Are you a hypocrite?

Why are we willing to see the faults in others but quick to turn a blind eye to our own faults? 

  • Do you tend to overlook the dark things in your life or family by telling yourself that you’re doing things the right way?
  • Do you try to keep up an image for others by highlighting the things you feel you do right and pointing out the way others do wrong?
  • Do you downplay or make excuses regarding the wrongs in your life or family that should cause you to be more humble toward those who fail?

Perhaps God has recently humbled you by exposing ways you have failed. Have you learned the lesson? Or, do you continue to judge others as if you had never been humbled? 

Do you allow yourself excuses while not accepting excuses for others? How can we sit in judgment on others when what has happened right under our noses or in our lives is as bad or far worse? Is this a mechanism we use to give ourselves a sense of self-righteousness and live in denial of our own situation?

Are you quick to see (and even talk about) ways others don’t measure up while overlooking obvious failures in your life or family? Do you think others don’t notice such blatant hypocrisy? 

Questions from Jesus and the apostle Paul

  • “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
  • “So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:3).
  • Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Romans 14:4,10).

Take off the mask of hypocrisy and come before God and others with humble honesty. Would you rather learn even harder lessons to bring you to a more humble state of mind and heart?

Steve Cornell

Warning those in the Church

I have the privilege each month of investing in other pastors. The concerns they share with me remind me of many things I’ve experienced and learned over 30 years of ministry.

A common theme I hear from other leaders is how often critics attack pastors and their Churches. I often encourage pastors to warn people about the consequences of standing against God’s work and servants.

There is an obvious difference between humble people who genuinely desire positive solutions to challenges in a Church and antagonistic individuals who take pleasure in causing strife and dividing people. I am not talking about necessary stands for truth but causing strife and divisions in unnecessary and destructive ways.

Sober words of warning

Consider these sober words to Church members who are behaving as antagonists: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:17).

Wherever God’s work is flourishing, critics will be there to attack it — often from within the Church. These people feed on negativity and display a narcissistic need to find things wrong with God’s work and His servants. But I’ve repeatedly witnessed the ways God protects His work and servants.

But it sometimes seems like God waits until the hearts of the critics are entrenched before He stands against them – destroying them for trying to destroy His work. Scripture emphasizes God’s patience but also warns against taking it lightly (Romans 2:1-5; II Peter 3:9; Revelation 2:21).

Many of these people deceive themselves into thinking they’re defending righteous causes and they love to take others with them. These are individuals who use deceitful tactics to alienate people from each other — especially from leading pastors. They take strange pleasure in dividing people to draw a following for themselves or make themselves look better.

They use subtle accusations, ask questions with raised eyebrows, or resort to deceitful innuendo. They draw attention to the faults of others by subtlety joking about perceived weaknesses in them.

These are usually insecure people who look for ways to bring attention to the faults of others to make themselves look better. The will even lie (or, lightly shade the truth) to advance their cause or to make themselves look better. They tend to view leadership as competition for recognition.

Be warned!

Avoid the people Jude exposed as “grumblers and faultfinders” (Jude 16), especially those who “who cause divisions” (Romans 16:17) and promote “accusations against an elder” (I Timothy 4:19).

The apostle Paul ordered an early congregation to, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Philippians 2:14). To another Church, he wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

    • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud,… Do not be conceited (Romans 12:16).
    • “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
    • “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).
    • “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Be especially careful in your criticisms to make sure you are not promoting your own agenda and actually standing against God’s work and servants. God will dismantle you or take you apart if you try to destroy His work and servants.

Steve Cornell

Responding to false accusations

False accusations are serious matters. How should we respond to them? 

On a personal level, the first thing I recommend is deep reflection on the fact that our Lord and Savior knows the experience of being wrongfully accused.

During Jesus’ so-called religious and political trials, “many brought false witness against him” (Mark 14). They said, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.”

On this level, I must seek to follow our Lord’s example. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (I Peter 2:23-24).

