Counseling One Another

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

Counseling One Another

August 23, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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I Don’t Understand Christians Watching “Game of Thrones” – Two weeks ago, Kevin DeYoung voiced his dismay over the popularity of this HBO show among Christians.

One More Time on the “Game of Thrones” – Yesterday, Kevin DeYoung elaborated further on why he believes God’s call to holiness should lead us away from immorality and toward greater purity. “We are so awash in sensuality that many Christians have no idea how compromised they’ve become.”

Sexuality: God Creates; the World Corrupts – “How do you talk to your kids about sex and sexuality? It can be an uncomfortable subject.

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August 18, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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King David’s Mission Statement

“Nowadays Psalm 101 would be called ‘David’s Mission Statement’. We can picture him at the start of his monarchy setting out the sort of king he intends to be, the ‘court’ he will assemble, and with what objectives he will rule his people. The fact that—in the Bible’s honest way—we know how he failed, does not take away from the fact that this is a noble statement, and one from which every one of us, whether in leadership or simply in the course of influence can draw lessons. We cannot, of course, set about purging society as David vowed (101:8), but we can pray that our leaders will do so: like the old prayer says, ‘the punishment of wickedness and vice and the maintenance of godly living and virtue’. We are, though, often in a position to determine who our close associates will be—or our marriage partners (6-7). One thing, however, is vital—to start where David started.” [Alec Motyer, Psalms By the Day]

So, where did David start? Let’s consider three priorities of this king, as revealed in Psalm 101.

“The Lord will be the center of my thinking” (vv. 1-2a).

David committed himself to sing of God’s steadfast love and justice. He consciously chose to ponder the Lord’s way, and follow it.

“Personal holiness will be my personal goal” (vv. 2b-4).

David longed to “walk with integrity of heart” within his house, refusing to set before his eyes the “worthless” things. He strived to habitually turn away from perversity.

“I will choose my close companions wisely” (vv. 5-8).

David chose to not be close friends with those whose tongues never stop wagging. Instead it was the blameless man who ministered to the king through close friendship. These relationships strengthened his walk with the Lord and his ability to carry out His will. Scripture repeatedly testifies of the influence, both harmful and helpful, of the friends we choose.

All three of these choices made by David are wise personal growth goals for each of us!

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August 16, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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New Online BA Degree from The Master’s University

Over the summer, I’ve been busy with a number of ministry projects which I never looked for, but were brought to me in the Lord’s providence. One of these projects was to design a course entitled The Theological Basis for Biblical Counseling for a new online Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Counseling from The Master’s University. Choosing textbooks, filming videos, and creating assignments have all been parts of the process, and I’m now pleased to be able to tell you about this new degree program.

This degree is designed to equip the Christian adult with the principles and procedures of biblical counseling in order to further prepare them for service in their local church. Grounded in the Word of God and aimed at the building up of the saints, this course of study emphasizes the sufficiency of God’s Word to meet the needs of everyday life. Students will also be prepared for the ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors) exams, to move toward certification if they so desire.

Program-level Learning Outcomes

A graduate from TMC Online BA program in Biblical Counseling should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate the correct application of hermeneutical principles to develop an interpretation of a biblical text including a foundational working knowledge of biblical Greek.
  2. Explain the foundational theological principles of biblical counseling with particular focus on the doctrines of inspiration, inerrancy, and sufficiency of the Scriptures, leading to the ability to biblically interact with and respond to current trends, conceptual approaches, and practices in the counseling field.
  3. Explain from Scripture the role of biblical counseling within the larger work of the church; particularly its relationship to evangelism and discipleship.
  4. Develop a counseling methodology that effectively applies a broad range of relevant biblical passages to counselee issues; in particular core issues of the heart, and understanding the centrality of the gospel as the basis for biblical change that leads to true worship.
  5. Demonstrate a consistent pattern of self-reflection leading to growth in the character qualities necessary for effective biblical counseling.

For more information, list of requirements, and the 16 online courses, for this new online degree program, click here. If this degree interests you, now is the time to apply.

