Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

November 8, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Invisible Hand of Providence

The Invisible Hand of Providence

One of the lesser known Jewish holidays reminds us of the big picture of God’s redemption plan. It’s called the Feast of Purim, and is inaugurated at the end of the book of Esther. Purim literally means “lots” and gets its name from the way the wicked Haman cast lots to determine the date he would carry out his plan to annihilate the Jews. The Feast of Purim commemorates the saving of the Jewish people, once again, from Satan who is known as the Destroyer.

That’s really what’s behind the book of Esther. There’s a war going on between Satan and God.

When God cursed the serpent in the garden, He promised that the seed of the woman would one day come to crush the serpent’s head. And so, since then, Satan’s been trying to sever the human line that would fulfill the promise. Through murder, through rebellion, through famine and slavery. Through dividing the kingdom. Through Saul’s attempts to murder David. Through Joseph’s brothers’ hatred. And on and on it goes.

The redemption story in Esther is similar to the true story of God saving His chosen people through the suffering and elevation of Joseph. But it is different in that God’s involvement is kept hidden in the background. The Book of Esther is unique in that way: It is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God by name. Yet His invisible hand is seen on every page. Even a casual reading of it reveals there is no such thing as a coincidence, or chance.

The book’s events silently support the claims of other Scripture; that is, that God is sovereign. As the sovereign one, He is directing all things toward the fulfillment of His master plan. The events of the book of Esther take place at the same time as the Jewish exile, but in the kingdom of Persia.

The Book of Esther reveals how God’s hand of providence governs 4 areas of our lives…

  1. The demotion and elevation of political leaders.
  2. The timing of seemingly insignificant events.
  3. The reward of the righteous, and the punishment of the wicked.
  4. The reversal of Satan’s evil plans against God’s people.

The Book of Esther is not only historical. It’s also a prelude to the victorious work of Jesus Christ. It’s a precursor to the ultimate reversal of Satan’s evil plans. What Satan means to destroy, God means to redeem and restore. What man means for evil, God means for good and His glory. This is the triumph of God’s sovereignty which the apostle Peter speaks of in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-24).

The triumph in the book of Esther points us to the triumph of Jesus over sin and death.

  • So, when you are confused or discouraged….
  • When you fear the outcome of wicked politicians…
  • When you doubt God’s timing…
  • When you struggle with seeing unbelievers prosper more than you…
  • When Satan appears to be winning the war…

Remember the invisible hand of God is at work—behind the scenes—but He will make His presence known. He will come out from behind the curtain at just the right time. Trust Him.

You can watch or listen to the sermon here.

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November 6, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on “Tying the Knot” Is Still My Top Choice for Premarital Counseling

“Tying the Knot” Is Still My Top Choice for Premarital Counseling

This morning, I met with an engaged couple for the fourth of our eight sessions of premarital counseling. Again, I was reminded of why I switched to Rob Green’s guide, Tying the Knot: A Premarital Guide to a Strong & Lasting Marriage, a couple years ago–and why it is our church’s preferred resource.

As one who has been involved in Christian ministry for almost 30 years, I’ve seen my share of Christian marriages that are Christian in name only. At first glance they appear to be authentically Christian, but soon reveal that Jesus is not actually the center of them. Instead, the wife or husband is the center. Tying the Knot gently dismantles self-centered imitations of Christian marriage. It’s not a book about affirming the modern notion that marriage is to help me be a better me. Instead, it’s all about placing and keeping Jesus at the center of life and marriage. For example, in the first chapter, Green writes to the engaged couple:

Each of you was designed by God to love him first. When you function according to your purpose, you function at maximum capacity. But when Jesus is not at the center, you become like a pair of pliers trying to embed a nail in a piece of wood.

The book’s Table of Contents lives up to this call to place Jesus at the center of every part of marriage.

  • Chapter 1: Jesus Must Be the Center of Your Life (Yes, even before marriage)
  • Chapter 2: Love with Jesus at the Center
  • Chapter 3: Problem Solving with Jesus as the Center
  • Chapter 4: Roles and Expectations with Jesus as the Center
  • Chapter 5: Communication with Jesus as the Center
  • Chapter 6: Finances with Jesus as the Center
  • Chapter 8: Intimacy with Jesus as the Center

If you are looking for a sound resource for engaged couples to read and discuss, check out Tying the Knot. By the way, I’ve also recommended it to couples who have been married for some time, but need a refresher.

