Archives For sin

The Mulligan

Ben Reed —  July 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

In golf, there’s a shot called the Mulligan. It happens when you hit a terrible shot, and want a do-over. It’s a free re-tee. A concession from the rest of the people playing with you that that shot didn’t happen.

image credit: photo-dictionary.com

image credit: photo-dictionary.com

And they’re glorious. Before the last shot, you were embarrassed. Frustrated. Angry. Confused. Lost in the woods. Ready to quit.

Now? There’s great potential. You have the whole fairway in front of you. The green is wide open. You’re still on your first shot. Still on the tee box, at least as far as the group, and more importantly, your scorecard, is concerned.

Mulligans put you back at *zero.* They erase the mistake.

Mulligans in life

Don’t you wish you could take a mulligan in life?

There’s something you did that you regret. Someone you hurt. Somewhere you went. Someone you trusted.

You dropped your savings on something. You were hurt by someone.

Maybe your mistakes were made public, your life on display as a spectacle for others. Maybe someone else’s stupid decisions affected you. And you’d like your mulligan to cancel out her choices, too.

And you want a mulligan. You’d like to wipe the slate clean.

You’d like to move on as if that never happened. As if he never did ______. She never said ______. You never did ______.

That’s exactly the kind of shot that God gives us. Check this out:

‘He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.’ – David, Psalm 103:12

Do you know how far the east is from the west? Infinite. Because the east and the west never touch. Ever. East is never west, and west is never east. “As far as the east is from the west” means that God has completely removed your sin from you. It can’t be further from you. It’s even better than a mulligan, because it’s like God says, “Go ahead. Take a free shot. But…oh wait, I’ll tee it up for you. And I’ll hit it for you. And I’ll forget you ever even had a bad shot.”

David goes on to say of God:

‘The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.’ – Psalm 103:13

A father doesn’t hate his child that needs a re-do. He has compassion for them. “He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.” (Psalm 103:9) We may hold on to our hurt, our despair, and our frustrations. We may cling to our past failures. But God offers “steadfast love” to us. He redeems us from the pit.” (Psalm 103:4) In fact, the moment we turn to God we find Him running to us! (Luke 15:20) He’s not standing ready to condemn us all over again. He’s removed our sins from us.

You need a re-do today. A God-sized mulligan. Go ahead. Re-tee that ball.

We serve a God of second chances.

 

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If you haven’t had to deal with people dealing with sexual orientation issues in your church yet, you will. The coming years will bring more and more people who identify as a transgender, transvestite, transsexuals, and others that have, or have not, gone through sexual reassignment surgery. Same-sex attraction is nothing new. We even see the Bible addressing the issue. Culture in America has “normalized” it, though, and if your local church isn’t already wrestling through how they’d handle some of the more precarious and sticky situations, you’re already behind the curve.

I recently received this email from a fellow small groups pastor.

I have a transgender individual who is interested in joining a group. At our church we do not have co-ed groups, so I’m not really sure what’s the best way to proceed.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t have “the answer.” I’m not in the business of creating policies to handle things like this. Instead, I lead relationally, and on a case-by-case basis. That said, there are a few different questions at play here:

  • Is this a sin issue? What is the local church’s stance on this?
  • Is this a place (the local church AND the small group) where a transgender person feels comfortable pursuing Christ? (side note: the local church can believe that this is a sin issue, but still be welcoming)
  • Are they welcome as a small group member?
  • Would they be welcomed as a small group leader?
  • How will the small group respond? With shock and awe? Or grace and love?
  • How will the leader navigate difficult conversations?
  • Can the group accept that someone is “in process” and not make the group revolve around one particular sin?
  • Can the group balance grace AND truth?

Here was my response.

_______

Wow. That’s a tricky one for sure.

I tend to lean towards grace in these kinds of situations, and allow the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit’s going to do. If they claim to be a man, I’d allow them to join a men’s group, but I’d let them know where the church stands on the issue. I don’t want them to feel like we’ve “tricked” them into joining so that we can subversively influence them. There should be no doubt as to the church’s views, but also no doubt as to the church’s grace, and stance towards anyone: grace and truth.

At the end of the day, if they choose to honor Christ with their sexuality, they’re going to likely have to choose celibacy. But they’re not at that point right now. So minister to people where they are, and allow the Holy Spirit to change lives. The BEST place for someone to pursue Jesus is in the context of healthy, safe, truth-and-grace-driven community.