The present tense of the verb (he entrusted himself) indicates that Jesus (kept) entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This offers an insight from the scene of the cross not as evident in the gospel accounts. When following this pattern one is not treating lightly the false accusation but entrusting justice to the Judge of all the earth.

God is quite capable of being our strong defense (Psalm 62:1-8) and we must be careful not to play God by hastily taking matters into our own hands (see – Romans 12:17-21).

On a relational level, one thinks of the apostle Paul who defended himself before the Church of Corinth (a Church that appears to have allowed themselves to be swayed against the apostle by detractors who wanted to shift the loyalties of the Church from Paul to themselves. The apostle had no desire to engage in self-defense but was compelled to do so when the spiritual well-being of others was attacked.

This sets a helpful example because sometimes attacks against us are aimed at or include hurt toward others. We need wisdom and grace to sort out these concerns, but sometimes we must defend ourselves to protect others. 

On a spiritual level, I think of the words of John Bunyan, “He who is down need fear no fall.” The late Martyn Lloyd Jones described the poor in spirit as the person “who is truly amazed that God and men would think of him and treat him as well as they do.” We tend in the flesh to think the opposite – they should treat me better than they do! But, as the Psalmist so clearly confessed, God “does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12).

When these truths are kept close to our hearts, we will be postured in the gospel (Titus 3:1-6) and protected from angry reactions against those who wrongly charge us. 

Steve Cornell

Formula E429 could change your life!

One of the best ways to improve our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other.

Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to ugly tones of grumbling, whining; impatience, frustration and defensiveness.

Think of how many times we could defuse a situation by choosing better words and tones. Parents especially need to ask if their words and tones set the right example for their children. 

Use Formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. The formula is based on Ephesians 4:29 – “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29, NLT).

Then apply a large dose of the first two characteristics of love: “Love is patient, Love is kind…” (I Corinthians 13:4).

This could literally change your life and the lives of those close to you!

WARNING LABEL

This advice comes with a warning about how easily we excuse our attitudes, words and tones by pointing to the difficult people around us. Remember the basic truth that the only person you can change is yourself. But by working on self-correction and experiencing personal change, we can powerfully influence others. So if you feel stuck in a bad place, find ways that you can change your attitudes, words and tones. But start with the words and tones you use because this discipline will make you face and confront your attitudes and emotions.

Recognize how all of this change fits under the work God is doing in your life based on these truths:

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all … are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18, NIV).

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13).

I have work to do. Will you join me?

Steve Cornell 

See also: Spiritual Depression

Responding to disappointments

When my dis-appointment becomes His-appointment.

As a communicator, I always find it interesting to notice what people respond to and remember.

This past sunday, I gave a message about hope being a distinguishing mark of those who represent Christ.

My title for the current series is “Agents of Grace: Representing the One who brought you into His grace.” 

For the past three weeks, we’ve asked what people should notice in us as we live out Colossians 3:17 – 

“And whatever you do or say, do it (in the name of) as a representative of the Lord Jesus…” (NLT).

Our focus has been on three primary marks of character: Humility, love and hope.

I demonstrated how all three are deeply connected and this week I wrapped it up by looking at hope. The post prior to this offers a closer look at hope

I suggested in my message that some of us might need to do some significant repenting after hearing what I have to share. When we’ve allowed a dark and pessimistic outlook to become our way of approaching life, it should alert us to a need for spiritual transformation. 

Perhaps we’ve held to the idea that God is supposed to take away all our problems and give us the good life in the here and now. So when difficulties and setbacks come, we spiral into a state of spiritual confusion and become too easily discouraged.

At one level, this is a profoundly distorted understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Life in a fallen world is hard. Life lived for God in a fallen world is (on many accounts) harder. What I mean is that following Christ will put you at odds with the primary direction of the world around you and the flesh within you. It’s just tough at times.

Yet this should not catch us by surprise if we read our New Testament. A good bit of what is written is focused on how to understand and respond to  hardship. Very early in the life of the NT Church, believers received instruction on how to respond to trials and temptations (James 1:2-18). 

New Testament letters like II Corinthians and Hebrews are permeated with emphasis on God’s purposes in life’s hardships. It is very important for us to understand these truths to protect us from the defeating power of discouragement. 

