The glory of ordinary lives

il_340x270.505798718_omb6We need more emphasis on the glory of living ordinary lives for Christ. Perhaps it could become the new radical!

The emphasis we’ve seen on being radical Christians could lead to a feeling that what is ordinary is either boring or some form of compromise. This could then produce a larger chasm between what the Church says and the way most people must live day by day.

It also has the potential of threatening the joy of daily life with the spirit of discontentment that promoted the sin of Eden.

Listen to the way people tell you what they do.

  • “I am just a mom.”
  • “I am just a mechanic.”
  • “I am just a waitress.”
  • “I am just a ….”

On and on it goes. But maybe there is no “just” with God? Or, more likely, God is found in the “just.” Jesus asked, “For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Needed message 

    • “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12, NLT).
    • “Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives” (Titus 3:14, NIV).

I fear that we’ve lost touch with the glory and joy of being called to faithfulness and diligence in the ordinary routines and duties of life. What would life look like if we renewed our zeal to “… be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

I think of Jesus’ emphasis on serving God quietly in secret places. “Be careful” He said, “not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1). “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:6).

We need renewed zeal for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, employers, employees, — just common followers of Jesus Christ living ordinary lives for an extraordinary glory.

tumblr_mrwo0aVE5W1qcdaeho1_500“So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Have we lost touch with the joy of ordinary, non-glamorous devotion to God and others because we’ve lived with an “If only….” spirit of restlessness? Have we overly radicalized wholehearted love for God and our neighbor by separating it from daily faithfulness in mundane but necessary duties?

Jesus said, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” (Luke 17:10).

Jesus required unconcern for status as a kingdom virtue. “At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Matthew 18:1-5).

“Stop being un-amazed by the strange glory of ordinary things” (Clyde Kilby).

Steve Cornell

10 tests for personal Inventory

I’ve found the following ten tests helpful for evaluating life. Scripture is offered with each one for deeper reflection.
I offer this list for personal review not for judging others. 

1. The test of anger: What makes you mad?

“He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5). “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed (provoked within) to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16).

2. The test of humor: What makes you laugh?

“There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21) (see also: Ephesians 5:3-4).


3. The test of music: What makes you sing?

“Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). “Let my tongue sing about your Word,
for all your commands are right” (Psalm 119:172).

4. The test of anxiety: What makes you worry? What do you fear?

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43). “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; cf. Ps. 111:10; see also: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:6-7; Isa. 41:10).

5. The test of money: How important is it to you? What do you do with it?

“Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Prov. 3:9a). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Loving money is condemned (see: Luke 16:14; I Timothy 6:9-10; II Timothy 3:2).


6. The test of value: What is most important to you?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well: (Matthew 6:33; cf. Colossians 3:23). “Do not love the world or anything in the world. …  For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2;15-17). “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37).



7. The test of influence: What difference are you making in others?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16; cf. Philippians 2:14-16).

8. The test of companionship: What kind of people do you prefer to be with?

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (II Cor. 6:14-15). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20) (cf. Psalm 1:1-3;Proverbs 22:24-25;Amos 3:3;I Corinthians 5:9-13).


9. The test of speech: What do you like to talk about?

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:32). “Brothers, do not slander one another” (James 4:11; cf. Prov. 11:12-13; 16:28; 18:7-8; 21:23).

10. The test of time: What do you use it for? How well do you use it?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Please share this with others.

Steve Cornell


10 Point Inventory

This ten point inventory is meant for personal evaluation not for judging others. While it certainly could be used as a guide to help others, I suggest caution because lists and tests easily become legalistic tools that promote sinful pride. 

With this said, it’s certainly wise to examine and to guard our own hearts. I think you’ll find this 10 point inventory helpful.  

1. The test of anger: What makes you mad? 

“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed (provoked within) to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). “He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5).

2. The test of humor: What makes you laugh? 

“There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21) (see also: Ephesians 5:3-4).

3. The test of music: What makes you sing? 

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). “Let my tongue sing about your Word,
 for all your commands are right” (Psalm 119:172).

4. The test of anxiety: What makes you worry? What do you fear?

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43). Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; cf. Ps. 111:10; see also: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:6-7; Isa. 41:10).

5. The test of money:
 How important is it to you? What do you do with it?

“Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Prov. 3:9a). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Loving money is condemned (see: Luke 16:14; I Timothy 6:9-10; II Timothy 3:2).

6. The test of value: 
What is most important to you?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well: (Matthew 6:33; cf. Colossians 3:23). Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2;15-17). “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37).

7. The test of influence:
 What difference are you making in others?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16; cf. Philippians 2:14-16).

