A Life of Integrity or A Life of Regret?

24 09 2018

Life can be full of regrets, but integrity and high moral character will never leave one feeling remorseful.  This blog is not for those who walk in disappointment, but rather those who are doing their best to avoid moral failure and the loss of integrity.

 

Job’s wife once said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  But the Bible says that even after all of Job’s loss he did not sin or charge God with wrongdoing.  What amazing character this man walked in.  If you’re like me, you are tempted but if you long to be more like Jesus, you realize perfection will never be reached.  However, lifelong integrity can be your testimony and that testimony begins today.

 

If you walk in integrity and avoid moral failure you will be:

 

  • Maintaining a personal testimony and walk before God
  • Maintaining an uninhibited marriage of oneness (spiritually, sexually, emotionally)
  • Not having to work at winning a spouses trust back
  • Maintaining family by not embarrassing them and not losing their respect and trust
  • Not having to walk away from a job or ministry position
  • Not having to relocate
  • Not having to face newspaper articles, publicly printed communication and social media about personal failure
  • Not having to face rumors, gossip and lies
  • Not having to face untold and far-reaching negative consequences either based on truth and fact or hearsay and lies
  • Not having to face the law or possible law suits
  • Not losing or forfeiting many friendships and local church relationships
  • Living without wounds and scars
  • Not feeling as though everyone is watching
  • Not suffering from overwhelming thoughts of failure
  • Not continually reliving the past and coming up with regret and loss
  • Living without continual condemnation and guilt or false guilt
  • Able to sleep at night
  • Waking up in the morning and looking forward to a new day
  • Not having to be concerned about who one may face in the day
  • Not suffering the loss of vision
  • Not having to go through biblical discipline and a restoration process
  • Able to look at one’s family and all others in the eye
  • Able to look at oneself in the mirror without feeling like a failure
  • Having a clear conscience; walking through life without a cloud over oneself
  • Not losing one’s peace and joy
  • Not suffering the loss and grief of broken relationship with God

“The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”  (Proverbs 10:9)

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The Redemption and Reentry of a Predator

10 09 2018

I had this question posed from last week’s blog, Signs of a Predator in Your Church, (and I’ll paraphrase here), “What about the reentry of a ‘predator’ to the church after experiencing redemption?”  It was a great question and calls for a follow-up answer because a major role of pastors/leadership in the local church is to protect its members.

Redemption means to be bought, paid for by another.  To redeem is to atone for a fault or mistake.  When one is redeemed by the cross they are repurchased, made right through Christ.  However, that redemption does not remove the consequences of one’s sin.  If someone is guilty of murder, goes to jail and then experiences true redemption, they will still be incarcerated and rightfully so. Salvation does not stop the consequences of our sinful behavior.  Keep in mind all of us needed redemption; none of us is or was without sin.

With that, what would be our response to this repentant one?  It is said that it takes a lifetime to create a sexual predator. What that means is they perhaps have a history of being abused and abusing.  There is most certainly a not so good background preceding the life of a predator.  And there are a lot of factors to consider, but through the love of Christ we are welcoming to the saint and the sinner.  We do not judge their heart, but hope for the ongoing completing work of salvation to wholly change a life.  First Corinthians six is very clear and concise when it says, “And that is what some of you were (the sexually immoral).  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  It does not get any clearer than that.

Please remember not all abuse is the same, however.  Some is accomplished without ever touching the victim through exhibitionism or voyeurism. There are presently over 550,000 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.

Does this mean as the church we have an open arms policy and immediate access to our teens and children’s ministries?  Does this mean we pose no boundaries or period of caution for the one that struggled with this sin?  It clearly does not.  So, here are some suggestions when dealing with this person and their reentry into the local church. (Note: By the way, there are 600,000 persons who leave prison every year.  A reentry program for your church is something to consider.)

A few considerations

  1. You are not looking to enable an abuser in any way or further traumatize a victim. So we err on the side of caution and not on the side of mercy.
  2. At the risk of sounding harsh, if you are dealing with a registered sex offender, then in all humility and an attitude of, “If not for the grace of God there go I,” the congregation needs to be aware and the former offender should give permission to make this known. It does not need to be a public announcement, but every family should receive an email or some form of communication.  In this effort, you are protecting the whole and not just the one or two.
  3. Often the one who has been incarcerated enters a “reentry program” before reentry into society at large. Create a reentry program with clear boundaries, e.g., counseling, close accountability, Internet watch programs, close supervision in church activities and certainly no access to minors (which means no activities, no transportation and no children’s church functions unless it involves their biological children). Create boundaries in the spirit of love and not in a spirit of retribution.  (Suggestion: Designate a reentry person and assign them to this member.)
  4. Be clear on these person’s probation boundaries/terms. If this individual was arrested for their crimes and convicted, they will have probation/parole guidelines to follow and will most assuredly be on Megan’s List.  They will have a public record of criminal convictions.  Obtain this record and be informed.  Discuss their attendance to your church with their parole officer to be sure it falls within allowable guidelines.  (It’s not a bad idea to receive written permission from the PO that this person can attend your church.)
  5. This person normally spent years learning how to “groom” and “grooming” victims in that it became a lifestyle of action and thought. Time to heal, time to rebuild foundations and time to learn another way of thinking and acting is crucial.  Be aware of the propensity of the offender to be a reoffender.
  6. Be assured of ongoing counseling and one-on-one accountability in this person’s life. Depending on the level of their crime, it is not too far-reaching to have their designate reentry person with them at all times when on your church property.
  7. A violation of these guidelines will result in immediate action taken to remove this person from the fellowship.
  8. Know your states laws when it comes to sex offenders. For example, in Iowa it is illegal for a convicted sex offender to be on any school premises or public libraries.

