One Year Later

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2015 at 1:48 am

One year ago was the public announcement of my disqualification from pastoral ministry. What I want to do in this post is simply to let you know where I’m at today – with the Lord, with my marriage, and with the ministry.

  1. The Ministry: I have no plans of reentering pastoral ministry. Though I deeply and continually mourn the loss of the work of preaching and teaching that I forfeited by my sin, returning to the pastorate is not on my horizon. This is not because I believe that a man with my history can never be restored to office; it’s because my history has revealed deep areas of unbelief that demonstrate that I am not yet ready for that kind of restoration. Over the last twelve months, the Lord has certainly been working in painful ways to ferret out that unbelief, but that doesn’t mean I should to return to the pastorate.
  2. My Marriage: My wife and I are healing and hopeful. God has been so gracious to allow my wife generously to forgive me and to do the hard work of reconciliation and restoration. I can honestly say that our marriage has never been in a better place, though I certainly never would have dreamed that this would have been the path to get us here.
  3. The Lord: From the very first day, one year ago, I was committed to repentance, to turning back to Christ. This is not to say that on the very first day I knew all I needed to repent from. I didn’t. Not even close. It was as if I was in a thick haze of my own sin and self-deception, and through months of counseling the Lord slowly caused the haze to dissipate. With each new revelation about my own unbelief has come a new opportunity to repent.

I still have many regrets. Many. Regrets over the things I have done and the people I have hurt. These regrets are not only over those things directly related to my ministry-disqualifying sin, but over a whole host of other things – things that my exposure in this area brought to light in other areas.

At the same time, I am beyond grateful for God’s grace toward me, and I celebrate Jesus’ willingness, in full view of my ugliness, not to be ashamed to call me his friend.

It’s a very strange place to be, but a good one. Sad but celebrant. Mourning the loss, but celebrating grace.

What would Jesus do?

In Christian Life on April 7, 2011 at 1:10 pm

The fad may be over, but that doesn’t mean the spirit of WWJD isn’t still alive and kicking. It is.

And although it may sound pretty harmless, even helpful, I would suggest that the WWJD mentality is more sinister than it may at first appear. Here are seven reasons:

1. It can turn Christianity into moralism. Now you might think, “Wait a second! God himself tells us to imitate Jesus in passages like 1 John 2:6.  How, then, can asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’  turn Christianity into moralism?” Answer: because the question doesn’t assume our undeserved acceptance through the gospel. In other words, if it is not clear to me that my call to ask “What would Jesus do?” is only Christian in light of what Jesus has already done, then my default mode will be to see the imitation of Christ as the means to God’s acceptance rather than a response to the truth that I am already accepted solely on the basis of what Jesus has already done for me on the cross.

2. It can feed our self-righteousness…because we measure and define ourselves and justify our existence by how well we imitate Jesus. This is self-righteousness – whatever you look to in life to justify your existence apart from Jesus’ righteousness. So don’t turn self-righteousness into a caricature of itself, like how so many Pharisees are depicted in the movies and thereby get yourself off the hook. Self-righteousness is looking to anything other than Jesus’ righteousness as the justification for your existence. And by reducing the Christian faith to imitating Jesus, you will look to your practice of Christian morality to justify your existence rather than Jesus’ absolute moral perfection given to you as a gift of sheer grace. And when you do that, you move decidedly away from the Christian gospel.

3. It can engender “Christian Bipolar.” If you embrace WWJD as a summary of the gospel, then when you’ve had a “good” day, you’ll feel accepted by the Lord, and when you’ve had a “bad” day, you’ll feel rejected by him. Your sense of assurance will vary by the circumstances of your life, which makes for a very volatile relationship with God – something the heavenly father does not want for you.

4. It can breed feelings of insecurity and superiority. On the one hand, if your conscience is at all sensitive, you’ll come to realize that the idea of a good day or a bad day is a mirage; instead, you’ll have good minutes and bad minutes, which eventually will all turn into complete badness because you’ll always be able to find some way in which you did not love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength or your neighbor as yourself! And so you’ll feel defeated and hopeless. On the other hand, if you’re not so sensitive, and find that you are doing what Jesus did, you’ll tend to be very self-congratulatory and superior to people who just can’t seem to get with the program.

