After 33 years as a pastor…

After 33 years as a pastor (32 in the same church), I know by experience that the life of a pastor is a continual reminder that God put His “treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7).

Did you catch the last three words – “not from us”?

These words sit deeply in my heart as a reminder that the power for serving God are not within me. I don’t have the strength and wisdom necessary to such a life and calling!  

Let these words settle deeply in your heart and mind (“from God and not from us”). Repeat them often to yourself.

We’ll run out of fuel for the work if we forget this basic truth.

With all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me

“We proclaim Christ admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29, emphasis mine).

There are plenty of parts of ministry that remind me that I am not equal to the calling. So I must live out the truths of Proverbs 3:5-7 –

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”

With the Apostle Paul, we should always be asking, “Who is equal to such a task?” (II Corinthians 2:16).

The word from the apostle Peter is never far from a shepherd’s heart: “be examples to the flock” (I Peter 5:3). Examples are needed, but not easily provided. It’s tough to be a good example when aware of your own sins! Gratefully, we can also be examples of those who live under God’s mercy in amazement of His grace.

Clock-out and go home?

Pastors can never totally clock-out and go home: “Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?” (II Corinthians 11:29). I am thankful that God designed the Church to be under a plurality of leaders. Who could do this a work alone?

Rhythm of ministry and personal transformation

Those who take the role of Elder in the Church must remember that the rhythm of personal transformation and pastoral ministry is death and resurrection: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” (II Corinthians 4:10-12).

This rhythm continually reminds me of my source for strength. The temptation to rely on our own gifts and abilities must be resisted. The apostle spoke of a time when God used his circumstances to remind him to lean on God for strength.

“We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead” (II Corinthians 1:8-9).

Our Lord’s rhythm

Practice the rhythm of spiritual activity our Lord followed. Trace His steps and you’ll find a pattern of engagement and withdrawal; of crowds and solitude. “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23). 

We need time to rest, refresh and renew — to get perspective in the audience of One. 

“Come away” Jesus said, “to a secluded place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). I may not be able to completely clock-out but I must get away. Frankly, I always felt that I had to leave the town I minster in to do this. But this was not always feasible. So at least leave the office or hit the DND button and put up an “In Prayer” sign on your office door.

My lifeline

A disciplined practice of Psalm 62:8:  “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Prayer is so often a perspective gaining session with God. I just need to clear my mind by pouring out my heart to Him! 

  • “Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God.”
  • “In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness. I climb above timberline and look down at the speck that is myself. I gaze at the stars and recall what role I, or any of us, play in a universe beyond comprehension. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view” (Philipp Yancey, “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?”).

We need daily encounters with God based on Hebrews 4:12 and Hebrews 4:16.

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
  • Hebrews 4:16Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

When you feel overwhelmed or discouraged, seek the God who is “our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (II Corinthians 1:3-4).

Your co-worker in God’s field,

Steve Cornell

Posted in Call to ministry, Calling, Christian Counselor, Christianity, Church Leadership, Counseling, Ecclesiology 101, Elders, elders in the Church, Emerging Leaders, Leadership, Local Church, Pastors | 1 Comment

Stop it!

Think of the hours and money one could save with this approach to counseling.

Posted in 18 Year factor, Counseling, Wisdom | 1 Comment

Learning from the Reformation 500 years later

Learning from the reformation 500 years later will be my theme this Sunday, (October 29, 2017) from the pulpit of Millersville Bible Church.

On October 31, 1517, (All Hallow’s Eve), in the town of Wittenberg, Germany, an Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther posted a document of 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church igniting what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

This bold act would radically change the world and give birth to some of the most basic ideals of Western civilization – commitments to the liberty and equality of each person. Most of the freedoms we value trace back to the Protestant Reformation

The spiritual foundation of the Protestant reformation was a belief that the Bible should be the sole source of spiritual authority, not Church tradition. Luther came to believe that the salvation of each person was based on God’s grace alone and through faith alone, not by good works, nor by Church authority. He also challenged Papal infallibility and believed in the priesthood of individual believers.

Luther said, “We believe that the very beginning and end of salvation, and the sum of Christianity, consists of faith in Christ, who by His blood alone, and not by any works of ours, has put away sin, and destroyed the power of death.”

Although Martin Luther (1483-1546) hoped to cause reformation within the Roman Catholic Church, he was fiercely opposed by Church authorities, and finally excommunicated from the Church in 1517.

Martin Luther’s courage to speak truth to the highest seats of power made him a hero to the common people. He also gave a gift to the people when he translated the Bible into German, making it accessible to them.

More to come,

Steve Cornell

Posted in Church, Church and State, Church history, Martin Luther | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A closer look at repentance

The call to repentance is prominent in the message of Jesus and the early Church

  • Jesus said, “The time has come, the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15).
  • Jesus’ mission was not “to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).
  • • “After he had risen from the dead, Jesus said, “It is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).
  • Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out…” (Acts 3:19).
  • The apostle Paul said,   “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).
  • The apostle Paul declared to the philosophers of Athens that God, “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30)
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

What does it mean to repent?