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November 5, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Disability Glorifies God

On September 30th, my wife and I had the opportunity to be part of Disability Sunday at Kindred Community Church in Anaheim Hills, CA. Perhaps you may have use for this video in your one-another ministry to others, or in training those who serve in your church’s disability ministry.

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October 25, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Relax in God

Relax in God

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.  (Ps. 46:10-11)

Replacing anxiety with peace involves a choice. We must stop being anxious. We must quiet ourselves. We must deliberately shift the focal point of our attention. Inner peace doesn’t simply happen to us while we are being passive. Our will must be actively engaged. God makes this clear when he says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still” may also be translated “Cease striving” (NASB). The Hebrew word translated “cease” means to sink or relax. And “striving” is a term that typically refers to warfare. Therefore, God’s admonition may be stated this way: “Be at peace. Relax. I am God. You are not. I am the conqueror. I am Lord of all the earth. And I am all of this…for your personal safety.” It is this warrior imagery that stirred Martin Luther to write the hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, which begins this way: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.” God is our fortress; he is a military stronghold, an impenetrable building where we can run to hide. He is our bulwark; he is a stockade, a wall of defense against earthly and spiritual enemies.

The theme of finding shelter in God permeates Psalm 46. Truly he is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v. 1). “Therefore [because verse 1 is true] we will not fear…” (v. 2). But the psalmist also reveals how we plug into a real-time sense of God’s safekeeping power. When we feel our lives are in an upheaval, we can experience God’s peace by remembering his powerful deeds. “Come, behold the works of the Lord,” is how he counsels us (v. 8).

The way to “be still,” God says, is by knowing and trusting him. It’s by truly believing he is who he says he is. He is God. He is sovereign. He is in control. We are not. Therefore, we can rest. We can relax in heart, soul, mind, and body. The more we behold the works of the Lord (consciously meditate on them), the more confident we become. God is saying to us, “Stop worrying! I will get the victory. Stop acting as if this is your battle. Relax. Rest in Me. Not only am I the God of the universe, but I am your God. I will be your peace.” The psalm ends by repeating a key truth: “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” God’s presence is real. He is not far away. He is with us in all our trials, griefs, life changes, and anxieties. He is very near to us.

Anxiety hinders our faith, and clouds our focus. It disables us. It doesn’t want us to see the good works of the Lord. But we can put an end to worry by relaxing in God, by replacing our fears about tomorrow with confidence in the one who is in control today. We must remember the great works God has done—not only in the earth, but in our own lives. Chiefly, let us remember his greatest accomplishment: the redemption of our souls through the work of his Son!

  • Reflect: Resting in God involves pondering the many ways he has providentially cared for us, satisfied our needs, and demonstrated his power, love, and grace. What are some of the ways you have seen God’s faithfulness at work over the course of your life?
  • Act: Begin a “Works of God” section in your journal. List as many of these works as you can think of, leaving a few extra pages so that you can return to add more.

[UPDATE: Back in August, I asked you to pray for me, since I was in the early chapters of a new writing project. Thank you for praying and, if you will, please continue. Today’s post is another chapter from that upcoming book. I am less than a week away from completing this 31-day devotional, which is part of a new series from P&R Publishing. I will let you know when it releases (sometime next year). Again, thanks for praying!]

Read another recent post on anxiety.

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October 22, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on A Gatekeeper for Your Anxious Heart

A Gatekeeper for Your Anxious Heart

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

God wants us to bring everything to Him in prayer because we need the humility and dependence that prayer effects in us. As a result of prayer, the peace of God protects our hearts and minds from fear. God’s peace commands anxious thoughts to leave and prevents new ones from entering. This inner peace has three qualities. 

Read the rest of my post here at the BCC website.

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October 18, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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Our Journey Home from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse

It’s hard for me to imagine something more horrific than the sexual abuse of children. Yet every one of our churches contains precious men and women who have experienced this abuse and, therefore, are in need of our compassionate ministry of grace. Because this need is so great, I am pleased to inform you of a new book/workbook written by two women who have been there. With grace and truth, Sue Nicewander and Maria Brookins bring the hope of the gospel into shattered lives. The authors share why they created this discipleship resource.

Treasure in the Ashes has been written because we are heartbroken by the number of women and men in our churches who suffer silently. For so many of us, the silence is deafening. Our hearts’ desire is that Treasure in the Ashes will be a voice of hope for those who suffer (whom we call learning friends) and a means of equipping those who want to help (whom we call leading friends). This study is a way for local churches and Christian friendships to become places of refuge and healing as we learn to bear one another’s burdens, not just emotion-ally, but purposefully.