Clinical psychologist, Anna Salter, wrote a helpful book titled, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists and Other Sex Offenders.  In that book she said, “Decades of research have demonstrated that people cannot reliably tell who is lying.  Many offenders report that religious people are even easier to fool than most people.”

Rachel Denhollander, the attorney who summoned her personal faith in her trial of her abuser, Larry Nassar said, “It defies the gospel of Christ when we do not call out abuse and enable abuse in our own church.”

Jesus set a man free from his bondage and then that same man begged Jesus to get into the boat with Him and His disciples. Our Lord’s response to him was, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…” (Mark 5: 19). Jesus might have been creating a boundary for further healing for this man as he left his sin-filled life and reentered his community.





Signs of a Predator in Your Church

4 09 2018

In light of recent news articles about sexual abuse coming out of Pennsylvania, I thought it appropriate to consider this subject in brief.

I sat in my counseling office with a counselee and her mentor (on more than one occasion) who was telling me about her years of growing up in a conservative church environment and how she was repeatedly sexually molested.  Some of the stories made my stomach ache and with others I found myself getting angry: angry at parents who didn’t believe their son or daughter, angry at youth leaders who did not address the danger, angry at church pastors and leaders that kept secrets and provided cover-up and, of course, angry at abusers.

Sex offenders will take years to infiltrate a place to carry out their sociopathic behavior.  They will slowly and methodically work on building relationships so they are trusted and believed.  Sex offenders’ scope out their victims, finding the one(s) whom they believe they can dominate.  They feel entitled to do what they do because they see their victims as persons who desire to be dominated, need to be dominated.  They take their time to target persons who need them for some reason, making them even more vulnerable.

Here are some signs to look for:

  1. They do not make themselves stand out or act creepy. They work hard at looking and exhibiting “normal.”  They work a normal job and live in a normal neighborhood.
  2. They are giving extra, special, generous and consistent attention to a victim they have targeted. They are charmers and gift givers.
  3. They will create an environment of need. They desire the victim to need them for some specific reasons.  This gives them power and control to manipulate.
  4. They play on emotions and will sulk, become “depressed,” express words of rejection, play the victim and could even threaten self harm all in an effort to take advantage of their victim and receive their pity.
  5. They lie a lot.They lie about where they have been, what they have been doing, what they’re thinking and almost everything else in an attempt to give their victims what they think they desire to hear or need.
  6. They will be steadily pushing boundaries. There will be suggestions of behavior that crosses boundaries that will lead to unwanted actions.
  7. They will disempower their victim by expressing love in an attempt to isolate and move away from other trusted relationships.
  8. Eventually, as the victim becomes more uncomfortable, the predator becomes more aggressive and even violent because they are feeling desperate.

We don’t spot them because they blend in and we’re not naturally looking for a predator.  In fact, most of us can’t even relate to such evil.  With the signs above you can watch out for your children within your extended family, your neighborhood, your child’s school, sports activities and yes, your local church.

 

Psalm 55: 21 says, “His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.”





How Often Are You Phubbing?

20 08 2018

There’s a new word in town. Have you heard of it?  That word is a combination of two words: phone + snubbing = phubbing.  Do you know a “phubber?”  How would one know if this describes them?  You can start by asking your friends.  Ask your spouse or even better, ask your children.  If people in your life are trying to get your attention while you’re looking down at a small hand-held screen all too frequently, you just might have a phubbing problem.

 

The actual definition goes like this: the habit of snubbing someone in favor of a mobile phone. I’m not kidding. Google it. Seems odd to be writing about this subject, but it is a reality in our technology crazed world today.  Airport travelers run into me while walking and looking down at their phone.  It’s tough getting someone’s attention that actually works in a service department while they’re glued to their mobile screen.  We can forever notice how face-to-face relationships have taken a back seat to an email, a text message or a Facebook prompt.  It’s not unusual to hear bells, whistles, buzzes and other such prompts from mobile devices while in a meeting.

 

But here’s who I really feel for.  I am genuinely concerned for the children of the phubber.  These children are pulling on their parents’ arms, legs, saying “Mommy/Daddy” repeatedly, asking questions, trying to converse and the adults are either not responding or saying, “Wait a minute would you?  I have to finish this text message.”  I just want to scream, “PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN AND LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD!”  You brought them into the world to teach, train, listen to, care for, play with and love. PLEASE put your device aside and interact with your child.

