable and you can go round and round in circles of regret for the rest of your life but it will make no difference to what you have done.”

Sometimes we waste time and energy worrying about our past failures. Or we may be anxious about our present circumstances or needs. Or we may fear what the future may hold—or not hold—for us.

Though the word anxious is used in a positive sense in Scripture, of legitimate life concerns, most often it is used in a negative sense. One key example is the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34, where it is used five times to confront the worrier’s lack of faith, or fear of the lack of God’s provision. Take a moment to read this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, taking special note of three causes of anxiety which Jesus exposes: life’s cares, which God has promised to provide (vv. 25-34); lack of faith (v. 30); and worldly priorities (vv. 32-33). Much of our anxiety may be traced back to fretting over things that are beyond our control, but are rather under God’s control. Anxiety may also arise from immature faith and discontentment.

So, perhaps you are wondering, does this mean I should live an irresponsible life and just expect manna to fall from heaven every morning? Well, no. We are called to be faithful and responsible. But we can also take that too far. Psalm 127:2 warns us, It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep. In other words, we must not worry about what is not ours to worry about; that is, God’s promised care and the responsibilities of others. We must do what God has commanded us to do and rest in His promise to care for us.
Be anxious for nothing. That is step one in God’s answer for anxiety. Step two is to pray about everything.

Pray about everything (6b-7).

The second part of verse six commands, “But in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

We are instructed to worry about nothing and pray about everything. Paul uses four different words to explain what he means by praying about everything. This describes the four ways we should pray.

  • Invoke God as the One whom you worship. The word prayer refers to calling upon the One whom you worship. In other words, prayer is part of worship. The more you pray, the more you worship God, which in turn leads to more prayer. The more you worry, the more you are really worshipping the idols of your heart. Instead, worship God. Trust Him (Psalm 27:7-8). Invoke God as the One whom you worship. Seek His face. Cry to Him in prayer.
  • Cry out to Him in your time of need. The second way to pray about everything is to cry out to Him in your time of need because He is the One who cares. “But in everything by prayer and supplication.” The word supplication implies that a real need is present. In other words, this kind of prayer is provoked by the realization that you are lacking something essential. In prayer we say, “Father, this is my need. I bring it to You.” We do this not because He is unaware, but because we need to acknowledge our dependence upon Him. Prayer is an act of submission, dependence, and worship. When we pray we admit our helplessness (Psalm 28:2; 39:12).
  • Always be thankful. Thirdly, Paul says we ought to pray with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving should be the heart’s posture of the believer. In other words, we pray to God while being thankful, while living with the attitude of gratitude. This is a key element in attacking anxiety before it attacks you. When you become anxious, do you immediately pray? When overtaken by fear, who is the first person you turn to? What can you thank God for—no matter what the need of your heart or your current trial?
  • Verbalize your specific needs. Fourth, “let your [specific] requests be made known to God.” Again, we need to make our requests known to God not because He needs more information, but because we need Him. We need the humility that prayer effects in us. Therefore, make your specific requests known to God. Verbalize them to Him while recognizing that confidence in prayer comes from Christ, not from yourself. God knows our needs, but there are many times He will not meet them apart from prayer. He is absolutely sovereign, but in His sovereignty God has also ordained that some things not happen until we pray.

What will be the result of this kind of prayer? The peace of God will take control of your heart and mind, forcing anxious thoughts to leave and keeping new ones from entering in. The peace that comes through prayer has three characteristics: it is an indescribable calm, it protects our emotional and mental stability, and it uniquely belongs to believers. We’ll consider these three characteristics in detail tomorrow.

This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, which you may listen to here.

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October 18, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Ridiculously Good Pre-Publication Offer on 13 New Mini-Books

Ridiculously Good Pre-Publication Offer on 13 New Mini-Books

The good folks at Shepherd Press have informed me of a new pre-publication deal on 13 new LifeLine mini-books. With up to 80% off, depending on quantity ordered, NOW IS THE TIME to stock up on your counseling resources!kids-porn

Titles included in this promotion:

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October 18, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 1

Divine Remedies for Anxiety, Part 1

Anxiety is an aspect of our fallen condition which every one of us battles to one degree or another. Some, like me, may struggle in a significant way at times. But we are not alone. It is estimated that 23 million Americans fight an ongoing battle with anxiety and suffer from “panic attacks,” at least occasionally. Therefore, it is helpful and encouraging to realize just how honestly the Bible addresses this aspect of our human condition, including the synergistic relationship of the body and spirit. That is, in the manner in which God created us there is a mysterious union of body and spirit—soul and flesh—so that each continuously impacts the other.

According to Proverbs 12:25, anxiety can cause mental, emotional, and physical distress. “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad.” Here, the wisdom of Solomon instructs us. Anxiety can be a heavy weight upon the human body and spirit, but words of encouragement bring relief. I wrote on this verse, recently.

