Category Archives: Sin

Again….

Again I face the fall of a pastor.  Each time I have to deal with this in a church, in a life, it’s hard.  It’s messy!  Lives are shattered, tears are shed, families are destroyed and faith is shaken.

I think that is the very reason Paul warns Timothy, “FLEE immorality!”  It destroys far more than we could ever imagine and we can never make it right again.

Maybe this should be the first lessons for any new pastor.  Here is what I would tell them,

  1. Sex is enticing, exciting, fun….for a moment in time.
  2. You are a target
  3. You will be tempted
  4. Sexual sin outside of your marriage as a pastor is a sin
  5. The price is far higher than you know
  6. The tears are more than you can imagine
  7. The damage will never be repaired “as it was before”
  8. It’s not worth it!!!!
  9. If you think you can “get away with it” you are wrong!
  10. FLEE sexual sin

There’s my short list.  Every pastor taking a new church needs this drilled into his head.  In one of my early churches I had several women “chasing me.”  I was scared to death of the sins that would result and ran for dear life.  But a few years later I left the ministry for some time away in business and suddenly the attention from women stopped.  I realized, to my surprise, that it was my position they were drawn to and not me.

This is spiritual warfare and it is one of the most effective weapons of the enemy.  If he can get you, as a pastor, to fall then he destroys much more than one life, much more.

So, what I say to anyone thinking about the lure of sex outside of marriage is this, “FLEE!!!!!  Run for your life.”

 

Is this the new “norm”?

One of the comments posted recently asked the question, “is this the new norm?” and I thought it worth a few words as you deal with your situation and church.  The truth is that our fallenness, our sin nature and the results of it haven’t gotten worse…they haven’t changed with the times.  Men and women have always been this bad, but what has changed is the nature of pastors and their response to sin.  We seem to “play closer to the fire” than we ever have before.  Somehow men in the pastorate think they can tempt this sin and not get burned, but the devil is very good at what he does.  He will make you think you are helping a hurting soul and quickly pull you into the fire of sin.

It’s not that this is our new normal.  This is always the way the human heart has been.  What has changed is our view of sin, temptation and our ability to handle it.  We can’t handle this temptation any better now than we have ever been able to, and yet some think they can “tempt the fates” and it won’t hurt them.  But it does.  Read Proverbs 5-7 for insight into this kind of foolish thinking. Three chapters written over 3,000 years ago reveal the very heart of our foolish nature to tempt sexual sins.

So what do you do when your pastor falls?  One response from a saint who posted a comment was shame.  She was ashamed of her church, but why?  It was the pastor, not the church that fell.  Use that sin as an opportunity to talk about how weak we all are and how much we each need a savior and others around us to help us deal with temptation.

Some will run away.  Let me encourage you to not do that.  Stay, pray, encourage, help the pastors who are left to pick up the pieces and don’t run away from an opportunity to see the redeeming work of God in your church and church family.   These are terrible things, but God is wonderful and loves to redeem.

And, as I ramble about on this post let me say just this one thing….in a culture where we say “do what you want, it’s all ok as long as you don’t hurt anyone” it is quite interesting that in this area, in the sin of a pastor, the culture who demands tolerance is the first to throw rocks….how interesting that is to me.

So, is this the new norm?  No.  There are still Godly men following the Lord and fleeing from sin.  Just because some fall doesn’t mean you should run away.  Stand, pray, encourage and tell the world, “This is the very reason we needed a savior!”

Sin is messy (follow up…)

I wrote an earlier post titled, “Sin is messy”, and in that post I made a statement (from the weariness of this odyssey) that one of my readers disputed.  I agree with the correction I received from Bill and want to share with you the comment exchange from that post with Bill’s permission:

Bill:  I am concerned with your statement that “There is no good that comes from a pastors fall! None.”

I fell flat on my face. I came to the church admitted my failures and fell hard… here is what has happened in spite of my failures;
-i got help and healing from some deep deep hurts that i did not even know existed
-My wife and i have an honest real relationship which is 100 times better than either of us ever thought we could have
-people around me are getting to see what grace and love means – not just from a theoretical perspective but from experiencing grace and love.

These are only the positive and good things that have come from my failures. I am not saying for one moment that it was Gods will for me to fall in the way that i fell. But what i am saying is that it is very very very short sighted to say that NOTHING GOOD can come from a pastor who falls. God used example after example of Gods faithfulness not only to men in the Bible who have fallen but of his Grace Mercy Forgiveness and Love of HIS people who fell in the exact same way.