8. The test of companionship: What kind of people do you prefer to be with?

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (II Cor. 6:14-15). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20) (cf. Psalm 1:1-3;Proverbs 22:24-25;Amos 3:3;I Corinthians 5:9-13).

9. The test of speech:
 What do you like to talk about?

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:32). Brothers, do not slander one another” (James 4:11; cf. Prov. 11:12-13; 16:28; 18:7-8; 21:23).

10. The test of time: What do you use it for? How well do you use it?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Our Final Inventory 

II Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

I Corinthians 3:10-15—“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Steve Cornell

See also: 7 Daily Practices for Every Follower of Christ


7 daily practices for every follower of Christ

1. Celebrate salvation as God’s undeserved gift 

  • Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
  • Titus 3:5-6 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”
  • Galatians 2:21 ”if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

2. Rest confidently in God’s promise of forgiveness and security

  • I John 1:9; 2:1-2 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…. if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
  • Romans 8:1, 38-39 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

3. Rely on God’s power for life and ministry

  • II Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
  • Galatians 3:3; 5:16, 25 ”Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

4. Connect daily with God based on Hebrews 4:12 & 16:

  • Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
  • Hebrews 4:16 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT)

5. Order life based on my salt and light identity

  • Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth.” … “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)
  • Colossians 4:5-6 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 

6. Recite two verses at the beginning of each day

  • Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
  • Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man”

7. Reflect often on my ultimate citizenship

  • Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”
  • Revelation 21:3-5 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them.They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Steve Cornell

 

My new year challenge


As I reflect on the end of a year and the beginning of a new one, my heart is drawn toward the most familiar prayer known to man. This prayer leads us into the life we were meant to live.

If you lack a sense of purpose or meaning, this prayer connects us with God’s purpose for life. It fills life with meaning and adventure as it reaches into the next life.

Let the adventure begin

When Jesus taught His followers to pray, He told them to find a secret place and to pray to your Father who sees you there. Get alone with God and pray like this:

“Our Father in heaven, may Your name be honored.  May Your kingdom come soon. May Your will be done on earth just as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9, N.L.T.)

Here we learn to keep first things first.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit how natural it is for us to focus prayer on ourselves. But before we are invited to pray: “give us,” “forgive us,” and “deliver us”—we need to be burdened with and intercede for higher concerns: God’s name, God’s kingdom and God’s will. Here is the highest purpose for life!

By following this approach to prayer, we acknowledge that certain things are needed (and missing) in the world. We acknowledge that:

    1. God’s name is not being honored. 
    2. God’s rule on earth has not been fully established.
    3. God’s will is not being done. 

But when I pray this way, I am doing more than simply admitting that the world is in rebellion against God.  I am also committing my heart to something greater than myself. I am seeking: 

    1. Universal honor for God’s name 
    2. Total submission to His kingship 
    3. Complete obedience to His will. 

I am expressing my desire for the time when “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11, cf. Isaiah 2:12, 17). In short, I am longing for heaven!

But don’t just stand there

I realize that the full answer to these prayers awaits the time when God breaks into history, but I must not stand gazing into the sky looking for His return. There is work to be done for the honor of God’s name, the advancement of God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will.

Consider that (in teaching us to pray this way), Jesus is telling us that the things which currently and completely characterize heaven can be advanced on earth. The name, kingdom and will of God must be honored now through the church. This is the highest calling of the believer and the Church. 

Guard your hearts

But to remain focused on these concerns, we must guard our hearts against earth-bound passions and priorities. In Colossians 3:1-2 the apostle challenged the early Christians to, “…set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts.  Do not think only about things down here on earth.” (NLT).

In another place, he wrote: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV).

 Heaven is our point of reference!  How did Jesus teach us to pray?  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

An invitation:

I invite you to lift your focus to heaven; to view earth in light of eternity and to contemplate the wonder and glories of the dwelling place of God; to remember that our final home, our true citizenship, our ultimate dwelling place is in heaven—in our Father’s house, in the city whose architect and builder is God – the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. 

If we are going to be of any true profit to earth, we will need to be as heavenly minded as we can possibly be. 

“The street-level problem is the old jibe about being ‘so heavenly minded that we are no earthly use.’ I say it’s an old jibe; I haven’t heard it so much recently, perhaps because these days many practicing Christians bend over backward in the other direction and are often so earthly minded, so concerned with practical details and nuts and bolts, that one wonders if they are any longer any heavenly use. However, that’s not the point. The jibe only works in a world where heaven and earth are assumed to be detached from each other, having nothing to do with each other. But in the Bible heaven and earth are made for each other. They are the twin interlocking spheres of God’s single created reality. You really understand earth only when you are equally familiar with heaven. You really know God and share his life only when you understand that he is the creator and lover of earth just as much as of heaven. And the point of Jesus’ resurrection, and the transformed body he now possesses, is that he is equally at home in earth and heaven and can pass appropriately between them, slipping through the thin curtain that separates us from God’s blinding reality” (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope).