This all goes out the window if they’re disruptive. Group isn’t a chance for them to get on a pedestal and talk about their sexual choices. If it comes up, it comes up. But every week will not revolve around it. This needs to be made clear.

And group isn’t a chance for everyone else to “fix” them, either. It’s a chance to pursue Christ together. Everyone in the group has issues to work on, and I’d encourage that person to be open to the way God might call them to obedience. Radical obedience that could completely disrupt what they find their identity in.

Finally, I’d talk with the group leader whose group they may join know, and have a conversation with them to make sure they are comfortable (as comfortable as one might be in this situation) with this person joining their group. It’s a sensitive, difficult issue that not all group leaders could handle. It needs to be handled with much grace, care, and truth, giving space to pursue Jesus, and truth to wrestle with, that doesn’t revolve around one particular sin.

Let’s take another sin as an example. If someone openly struggles with gluttony, I’m not going to bar them from the group. Even if they don’t think that their gluttony is a sin. I’m also not going to structure group so that we talk about food and dieting every week. We’re just going to pursue Jesus together, and I’ll trust that God can change them through the power of the truth in the context of love.

At the end of the day, the Holy Spirit changes hearts. We can pray towards that end.

_______________

I’d love to know how you’d handle a situation like this. (this conversation heated up on Facebook. Feel free to click on over and see what people have said HERE.)

Can they join your group? Could they even lead a small group?

How would you structure your group so that this person has a place to pursue Jesus?

 

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A whole new level of gross

Ben Reed —  August 8, 2013 — 3 Comments
sweet-potato-fries

image credit: www.gimmesomeoven.com/

When we sat down for dinner, I assumed it was going to be a dinner just alike any other. Turns out it would be a dinner like no other.

Rex isn’t a particularly picky eater. He tends to eat whatever we put in front of him. Partly because of his taste buds. And partly because he knows that if he doesn’t eat the dinner my wife and I made, we’re not making him anything else.

This particular night, we were having sweet potato fries as a side. We’d sliced fresh sweet potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and roasted them in the oven. The sweet aroma weaved its way through the house.

When we sat down to eat, Rex ate his meat, but didn’t want to eat the fries. I told him that he needed to eat at least a few of them. So he pushed them around on his plate, wrongly thinking I’d believe he’d eaten them. “I don’t like orange fries,” he said.

The battle began.

“Rex, you just have to eat 4.”

The battle continued.

Then I saw it happening, but I didn’t believe it. I thought he was faking it, because he’d done it before, trying one more time to get out of eating the sweet potato fries. He started retching a little, talking between heaves: “I really don’t like orange fries.”

“Buddy, you’re going to eat 4 before you leave this table.”

Retch.

Retch.

Then it happened. At the exact moment I’d decided to get on his level and remind him that he’s not getting anything else for dinner…no dessert…no…and I never finished that last sentence before I saw his supper again. He cried. And I wanted to.

I gently wiped his face and hands, and helped him change out of his clothes. I took his plate to the sink, and told him we’d probably had enough dinner tonight. Me, included.

Then I wiped my face off. My mouth out. My hands off. And I put on a fresh change of clothes, too.

Jesus’ Turn

That moment reminded how much Jesus loves me. He loves me enough to take on the mess of my sin. To bear it for me. Because even my best is like a “filthy rag.” (Isaiah 64:6)

He loves me enough to take on the shame of my sin. To look foolish so I don’t eternally have to. (Tweet that)

Every time I’m short with my son I’m reminded again of my stench.

Every time my pride rears it’s ugly head I’m given another glimpse into the dense layers of grace God offers us in Jesus. (Tweet that)

Every time I just care about myself, ignoring the needs of others, I see my stink one more time. Because Jesus doesn’t ignore me. (Tweet that)

Even when I commit the same stupid sin. Again.

Even when I’m less than the husband I should be. Again.

Every time I wallow in my guilt and shame, Jesus comes along and gently wipes my face off. Takes my plate to the sink. And gets me a new change of clothes. He sends me to the living room and says, “It’s ok. That’s enough for tonight. You’re all clean now.”

Once again He affirms His love for me. His love never fails. (Psalm 136:1)

Even when he wears your supper. (Tweet that)

 

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Don’t waste your fail

Ben Reed —  March 7, 2013 — 2 Comments
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image credit: vmvt.it

When I was in college, working on my undergraduate degree, I had a class in swine production.

