Scene 3 – Life as a prisoner

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Sold to a different human owner, Joseph soon found himself in more painful and perplexing circumstances beyond his control. But he also continues to experience the Lord’s presence and blessing through it all.

“Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned” (Genesis 39:1-4).

Another trial for Joseph

Joseph had the “misfortune” of being “well-built and handsome” (Genesis 39:6a). This would result in Joseph being the object of lust and false accusation. As the story continues, “After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’” (Genesis 39:6b-7).

This was a very real and dangerous test for Joseph. Sexual temptation is real for all men. Joseph, however, responded with a kind of principled integrity that sets a great example for all men.

Yet doing what was right did not mean that he would be “blessed” circumstantially. Joseph paid a severe price for his obedience.

Follow closely the line of reasoning he used for refusing to give in to sexual temptation.  “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9).

Guided by four great principlesTrust, Reputation, Ownership, and Obedience to God, Joseph stood firm against temptation.

Did God bless him for his obedience? Should we expect obedience to bring blessing? Did it for Jesus?

Joseph stood his ground even as things intensified from sexual temptation to sexual harassment. “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her” (Genesis 39:10). The persistence of this woman would not be deterred and Joseph couldn’t do anything to change what happened as a result.

Often in life we become the object of other people’s passions. Joseph was the object of parental favoritism, sibling envy and hatred and now lust and false accusation by Potiphar’s wife.

Another abrupt change occurs for Joseph.

“One day he (Joseph) went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’ She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house. When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined” (Genesis 39:11-20).

Have you ever been falsely accused?

It is a very painful experience. It cuts into a person’s heart. When we do the right thing only to be misrepresented, slandered and wrongly charged, temptations toward self-pity, resentment and despair are hard to overcome.

How would Joseph respond to this abrupt and undeserved turn in his life? Would he be confused? No doubt! Would you have been?

Could you hear his prayers, “Dear God how could this happen to me?” “Haven’t I suffered enough?” “How much can one man take?” “I tried to do the right thing and look where it landed me!”

We don’t read much about Joseph’s struggles but we must not treat him as if he didn’t. I am sure he wrestled through a number of dark nights of the soul. Have you had any dark nights like this?

Shortly we’ll notice that Joseph did not take lightly or completely forget the wrongs committed against him. Joseph was human and battled feelings common to all people.

But, again, I suspect that through a series of deep, dark nights of the soul, Joseph reaffirmed his conclusions about God and life (we will see these soon).

Once again, he faced options. We always do in our trials. Joseph needed something to lift him from the temptation to self-pity and despair; resentment and bitterness.

If he had chosen these responses, the story would not have been the same — for him and for many others (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). Our responses always have generational consequences.

Joseph prospers in the prison

“But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:21-23).
 
Notice again that the Lord’s presence with Joseph and the blessings of God’s kindness and Joseph’s success (whatever it looked like) did not translate into immediate release from prison.

  • So what did God’s kindness look like in prison?
  • How did Joseph experience it?
  • Did he question whether God cared?
  • Did Joseph pray for release?

We know his desire for release and memory of his suffering never left him. Some time later he would interpret a dream for a new prisoner that indicated this prisoner would soon be released. Then he said to the prisoner, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (Genesis 40:14-15, emphasis mine). His sense of justice was clear.

The prisoner was released just as Joseph said. No doubt, this inspired renewed hope in Joseph that he would be release from prison. Yet to Joseph’s trial was added the additional pain of being forgotten.

With a simple stroke of the historian’s pen we read, “The chief cupbearer (the prisoner who had been released), did not remember Joseph; he forgot him” (Genesis 40:23).

It hurts to be forgotten.

Could you hear his prayers? “Please God, cause him to mention me.” “Don’t let me be forgotten in this place.” “I have had so much evil committed against me, I am not sure I can take much more.”

But again, with another simple stroke of the pen we learn that, “When two full years had passed…” (Genesis 41:1), Joseph would finally be remembered.

Have you ever had to wait two full years for something? Why two full years? How did Joseph guard his heart against discouragement and despair? Was God not good and great enough to lift him from this dungeon?

At the risk of being repetitive, allow me to again emphasize that through a series of deep dark nights of the soul, Joseph had to reaffirm his conclusions about God and life. He needed something to lift him from temptation to self-pity, resentment and bitterness.

