Urgent question (audio link)

An urgent question for the Church.


I promised a link to my audio message (see below) focused on this urgent question for the Church:

Q. How can we proclaim and celebrate a gospel of grace and forgiveness (while enforcing standards of morality) without becoming a prideful and self-righteous or watchful and legalistic Church?

Three Foundational Truths

  1. The costly nature of saving grace (v. 7- “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”; Romans 5:8)
  2. The transforming power of salvation (I John 3:9 – “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” cf. James 2)
  3. The necessity of community for spiritual transformation (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24; 13:17)

Listen to this important message here.

Steve Cornell

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Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won

A great and needed message through song!


Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “son
Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”
I remember oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed

I don’t have…

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Jesus set the example of servant-leadership but be careful not to misunderstand what He intended. 

One particular disagreement repeatedly resurfaced among the early followers of Jesus. It was an argument (in their way of thinking) that related to leadership.

“Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.” (Luke 22:24). 

Jesus often challenged the thinking of His disciples concerning leadership. Consider His response to their dispute about greatness. 

“The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is 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 22:25-27).

Servant leadership 

Jesus modeled servant leadership. But this approach should never be used to empty leadership of authority. Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, exercised leadership as a “one-toned” role. The need for different tones and displays of authority is quite clear.

For example, the apostle Paul offered the Corinthians an option, “Do you desire that I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” (1 Corinthians 4:21)

Those in church leadership are commanded to “preach the Word, reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction” (1 Tim. 4:2).

Paul wrote to Titus about certain men who were rebellious deceivers: “who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain.” Paul said, “Reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:10-13).

Later Paul exhorted Titus, “These things speak and exhort, reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

Let’s not make the mistake of thinking that servant-leadership empties leadership of authority. Jesus is more concerned about the motives of the heart regarding leadership.

Jesus warned His disciples not to become “power-hungry” or “title chasers.” Referring to religious leaders, Jesus said…

“…they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:6-12). 

Be careful not to make more of Jesus’ words than intended.

Jesus obviously had no problem with positions of leadership. Nor did He insist that there be no leadership among His people. Instead He desired to teach His followers to resist the pride and egoism loved by many leaders.

Servant leadership is the model both required and exemplified by Jesus. Yet this does not mean that Jesus did not exercise authority. He did and sometimes firmly. And He expects the same from those He places in leadership over His people. This is equally evident in the lives of the Apostles.

Yet Jesus’ words, however, are a good reminder to be careful about elevating any man too highly. 


“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work….Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work” (I Thessalonians 5:12-13).

“As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:1-5).

“For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right….Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king” (I Peter 2:13-14,17).

Steve Cornell


Posted in Authority, Call to ministry, Calling, Church Leadership, Elders, elders in the Church, Emerging Leaders, Leadership, Life of a pastor, Pastors | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five resources on perspective, attitude and speech

Attitude is important in our relationships.

Check out five resources on perspective, attitude and speech. 

  1. Five life-controlling perspectives
  2. We are unworthy servants
  3. Are you a cantankerous Christian?
  4. Formula E429 could change your life!
  5. The love language of all good marriages

Steve Cornell


Posted in Attitude, attitudes of unity, Communication, Counseling, Love, Marriage, marriage problems, Relationships, Speech, Wisdom | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Six important resources for relationships

  1.  Forgiveness and Reconciliation
  2. 7 signs of true repentance
  3. When words cannot restore trust
  4. Instruments of godly sorrow
  5. Reconciled relationships matter to God
  6. Ten guidelines for reconciliation

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Does the book of Proverbs promise too much?

Why are the Proverbs often misunderstood?


Can the promises in the Old Testament book of Proverbs be taken seriously?  Someone suggested that, “many cannot take the book seriously because its promises seem removed from the harsh realities of their experiences.”

One proverb promises that, “He who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long life” (Proverbs 1:19). Others promise protection, prosperity, safety, life at ease, and health to those who choose a path of wisdom and obedience (Proverbs 1:32-33; 3:1-2, 7-8, 9-10). 