I know, I know…sounds just like what you’d expect a guy who would end up as a pastor would study, right?

My path to full-time vocational ministry was not the one of least resistance.

A few times that semester, we got to visit a pig farm, and see the whole production. We’d help with the newborn pigs, watch a feeding time, see how research was conducted (on the research farm on campus), and meet with various workers. It was fascinating.

And made your clothes smell horrible.

There was no faking that you’d been to the pig farm. You had to change clothes and shower before your next class…every time.

One thing that stuck with me from that class was the way that nothing was wasted on the farm. Not even the pigs’ poop.

The poop was piled in a barn, and over the course of a year, the poop would compost, leaving a rich fertilizer that the farmers would use to fertilize the fields that other animals would graze. It was an incredible additive and boost to those fields, giving yields that greatly surpassed the non-fertilized fields. In other words, the poop made the crops grow faster.

Pig poop, though foul-smelling to us humans, contains nutrients that help crops grow really well. After it was harvested and composted (by which time it didn’t stink anymore), it was simply spread across the field in the spring, just before a rain, its nutrients used by the budding crops.

The poop from your past

You’ve got poop in your life. Things you’ve done that you’re not proud of. Things that have been done to you that you wish hadn’t happened. Dreams that you lost, relationships that crumbled. Jobs lost. Marriages destroyed. Addictions that you’re ashamed of. You’ve messed up in a way that you’d hope and pray nobody would ever mess up. You’ve done things…or not done thing…that you never want to repeat.

We typically do one of two things with that pain and suffering:

  1. Ignore it and act like it never happened.
  2. Wallow in it.

Neither is healthy.

Option 1 leaves us judgmental of others who have real pain, ignorant of our own Pharisaical stench. We’re left with a shallow understanding of our sin and pain…and thus a shallow understanding of God’s goodness and grace. Acting like “poop” never happened wastes our pain.

Option 2 leaves us in a crying, heaping, depressed, self-depracating mess. All of the time. We get stuck in what “could’ve been,” what “should’ve been,” and “who I wish I was,” constantly making ourselves pay for our past mistakes over and over again. OR making others pay for our past mistakes by disengaging from those who love us, and who would love to help. Wallowing in our “poop” wastes our pain.

I’ve got a 3rd option, and I take my cue from the pig poop.

Allow your failures to help someone else.

The way God brought you through the junk can help someone else who, right now, can’t see the light. They’re stuck. They’re in the middle of an addiction or the throes of suffering.

Live a life full of grace because you’ve been graced so much by the King. Live a life of love because you were loved first. Live a life of forgiveness because of the heaping amounts of forgiveness you’ve been given that you can never repay. Live a life of generosity because you’ve been given so much.

Your valleys can become great pastures that others can graze from as they see you living life to the full. (John 10:10)

No need to ignore the past. It’s purpose isn’t to hold you back. No need to wallow in it, either.

Let someone else graze from it.

If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:6-7

 

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Why we love the underdog

Ben Reed —  February 18, 2013 — 5 Comments

I’m a Cincinnati Reds fan. And I’m a Tennessee Titans Fan. And I root for the UT Vols. Which means I’m always a fan of the underdog.

My team tends to be the one that Vegas says, “Bet against.”

As a Reds fan, I grew up in “The Nasty Boys” era: Norm Charlton, Randy Myers, and Rob Dibble, the three-headed closing pitching monster that did the heavy lifting in the late innings for the Reds in the late 80s/early 90s. Throw in a little offensive power like Erik Davis, Chris Sabo, and Paul O’Neill, and you’ve got a lovable losers team worth rooting for.

Even with all of that, they were the underdog in the 1990 World Series against the A’s. Which made their sweep of the A’s even that much sweeter.

I love rooting for the underdog. The guys that everybody counts on losing. The guys that are counted out before the game begins. The team that nobody gives a chance.

And don’t we all love rooting for the underdog? It’s no secret that our culture loves movies like Remember the Titans, The Bad News Bears, and Rudy. We love shows like The Biggest Loser. Because there’s a part of us that wants the “unlovable” guy to win. That wants the big bully to lose.

But why do we really love the underdog so much?

Because we are the underdog.

gty_bully_jef_121022_wg

image credit: abcnews.com

In life, we feel like we’re the guy at the bottom.

