A closer look at discouragement

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

We all know what it feels like to battle discouragement. Life is not a cake-walk. You can be sure that you’re not alone when you’re feeling down. 

But what is discouragement and what are some ways to conquer it?

Defining discouragement

Discouragement is a frame of mind and an emotional state characterized by loss of courage, hope, or confidence. Discouragement is a “DIS” on courage, just as dis-heartened is a “DIS” on heart, a loss of heart. We say, “His heart isn’t in it anymore.” He has become disheartened or discouraged. 

Obviously there are degrees of discouragement ranging from mild to extreme. But because life is difficult,  (did you get the memo about that? — Life is difficult!), we all experience discouragement. And this means that we all need to be encouraged and to be encouragers!

A community of encouragement

God calls upon every member of the…

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Seven guidelines for understanding the Old Testament

  1. The laws revealed in the Old Testament (O.T.) were not originally given for us to follow today as God’s will for our lives. They were required of God’s people during Old Testament history to distinguish them as they lived in ancient near eastern cultures (see: Misreading the Bible).
  2. We don’t understand all of the reasons for some of the laws in the O. T., but we know that the times during which they were written were exceptionally evil. Although some laws appear to us as unusual, it likely reveals our lack of understanding regarding the circumstances of the time. The laws were at least meant to distinguish God’s people from the nations around them. 
  3. The O. T. was never intended to be a complete or perfect expression of God’s will. It was provisional for a specific time and pointed to a new covenant that would be a fulfillment and replacement of the old covenant (see: A truth we must accept).
  4. Those who follow the Bible should not quote laws directed to Israel as if they are God’s will for people today unless reaffirmed in the New Testament. We should not, for example,  look to detailed legislation in Leviticus to specifically guide us as followers of Christ.
  5. We only apply Old Testament Scriptures to our lives if they are taught by Jesus and the apostles. Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (see – Matthew 5:18-20). Although He was “born under the law” (Gal.4:4) and “fulfilled all righteousness” (Matt.3:15), Jesus wrapped up the era of biblical history where the law regulated the covenant relationship of the people of God. Jesus is the new locus of authority for God’s people. He established for us what is pleasing to God.
    (see: Christ is the end of the Law)
  6. The primary way O.T. law speaks to us is in the revelation it gives of the holy nature of God in contrast with our sinfulness. This prepares us to see our need to be forgiven and reconciled with God through the grace offered in Jesus Christ.
  7. Those who mock people for following Scripture should reflect on their hypocrisy because they also hold to standards (even the one they’re using to discredit those who follow Scripture). Why do they expect others to accept their ethical code as reasonable?

Steve Cornell

Inexplicable mercy

Wisdomforlife:

I needed this reminder of the gospel.

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

The word “gratuitous” means uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted. It can also something given or done free of charge.

Gratuitous is often used of evil that seems to lack any greater purpose for accomplishing a greater good. Gratuitous evils are of a kind that people say, “What possible reasons could there be for this?” They’re evils that make no sense to us. The painfully perplexing question that lingers over such evils is “Why?”

When directed toward God, the question is how God could have any adequate justifying reason for permitting seemingly inexplicable evil. My aim here is not to resolve this perplexing matter. I’ve addressed this in an earlier post here.

My present interest is “gratuitous mercy.” John Calvin wrote that man can only be “regarded as righteous before God on the footing of gratuitous mercy; because God, without any respect to works, freely adopts him in Christ…

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God is an active presence during our suffering

“Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Do you agree with these words? They express a dark outlook spoken in a season of grief.

These are the words of the ancient patriarch, Job. But many echo his sentiment. Many feel that life is short and full of problems.

It’s important to realize that being a Christian does not erase the challenges and troubles of this life. It’s tempting for us as Christians to think that being a Christian should minimize our troubles. After all, we have God with us! Shouldn’t He protect us from hardships? Shouldn’t life be easier?