We chose the subtitle Our Journey Home from the Ruins of Sexual Abuse for a few very special reasons.
Our: We are walking together in unity and faith as God leads us (Psalm 133, Galatians 2:20, and Titus 2). We are
not alone.
Journey: Life is a process of learning and growing (Psalm 23). We are pilgrims here, called to fix our eyes on Jesus as we travel through this life (Philippians 3:20).
Home: Home is a beautiful place of peace and safety in the presence of our good and merciful God, where we belong now and for all eternity (John 14:1–3, 23).

Treasure in the Ashes has been designed with the one-another relationships of the Bible in mind because we believe that hope and healing are found with God and his people. “Bear one another’s burdens,” Galatians 6:2 states, “and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up [her] companion….And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Here’s my endorsement:

Treasure in the Ashes is an instrument of healing grace. Whether you are a victim or one called to help those who have been abused, this Christ-centered, Scripture-saturated, grace-infused labor of love will wisely lead you through a painful past to the compassionate heart of the Savior.”

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October 16, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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HELP! I Have Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Therefore, I want to bring to your attention a unique mini-book for every woman, HELP! I Have Breast Cancer, by Brenda Frields.

One of the beauties of God’s wisdom is the way he uses our trials to equip us to counsel one another—just as it says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. As a result, many times the best counselors are those who’ve “been there.” When we encounter various trials it is a comfort to know there are others who not only care, but also understand and, therefore, can truly empathize with our struggle. That’s why, as a male counselor, I’m excited to make you aware of a counseling mini-book for women. By being transparent about her own battle, and the fears that accompanied it, empathetic author Brenda Frields comes alongside frightened women to bring them comfort and hope:

“How did you react when you got the news? Even though I had entertained the thought that my biopsy would be positive, I still wasn’t ready when it turned out to be a fact. The words just seemed to hang suspended in space when my husband told me. Everything he said seemed muddled and fuzzy, almost as if spoken somewhere off in the distance. To be honest, I can’t tell you what he said after he said the word ‘positive.’ I knew that meant I had cancer. What about you?

  • Are you full of fear?
  • Are you in denial, trying desperately not to believe what you’ve been told?
  • Are you depressed?
  • Are you angry?

Angry, that was me! I wondered if God realized I had four very young grandchildren, all between the ages of four years and three months? Their moms needed my help, and, to be honest, I wanted to live to see them grow up. Didn’t God know that my sweet mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s and needed me to help care for her? What about my husband? His job was very demanding. I didn’t want to be the one to add stress to his life. Besides, I had always planned that we would grow old together. I was ashamed of my initial thoughts because I really did know that none of this came as a surprise to God, and I knew I should be trusting him.”

If you know a woman battling breast cancer be sure to give her the gift of an empathetic counselor, another woman who truly understands. Give her the biblical counsel found in HELP! I Have Breast Cancer.

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October 15, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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The Dirty Dozen of Unbiblical Parenting

*This is the fourth, and final, post from Counsel with Confidence by Joel James.

In family counseling, you will encounter many unbiblical approaches to parenting. Some common ones to keep your eyes open for are listed below.

  1. Permissiveness. Parents who follow this strategy never tell their children No, Stop, or Don’t do that.
  2. Antagonist. Every conversation with their children turns into a battle. By the teen years, the battle usually goes nuclear.
  3. Positivist. Everything is directed toward building the child’s self-esteem. As a result, the child is entertained or coddled out of sinful behaviors and attitudes, rather than disciplined out of them.
  4. Behaviorist. External politeness, success, and conformity to social standards are good enough; there is no concern for the heart.
  5. Distracted parenting. A total lack of strategy due to parental busyness.
  6. Delegation. The parents believe that it is the responsibility of the church, the day care, or the school to raise their children.
  7. Pharmaceutical parenting. Medication replaces discipline.
  8. Quality time. The parents try to bribe their kids with a few fun outings amidst general neglect.
  9. Activity-driven parenting. The child is compelled to enter every club, concert, and contest available.
  10. Emergency parenting. The parents take action only when things get really bad, but then their efforts diminish again as soon as the crisis dies down.
  11. Decibel discipline. The child thinks: I don’t have to obey; Mommy isn’t using her angry voice yet.
  12. Throw up your hands in despair. The child runs the home due to parental exhaustion. The war is over; the child has won; and a three-foot-tall army of occupation runs the home.

Counsel with Confidence is available here.