We are the underdog

  • We were the one who was picked on at school.
  • We were the one who picked on others because we were insecure in ourselves.
  • We were the one whose marriage was doomed to fail.
  • We weren’t the one “most likely to succeed.”
  • We were the ones that nobody thought would be a good parent.
  • We were the ones that almost failed out of shop class.
  • We were the ones that never could get the girl.
  • We were the ones that were made fun of.
  • We were the nerds.
  • The goof-ups.
  • The forgetful.
  • The lazy.
  • The cheap.
  • The funny-looking.
  • The ugly one.
  • The one with the broken family.
  • The one with the addiction.
  • The one that was slow.
  • The overweight one.
  • The one with the lisp.
  • The dumb one.
  • The one who couldn’t dance.
We’re not any different spiritually, either.

Spiritual underdogs

Spiritually speaking, we’re the underdog, too. The Bible says that we are

  • dead (Romans 5:12, 19)
  • disobedient (Romans 11:32)
  • dumb sheep (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Like a thorn (Micah 7:2-4)
  • worthless (Romans 3:10)
  • Not good (Luke 18:19)
  • Evil (Ecclesiastes 9:3)
  • dumb (Jeremiah 10:14)
  • unable to save ourselves (Colossians 2:13)
The Bible paints a picture of us not of ones who are on top of the heap, righteously fighting for the good of our souls. We’re made out exactly the opposite. And if we’re honest with ourselves, doesn’t life feel like this? As much as we try, we feel further from God. As hard as we work, life still doesn’t make sense. As much as we want to do the right thing, we stumble into the wrong thing. We’ve never drifted into doing the right thing. We continuously drift into that thing that we don’t want to do. (Romans 7:19)
The Bible doesn’t paint a picture of us that we haven’t seen before. We look at it in the mirror each and every day.
We love to root for the underdog because we are the underdog.
Which makes the grace of God that much more beautiful.

I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:18-24

It’s time we embrace our weaknesses. And turn back to the God who saves the weak, the dead, the dumb, the blind, the maimed, the bleeding, the wicked, and the wanderers. And find He’s running towards us with open arms.

 

 

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oly_g_armstrong11_576

image credit: ESPN

 

Lance Armstrong will announce to the world tonight that he used performance enhancing drugs as part of his run to dominate the cycling world. You may or may not think that cheating at cycling is a big deal. I get it. National exposure for cheating at a niche sport is pretty weird, right? Probably not enough to get national exposure and receive the kind of press that it’s received.Until you consider that Lance is a hero outside of the racing world. See, Lance contracted testicular cancer at age 25. Left untreated, it spread throughout his body, and he had a massive, very public, battle with cancer. Knowing not whether he would live or die, he launched the LiveStrong Foundation, and began advocating and fighting for the life of people stricken with cancer. LiveStrong has done tremendous work in the area of cancer research.

But Lance has learned what many of us have learned. As he covered up his cheating by lying about his steroid use, he had to lie even more. Sin compounded sin compounded sin. The more people he deceived, the more people he had to deceive as he spiraled downward.

Sin loves to hide itself behind layers of more sin.

Lance lied publicly and privately. As people questioned his actions, he went after them, publicly and privately. In the public courts and the courts of public opinion, Lance trampled on people as they called his integrity into question. Threatening phone calls, law suits, and nasty emails were sent to try to “disprove” Lance’s guilt.

The Reaction To Confrontation

Which is no shock to us, right? When you’re called out for something you’ve done, you tend to not react so positively, right?

Sin has a way of masking itself. With masks on top of masks. The deeper you go, the deeper you have to go. The more people you deceive, the more you have to continue to deceive.

In Scripture, King David knew this, too. (see 2 Samuel 11) He saw a beautiful girl, and he wanted her. So he summoned Bathsheba to his quarters, and slept with her. He sent her home, only to soon find out she was pregnant. So to cover up his sin, he decided to pull her husband, Uriah, home from the war. He got Uriah drunk, and urged him to go home and sleep with his wife, hoping to cover up his sin by leading everyone to believe Uriah had gotten Bathsheba pregnant. Sin covering sin.

Uriah didn’t take the bait.

So David had Uriah sent to the front lines of the war so he would be killed. David had Uriah killed to cover his sin.

Adultery, murder, lying and deceit.