The main desire of heaven

It’s significant to note that when the apostle directs us to “set our affections on the realities of heaven,” he specifically identifies it as the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” 

“For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24).

 What makes heaven so desirable is not the absence of anguish and suffering, nor the presence of angels and fellow believers. What makes heaven so desirable is that it is the place “where Christ sits at God’s right hand.” This is how the apostle Paul spoke about his death: “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

After Jesus finished His mission on earth by bearing our sins and being raised from the dead, He returned to heaven and took the seat of highest honor to appear before God “for us.” It is reassuring to know that in the highest court possible, those who know Christ as their Savior are well represented. Let these words settle deeply into our hearts: “Christ went into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us.”

In Colossians 3:3-4, the apostle reinforced his call to focus on heaven by writing:

“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

Reflection

“The Christian’s whole and only status before God is in Christ. True and wonderful though this is, however, the sphere of the Christian’s existence is still here on earth. He is still beset by temptations; he is hampered by weakness and frustrated by failings; he falls short of ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13); the perfection for which he longs is not yet. He needs a holiness not his own, made available to him by the Lamb of God who has made atonement for his sins and who now interposes himself as his representative in the heavenly sanctuary. And this is the representation which Christ fulfils as he appears in the presence of God for us.” (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 349)

For deeper meditation on Christ’s representation, see: Romans 8:33-34 Hebrews 4:14-16; 7:23-271 John 2:1-2. The apostle John said those who confess their sin (I John 1:9), have an “advocate” with the heavenly father (I John 2:2). The N.I.V. translates advocate as, “one who speaks to the Father in our defense.” It pictures a legal setting with Christ as counsel for the defense. And His position as advocate is based on His redeeming work (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

 “Our advocate doesn’t plead that we are innocent…He acknowledges our guilt and presents His vicarious work as the ground for our acquittal” (John R. W. Stott, I John, TNTC, pp. 81-82).

We must guard against misguided understandings of representation. We should not picture a dualistic situation where a well-pleasing son is trying to persuade a hostile father to look on us with favor. God was the one who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (II Corinthians 5:18-21).  God “spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32; cf. 1 John 4:9-10).

Reflection

“The intercession of the Son, then, is in no sense a pleading with the Father to change his attitude toward us.  Nor does the Father have to be reminded of the full redemption that he himself has provided for us in his Son—the very thought is preposterous!  The presence in heaven of the Lamb bearing the marks of his passion is itself the perpetual guarantee of our acceptance with God, who gave his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. In ourselves, however, though we have the forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ and though we are united to him in love and trust, we are unworthy because Christ has not yet been fully formed within us (cf. Gal. 4:19) and we still sinfully fall short of the glory of God (cf. Rom. 3:23).  This consideration explains our continuing need of the advocacy and intercession of him who alone is accounted worthy before God (cf. Rev. 5:1-10).  It is in his worthiness that even now we rejoice in the blessings of the divine favor, for by the grace of God his merit has been reckoned to us as our merit, his heaven has become our heaven, and his eternal glory our eternal glory” (Philip Hughes, Hebrews).

 For those who think we need the assistance of saints or angels to get us to God, Hughes wrote, “To imagine that saints or angels can be influenced to intercede for us is not only a delusion; it is to cast doubt on the perfect adequacy of the intercession of Christ on our behalf and thus to deprive ourselves of the fulness of the security which is available to us only in Christ.  Our Lord clearly taught that no man can come to the Father except by him (John 14:6) and that our requests to God are to be made in his name (John 14:13f.; 15:16; 16:23, 24, 26), precisely because there is no other name which avails and prevails with God (cf. Acts 4:12) (Philip E. Hughes, Hebrews, p. 353).

Christ alone is our mediator, advocate, intercessor, high priest, and way of access (Ephesians 2:18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; John 14:6). Let your heart dwell on these great words: “Christ went into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:24). 

Conclusion:

Heaven is our point of reference!  How did Jesus teach us to pray?  “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” But don’t stand gazing into heaven because there is work to be done for the honor of God’s name, the advancement of God’s kingdom and the fulfillment of God’s will. We must pour out our hearts for these great concerns and let them become the motive for our words and works.

Steve Cornell

10 point spiritual inventory

The following 10 point inventory is primarily meant for personal use not for judging others. It could be used to help others as they desire to examine their own hearts. I offer this word of caution because lists and tests are too often used legalistically beyond the explicit requirements of God. It is wise then to examine and to guard our hearts. 


1. The test of anger: What makes you mad? 

“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed (provoked within) to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). “He (Jesus) looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts” (Mark 3:5)

2. The test of humor: What makes you laugh? 

“There’s a time to laugh, and a time to cry” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22). “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh” (Luke 6:21) (See: Ephesians 5:3-4)

3. The test of music: What makes you sing? 

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:18-19). “Let my tongue sing about your Word,
for all your commands are right” (Psalm 119:172)

4. The test of anxiety: What makes you worry? What do you fear?

“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25). “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28; cf. Ps. 111:10; ) (see also: Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:6-7; Isa. 41:10)

5. The test of money:
 How important is it to you? What do you do with it?

“Honor the Lord with your wealth” (Prov. 3:9a). “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24). “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Loving money condemned: Luke 16:14; I Timothy 6:9-10; II Timothy 3:2

6. The test of value: 
What is most important to you?

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well: (Matthew 6:33; cf. Colossians 3:23). Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (I John 2;15-17). “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37)

7. The test of influence:
 What difference are you making in others?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16; cf. Philippians 2:14-16)

8. The test of companionship: What kind of people do you prefer to be with?

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” (II Cor. 6:14-15). “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20) (cf. Psalm 1:1-3;Proverbs 22:24-25;Amos 3:3;I Corinthians 5:9-13;

9. The test of speech:
 What do you like to talk about?

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45)“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:32). Brothers, do not slander one another” (James 4:11; cf. Prov. 11:12-13; 16:28; 18:7-8; 21:23)

10. The test of time: What do you use it for? How well do you use it?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

Our final spiritual inventory: 

II Corinthians 5:9-10 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

I Corinthians 3:10-15—“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Steve Cornell

Seven goals for the new year


I tell couples who are preparing for marriage that one of the advantages of a Christian marriage is that it’s made up of two people committed to change — two people who see their need to walk by God’s Spirit and be transformed into His likeness (Galatians 5:15-16;II Corinthians 3:18). Marriages get into trouble when they allow complacency to lead to . When couples take each other for granted, they experience a loss of good will toward each other that often leads to a form of rivalry that threatens love (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Growing Christians confront these tendencies under the watchful eye of the Heavenly Father.

Christianity is all about change. It begins when we receive God’s gift of salvation through faith in Christ. Salvation is an act of God that changes my standing from condemnation to justification in His sight (Romans 5:1; Luke 18:9-13). Salvation rescues me from the kingdom of darkness and transfers me to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). Salvation gifts me with the indwelling Spirit of God (II Corinthians 1:21-22). 

God then begins a work of spiritual transformation conforming me to His image (II Corinthians 3:18;Ephesians 4:21-24; Philippians 2:12-13). Christianity has no place for complacency, mediocrity, status quo, indifference, or even laziness (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:23).

A prayer about change:

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Sometimes we get stuck on the first line: “Accepting the things we cannot change.” The apostle Paul found himself in this dilemma regarding his thorn in the flesh (II Corinthians 12:7-10). Feeling he could not go on, he had three seasons of agonizing prayer. He pled with God to remove the thorn. He couldn’t see any other way to go on. God did not remove the thorn but gave him what he really wanted by gifting him with an increase in sustaining grace. God turned weakness into a platform for strength.

Sometimes regret and guilt bind us to the past. Yet the only thing we can change about the past is how we let it affect us in the future. It will always affect us in some way. But how will we let it affect us? Will we wallow in discouragement and defeat? Or, will we pick up the pieces and move forward in the grace and forgiveness of God?

I think it is important to think of change in a holistic way by respecting that God has made us multi-dimensional beings. Change must be considered on three dimensions in the context of three aspects of personhood. Set some goals based on this approach: 

Three dimensions of Change

1. As Physical beings with bodily needs

2. As Social beings with relationship needs

3. As Spiritual beings with a need for God 

Three aspects of personhood

1. Intellectual- Mind

2. Emotional- Feelings

3. Volitional- will

7 Goals for the New Year

Consider some of the steps I plan to practice more faithfully in the New Year. Walk patiently and reflectively through each of the seven goals:

1. Remind myself daily of my salvation: (as God’s gift of grace apart from any contribution on my part)

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Titus 3:5-6 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”

Galatians 2:21 “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Romans 8:1 “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

2. Rest in God’s promises:

I John 1:9; 2:1-2 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…. if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Romans 8:1, 38-39 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

3. Rely on God’s strength:

II Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Galatians 3:3; 5:16, 25 “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

4. Reconnect with God each day based on Hebrews 4:12 & 16:

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

Hebrews 4:16 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT)

5. Recommit to my salt and light identity

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)

6. Recite Colossians 3:23 at the beginning of each day

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man”

7. Reflect often on my ultimate citizenship

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Steve Cornell

 

Path to perfect health (New Year Meditation)

Dancing lightly on the surface of the earth:

“Christianity is, among other things, the wonderfully good news that this life is not our whole story… The few years that we live in this body… are a kind of pilgrimage, a sojourn, a preparatory trip on the way to something much greater. For the Christian, this present existence is provisional. He is aware that every activity he undertakes is schooling for something else—that it is all directed toward a higher end.”

“For a person whose roots have been thoroughly transplanted from the present soil into that of eternity, who dances lightly on the surface of the earth and so is ready to leave at a moment’s notice, there would be little point in dwelling on the thought of death. Sad to say, however, this mind-set is rarely to be found among those who profess Christianity. Most churchgoers are as deeply rooted in this world, and thus as deeply in despair, as those who profess no such hope. Far from being an exercise in morbidity, a deepening acquaintance with our death and with the vanity of human wishes is for our worldly hearts a needed path to perfect health.” (Robert C. Roberts, Spirituality and Human Emotion).

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (II Corinthians 4:16-18).

“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21).

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” (C. S. Lewis).

Steve Cornell

See: Heaven: A place beyond http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2007/03/24/heaven-a-place-beyond-compare/

7 Goals for the New Year

My sermon today focused on change. Christianity is all about change. It begins with salvation as a gift to all who put faith in Christ. Salvation changes my standing with God from condemnation to justification (Romans 5:1). Salvation rescues me from the kingdom of darkness and transfers me to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13). After salvation, God begins a work of spiritual transformation conforming me to His image (II Corinthians 3:18). Christianity is meant to be vibrant and growing. It has no place for complacency, mediocrity, status quo, indifference, or even laziness (Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:11; Colossians 3:23). I tell couples preparing for marriage that one of the big advantages of a Christian marriage is that it is made up of two people committed to change. Two people who see their need to walk by God’s spirit and be transformed into His likeness. Most marriages that get into trouble follow some kind of path of complacency. They take too much for granted and settle into destructive patterns. Growing Christians confront those tendencies under the watchful eye of their Heavenly Father.

A prayer about change:

In thinking about change, I have always appreciated the serenity prayer:

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Sometimes we get stuck on the first line: “Accepting the things we cannot change.” The apostle Paul found himself in this dilemma regarding his thorn in the flesh (II Corinthians 12:7-10). Feeling he could not go on, he had three seasons of agonizing prayer. He pled with God to remove the thorn. He couldn’t see any other way to go on. God did not remove the thorn. Instead, God got him what he really wanted by gifting him with increased sustaining grace and turning weakness into a platform for strength.

Sometimes regret and guilt bind us to the past. Remember that the only thing we can change about the past is how we let it affect us in the future. It will always affect us in some way. How will we let it affect us? Will we wallow in discouragement and defeat? Or, will we pick up the pieces and move forward in the grace and forgiveness of God?

I think it is important to think of change in a biblically holistic way. What I mean is to respect that God has made us multi-dimensional beings. Therefore, change must be looked at on three dimensions and considered in all three aspects of personhood:

Three dimensions of Change

1. As Physical beings with bodily needs

2. As Social beings with relationship needs

3. As Spiritual beings with God directed needs

Three aspects of personhood

1. Intellectual- Mind

2. Emotional- Feelings

3. Volitional- will

7 Goals for the New Year

After talking about change, I outlined some of the steps I plan to practice more faithfully in the New Year. Walk patiently and reflectively through each of the seven goals:

1. Remind myself daily of my salvation: (as God’s gift of grace apart from any contribution on my part)

Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Titus 3:5-6 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior”

Galatians 2:21 “if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Romans 8:1 “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

2. Live by God’s promises:

I John 1:9; 2:1-2 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…. if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

3. Rely on God’s strength:

II Corinthians 4:7 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Galatians 3:3; 5:16, 25 “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

4. Connect with God each day based on Hebrews 4:12 & 16:

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”

Hebrews 4:16 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (NLT)

5. Fulfill my salt and light identity

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (NLT)

6. Recite Colossians 3:23 at the beginning of each day

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man”

7. Reflect often on my ultimate citizenship

Philippians 3:20-21 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

Steve Cornell