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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.

Sometimes we’re tempted to wonder if God can hear. After months or even years of praying over a particular person or situation, we look for evidence God is getting our message or even paying attention, and we can’t find much. Why is that? Why do the heavens sometimes seem like brass? Doesn’t God love us and care for us? Isn’t he all-powerful?

The phrase brass heavens has its origins in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament. It was part of God’s warning to his chosen people Israel, a promised consequence of neglecting to obey his commands. As the nation prepared to enter the Promised Land, we find this among the curses for disobedience given by Moses: “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron” (Deuteronomy 28:23; KJV). Most recent translations use “bronze” instead of “brass,” but the meaning is the same. Admittedly, this verse in its context has nothing to do with prayer. Rather, it is a warning from God that periods of drought would be one of the many consequences of Israel’s rebellion. The skies would appear promising, but the heavy layer of clouds would bring forth no rain. As a result, the ground would dry up and become like iron, impossible to cultivate. For a society that survived largely by agriculture, this was nothing short of a disaster.

So while the verse is not about prayer, brass heavens nevertheless became a common expression among Christians because it describes so well the silence of God—the drought of unanswered prayer and the famine-like spiritual unfruitfulness that believers sometimes experience. Like the people who originally adapted the phrase, I selected the phrase as a title of one of my books on prayer because I like the analogy.

God has a good and holy purpose for these periods of silence. He wants to test our faith that we might see for ourselves just how weak and dependent we are on him for all good things. His goal is nothing less than to heighten our spiritual sensitivities in order to draw us into more intimate fellowship and faithful obedience with him.

In the book, Brass Heavens, we explore in depth six reasons our prayers often go unanswered. Therefore, I want to take the next week to explain each of these reasons in brief form. Here’s where we will be going. Here are the Scriptural reasons we will examine.

  1. Pet Sins
  2. Neglected Duties
  3. Religious Sins
  4. Inconsiderate Husbands
  5. Stubborn Pride
  6. Testing Our Faith

I hope you will follow along with me the next week as we explore these six reasons.

“You will be gossiped about. If it has not happened yet, get ready, because someday you will find yourself in the cross-hairs of gossip,” writes Matt Mitchell, pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church. “Sadly,” he continues, “most of the time you will not know that you are a target of someone’s harmful words. Perniciously, gossip is done behind our backs, when we are not looking, when we are not listening and when we are not present.” Responding to gossip in a godly manner is hard enough when you know who the gossips are and what they are saying. However, the difficulty is intensified exponentially when you don’t have hard facts to confront, or the people you do confront deny it, pretend they know nothing, or continue to give you the kisses of Judas. Still, you must respond. You will respond. But how?

Respond in Faith

In Psalm 140:1-2, we see David taking his situation to the Lord first. Sadly, when we are gossiped about, we (myself included!) typically “take things into our own hands. We complain about those who are complaining about us. And we run around attempting to set the record straight.” This only makes matters worse.

In contrast, we can take it to the Lord in prayer. When we take our pain to the Lord, we can tell it like it is, not minimizing the intensity of the hurt. But we also remember who we are talking to when we pray. We know that God is the ultimate judge, and nothing—in the end—will ever escape his righteous judgment. Therefore, we can ask God for justice and believe that He will eventually answer.

Respond in Love

Of all the commands given to us by Jesus, perhaps loving our enemies is the most difficult to carry out, to know how to obey. This difficulty is intensified a million times over when the person who has become your functional enemy was once a friend. “When someone gossips about you, he or she is acting as your enemy. That person may not be your enemy in any official way. He or she may, in fact, be your closest friend. But at the moment when bad news is being spread behind your back out of a bad heart, the person doing the spreading is acting as your enemy." To love our enemy is to act like God who loved us while we were yet His enemies (Romans 5:8). But how? How do you love your enemy, especially if he or she refuses to talk to you?