You know what broke the cycle? Nathan, the prophet, confronted David on his sin.

David was absolutely broken. He confessed his sin and received forgiveness. He was completely open with God about his rebellion and need for grace. He admitted he’d messed up in a big way. And you know what the crazy thing was? God heard David, answered him, and restored to him joy!

Finding Hope

Maybe you’re on that spiral right now. You’ve messed up, and very few people know. You’ve got your public persona…and your private persona. And you don’t like that. I know you don’t. It’s not making you happy, and you’re scared to death of the consequences that your exposure could bring.

To stop the spiral, you’ve got to take off the mask. Live life freely in transparency, confession, and ample portions of grace. Quit pretending, quit hiding, and quit living life in fear. Quit acting like everything’s ok, because it’s not. God longs to restore joy to you, and free you from the chains that you’ve shackled yourself with.

Sin loves to hide itself behind layers of more sin. And that cycle won’t stop by itself. In fact, If you want to break that cycle, take a cue from David. Then bask in grace, and be quick to give it away.

If you want to have true joy and true freedom, it’s time to be honest.

Was David’s life easier once he confessed? Nope. In fact, he still had a long, hard road ahead. But it was a brighter, more hopful, more full road than the dark path he was sprinting down.

The road to healing isn’t easy. But your moment of exposure and fleeting shame will lead to a lifetime of restoration and love from our Savior.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,

and they will return to you.

Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;

then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.

Unseal my lips, O Lord,

that my mouth may praise you. – Psalm 51:12-15

 

 

 

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This is a guest post from Tyler Braun (Twitter, Facebook, Blog). He’s a 27 year-old writer, worship leader, and pastor from Portland, Oregon where he lives with his wife Rose. If you don’t know Tyler, you should get to know him. He speaks winsomely and with great conviction for my generation. His blog (and his book) are worth the read for sure.

Tyler’s first book has just released, through Moody Publishers. If you buy a copy before August 10, he’ll throw in all kinds of goodies. Click HERE for details, and to pick your copy up.

AND…I’m giving a copy away here on my blog. Just leave a comment below with your mailing address, RT this post, share it on Facebook (being sure to tag me), and I’ll pick one winner.

____________________________________

image credit: CreationSwap user uncredited

Sin is a subtle and deceiving creature. Often masked in my life as a new adventure, new opportunity, or new discovery about myself, sin pulls me away from the purposes of God into a world where I become the main character, rather than being a part of the subplot.

I often see sin being reduced to only the biggest of mistakes I’ve made in my life. Is that the totality of sin?

Sin is lying to our parents or children. Sin is committing adultery. Sin is breaking the law. Sin is slandering others.

Sin is all those things, but when we reduce sin to only the worst mistakes of our lives we’re slowly allowing sin to become a bigger part of our lives without ever noticing it. Remember, sin is a subtle and deceiving creature, and it goes far beyond the worst mistakes we’ve made in life.

I saw this happen quickly in my life while watching a few seasons of a television series. What pulled me in was the riveting storyline, but soon enough it was effecting my thoughts and how I lived my life. I noticed lust entering into my mind. I began to have more violent thoughts, and before long it was apparent all of my thoughts revolved around me. All this from just watching a television show.

In making sin out to be merely the worst offenses of our lives we commit 3 grievous failures.

Failure to See the Subtle Sin

Sins such as pride, a calloused heart, and lust can run so far underneath the surface of our lives that we never recognize how powerful they are until it’s too late.

Often we view living the Christian life as more of a sin management strategy than a pursuit of a deep relationship with the Creator. When we do this we become good at making sure we stay away from the “big” sins but often fail at evaluating how our hearts are wandering.

We’re all prone to wander. Failing to see the subtle sin can make the wandering devastating.

Failure to Recognize Sin’s Communal Repercussions

The ministries of many of the minor prophets in the Old Testament were often more focused on how our relationship with God flows naturally in how we relate with those around us. God used the prophetic ministry of Amos to the nation of Israel to explain His coming wrath against them, not for the sins of individuals, but the sins of the whole nation.

The prophets understood the reality of corporate and social sin.We look at sin as an individual, personal issue, often overlooking the overwhelmingly strong, yet difficult to see, connection between humans.

The sins impeding our lives affect more than just the person committing the sin.

All sin affects the whole body of Christ.