Do i wish i had not fallen… YES but i am so grateful to have walked through my misery and because i did i am a new man.

I am a Fallen Pastor but because of a loving church and loving family who understands God and family – i am a better man and a better disciple!

Me: Bill, you know what….you are right. I recant my statement. It strikes me, as I read your words and then reread mine, that I am still stinging a bit from the sin I have lived through here. I thought I had dealt with it all well, but obviously I haven’t fully dealt with all that happened to me through the events of our church family. It’s more damaging to those around the pastor who fell than most ever realize, than I even realized. Obviously I am still dealing with the weariness of the battle and some resentment for all I have had to go through…although I had done nothing wrong. A little bitterness remains that I must deal with God about. Thank you for your words and thoughts. What a blessing to read how God has worked in your life. God is so good to resurrect dead and broken lives, isn’t he? May I share your words in one of the posts? Thank you, Bill.

Bill: Yes you can. I want you to also know that as a pastor who fell i have worked very hard and have been incredibly humbled by what i have gone through. i will probably never fully understand the hurt and pain that my church has gone through.

This is what i did to help myself, my wife, my kids, my church…
-three months christian live in facility for addiction (HopeQuest in atlanta) Mid December – early March
– 14 months of counseling (and counting) for myself once a week.
– 14 months of marriage counseling every other week.
– first 3 months after coming home 1-1 accountability 7 days a week with men from the church.
-6 weeks living with friends after returning back to my community while i worked on restoring wife and kids.
-Went back to my home church as a congregant and sat in the audience weekly (soooo humbling).
-i had work to do for HopeQuest for 6 months after finishing in order to graduate (which i did 100%).
-got involved in a small group of our church that met every other week.
-met with other fallen pastors once a month (had to quit this when i began working full time- they meet lunchtime).

As much as i am grateful for the opportunity to deal with who i am and what i have done to my wife, kids, family , and church. this has not been easy. I have chosen to be obedient to God in returning to my community and church. Obedient because this is what i felt God was calling ME to do. Everyday i live with the reminder of what i have done. I am learning humility in a way i could have never imagined. i am learning brokenness in a way i could have never imagined. I am learning Grace and Mercy Kindness and Love in a way i never thought was possible. i am learning the deep humbling understanding of what it is to fall and be forgiven!

you can share any and all of whatever you want that i have written. i believe we have an opportunity to see the kingdom of God grow through failure – and i am the greatest of all failures!

bill

The cruel one

Proverbs 5:8-10

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,
Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one;
10 And strangers will be filled with your strength
And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;

The cruel one.  What an interesting wording from this passage about adultery and promiscuity.   In the heat of passion with a pretty woman a man may fail to realize he’s also about to suffer the wrath of the cruel one.  I’m fascinated by that wording.  On one hand affection, passion and love of a woman who isn’t your wife.  On the other hand the wrath, anger and hatred of the cruel one using this affection to destroy you.

Few men in the pastorate realize that behind the kisses and affection of a pretty woman who says she loves you is an enemy who says he hates you.  What you see as your “soul mate” is actually the perfect weapon of the enemy of your soul whose only goal is the destruction of your life,  your marriage,  your ministry and your church.  In a moment of passion and affection he can accomplish all of that!

Church, realize that behind every enticement to unfaithfulness, to an affair, is the cruel one in the shadows smiling at the opportunity to destroy everything you love.  If you find yourself attracted to a pretty face, an affectionate glance, someone who “really cares about you” realize that behind that person is another, the cruel one, waiting to destroy everything you care about.

The cruel one wears his name proudly.  He has no mercy, no care for you, your wife, your kids, your church or your life.  His great deception for you is that this affection, this affair is real and will satisfy your empty soul, but all it will do is destroy everything.  Solomon’s words are a vivid picture for anyone in the pastorate!

Sin is messy

To be honest with you I really hate this topic.  It’s painful to talk about. It’s nasty to deal with.  It’s messy!

There is no good that comes from a pastor’s fall!  None.

Sin is messy.  We leave damage all around us when we think secret sin can be committed without penalty.  But out of our sin comes nothing but broken churches and destroyed families and abandoned faith.  This sin is probably one of the devil’s best victories in any church.  It destroys far more than we even know as we try to clean up the damage.

In our own experience I have seen the “domino effect” happen as others have emulated the pastor’s deed and think because he did it they can do it as well.  As a result more families are destroyed.  Faith is compromised. Obedience abandoned.