Medical physician and biblical counselor, Dr. Robert Smith, writes of the physical impact of anxiety in The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference, “People weighed down with anxiety and cares are much more likely to become ill. And the recovery time for them is much longer: [and then quotes Jay Adams] ‘The effects of worry upon the inner man are serious; literally one can worry himself sick. The picture is of one sinking down into the depths; perhaps this is referring to the kind of fatigue that often accompanies those who worry.’”

Anxiety may at times be connected to disease or other physiological conditions. There is much we do not know. However, from the viewpoint of Scripture anxiety always involves the heart and mind, and that is my realm of care, the realm of pastoral care. God called me to be a pastor, not a medical specialist. The role of the physician is to come alongside the sufferer to minister to the body. My role is that of soul care and, therefore, I leave the medical care to those who are trained for it.

From personal experience, the Lord has taught me in recent years that anxiety, as well as the depressive tendencies that often accompany it, are most often linked to my thought patterns and my response to life circumstances. Often times there are negative ways of thinking that we have unknowingly trained ourselves in throughout our lives. Therefore, regardless of whether or not there is a medical or physical component to our experience of anxiety, the appropriate remedy always includes ministry to our soul. This ongoing soul care involves a minimum of three essential ingredients: Scripture, prayer, and fellowship among believers in the local church. Together these enable us to keep on attacking anxiety as it attacks us.

But how do we cultivate and maintain this inward God-centered perspective? Philippians 4:4-7 helps to answer that question which, in turn, demonstrates how keeping our eyes and affections on the Lord leads to inner peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

From this passage, there are three exhortations we must take heed to, all of which are part of a comprehensive approach to anxiety relief. Today, we will consider the first two exhortations.

Rejoice in the Lord at all times (v. 4).

This admonition begins a new thought or, actually, picks up again a dominant theme in the book—rejoicing. It is the first of several admonitions addressed to the whole congregation in contrast to verses 2 and 3, which were addressed to certain individuals.

But what is joy? What does it mean to rejoice? Joy is a positive human condition that can be either feeling or action. The Bible uses joy in both senses (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible). In other words, in Scripture, joy is both a feeling—an unanticipated emotional response to something wonderful—as well as an action that can be commanded.

Here, in verse 4, it is a command to be obeyed. The joy Paul is speaking of here is a choice of the will. The Lexham Bible Dictionary says joy is “closely related to gladness and happiness, although joy is more a state of being than an emotion; a result of choice. [It is] One of the fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:22–23). Having joy is part of the experience of being a Christian, which is a theme in the book of Philippians (1:18; 2:17-18, 28; 3:1).

Notice three very significant words in verse 4—in the Lord. True joy is found only in Jesus Christ. Joy is not found in our circumstances themselves; we are not even commanded to look to a change of our situation for the return of joy. Ultimate joy is in Christ and our union with Him. In John 15:9-11, we find the following words from Jesus about joy. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Rejoice when? Always. This is the will of God. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:16-18). We are commanded to rejoice. This joy is a choice of the mind and will. It is an affection of the heart that comes to those who are in Christ. Therefore, when we are walking in the Spirit we can overcome any fears we may have and not allow our circumstances to control our emotions.

Let your gentleness be evident to all people (v. 5).

The ESV translates this character quality “reasonableness,” but the word may also be translated: graciousness, consideration, moderation, and gentleness. Gentleness is preeminently a characteristic of Christ. In fact, did you know there is only one time in the New Testament that Jesus describes himself?

Yes, he describes and defends His deity, His divinity in many places. The 10 “I Am” statements are an example.

  • I am the Alpha and Omega
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life
  • I am the bread of life
  • I am the light of the world…and so on…

But there is only one time Jesus describes Himself in personal terms. It is in Matthew 11:28-29.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus describes Himself as gentle and meek and invites us to come to Him for soul rest. Therefore, the gentleness that the apostle is urging the Philippian believers to display is a quality of Christlikeness. As followers of Christ we should be known for our gentleness and meekness. Being angry and hateful makes the gospel look ugly. Let us be conscientious about heeding this admonition so that our demeanor makes the gospel attractive in order that all people—believers and unbelievers—may know us as gentle people.

Though verse 5 is not grammatically connected to the verse before, or the verse after, there is a relationship between gentleness and the peace that anxiety often robs from us. When we are overtaken by anxiety we often become harsh toward others, rather than gentle. Therefore, making a disciplined pursuit of gentleness, as one of the Christ-like qualities to “put on” (Col. 3:12), is also part of a comprehensive approach to relieving anxiety.

Tomorrow, we will consider prayer as another of the means by which God ministers to our anxious minds and hearts.

*Read Part 2

*Read Part 3

LISTEN to the sermon.

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