Are you a cantankerous Christian?

Mrs grumpy...“They’re hard to please and quick to complain.” This is what I was told about people who attend Bible conference centers. I heard the same report from a waitress about groups of Christians who frequent area restaurants.

The director of a conference ministry informed me that this was a common problem in his line of work. A manager of a similar ministry indicated that her experience in a secular conference center resulted in far less complaints. She said, “Christians were more difficult to please and had more complaints.” Our waitress friend (though herself a Christian), said that Christian groups have the same reputation with the waitresses where she works.

Do these reports bother you as much as they do me?

Perhaps non-Christians hold Christians to an unreasonably high standard. This is probably true in some cases. But those informing me of the problem are Christians. They have no axe to grind and are saddened by what they’ve witnessed. They regularly observe a disturbing reality about the attitudes of their fellow-believers.

While no particular group is solely the problem, at the risk of offense (which is not my intention), another common factor among a large percentage of the disgruntled is old age. I am not sure what to make of this. I know that I don’t ever want to be the proverbial grumpy old man who is not happy with anything. 

Whether old or young, ask yourself if you’re known for being cantankerous and irritable or gracious and grateful.

Complaining is a sin. Yes, you read it correctly — sin. The scripture specifically says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). We are also instructed to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18). Ungratefulness leads the way when the heart turns away from God (See: Romans 1:21-28).

Christians have experienced such amazing grace from God that we should be overflowing with gratitude and humility. The culture tells us to demand our rights and expect nothing but the best for ourselves. Christ tells us to serve and bless others. We should be distinguished by a gracious disposition, not a grouchy and demanding one.

How will people believe our message of hope when our lives don’t reflect it?

We all have bad days when we’re not the most cheerful persons. And there are proper ways to express disappointment with inadequate service. Yet we need to become more mindful of our witness for Christ if our attitudes are creating a negative reputation.

So if you’re a critical, crabby, and demanding person (young or old), please don’t tell people that you’re a Christian.

Revisit the words of Jesus, “For who is the greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

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 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. 

“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

The President’s Speech

The President’s speech today was an unbelievable display of partisan posturing based on significant misrepresentations of why the government shut down.

It’s frankly a little scary to think that our leaders so boldly take us for fools.

What the President did was not an example of good leadership but of brazen and unmitigated personal and party promotion. And the manipulative use of health care for such bitter partisanship is despicable. I realize this happens all the time in politics, but this President has taken it to new levels. Please do not allow the smooth talk to deceive you.

Rather than delay the individual mandate, Obama and the Democrats chose to shut down government. Now millions will face penalties due to Obamacare. The so-called Affordable Care Act has been the source of widespread reduction to the work week from 40 hours to part time hours. ObamaCare has also been the most partisan legislation passed in this century.

I want honest efforts from our leaders to work together. The President and Democrats have resolutely and arrogantly refused to work in any way with the other side that would require the slightest concession.

The President publicly gives the impression that the only reason he won’t cooperate is because he must protect the poor people who don’t have health care from the angry Republicans who want to deny them care. What a deceptive distortion! Does he really believe that Americans are dumb enough to fall for such distortions? 

And today by slight of speech, the President actually blamed all the “crises” on a “small segment of Republicans.” He threw that in to move the heat off of himself for the crises that occurred under his watch. The level of deception is unbelievable.

An unbiased look at the President’s speech today will reveal that it was filled with calculated distortions of the facts for political advantage. I hope most Americans will refuse to be swayed by the smooth talk and lies. President Obama’s message has consistently been “do it my way or you’ll be hating on Americans and I will take every opportunity to make them see it this way.” But this “My way or the highway” attitude must stop. 

Where is the leadership we so badly need?

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 

How we got here

 

As we witness sharp changes in public opinion on social issues, it’s worth asking questions about some possible upstream influences that led to the changes.

It’s tempting to focus on the pressing realities of downstream consequences. Shifts in political opinions are (for example) downstream realities. When we dislike what’s happening in politics, we need to ask questions about the upstream influences that made the political changes possible.

So let’s travel upstream to find some of the possible sources behind the current changes. 

Note: Since many read this blog from different parts of the world, please understand that my analysis is mainly focused on upstream changes in the United States.

Four potential sources 

1. The emphasis on tolerance and equality

I don’t recall hearing the word “tolerance” when I was in school. But things were far different for my children. Tolerance has been one the most emphasized social standards over the last several decades. One of the primary purposes for promoting tolerance has been to avoid offending others by treating all people with equality. Is it possible that this emphasis has shaped public discourse on controversial issues? Fear of offending has become a far more significant guideline for moral opinions. I realize that a distorted and politically correct version of the older more noble virtue of tolerance has been promoted but it has had a profound influence in the way young people respond to morality and religion. (see: Tolerance)

2. The availability of information

We have access to far more information than ever before in human history. If I doubt what you tell me, I can “google it.” This puts a new kind of pressure on public speaking and private conversation to get the facts right. Information also enlarges perspective and creates suspicion about the possibility error. People tend to filter ideas, opinions and theories through more of a worldwide grid. This can make one more reticent about anything that seems too dogmatic or exclusive. 

