Why do we need warnings with God’s blessings?


canstock16254897Why does God have to attach warnings when He blesses His people?

With His blessings, God says,

  • “Watch yourself!”
  • “Be careful!”
  • “Don’t forget!”
  • “Be sure to remember!”

Questions for conversation

  • What does it tell us about ourselves that we need warnings with our blessings?
  • Do spiritual dangers come with material and physical prosperity?

Seven stages that often follow God’s blessings

  1. Prosperity increases
  2. Time passes
  3. Memory of hardship fades
  4. A change of heart slowly emerges
  5. We forget the God who blessed us
  6. We subtlety credit ourselves for the blessings
  7. We need hardships to shake our complacency and bring us back to God

Os Guinness wisely noted that, “…rebellion against God does not begin with the clenched fist of atheism but with the self-satisfied heart of the one for whom ‘thank you’ is redundant.”

We should live by the saying, ‘Nothing taken for granted. Everything received with gratitude. Everything passed on with…

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A closer look at accountability

5 Questions about Accountability

  1. What is accountability? – Definition: obligated to give an account for ones actions; responsible to answer to another.
  2.  Where do we find accountability? – Places: home, school, work, government, Church, athletics, nature: law of gravity.
  3.  What are the means for accountability? – Tools: covenants, contracts, laws, rules, boundaries, consequences, relationships
  4.  What are the benefits of accountability? – Benefits: protection and encouragement (Hebrews 3:12-13;10:24-25 – below).
  5. What is Christian accountability? – Specific definition: helping people keep their commitments to God based on what is clearly commanded or forbidden in Scripture through Jesus Christ.

Two levels of accountability – Is everyone accountable in the same way? No. There are levels of accountability.

    1. Mutual Accountability two way

  • Hebrews 3:12-13 – Protection – “See to it, brothers (or, “watch out for one another”), 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.” (see: Watching out for one another)
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 – Encouragement – “Let us think of ways to motivate (or provoke) one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (see: Proverbs 27:17).

    2. Mentor Accountability – one way

  • Hebrews 13:17 – “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
  • I Thessalonians 5:12-13 –“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.”

Good thoughts from others

  • “Fellowship is more than unconditional love that wraps its arms around someone who is hurting. It is also tough love that holds one fast to the truth and the pursuit of righteousness. For most Christians, the support side of the equation comes more easily than accountability and the subsequent discipline involved. Which is one reason the behavior of Christians is often little different from the behavior of non-Christians. Maybe it’s because we simply haven’t taught accountability. Or maybe it’s because, in today’s fiercely individualistic culture, people resent being told what to do, and since we don’t want to “scare them off,” we succumb to cultural pressures.”
  • “But too often we confuse love with permissiveness. It is not love to fail to dissuade another believer from sin any more than it is love to fail to take a drink away from an alcoholic or matches away from a baby. True fellowship out of love for one another demands accountability.” (Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 130)
  • “Christian community starts at the point of commitment and covenant. There is no genuine Christian community without a covenant… Christian community cannot exist without commitment to Jesus as Lord and to each other as sister and brother. And this must be more than a general mental commitment. It must be specific and explicit, involving our time, energy, and resources. Covenant is not just a nebulous commitment to each other; it takes specific shape in history” (Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, p. 127).

Applications for pastors/elders and local churches

  • Spiritual leaders (pastors and elders) have authority (Hebrews 13:17) and are to be honored by those under their charge. Sometimes their authority requires them to admonish, rebuke and warn people (I Thessalonians 5:12; Titus 1:13; 2:15; 3:10-11).
  • As shepherds, leaders must protect and defend the flock (Acts 20:17, 28-31; Titus 1:9). They must engage in ministries of discipline and restoration (I Corinthians 6:5; I Timothy 5:17-21; Galatians 6:1-2).
  • Church elders are also warned not to exercise their leadership in a way that is “lording it over those entrusted to you” (I Peter 5:3). There is only one Lord of the Church and He alone is the Chief Shepherd and overseer of the souls of the Church (I Peter 2:25; 5:4).
  • All human leadership must be extension of the will of the Lord of the Church. This means that while pastors and elders have authority, their leadership is always under Jesus Christ and answerable to Him.
  • A local church with the right kind of accountability must diligently guard against legalism. It helps to emphasize watching out for one another versus watching one another (Hebrews 3:12-14). The first focuses on genuine care; the second leads to gossip and pride (see: Luke 18:1-9)
  • To protect a local church from the dangers of legalism, I suggest a close study of Romans 14-15. The leaders must be certain that the believers understand the difference between legalism and true biblically-based authority (see: Understanding Legalism parts 1, 2, 3, 4).