Failure to Understand the Sin of Not Doing What We Ought

We spend the large majority of our time focused on the sins of commission (the sins we commit) while failing to understand the sins of omission (not doing what we should).

The sins of omission are powerful because they take time to evaluate.

I try spend time every night evaluating the entire day in order to see where I missed opportunities.

It’s easy to overlook or brush aside not doing something we should. Be careful though, inaction is often the worst sin, because we slowly slide into a comfortable life where we fail to grow into who God desires us to become.

What failures do you see in how we view sin?

What other ways have you seen sin deceive you, or others?

 

 

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There are certain things that pastors should not say out loud. Things that instantly create a damaging culture that’s difficult to recover from.

There are also phrases you should be careful saying to your pastor, and things every pastor wishes they could say.

image credit: Flickr user Pa Gagne

But there are other things that pastors say to themselves that are incredibly damaging. These words point pastors on a dangerous course. In the moment, they seem harmless. They just seem to be the product of a stressful week or a slip of the internal tongue. In time, though, these can shift a pastor’s heart away from authentic, biblical shepherding. Away from their calling. And away from the people they love.

6 Things Pastors should Never Say to Themselves

 1. Should I really preach this difficult text?

Consider carefully what passages from Scripture you’ll preach. Choose with wisdom how you’ll lead your people through Scripture. But don’t let “Is this passage too hard for people to hear?” motivate you to not preach a text. If you feel like the timing isn’t right, bump it a few weeks. But don’t let fear and cowardice keep you from preaching Truth.

2. Because they give so much…

Never start a sentence with this. “Because they give so much…

  • I’ll meet with them.
  • I’ll listen to their idea.
  • I’ll give their idea a shot.
  • I’ll not give up on them.

James 2:2-4 warns

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

3. Preaching is so much more important than ministry throughout the week.

Preaching is important. But don’t grow to the point where you feel your Sunday morning ministry is more important than what you do throughout the week. The way you love people, serve your community, follow up with visitors, shepherd staff, and make key strategic decisions is just as important, and both feeds into and out from, your Sunday morning ministry.

4. Pastoring is more important than my family.

No. No it’s not. If you think this, you’ll end up with no ministry at all.

For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? – 1 Timothy 3:5

 5. Should I really tithe?

Giving is an act of faith. It shows a deep trust that God is in control of money, not you. It also shows that you believe in something or someone. If you give money to a political candidate, you show your support of them. Give money to Habitat for Humanity, you show you believe in them. When you don’t give money to the local church you’re leading, you show a lack of support. On top of that, it’s a bit hypocritical for you to ask people to tithe, while you yourself don’t.

6. I think God is done with me.

Never, never say this. God may be done with you in a certain context. A certain type of ministry, maybe. But your pain, frustration, and disappointments can become, if you’ll let them, your unique voice of hope and grace. God’s not done with you. You still have a ministry. God uses men and women every day who have been crushed by life. Don’t mask your pride by thinking God’s done with you. “Your” ministry is so much bigger than you, anyway.

 Pastor: ever uttered these phrases? Ever heard someone else say them?

 

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Cherry-picking sins

Ben Reed —  May 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’ve heard some pastors cherry-pick certain sins, finding the biggest, juiciest sins to pick from the tree each and every week.

photo credit: Flickr user Robokow

Condemnation against these sins ends up weaving its way into the Sunday experience, whether it’s part of the notes or part of the while-we-are-talking-about-Jude-let’s-not-forget-_____. It’s not that the folly of these sins shouldn’t be exposed. The destructive nature of sin and the contrasting hope of the Gospel should always be proclaimed. But consistently highlighting sins that may be more public in nature or more far-reaching in their implications and natural consequences is a dangerous tactic.

3 Dangers to Cherry-picking

1. You pander to “itching ears.”

These sins are easy to “pick” on. Much of your church culture finds them offensive and repulsive, and they make for easy cries of “Amen!” in the congregation. You know that if you preach against “that,” you’ll have a room full of supporters. We often think that Paul’s warning in 2 Timothy 4:3  is talking to people who simply want to hear a motivational talk. Maybe, though, their “itching ears” are looking for a pastor who will rail against some sins, but not others. Maybe the 2 Timothy warning is for the cherry-picker, too.

