Christ appears in Heaven for us!

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

When we are told to “set our affections on the realities of heaven,” the reason for doing this is that it is the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” 

Think about these great words: “For Christ … entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24).

Heaven is so desirable not because of the absence suffering (as great as this will be), nor because of our reunion with those who died before us (as wonderful as this will be). Heaven is so desirable because it is the place where Christ sits at God’s right hand — for us.

We join with the apostle Paul and say, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

After Jesus finished His mission by dying for our sins and being raised from the dead, He returned to heaven and took…

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Twas 11 Days Before Christmas

Wisdomforlife:

Today is second anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting. I share this in memory of the 28 people who tragically lost their lives on that day.

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

The identities of the victims who were shot at an elementary school in Connecticut have been released. I braced myself before going over the list. After reading these names, I read a thoughtful poem that reminded me of the words of Jesus,

“I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2).

Children

  • Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female (age 6)
  • Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male (age 7)
  • Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female (age 6)
  • Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female (age 7)
  • Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female (age 6)
  • Dylan Hockley, 03/08/06, male (age 6)
  • Madeleine F. Hsu, 07/10/06, female (age 6)
  • Catherine V. Hubbard, 06/08/06, female (age 6)
  • Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male (age 7)
  • Jesse Lewis, 06/30/06, male (age 6)
  • James Mattioli, 03/22/06, male (age 6)
  • Grace McDonnell, 11/04/05, female (age 7)
  • Emilie Parker, 05/12/06, female (age 6)
  • Jack Pinto, 05/06/06, male (age 6)
  • Noah…

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Three words that changed the world

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

Play Audio!heaven-on-earth

“He humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8)

“Jesus established humility and unconcern for social status not only as the psychological structure of His kingdom but also as a basis for entrance into it. It could be argued that Jesus is simply emphasizing the attitude of truly redeemed people (cf. Isaiah 66:1-2).”

Not humble….

“Those who need to excel others to think well of themselves— who seek value at the expense of others —who try to climb to honor by using others —-who construct their glory upon the shoulders of weakness found in others— who engage in the ‘dangerous business of building self-assessments on watching to see how they’re doing in comparison with others’”

“Those who live this way are— in some profound sense— actually degrading themselves and, far worse, cutting themselves off from both God and people.”

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pe…

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10 common satanic behaviors

After doing an in-depth study of the three places in Scripture where we find the voice of the devil speaking directly to someone else, I became convinced that many people look for the Devil in the wrong places.

This becomes even more clear when we observe how Scripture explicitly mentions Satan with reference to the ten characteristics below.

People rarely associate many of these behaviors with the evil one. Yet how do we explain the truth that, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (I John 5:19)?

It seems likely that his ways would be pervasively noticed throughout the world. And, in fact, we find this to be the case when we consider how common these ten characteristics are to human history.

  1. Conceit: (I Timothy 3:6)
  2. Willful rebellion: (Gen. 4:1-14 – observed in Cain – who belonged to the evil one; I John 3:12; cf. Isaiah 14:11-15)
  3. Discontentment: (Genesis 3:1-6)
  4. Selfish ambition: (James 3:13-16)
  5. Anger: (Ephesians 4:26-27)
  6. Murder: (John 8:44).
  7. Lying and deception: (John 8:44; II Corinthians 11:13-15)
  8. Envy: (I John 3:12;Isaiah 14:12-14)
  9. Prideful arrogance: (Luke 22:31-34; I Peter 5:5-9; James 4:6-7)
  10. Sexual temptation: (I Corinthians 7:3-5)

Steve Cornell

An Assault on God’s Care

There are only three narratives in the Bible that chronicle the voice of the devil speaking to someone else.

  1. Genesis 3-4 – Satan slandered God to man
  2. Job 1-2 – Satan slandered man to God
  3. Matthew 3-4 – Satan attacked the God-man

In those passages, themes emerge that provide significant insight into the character and strategy of Satan.

One theme that emerges is an explicit effort on the part of the evil one to assault the truth that God cares for His own.

In this audio message, I explore this assault.

Simply click here to listen: Caring For One Another

Steve Cornell

What pastoral care looks like

 

Here’s a great illustration for deeper discussion about pastoral ministry:  

“Roberta (not her real name) is a bright woman in her forties with a highly charged emotional attachment to Jesus. Roberta loves to sing in church, and her passion for worship infuses those around her with a desire to know God more deeply. Unfortunately, Roberta’s family background has set her on an apparently irreversible course to relational confusion and heartache. After a failed marriage, Roberta lived with a sister for more than a decade, spending hours each week involved in various charitable causes. The sister’s death brought to the surface a host of family and financial crises.”

“Roberta’s grief process was highly intensified due to years of dysfunctional family relationships. She was dangerously despondent. It was clear to us that Roberta needed outside help in order to gain a proper perspective on herself and the world around her. Roberta’s current money problems were only the latest in a history of such fiscal fiascoes, suddenly intensified by a squabble with her surviving siblings over their sister’s estate.”