Steve Cornell

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He is jealous for me


  • tumblr_llbgllOGM81qzx4jyo1_500“Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” (James 4:5).
  •  “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14).

“Nobody would imagine a Jealous God. But we are not making up an idea of God by drawing on our imagination; we are seeking instead to listen to the words of Holy Scripture, in which God himself tells us the truth about himself.”

“For God our Creator, whom we could never have discovered by any exercise of imagination, has revealed himself. He has talked. He has spoken through many human agents and messengers, and supremely through his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor has he left his messages, and the memory of his mighty acts, to be twisted and lost by the distorting processes of oral transmission. Instead, he…

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Government doesn’t have to be the problem


ImageFormer President Ronald Reagan said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

A friend of mine says, “The government does not ‘make’ anything, and it ‘creates’ no wealth. It simply takes from those who labor and redistributes the wealth to others.”

Reagan said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” 

The problem with oversized, wasteful government and our national debt and tax burden must be addressed. This is not an exclusive problem of one political party but one shared by all — directly or indirectly.

We need to take a closer look at what we agree to be a reasonable and responsible role for government.

Government doesn’t have to be the problem, but when…

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Supreme Court – police officer wrongly demoted

god-judge-world.jpg.crop_displayThe U.S. Supreme Court just made an important decision that will affect government employees nationwide.

The case

A New Jersey police officer was demoted for picking up a political campaign sign for his bedridden mother.


Petitioner Heffernan was a police officer working in the office of Paterson, New Jersey’s chief of police. Both the chief of police and Heffernan’s supervisor had been appointed by Paterson’s incumbent mayor, who was running for re-election against Lawrence Spagnola, a good friend of Heffernan’s. Heffernan was not involved in Spagnola’s campaign in any capacity. As a favor to his bedridden mother, Heffernan agreed to pick up and deliver to her a Spagnola campaign yard sign. Other police officers observed Heffernan speaking to staff at a Spagnola distribution point while holding the yard sign. Word quickly spread throughout the force. The next day, Heffernan’s supervisors demoted him from detective to patrol officer as punishment for his “overt involvement” in Spagnola’s campaign. Heffernan filed suit, claiming that the police chief and the other respondents had demoted him because, in their mistaken view, he had engaged in conduct that constituted protected speech. They had thereby “depriv[ed]” him of a “right . . . secured by the Constitution.”

Becket asked the Court to protect the Officer Hefferman’s first Amendment rights of free speech and his right to freely assemble.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of Officer Hefferman.

“It’s sad that this case had to go all the way to the Supreme Court for the City of Paterson, New Jersey to learn that freedom of speech and the right to assemble are core rights of American citizens.” (Stephanie Barclay, counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty).

“Especially in an election year it is crucial that the rights of speech and assembly are protected,” added Barclay. “All Americans have to be able to participate in the political process without fear of retribution.”

The dissent – The dissent to this decision is interesting (from Justice Thomas joined with Justice Scalia)

“The majority surmises that an attempted violation of an employee’s First Amendment rights can be just as harmful as a successful deprivation of First Amendment rights. Ante, at 7. And the majority concludes that the City’s demotion of Heffernan based on his wrongfully perceived association with a political campaign is no different from the City’s demotion of Heffernan based on his actual association with a political campaign.

The mere fact that the government has acted unconstitutionally does not necessarily result in the violation of an individual’s constitutional rights, even when that individual has been injured.

