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Paul Tautges Christian Blog and Commentary

Paul Tautges

Paul Tautges serves as senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, having previously pastored for 22 years in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Paul has authored eight books including Counseling One Another, Brass Heavens, and Comfort the Grieving, and contributed chapters to two volumes produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition. 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 two grandchildren. Paul enjoys writing as a means of cultivating discipleship among believers and, therefore, blogs regularly at Counseling One Another.

A Counselor's Resume

What should a biblical counselor’s resume look like? What would you list to demonstrate your qualifications? Actually, the Apostle Paul has already written such a resume for us. It’s found in Romans 15:14. I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. This is an important verse because it gives us four qualifications which are necessary to be effective in the personal ministry of the Word. However, before we consider them, the following case study will help us see how important they are. (This story and the listed qualifications are adapted from Bob Kellemen’s book, Gospel Conversations, a part of the Equipping Biblical Counselors Series).

A CASE STUDY

A married couple, Tony and Trudy, were recommended to seek marriage counseling from you. At the beginning of the first meeting, Tony leans forward, looks you straight in the eyes, and says, “I want you to know that I have seen a divorce attorney already. I was recommended by someone to see you before we make any final decisions. If I’m putting my future on the line with you, I want to know what makes you qualified to help us.” 

Well, that caught you off guard, but eventually you regain your composure and manage to say, “Tony, one of the reasons I’m qualified to help you is my commitment to the Scriptures as the sufficient source of wisdom for life, and for helping you and Trudy in your relationship to Christ and your relationship to one another.”

So, Tony leans back, strokes his chin and responds, “That’s great. Now, could you tell me how that’s working for you in your marriage?” Tony raises a good question, doesn’t he? The application of biblical wisdom to our lives, relationships, and ministries ought to be high on the list of qualifications for effective biblical counseling. God calls us not only to know his Word richly, but to apply His Word relevantly to our lives so that we grow in Christ-like character.

So, you say, “Tony, that’s a fair question. By God’s grace, my wife and I seek to apply God’s Word to our marriage. While our marriage is not perfect, it is a growing marriage that honors Christ as we both seek to lovingly minister to each other so that we become more like Jesus.”

Tony nods favorably. Then he squints and says, “Okay, thank you for your honesty. I have one more question. So, you know God’s Word and you apply it to your life. But how successful have you been in helping others with their marriages?” Tony raises another valid point. Rich knowledge of God’s Word applied to our lives provides a powerful foundation for biblical counseling. But counseling involves engaging others and helping them in applying truth to their lives. Therefore, our competence as a counselor in sharing Scripture—relating truth to life— is also vital.

So, you might say to Tony, “By God’s grace, couples confirm that their marriages have been significantly helped by my counsel.”

FOUR QUALIFICATIONS

This story illustrates the importance of the four qualifications we find in Romans 15:14.

  • Christ-like Character—counselors should be full of goodness. Goodness is the same word used of the fruit of the Spirit; referring to Christ-like character; spiritual maturity (Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 5:9). To be effective counselors, we need to be growing toward spiritual maturity. The Bible says that God is good and that He does good. He causes the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous. Being full of goodness pictures mature, godly character flowing through Christ to us, then spilling over from us into the lives of others. To the degree that we increasingly reflect Christ and relate to others like Christ does, to that degree, we will be fruitful biblical counselors.
  • Biblical Content—counselors should be filled with all knowledge. To be effective biblical counselors, we need to be growing in our understanding of God and His Word, and how it applies to the problems we face in life. In the Great Commandment, Jesus calls us to love God with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). Filled with all knowledge means having spiritual insight and perception of the nature of God and man, of God’s will for our lives, of the redemptive work of Christ, and of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. If a counselor is to have an understanding of biblical issues relating to human nature and behavior then the study of the Scriptures will be fundamental to his or her qualifications and effectiveness. It would be contradictory for someone to say they are a Christian counselor, yet are not able to provide biblical explanations to issues and problems. We are exhorted in 2 Timothy 2:15, Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
  •  Counseling Competence—counselors should be able to instruct. This has to do with our ability to relate truth to life. It’s being able to give practical and pertinent spiritual direction to someone who is struggling in some way. The Greek word for instruct is noutheteo. Literally it means “to put into the mind” or “to lay on the heart;” i.e., to implant truth into the mind/heart so as to guide, correct, and instruct (cf. Proverbs 1:2-5; Colossians 1:28). The stress is not only on the intellect, but also on the will and the heart. The Apostle Paul is exhorting us to give practical, real-life wisdom and counsel with the Word of God. We must have the ability to help others apply the truth to their lives.
  • Christian Community—counselors should encourage local church involvement. The context of biblical counseling is seen in the words, my brothers and one another. In other words, the qualities listed in this verse are embedded within the context of a local church. It speaks of the importance of a counselee being in a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching local church. Transformed lives occur in the context of the body of Christ. Christians do not grow as “lone rangers.” I don’t think that any of us believe that a formal hour-a-week meeting with a counselee is sufficient for their spiritual growth. The full one-another-ministry of a local church is needed for spiritual growth (cf. Romans chapters 12-16; Ephesians 4:11-16).

