My Sin

I am five feet two inches tall and I weigh 270 lbs. Can you guess what My Sin is?

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

Us Calvinists love to throw around Total Depravity. “I am a sinner!”, we cry from the pulpit and the pew. But when it comes to confessing our own specific sin in the moment, suddenly our depravity becomes as hard to nail down as jello.

“Well yes, in theory, I am a sinner… but I mean… not right now. Right now you are in sin and I am right. What’s that? Well no I am not obeying that verse right now… but that is because you are behaving so badly that I can’t obey that verse right now. The circumstances are so bad right now that God understands. … No, you confess first. … No! You confess first!”

Well someone needs to confess first, so it might as well be me.

At the heart of Calvinism is the idea that we have nothing to offer God, and despite that, He killed Himself chasing us down so He could have us for His own any way. But despite the fact that we can do nothing good with out Him, we still, in our flesh, want to be able to justify ourselves. We want to believe that we have something of our own to offer. The truth is, we can’t even take credit for our own repentance. Even that is granted to us by God.

This striving to justify ourselves, this little voice in the back of our minds that says some how we deserve our salvation just a tiny bit more than the next guy, is the same instinct that tells us to hide our sin. From the world, from the church and even from ourselves.

But God has commanded us to freely confess our sin.

One of the GREAT things about obeying scripture is that, after you do it, you begin to understand why God issued that commandment in the first place. You actually get a tiny peek into the mind of God.

And the mind of God was GENIUS when He told us confess our sin to each other! Because when we do it, it breaks sin’s power over us. We don’t have to hide in shame any more. We confess, we repent and it is wiped from God’s record.

If we truly believe in total depravity, confessing our sin becomes as easy as breathing in and out. We can repent more and more quickly and keep shorter and shorter accounts and become more and more free from the earthly consequences of sin.

To that end, and because God has commanded me, I freely confess that I am a lazy glutton. I love food and don’t exercise enough. Complex carbohydrates are my drug of choice. I am an addict.

This has been a problem for me for the last thirty years, but now it poses a new problem for me. Because of this tough little verse:

James 3:1
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.

In starting this God Blog, I have set myself up as a teacher in The Church. Plus I should not be judging with a big, fat log in my eye. Plus, if I am in the Spirit, I will be living a self-disciplined life. Plus God require self-control of leaders in the church. While I am not technically an overseer, it is still a standard that, if I am serious about God and obedience to Him while teaching HIS word to HIS people, it would be unwise not to hold myself to this standard (especially because I hold other public preachers to this standard).

So it is exercise and restraint in eating for me as I God blog. And if I fall off that wagon, you won’t be hearing from me for a day or so while I repent and get back on that horse.

And please pray for me. Being an autism mom is hard and while I have not leaned on food (and TV while we are at it) to numb the huge pain and escape the frustration of those early years as heavily as I used to, my health has only improved a small amount in the last year or so.

As God is teaching us what it means to joyfully embrace what our ‘New Normal’ is now, I want to be someone who does not just survive being an autism mom, but thrives.

For the last few years I pictured myself, if I persisted until the end of the race that God has given me, being one of those runners whose legs have given out and who are barely conscious, crawling the last few miles on bloody hands and knees, collapsing dead at the end of the race with only the tips of my fingers over the finish line.

It is only in the last year or so that the idea has returned to me that I might be able to finish strong and dance on the other side of the finish line. I want to be that kind of runner.

And I am grateful to God for making my race a harder one than it used to be so that I could better understand that I really can’t run it under my own power, and I actually never could.

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Speaking the Truth in Anger and Lying in Love

Ephesians 4:15
but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ

There is a dynamic I see being played out in the comments section of Christian blogs everywhere. God has called all of us to, ‘speak the truth in love’, but that seems to be the exception more than the rule.

More than two years ago a serious conflict began with one of my oldest and dearest Christian friends. After months of everyone trying to work things out earnestly, things took a turn for the worse and it was time to abandon the relationship. I wrote to him to say goodbye, and included one of my observations on this dynamic that was preventing the conflict from being healed biblically.