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August 15, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Book of Jonah Is Not About a Man Who Gets Swallowed by a Whale

The Book of Jonah Is Not About a Man Who Gets Swallowed by a Whale

The book of Jonah contains one of the most famous of all Bible stories, which is the historical account of a rebellious prophet who is swallowed by a great fish, gets vomited onto the beach, and then preaches an eight-word sermon to a wicked city and everybody repents. But that’s not primarily what the book is about. Though the provision of a fish large enough to swallow a man, which just happens to swim by as Jonah is thrown into the stormy sea, is a miracle of God, this is not the main point of the book.

Nor is the book of Jonah intended to exhort us to be a good boy and obey God. Sadly, this is the way many children’s Bible story books tell it. Yes, the prophet disobeyed God, suffered the consequences, and eventually did what he was told; but the lesson of Jonah is not “Obey God the first time, because if you don’t you’re going to get into big trouble.” When the story is presented that way it becomes nothing more than an exhortation to moral improvement. Instead of being seen as an example of the triumph of God’s grace over sin, in order to carry out God’s plan of redemption, Jonah becomes nothing more than a moral lesson slightly more valuable than one of Aesop’s Fables.

What, then, is the point of the book?

Why did the Holy Spirit include it in His inspired Scriptures? Though there is more than one theme running alongside others, the truth that overshadows them all is this: God is God. He does whatever He pleases and whatever He does, it is always right. Jonah is a testimony to the truth of Psalm 115:3, But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. God’s unlimited power and sovereign authority appear on every page of the book of Jonah.

In the exercise of His sovereignty in salvation, we also see that God’s love extends to the nations; that is, His plan of redemption includes people of every color and nationality. There is only one race—the human race—and God is reaching even now into all the nations to draw a multi-ethnic, many-colored church—a people recreated for His own pleasure.

The first chapter of Jonah sets the stage for a dramatic display of the sovereign grace of God whose big heart reaches out to the lost. Here we see 6 parts to the story’s beginning.

God’s Directive (vv. 1-2)

God’s directive to the prophet was clear: “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and call out against it.” Jonah’s divinely commanded assignment was to go to a large, wicked city and preach the message of repentance, thus giving the Assyrians the opportunity to turn to God. But Jonah had a problem with that. Jonah was ethno-centric, and believed God was too.

Jonah was a racial bigot. He was filled with ethnic prejudice. He was delighted that Israel was the apple of God’s eye, but was disgusted by the thought that God may show compassion on non-Jewish pagans. Jonah feared God’s heart of compassion would succeed in reaching people outside of his comfort zone. So he ran away from God.

Jonah’s Defiance (vv. 3)

Jonah’s defiance of God’s command could not have been more severe. Clearly, he attempted to flee from the presence of the Lord” (stated 2x). Instead of heading east toward Ninevah, the prophet first went south to the seaport town of Joppa. There he bought a ticket to sail to the western shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The prophet headed straight west—the opposite direction of God’s command. Instead of heading 500 miles east to Ninevah, he got on a ship to get as far away as he could. In the context of our local church, that would be like God saying to one of us here in Cleveland, “Go to New York,” but instead we get an Uber to the airport, and take the first flight to San Francisco.

God’s Discipline (vv. 4-8)

In response to Jonah’s defiance, “the Lord hurled a great wind.” Remember, God is the Lord of the storm, as Steve Lawson writes, “The point is abundantly clear: God controls all events on both a large and small scale, from an immense storm on the Mediterranean Sea to the individual life of one of his servants” (Foundations of Grace, Vol. 1). The sailors became afraid, but where was Jonah? He was fast asleep in the bottom of the ship, oblivious to how his sin affected the people around him. Sadly, this is often the way it is with our sinful choices. At the moment of temptation, the welfare of everyone around us does not matter. It’s all about us.

Jonah’s Declaration (v. 9)

In response to the sailors’ query as to Jonah’s identity, he replied, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord.” Jonah’s key identity marker was his nationality. He was a Hebrew. But Jonah was more than intensely patriotic; he was ethno-centric. In his mind, there was only one people group that should receive the favor of God, the Jews. Only Jews should be God’s people. Jonah’s testimony was true. God is “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This was also a confession. He was sailing away from the God who made the sea.