Hope is meant to be an evident quality in the lives of those who represent Jesus Christ (I Peter 3:14-15) and this will not be the case if we allow a spirit of negativity and pessimism to control our lives. 

Believers should be the most optimistically realistic people on the planet. But for this to be true, our hope must reach beyond the momentary passing years we live on earth. Please take time to listen to the message I gave on this topic. The audio link is available here.

One of the things I said in my message that made the pens come out was a piece of advice given to me by a Christian businessman in my early years of Church planting. Faced with setbacks and disappointments, I shared some of the challenges with this man and he said, “Whenever I have disappointments in life, I try to remember to drop the “d” and replace it with an “H”.

My disappointment then becomes Hisappointment

This was not a Bible verse but it captured well the teaching of the NT on how to understand and respond to trials, setbacks and disappointments. 

Here are some verses that offer insight into God’s purposes in our trials:

  • Romans 5:3-5 “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
  • II Corinthians 4:16-18 “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.”
  • James 1:2-5 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Steve Cornell

Judge not, lest you be judged.

“Judge not, lest you be judged.”

    • These are perhaps the most well-known words of Jesus.
    • They’re commonly used to keep people from making moral judgments about others. 
    • Some people use these words to excuse themselves from making judgments. “Who am I to judge?” they ask. “After all, Jesus did say, ‘Judge not…’”

So…

  • What exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke these words?
  • Was he advocating a mind your own business policy?
  • Was he forbidding all judgments about the actions of others?

A good question


John R. W. Stott asked if obedience to these words required us to “…suspend our critical faculties in relation to other people, to turn a blind eye to their faults (pretending not to notice them), to avoid all criticism and to refuse to discern between truth and error, goodness and evil?”

Let the context speak

As with most confusion over the meaning of the Bible, a careful reading of the context is the key to understanding.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:1-6).

While Jesus clearly condemned a certain kind of judging, he equally advocated a need for judgments. Jesus was not excusing us from all moral judgments. He was not promoting an individualistic attitude. Far from it!

Later he spoke of the need to go to one who sins against you and “tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Love requires moral concern for others. But that concern must follow the order Jesus taught in Matthew 7:1-6.

What kind of judging did Jesus condemn?


Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Jesus condemned hypocritical judging. He insisted that we must “first” remove the log from our own eye before we’re prepared to notice and remove the speck from our brother’s eye.

Jesus encouraged involvement in other people’s lives, but only after careful self-examination and self-correction. On another occasion Jesus said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24).

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were notorious (as are most religious people) for judging based on appearance. They were also notorious for their hypocrisy (see: Matthew 23).

When we hold other people to tight moral standards while making plenty of allowances for ourselves, we engage in unlawful judging. When we “play God” by trying to enforce standards not specifically established by God, we are in danger of being judged by God (Matthew 7:2; Romans 2:1-4).

Some professing Christians, (like the Pharisees), view their traditions as equal with God’s commands and wrongly judge the godliness of others based on them. This happens when people make personal applications from general commands of God (like his demand for non-conformity to the world and holiness of life), and then elevate their applications to command status.


Three categories for Christian standards


To avoid unlawful judging, we need to recognize three categories for setting Christian standards.

  1. First, some behaviors are clearly commanded.
  2. Secondly, some things are clearly forbidden.
  3. Finally, certain matters are permitted, or left to free and responsible judgment according to the best of our knowledge and conscience.

When we demote something from categories one and two into category three, we treat God’s clear standards as negotiable. When we elevate matters from category three by treating them as if they belong to categories one or two, we self-righteously judge others with our own opinions. The first action threatens purity; the second unnecessarily disrupts the unity of God’s people.

Matters of freedom vs. Matters of command


When a behavior, custom or doctrine is not addressed in Scripture with specific requirements or moral absolutes, it’s a matter of Christian freedom. When Christians condemn others in areas not specifically addressed by Scripture, they become guilty of the judging forbidden by Jesus.