  • Pray. First, pray for them. “Pray for justice. Pray that your gossiping enemy’s evil plans will backfire. But also pray for conviction and repentance and eventual blessing for your enemy.”
  • Overlook. Second, overlook sin when you can. “Overlooking is a kind of one-sided forgiving. It means we just go on relating to the person in the same way we always did.”
  • Confront. Third, true love always seeks reconciliation—always. “Love goes to the person who is acting as an enemy and shows that person his or her fault so that relationship can be restored.”
  • Repay evil with good. Fourth, bless them. “If people have gossiped about you, make sure that your basic stance is for them….Returning blessings for beatings seems crazy to the world, but that’s what we do as Christians” (1 Cor. 4:10, 12-13).

When we choose to love our enemies, and always seek reconciliation, the Bible promises us a great reward (1 Pet. 3:9). May the Lord grant us the faith and love we need in order to learn how to respond to gossip!

As our elder team continues to read through Resisting Gossip: Winning the War of the Wagging Tongue, please consider reading and growing along with us.

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES

Making disciples is the work of the church. Jesus made that clear. But how do we make disciples? As we read the New Testament we see this pattern: We make disciples by coming alongside one another in the lifelong pursuit of becoming like our Savior. In other words, the work of discipleship takes place chiefly through relationships—relationships that include the two elements of instruction and example.

These relationships involve those who are spiritually mature; that is, those who are further down the road of walking with Christ and living according to His Word. These relationships also include those who are brand new to the faith, or not as further along in walking with God. In His infinite wisdom, God placed both mature and immature, both older and younger, together into the community of the faith for the purpose of spreading the gospel of His grace and glory.

This is very different than the world’s way of gathering people. Society’s strategy for the propagation of ideas and principles is peer gathering. In other words, keep the same aged people together at all times so that they will feel accepted, like they belong—based on superficial similarities. However, God’s design for discipleship is different. God’s design for Christian growth includes the necessity of an example, the essential involvement of older, mature teachers and examples. By God’s design, the local church is the ideal place for discipleship; a plan that requires the regular, intentional interaction across the generations. For our discipleship strategy to be fully biblical, it must be multi-generational.

That is what we see in Titus 2:1-8, where Paul directed Titus to teach the older men to model godliness and instruct the younger men as to what Christian manhood looks like, and where he instructed Christian women in matters of godliness and exhorted them to train up the younger women. In verses 3-5, we see the pursuit of Christian womanhood, as defined by the Bible not our culture.

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

In this passage, we see 3 aspects of Christian womanhood.

HER MODELING (v. 3)

The apostle’s emphasis, first, is on what a Christian woman is to be. Her own spiritual growth and character development must be a high priority to her. This will open the door for her ministry to other women in the church. Four character qualities are mentioned:

  • Reverent Behavior - This is the only occasion this word in the New Testament. What does it mean that a godly Christian woman is “reverent” in her behavior? It means her demeanor and her state of mind are “suitable to holiness,” like those in sacred service. She acts in such a way as is fitting for God and service to God. Her godly behavior is her crown and jewel. Scripture says nothing about her career, education, or position in society, but it has much to say about the kind of woman she is. Infinitely more important than society’s measuring sticks for women, it is godly character and the confidence of her faith which God considers most important. The Christian woman’s reverent behavior is her adornment (See also 1 Timothy 2:9-11).
  • Not Slanderous - Some translations say “not a malicious gossip.” The reason for this is that the description is translated from one word, diabolos, which means “slanderer.” The King James Bible uses this word 35 times for the devil. A gossip does the work of the devil, but a mature, godly woman does not use her tongue to lift herself up by running down others. Instead, she is confident in Christ and strives to only use her words in a way that will build up others.
  • Self-controlled - Mature Christian women are not “slaves to much wine” (or any other foreign substance), but models of temperance and self-control. The word “slaves” means “enslaved,” meaning a completed state or condition. In other words, the godly woman is not enslaved to sin as a habit of life. In this case, drunkenness has no part in her life. Of course, the character trait of self-control applies to every area of life. Suffice it to say that the godly woman, by walking in the Spirit, rather than the flesh, exhibits the fruit of self-control (Galatians 5:23).
  • Teacher of goodness- Mature Christian woman are “to teach what is good.” This does not refer to her formal role as an instructor or mentor, but describes the kind of advice she can give to the younger women, both privately in word and publicly by example. Now, notice where her godly example leads. Her faithful modeling leads to a disciple-making relationship with the younger women of the church. So, naturally, the apostle moves from her modeling to her ministry.