3. The reaction to ill-informed dogma

This might be a bit speculative or colloquial but I think that in the 1980′s and 90′s, there was a resurgence of dogma in a kind of reaction to the Woodstock culture. The rock-n-role sexual revolution of the 60′s and 70′s led to a renewed emphasis on morality and moral majorities in many contexts. With the reaction to what was considered a permissive and free love era came emphasis on standards, convictions and absolute beliefs. In some places, a legalistic attitude took over and people became very judgmental and hypocritical. It seems (at least in some places) that we’re experiencing a reaction to the reaction with a clear movement away from perceptions of self-righteous moralizing. 

4. The influence of the university

Some sociologists postulate that the universities in the US have often taken their cue from European influences. So it is argued that the philosophies of existentialism, moral relativism and even nihilism (from Europe) have invaded our college campuses and produced the predominant outlooks of modernity and post-modernity in our young people. When young people go to a university, they often come from more limited and controlled environments with limited influences. The range of diversity they encounter at the university is a bit of a shock that’s hard for some to absorb. Universities are places where becoming broad-minded is an educational objective. I have not doubt that some of these influences have significantly contributed to the reticence among young people toward dogma and absolute truth.

Four potential dangers

1. Cynicism

When absolute opinions must be avoided to promote tolerance and protect civility, people tend to become more cynical. Have you noticed how quickly cynicism becomes the default setting for many people? Many operate with a filter of suspicion as protective screen to keep from being duped or at least from appearing to be. It is common (especially among young people) to suspect deceitful or evil motives behind firmly held beliefs. Those who hold to any form of absolute truth are more quickly suspected of oppressive or imperialistic agendas. 

2. Self-contradiction

There are times when two opinions cannot logically both be correct. There also times when important choices must be made between differing viewpoints. Yet it has often been noted that in the transition from modernity to postmodernity, the two areas granted authority to speak in absolute categories (science and math) lost their authoritative seats. With postmodernity came a refusal to grant anyone the right to make truth claims that all people must accept –even if they came from science. Of course, it’s hard to accept that 1 + 1 could equal 2 or 3 or whatever you wanted it to equal. But postmodernism came with a radicalization of relativism to all areas of knowledge.

Changes of tone in public dialogue shifted toward uncertainty in an aversion to absolutes just as universals became more deeply part of the social narrative. This is especially the case when it comes to religion and morality. An extensive survey found that teenagers in the United States had a one word response to absolute opinions on religion and morality — “Whatever.” Yet should we be able to agree that a religious practice like jihad is intolerable? And how can we make laws and exact punishments without absolute moral decisions?

3. Neutrality and indecisiveness 

Part of leadership is the ability to make tough decisions when popularity is at risk. The president (for example) is also a Commander and Chief. He cannot remain neutral or indecisive on issues that affect the well being of the nation. When people are uncomfortable with conclusions and prefer endless discussions, they risk avoidance of necessary difficult decisions. Leaders must be willing to offend some people if the right and best choice requires it.

4. Fear and manipulation 

People can easily be manipulated by those in power when they’re controlled by fear of offending. Vocal and militant groups will seize the weakness of indecisive people to promote their agendas. This often leads to duplicity in people as they publicly affirm what they privately disapprove — but fear speaking up. As strange as it might sound, indecisive people are more vulnerable to totalitarian governments.

Spiritual concerns

Few teachers spoke with more authority on matters related to God and morality than Jesus. And we should understand that Jesus taught in a time when people feared offending the dominant religious leaders. But He forthrightly challenged the deceitfulness of the establishment.

Here is a simple but profound truth: If there is a God and He has spoken, we are obligated by His words. If Jesus is God than he did not lie or deceive in anything he taught. When he said, “ “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” he was not offering a suggestion or a personal opinion. 

These tone changes and postures toward truth statements are part of what makes the work of those who preach more challenging. Preaching and proclamational ministries can easily come off as socially rude to people conditioned to think in the most subjective terms possible. Certainly those who preach should be aware of prevailing cultural conditions and be wise in the way they communicate (see: Colossians 4:4-5).

Yet, when we teach Scripture, we cannot treat as mere recommendation what is presented with binding authority on all people. We can tone our teaching thoughtfully while remaining faithful to the truth. Pastor Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC has been an excellent example of how this should be done. We must always seek to be postured with gospel-based humility toward all people (see: Titus 3:1-7). 