But to agree with God’s clearly revealed standards does not constitute unlawful judging – unless, of course, it involves the kind of self-righteous hypocrisy Jesus repeatedly condemned. It’s possible to make accurate judgments but to be hypocritical in making them. Self-examination and self-correction are necessary for avoiding hypocritical judgment.

Scripture clearly reveals many moral standards God expects us to follow. Aligning with God on a specifically revealed moral judgment is not to make oneself judge, but to honor the standard of the Judge.

Follow the example of Jesus


Jesus taught with conviction and authority on many subjects.

“It is all too easy to believe in a Jesus who is largely a construction of our own imagination- an inoffensive person whom no one would really trouble to crucify. But the Jesus we meet in the Gospels, far from being an inoffensive person, gave offense right and left. Even his loyal followers found him, at times, thoroughly disconcerting. Jesus did not go about mouthing pious platitudes; had he done so, he would not have made as many enemies as he did” (F. F. Bruce).

I agree with the one who suggested that, “the capacity of judging, of forming an estimate and opinion, is one of our most valuable faculties and the right use of it one of our most important duties.” Judicial systems in every nation depend on the proper exercise of this capacity. But let’s be sure to use this valuable faculty first and most directly on ourselves. This will ensure a more humble and merciful application to others.

For further reflection

  • He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored (Prov 13:18 NIV).
  • Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself (Gal 6:1-2 NLT).
  • See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12-13).
  • My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins (James 5:19-20 NLT).

Watching vs. Watching out for

When we honor the distinction between watching others and watching out for them, we’ll be far better postured to avoid wrongful judging. The first is prideful and pharisaic behavior; the second is humble and loving care for the wellbeing of others. Let’s live and teach this distinction to ensure we obey Jesus’ command, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

Steve Cornell

See: Understanding legalism 

A discouraged servant of God (action points)

 

We can learn a lot about discouragement and how to find our way out of it by looking closely at a great servant of God who reached a deep state of despondency.

His name is Elijah and he became so despondent that he sat down under a tree and prayed to die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life” (I Kings 19:1-4).

Elijah was called to ministry during dark days. The king of Israel at the time was Ahab and he did more evil and more to provoke the Lord to anger than any king before him. Ahab was also married to a wicked and ungodly woman whose name (Jezebel) has been synonymous with evil ever since she lived. She was the real power behind Ahab and she used her influence for evil. Elijah was God’s servant to confront this evil king.

Elijah was a great man of faith who boldly went where few would dare to go.  He confronted King Ahab and declared a divine judgment in the form of a prolonged drought.  The drought lasted for more than three years, and during that time Elijah witnessed God’s miraculous provisions in three amazing scenes.

  1. The ravens at the brook Kerith brought Elijah food.
  2. The supply of food through a poverty stricken widow from Zarephath
  3. The resurrection of the widow’s son (whom tradition identifies as Elijah’s servant in Chapter 19)

Elijah’s ministry reached its high point in the confrontation with the false prophets on Mount Carmel.  In an amazing display of divine power and intervention, Elijah defeated hundreds of false prophets as the fire of God fell from heaven (demonstrating the reality and superiority of God).  After this great conquest and victory, perhaps Elijah had great expectations for spiritual change that set him up for discouragement. When all the people responded declaring, “The Lord, He is God.  The Lord He is God…” Elijah perhaps expected a revival of national repentance and faith in God.

Elijah was on a roll and God was moving powerfully. It all seemed so obvious! But if this is Elijah’s frame of mind, he underestimated the determination of evil people to commit to their evil deeds. Discouraged frames of mind are often associated with cycles of expectation and disappointment. It’s never wise to condition our expectations on the responses of others.

The Elijah we meet in I Kings 19 is clearly not the man of great faith we’ve known up to this point. So what happened?  Think about it. The conquest of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was a very public defeat of evil.  It’s not uncommon after times like these for one to experience a kind of battle fatigue — a profound level of spiritual, physical, and emotional depletion.  In this kind of condition, loss of faith and courage can make us vulnerable in ways that we would not expect.  When Elijah heard about a death threat from Jezebel, the great prophet ran for his life! This seems unimaginable after all he had witnessed of God’s power. The extremes of life often come with ironic twists.