 

Not too long ago I was watching the parents on the sidelines of a younger children’s sporting event. Parents, not too far back in the history of parents attending their child’s sports activity, would actually watch their kids on the playing field, yell and scream words of motivation and affirmation. Today, they’re looking down, addicted to a device that is causing them to miss watching their children grow up. And when that child asks, “Daddy did you see me…?” You can fill in the blank. That parent will lie and say, “Yea buddy, you were great!”

 

One day those same children will have their own device and then the snubbing of a parent will quickly and sometimes, most deservedly take place.





Those Little Irritants in Life

30 07 2018

I was awake at 3:30 AM in order to catch an early morning flight.

Almost immediately after boarding the plane, the gentleman behind me started snoring LOUDLY.  About every minute or so, he would catch his breath and then suddenly make a sound like a neighing horse.  This went on for the full 35-minute flight.  So happy he could get some sleep, BECAUSE NO ONE AROUND HIM DID!

 

On my next leg of the journey, the gentleman beside me decided that he needed more and more seat space.  After five and a half hours, I was half way into the aisle getting my elbow hit by the drink cart. 

 

Life can be full of these kinds of little irritants.  They’re inconvenient, uncomfortable and, well, down right uncalled for sometimes.  And yet, it’s not fully the experience as much as it is a test.  It’s a test of what we tell ourselves, our self-talk. It ‘s a test of personal frustration levels.  It’s a test of the amount of compassion in our heart.  And it can be a test of how much grace we walk in.

 

We like things our way – the convenient, comfortable way.  But that’s just not real life is it?  So here’s a tip when one of those life inconveniences comes you way: pray and give thanks.

 

“Thank you, Father, that I can be on this plane to minister Your life to those that You have assigned to me.”

 

It will keep your heart right.  Besides, the next time you become an inconvenience or an irritant to someone, you’ll hope they took the aforementioned advice.

 

PS  On the final leg of my journey, I was given a free upgrade to first class…”Thank you, Father for this comfortable seat.”





I Catch Only Green Lights

16 07 2018

There was a study conducted by professor emeritus Robert Rosenthal of Harvard University in which he told elementary school teachers that some of their students were “intellectual bloomers.”  Then the teachers were told the students names, who had been randomly selected, and also told that those particular students would excel in the forthcoming year.

 

It was all spurious information and those “bloomers” were actually no different from any other student in the class.  The only difference was their teachers’ expectations and because of that expectation those students did significantly better than the other students by the end of the year.

 

Expectations, we all have them.  I was sitting at a red light one day and queried myself as to why I seem to catch all the red lights.  Immediately I sensed a voice asking, “Do you expect to catch all red lights?”  I knew instantly that the message was about expectations and what I speak over myself.  From that point I changed my speech and declared, as well as thought, I receive mostly green lights.

 

I was telling my wife this story the other day while driving back from Massachusetts and we laughed and laughed as I actually received green light after green light.  Now I am not saying there was any divine intervention on the road with traffic lights, but I am saying my expectations changed, my thoughts changed and my speech changed while there was a necessary shift in my life. It may sound trivial, but I really do believe that our expectations can become self-fulfilling prophecy.

What are you speaking over yourself?





Married Sex: An Observation (For Singles Too)

18 06 2018

I have a theory and I believe the testimony of hundreds of married couples backs up this theory. The theory is the more sex you have outside of marriage, the less sex you have within marriage.

 

My wife and I have the privilege to speak with many couples each year and we have never heard one of them remark anything remotely close to this statement, “We’re so happy that we engaged in premarital sex.”  As well, we’ve never heard, “Premarital sex helped us prepare for marital sex.”  What we have heard is that sex before marriage actually stole intimacy from their marriage.  Sex was no longer special, awaited and neither did it gather the excitement anticipated.

 

Premarital sex is titillating, full of emotion and coated in brain chemicals that run amuck.  It’s also full of the fear of being caught, and overcome by having, no, taking what does not belong to you.  Once married, that anticipation diminishes to the point in which some couples are not engaging in sexual intimacy on their wedding night.  Even further, we often hear the expression that sexual intimacy is rarely occurring now that they are married.  Imagine, this divine gift given to us by God, now stolen from us because of lust-filled desires.

 

Now, hearing from those singles who have waited, saved themselves for the one they will spend the rest of their lives with…never have we heard one single word or expression of regret, bemoaning the fact that they were inexperienced.  To discover this world with one another was a huge part of the gift itself.  Encountering one another sexually, within godly boundaries, literally helps to carry intimacy throughout the marriage, all the while maintaining their vows spoken before God.

 

Anytime we violate God’s principles, we also violate human value, respect and honor.  Sex outside of marriage is a sin against our body (I Corinthians 6:18) and a violation against our future marriage.  Because marriage is sacred, as is the act of marriage, we break covenant with God through immorality (I Corinthians 6:9). We disrupt His desire and design for our future.  When we worship the created more than the Creator, we have convinced ourselves that our will and our desires, not God’s, are best for us.

 

Have you succumbed to sex outside of marriage?  You can be forgiven of your sin and be renewed in your commitment to purity before God. He longs to give to you a fresh start, but you must be serious about that commitment.  His Spirit dwells within the Christian to not sin because, “…you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body.”  (I Corinthians 6:19 & 20)








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