Steve Cornell

The State of the Union and of our National conversation

President Obama is no doubt one of the best orators we’ve had in the White House. Yet he chose a tone in his State of the Union that hurt his communication. He conveyed more of a sense of aggravation and alienation than cooperation and negotiation.

Apart from what I think about the content of his speech, his delivery was not effective. I am certainly not opposed to firm and direct communication but in public speaking the tone chosen must meet the occasion. One can speak firmly without sounding like you’re peeved at others. 

The president often sounded like an angry liberal who is fed up with conservatives. His tone seemed to play to a narrow part of his base rather than to a diverse nation. There is a growing cynical and condescending tone making its way into the Democratic Party that should trouble concerned members. 

In critiquing the president’s speech, I need to pause to acknowledge that a US president must have one of the most frustrating jobs in the world. The challenges and pressures he faces are greater than most understand and the obstructions in politics would drive anyone crazy. I don’t think I would have the patience for this job. There are not many who could hold up under the strain of endless spotlight from media and endless criticisms from every possible angle. We must not forget that the president is human. So I don’t offer my critique to be overly critical of a man who should be often in our prayers.

Yet when a president has an opportunity to speak to a nationwide audience, he should use a presidential tone and avoid divisive tones that convey bitter partisanship. President Reagan was a master at this. Even when he laid a dig into the other side, he did it in such winsome ways that often his critics couldn’t keep from smiling. I think President Obama faces an additional challenge of slipping into an all too common Ivy League tone of condescending cynicism.

The president’s tone at the State of the Union made me feel that he was taking things too personally. One of the basic principles of leadership is to distinguish the personal from (in this case) the presidential. In ministry, I distinguish the personal from the pastoral. There are some things that are aimed at me not because of who I am but because of my role. If a leader allows opposition and attacks to be taken too personally, he easily becomes sidetracked and begins to play to his critics. A leader should be secure enough to authentically consider criticism without being controlled by it.

National conversation

The tone chosen by the president made me think of some of the tone changes that have become part of public discourse in the last several decades.

If you listen closely to conversation and debate (particularly among the younger generation),  you’ll hear more of the language of moderation and tones of negotiation. You’ll hear common phrases that invite conversation rather than foreclosing on it. You’ll hear words of invitation and dialogue rather than conclusions and dogma.

It’s become common place to couch opinions in a language of possibility and personal preference more than matter of fact. The old “tell it like it is” tone isn’t nearly as acceptable — particularly in educated circles. Consider a few of the more common expressions that have become part of public discussion and analysis:

  • “So that’s a really good question and I guess what I want to say is …”
  • “So I think what you’re saying is….”
  • “Sort of… Kind of….”
  • “I guess we could say that ….”
  • “If I understand you correctly, it seems like you’re saying…”
  • “So if we take it this way of looking at it, then we perhaps we would have to conclude that…”

The most popular words are “so,” “perhaps,” “seems,” and “guess.” The most popular phrases are “kind of” and “sort of.” Did I miss any? Listen carefully for how often these are used when people express opinions or offer analysis of issues. I suppose this trendy way of speaking was common for many years in philosophy clubs and departments where truth is ever circular.

I appreciate tones and phrases that invite dialogue and debate rather than foreclosing on it. This could be because I’ve worked in a university town for almost thirty years. It also could be because I came from a background much more influenced by a kind of ignorant dogma. It’s easy to see how announcing the dogma of absolute opinion, is a conversation stopper and a way to ask for an argument with those who disagree.

But why has this way of speaking become more mainstream? Are there dangers behind too much openness when facing critical issues that require hard decisions?

I can think of a few possible sources behind these changes. My analysis is mainly focused on changes in the United States.

Four potential sources 

1. Emphasis on tolerance.

I don’t recall ever hearing the word “tolerance” when I was in school. Things are far different for my children. Tolerance has been one the most emphasized social standards over the last several decades. One of the primary purposes for promoting tolerance has been to avoid offending others. Is it possible that this emphasis has shaped public discourse? Fear of offending has become far more significant. 

2. Availability of information

We have access to far more information than ever before in human history. If I doubt what you tell me, I can just “google it.” This puts a new kind of pressure on public speaking and private conversation to get the facts right. Information also enlarges perspective. People tend to filter ideas, opinions and theories through more of a world grid. This can make one more hesitant to be dogmatic about his opinions and perhaps to be more inclusive and compassionate on a larger scale.

