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.





We’re Always in Agreement; We Do What She Says

13 08 2018

At first I was a bit taken aback by the expression that was just spoken half jokingly. It went like this, “We’re always in agreement; we do what she says.” Do you find yourself all too often acquiescing to your spouse’s desires in order to head off an argument?  Should you be doing that?

 

Perhaps there’s a deeper issue.  It might be fear.  Or, it could be the more hidden root of mistrust.  Being fearful of push back, being wrong or feeling shamed is not a good sign in a marriage relationship.  Also, where there is fear present in a relationship, there is a lack of love and where there is mistrust, there is a root of unresolved past issues with hurts attached.

 

This leadership couple honestly confessed and was willing to talk about past issues with disagreement. They were willing to disagree. But what I think they were really saying was sometimes it’s more biblical to overlook an offense or a difference of opinion.  Proverbs 19:11 states, “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

 

If we’re avoiding communication thinking that it will lead to a heated disagreement, then we’re not doing the two of us any good.  You have to be committed to work through the differences.  After all, it is those differences that in the end will create a better decision. Truthfully, both of you with your collective opinion, input and insight are necessary for healthy communication and dealing with conflict.  By the way, it’s not wrong to have conflict; it’s wrong to not resolve the conflict.

 

It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.  Proverbs 20:3





Raised Hindu with the “Favor” of Many God’s

14 05 2018

“I grew up in a Hindu family and was introduced to the worship of many gods,” said my new friend. “However, those ‘gods’ as I grew older, became more and more aggressive, unfriendly, demanding and evil.”  Her family told her this familiarity was highly favored and to be embraced, but nothing about this world felt favorable to her. At the age of sixteen, someone introduced her to Jesus and she received Him and His love into her heart.  She told me there was a profound change in her life and she soon realized that the “gods” she carried with her were actually demonic presences or spirits meant to torment her.  She wanted them gone from her life.

 

Some of her Christian friends gathered to pray over her, declaring the powerful blood of Jesus and one by one those unwanted spirits left and a new freedom was the result. After hearing this testimony, I looked straight at her and asked what her primary spiritual gift is today. Without hesitation she said, “I see spirits in and on others’ lives.”  I knew it; I just knew that the God who delivered her would now use her to bring deliverance to others.  It made me smile.

 

Looking straight into her eyes once again I asked, “Look at me and tell me what you see; do you see ANYTHING…any presence that does not represent the kingdom of God?”  I do not want anything that does not represent my King in or on my life.  I want nothing hanging out in my presence that does not represent or reflect the holy and the sanctified.  She focused squarely back at me without taking a breath and said, “I already checked you out and you’re clean.”  With a sigh of relief, I sat back in my chair and told her thank you…thank you for walking in this gift and ministering love, compassion and freedom to others.  I continued by saying thank you for not shying away from something that can be considered controversial.

 

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus our Deliverer.”  He cleansed the temple and He cleanses our lives just because He loves us and longs for us to be free.  (Galatians 5: 1 & 3:13)





Locating, Growing and Incorporating Intercessors for Your Ministry

23 04 2018

Incorporating those who pray over you and your vision for ministry seems like a no brainer. But how do you identify these persons and better yet, how do you keep them praying?

When asking someone to pray for you concerning a specific mission, often the response is to receive a yawn, then a look in another direction and finally a nonchalant response like, “Uh, yeah, ok.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. My wife and I were on the lookout for a small band of persons who loved us, loved what we were called to and wanted to know more about that call. It was also advantageous for them to have a heart to pray for us. We watched and waited and soon discovered there were such persons in our lives. We approached them with the question, “We really appreciate your personal interest, your questions about what we’re doing and your heart to even mention praying for us, would you be interested in joining a team of intercessors?”

You have identified them and you approach them. Rarely have we had someone approach us. Most persons do not even think in those terms, but when you define the prayer ministry description and how you will not inundate them with daily email, they normally respond with a resounding yes. We ask for a one-year commitment only. At the end of each year, we approach them and ask if they would like to continue to serve in the intercessory role for another year.

Obviously this person loves to pray as well. You know they have a committed relationship to God and are mature enough to not be seeking information about your personal life, but rather long for you and your vision to succeed. These are persons whom you have not just met at a first time gathering, but are persons who you have a track record with and you’re aware of their faithful heart.

We will email prayer requests that are both personal and ministry oriented. We have that level of confidence in our team. Speaking of confidence, we ask that everything we share remain confidential – between them and their heavenly Father only. Normally we email them twice a month with a brief as possible prayer update. Please note, these email prayer requests, updates and praises need to be consistent from you to them or you will send the message that the intercessors are an afterthought.

We tell our intercessors we are not looking for return email unless Holy Spirit speaks something to them and they are compelled to respond with a scripture, a prophetic word or an encouragement. Otherwise we have no expectation of ongoing email conversation.

Some persons we know meet face-to-face with their intercessory team, but our team is spread all over the USA and that simply is not possible. When we can, we will meet individually with intercessory team members. We also pray for them and regularly thank them for voluntarily being a part of the ministry. 

All in all, we take confidence in the Father calling these persons to us, having developed a heart for prayer and we find reassurance through the protection in offensive and defensive personal prayer for our travel, our speaking and our oversight ministry. You can enjoy this same reassurance in the Spirit with a team of intercessors. Start with one committed person and grow a team from there. You’ll immediately be aware of the benefits.