As we consider these four qualifications, we must realize there is weakness in a de-emphasis of one or more of them. We may have biblical content, but if it’s only head knowledge we will not be able to relate truth to life. We may be all heart and compassion, but lack biblical insight and counseling abilities. We may think of the counseling session as the “magic hour,” without exhorting the counselee to be in a nurturing environment of a local body of believers.

Thinking about the “4Cs” of Character, Content, Competence, and Community, which do you think is your current strength as a biblical counselor? Which do you think is your current weakness and needs growth and development?

[Today’s guest post is written by Armand Tiffe, Pastor Emeritus at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, and director of our counseling ministry. He is also the author of Transformed Into His Likeness: A Handbook for Putting Off Sin and Putting On Righteousness.]

Comedian Jeff Allen has recently capitalized on a humorous and catchy little modern proverb: "Happy wife, happy life." His comedy is compelling, and his style engaging, but, like many catchphrases in Christian pop culture, his seemingly harmless comedy actually communicates falsehood. The truth is, the idea of "Happy wife, happy life" is not found in the Scriptures, and pursuing this advice will make both you and your wife miserable. Here are three biblical reasons.

  1. Neither you nor your wife knows what will make you happy. The assumption behind, "Happy wife, happy life" is that your wife knows what she wants, and your life would be happier if you would just give her what she says she wants. Jeremiah 17:9 teaches us that no one knows their own heart and, if there is one thing we do know, it is that the heart can easily be deceived. Eve got what she eventually wanted in the Garden of Eden, presumably while Adam was not far away. Adam was the original poster boy for "Happy wife, happy life," and when Eve got what she eventually came to believe would make her happy, no one was laughing.
     
  2. Even if you give your wife what she says she wants, you cannot make her happy. We all come to realize that a new job, a new truck, a remodeled house or 2.4 healthy kids cannot make us happy. James teaches us that we do not even realize that we often ask wrongly for things that we intend to spend "on our own passions" (James 4:3). There is no more miserable person than one who receives the thing they set out to get only to find that cannot satisfy the longings of their heart. Conversely, the one who is pursuing Christ with all her heart can be content and satisfied even while enduring the most difficult of circumstances. Marriage cannot make one happy and, therefore, a spouse cannot make the other happy, either.
     
  3. You were not designed to make her happy. The Scriptures do not instruct a man to make his wife happy. Every person is made in the image of God and, therefore, a wife finds her ultimate meaning, worth and, yes, happiness, in him alone. Your wife was made to be complete in God. She will be most happy when she counts everything a loss compared to the "surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:8). When a husband gets in-between his wife and God he can easily become an idol. She may appeal to you, require of you, and even manipulate you. But life will eventually deliver circumstances which you cannot control or overcome. You will learn that God is God, and that husbands make lousy gods. She will find that her soul will be satisfied (made happy!) with nothing less than God himself.