Sin is messy.  We will never find happiness disobeying God.  Never.  It’s simply not possible.  It’s never been done and we won’t be the first.  In a pastor’s sin, whatever the reason, a cascade of lives are damaged, faith eroded, churches made impotent and much more.

Words escape me to describe this in a way that would make a pastor respond, “Well, if it’s that bad it’s just not worth it!”  But the devil is much smarter than we are.  Much more cunning.  He looks for our weakness and attacks there.  For some reason we believe his lie, although we should know better, and because of the lie many fall.

Sin is messy.  So far, in my short 62 years, I have never, not once, seen good come from sin.  But some would quote Romans 8:28 to me as I say that, I can hear it already.  What that verse speaks of is God’s great work in spite of our sin, not because of it.

Church,  know this because it’s true and will always be true- You will never find happiness disobeying God.  It won’t happen…no matter how pretty she is, no matter how unhappy you are, no matter how much you love her, no matter how depressed you are.

Solomon, the son of David, wrote of men who make these choices in Proverbs 5-7.  In the middle of these thoughts he described a man who lacked sense and the result was what many have seen in the lives of their pastors; sin, failure, lust, broken lives.  The words of Solomon should be a clear slap in the face for anyone thinking “they won’t get caught.”

As you can tell I’m rambling a bit in this entry.  These thoughts are a culmination of seeing way too much, being way too tired of it all.  When will we realize that God is much more interested in our obedience than he is in our happiness?  What we fail to realize is that if we will live a life surrendered to his will we will find happiness.  He will make sure of that, but sin will never discover it.  It’s simply not on that path.

More ripples…

There are ripples (problems) that resonate for years after a pastor’s sin is discovered.  They are not about the pastor any longer, but they are the result of his sin and how people have responded.  You will find that people need help processing how to think, what to do, how to respond to the changes that happen because of a pastor’s fall.  Here is a note I sent to one of our members this week in response to a visit I had with them last Sunday in our lobby.  This person had decided to not serve anymore because they didn’t like the direction we are going.  Here is my response to them.  I hope it might help you as well.

Dear ________, 

Thanks for your note.  It was a real joy to visit with you about our church and our personal responses.  May I do it in bullet points?  That might be easier to sort out.  Feel free to dialogue on these points and make any comments you wish in response, ok?  

Here we go,

1. This church is God’s church.  He is in charge.  He’s still Lord of heaven AND earth (that includes this little community of believers).  He’s in charge of what happens here.  Often we don’t like it or more importantly don’t understand his ways of doing things, but our call is to, a. trust him, b. pray for his direction and, c. let him rule the church. 

2. The elders chose the pastor.  They were given the responsibility to lead our body and in that role our pastor was chosen.  Neither he (nor any other pastor) will be all that the body wants or needs.  Some will want one thing, others another, but he is the pastor that God has given this church for this time.  As Spurgeon said years ago, “If you don’t like the pastor you have then pray for him and God will change him.”  The pastor is God’s problem and he answers to God for his role, his leadership and his teaching.  Accountability for the pastor’s job is first to God and then to the elders.  God will watch over his church and he will work in the pastor’s life as we pray for him. Our role in the body is to pray.  I’ve already seen God working in our pastor.  I know he wants to walk with God and know him better, but he is different and his gifts are different than what some would want.  In spite of that here he is.  Now what? 

3.  As I mentioned in #2 our primary job in response to the pastor is to pray.  Pray for God to work in his heart, pray that God will give him a passion for the word, a passion for the message and love for the people.  All of that can ONLY come from God and the work of HIS Spirit in his heart.  We can’t make him do it, we can’t nag him into doing it…none of that will produce a work of God.  Only prayer is the right response. 

Some have asked, “why did God bring this pastor here?”  I don’t know entirely, but could it be that part of God’s work is in his life?  There is much he is doing in us as well.  We have always loved to be taught the word, but for what purpose?  With our former pastor it was for the teaching alone.  Teaching the word was the end in and of itself.  We were a bunch of spiritually fat Christians.  We honestly never did anything with it.  I know the word is life changing, and so there were results of course, but application was not our former pastor’s strong point.   