Ultimately, we see that he resisted the temptation to resign to fate — to stop believing that God cared. There was something stronger that held and guided Joseph through his many abrupt changes and dark years of doubt and discouragement?

But it also protected Joseph from a darker prison — the prison of anger, resentment and bitterness. More than that, (and how important this is), Joseph’s chosen perspective blessed many people and preserved a remnant for Israel (Genesis 45:7; 50:20). 

Steve Cornell

Supreme court case

Please pray as the Supreme Court begins to hear oral arguments in a case deciding whether the Obama Administration should be allowed to force business owners to violate their faith by paying for someone else’s abortion pills. Think about it: Imagine that Obamacare mandated provision of health insurance for the abortion procedure itself. Would you feel that companies like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties had a right to refuse to support it? Sound like a stretch? Don’t forget that abortion has been consistently framed in liberal politics as a healthcare issue for women. Why should this be a strange possibility? Beyond this case, I am personally not supportive of the role government is taking in healthcare but that’s an issue to address in the next two elections. Please pray and vote!

For thoughtful analysis

Follow the case

Live Blog: Contraception Cases at Supreme Court

Steve Cornell

A disturbing pattern exposed

Did the governor of New York actually say that pro-life people have no place in the state of New York? Does he think he can speak for all New Yorkers?

During a radio interview, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo spoke about a schism among Republicans, saying, “Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.’’

Was Cuomo referring mainly to politicians he labels as “extreme conservatives’’? Probably. But by claiming “that’s not who New Yorkers are,’’ Cuomo went too far. He arrogantly alienated a lot of New Yorkers who don’t see things his way.

Yet, as much as I disapprove of the governor’s arrogance, I am not surprised by it. This is the spirit that is starting to dominate the Democratic Party. It’s an insistence on only one way to think about a growing number of issues if you want to be accepted in the party.

There must be unquestioned support for abortion (disguised as women’s rights or health), full endorsement of gay marriage (disguised as civil rights with manipulative accusations of bigotry and discrimination toward those who disagree) and devotion to big government (disguised as income equality and compassion for the poor). These are litmus tests for the party faithful.

Even more disruptive to civility and tolerance is the condescending ridicule aimed at people who see things differently. Watch a discussion on something like CNN’s “Crossfire’’ and you’ll see the snarky smirks and hear the belittling tones. Who wants to be identified with this attitude of intolerance? I don’t like it among conservatives or liberals.

According to Cuomo, there’s no safe zone for Democrats if they oppose abortion, defend the 14th Amendment or disagree with homosexual marriage. Evidently, he also believes that there’s no place for them in New York if they want to be true New Yorkers. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

Cuomo was just parroting a media effort of more radical liberals to convince people that they belong to a crazy fringe if they see things differently. “It’s the way the whole nation is going,’’ we’re told. But this is an empty hope that saying something often enough will make it real.  

Although abortion on demand is a provision of federal law, for example, it’s not because the people had any say about it. The courts acted without the consent of the governed. It wasn’t democracy at work. The same is true of gay marriage. Do you think gay marriage is legal in a growing number of states because the democratic process led to it? Think again. In state after state, the courts thumbed their judicial noses at the public and forced their view of sexuality on entire states. Are we an oligarchy or a democracy? Is this what representation was meant to be?

And all of this has been done under a contrived sense of evolutionary progress. By changing terms from “baby’’ to “fetus’’ and from “sexual preference’’ to “sexual orientation,’’ people give themselves a delusional sense that they are progressive. There is no scientific evidence for denying that a fetus is a human life with the potential of becoming a mature human being. We might try to assure ourselves that we’re only terminating a pregnancy, but abortion terminates a human life in its early stages.

As for homosexuality, if you want a same-sex relationship as consenting adults, you’re free to have one in every state of the nation. But to ask the whole country to equate the kind of sex you desire with unalterable realities like race and gender not only removes sexuality from moral categories, it offends people who are turning away from the lifestyle and it lacks scientific evidence.

If the state offered gay couples benefits and privileges that come with legal marriage, it should not be done as a civil right for a special class of citizens. This is the wrong category, and using it would inevitably violate the religious and individual freedoms of those who disagree with homosexual behavior. If the state equates homosexuality with race, people will be obligated to honor it under threat of civil law.

