Therapeutic vs. True Gospel

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

The word gospel refers to good news about what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. But when the gospel is shaped by a therapeutic emphasis, it turns out to be so much less than the true gospel. The therapeutic gospel emphasizes a Jesus who meets my felt needs in a way that keeps me at the center of life? It’s a kind of Jesus who is there to serve you. I wrote about this in my previous post.

The true gospel will not reach us until we see the “me at the center” life as our effort to take the place that belongs to God. I must acknowledge how I want the glory that belongs to God when I focus on myself — on my feelings and desires as the most important issues of life. 

Jesus Christ died for my sin and the most vivid expression of…

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The Bible – an amazing book about life

“The Bible is not first of all a book of moral truth. I would call it instead a book of truth about the way life is. Those strange old scriptures present life as having been ordered in a certain way, with certain laws as inextricably built into it as the law of gravity is built into the physical universe.”

“When Jesus says that whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it, surely he is not making a statement about how, morally speaking, life ought to be. Rather, he is making a statement about how life is” (Frederick Buechner).

Some people stumble over the Bible because of some of the strange things in it. But while there are some strange things, Scripture corresponds with reality in so many important areas of life.

The first chapter fits well with reality. I read of a Creator who is said to be responsible for things that all people in all places see around them. And since we all know that something cannot come from nothing, it makes sense that there is a designer who a created life.  

The creator is said to be responsible for light, day and night, waters, sky, land, vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees, stars, fish, birds, creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals. All of these correspond with reality for all people in all places at all times.

The creator seems to pause for a special moment of creation when he makes humans, male and female, in his own image. He gives them status over the rest of what he created to rule over it. This too connects with reality. If I was walking through a zoo and saw humans in a cage like the animals, I would be outraged.

To this point, I am tracking with the entire story — even the seven-day structure of a week.

The second chapter

In the second chapter of the Bible I read a kind of recapping of what the creator did. Here I learn that the first man was made from the dust of the earth, and that the creator planted a garden for his first habitat. This connects well with reality as planting and garden-keeping has always been both a necessity and one of the favorite past times of humans.

The creator made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. This is understandable but then we venture into something that appears strange to me: “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). I understand trees, life, good and evil. But a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, I don’t understand.

The creator is referred to as “the Lord God,” and his command seems strange, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17).

I certainly understand the categories of command and consequence. Reference to death as part of human reality for all people at all times is also understandable. But there is a bit of mystery in the tree in relation to these realities.  

When I read the details about the formation of the woman, there are also parts I don’t fully understand. The introduction of genders of male and female is completely understandable (notice that they keep coming out that way). The pattern of pairing male and female in relationships of companionship also fits the entire human history.

Yet the way the creator formed the female is as strange to me as him making the man from the dust of the earth. I don’t understand how or why the creator took “one of the man’s ribs and….made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man” (Genesis 2:21-22). Suggested meanings are possible but they don’t remove all mystery.

But I certainly can’t say that these divine acts are impossible any more than I could reasonably say that there couldn’t possibly be a tree of life. Strange to me? Yes. But not impossible. And there is so much to the story that fills information gaps in ways unavailable through any other source. 

Skip a chapter

Suppose I stop reading the bible at the second chapter and later picked it up, but accidentally skip the third chapter. At the end of the second chapter, the man and the woman were brought together and left naked and without shame.

The fourth chapter starts out in a way that flows well from this point.

“Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.’ Later she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.”

This seems like the beginning of a great story!

Family begins. Sex, pregnancy, babies, all of this corresponds with the entire human story.

Something goes wrong

As the story continues, I discover that something has gone terribly wrong. I find things that sadly correspond with my reality, but it feels confusing as to why these things disrupted what felt like a good story.

Here I encounter themes like making sacrifices to the creator, acceptance or disapproval from the creator God, a reference to anger, to doing what is right, to a personification of sin as something that desires to control life.