The Sailors’ Desperation (vv. 10-16)

Read the text and notice how the sailors did everything possible before choosing to throw the guilty one overboard. In the process, the sailors turned in repentance toward the one, true God. What a testimony to how God’s grace continues to triumph over sin!

God’s Design (v. 17)

God “appointed a great fish” to serve His purpose. Some people marvel at this act of God, but it was nothing for Him. According to the Genesis account of creation, it was on the 5th day that God filled the skies and seas with living creatures, even “great sea creatures” (Gen. 1:20-21). It was nothing for the God who created the great sea creatures to simply direct an uber fish to go pick up Jonah. Psalm 135:6 affirms, Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. In the belly of the great fish, God now has Jonah’s undivided attention.


What are some conclusions and applications we can make from Jonah 1?

  • God is sovereign. We are not.
  • God can choose whom He will have mercy upon. If He wants to have mercy on a wicked city then that is his right. If God wants to save someone whom we think should really go to hell, then He can do that.

The true messenger of God does not select his audience. He simply delivers the message to whomever God sends him. He is also not responsible for how people respond to God’s command to repent; he is only responsible to faithfully deliver God’s message. God is in charge.

God sent His Son into the world to fulfill the promise of redemption and bring the good news of His love and grace toward sinners—sinners of every color and nationality. When the Apostle John received the Revelation, he got a glimpse of the throne room of God where a new song was being sung, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The Bible makes it very clear that God will one day receive worship from every ethnic group: “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name” (Psalm 86:9).

Our responsibility is to take the seed of the gospel to the soil of human hearts. It is God’s business to save and forgive sinners. God’s heart for the lost is infinitely bigger than any ethnocentric human prejudice. Let us pray the Lord to make our hearts more like His!

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon, God Does As He Pleases, preached at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]

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August 11, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Counseling Training in Cleveland, Ohio

Are you discontent with the spiritual progress you are making in your walk with Jesus Christ? Have you ever felt ill-equipped to minister the grace and truth of Jesus to others who are experiencing life’s various challenges? Would you like to experience personal growth and be trained to help others grow as disciples of Christ? Then this announcement is for you!

If you live or serve in the Cleveland area, you should consider receiving training in biblical counseling provided by Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights. We believe the Bible is inspired by God and is sufficient to instruct us in living a life that glorifies the Savior, which includes working through our personal and relationship problems.

This training course, Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling, will challenge you personally to grow in your spiritual walk, and it will equip you to minister God’s life-changing Word more effectively to those who are looking for answers. It will help any Christian to be more effective in discipling others in overcoming life’s problems. It will lay the foundation of biblical counseling principles and practices, of marriage and family relationships, and problems frequently encountered in counseling cases. And, for those who are interested in pursuing certification in biblical counseling, it will also meet the Basic Training Course Requirement for Phase One in the certification process through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

The mission of Cornerstone Community Church is to glorify God by making disciples of Jesus Christ, and offers this training at no cost. [Note: you will be required to purchase your own textbooks.] Training classes begin on Tuesday evenings in September. For more information and to register, click here.

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August 9, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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How to Walk into Church

“I suppose it must have happened upwards of 2000 times by now. I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, and amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’ After a quick scan of the seating situation—who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on—I choose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us. And there it is. I’ve walked into church.”

So begins Tony Payne’s really helpful little book, How to Walk into Church. Using the imagery of walking, Tony provides valuable instruction to believers in seven tiny chapters.

  1. How to walk into church.
  2. What is this thing we call ‘church’?
  3. Why am I walking into church?
  4. Before I walk into church.
  5. After I walk into church.
  6. When church finished but doesn’t.
  7. How to walk out of church.

In this blog post, I will simply highlight a few key thoughts.

Pray about where to sit.

In the first chapter, Tony admonishes us to walk into church praying about where to sit. He gives two reasons.