Manipulating the category of civil rights like this will only cause deeper alienation between gays and society. Is this what we want? There must be a way we can rise above the divisive arrogance expressed by Andrew Cuomo, because our current approach is deeply dividing the nation.

Steven W. Cornell, senior pastor at Millersville Bible Church and a correspondent for Lancaster Newspapers Inc. 

I will not remember your sins

You are living by the promise of I John 1:9 when you refuse to hold against yourself the sin God does not hold against you.

What is the promise? 

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Reinforce this truth

  • “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness” (Psalm 131:3-4).
  • Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (Psalm 32:2-3, NLT).
  • God said, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).
  • Where is another God like you, who pardons the guilt of the remnant, overlooking the sins of his special people? You will not stay angry with your people forever, because you delight in showing unfailing love. Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” (Micah 7:18-19).

Action point – Refuse to hold against yourself the sin God does not hold against you. 

Steve Cornell

Duck Dynasty Alert

Phil Robertson, star and patriarch of A&E reality show, Duck Dynasty, has been put on “indefinite suspension” by the Network. Why?  For sharing his personal views about homosexual behavior in an interview.

Among other comments, Robertson said, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong… Sin becomes fine. … Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

Robertson than quoted the scripture that says, “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.” (I Corinthians 6:9-10)

Robertson went on to say, “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

The Network responded saying, “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,”

GLAAD rep Wilson Cruz responded to Robertson’s comments with the following statement:

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe. He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. 

”Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

This kind of inflammatory reaction actually encourages intolerance because it distorts what Robertson said and reads evil motives into his heart. It also demands that people take their  view of Christianity as the true view – even though Robertson quoted from the Bible itself.

This radical intolerance and violation of free speech has to stop.

Robertson didn’t say anything with malice or hate. Why isn’t he free to share his personal views? His direct and pointed style is a big part of what people like about him.

We cannot remain silent in the face of such radical intolerance toward anyone who dares to disagree with the sexual choices of homosexuals.

Enough is enough!

There is no safe zone for people to take a different view on homosexual sex. You are now required by the radical members of the gay community to take their view of sexuality. Evidently, you’re also required to accept their truncated view of Christianity.

How long will reasonable citizens allow this kind of intolerance and policing of speech from a small vocal group of radical gays? They don’t even represent the majority approach from the gay community.

We are being manipulated and coerced under fear of punishment for holding a different view of homosexual behavior. And people have been deceived into thinking that the kind of sex one prefers is equal to the ethnicity one is born with. This is an irrational and false comparison. When will the people say, “Enough is enough!”? When will we stand firmly against false accusations of hate and bigotry simply for disagreeing?

The people who are no longer free are those who choose to believe what most people throughout human history and what a majority of Americans still believe, that marriage is a relationship meant for male and female. Yet to openly say that you believe this is asking to be vilified and subject to verbal assault.

Who are we kidding? This non-sense has to stop!

Don’t misunderstand.

If we required treating all people with respect no matter their sexual preference, I would fully agree. And Robertson was unequivocally clear about his agreement with this. But this is not the what radical gays are demanding from all Americans.

The morality currently being imposed says that if you choose a different viewpoint on homosexual behavior, you’ll be treated as a social outcast and made the object of condescending ridicule or angry intolerance — you might even get fired from your job!

This is a strategy of social coercion to force everyone to approve the sexual preferences of a small number of people who want to engage same-sex behavior. We’re not being asked to tolerate but being forced to approve and celebrate homosexual preferences. In many places, you’re simply not permitted to have a different viewpoint.

This irrational insanity must end.

Is this the kind of tolerance we want for our Country? Why can’t we have mutual respect without coercion and control?

One of the greatest needs of this nation is promotion and modeling of the virtues of respect, honor and neighbor love. These qualities support the true virtue of tolerance. They’re also the qualities Robertson and his family teach and model.

Steve Cornell

See: Restore True Tolerance to America

Thinking deeply about Influence

No matter our political circumstances, I agree with James D. Hunter that, “If there are benevolent consequences of our engagement with the world, they are an expression of a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth, a manifestation of our loving obedience to God, and a fulfillment of God’s command to love our neighbor” (“To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World”).