An Interesting Job Description That Few Desire

9 04 2018

There is a job description that reads somewhat endlessly: Counselor; encourager; prayer warrior; evangelist; healer; teacher; preacher; visitor of the sick and shut-in; visitor of the incarcerated; visitor of the lonely; tending the sheep; Sunday School teacher; camp counselor; wedding performer; funeral arranger/speaker; mediator; janitor; maintenance worker; trash hauler; fiscal operations manager; overseer; meeting coordinator; leader of leaders; etc., etc., To top it off, the person in this position is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

These are some of the expectations of your pastoral leader, even as many of those persons also work other jobs for needed income in support of their family. Our expectations are high of this position and we hold them to a level of accountability and integrity, along with scrutiny, we do not often hold ourselves to. We can’t believe they’re mowing their lawn on a weekday afternoon, while every “normal” person is working. We can’t imagine they need another Sunday off or away, because…”didn’t we hire them to work Sundays?”

Rarely do we concern ourselves with their pay and benefits support. Few, if any, ask their pastoral leaders how they are doing financially. Few, if any, ask when they last managed a day off or if they have a vacation scheduled. We mostly desire to know they area available to us when we need them.

These things said this is a scriptural position in which the Bible gives us some clear guidelines of support. Here are some of those instructions:

I Timothy 5: 17-18 reveals to us that we are to give “double honor” to those who preach and teach and to not “muzzle the ox” as “The worker deserves his wages.” How many of us have asked our pastoral leaders to our home for hospitality and/or asked of them how they are doing personally? Even further, have we asked them how they are doing financially or if they are struggling with debt?

I Corinthians chapter nine gives us some interesting guidelines as well. To paraphrase some of the things the Apostle Paul writes, he asks if it is right for a soldier to be a soldier at his own expense? He illustrates that if this leader has sown spiritual seed in our life, shouldn’t he/she be able to reap a material blessing from us? He clearly writes that those who preach the gospel are entitled to support and that support should be at least at the median income level of the congregation…if not higher. Why higher? The scripture above declared, “double honor.”

Let us honor God, by honoring our leaders who love us, pray for us and care for us.





Ten Leadership Mistakes to Avoid

19 03 2018

I have compiled this list over years of being a leader which encompassed years of personal leadership mistakes. They say worse than making a mistake is not learning from ones mistakes. Included are scriptures that help address the specific mistake. Admitting our mistakes is tough, but not as difficult as hiding them. Hopefully these truths will help you in your life of leadership.

  1. To derive any form of identity from leadership. Leadership is from a position of servant hood and humility. The older I become, the less I know. Rick Warren was quoted as saying, “Humility is not that I think of myself as less; it’s that I think of myself less.” (Mt. 20:26-28; Phil. 2:5-7)
  2. To go end-around and not face problems directly. Going to others (with the problem) that are not a part of the problem or a part of the solution. (Mt. 5:23, 24; Eccl. 7:21, 22)
  3. To not guard the spiritual environment. Examples of spiritual environments would be natural parenting, being a husband/wife, spiritual parenting, eldership or being a small group leader. To not allow gossip, broken relationship and bitterness into the environment. Handle people as God’s people, not yours – caring about the spiritual health of those whom you lead. We will answer to God for our spheres of influence and what we fail to guard, we give to the evil one. (II Cor. 10:13-15; Rom. 12:18) (Sphere of influence or metron (Greek) – see II Cor 10:13.)
  4. To make excuses for the inner, felt symptoms rather than stopping to consider and listen to them. Often you cannot put your finger on the issue, but you know it’s there. Follow your gut – the spirit. Too often we give in and trust another’s opinion. (Is. 30:21; Eccl. 8:5, 6)
  5. To guard your mind and spirit from legalism. Legalism is often a cover up for sin or at the very least, false humility. Legalism brings control and breeds autocratic leadership. The more religious some leaders become, the more strict and legalistic they can become, which means less grace and less freedom. (Gal. 3:3-5; Gal. 5:1; II Cor. 3:17, 18)
  6. To guard against promotion of persons who have chronic problems with sin, or finances, or anger or negative habits. You will Peter Principle them. (Num. 32:23; Ps. 119:133; Jn. 8:34)
  7. To work very hard at not rescuing people. Sometimes the consequences are the best training tool from God. Work as preventively as possible. If you rescue once, you will have to rescue again. (Prov. 19:19; John 5:1-6)
  8. To consider expansion before considering depth. The current church has become known to be a mile wide and an inch deep. We want to avoid this syndrome. We must go deeper before attempting to go broader. (Prov. 24:27)
  9. To take responsibility for another’s accomplishment. Always give credit where credit is due. Someone once said, “The first time I give a quote I mention who said it. The second time I quote it, I fail to mention who said it. The third time I quote it, I said it.” Let others promote you; do not promote yourself. (Prov. 27:2, 17, 21; II Thes. 2:6)
  10. To promise promotion without at the same time promising tests and adversity. Anointing does not necessarily mean a person is full of character. Character and discipline, holiness and integrity come first, then promotion. The next generation may desire what we have, but do not skip the process of tests and maturation. (Ps. 26:2; James 1:12)







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