Jesus said, “In this world you shall have trouble” (John 16:33). Paul reminded new believers in Antioch that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

But trouble and hardship cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35). “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble” (Nahum 1:7

No stranger to hardship

The Apostle Paul was no stranger to trouble and hardship. In fact, from the beginning he was marked out for these experiences by the Lord Jesus himself. At Paul’s conversion, the Lord said in Acts 9:15-16, “This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

The most comprehensive list of Paul’s hardship and suffering is found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29.

Comfort for those who suffer

One of the main themes of 2 Corinthians is God’s comfort in the midst of affliction and suffering. This particular theme reaches all people because we all go through hardships and difficulties. We all suffer. Some members of the church (like Paul) are called on to suffer more than others. But we can all expect to make strong connections with 2 Corinthians as the truths of this letter reach into our experiences and teach us about the way God relates to our sufferings.

The primary occasion for an emphasis on God’s comfort and purposes in suffering was the accusation by Paul’s opponents in Corinth—claiming that Paul’s suffering calls into question his ministry and apostleship.

Of course, it is an ancient accusation suggesting that a person’s hardship is a clear sign of God’s displeasure. But in this case, it was being used to accomplish a very evil and subversive purpose of discrediting God’s apostle with the intention of taking his place of leadership in the church at Corinth.

So Paul opens his letter praising God for the very thing his opponents are using to discredit his ministry. For Paul, as it should be for all of us:

God is an active presence in the midst of trouble, hardship and suffering.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 bring us a very God-centered focus for our troubles.

  • Verse 3 focuses on who God is.
    • “He is the God of all comfort”
  • Verse 4a focuses on what God does.
    • “Who comforts us in all our troubles”
  • Verse 4b focuses on God’s purpose in what he does.
    • “So that we can comfort those in any trouble”

God calls us into His school of comfort where we study His ministry of comfort to us so that we can be equipped to be His agents of comfort to others.

Our God is so personal that He meets us in our troubles and comforts us through them. The people who know God can say with great confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It’s a very personal relationship. And because the Lord is my Shepherd, I can say, (Psalm 23:4) “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

The apostle is directing us to be students of divine comfort as God is preparing us for ministries of comfort.

Steve Cornell

Should wives submit?

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

Why do people resent the way Scripture portrays a wife as a keeper of the home who submits to her husband? (See: Titus 2:3-5)

Sadly the intended beauty of this requirement has been marred by distortions and maligned by misrepresentations. This is partly why we need a closer look at the Scriptural portrayal of a wife.

Please read through to the end of this post where I highlight seven things submission is not meant to be to protect us from wrong applications. 

When the nation’s largest Protestant denomination amended its documents to include a statement on the need for a wife to “submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband,” it resulted in a significant media backlash. Even in the church many were outraged. 

So what should we conclude about the New Testament passage that says, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the…

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Watch your tone!

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

It’s not always what you say buthow you say it.

Do you tend to use a negative tone in communication? Did you grow up in a home where you were exposed to negative or cynical tones? Slow down and Listen to yourself. Be honest with yourself.

When one of the tones listed below is prominent in your way of communicating, it points to deeper issues — heart issues that must be resolved. 

12 destructive tones

  1. Condescending
  2. Bossy
  3. Angry
  4. Snobby
  5. Frustrated
  6. Impatient
  7. Defensive
  8. Moody
  9. Distant
  10. Disrespectful
  11. Cynical
  12. Whining

One of the best ways to change our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other. An obvious example would be to replace gossip or slander with positive words about others. Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to the dark tones of grumbling and whining. 

Use the formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our…

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Good advice for adult children of divorce

In his helpful book, “Breaking the Cycle of Divorce: How your marriage can succeed even if your parents’ didn’t,” Dr. John Trent suggested that adult children of divorce (ACOD) face daunting challenges in both life and marriage.

“Statistically, studies have shown that children of divorce suffer from more depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, feelings of rejection, drug and alcohol abuse, delinquency, poor inter-personal relationships, and criminality than children from intact homes. Sixty-five percent of children from divorced families will never build a good post-divorce relationship with their fathers. Thirty percent will be unable to build a good post divorce relationship with their mothers”

Most ACOD are resolved to have strong and lasting marriages. But, as Dr. Trent says, they live with a “nagging fear that your marriage will fail — just as your parents’ marriage did.”