  • First, whenever we pray, we express the bedrock truth that God is the gracious sovereign God, and our lives and purposes are in his hands. “When we pray about where to sit in church, we’re expressing our trust in God for what will happen in church today. We are looking to him and calling upon him as the Lord of the church.
  • Second, we also put ourselves in the right frame of mind toward one another. When we pray about where to sit, “We have started to think about church as being about someone other than me.” When we walk into church, “we come not to spectate or consume, nor even to have our own personal encounter with God. We come to love and to serve.”

Know why you are walking into church.

Some people view the church as an impediment to the Christian life, but the growing believer understands differently.

  • We should gather because we belong together around God. “His whole purpose in Christ is to save and gather his people around himself, and our local churches are the manifestation of that purpose here and now.”
  • We should gather because running the Christian race is hard, and we tend to shrink back from trusting Christ. This makes “constant mutual encouragement and exhortation desperately necessary.” We also need to learn to love one another. Let’s realize that 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, was not written for weddings, but for the church. “Church is not about me. It’s not about the experience I have or what I get out of it. Church is a classic opportunity to love my brothers and sisters who are there, by seeking to build them up in Christ.”

How to Walk into Church is part of the Brief Books series from Matthias Media. The “worship experience” of every believer will be enriched by reading and applying Tony’s counsel. Churches would be strengthened by giving a copy of this little book to every member family.

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August 9, 2017
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS


Do You Regret Your Dating History? – “Does your regret about your dating history lead you to God and away from sin? We will never attain perfection in this life, but forgiven children of God are men and women who increasingly hate their sin and prefer righteousness.”

HELP! I’m Confused about Dating – A wise resource for dating Christians (This mini-book is part of the LifeLine series, for which I serve as editor).

Learning to Talk about Disability – “As a Church, we still have a lot to do, learn, and talk about when it comes to disability. Learning the right language can help us communicate effectively and be more hospitable and welcoming to people with disabilities.”

The Mark of the Most Successful Worship Leaders – “A worship leader serves his congregation best when he chooses songs they can sing and sing well.”

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August 8, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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The Unfailing Love of the Good Shepherd

According to God’s Word, our condition as sinners before God is that we are lost sheep, but God in Jesus Christ has provided the one-and-only way to enter God’s fold and remain under the care of the Good Shepherd (Isaiah 53:6). The tenth chapter of John’s gospel contains two of the seven “I Am’s” of Christ, both of which employ the illustration of the shepherd and his sheep. In the first ten verses, Jesus refers to Himself as the gate, or door, that leads into the pasture of God.

In this teaching, Jesus rebuked the religious Pharisees who were trying to climb into God’s pasture their own way, through their own supposed self-righteousness. Jesus called them thieves and robbers because they were trying to sneak into the sheepfold without submitting to the shepherd. The Savior’s teaching is clear. If you don’t come in through the gate, then you cannot get in any other way. There is razor wire on top of the thousand-mile-high fence that stands between every sinner and God. But—praise God—there is one way in. It is through Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the Gate into the pasture of God.

Once we enter through the gate of salvation, Jesus becomes our Good Shepherd. In John 10:11-18, we see a beautiful picture of the unfailing love of the Shepherd for His sheep. Four actions reveal this love to us.

Jesus died for His sheep (John 10:11-13).

The Good Shepherd’s love for His sheep is so great that He was willing to give His own life to rescue them. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us. Jesus draws a contrast between the Good Shepherd and the hireling who doesn’t really care about the flock, since “he does not own the sheep.”

Jesus cares for the sheep because He is their owner. The hireling flees when trouble comes because he is just a hired hand. The owner of the sheep gave Himself for the sheep, but the hireling could care less if a few are lost. The hireling’s relationship to the sheep is built solely upon selfishness; solely on the fact that his job depends upon the existence of the sheep. He is not loyal to the sheep. He is not concerned about the sheep. So, he is indifferent to their needs, and his selfishness scatters them (v. 12) and he flees (v. 13).

But the Good Shepherd is different. He is always looking out for the good of the sheep. He is concerned about the sheep and places their needs above His own. Jesus will never neglect His sheep. He will never leave us or forsake us. Why? Jesus died for His sheep. He laid down His life for them. He surrendered His body to be abused and shed His blood to atone for our sin.