How would Hunter’s perspective change the way you think about your role as the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16)? Is it possible that your perspective on influence has been too narrow?

When we think of our influence we should always use the wide lens. Human beings are created as physical beings with bodily needs; social beings with relationship needs; psychological beings with cognitive and emotional needs, and spiritual beings with a need for fellowship with God.

The undergirding concern of Christian influence is truth. All of our engagement should be shaped by what is true and this means that our influence must involve calling people away from deception, delusion, and unreality.

We pursue truth-based influence because we believe in a personal Creator who has set the terms for our existence. This means (among other things) that when we live at cross purpose with God’s will, we not only dishonor our Maker, we sabotage ourselves and others.

Truth-based influence is holistically shaped by a compassionate presupposition that our Creator knows what is best for us.

However and wherever we engage the world, we must help people understand the truth about a personal Creator and His will for our lives. This means that we must be honest about human nature as inherently corrupt and bent toward self-destructive autonomy.

We live in a dangerous world because a dangerous beast inhabits the globe — mankind! We must invite people to think more deeply about why we have a tendency to live against ourselves?

While affirming that reconciliation with God through the forgiveness received as God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ is the greatest human need, we realize that engagement and influence in the world must happen where this message is not yet received. This is the realm of common grace. and Christians need a renewed understanding and commitment to their role in this realm. It is all too common to assume that the work of evangelism is our only calling as if humans are only spiritual beings in need of salvation.

I am not suggesting that we demote or diminish our zeal for the gospel but that we enlarge our understanding of our role in the world. The Church has too often overlooked works of mercy that are precursory to evangelism.

Why shouldn’t those who embrace God’s truth be not he front lines of global efforts for human flourishing? Have we allowed ourselves to believe that such work can only be done at the expense of gospel-centered ministry? Have we allowed ourselves to believe that this is an either/or dilemma? 

Consider as an example human interest in freedom. The American experiment has taught us something exceptional to human history — that humans flourish most in freedom. But humans cannot flourish in freedom without truth and without limits. Without truth-based restrictions and restraints, we return to a destructive form of enslavement.

In this regard, we should help those who value freedom to understand that (as David B. Hart wrote), “We are free not merely because we can choose, but only when we choose well. For to choose poorly, through folly or malice, in a way that thwarts our nature and distorts our proper form, is to enslave ourselves to the transitory, the irrational, the purposeless, the (to be precise) subhuman.”

Yet without using religious sounding categories is it possible to creatively and intelligently make a case for the fact that (as Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. articulated) sin is both wrong, dumb and a form of self-abuse? Can we work off a deep understanding of God’s will revealed in Scripture and then exert influence for truth in public places without prefacing our concerns with “the Bible says….”?

It seems that we are often in a place where we must help people understand what C. S. Lewis suggested, ‘When we have gotten a wrong sum at the beginning of a sequence of calculations, we cannot improve matters by simply going on.’” The answers will not help the man who doesn’t understand the questions. The solutions won’t make sense unless we understand the problems.

There are foundational and provisional ways of thinking (or, sometimes, not thinking) that are typically behind shifts in world views and lifestyles.We must find creative ways to help people think about the truth. Not that the natural mind can find a way to the gospel, but that common grace from God (based in the image of God) graces even fallen minds with an ability to have rational conversations about common good.

I agree with Richard Mouw that, “God has lawfully ordered his creation in a way that all human beings have some sort of cognitive access to that lawfulness.” Romans 2:15-16 certainly validates this cognitive access — even among those who don’t have access to Scripture.

Mouw invites us to think about, “The Christian psychologist who encourages her non-Christian clients to honor commitments, the Christian literature professor at a secular university who highlights themes in a novel that celebrate faithfulness and telling the truth, the Christian corporate manager who instills the will to serve in employees, the Christian farmer who employs specific agricultural methods that demonstrate respect for the integrity of the creation—all of these promote the goodness associated with common grace. We should not confine our attention, then, to how unbelievers on occasion perform those deeds that better the lot of other human beings. We should also think about the ways in which we ourselves, in performing righteous acts that affect the lives of unbelievers, can promote the gifts of common grace.” (He Shines in All That’s Fair: Culture and Common Grace).