HER MINISTRY (vv. 4-5a)

The apostle is clear. The older women must be (verse 3) in order that they may do. They are to make their own spiritual growth in godliness a priority so that they may train the young women in the church. It is the noticeable godliness of the older women that earns the respect of the younger women in the church, thus paving the way for the eager reception of their verbal instruction, encouragement, and counsel. Her example is the launching pad of her ministry. That principle is true for all of us. Fruitful ministry flows out of who we are in our walk with the Lord. If we are not serious about living under the functional authority of the Word then we fail when it comes to being able to lead others. The apostle now gives 7 characteristics of the aspects of Christian character the older women are to train into the younger women.

  • Husband-loving - The primary way a wife loves her husband is by being the helper that God designed her to be (Genesis 2:18; 1 Cor. 11:8-9). The older women are to encourage the young women to love their husbands—to serve them, to help them be successful.
  • Children-loving - Today’s modern woman is consistently fed the lie that children are an inconvenience, that they are distractions that get in the way of her pursuit of a more meaningful career. However, the godly woman sees herself as uniquely created by God to bear children and to raise them up for His glory. Motherhood is a high and holy calling. Therefore, the older women of the church are to encourage the young women to invest their lives in loving their children.
  • Sensible - It means “of a sound mind,” and refers to self-mastery in thought and judgment. Older women should be balanced and discreet, mature, not women of extremes.
  • Pure – The godly woman is chaste, modest, and free from every fault. Christian women are to be holy, immaculate in character (1 Peter 3:2).
  • Committed to their domestic duties – “Working at home” is from a compound word, from “house” and “guard.” This verse does not prohibit the Christian woman from working outside the home, but it does call her to guard the priority of her home and family. They must not be neglected.
  • Kind - Commonly translated “good.” It refers to having a good constitution or nature, to be upright and honorable. There are some very mean women in the world, but a godly woman is known for her kindness. Kindness is her hallmark (Proverbs 31:26).
  • Submissive to their husbands – To be submissive means to arrange under, to subordinate. Submission is a character quality which God requires from every Christian within a variety of relationships. In the case of marriage, the godly Christian wife does not view submission as bondage, or the action of one who is inferior, but as God’s beautiful design for the orderliness of the family. For the Christian wife who is married to an unspiritual man, this becomes a chief means of the Holy Spirit’s conviction in his life (1 Peter 3:1-4).

HER MOTIVATION (v. 5b)

Why should the women of the church want to be known for having this kind of character? Verse 5 so that the word of God may not be “dishonored,” or blasphemed. If Satan can get the men and women of the church to forsake God’s design for their unique roles in exchange for the ever-changing ideals of the unsaved world, he will disrupt the redemptive power of the church in this world. The world will look at the church and conclude that we have nothing different to offer. But Christian womanhood is very different.

The heart’s motivation for the women described in this passage is the same as that of the virtuous woman described in Proverbs 31:30-31, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” The chief motive of the godly woman is the glory of the Lord. Her chief desire is to please the Lord…even above pleasing her husband or children. She fears the Lord more than she does them.

Ladies, the world is sending you many different messages about what it means to be a woman. The Word of God calls out to you, saying, you are uniquely created and gifted by God to bring glory to Him. Do this by pursuing His will, according to His Word, in whatever station or season of life you find yourself in. At the end of the day, in whatever you do, seek to bring Him honor and glory.

[This post is adapted from last Sunday’s sermon.]

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