As the story unfolds, Elijah had reached a dangerous level of despondency.  He became deeply discouraged! How did God help Elijah defeat this great enemy of the soul? Few people have witnessed God’s power, provision, protection, and intervention as Elijah.  But he got his eyes off the God who providentially —even miraculously cared for him. He shifted his focus toward himself and his discouraged frame of mind.  Notice his discouragement:

Elijah’s condition: (I Kings 19:1-4) Common characteristics of discouraged people.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So 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 desert. He came to a broom tree, 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).

  • He wanted to be alone. Discouraged people often isolate themselves.
  • He prayed to die (evidently he was not afraid to die, but unwilling to commit suicide he recognized God’s authority over life and death.
  • He felt he couldn’t go on:  “I have had enough.”  How much can one man take?
  • He felt like a failure–-that he had reached the end of his usefulness: “I am not better than my ancestors.”

Does he sound a little discouraged? “I’m through!” “I’ve failed!” “I can’t go on!”

God’s restoration: (I Kings 19:5-9 ). Shift focus from Elijah’s condition to God’s restoration.

“Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:5-9).

Physical and spiritual needs:

  1. Sleep (v. 5) - under the broom/juniper tree (the finest shrub of the Arabian Desert). Elijah was exhausted in every sense. As is often the case, he was probably unaware of just how depleted he had become. God’s remedy: Don’t quit! Rest!
  2. Food (verses 5b-8 ) - physical nourishment  (Elijah had witnessed this provision before. Sometimes physical refreshment and renewal; sleep and food are the first needs for recovering from despair. We must respect the connection between body, soul, and spirit.
  3. Talk (verses 9 ) – God invites Elijah to pour out his heart—to express his condition to God (see: Psalm 62:8; I Peter 5:7; Hebrews 4:16). Given the opportunity to share his burden with God, Elijah revealed even more about the condition of his heart.

Loss of perspective

“He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (I Kings 19:10 ).

If he had been in a more humble frame of mind, he would have expressed something like this:

“I am really discouraged, Lord. I’ve been serving you and you have done great things. I guess I expected more to happen and I lost perspective. Then Jezebel sent word that she would hunt me and kill me. I ran for my life. I was afraid. I feel tired and down. Now I am here looking for help”

Elijah instead rehearsed how faithful he had been compared with everyone else. A martyr’s complex? Perhaps. A little angry? Maybe. You get the sense that Elijah is in a deep state of self-pity.  ‘I’ve worked so hard only to find myself in these miserable circumstances. I expected so much more.’ Elijah expresses a definite feeling of being alone. “I am the only one left.”  

This is the  attitude that says, “I am the only one living for God!” He was frustrated, pessimistic, angry, disappointed and discouraged.

But wait! What about the collective confession of the crowd on Mount Carmel? What about Obadiah and the 100 prophets? What about Elisha and the 7,000 faithful? As one has said, “Despondency has a way of selectively focusing on certain aspects of life and conveniently overlooking others. Despair is always colorblind; it can only see the dark tints.” (Dick Hubard) 

Discourage the discouraged?

The word for “encourage” can also be translated “admonish.” Sometimes discouraged people need gentle but firm admonishment about their loss of perspective. If you take this role with a discouraged person, sometimes he will accuse you of causing more discouragement. But we cannot truly encourage those who have lost perspective without discouraging them from a sinful frame of mind. We often find that we cannot shake our discouragement because we don’t feel God is caring for us as we believe He should — on our terms.

In this regard. it’s significant to note the grammatical connection between I Peter 5:6 and 5:7 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (ESV).

The main verb, “humble yourselves” functions in direct relationship with the participle “casting” (all your anxieties…). This means that part of the act of humbling oneself before God is “casting your cares on him.” Refusal to trust God with our cares is refusal to humble ourselves under His mighty hand.

Some translations miss this dependant connection by giving imperatival (command) force to verse 7 – “Cast  all you cares on him.” It’s also significant to connect the warning of verse 8– “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (ESV).

