Tara’s Blog

When to Leave a Church

I love Dave’s reasoned, biblical response to this important question:

When is it appropriate to leave a church?

How to Put Sin to Death

(Grateful for The Resurgence and especially Bob Thune for this outline …)

“Precious little is written or taught these days on how to put sin to death. But thankfully, our forebears spent some ink on this issue—the most notable work being John Owen’s marvelous treatise On the Mortification of Sin … 

This outline was organized for preaching, so it is not exactly correlative to Owen’s layout. However, it does preserve the general logical flow of the original. For those who prefer a more thorough and analytical outline, including some of the more memorable quotes from Owen’s pen, you can download my 12-page reading summary in PDF format.” Bob Thune


  • Because sin is always active
  • Because unmortified sin weakens and darkens the soul
  • Because unmortified sin hardens others to the gospel


  What It Does Not Mean

  • To mortify sin is not to utterly destroy it. (That’s Jesus’ job, not your job.)
  • To mortify sin is not to outwardly forsake its practice. Those who do this are just “more cunning; not more holy.”
  • To mortify sin is not to have a quiet, sedate nature. “Some men have an advantage by their natural constitution… they are not exposed to unruly passions and tumultuous affections as many others are.” This does not mean they have mortified sin.
  • To mortify sin is not to divert it. “He that trades sensuality for Pharisaism has not mortified sin… He has changed his master, but he is a servant still.”
  • To mortify sin is not to experience “occasional conquests” against it.

  What It Does Mean

  • A habitual weakening of sin.
  • A constant fighting against sin.
  • Success. Victory over sin!


  4 General Principles

  • You must set your faith on Christ. (Fill your soul with the consideration of who Jesus is and what he’s done for you)
  • You must rely on the Holy Spirit. “A man may easier see without eyes and speak without a tongue, than mortify a sin without the Spirit.”
  • You must be truly converted.
  • You must intend universal obedience. If you don’t intend to obey God in every area, you don’t hate sin; you hate the particular sin that is bothering you. Which means you don’t love Christ; you love yourself. A particularly strong, besetting sin commonly issues from a careless, negligent spiritual life in general.

  9 Specific Directives

  1. Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind of the guilt, danger, and evil of your sin.
  2. Load your conscience with the guilt of your besetting sin.
  3. Long for deliverance from the power of sin. “Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after… Unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it.”
  4. Consider whether you are prone toward a particular sin because of your personality or disposition. This should awaken your zeal. “So great an advantage is given to sin and Satan by your temper and disposition, that without extraordinary watchfulness, care, and diligence, they [sin and Satan] will prevail against your soul.”
  5. Consider what occasions your sin uses to exert itself, and watch against them all.
  6. Fight strongly against the first actings of your lust. “Sin is like water in a channel – once it breaks out, it will have its course.”
  7. Dwell on thoughts that humble you and remind you of your sinfulness.
  8. Know the warning signs of particularly dangerous sin patterns: persistent, habitual sin; secret pleas of the heart to leave sin alone; giving into sin without struggle; ignoring the conviction of the Holy Spirit; avoiding sin because you fear punishment. If a lust has any of these symptoms, it cannot be dealt with by an ordinary course of mortification; it requires extraordinary measures.
  9. Do not speak peace to yourself before God speaks peace to you.

“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

Self-Strength & Self-Invention

“Mortification (of sin) from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention, unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world.” ~John Owen

Tara in Real Life

I called a church recently on a conciliation-related matter and I was blessed by the most fun conversation with the church secretary. After I introduced myself (and asked for the pastor), it started out something like this:

“Tara Barthel? Tara? Barthel?” (Yes.) “You’re a real person!?” (Smiling. Yes.) “We just did your video series and we loved it! I can’t believe I’m speaking with you in real life.” (Well, I’m super happy to get to meet you too. And yes, I’m a real person. My three year-old just came in, climbed on my lap, and spilled something all over me …)

What a nice way to start the day. I love friendly church secretaries! They really set the tone for the entire church. Plus, they are a storehouse of important information related to church conflicts. I can’t imagine any experienced mediator going into a conflicted church and not talking to the church secretary. And the janitor.

But I digress. Back to the reason I titled this post “Tara in Real Life” …

For the first time in 8+ years and 3,551 posts, I am actually so thoroughly engaged in my real life at home that I haven’t been blogging much. I don’t know what to say beyond that except that:

  • Fred and I are very grateful for the sweet season we are currently in. Life is full of ups and downs, suffering and joy. And right now, other than my missing my mother very much, we are not currently persevering through any major griefs or trials. This could change at any moment, of course, so we are not grabbing onto it. But we are enjoying it.
  • God has been orchestrating some very interesting and redemptive things in our lives in the last few weeks and this is amazing and scary and comforting all at once. Mostly, it is simply good. And we are grateful. We are also having intentional times of quiet, reflection, prayer, study, seeking counsel, and conversation. Again, all good. But not conducive to much productivity in the slightly-strange two-dimensional world of the internet.
  • I will be traveling out of state the next three weekends … so airplane and airport time might allow me the margin to catch up on things online and process things here on the blog too. So if I had to guess, I’ll be back into more normal patterns before too long. But just in case, I encourage you to keep an eye on Challies and Aquila. (Two of my favorite sites for reading interesting things.)