Consider, for example, a law that authorized police to stop motorists arbitrarily to check their licenses and registration. That law would violate the Fourth Amendment. See Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U. S. 648, 661 (1979).

And motorists who were not stopped might suffer an injury from the unconstitutional policy; for example, they might face significant traffic delays. But these motorists would not have a §1983 claim simply because they were injured pursuant to an unconstitutional policy.

This is because they have not suffered the right kind of injury. They must allege, instead, that their injury amounted to a violation of their constitutional right against unreasonable seizures—that is, by being unconstitutionally detained.

Here too, Heffernan must allege more than an injury from an unconstitutional policy. He must establish that this policy infringed his constitutional rights to speak freely and peaceably assemble. Even if the majority is correct that demoting Heffernan for a politically motivated reason was beyond the scope of the City’s power, the City never invaded Heffernan’s right to speak or assemble.”

What do you think?

Steve Cornell



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8 Identity Markers


325928430_640Personalize each of the 8 identity markers listed below. They define who we are and why we’re here.

  • Reflect deeply on the meaning and implications of each one.
  • Discuss them with a group of friends. 
  • Define your life and sense of calling and purpose around them.  
  • Print them and place them somewhere so that you can review them often.

These identity markers answer important questions –

Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do? Who do I serve? How should I live?

8 Identity Markers

  1. Salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)
  2. Light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16)
  3. Disciple Makers (Matthew 28:18-20)
  4. Witnesses (Acts 1:8: I Peter 3:15-16)
  5. Ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:17-21)
  6. Imitators of God (Luke 6:35-36; Eph. 5:1-2, 25)
  7. Reflectors of God’s Glory (I Corinthians 10:31)
  8. Agents of Grace (Colossians 4:5-6

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13 red flags identifying antagonists

2c80b-newyear2013goalsandresolutionsThe 13 red flags below provide training material for equipping Church leaders and members in discerning the presence of antagonistic people.

This material is from the book, “Antagonists in the Church” by Kenneth C. Haugk. He suggests that the presence of one or more red flags does not guarantee that you are dealing with an antagonist. But it will give you fair warning to exercise caution.