I would like to share part of that letter to him, as it ‘confesses’ my own predilection for sin, explores his and challenges all of us to examine ourselves.

“…From the outset of this [conflict] I have known that if I was going to fall into sin, my predisposition would be to ‘speak the truth in anger’. I have worked hard to keep that from happening and confessed it when it did…

You on the other hand have, and continue to, ‘lie in love’. You believe and speak things that are not true, your decisions on how to handle these problems do not line up with scripture…, but you seem to believe that as long as you have a “good heart” none of that matters. It matters. It is having devastating consequences…”

This seems to be a good analogy (albeit an oversimplification) for what is happening in the hostile discussions taking place between reformed or discernment proponents that are very concerned with presenting God’s unadulterated Truth (of which I am one) and emergents that are very concerned that love be the focus of the church.

But bottom line, when we speak and do not balance the two, we sin. And if we want to keep from falling into sin, we need to know where our weaknesses are so that when we can recognize our flesh when it pops up to take over, confess the sin quickly and get back on the road that God would have us on.

Some of us tend toward lying in love, because we really, truly want to believe the best, even when the evidence is to the contrary, and really want God’s Kingdom to be as inclusive as we can make it. We really, really want the visible church to be God’s Kingdom on earth. But stretching the Word of God beyond that which the text will logically allow, is sin. It is adding to and taking away from scripture. Even when we do it with the best of intentions, it is still making The True God into a golden calf who will be the god that you want him to be. It is sin.

Some of us have become so concerned with getting things correct and defending the true faith, that we loose sight of God’s command to balance our truth with love. We fall into the trap of becoming noisy gongs or a clanging cymbals. We keenly see the danger in the assumption that the visible church, not the invisible church, is God’s Kingdom and are very serious about warning those who think that, because they prayed a prayer once, they are going to heaven. In warning of those dangers we can offer harsh rebuke in cases where the bible does not set a precedent for it.

A few of us, in our relative youth and immaturity, vacillate back and forth between the two.

And there is one person in my life that is able to balance the two when she speaks, and when she has spoken into a conflict, brings the tension in the room from a fever pitch down to safe vulnerability, but she does not speak. Fear of fighting has driven her to retreat from the conflicts in which she could have been a stabilizing force.

We can also change from one extreme to the other in our lives. Where I had spent the first few decades of my life as one who would tend to lie in love, becoming the mother of an autistic child, and then seeing that child get the shaft (even at the hands of professing Christians), drove me from one camp into the other, and since April of 2006, I can say with out hesitation that my tendency now when I sin in this area, it is to speak the truth in anger.

But there is hope for all of us. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, and if the Holy Spirit is in us, we can be brought back to the place that we can deal with terribly difficult truths even when our flesh wants to run screaming into denial or defensiveness; and we can be humble and loving and considering others more important than ourselves when dishing out the hard truth, choosing words that provide edification according to the need of the moment.

I know that because last week, all three of us, the woman who was afraid to speak, the man who had such a hard time with the hard truth, and me, the angry autism mom, after two years of God working on us, were able to step outside of our flesh and into the Spirit and do those things which God called us to do.

And in our obedience, God healed the relationships that had been broken for years.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed be the name of the Lord!

So here is my question for my commenters, where are you in this picture? When you sin, do you speak the truth in anger like me? Do you lie in love? Or do you fail to speak at all?

Update: Sadly the aforementioned friend was not able to follow through on his attempt to deal truthfully, no repentance of sin followed and the reconciliation fell apart.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes away… blessed by the name of the Lord.

False Teaching: Rick Warren Encourages Lying to Children

Rick Warren has come under a good deal of fire for preaching a gospel that is focused on personal fulfillment rather than repentance of sin and dieing to self. I believe that criticism is well earned. But that is not the only problem with his teaching.