3. Reaction to ill-informed dogma

This might be a bit speculative or colloquial but I think that in the 1980’s and 90’s, there seemed to be a resurgence of dogma in a kind of reaction to the Woodstock culture. The rock-n-role sexual revolution of the 60’s and 70’s led to a renewed emphasis on morality and moral majorities in many contexts. With the reaction to what was considered a permissive and free love era came emphasis on standards, convictions and absolute beliefs. In some places, a legalistic attitude took over and people became very judgmental and hypocritical. It seems (at least in some places) that we’re experiencing a reaction to the reaction with a lean away from moralizing. 

4. Influence of the university

Some sociologists postulate that the universities in the US have often taken their cue from European influences. So it is argued that the philosophies of existentialism, moral relativism and even nihilism (that trace their beginnings to Europe) have invaded our college campuses and produced the predominant outlooks of modernity and post-modernity in our young people. When young people go to a university they often leave more limited and controlled environments with limited influences. The range of diversity they encounter is a shock that’s hard for some to absorb. Universities are places where becoming broad-minded is part of the educational objective. I have not doubt that some of these influences have contributed to the reticency  among young people toward dogma and absolute truth.

Four potential dangers

1. Cynicism

When absolute opinions must be avoided to promote tolerance and protect civility, people tend to become more cynical. Have you noticed how quickly cynicism becomes the default setting for many people? Many operate with a filter of suspicion as a protective screen to keep from being duped or at least from appearing to be. It is common (especially among young people) to suspect deceitful or evil motives behind firmly held beliefs. Those who hold to any form of absolute truth are more quickly suspected of oppressive or imperialistic agendas. 

2. Irrational self-contradiction

There are times when two opinions cannot logically both be correct. There also times when important choices must be made between differing viewpoints. But It has often been noted that in the transition from modernity  to postmodernity, the two areas granted authority to speak in absolute categories (science and math) lost their authoritative seats. With postmodernity came a refusal to grant anyone the right to make truth claims that all people must accept –even if they came from science. Of course, it’s hard to accept that 1 + 1 could equal 2 or 3 or whatever you wanted it to equal. But postmodernism came with a radicalization of relativism to all areas of knowledge.

The tone changes toward uncertainty became more common as aversion to absolutes and universals became more deeply part of the social narrative. This is especially the case when it comes to religion and morality. An extensive survey found that teenagers in the US had a one word response to absolute opinions on religion and morality — “Whatever.” But should we be able to agree that a religious practice like jihad is intolerable? And how can we make laws and exact punishments without moral decisions?

3. Neutrality and indecisiveness 

Part of leadership is the ability to make tough decisions when popularity is at risk. The president is also a Commander and Chief. He cannot remain neutral or indecisive on issues that affect the well-being of the nation. When people are uncomfortable with reaching conclusions and prefer endless discussions, they risk avoidance of necessary decisions. Leaders must be willing to offend some people if necessary.

4. Fear and manipulation 

When people are controlled by a fear of offending it can easily be manipulated by those in power. Vocal and militant groups will seize the weakness of indecisive people to promote their agendas. This often leads to duplicity in people as they publicly affirm what they privately disapprove but fear speaking up about. As strange as it might sound, indecisive people are more vulnerable to totalitarian regimes.

Spiritual concerns

Few teachers spoke with more absolute authority on matters related to God and morality than Jesus. Of course, we must recognize that he taught in a time when people feared offending the dominant religious leaders. But Jesus forthrightly challenged the deceitfulness of the corrupt establishment. It’s a simple but profound truth that if there is a God and he has spoken, we are obligated by His words. If Jesus is God than he did not lie or deceive in anything he taught. When he said, ” “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” he was not offering a suggestion or a personal opinion. 

These tone changes and postures toward truth statements are part of  what makes the work of those who preach more challenging. Preaching and proclamational ministries can come off as socially rude to people conditioned to speak and think in the most subjective terms possible. Certainly those who preach should be aware of prevailing cultural conditions and be wise in the way they communicate (see: Colossians 4:4-5). But when we teach Scripture we cannot treat it as mere recommendations when it speaks with binding authority on all people. We can tone our teaching thoughtfully but still be faithful to the truth. Pastor Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian in NYC has been an excellent popular level example of how this should be done. 

I am sorry for the length of this but for the brave few who read it, I’d love to know what you think. 

Steve Cornell

Watch your tone!

It’s not always what you say but how you say it.

Do you tend to use a negative tone in communication? Did you grow up in a home where you were exposed to negative or cynical tones? Slow down and Listen to yourself. Be honest with yourself.

When one of the tones listed below is prominent in your way of communicating, it points to deeper issues — heart issues that must be resolved. 

12 destructive tones

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

One of the best ways to change our communication is to replace destructive tones with constructive ways of speaking to each other. An obvious example would be to replace gossip or slander with positive words about others. Words of appreciation and encouragement are excellent alternatives to the dark tones of grumbling and whining. 

Use the formula E429 to remind yourself of God’s will for our speech. This 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).

Steve Cornell