  1. THE PREVIOUS TRACK RECORD FLAG – Some antagonists will wave a red flag announcing: “See how antagonistically I behaved before!” They could have played the role of antagonist earlier in the present congregation, or they might have done so in another congregation. Do not ignore this clear flag or say, “It won’t happen to me.” The data indicates that those with antagonistic track records tend not to reform.
  2. THE PARALLEL TRACK RECORD FLAG – Individuals who behave antagonistically in other arenas of life are prime candidates to become active antagonists in the church. These persons may not now behave antagonistically in the church, but do behave this way in one or more other organizations, such as the local school system, the workplace, or in a social club. He or she may even gloat about these antagonistic behaviors. In so doing, the individual conspicuously waves a red flag before you.”
  3. THE NAMELESS OTHERS FLAG – All leaders, whatever their position, receive criticism from time to time. Sometimes the criticism is valid, helpful, and legitimate. When someone offers you a word of criticism, however, and adds, “There are X number of other people who feel the same way,” chances are excellent that you are talking with an antagonist. These “others” may be phantoms of the antagonist’s imagination, invented to validate his or her own feelings and to threaten you. Or they may be followers of the antagonist. Whether they exist or not is immaterial, because individuals who are not antagonistic don’t need to talk about “all the others” who feel the same way; they simply express their own thoughts and feelings.” “The litmus test to determine whether someone is or is not an antagonists in this situation is to respond casually, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Who are these other people?” If the person lists a few names, you are probably not faced with an antagonist. An antagonist is more likely to answer, “They came to me in the strictest of confidence.”
  4. THE PRESSER-DOWNER FLAG – “Beware of those who denounce your predecessor (in whatever position you hold) and praise you at the same time. They might say something like, “You’re my kind of leader, a person I can relate to — not like the others.” In certain ways, everyone enjoys hearing words like these. Both pastors and lay leaders can be seduced by such compliments, but a person criticizing others and simultaneously flattering you carries a flag of blazing scarlet. Someday you may be a former leader, and those who build up a new leader will do so at your expense.”
  5. THE INSTANT BUDDY FLAG – “Be cautious with those who relate to you in an overly friendly fashion as soon as you move to a new congregation or immediately after they transfer into your congregation.”
  6. THE GUSHING PRAISE FLAG – “Those who lavish effusive, gushing praise on you now will often be equally generous with their criticism later. What causes this shift? One possibility may be unrealistic expectations. To be human is to have faults. You cannot sustain the level of perfection that antagonists expect. It is also possible that they become jealous of the image they have built up for you and consequently seek to destroy it by bringing you down to size. In any case, beware of someone who heaps excessive praise on you. This person is waving a red flag.”
  7. THE “I GOTCHA” FLAG – “Beware of those who try to catch you in error — for example, those who ask you questions when you know they already know the answers.”
  8. THE CHURCH HOPPER FLAG – “Beware of those who consistently move from congregation to congregation. I am not referring to people who move frequently because their occupations require them to do so. Antagonists change congregations because they are dissatisfied with the church staff, the lay leadership, or the outcome of a decision in the previous church. Indeed, they often confide that they have been dissatisfied with almost every pastor or lay leader with whom they were previously associated. At the same time, church hoppers will build you up. ‘Finally,’ they exclaim, ‘I have found the leader for me!'”
  9. THE FLASHING $$ FLAG – “Anyone who conspicuously uses money has better than average potential to become an antagonist. Churches are ideal places for them to demonstrate this characteristic. An antagonist is likely to make a spectacular contribution, visible to all, to fund a special program … Face it: it is wonderful to receive donations, especially when the need is great — as is often the case. But be careful not to sell out for money. The long-term costs are too great!”
  10. THE NOTE TAKER FLAG – “Be wary of those who take notes at inappropriate times — such as during a coffee-hour conversation — when an off-the-cuff opinion is expressed on a sensitive issue. Inappropriate note takers are often budding antagonists.”
  11. THE KENTRON FLAG – “The kentron flag describes someone who uses sharp, cutting language such as sarcasm or a barbed comment disguised as a joke. An individual who consistently resorts to these tactics is a viable candidate for the position of antagonist.”
  12. THE PEST FLAG – “A ‘pest’ may be an insatiable questioner, a persistent suggester, or an incessant caller. This is a less significant red flag; many pesky persons are not antagonists but simply well-intentioned individuals who end up being nuisances. Occasionally, however, such behavior may be the tip of the iceberg — a fairly innocent behavior that results from antagonistic personality. People who first appear to be simply pests may later prove to be thorough going antagonists.”
  13. THE CAUSE FLAG – “… there appears to be a correlation between individuals who promote causes and those who behave antagonistically. Antagonists are individuals who, on the basis of non-substantive evidence, go out of their way to make insatiable demands, usually attacking the person or performance of others. These attacks are selfish in nature, tearing down rather than building up, and are frequently directed against those in a leadership capacity” (Haugk).

Seven questions

Ask yourself the following questions about the individual of concern

  1. Is his or her behavior disruptive?
  2. Is the attack irrational?
  3. Does the person go out of the way to initiate trouble?
  4. Are the person’s demands insatiable?
  5. Are the concerns upon which he or she bases the attack minimal or fabricated?
  6. Does the person avoid causes that involve personal risk, suffering, or sacrifice?
  7. Does the person’s motivation appear selfish?

If the answers to several of these questions are in the affirmative, it’s enough to suggest that you are dealing with an antagonist. Even if the answers to a few are no, you need to take a closer look.

Steve Cornell

Posted in Antagonists, attitudes of unity, Church discipline, Church growth, Church Hoppers, Church Leadership, Church membership, Community, Conflict, Confrontation, covenant of membership, elders in the Church, Local Church, Unity, Wisdom | Tagged , , | Leave a comment