Last spring, just after he launched his site Pastors.com (the about page starts, “This blog is a place for pastors to have an honest dialog about issues they face as leaders of their churches.”) he posted an article in which he encouraged people to lie to children when a pastor is removed due to sin. This directive is not just off message, it is outright telling people to sin and to sin against the vulnerable. It is calling sin good. Here it is, complete with two compliments. Note the paragraph on what to tell children [bold mine]:

What Happens When a Staff Member Falls (letter mentioned in podcast)

May 1, 2007 · 2 Comments

Dear Saddleback MemberIn 2007, I plan to write you several times to help you understand some of the behind-the-scenes procedures and strategies of our church family. In this letter I want to explain what happens when a staff member at Saddleback must be removed because of some sin.
TAKING THE INITIATIVE (Proverbs 28:13)
If a staff member voluntarily confesses to me, or to our Staff Pastor (Bob Baker), and repents before being found out, Bob or I counsel that person privately. Depending on the violation, they may be allowed to remain on staff while recovering. If a staff member does not take the initiative, they are suspended from staff immediately while the elders consider their situation. If a staff member continues to lie about their sin, they are fired immediately.
WHO IS TOLD? (1 Cor. 5:11-13)
Sin is to be confessed only as widely as it affects others. Private sin requires only private confession to God. Personal sin that involves others requires interpersonal confession to the people involved. Public sins (those that affect a large group of people in our congregation) regrettably must be dealt with publicly as a warning to others. The Bible says that those who teach are held to a greater public accountability because of their visibility to those they teach. (James 3:1, 1 Tim. 5:20)Children have a fragile faith and often idolize their leaders. Parents should be careful not to talk about fallen staff in front of children so they don’t lose heart. If asked, you should simply say “They resigned,” That’s all children need to know.RESTORATION (Gal. 6:1)
The goal of church discipline is the restoration of a person’s life, marriage, and possibly ministry. This is hope and prayer, but it is not an automatic conclusion. Our church has a specific restoration process which includes 1) confession and restitution 2) counseling and testing, 3) regular accountability to a group of pastors, 4) prayer, 5) refraining from ministry to focus on maturity, 6) strengthening character and marriage, 7) Bible study and Scripture memorization, and 8 ) rebuilding and proving credibility. The fallen staff member must humbly cooperate with our restoration process which may last up to a year or longer.

Restoration does not mean being restored to the staff of Saddleback. That would not be best for the former staff member or the volunteer workers in that ministry. We are a high-visibility, fast-moving congregation. After the restoration process is finished, we would want to see that person slowly re-enter ministry in a less visible church with smaller demands. Usually after restoration, the person re-enters a different type of ministry than the one they led before their fall. This is because our most effective ministry always comes out of our own deepest hurts and experiences.

SPIRITUAL AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR THE FAMILY (Gal. 6:2)
Sin always hurts others who are innocent, so we provide spiritual and emotional support to the family of the offender. Depending on the situation, severance pay may be provided so the former staff member can focus 100% on rebuilding his/her life.

OFFERING FORGIVENESS & REBUILDING TRUST
(2 Cor. 2:7-8)
Forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. Forgiveness is offered immediately, even before it is asked for, but forgiveness does not remove the consequences of sin. (Gal. 6:7). Leadership is built on trust, and trust must be earned. While trust can be destroyed instantly by a single decision, it takes time and proof of change before anyone can be restored to ministry or leadership. The Bible commands that they be tested first. (1 Tim. 3:10, Philip. 2:22)

DOING ALL THIS IN HUMILITY & LOVE (Eph. 4:2, 1 Cor. 10:12, )
The Bible says “Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” It also says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin.” Now is the time to review your own life and marriage. If you haven’t heard the message by Kay and me “Affair-proofing Your Marriage” I strongly recommend you get a copy this weekend.

Satan is always trying to destroy or discourage God’s Flock by defeating the shepherds (pastors). We are a church family and we must stand together with Craig and his family during his restoration process over the next year.

Saddleback is a strong, mature, and healthy church. In past situations like these, our church family has pulled together, rallied, and become even more stronger and committed. We believe in Romans 8:28. I love you and I look forward to seeing you this weekend.