Lastly, on the point of “real life” … I’ve been meaning to let you know that I still have a few openings for Fall 2013 events. So if you’ve ever thought about having me out to your community for a women’s event “in real life,” this year might be a great one. Our family has no set speaker fee (although honoraria are always greatly appreciated) . We just ask you to cover my travel/lodging, etc. expenses. (We do have highways and airline flights in Montana, but not very many. 🙂 )

You can read all about having me out to serve at your event (and submit an event inquiry) here.

Thanks, all!

Tara B.

WIN A FREE Copy of The Peacemaker Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships



When Fred packed up his office at Peacemaker Ministries last month, he unearthed a copy of my video series:

The Peacemaker Women’s Study: Living the Gospel in Relationships

It works perfectly fine … but it’s been sitting on his (dusty) shelves for a few years, so I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable selling it. So how about if we give it away to one of you?!


Here are the details on the giveaway:

  1. Leave a comment on this post anytime between now and 5:00PM (Mtn.) next Saturday (April 20th) and you will be entered in the drawing.
  2. Share in any social media setting (FaceBook, Twitter, on your blog, etc.) and let me know and you will have an additional drawing for each share.
  3. Check back after April 20th to see if you’ve won and make sure I have your contact information. I can’t give you FREE (biblical! practical!) STUFF if I can’t find you.

That’s pretty much it!

If you’re new to my site, please know that you have absolutely NO risk of SPAM by participating. I’m a real person and I hate it when people misuse email contact information (SPAM). So enter without fear! I will always protect your contact information and I will never SPAM you.

Also: My giveaways don’t usually have many participants, so your likelihood of winning is fairly high.

Hope you win!

Blessings and joy,
Tara B.

What should a wife do when her husband has conflicts with the church leaders?

A great post by Cap’n Dave over at our RedeemingChurchConflicts site:

What should a wife do when her husband has conflicts with the church leaders?

Vatican City Explained

I found this video fascinating. Plus, I learned that, pretty much, I don’t know anything about Vatican City:

The Hardest Part is the Loneliness

(The PCA’s Special Needs Ministry)

(DesiringGod’s Disability Resources)

“You know that’s totally normal, don’t you Tara?”

I was so discouraged as I headed to church this morning.

We’re having a bit of a battle with a certain parenting, um, issue … and since Fred is sacrificing greatly to work his second job (in addition to his full-time “real” job) for a few weeks, I have more solo responsibilities about all of that than usual. I also have more cuddle-time and snuggle-time too, so it’s not all bad. But our family is living up to the old nursery rhyme/poem by Longfellow. A lot.

“There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very, very good. But when she was bad, she was horrid!”

On an intellectual, thinking person, doctrine-applied-to-life basis, it’s actually all a bit interesting to me. I can’t help but say to myself over and over again as these battles drive the peace and joy (temporarily) out of our home:

“Well. If Jesus didn’t die for this … if the gospel isn’t true for this … if I can’t have any hope in the midst of this … well. Then I am the most wretcehd of women and my faith is in vain. But if the same power that raised Christ from the dead is actually at work right now, over and over (and over!) again, in my life and the life of my child? Then I can and I will persevere.”

And usually I do. But sometimes I am tired and tempted to forget everything I believe. So that’s why we go to church, right?! To be fed by the preaching of the Word and the sacraments. To receive the ordinary means of grace. To pray and be prayed for. To worship. To serve. To love and be loved.

And that’s what happened to me this morning. By a two minute conversation with my pastor and a genuine hug. By a deep sermon from Romans by my other pastor. By the tangible reminder of God’s presence and power and care through the wine and bread of the Lord’s Supper.

Oh. And by one statement from my friend. She asked me how I was and at that moment, I was close to tears having just slugged it out emotionally and prayerfully in this current parenting battle. My friend was kind. Sympathetic. And spot-on wise in telling me exactly what I needed to hear in response to what is happening in my daughter’s heart and in our family in response:

“You know that’s totally normal, don’t you Tara?”

Hmmmmmm. All day long, my heart has been processing the loving truths that are derived from that one simple statement:

This is totally normal? Really? Yes, really.

You mean I’m not a total freak? I’m not the only one with a child who struggles in this way? Other Christian mothers feel the sting of hopelessness and despair at times? Yah. You betcha. Sure.

This season will not last forever? This season will not last forever.

I am not alone? You are not alone.

There is hope? There is always hope.

You see … I know that is true. I do. I confess it and I believe it. I can even give you Scriptural citations that resonate deep within me even as I type those words. But life is hard and sometimes suffering and exhaustion can tempt us to  forget even the very things we have staked our lives on. That’s why we are (active, avowed) members of a local church. That’s why we invest in authentic, redemptive friendship. That’s why we read, study, and memorize the Bible. That’s why we pray.

And many thanks to my friend for normalizing the Christian life for me once again. You are a good friend to me and I thank God for you.

G’nite all,
Tara B.


My Favorite Healthy Tara Photo

Today Fred and I went on a little OLD PHOTOS OF TARA HUNT  and we found this one of me back in 2003 … when I was still healthy and strong and fit:

edited favorite healthy tara pic










Fred is so loving and kind (and always affirming of me) that he said he still sees me the same way. But I assume that all of my friends who have only known me in the last ten years will think, “Man! That doesn’t look like Tara AT ALL!”

I think you’re both right. I am me back then and I am me now. But I was far more comfortable in my own skin back then as bad health does not lead to comfort.

So thank you for the kind and encouraging notes both here and on FaceBook. And thanks, especially, for those of you who have mentioned that you are praying for me. Redemptive change is never easy! But God is with us and He will finish His good work in our hearts. Guaranteed.

“I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6 (ESV)