Are you poor in Spirit?

Jesus described those who will inhabit heaven – the poor in spirit. But who are the poor in spirit? Don’t miss Lloyd-Jones excellent and convicting definition of a person who is poor in spirit!

Wisdomforlife

What did Jesus mean when he declared, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? Does this refer to actual poverty or spiritual humility? Does “blessed” mean “happy”? How could the poor be blessed?

Blessed or happy?

We should not equate being “blessed” with being “happy.” Jesus was not making statements about the emotional well-being of people. Western culture is preoccupied with analyzing moods and feelings, whereas being “blessed” is much deeper than an assessment of emotion.

 Jesus’ use of “blessed” is better understood as a declaration of divine approval. “Blessed (of God)” are the poor in spirit. After all, Jesus is the one making the declarations.

The eight beatitudes are the qualities of the true disciples of Jesus. What does a true believer look like? — He is poor in spirit; he mourns; he is meek… I agree with the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones in seeing these as progressive spiritual experiences with lasting…

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A therapeutic gospel

What’s the difference between a therapeutic gospel and the true gospel?
Is your Church calling people to come to Jesus in a way consistent with the way our Lord called people to follow Him?

Wisdomforlife

When you hear a pastor invite people to come to Jesus, listen carefully to the emphasis on what Jesus will do for the person who comes to him. 

A subtle but dangerous distortion of the gospel has become popular in many Churches.

A growing number of pastors are inviting people to come to Jesus on terms that are not consistent with our Lord’s own invitations to follow him.

They are offering a gospel focused on the felt needs and expectations of a self-centered culture. It’s a gospel that misleads you to think you can come to Christ and remain at the center of life. 

A therapeutic gospel leaves one with the distinct impression that, “Jesus and the church exist to make you feel loved, significant, validated, entertained, and charged up. This gospel ameliorates distressing symptoms. It makes you feel better. The logic of this therapeutic gospel is a jesus-for-Me who…

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Evil doesn’t make sense

BigQuestions-300x211Take 90 seconds and listen to about the problem of evil – Short audio (From my daily radio program)

We grieve. We weep. We lament. We protest. We scream in pain and anger. We cry out, “How long must this kind of thing go on?”

For deeper reflection, see here.

Steve Cornell

Posted in Evil in the world, Evil One, God's power, Mad at God, Problem of evil, Suffering, Wisdom | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Who are the agents of cultural change?

images-711.jpegPolitics is mostly a downstream activity. Rarely are political leaders true agents of cultural change.

So if politicians don’t shape public opinion, who are the primary influencers upstream from politics? Who are the agents of cultural change? see –  Who are the agents of cultural change?

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My soon to be released book

canstock16254897Watch for my soon to be released book

“The 18-Year Factor: How your upbringing affects your life

  • True or false? Most people understand that their upbringing affects their life. True.
  • True or false? Most people understand how (and how much) their upbringing affects their life? False.

It seems so basic and widely understood that the past affects the future. The field of psychology has long been based on the premise that our past experiences affect our present lives.

Yet I believe that most people do not have an adequate understanding ofhow (or how much) their past affects their present. I am repeatedly surprised by how many people are unaware of the connections between past experiences and how they currently think, feel and behave.

Why look back?

Is it really worth it to look back on your upbringing? Rehearsing old and painful experiences seems like it could only lead to resentment and bitterness. Perhaps it makes more sense to just let the past be the past? Why not forget it and move on? There is no sense reliving the past when you cannot change what happened. Sound sensible? If only it was that easy.

A growing number of people have a past that caused too much damage to forget. They have tried to suppress it and deny it, but the effects continue to reappear in their thoughts, feelings, and especially in their relationships. They are often too unresolved to be in a healthy relationship, but they do not know how to resolve themselves. Relationships always seem to be the most common place where the past haunts and hurts the present.

Available soon though Amazon.

Steve Cornell

 

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The expanded role of medical doctors

treat-thumbHumans are physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual beings.