“Pray for us. We have no doubts about what we’re doing or why, but it’s hard going and we need your prayers. All we care about is living well before God.”
Hebrews 13:18 (The Message)

PASTOR RICK

Categories: Rick Warren Ministry Podcast

2 responses so far ↓

  • Ray McKay Hardee // May 18, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    We have JUST encountered a situation like this in our church and are using a Spiritual Care Team.The wisdom you provide in this letter is priceless!
  • Steven Taylor // June 12, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Thank you. We are facing a situation right now concerning a moral failure of a volunteer staff member. Your letter is a godsend!

My husband Scott had submitted a short comment criticizing the post but it was not approved by the moderator. I posted an additional comment pointing out the problems and encouraging Mr. Warren to amend the article, but my comments were not approved either.

This is my rejected comment:

My husband sent this article to me and I am concerned with the advice given to be dishonest with children about leaders removal from service.

Chiefly, straight out, scripture tells us not to lie. Telling children that some one resigned when they were in fact removed is a lie.

I could just stop there, but as a family therapist, I think it is important to discuss some of the destructive consequences of such a policy.

First, Warren makes the point that children “often idolize their leaders”. Yes they do, and that is sin in itself. (1 John 5:21 – Little children, guard yourself from idols.) That idolization should not be protected, it should be challenged. Children should learn from their youth that everyone who thinks they stand should “take heed lest they fall”, and that even the most well respected leaders can fall into disobedience to God.

Now this should be done in an age appropriate manner, and details of the sin need not be disclosed, but leaning the lesson that disobedience to God results in painful consequences at age 6 makes a powerful impact that may spare a child from falling into serious sin at age 16 or 26 or 66. When you see that one of the most influential people in your community cannot get away with sin, you learn the fear of God and the respect for the rules that keep you out of danger.

Second, and this should be blatantly obvious, not telling a child that someone is no longer a trustworthy leader puts them at risk for victimization and false teaching of all kinds! Why would you allow a child, whose minds and hearts are so mailable, to remain respectful of someone who is in selfish/unrepentant sin and not being lead by the Holy Spirit?

We don’t want children to idolize respectable people much less untrustworthy people.

Third, children are not stupid. If you lie to them, they will eventually figure it out, even if it is not until adult hood, and they will stop trusting you. If someone at 26 finds out that they were lied to about what was going on in their church, they may question everything that was told to them during their entire experience at that church and with those who lied. I have seen it happen.

I think that there are few things that shake ones faith more than being lied to by a church.

Fourth, again, lying is a sin. Don’t do it. Even to protect someone.

Such unfortunate events are potential teaching moments. They can wonderfully enhance a child’s understanding of grace, and, most dynamically, secret and unrepentant sin. They give them a chance to learn important lessons from others mistakes so they don’t have to learn from their own.

I am sure Mr. Warren sincerely believes that this policy is helpful in keeping children innocent, but I strongly encourage him to rethink this and change this article. Because bottom line, it is telling people to sin against their children.

Ginger Taylor, M.S.

When I looked through the site, I noted that the only comments that had been approved were those that praised Mr. Warren or his comments. (If you know me, you already know my feelings about silencing dissenting opinions).

Because the comments were not posted, I sent an email to the site. After a short email exchange with Eric Busby, Saddleback’s Pastor of Channel Development, it became clear that although he stated that his claim that, “we are unlikely to develop a policy prohibiting critiques of Pastor Rick Warren because we want to encourage honest dialogue on matters that concern the entire listening audience”, his follow up comment, “Unfortunately, we do
receive a large number of comments and are unable to approve them all”, was just PR speak for “we are not posting your comment, buh-bye”.

I noted that currently pastors.com seems to be continuing the same, ‘only fawning comments welcomed’ policy.

So… with twenty thousand people going to his church, has not one person stood up and insisted that he change this article so that it is not telling people to sin?

If not, why not?