Then things go from bad to worse as I read about the first act of homicide — an act of the most horrible kind, fratricide (brother kills brother).

What I read about in the man named Cain I also see in the world in which I live. Cain-like characters appear daily in the news. He was an envious, angry, heartless and self-willed man. He was a murderer and a liar. He spoke with disdain and disrespect toward the authority of the Creator.

These ugly traits are part of the human story in every place in the world and for all of human history.

If I skip the third chapter, what seemed like a good story takes an ugly turn in a way that surprises me. But if I go back and read the third chapter, I find some pieces to the puzzle that shed light on why the story turned so badly.

But, once again, as I read the third chapter, I might initially stumble over something strange: A talking serpent.This being is identified as belonging to the wild animals the Lord God made.

Talking animals don’t fit my reality. But even if I don’t get it, I’ll keep reading.

Whatever or whoever this being is, I learn that he has a very different version of reality. He/it clearly opposes the Creator and appears to want the woman to oppose her Creator. He/it distorts the creators words and appears to want the woman to feel overly restricted by the creator’s rule.

The serpent also assures the woman that a warning from the creator about dying if you eat the forbidden fruit isn’t true. He/it invites the woman to consider some kind of personal benefit to disobeying the creator — implying that the creator is supposedly denying her something good.

The woman contemplates the benefit and eats the fruit from the tree. There don’t appear to be any immediate consequences. She doesn’t immediately die. Then she gave some of the fruit to her husband and he also ate it. Still no immediate death. But things certainly get ugly.

Connected with reality

As the consequences of this act of disobedience to the creator fit amazingly well with seven specific categories that have consistently corresponded with reality in our world. 

  1. Physiological results: pain in childbirth, painful toil, suffering and death.
  2. Psychological results: shame, guilt and fear.
  3. Sociological results: blame-shifting and alienation.
  4. Ecological results: ground is cursed, thorns and thistles.
  5. Spiritual results: hiding from God,
  6. Epistemological results: distorted thinking, spiritual blindness
  7. Criminal results: homicide 

I find it very interesting that universities offer major areas of study related to each category (doctors, psychologists, sociologists, environmentalists, ministers, philosophers, law enforcement).

Are there some strange things in the Bible? Yes. Of course, some of these things are explained later in the book (like the identity of the serpent). Yet so much of what you find in the Bible corresponds closely with reality and fills gaps of knowledge on the sources behind these realities.

Read the Bible with an open mind.

It answers important questions about the way life is. More importantly, the Bible offers hope for a world where the destructive ways of Cain are painfully part of everyday experience.

It maps the way out of darkness by connecting with deeply felt needs for forgiveness, restoration, and renewal of life. It tells us that this world with all of it’s evil, suffering and death does not get the final say. It points to a God who promises to make all things new in a world where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

In a strangely wonderful way, it sums up all of history in one person: Jesus Christ. He is the theme of the Bible.

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

Steve Cornell

Posted in Apologetics, Bible, Bible from God, Bibliology, Problem of evil, Scripture, Truth | Tagged | Leave a comment

Can positives conceal negatives?

Image_500_330_c1Each year for the past 23 years I’ve taught a class for singles on making marriage one of their best decisions. One of the things we look at is a chart titled, “Things I love now and what they might be in 10 years.”

The person you’re thinking about marrying, for example, is very attentive and you love that about him. Later his attentiveness turns to possessiveness. The laid-back person turns out to be lazy. The playful person proves to be immature. The confident one turns out to be arrogant. But because you’re in love, you didn’t have eyes to see the negatives in the positives. 

The chart is helpful because it reveals how positives can become negatives. It provides an opportunity to help singles look beyond initial impressions to deeper qualities of character. Since we live in a “the fake it till you make it culture,” it’s especially important to avoid superficial conclusions about a potential spouse.

I remind singles that character qualities rarely appear without a history. Most of character qualities are formed during the early years of life in our homes. This is why it’s important for parents to help children develop positive qualities without allowing them to become negative.