“Roberta is loved and highly appreciated by our church family. Our leaders sincerely desired to do something tangible to help Roberta get on her feet again, both emotionally and economically. We offered to meet the most pressing financial needs immediately. But we knew that our assistance would benefit Roberta only if accompanied by several nonnegotiable conditions.”

“We informed Roberta that the money would be hers if she met three conditions. (1) She would see our staff [counselor] (initially at the church’s expense) on a weekly basis in order to find short-term support and guidance in dealing with the loss of her sister. (2) She would meet with a financial adviser who is a member of our congregation (again, pro bono) to come up with a game plan to dig herself out of debt. (3) She would agree to attend church regularly and partner with others in the church family in some area of ministry.”

“What we asked of Roberta was really quite straightforward: relational accountability. We challenged Roberta to quit trying to find her way through life as an isolated individual and, instead, to take advantage of the guidance, community, and accountability offered by her brothers and sisters in the family of God. Only in this way would Roberta begin to grow up to become the healthy person God had designed her to be.”

“Roberta declined our offer and rejected our advice. Like many people in our churches, she chose to chart her own course and to bear her pain alone rather than to integrate herself into the body of Christ through the vehicle of strong relational accountability. We no longer see Roberta at Oceanside Christian Fellowship anymore.”

American Individualism and a Church in Crisis

“A story like Roberta’s impacts more than just the individual involved; it takes its toll on a whole church family. On more than one occasion I spent a great deal of time with Roberta on the phone as the above crisis unfolded. We also dedicated an hour or so of our elder board’s precious meeting time in our efforts to carefully craft the three conditions (see above) for the financial assistance that she requested.”

“We have free assistance available through professional counselors and financial planners who are graciously willing to donate their time. And we have a church body ready to receive and encourage anyone willing to embrace our oversight and our guidelines. But Roberta benefited from none of these resources since she foolishly chose to sort out her problems on her own, apart from input from her brothers and sisters in Christ. And we are all the worse for it” (Joseph Hellerman, “When the Church was a family”).

 

Restoration is our deepest need

We can all identify with what the Psalmist wrote about God leading him beside still waters and restoring his soul (Psalm 23:2-3).

But restoration is not just a matter of a vacation by the quiet sea; it’s what we need from the moment we enter the world. It’s our deepest need.

To be restored is to return to its original or usable and functioning condition or to regenerate: return to life; get or give new life or energy.

Our most original condition is best described in Genesis 1:26-27 – “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

By the time God finished His work of Creation, He “looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” (Genesis 1:31). But it’s quite obvious that something has gone terribly wrong in the story of humanity. Something or someone vandalized God’s good creation. And we all know it.

We feel it deeply

Most people feel like something is missing from their lives. We have moments when life feels whole, full and satisfying, but these moments easily give way to a sense that we are not what we’re supposed to be. The truth is that something great has fallen from its greatness. Something amazing has lost its amazement. Something beautiful has lost its beauty. Something whole is broken. Something healthy is sick and in need of healing. Something peaceful has been disturbed.

The words that describe humanity as lost, wayward, drifting and restless are all fitting terms for our condition even if they hurt our egos. These are ways of describing what we deeply feel when we’re most sober and honest.

Fallen and without peace

The words of Scripture resonate with clarity and reality: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have fallen from something great and stand in need of restoration.

Looking at this world through any lens (or mirror) leads one to conclude that we are not at peace or truly reconciled with anything or anyone in an unhindered way. If we reach a measure of peace, it’s not maintained effortlessly and too soon disappears. This is true in all dimensions of existence.

You are not at peace with….

  • Your body – It is threatened by many opposing realities. This is why we diet, exercise and why we contract diseases.
  • Your mind – It is threatened by anxiety, depression, evil thoughts and much more.
  • Your environment – Nature threatens to destroy us if we don’t respect its powers and our dependency on it: We can have too little or too much rain or sun. We call the destructive forces storms and they come in many kinds (floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, etc…).
  • Your self – Sometimes we observe people who never seem to be able to get their “act” together and we ask, “What’s her problem?” Someone answers, “Oh, she’s got issues.” Other times, after years of struggling, we’ll say of someone, “He’s finally at peace with himself.”
  • Your relationships – There are endless difficulties with family, friends and neighbors. Is there ever guaranteed peace and reconciliation between people? No. It’s almost always the opposite: conflict and hostility; revenge and war. Whether it is individual-to-individual, race-to-race or nation-to-nation. Someone described peace as that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload. Absence of peace is real and tragic.

The absence of peace (shalom) runs like a fault-line through human history and through every human heart.

This is reality on the planet originally given to be our very good home. We’ve turned it into chaos. We’ve turned from our Creator to do things under our own rule. How true are the words of Isaiah, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way” (Isaiah 53:6).

Rescued and Restored

Gratefully our Creator became our Redeemer. He did not leave us to our self-made ruin. As we celebrate the coming of our Savior and Redeemer during this time of year, reflect on the backdrop of his self-giving mission.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. …. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4,14, NIV).

Give thanks that God our Father “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17, NIV).

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (II Corinthians 5:19-21, NLT).

Because of what our Creator has done for us, we can anticipate final restoration:

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:3-5, NLT).

Steve Cornell