Now about our current pastor.  Could God have brought him here to work on him, on us or both?  He was deeply wounded in his last church, maybe this time is for him.  God loves him as much as he loves you and I.  I assume he wants to redeem him and work in his life, right?  But, maybe all of this is for us….to knock us about a bit and get us on our knees.  We had a bit of arrogance because “we had verse by verse bible teaching”  (which I dearly love by the way) and now we don’t.  Is God working to bring this body to a point of dependence on God alone?  I honestly don’t know or understand God’s ways here, to be sure I have asked, but I will trust him and pray.  And pray I do, for our church, for our pastor, for me and my attitude. 

 Now to you, you are a gifted teacher.  You love doing it.  Your gift is from the Spirit and by using it you are doing your part in the body.  When you or I refuse to use our gifts because we don’t like something about the church we are handicapping the church, making it less effective and we are disobeying God.  The pastor is God’s problem (as are you and I).  We do nothing to help the body grow or become what it should if we fold our hands and say, “I’m not going to use my gifts because I don’t like the pastor God gave us or the way he does his job.”  It honestly sounds like you are in more trouble than the pastor, doesn’t it?  I know that you have a heart for God and a passion for his transforming word, so use your gifts, serve where he places you and pray for the other members of the body that God will work in their lives.  It is the body of CHRIST after all isn’t it?  Is he able to make it work as he wishes?  Is he able to place different members in our body where he wishes?   

YES, and our response must be, “Lord, YOUR will be done, work in him and in me for YOUR glory.  I don’t like the way things are going, but that’s your problem.  I will pray for the church and for our pastor and will serve with the gifts you have given me.”   

Honestly, the rest is God’s problem and we have to take it to him, leave it with him and serve him with joy.  He is able and will bring glory to his name if we will trust him.

I know I may have left something out, but let’s start our discussion with these words and go from here, ok?

No Simple Lives

One thing I’ve noticed about people is that things are never simple. I think it’s because we are not simple. Our lives are made up of hundreds of nicks and bruises we have each experienced. All those blows, bad relationships, disappointments and life experiences make us who we are and it’s never simple to sort out.
A few weeks ago, as I listened to a couple working through some real problems in their marriage, I thought….”this is really complicated. There are no easy answers.” Honestly, I think that same thing almost every time I talk with someone. It’s difficult to sort out all the pieces of our lives that have brought us to where we are today. How do we get it all tied together so we aren’t tripping over ourselves? How do we work through all that we are to fix what we have become? Honestly, there are no simple lives. There are no simple answers.
But as I watch Jesus in the gospels I see his encounters with people in a different way. The difference is that he knew the heart of man and was able to go to the very heart of each person’s problem. With a word, a touch, a smile Jesus healed broken lives. He knew what each life needed.
Here is a story of one man’s encounter with Jesus. In this brief encounter Jesus meets the needs of this broken man,
Mark 1:40-45- 40A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” (If you are willing. It’s almost a question, Are you willing? Not can you help me? but will you help me? The most important question is this one, Lord, will you help me?)41Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” (The compassion of Jesus brought a response that I’m sure no one expected. In fact this leper was in front of Jesus contrary to the law that would keep him apart from others who didn’t have leprosy.)

42Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

43Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44“See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”45Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

This story is one of my favorites in the gospels. It’s a story of the prayer we have all prayed, “if you are willing.” We wait, hoping God is indeed willing to meet our needs, but he does so much more. This man had been without a human touch, without real love and without acceptance for so long that his first need, in spite of his obvious illness, was a touch. In that amazing moment of time Jesus did the unthinkable….he reached out and touched this dirty, diseased man. The touch did so much more than heal the disease, it healed the whole man.

Like this poor leper in Mark we each come to Jesus with all our sickness and disease visible for all to see…the bible calls it sin. Our plea is simple, if you’re willing you can make me clean, you can forgive my sins. And with a touch…that amazing touch….we each find healing and forgiveness.

As a result of that touch and the love of Jesus to meet this man’s needs a great exchange happened. It happens with us when we trust him. Some call it the exchanged life and indeed it is. But with this man the exchange was dramatic. The man who had lived alone and removed from mankind was now among them. Talking, touching, hugging and telling everyone about Jesus to such an extent that Jesus had to go to the wilderness away from mankind and even there the people, all in need of his touch, sought him out.

Mankind is still asking this man’s simple question, “If you are willing you can make me clean.” And his response is the same, with a touch of his hand he replies, “I’m willing, be clean.” And so, with all our warts and wrinkles, all our problems and struggles Jesus comes to touch the hurting and heal each one. If you’re wondering if he can fix your messy life just ask him. You’ll be amazed at the smile, the touch, the acceptance and the reply, “I’m willing, be clean.”