Jesus knows His sheep (John 10:14-15).

Here, in verses 14-15, Jesus describes a relationship that comes through salvation. The word know in these verses refers to knowledge that is based on a relationship. Jesus gives new life to lost sheep. His sheep do not simply know about God or about Jesus. They know God! They know Christ. That’s the difference between religion and relationship.

Our world is filled with people who know about God. Even churches can be filled with people who know about God. But that is not what Jesus is talking about here. He is talking about knowing God, having a living, breathing relationship with Him through repentant faith in the Son of God, our Mediator.

The Good Shepherd knows His sheep in relationship, just as He knows the Father in relationship and the Father knows Him. In other words, Jesus knows those who are His own and the true sheep know Him. What a wonderful truth! But like every relationship, this one is not static. It’s either growing or decaying. Jesus knows us in relationship, but desires for us to know Him more deeply in the daily experience of our faith. Growing in Christ includes a deepening intimacy with the Good Shepherd as we listen to His Word (v. 27).

Jesus seeks His lost sheep (John 10:16).

Jesus is also a Shepherd who relentlessly pursues His sheep. He pursues lost sheep because He wants them in His fold. He says, I must bring them also. I love that phrase. The Good Shepherd pursues lost sheep until He has brought them back into His fold.

The truth that God is the seeker is beautifully illustrated in the parable of the seeking shepherd found in the fifteenth chapter of Luke. Some people see three parables in this chapter, but I think it’s best to understand it as one parable with three parts. Each story paints the same picture, but in a different way. God is the Seeker. The first part of the parable pictures God as a shepherd (Luke 15:3-7). The Shepherd’s pursuit of His lost sheep is so relentless that He is willing to leave the ninety-nine who are already in His fold to go after the one who is missing. He is a seeking shepherd.

Jesus yielded to the Father’s will (John 10:17-18).

Jesus was not forced to the cross. His sacrifice was voluntary. Jesus willingly submitted Himself to the divine plan, as He said in other places.

  • I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me  (John 5:30).
  • For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me (John 6:38).
  • For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak (John 12:49).

Jesus submitted to the will of His Father, which meant submitting Himself to the plan laid out in eternity past—to redeem a people for His glory. But the execution of this plan required the execution of the Savior. He knew this ahead of time…and He willingly yielded to it.

Is Jesus your Good Shepherd?

What kind of a sheep are you? Are you a lost sheep still wandering on your own, away from God, and in need His forgiveness? Perhaps you are religious, trying to climb into God’s pasture on the basis of your own good works. All who come to Christ in repentant faith become God’s sheep and are the recipients of the care of the Good Shepherd. Or have you been found by the Good Shepherd? If you are a believer, this is the kind of Shepherd that Jesus is for His sheep. And all that He is, He is for you.

[Excerpted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]

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August 4, 2017
by Paul Tautges
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Collateral Damage

Collateral Damage is a new book released today. It is the fruit of a ministry partnership of Christian Focus Publications and Practical Shepherding, the ministry of my friend Brian Croft.

At twelve years old, James Carroll became the collateral damage of his pastor father’s infidelity and his parents’ divorce. With his world completely shaken and identity in shreds, he could hardly process what was happening, let alone begin regaining normality. In Collateral Damage, Carroll, now a pastor himself, presents the specific ways in which God has worked in his life during and since that time – healing wounds, revealing sin, and restoring life. This is a highly practical book, showing the gospel as the power of God to save, to restore, and to heal.

Here’s what I wrote in my endorsement: “Redemption. Rescue. Restoration. These are the words that came to the forefront of my mind as I read this painful, yet hope-filled account of God’s work of transforming a 12-year old Pharisee into a humble, imperfect pastor. This little book is sober, yet gentle as a warning to pastors and fathers. Nevertheless, it also overflows with grace as we hear another testimony of the gospel’s power to rescue each of us from our sin in order to magnify God’s glory through earthen vessels.”

Get yourself a copy from Westminster Books or Amazon.

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