2. You promote a weak theology.

Theologically, when you bang the drum against the same sin, you highlight that sin as if it’s more offensive to God. As if that sin sends you to a deeper level of hell and issue you a stricter punishment. As if that sin is more offensive to a holy God than others. As if God has to muster up a little more grace for others’ sin than yours. Though some sins carry a weightier earthly consequence, it’s shaky ground to stand on when you say that one sin is more evil than another, in the eyes of a holy God.

3. You hide in the shadows.

Practically, you have found a way to justify your own sin. When you consistently highlight someone else’s sin, you minimize your own. What you forget is that when you shine the light on somone else, you inadvertently cast a shadow on yourself, giving yourself room to hide in the darkness. Don’t simply highlight the sin that causes you the most offense. Instead, highlight the sin that you tend to minimize. The one that nobody notices. The one that you’re likely to think doesn’t offend the heart of God quite as dangerously. Highlight your drift towards laziness. Talk about your sin of gluttony. Mention your predisposition to choose people over God by sneaking white lies into your relationships. Drop in your next sermon your increasing impatience with your kids. Don’t hide your sin behind someone else’s.

Quit hiding behind the veneer of “bad” sins. Doing this only makes us look like impotent theologians, out of touch with our own depravity.

Choose authenticity instead. Be open and honest about your past, and current struggles.

In that, you’ll find freedom in being a living, breathing example of the Gospel of grace.

Question: Ever heard a pastor cherry-pick a certain sin time and time again?

 

 

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Creative Commons user Marc Wathieu, edits mine

It’s “sexy” to talk about your past. Where you’ve been. The grit you’ve experienced. The pain you’ve had to bear. The crazy life you used to live. When you talk about your past, you get looks that say

Wow. You’ve come so far!

OR

Wow. You’ve overcome so much!

OR

Wow. You had a lot of fun!

It’s “sexy” to talk about your future, too. Nobody gets upset when you’re talking about where you’re headed in life. Whether you’re talking about heaven (where there will be no tears or crying or pain) or something a little shorter in focus (your goals and aspirations), these are fun conversations. When you talk about where you’re headed, it’s cast in a bright, positive light. Nobody clams up talking about that!

But your “present”? It’s not so sexy to talk about where you are right now. In fact, it’s quite awkward. And I’m convinced awkward conversations need to be had.*

It’s not cool to say,

“Yeah, I still struggle with ____.”

OR

“I still need help with ______.”

OR

“That thing that we talked about last week…I messed up again.”

The awkward humiliation

It’s humiliating, really. It’s like saying, “I know I told you I was headed to Nashville, but somehow I ended up in St. Louis. You told me to turn left, but I just went right.” Silly, no? Turns out they didn’t listen to directions, look at their map, or heed the signs that said, “Nashville, turn left.” And they did this for 450 miles.

Talking about your present struggles is like swallowing a spoonful of medicine. You know it’s going to help, but it tastes rancid going down.

Talking about your present struggles admits, “I’m not where I need to be,” “I’m not who I appear,” and, “I don’t really know how to get where I want to go.”

The beeline to shame

Where we go wrong when someone begins “talking about their present” is that we make a beeline for shame. Instead of the Prodigal’s father, we play the role of the older brother (Luke 15:28-30). Our arms are crossed and our head swiveling back and forth in judgment. We say things like “How are they going to ever learn?” or “Someone’s got to give them the truth.” or “If they’d only followed God like me” We think it’s our job to convict their hearts with the truth.

When we’re quick to convict, we inadvertently shut down a potentially life-changing moment of confession.

The good news about grace is that grace doesn’t keep a record of how many times you’ve messed up. In fact, “where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20) Grace celebrates a step in the right direction. Even when it’s followed by two steps backwards.

Grace welcomes home

Grace doesn’t mean that you become a doormat that’s walked on. It means you welcome someone home when they “talk about their present.” More than likely, conviction’s already happened. (hint: that’s why they’re talking with you!) Your role isn’t to convict…you can let the Holy Spirit do that. He’s better at it than you are, anyway. What someone needs, in their moment of taking a step of faith by saying, “I’ve messed up…again” is a “welcome home!” embrace.

Next time someone opens up an awkward conversation by sharing something they’re counting to struggle with, try being full of grace. Try showing them that we serve a God who never leaves or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6), even when we’ve followed a stupid decision by a stupid decision. In those moments, you’ll find that truth acts more like a weapon.

Grace is what’s needed, because grace moves the ball forward. Shame throw it backwards.

* catch up with the “this is awkward” series HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

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