Notice several other means of restoration(I Kings 19)

  1. Spend time with God. (v. 11)- in His presence
  2. Take on a new assignment  (v. 15)
  3. Accept help for the work  (verses 16-17)
  4. Remember that you’re not alone  (v. 18  )

Summary of action points for discouraged people

  1. Don’t quit! Rest, refresh yourself and be refortified. Bodily depletion has spiritual and emotional consequences.
  2. Guard your expectations. Don’t build them on the responses of others. Spend time with God.
  3. Pour out your heart to God (Psalm 62:8 ).  
  4. Do the next thing!
  5. Welcome help from others.
  6. Remember that you’re not alone.

Steve Cornell

Words and tones are windows to the heart

How we talk to and about each other says a lot about the quality of our relationship. This is one reason why it’s important to do a little inventory about the way we use our words.

Church leaders should teach people right ways to speak to one another (and honorable ways to speak about others) if they desire to preserve the joyful unity of Christian fellowship. Believers are called to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and some of the most destructive forces threatening this unity are related to speech.

The first practical problem in the early Church involved verbal complaints.

“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (Acts 6:1, NLT).

One of the earliest New Testament letters to Christians has a good bit to say about speech. In the first chapter we read,

“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:26, NIV).

Think of the possible things that could have been said in the second part of the verse: “If you claim to be religious but… do not go to Church, do not read your Bibledo not pray, etc… These are important parts of living a godly life, but I am not sure many would have expected to read: “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue…” Just before this, we read about the need to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19, NIV). 

Restraint and Reflection:

Restraint and reflection are needed virtues when it comes to speech. Those familiar with the book of James know the focus given to the power of the tongue in chapter three. There we learn about the difficulty of taming the tongue and the importance of reigning in that powerful little muscle. There we learn that controlling our speech (words and tones) could help bring discipline in other areas of life.

Out of the heart:

Jesus takes matters to a deeper level by showing that our words reveal our hearts.  “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:35). An example of this in the Old Testament comes from the life of Joseph and his brothers. 

 “Jacob loved Joseph more than any of his other children because Joseph had been born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob had a special gift made for Joseph—a beautiful robe. But his brothers hated Joseph because their father loved him more than the rest of them. They couldn’t say a kind word to him” (Gen. 37:3-4).

It’s not at all surprising that people with hearts full of hatred find it impossible to speak kind words. This connection between heart and speech should encourage us to look for heart conditions behind the ways we speak. Our speech (words and ways of talking) is a window into our hearts. 

We should also look closely at the ways of speaking passed on to us from family backgrounds. If you grew up in a home with lots of yelling,  don’t be surprised if you default to the same tone of voice. If you grew up around a lot of verbal negativity or cynical speech, you’ll have to work hard to avoid it. 

A helpful exercise:

Discuss the possible heart issues behind each of the forbidden ways of speech listed below. Then look closely at the list of 12 tones of voice and discuss the possible heart conditions behind each one. Attach specific Scriptures to counter each tone of voice and the possible heart conditions behind them.

Forbidden speech:

1.   Lying (Ephesians 4:25; I Peter 3:10; Psalm 34:13)
2.   Slander (Titus 3:2; James 4:11)
3.   Gossip: (Proverbs 6:16-19; 11:13; 16:28)
4.   Complaining: (Philippians 2:14; Jude 16)
5.   Vengeful words (I Peter 2:23; Romans 12:17-19)
6.   Malicious or hurtful words (Ephesians 4:31-32)
7.   Angry words (Ephesians 4:31-32)
8.   Hasty words (James 1:19; Ecclesiastes 3:7)
9.   Flattery (Proverbs 24:26-28; 29:5; Rom. 16:18)
10. Cursing people (James 3:7-10)
11.  Boasting (I Corinthians 13:4-8)

Watch that tone:

Tone of voice can make a big difference in communication. Honest words spoken with wrongful tones are often self-defeating. Scripture says, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