Do all who follow the path of wisdom enjoy these benefits? “The righteous” we are told, “is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place” (Proverbs 11:8). Should we expect this for all righteous people? How would it apply to what we call heroes of faith noted in Hebrews 11?

A well-known proverb says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it”…

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A deeper look at the human need for change

Humans are not a people safe to themselves or to their environment.

Although there are notable examples of progress in human history, it is largely one of war and destruction. The earth given to us to inhabit is on the edge of potential destruction at our own hands.

I am not referring to a theory of global warming but to the horrific potential of nuclear global destruction. If this sounds apocalyptic to you, I suggest a little research. There are currently enough strategically placed nuclear weapons to destroy every major city in the northern hemisphere.

It’s sadly notable that the most progressive century of human history (the 20th) was also the most violent. Human capacity for violence and evil appears to be limitless.

Human beings have an “empirically demonstrable bias toward evil. We are both complicitous in and molested by the evil of our race. We both discover evil and invent it; we both ratify and extend it…. By disposition, practice, and habit, human beings let loose a great, rolling momentum of evil across generations” (Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.).

All human beings live with an internal duality of good and evil. This is why our history is one of both heroism and terrorism. We are a people of love and war; of dignity and depravity. Heartwarming acts of benevolence and shockingly disturbing evil can come from the same person. Our nature itself is corrupted by an infectious and pervasive depravity.

But how can we name acts of evil and what solutions can we bring to the table?

Politics, Culture and Law as agents of change

Politics, culture and the role of law are agents of change that seem essential to our existence. These means offer limited solutions to some of our problems and offer the potential to promote human flourishing. But we have a deeper need that cannot be addressed through these agents of change.

Ontological and teleological change

These are big words but they’re important to understand. There is a need for a deeper level of change beyond the natural and external means provided through politics, culture and law.

We need an ontological change based on a teleological focus.

Ontological refers to a change to our being or nature. Teleological offers a future focus that provides hope to fuel change.

The teleological dimension is God’s provision of purpose and hope beyond the temporal world. It involves things that matter (at some level) to most rational people.

Laws, customs, culture and politics will not address the depth of the human problem. These external pressures are necessary (even divinely ordained) but not adequate. Making external adjustments by creating new laws or putting the “right” party in political office will not address our deepest needs.

Scripture reveals our need for an ontological transformation (a regeneration of our nature or a new heart). But we cannot produce this change in ourselves or in others (in fact, ontologically, our children inherited their problem from us, a corrupt nature). Parents cannot give their children a new nature. We ask them to consider matters of the “heart” but (in New Covenant terms) we cannot give them a new heart.

God said, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

Need for change

An example of this need for deeper (ontological) change would be King David’s confession of adultery. He acknowledged that his problem is far more than a matter of act and consequence. While confessing the wrong he had done, he said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). He acknowledged a very long history with sin far beyond his current actions. He confessed an inborn condition.

New Creation:

We need a recreation or new creation by the renewing of God through His Spirit (Titus 3:5) with the aim of restoring the image of God in us (II Corinthians 3:18). We need the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” “to make his light shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6). We need to be reconciled to God to become a “new creation” in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).This is ontological change.

We receive this change as a gift from God based in His mercy and unmerited love. “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).

This change is only a beginning but it comes with the “confidence that we will inherit eternal life” (Titus 3:7). This is the teleological focus that we desperately need in a world filled with suffering and death.

This also means that God’s gift in this life doesn’t erase or eradicate the fallen nature we battle against. Yet it changes the focal point for change from law to grace. “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).

So then the change we need is ontological (“being” not just behavior). Just as this change is a gift from God, so the ability to grow in conformity to God’s image is the work of God. It requires a life of humble dependence through diligent application of the means God has provided by His Spirit.

The question Paul raised to the believers in Galatia is fitting: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3).

While we actively engage in all the means of change available to us, I invite you to turn to God to acknowledge your need for His gift and for His grace to be conformed to His image.

Steve Cornell

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