5. It can enflame a sense of entitlement with God. Your “success” at doing what Jesus did can lead you to conclude that God owes you something: “What’s all this obedience for if God is still not going to give me a husband?”; “What’s the point of all my WWJD if God doesn’t rescue me from the financial trouble I’m in?” From here, you’ll find yourself very angry with God…and then you’ll rip your bracelet from your wrist and throw it in the garbage and say, “I’m done with ‘What would Jesus do?’! Now I’m gonna play a new game, ‘What would I do?’! And what I would do is have some fun for a change!”

6. It can turn Christianity into a (sub-) culture: Wear this, do this, don’t do that…etc.  If you have the bracelet and wear the T-shirt, you are a Christian. And because we tend to identify Christians by what they say no to or what they wear or what magnet is on their car or whether or not they go to church regularly, we will stop preaching the gospel to an important group of people who desperately need it – people who think they’re Christians because of what they wear, but in reality are not Christians at all!

7. It can give people a false sense of assurance. “Since I prayed ‘the prayer’ and wear the WWJD bracelet, then I must be a Christian. Who would wear something to call attention to his Christianity if he weren’t really a Christian?” Answer: religious hypocrites.

Here’s the problem: because WWJD is a slogan, it tends to function as a distillation or reduction of Christianity, and as such, it does a very poor job.  If you were to sum up the Christian faith, it would not be, “What would Jesus do?” It would be: “What has Jesus done?” This, then, would drive our obedience and passion for being like Jesus. Considering what he’s done for me, considering how much love he has shown me, how can I now do what I now know grieves and displeases him?  In other words, his love for me creates a proper sense of obligation – you feel compelled to live for someone who did so much for you.

How to pray better than a pagan…and a pastor, part three

In Devotional Thoughts on April 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

This is the third installment on the Lord’s Prayer, which is Jesus’ word on prayer for both the superstitious and religious. Superstitious people use prayer as a totem against evil, fearing that their gods (or n0n-gods) will smite them if they fail to petition them in the right way with the right words for the right number of times. Religious people use prayer as a show of piety, trying to get leverage over God (“I’ve been so pious, now come through!”) and to get leverage over others (“I’ve been so pious, so I’m better than you!”). Christian prayer is radically different. Christians pray to a Father they know loves them because He mortgaged his very heart in order to rescue them from their superstition and religion by giving them Jesus Christ. Therefore, prayer is a way of connecting with a loving God, yielding to his benevolent leadership, and asking him to act in power in our weakness.

Today, we’re going to look at the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy kingdom come.

This request is  meant to move us into a greater submission to God, reminded the entire time that we submit ourselves to a king who is also our loving father. Moreover, we also pray that the Lord would use us as agents of kingdom advance in his world both in terms of communicating the saving message of the kingdom (the gospel) and the loving mercy of the gospel through deeds of service to the poor and oppressed.

This sample prayer has been greatly helped by the Bob Kauflin song, “O Great God“:

O Father, let your kingdom come first and foremost in my heart. Uproot and overthrow the kingdom of self and replace it with your own kingdom. We are awful rulers of our own domains; we are terrible at running our own lives. We need you to be our king in order to be safe and secure. So Father, OCCUPY our hearts: be an occupying power, a foreign regime in our lives, come to take over; OWN IT ALL and REIGN SUPREME: Let there not be a single territory, province, or region of our lives that is not under your sovereign sway; CONQUER EVERY REBEL POWER: Whenever rebellion rears its head in our hearts, put it down immediately; LET NO VICE OR SIN REMAIN THAT RESISTS your HOLY WAR: O Father, put down every resistance movement that our hearts can muster as they pursue vices and sins. Win the war of our hearts, we pray. And then, O Father, let us live according to your agenda for our lives, remembering that we are the serfs and you are the sovereign; you are the king and we are the courtiers. Let us not think for a moment that those roles are reversed, as if you exist to be ruled by us. Let us never think we have the right to “punch out,” but remind us that as your servants, we are on call 24/7! And when we start to feel like your rule is too much for us, let us remember that it is the rule of a Father-King who loves to give good gifts to his children/subjects. We also lift up these prayers for kingdom advance [here is where you would insert prayers for the people you’re ministering to who aren’t yet Christians and/or need your help with their physical needs].