Although I would never argue for single-toned speech, some tones are clearly unacceptable. Some tones are destructive to good relationships and some even misrepresent and dishonor God.  Consider the following wrongful tones:

1.  Condescending
2.  Bossy
3.  Angry
4.  Snobby
5.  Frustrated
6.  Impatient
7.  Defensive
8.  Moody
9.  Distant
10. Disrespectful
11. Dark
12. Whining

Required speech:

One of the best ways to change our speech patterns is to replace inappropriate ways of talking with godly speech. An obvious example would be to replace gossip or slander with  positive words about others. Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to many of the wrongful ways of speaking (Ephesians 4:32; 5:18-21). Praising God (Hebrews 13:15) is a potent form of speech that can set a clear tone for the rest of life. Those in authority are called to confront, correct and punish as well as to affirm those who do good (see: I Peter 2:13-14).

E429:

Use the formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. This stands for Ephesians 4:29 which says, 

“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.”

Steve Cornell

“Let all that you do be done in love.” (I Corinthains 16:14)

Mark Regnerus and the third rail in academic research

A friend informed me today of a disturbing controversy involving Mark Regnerus, a tenured sociologist from The University of Texas at Austin.

Regnerus dared to objectively research the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships. His study (published in Social Science Research) found that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to face a variety of emotional and social problems.

Due to complaints from a gay blogger, the professor now faces allegations of scientific misconduct and an investigation by the University of Texas (the very people who approved the study). Regnerus is discussing his research on his blog.

MarkRegnerusUTDo you ever get the feeling that tolerance will only be granted to those who agree with gay marriage? If you dare to express any measure of disagreement prepare to be accused of ignorance, fear, bigotry and hate .  

UT-Austin Investigates Regnerus for Gay Parenting Study by Jeremy Weber

The University of Texas is investigating allegations of “scientific misconduct” against sociology professor Mark Regnerus over his recent high-profile survey of children whose parents have had same-sex relationships.

A panel of UT professors will examine Regnerus’s methodology in response to a complaint by a blogger on LGBT issues that the study was “designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad” and was funded by conservative groups, according to the Austin American-StatesmanThe Journal of Social Science Research, which published Regnerus’s study, has also received criticisms of the study’s methodology.

Regnerus, whose study found that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to experience emotional and social problems, told the American-Statesman that his methodology was developed by a team of leading family researchers and approved by the university’s Institutional Review Board.

Mark Regnerus, Thoughtcriminal

A gay blogger formally complained to the president of the University of Texas in Austin that a study led by sociology associate professor Mark Regnerus was, yes, homophobic. The study’s guidelines had been previously approved by a university panel. 

A SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC RESPONSE TO THE REGNERUS CONTROVERSY

“Same-sex marriage is one of the most contentious and vexing issues now facing our nation. It is perhaps in part for that reason that the new study on same-sex parenting by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus, which finds that young-adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships are more likely to suffer from a range of emotional and social problems, has been subject to such sustained and sensational criticism from dozens of media outlets, from the Huffington Post to the New Yorker to the New Republic. These outlets have alleged, respectively, that his research is “anti-gay,” “breathtakingly sloppy,” and “gets everything wrong.”

Although Regnerus’s article in Social Science Research is not without its limitations, as social scientists, we think much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted for three reasons.

Sociologist Faces Backlash for Unfavorable Study on Kids With Gay Parents

A professor of sociology has come under intense attack after releasing a study that is damaging to gay-parents-headed households. 

Attacking Freedom of Thought and Scholarship By Maggie Gallagher

Will Saletan’s question about a “Liberal War on Science?” is beginning to look prophetic. Will the academic community react against political attacks on scholarship like this? Or will liberalism trump the guild? Stay tuned.

Sociologist Comes Under Fire from Activists for Gay-Parenting Study by Karla Dial

“When the journal Social Science Research published a study by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus last month saying children raised by parents in same-sex relationships have more negative outcomes than those raised by married mothers and fathers, the news didn’t just make headlines nationwide — it made waves.”

“Now, the school is in the early stages of pulling together a board of inquiry to investigate allegations of academic misconduct — brought not by a fellow academic, but by a gay-activist blogger.”