So, what's a husband to do?  Here are three actions for husbands who love Jesus:

  • Take initiative. Ephesians 5:23 says that the husband is the head of the wife. Husbands, this means that you have been given an important role; and that, for God's own reasons, he is holding you responsible, not for your wife's happiness, but for the way you minister godliness in your home. Oh how our Christian homes will be impacted when the men step into the role that God has designed them for: not primarily to respond to the needs of our wife, but to set the pace in following closely after Christ!
  • Know the Word of God. Eve could’ve really received benefit from this. When you know the Word of God and are seeking to apply it first to your own heart, you have the credibility, boldness and wisdom to show your wife what the Word says by first doing it. Isn't that what Paul is teaching us in Ephesians 5:26 when he speaks about a washing and sanctification that comes "with the word"? The church is in need of men who are actively pursuing God by actively pursuing his Word.
  • Understand the uniqueness your wife and then aim at the goal of giving her sacrificial love each and every day (1 Peter 3:7). But this does not equate to living each day to try to make her happy. Understanding your wife does not mean, "Try to keep her comfortable." It means that we understand where our wife is weak, and we bring service, prayer, humility and love to cover that weakness. Does your wife struggle with body image? Was she abused? Is she an addict? Does her insecurity breed social anxiety? Does she avoid people who have hurt her? Is she pre-occupied with politics? My Christian friend, making her "happy" in these areas will not yield a "happy life." Not for her or for you. So take initiative. Step into your role and bring a humble spirit as you pursue God with her.

Setting out to make your wife happy will not make your life happy. If this becomes your goal, you will experience failure, frustration and a string of fights. But if you will faithfully pursue Christ Jesus with all your heart and mind, you will begin to deliver to your wife what she really longs for, a godly husband.

[Today’s guest post is written by Jon MacDonald, Pastor of Family Life/Discipleship at Sheboygan Evangelical Free Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.]

“Every small bit of sinful gossip in daily life is an evil echo of what went wrong at the very beginning. In fact, gossip is the same ugly sin played out again and again. Gossip is believing the ancient lie that we can attempt to play God by destroying others with the power of our words. Gossip is not just breaking a rule; it is perversely living out Satan’s lies, which we would rather believe than the truth. And, therefore, we are attracted to the wrong stories.” As we return to our interaction with Matt Mitchell’s book, Resisting Gossip, these words summarize his answer to the question, “Why do we gossip?”

Part One of the book concludes with a chapter entitled, "A Gallery of Gossips." Here the author defines the five different ways we gossip; that is, the types of gossiping people we may be or meet in daily life.

#1: The Spy – In Proverbs 11:13, the Hebrew word translated “gossip” means “‘a peddler (of secrets), a huckster/hawker, deceiver, or spy.’ The English Standard Version uses the phrase ‘whoever goes about slandering’….We might use the word ‘informer’….Spies know how to wheedle a story out of us.”

#2: The Grumbler – Another Hebrew word commonly translated “gossip” refers to a whisperer. “The Hebrew dictionaries say that this “is one who is ‘murmuring about another person behind their back rather than openly complaining about their behavior.’”

#3: The Backstabber – “Backstabbing gossip overflows from a heart bent on revenge, retaliation and real malice. The backstabber actually desires the target of his gossip to experience pain. The backstabber usually begins by spreading lies, starting what we call a ‘smear campaign.’ Absalom was a backstabber.”

#4: The Chameleon – “A chameleon is a person who goes along with gossip to try to fit into the crowd….Fear, not anger, is the main motivation for a chameleon’s gossip. A chameleon is afraid of what her peers will think, say or do if she does not produce gossip on demand. She is usually afraid of being excluded.” The fear of man keeps her in this prison (Prov. 29:25).

#5: The Busybody – “The busybody is a person who is idle, not engaged in purposeful business and wants to be entertained. He gossips for titillation and for the purpose of living vicariously through the stories of others. A busybody enjoys meddling in other people’s business” (like the idle men described and rebuked in 2 Thess. 3:11).

Much fuller descriptions are given of these five kinds of gossips, heart diagnoses of what drives them, and biblical remedies. As we continue to work through Resisting Gossip, please consider reading and growing along with us.

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