Steve Cornell

The government should pay for…?

We need to change the way we talk about government if we hope to solve our national problems.

We must stop saying, “The government should pay for…” and instead say, “You and I should pay for…”

Instead of saying, “The government should pay for XYZ,” try saying, “You and I should pay for XYZ” and see if this changes your opinion.

As a friend of mine noted, “The government does not ‘make’ anything, and it ‘creates’ no wealth. It simply takes from those who labor, and redistributes the wealth to others.”

So let’s be very clear about the fact that the government doesn’t give you anything unless it first takes it from hard-working Americans. The only way politicians get money is to take it from taxpayers. 

Now ask yourself these questions 

  • Do you feel our government is doing a good job at handling our money?
  • Are you willing to give them more and trust them to be responsible with it?
  • Do you think the federal government should be required to live within their means without borrowing money or placing unreasonable tax burdens on citizens?

I am grateful for the efforts of those in government who serve with integrity and try to keep costs down to protect citizens from unreasonable tax burdens.  

Steve Cornell

Watch your political tone

The tone of politics on the Left is becoming notably worse. Just watch MSNBC.

There is no room for fair and balanced political commentary on MSNBC. They give new meaning to agenda-driven journalism. They only employ opinion journalists who fit a predetermined point-of-view.

Commentators like Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow, and Lawrence O’ Donnell share a bitter partisan spirit aimed at trashing the Republican Party. Currently the network seems to be in overdrive to win the House of Representatives to Democrats in the 2014 midterm.

But this tone is hurting political dialogue in America. It’s a tone of intolerance mixed with sneering and condescending arrogance.

It has been particularly disappointing to see Chris Matthews devolve into a cynical and sarcastic commentator with a venomous (and, at times, irrational) hostility toward Republicans.

It’s more than a little scary that these commentators actually believe that they represent mainstream America. Their ratings alone should snap them into reality. And it’s widely known that Americans thirty-five and under are turned off by angry partisan politics.

Perhaps I shouldn’t trouble over networks like MSNBC given their dismal ratings. I’d prefer to see this as more of a problem on the far left, but the tone is slowly dominating liberal politics. Lately the President himself appears to be taking his tone and talking points from MSNBC. This was particularly clear during the government shutdown.

The last time I wrote about this concern I received emails from liberals who concurred and expressed similar dismay over the tone that is slowly dominating politics on the left.

It was the extreme Right side of politics for many years that was labeled narrow-minded and controlled by litmus tests. The Left side is now competing for those labels — and winning.

The spirit taking over the Left is based on an insistence that there is only one correct and permissible way to think about a growing number of issues.

Party acceptance (socially) requires complete (and often irrational) rejection of Republicans, unquestioned support for abortion (disguised as women’s rights or only a “fetus”), total embrace of gay marriage (disguised as a civil right or sexual orientation) and commitment to big government (disguised as compassion for the less fortunate).

But along with these litmus tests comes a tone of mocking ridicule toward poor ignorant people who dare to see things differently. Do you want to be identified with that tone?

There is no longer any safe zone on the Left for those who oppose abortion or for those who disagree with homosexual marriages. Yet a few bold members willing to self-check the radical extremes and divisive attitudes of liberal politics could bring sanity to the Democratic Party before it’s too late.



Fair-minded liberals should be asking if this is what they want for their side of politics. If you’re bothered by the tone and direction consider organizing an internal revolt and demand changes before it’s too late.

Perhaps you fear the consequences of opposing the tone or failing the litmus tests. But I believe you could find enough courageous members who are willing to hold the Democratic Party accountable.

Steve Cornell


Should we avoid political engagement?

 

Should Christians pull back from politics? Given the growing polarization and divisive tone of politics, I understand why Christians might want to distance themselves from the whole project. It seems that no matter how graciously we engage, we risk being misunderstood as taking sides with a “Radical Right” or a “Radical Left.”

It’s not surprising to hear the old fundamentalist line, “Just preach the gospel.” I feel for those who want to avoid what appears to be a sure way to create misunderstanding or to get people mad at you.

But is this fear itself wrongly motivated? Is backing out of political engagement a responsible option for obedient Christians? Is it possibly contradiction of our identity as salt to the earth and light to the world? 