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October 10, 2018
by Paul Tautges
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10 Enduring Qualities of Scripture

This week, I’ve been blogging about a new resource from Joel James entitled Counsel with Confidence. The following is drawn from the third chapter, “Sufficiency of Scripture.” A sound theology of Scripture includes a recognition of ten enduring qualities of Scripture.

  1. Inspired (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is utterly unique because God is its ultimate Author.
  2. True (Ps. 119:128, 142, 160; John 17:17). God knows everything and He never lies. Therefore, the Bible is absolutely true, categorically distinguishing it from any merely human book.
  3. Unchanging (Ps. 119:89, 160). There are over 250 different registered forms of psychoanalysis, and they consistently and vehemently disagree with one another in theory and practice. In contrast to the erratic, conflicting, and transient ideas of men, God’s Word, standards, and counsel are gloriously unchanging.
  4. Insightful (Ps. 119:99-100; Isa. 8:20). No man or woman has more insight than God. Since the Bible is incomparably insightful, integrating it with human systems of psychology will always be a process of dilution, not enhancement.
  5. Practical (Ps. 119:105). God’s Word is not a book of theoretical or arcane philosophical musings, mutterings, and meditations. It deals in a highly practical manner with the real problems of daily life, as anyone who has read the book of Proverbs can testify.
  6. Effective (Ps. 119:133; John 8:31-32; Rom. 6:17; James 1:21-25). When applied by the Holy Spirit, God’s Word effectively deals with the deepest human problems, including life-dominating sins.
  7. Nourishing (1 Tim. 4:6). For those who are starved emotionally and spiritually, God’s Word provides life-sustaining nourishment. Secular systems cannot nourish Christians’ souls because they fail to direct people to God and Christ (John 6:35).
  8. Surgical (Heb. 4:12-13). One of the accusations frequently raised against the Bible is that the Bible can only deal with counseling problems in a superficial manner. Using the Bible to deal with serious life problems is, allegedly, like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. In contrast, God says that His Word penetrates and lays bare the deepest aspects of a man’s being. Wherever integrationists got the idea that the Bible is a superficial tool for changing man, it wasn’t from the Bible.
  9. Accessible (Deut. 30:8-14). The keys to successful Christian living are not found in an elite, arcane psychological system. The principles that change lives are accessible to believers because the Bible is accessible to believers.
  10. Sufficient (Deut. 30:15-16; Ps. 1:2-3; 2 Peter 1:3; Ps. 119:24; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is completely sufficient to equip Christians for the work of helping people deal with their spiritual and emotional problems.

[Excerpted from Chapter 3 of Counsel with Confidence, a new resource by Joel James.]

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October 9, 2018
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 7 Theological Truths that Guide Biblical Counseling

7 Theological Truths that Guide Biblical Counseling

All counseling must be shaped by the following truths or it is not biblical.

  1. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of biblical change (2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 5:1; 6:16-18; 8:13). The gospel brings spiritual new birth, and it orients, guides, empowers, and dominates all of the Christian life following regeneration (Col. 2:6).
  2. Change is always possible for believers in Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6; Rom. 6:17-18). No Christian is so entrenched in sin, so dominated by his past, genetics, or anything else, that he cannot be changed by the work of the Holy Spirit.
  3. The Word of God applied by the Spirit of God is the primary tool for change (John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Ps. 119:1, 24, 133). Living and active, inerrant, God-revealed, Christ-commended, Spirit-empowered—when it comes to changing people, there is nothing like the Bible.
  4. The heart is the place where real, long-lasting change takes place (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 10:5; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21-23; Matt. 12:34). The heart is where a person thinks, considers, analyzes, evaluates, feels, decides, and chooses—the mission control center of life, the real person on the inside, the inner man. Counseling is about changing a person’s heart or moment-by-moment thinking.
  5. God’s plan for practical daily change is: put off / be renewed / put on (Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8-14). That plan includes the following components: put off, be renewed in your mind, put on true thoughts and righteous acts.
  6. Sanctification is a joint, divine-human effort (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Cor. 15:10). While regeneration, justification, conversion, and glorification are completely the work of God, sanctification is a God-empowered joint effort. Understanding that, biblical counseling avoids the extremes of mystical passivity, on one hand, and legalistic self-reliance on the other.
  7. Sanctification is a corporate project, requiring church life and input from other believers (Rom. 15:14; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 4:15-16; Heb. 10:24-25; Prov. 12:15). True change does not take place in the counseling room, but in the church, as a person is actively involved in both serving and being served by the body of Christ.

[Excerpted from Chapter 1 of Counsel with Confidence, a new resource by Joel James.]

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