Look more closely at the Greek word behind our english word “repent.”
Repent – μετανοέω – metanoeo

Two parts – (meta and noeo)

1. Meta – change
2. Noeo- the mind and its thoughts, perceptions and disposition.

To repent means to change your mind or way of seeing things or perspective.

“Human life is fundamentally a life of the mind. The posture of the mind determines so much about the character of an individual’s life” (Robert C. Roberts, Spirituality and Human Emotion).

Insights from others

  • “To repent is to adopt God’s viewpoint in place of your own… In itself, far from being sorrowful, it is the most joyful thing in the world, because when you have done it you have adopted the viewpoint of truth itself and you are in fellowship with God.” (William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury)
  • C. S. Lewis explained repentance not as “something God demands of you before he will take you back; it is simply a description of what going back is like.”
  • “Repenting is what happens inside of us that leads to the fruits of new behavior. Repentance is not the new deeds, but the inward change that bears the fruit of new deeds.” (John Piper).
  • Repentance is not merely feeling bad about our sins. Repentance is sorrow for what we are in our deepest beings, that we are wrong in our deepest roots because our interior life is governed by Self and not by God.

Kindness and repentance

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:5)

Sorrow and repentance

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter” (II Corinthians 7:10-11).

Repent or perish

“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’” (Luke 13:1-5, cf. vv. 6-9).

Jesus warns them to change their perspective or risk perishing because their way of seeing things is based on a merit system rather than mercy and grace.

God grants repentance

“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses (return to a sound mind, free from illusions and intoxicated thinking, become sober) and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26).

Repentance is not a human work we contribute to salvation. It is the work of God who said,  “Let light shine out of darkness.” He made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

The life of repentance involves ongoing habits of… 

  1. Acknowledging the deceitfulness of our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).
  2. Cultivating ongoing humility and self-suspicion (James 1:19-22; Philippians 2:3-5).
  3. Examining ourselves regularly for blind spots and evil (Psalm 139:23-24).
  4. Confessing and forsaking sin (I John 1:9-2:1)
  5. Renewing gratitude for God’s unfailing love and mercy (Lam. 3:22-23;Titus 3:2-5).

Steve Cornell

Link for audio messages on Repentance as the best way of life

Posted in Belief, Christian life, Christianity, Gospel, Repentance, Salvation | Tagged | Leave a comment

Our forgiving God

Here is one of the great promises given to us from the Lord Jesus Christ – “I tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31). Jesus made only one exception to this promise – “but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” What is this unforgivable sin?

Wisdomforlife

Remind yourself often of these truths

  • “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” (Psalm 131:3-4)
  • “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel 9:9).
  • “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).
  • “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
  • “He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).
  • Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
  • “… through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness…

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No room for sadness (a closer look at depression)

Is it possible that our expectations for gregariousness are unrealistic? Have we been led to believe that there is no place for sadness in normal life?

Wisdomforlife

 Standard criteria for diagnosing depressive disorder does not adequately distinguish intense normal sadness from biologically disordered sadness.

Feeling depressed? You’re not alone. Treatment of depression in outpatient services increased by 300% toward the end of the 20th century. Antidepressant medications have become the largest selling prescription drugs in America. During the 1990s spending increased by 600% exceeding 7 billion dollars annually by the year 2000. Estimates indicate that Major Depression afflicts 10% of Americans.

Depression is real and, as a recent commercial reminds us, it hurts— everyone. Depression must be treated with care and sensitivity. But why has there been such an explosive growth of depression in our culture? Is it possible that our expectation for gregariousness is unrealistic? Have we been led to believe that there is no place for sadness in normal life?

Is it also possible that we are misdiagnosing normal sadness as depressive disorder because…

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Discontentment can sneak up on you

Discontentment can sneak up on us and if it is not corrected, it can lead to a life of disincentive and an overall loss of motivation.

Diminished hope can easily convert into a deflated spirit of resignation that gradually becomes justified pessimism or even dark cynicism. How do we conquer these challenges?

Wisdomforlife

Answering the "Why?" of lifePeople who are discontent with their lives tend to spread dis-contentment to others. (notice the dis on contentment).

If you spend too much time with discontented people, you might feel pulled toward their negative perspective.

Let’s be honest about it

Discontentment can sneak up on us — especially when maturity of life gives way to a spirit of melancholy. This can lead to a life of dis-incentive and an overall loss of motivation.

Diminished hope easily converts into a deflated spirit of resignation that (if not careful) gradually becomes justified pessimism or even dark cynicism.

Run with positive, uplifting, and encouraging people!

Avoid the infectious poison of dis-contentment. Try to redirect negative people toward God-honoring perspectives on life. If they refuse to see things from a godly perspective be careful not to adjust to their outlook on life.

Run with people who run with God because God…

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