A crusading news media

“Seriously, people, don’t you ever get sick and tired of being propagandized?” So asked Rod Dreher. He then (IMHO) correctly noted:

“There is zero chance that anything that reflects negatively on gay culture or the gay experience will be aired in the mainstream news media. 

Additional note: Christianity Today recently interviewed Professor Regnerus on his research into the sexual attitudes and behavior of young adults — and published a cover story on his argument for early marriage. He also participated in a panel discussing on how best to encourage premarital abstinence.

Steve Cornell

Does God want us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing?

Many years ago, I was studying the subject of trials and suffering. I wanted to understand how God related to and used the hardships of life to change us. In my reading, J. I. Packer’s chapter “These Inward Trials” from his book Knowing God resonated most deeply with me.

Here is wisdom on trials that should be shared with all who know and walk with God. 

“The God of whom it was said, ‘He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms’ (Is. 40:11), is very gentle with very young Christians, just as mothers are with very young babies.  Often the start of their Christian career is marked by great emotional joy, striking providences, remarkable answers to prayer and immediate fruitfulness in their first acts of witness; thus God encourages them and establishes them in ‘the life.’”

“But as they grow stronger, and are able to bear more, he exercises them in a tougher school.  He exposes them to as much testing by the pressure of opposed and discouraging influences as they are able to bear — not more (see the promise, 1 Cor. 10:13), but equally not less (see the admonition, Acts 14:22). Thus he builds our character, strengthens our faith, and prepares us to help others. Thus he crystallizes our sense of values. Thus he glorifies himself in our lives, making his strength perfect in our weakness. There is nothing unnatural, therefore, in an increase of temptations, conflicts and pressures as the Christian goes on with God — indeed, something would be wrong if it did not happen” (p. 246, Knowing God).

How then does God carry out His purposes in drawing us closer to himself?

“Not by shielding us from assault by the world, the flesh and the devil, nor by protecting us from burdensome and frustrating circumstances, nor yet by shielding us from troubles created by our own temperament and psychology; but rather by exposing us to all these things, so as to overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, and to drive us to cling to him more closely. This is the ultimate reason, from our standpoint, why God fills our lives with troubles and perplexities of one sort and another: it is to ensure that we shall learn to hold him fast.”

“The reason why the Bible spends so much of its time reiterating that God is a strong rock, a firm defense, and a sure refuge and help for the weak, is that God spends so much of his time bringing home to us that we are weak, both mentally and morally, and dare not trust ourselves to find, or to follow, the right road.”

“When we walk along a clear road feeling fine, and someone takes our arm to help us, as likely as not we shall impatiently shake him off; but when we are caught in rough country in the dark, with a storm getting up and our strength spent, and someone takes our arm to help us, we shall thankfully lean on him. And God wants us to feel that our way through life is rough and perplexing, so that we may learn thankfully to lean on him. Therefore he takes steps to drive us out of self-confidence to trust in himself – in the classical scripture phrase for the secret of the godly life, to ‘wait on the Lord’” (p. 250, Ibid).

When faced with hardships

“Remind yourself of how much dross there is yet among the gold and view the corruption of your own heart and marvel that God has not smitten you more severely.” (A. W. Pink)

For those facing trials

When life feels unbearable because of our difficulties, we must turn to the God who “comforts us in all our troubles” (II Corinthians 1:3). Confess your belief in his goodness in spite of your circumstances, and be confident that, “our momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (II Corinthians 4:17).  Remember that the Lord disciplines those He loves.

There are a number of bottom lines to life. One of them is the fact that we need discipline—on all levels of existence! When feeling the weight of discipline, we know that, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful” (Hebrews 12:11). But we must follow the text to remind ourselves that, “Later on,” discipline “produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:12).

Be patient. Bear up under it. God is at work. “Later on, it produces…”.

Christian maturity is not possible without discipline. “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). “Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

A dear friend who is now in heaven use to say, “Get with the program! God knows. He cares. He is in control!” (Dr. B).

Steve Cornell