When we raised our four children, we tried to build positive character traits in their lives. The traits we desired are necessary for both surviving and thriving in life.

Yet caution is necessary because positive traits can easily become negatives. Life is often a balancing act. We tried to be more conscious about what I call trimming positives to protect them from becoming negatives.

Think about ways you can build the 10 positive traits below into the lives of each one of your children. How can you do this without allowing the negatives to destroy the positives?

To read the rest of this post, go to my recent article from The Morning Call newspaper of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Linked here.

Steve Cornell

Posted in 18 Year factor, Choosing a mate, Dating, Discernment, Engagement, Marriage, Parenting, Parenting Groups, Parenting teens | Leave a comment

The most intolerant people in America

As the Supreme Court prepares for decisions on gay marriage, it’s deeply troubling that many of those promoting it are some of the most intolerant people in our country. They operate with an approach that says, “See things my way, or else!” 

Whatever your opinion on gay marriage, we must not sit silently by and allow this kind of radical intolerance to threaten civility and freedom.

Don’t fall for the naive line that says, “What’s the big deal? It won’t affect others if two men get married.” This way of thinking naively plays into a larger coercive agenda that will not be good for the nation.

You can be certain that marriage is not the only thing gay activists demand. Marriage is the issue being used to obtain status as a protected minority under civil rights legislation. Why do you think repeated efforts are made to suggest that being gay is equal with racial identity?

This comparison (although false) has been a main part of the overall strategy to cause the public to bow before the sexual preferences of 2-3 percent of the citizens. They demand nothing short of full endorsement of homosexuality in every part of public life. The false comparison of racial identity with the kind of sex people prefer has been an effective tool for manipulating an uninformed public. Yet it is almost inconceivable that people as intelligent as Supreme Court justices do not see through this irrational line of argument. 

It might be more politically and legally amendable and cause less social unrest if the gay community said, “All we want is marriage and the benefits that come with it, but we are not asking for civil rights status as a minority group along the lines of racial identity. We are not asking for businesses and Churches to be forced to affirm gay marriage. We are not asking for curriculum changes at the public schools to include gay marriage and families.” 

No allowance for disagreement

Radical gay activists put those who graciously disagree with gay marriage in a very difficult position. Their goal is to eliminate all allowance for disagreement. If you hope to show kindness to those who prefer a homosexual lifestyle, it will only be accepted if it comes with full endorsement. If you show the slightest disagreement, your kindness will be scoffed at and you’ll be labeled with vicious titles like, “hate-monger, bigot, racist, homophobic, etc…

This radical coercive approach must end but I am not sure the Supreme Court has the wisdom to stop it. In another recent decision of the court, Justice Kennedy actually slandered those who disagree with gay marriage naively implying that they “disparage and injure” the “personhood and dignity” of gays and stand in “violation of the Fifth Amendment.”

Evidently one is incapable of treating homosexual couples with respect if he chooses to view marriage as an institution intended for heterosexual unions. Do we really want a society where people are not free to believe this way about marriage without facing accusations like those issued by Justice Kennedy?

Anger among homosexuals

The public is largely unaware of how much anger and bitterness are part of the homosexual lifestyle. Gay activists want us to believe that the anger is primarily due to society’s lack of acceptance of gays. This is not the case. More often, the anger is rooted personal histories of injury among those who choose to live a homosexual lifestyle. This is one reason gay relationships are known for significant domestic problems.

But I have friends who are gay

I understand how some people are hesitant to say anything negative about homosexuality because they have gay friends and don’t want to hurt them. This is more of an altruistic response but let’s remind ourselves that true friendship (based in respect and tolerance) should allow for differences of perspective without fear of being irrationally accused of hate and bigotry. If a friend labels you with these vicious misrepresentations for simply disagreeing with him; he is not a true friend. He only accepts friendship if you see things his way. This is at the heart of the problem that is disrupting civility and threading freedom in our nation.

Did you choose to be heterosexual?

Whether one claims heterosexual or homosexual orientation, the desires and actions associated with one’s orientation must be treated as choices capable of action or restraint. Otherwise one cannot speak of sexual actions (like adultery, rape or incest) as culpable moral behaviors.

While we cannot tell a person of race to restrain or stop being Asian or African-American, for example, we must require people of both heterosexual and homosexual orientation to restrain and control their sexual behavior — under threat of punishment for wrongful expressions of it. If a society makes laws regarding sexual acts, then sexuality (whatever orientation one claims) must be treated as a behavior people can act on or restrain.

Aren’t we commanded to love sinners?

Those who carelessly use the line about loving sinners who are broken and in need of salvation should note that radical gay activists do not mirror the broken and humble “sinners” who seek grace and salvation. They act more like the intolerant religious leaders of Jesus’ day — the self-righteous who condemn and ostracize any one who disagrees with them.

Is sexual orientation a civil right?

If sexual orientation is granted civil rights status (equal to one’s racial identity), the full weight of federal law will sooner or later silence and punish anyone who teaches that God’s will for marriage is limited to one man and one woman and that homosexual behavior is a violation of the Creator’s law. If you hold these views, you will be required to keep them to yourself and you will not be permitted to act on them in any way that is considered discriminatory. Christian Churches and business people will be forced to embrace homosexuality or risk lawsuits and punishments. Is this freedom?

Please pray about the upcoming court decisions. Stand firmly and graciously for the freedoms that we value in this nation. 

Steve Cornell

Posted in Culture, Equal Rights, Equality, Gay, Gay Marriage?, Gender, Homosexual lifestyle, Homosexuality, Sex, Sexual orientation, Sexual Preference, Supreme Court, Wisdom | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Restoring glory to the ordinary


Always a needed review for me!

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

Have you noticed how easily discontentment destroys joy and gratitude?

More emphasis is needed on the glory of the ordinary. I fear that the repeated emphasis on being radical for God can also give people the misguided feeling that the ordinary is either boring or some form of compromise. Enough of this! Stop saying,

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

There is no “just” with God? In fact, God is more likely found in the “just.”

Questions worth asking

  • Have we lost touch with the glory of faithfulness and diligence in ordinary routines and duties of life?
  • Have we radicalized what wholehearted love for God and neighbors looks like by separating it from faithfulness in ordinary duties?
  • Do we need renewed honor for the quiet glory of being faithful fathers, mothers, children, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and workers?

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Confused about God in a world of suffering

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

What kind of God do we serve? Does he care about how bad things are on the earth?

The way God revealed himself 

God entered our mess when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3,14; Colossians 1:29). When Jesus walked on earth, he suffered in many ways as we do. On one occasion, Jesus wept over the grave of His dear friend (John 11:34-36), even though he knew he would raise him from the dead (John 11:38-44).

Our merciful Lord can empathize with the feelings of our trials and suffering (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-16). But does the Lord continue to weep over graves? Should we think of God in these terms?

Early in human history, the compassionate heart of God was revealed when, “the Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the…

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A Closer look at Marriage

Originally posted on WisdomForLife:

Someone once asked why so many married people seemed so miserable. Perhaps it’s because so many miserable people are married. 

Maybe marriage itself is not the problem. 

But what is marriage?

What kind of relationship is it and why do we have such an institution? Why are there so many divorces? Why is it that 50% of those who remain together in marriage are “characterized by resignation or even misery rather than love and affection”? (Willard F. Harley, Jr.). 

Marriage ministries

There is never a time in my ministry when I am not directly or indirectly involved with five to ten marriages in crisis. With a 50 percent divorce rate for first time marriages and an increase of 10 percent for second, third and fourth marriages, the Church must expect to be involved in significant marriage related ministries. Like many other pastors, I invest time on four levels of marriage…

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