Although doctors are primarily charged with caring for physical health, the emergence of bio-psychology has created a crossover that requires them to address the emotional and psychological well-being of patients.

Over the last three to four decades, doctors have been called to take the role that was once reserved for the profession of psychology. Prior to this change, people who battled issues like anxiety and depression were directed to seek help through therapeutic psychology.

The work of neuroscience regarding the role of brain chemistry contributed to production of medicinal aids for addressing emotional and psychological needs. Now medicines for depression and anxiety are the most prescribed drugs by doctors – and it’s a multibillion dollar industry.

I know people who have benefitted greatly from some of the medicines available for depression and anxiety. On the other hand, the escalation of the number of people requesting medications for these challenges has alarmed some sociologists.

Studies reveal that treatment of depression and anxiety in outpatient services increased 300% by the end of the 20th century. Antidepressant medications are the largest selling prescription drugs in America. Spending increased 600% from 1990-2000 to more than seven billion dollars annually. Estimates now indicate that major depression afflicts more than 12% of Americans.

Doctors at risk

Behind the scenes, the convergence of big business (pharmacology, the insurance industry and lawyers) with the medical profession has produce a tricky alliance for doctors that sometimes hurts the patient. Sometimes government requirements also make matters worse for doctors by loading them with “paper work” that hinders their ability to put the patient first.

Faced with both time and professional constraints, along with the understood role of medicine in addressing matters like anxiety and depression, family practioners are at risk of approaching patients one-dimensionally. Since people are more than bodies and brain chemistries with physical needs, medicinal aids for emotional and psychological needs should never be approached one-dimensionally.

Doctors are wise to be cautious about prescribing medicines for moods or behaviors without confidence that those receiving them are pursuing some form of counseling and have a support system of caring people (see: Caring for the whole person).

The overlooked dimension

The one dimension that cannot be addressed by doctors is the spiritual. In fact, doctors often look with suspicion and skepticism on this dimension because spiritual leaders are too often guilty of reducing humans to spiritual beings with needs related to God.

When spiritual leaders lack respect for the multidemnsional way God created humans (physical, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual beings), they’re guilty of the reductionism they oppose in the medical community. If we don’t want doctors to reduce people to bodies and brain chemistries, Spiritual leaders must not make the same error in the other direction.

Steve Cornell

See also: The anatomy of normal sadness

Posted in ADHD, Anxiety, Biopsychology, Christian Counselor, Counseling, Depression, Despair, Doctor, Holistic ministry, Medicine, Neuroscience, Psychology, Social work, sociology, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

My first funeral (a suicide)

The Church I accepted a call to lead was a Mennonite congregation before I arrived. It dwindled down to 10 people when my wife and I accepted the invitation to help them transition to become Millersville Bible Church (34 years ago).

The pastor of the Mennonite Church stayed with the new church for the first few years and we had a great friendship. Shortly after I arrived, tragedy struck his family as his adult daughter took her life and was discovered by his grandchildren. One month later, his only other child, a son in his early forties, ended his life so that, in his words, “My troubles would be over like my sister.”

This was my first funeral as a young pastor.

The pastor’s son had suffered some kind of mental break while in pre-med school. He was a kind and gentle person, but he never fully recovered from his mental break. On one occasion, I asked him about his faith in Christ and he clearly articulated his belief that Jesus Christ was his Savior.

I couldn’t have faced a more challenging call than to conduct this man’s funeral. His father (a very dear and godly man) was a respected leader in the Mennonite community. After the death of his wife to cancer (several years earlier) and the loss of his only two children to suicide, he was plunged into a state of deep despair.

In preparing to lead the funeral, I learned that many Mennonites believed that suicide meant loss of salvation. I clearly did not believe this and it was my duty to make it clear to a room full of people at a funeral home (suicide also meant that one was denied a funeral in the Church building).

There was standing room only at the funeral parlor as I faced some rather austere men and women dressed in the old black garb common to conservative Mennonites. I quietly asked God for courage and grace to speak His truth from Romans 8:38-39. The response of those in attendence was amazing!