As an ACOD himself, Dr. Trent offers 10 helpful points for people who never had the benefit of seeing a loving, committed marriage modeled for them.  If you suffered wounds when your parents’ marriage ended that make it difficult for you to trust other people, and even God, despite these struggles, Dr. Trent  encourages you not to think that you’re doomed to divorce. You can break the cycle and build a healthy marriage.” Share his advice with others.

  1. Embrace the love that will never abandon you. Understand that, while people might let you down, God will come through for you. Accept the love that He offers you —unconditional love that you can count on, no matter what. If you haven’t already, begin a relationship with God through Christ. Make it a top priority to build a closer relationship with God each day. [If you need further direction on this issue go to our web site. There you’ll find a number of web links to ministries and organizations, like NEED-HIM, where you can find answers.]
  2. Know that you have a choice. Recognize that you aren’t a powerless victim. Know that what happened to your parents doesn’t have to happen to you, and that you aren’t a slave to your past. Decide to choose to respond to your circumstances in ways that will lead to a positive future.
  3. Face your fears. Take your fears out of the dark (lurking in your imagination) and bring them into the light by talking about them openly with your spouse. Pray about them specifically rather than just worrying about them. Seek and accept help from a close friend or a professional counselor to confront stubborn fears.
  4. Focus on positives instead of negatives. Ask God to renew your mind and help you reprogram your thinking about your marriage and life in general so you’re more positive than negative. Write several lists: one that lists ways you and your spouse are not like your parents, one that lists ways your marriage is not like your parents’ marriage, and one that lists your spouse’s strengths and positive attributes. Then post your lists in prominent places in your home or car where you can see them every day to remind you.
  5. Take small steps toward a big difference. Don’t worry about trying to make huge strides of progress in a short time; recognize that that is unrealistic. But be encouraged that making small, steady steps toward breaking bad habits and establishing good ones will eventually lead to a significantly more positive life for you. Focus on one issue at a time and keep stepping out as God leads you to do so.
  6. Find an accountability partner. Ask God to lead you to someone who will hold you accountable as you make changes for the better in your life. Consider a friend, family member, clergy person, or counselor. Meet with your accountability partner regularly to honestly share your thoughts, feelings, and recent behaviors. Know that support from a relationship like this can be a great source of encouragement and help to you.
  7. Seek professional help when you need it. If you aren’t making progress on your own in dealing with tough issues, don’t hesitate to get help from a professional counselor. Schedule some strategic sessions so the counselor can coach you through the issues. Realize that just a few short meetings can benefit you.
  8. Rely on God’s power rather than your own. Don’t try to wrestle with your struggles on your own. Instead, invite God to work in and through you, empowering you to handle everything that comes your way. Trust that whenever you ask for His help, He will respond —day by day, and moment by moment.
  9. Find a healthy marriage model. Look around for couples who have healthy marriages, and choose one to ask if you can build a friendship with them and study how they interact with each other. Know that observing a good example of marriage can give you: hope that marital commitment can endure for a lifetime, the expectation that commitment will endure for a lifetime, specific ways to relate to your spouse in healthy ways and build up your marriage, and ways to resolve conflicts without destroying your relationship with your spouse.
  10. Pass on blessings to the children around you. Decide that, even though you learned some unhealthy lessons growing up yourself, you will do all you can to be a good example to your own children and others (such as nieces, nephews, and friends of your children). Remember that children you encounter on a regular basis are constantly watching you, listening to you, and learning from your life.

“In candid and age-appropriate ways, show children how to communicate openly and honestly, be proactive and take initiative, make good choices, put the needs of others before their own, make and keep commitments, ask for and offer forgiveness, relate to and draw strength from a loving God. Ask yourself every day what kind of lessons the children around you are learning from your example, and what kind of legacy you’ll leave to future generations.” (Breaking the Cycle of Divorce: How Your Marriage Can Succeed Even If Your Parents’ Didn’t, by John Trent).

Steve Cornell