This was the topic of a recent post by Russell Moore. I like the way he summarized evangelical engagement on pro-life concerns as a model for other areas of engagement.

“What I’m calling for in our approach to political engagement is what we’re already doing in one area: the pro-life movement. Evangelicals in the abortion debate have demonstrated convictional kindness in a holistic ethic of caring both for vulnerable unborn children and for the women who are damaged by abortion. The pro-life movement has engaged in a multi-pronged strategy that addresses, simultaneously, the need for laws to outlaw abortion, care for women in crisis pregnancies, adoption and foster care for children who need families, ministry to women (and men) who’ve been scarred by abortion, cultivating a culture that persuades others about why we ought to value human life, and the proclamation of the gospel to those whose consciences bear the guilt of abortion.”

“That’s the reason the pro-life movement continues to resonate, with growing numbers, among young Christians. It’s very clearly not a singularly ‘political’ issue, but an issue that demands political, ecclesial, and cultural reform and persuasion.”

Being maligned or falsely charged should not lead Christians to retreat but be viewed (in principle) as an opportunity in the vein of I Peter 3:14-17; 4:19 -

“… if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear their threat; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. ….So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.”

Moore does a good job outlining the nature of the calling for engagement, 

“We engage politically because we love our neighbors, we care about human flourishing. But we do so at multiple fronts. We engage on Capitol Hill (as I do), on issues ranging from stopping the abortion industry, to protecting religious liberty, to speaking out for human rights for the persecuted overseas. We cultivate churches that see the holistic nature of the kingdom of God and who shape consciences of people to live as citizens. But we always do that with a focus that we are not prosecuting attorneys but defense attorneys. We are seeking, ultimately, to point people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

A false argument

Some leaders use a false argument disguised as a biblical case against political engagement. They ask, “Where do you see Jesus or the apostles getting involved in politics?”

Not only is this an argument from apparent silence, it overlooks the fact that those who lived during the periods of history represented in the Bible were not part of democratic forms of government. We are simply not living in the same political situation as Jesus or the apostles. This is part of what makes our function a little more complicated. We are part of a participatory system where we have opportunity to influence the formation of laws and policies for the common good. 

It’s careless and misleading to use this kind of argument from apparent silence to negate a calling to responsible citizenship.  

So as we pursue a common good with others and each one brings his or her beliefs, morals and values to the discussion, robust and respectful debate is often necessary. We must not shy from engagement or allow others to marginalize our voice.

Yet we should not approach engagement as an effort to win culture wars. Such language (and the demeanor that often accompanies it) is not fitting to responsible Christian participation in a representative form of democracy. But neither should we become passive when called to engage.

Let’s be as informed as possible and speak the truth with boldness while being considerate and kind toward opponents.

At the end of the day (or process), some of the laws might conflict with our beliefs, morals and values. If those laws try to force us to violate our beliefs, we will find far more explicit application from Scripture on how to respond.

Steve Cornell

6 step detox for a painful past

The early years of life are the most foundational to the formation of our identity and character. These years chart a direction for our future health and stability.  

If you’ve experienced a healthy and functionally stable upbringing, you’ve received a gift that has become increasingly rare. But if your 18-year factor was marked by a significant disruption or a serious dysfunction, it will have a definite effect on your identity, security, and relationship skills.

You had what I call a toxic background if there were significant disruptions – (like sexual abuse or your parents’ divorce) or serious dysfunctions (like a domineering father or mother, a parent who walks in and out of your life, abuse from a parent, an alcoholic parent or an emotionally distance one). The toxicity of your past must be addressed if you desire to have healthy adult relationships.

The protective mechanisms children practice to shield themselves from hurt do not protect them when carried into adult relationships. The walls, defensive postures, alternate realities, and over compensations potentially alienate people and typically hinder true intimacy in adult life.

If you identify with such an 18-year factor, may I suggest a six point detox plan for you? 



#1- Redemption:

Change begins with God. First we need God’s gift of salvation. God is the one who redeems us “…from the empty way of life handed down to you” (1 Peter 1:18). Many times God uses the pain of our past to make us see how much we need His love, forgiveness and help. But change and transformation is a process. It is described in Philippians 2:12-13-”…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

This transformation will cut deeply into the things that run deeply into our character– especially the 18-year factor stuff.



#2 – Respect:

Don’t minimize the significance of how your life was impacted by your 18-year factor. Sometimes it’s not a matter of “Just get over it!” or “Put it behind you!” To minimize these matters is to belittle God’s ordained role for family.  Denial or distortion of your past is not the way to gain true freedom. Failure to take seriously your 18-year factor is not good for you or those close to you. So often, generational sins continue because of a refusal to stop, listen and learn from the past.

#3 – Revisit:

Take a trip down memory lane — even if it is painful. Don’t allow suppressed feelings and buried memories to stay hidden. Talk about your father and mother and family of origin with people who have godly wisdom. Recognize and reflect on ways you were impacted by your upbringing. Do not do this to wallow in self-pity or anger toward your parents. Do this with humble honesty and with deeply reflective prayer (Psalm 62:8; Philippians 4:6-7).

Be honest about the trigger issues that set you off or close you up. Look closely at the walls and defense mechanisms you use. Why do you choose cynicism or use sarcastic humor? Self-perception is often distorted so let others help you. But avoid selective disclosure and remember that the only thing you can change about the past is the way it affects you in the future. Be balanced in your perspective by following my next point:



#4 – Reaffirm/reinforce



Try to think of some good things from your home of origin. Perhaps through your parents you’ve learned only a few good things but reaffirm them. It is unhealthy to be too one-sided in perspective. Even if you can only be grateful for food and shelter, find something to affirm. Perhaps you could rehearse ways you learned through the difficulties. This will help you think more clearly about other matters from your past.

The next step is more challenging:



#5 – Renounce/repent


Significantly disrupted or seriously dysfunctional 18-year factors leave deep tracks in our hearts and minds. Thought patterns and heart postures must be examined closely. We must clearly and directly renounce wrong and hurtful ways of thinking about ourselves, others, life and God.

Reject false perceptions, self-blame, guilt; the need to be in control, wrong ideas about all men or all women. Reject wrong thoughts about God by choosing to see how he has revealed Himself in Scripture. Give blame and responsibility to those to whom it belongs. Address your unwillingness to trust or determination to be self-sufficient–needing no one! (Life in this world is vulnerable)

Unhealthy fear of vulnerability keeps you from allowing your heart to love another person. A  fear of loss and betrayal can destroy your ability to enjoy loving relationships. Renouncing these things takes patience and resolve. Identifying destructive thought patterns is a process that usually requires the help of others. Don’t be threatened by learning painful truths about yourself. Repentance is a change of mind or outlook. It requires a new way of seeing things—God’s way. It begins the path to healthy and joyful living.



#6 – Renew
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This is what God does in our lives. “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close” (Psalm 27:10, NLT). He said to His people: “I will restore you to health and heal your wounds,” (Jeremiah 30:17). God is the one who can “….restore to you the years that the locust have eaten” (Joel 2:25). Like the Psalmist, we must pray, “Renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Resolve to commit yourself to a renewed mind. Change the way you think by learning to think godly thoughts from Scripture. “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds” (Ephesians 4:23).

Change comes through a disciplined practice of renunciation and renewal. 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you (Romans 12:2-3).

This pattern of renunciation and renewal—“do not be conformed….but be transformed” is essential to overcoming one’s past. It’s also a daily practice that over time yields long-term benefits.

Notice that the mind is what must be renewed. The mind is the center of thought, perception, understanding, and consciousness itself. Change must begin with a new way of thinking. The word repentance refers to this change of mind that leads to other changes. God uses Scripture to effect this change in us: (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 119:11;II Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-25).

The command is in the present tense indicating continuous action - “Continually renew your mind.” This means that we cannot accept defeat. Complacency, stagnation and pride of achievement must be viewed as threats to needed progress. We never arrive at a place where we no longer need to continually renew our minds.

Interestingly, one of the first changes in thought mentioned in Romans 12:3 is concerning self-perception (how we see ourselves): “Do not think of yourself ….rather think of yourself.”

Disrupted or dysfunctional 18-year factors can badly distort self-perception and hurt future relationships. God calls us to sober (and humble) judgment in how we view ourselves.

Take time to prayerfully work through each of the six steps. Engage a trusted friend in the process.

Steve Cornell