I emphasized my personal conversation about faith with the pastor’s son and I talked about the special challenges he endured. I then suggested that the Apostle Paul’s emphasis on the security of God’s love in Christ would not be threatened by something as horrible as suicide.

“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” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV).

After the funeral was over, I learned even more about life and ministry as I walked with a man whose soul refused to be comforted. He was not angry with God, but he was hurt, confused and truly lost in his grief. Although I lacked pastoral experience, I tried to be a faithful friend and gentle source of encouragement to this pastor. He was always so appreciative and gracious.

Thirty-four years later, I can say that I’ve lived long enough to know what it’s like to battle feelings of depression. I’ve also walked with many others who battle waves of depression and despair far worse than me.

Servants of God who battled despair

It’s good to remember the great servants of God who battled despair.

  • Job – “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb. Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest. …Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day?” (Job 3:10-13, 16) 
  • MosesI cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin”(Numbers 11:14-15);
  • Elijah – “Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors'” (I Kings 19:1-4).
  • Jonah – “When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die,and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live” (see: Jonah 4:1-10).

Each of these servants of God reached extremely low points in life where they wanted to die. Although none of them (to our knowledge) attempted suicide and each saw it as God’s right to end life, each also felt that life was no longer worth living. God graciously restored his servants through a variety of methods.

The funeral service

I gently reminded people at the funeral service that most of those who commit suicide are not in a healthy state of mind. Some suffer from serious neurological deficiencies and others just lose perspective and see no way out of their sadness.

I also emphasized how important it is for us to respect God’s prerogative over life and death so that we refuse to take our own lives.

I encouraged them to turn to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort when they faced despair (II Corinthians 1:3-4) and to seek out caring and wise friends.

Many are too embarrassed by their discouraged state of mind to ask for help. Some even feel guilty for being depressed when they know they have so much to be thankful for. This is where the Church must be more honest about how common it is to struggle with challenging emotions. Churches are called to be distinguished as communities of mutual encouragement (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11; Hebrews 3:13; 10:25).

Biologically-based depression – a word of caution 

Biologically-based depression cannot be treated exactly the same way as intense normal sadness. Church people are sometimes well-intentioned (but hurtful) when they approach all discouragement as a matter of simple obedience to the Lord.

We risk doing more harm than good when we approach all despair as solely a matter of choice.

Avoid simplistic advice

One-liners thoughtlessly spoken are discouraging to those battling biological depression.

  • “Just cheer up!”
  • “Don’t be so negative!”
  • “You have a lot to be thankful for!”
  • “Complaining is a sin!”
  • “Do you think God owes you a better life?”

A key to helping those battling despair is to patiently ask caring questions about their struggles. Try to understand the full picture before giving too much advice. It’s not wise to be hasty to give advice to people without gaining adequate understanding.

Remember that the brain is perhaps the most complex human organ. The Vice Chair of my church board is a neurophysiologist and we’ve often discussed the neurological challenges people experience. He fully affirms that (like all other organs), the brain doesn’t always function in healthy ways.

Relatively recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience have provided hope for those who suffer. I am grateful for the medicines available to assist those who struggle with challenges like depression.

Those who benefit from depression medications must never be made to feel embarrassed about it. They’re no different from those who take medication for deficiencies to other bodily organs. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, but woefully and tragically fallen.

Those who battle prolonged and debilitating depression that negatively affects their daily lives and relationships should be directed to seek medical counsel. They should also be encouraged to be open to the possibility of medicinal aid.

Yet medicinal aid must never be understood as the total solution to depression.

We are more than bodies with physical needs. The other dimensions of our being (spiritual, emotional, social) must receive thoughtful attention in our battle for health. A holistic approach respects all the dimensions of personhood created by God.

With prayer for those who suffer,

Steve Cornell

See also: The anatomy of normal sadness

Posted in Christian Counselor, Counseling, Depression, Despair, Eternal life, feeling hopeless, Funeral, Hope?, Life of a pastor, Sadness, Suffering, Suicide, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment