How the Church Should Respond to Homosexuality (and other Sins)

The church needs to lovingly welcome in attendance but not leadership anyone and everyone, because the same Bible that talks about sin is equally clear about love. The church I serve as pastor includes people who are practicing homosexuals, as well as others who are struggling with same-sex attraction to varying degrees. They sit in service next to single people cohabiting, people who watch porn, adulterers, and religious people who look down on all of them. The church was custom built by Jesus, and we are all works in progress. We do not expect people to get their sin in order before attending church any more than a hospital expects people to get healed before they show up.

Temptation and sin are quite different. The Bible is clear that Jesus was tempted and did not sin. Just because someone is tempted does not mean that person is in sin. Temptation is an opportunity for sin or for victory. We must not shame or condemn people who experience various kinds of temptation – including sexual temptations such as same-sex attraction or heterosexual fornication or even pornography – if they desire repentance. We must not endorse or encourage caving in to sinful desires either. Instead, we need to walk lovingly with people, telling them that part of the Spirit’s work in their lives is self-control, and that so long as they want to fight for holiness, we want to fight not agains them but for them. And as they gain victory, we ought to celebrate and encourage them all the more.

Christians who practice repentance should be the only ones allowed into church membership and leadership. This does not mean in any way that they are perfect, but that they agree with the Bible and that when they are in sin, they are willing to fight to overcome sin by God’s grace. We’re not asking for perfection but rather for a desire for progress in victory over sin.

The best defense is a good offense. The best thing the church can do for marriage is encourage and assist good marriages. This includes lots of teaching on sex and marriage, great premarital counseling, a supportive community for married couples, and efforts to nurture marriages that are enduring and endearing so that God’s people are getting divorced only on rare occasion because of extreme circumstances.

-Mark Driscoll, Call to Resurgence

When Eating Becomes a Sin

Little boy choosing between a cupcake and apple

I get asked a lot about losing the weight I have and keeping it off. Losing 130 pounds was really hard, but keeping it off and is incredibly difficult. I’ll often get asked about eating habits as that is where most people get hung up.

One of the things that rarely gets talked about is that eating can be a sin, an idol. The reality is, we are told our bodies are the temple of the holy spirit and we are to take care of them (1 Corinthians 6:19). Most Christians use this verse to say drinking and smoking are wrong while eating their next 2,000 calorie church potluck meal.

The reality is that eating is a sin when:

  • We do it mindlessly.
  • We do it when life feels out of control.
  • We do it to feel better or find comfort (ever hear someone talk about comfort food?).
  • Or, when we eat too little to be prettier or skinnier.

So what do you do?

The first thing you must do is understand why you eat. What drives you to food. It is not that you are hungry, we often eat when we aren’t hungry or continuing eating when we are full, so there is more to it than that. If you never uncover why you eat, you will continue to eat in a sinful way by finding your god in food.

Because overeating or not eating enough is a sin and can be an addiction, you have to approach the way you would someone who is addicted to porn, shopping, drugs or working too much.

When you approach those sins, you make a plan, create some accountability around them to keep you from falling into those patterns. It is the same with food.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get an accountability partner for exercising or eating.
  • Don’t buy the snacks that are bad for you. If it isn’t there, you can’t eat it.
  • Make a meal plan so you eat well. If you make a last minute meal it is rarely good for you. If you go out to eat, always know what you will eat before you arrive. Looking at the menu causes you to eat more than you should or food you shouldn’t.
  • Drink at least 100 ounces of water a day. Water fills you up and helps to clean out your system which helps to move things through better. Also, if you drink that much you eat less. If you drink this much water, you are less likely to drink soda. I’ve read cutting soda out of your diet can drop 10 pounds in less than 2 weeks.
  • Eat higher protein meals which will lead to less hunger in between meals. I eat 5 eggs every morning and am rarely hungry before lunch. Not snacking makes a huge difference.
  • Start slow. The big mistake most people make is to jump from what they are doing to eating like Bob Harper tells you to eat on the biggest loser. While that’s great if you can do that, it is often unrealistic. Take small steps and then add to it. It took me 18 months to lose 130 pounds but I went slow and have kept it off for almost 4 years now.

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The Biggest Sin in Adoption

We have met our son, FINALLY seen his sweet smile, squeezed his small body, got lost in his big eyes and then had to say goodbye for 5-10 weeks. Every time I think about leaving him that last day tears come to my eyes; we walk with him toward the lunchroom and his breathing becomes great heaves. Josh and I are trying to hold it together and not have a complete melt down in front of our son, who has lost SO MUCH, and now probably feels like the hope that he may have found in a relationship with us is being ripped away from him. We help him wash his hands, and instead of his lighthearted smile and willingness to obey, he is in a fit of tears and his legs won’t support him… we kiss his sweet face and walk away. The nanny explains we will be back, but how can a 4 year old know that in his heart. So again because my arms are too short to change anything in this process, we pray; that he doesn’t lose hope, that when we return he doesn’t reject us because he has felt abandoned by us, and that our hearts will be ruled by peace and patience as we wait.

This is the part that gets me, being ruled by peace as we wait. There have been times in this waiting that I have gotten caught up in the frenzy of wanting to know what is going on, following other people’s journey forward and feeling forgotten, and it. has. been. sin. Before we traveled to meet our son, we were waiting on a piece of paper from a government official giving us the clearance to travel, as we waited I begged God that it would come through. One morning I woke up especially early and prayed, I watched the sun rise and was reminded of  what we tell our kids… see that light from the sun, it is so bright that it is hard to look it, that is what the glory of the Lord looks like…

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That morning I was reminded of the truth that God’s ways are above our ways, that He exists outside of time and He already sees it as done. The timing of the thing that I was so anxious about, God already saw as DONE. Thinking in that way helped me to not just cling to the peace that I knew I should have, but actually live in it.

We are in a time of waiting again, this is some of the most painful waiting we have had to do up to this point…

I am reminded of God’s heart toward us, His calling us and desire to be in relationship with us, and because of his patience we have salvation (2 Peter 3:15). My desire through this is to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity (2 Peter 3:18). If I fall into the sin of worry, control and lack of peace, then I am not pressing into God’s heart for me or my son, who is not orphaned because he is OUR SON NOW, but feels orphaned. There is a longing in my heart that can very easily cross over into the sin of worry, but if I feel that and see it through God’s heart toward those who have not crossed over into His family I am more likely to live in His peace.

Isaiah 53:5 says,

But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

If I am not living in peace then I am neglecting the very crucifixion of Jesus, and I think that is the biggest sin in adoption.

Finding Your Happiness in Jesus

This is from Elyse Fitzpatrick’s book Because He Loves Me

We’ve begun our discussion of gospel obligations, or negative imperatives, by thinking about how unbelief, idolatry, and the sins that flow from them occur in our hearts. What follows now are a few practical steps to take as you fight by faith for real happiness.

Pray that God would reveal your unbelief and idolatry to you. I know that it’s hard to see the sin within our hearts, but the Holy Spirit can bring us conviction and enlightenment. He can reveal the lies we’ve believed: If I don’t have this I’ll never be happy. He can open our eyes to our functional gods and the unbelief at their core.

Prayerfully meditate on Scripture and ask God to apply it to you. Only the Word of God is able to “discern” the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). As you meditate on his word, ask him to apply it personally to you, to help you discern the very motives that compel your sin.

Confess any unbelief or idolatry that you’re aware of. Instead of trying to hide or deny idolatry or unbelief, flee to the cross! Your Savior has already borne these sins in your place. He has paid the penalty for them and his resurrection breaks their power in your life. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Ask God to make himself your chief joy. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). The more you contemplate him, his love, his mercy and patience, the greater will be your joy in him. You’ll discover true happiness because it’s his delight to give himself to you and end your endless search for satisfaction.

Think back to the last time you know you sinned and ask yourself:

  • What did I think would make me happier than what I had?
  • Why do I believe that there is happiness in attaining this?
  • What makes me most afraid, angry, worried, sad? Why?
  • What is the lie that I am believing about God, myself, my happiness?
  • What do you boast about?

Consider the topics of the stories you tell about yourself. As you consider your answers to these questions, you’ll begin to see your functional gods, those things that you believe will make you happy.

The Sins of a Pastor

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Over the past week, I’ve been doing a series on The Sins of a Pastor. These sins are not necessarily unique, but I believe most pastors struggle with them. They are also sins that can be easily hidden, seen as spiritual things, the right thing for a pastor to do and they are often things the church or elders of the church encourage without realizing it.

If you missed any of them, here they are:

  1. Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
  2. Untouchable.
  3. The Pastor’s Family.
  4. Need to be needed.
  5. Letting your wife shoulder the load at home.
  6. Lazy.

The Sins of a Pastor || Giving Away too Much at Home

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Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.

So far we’ve covered:

  1. Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
  2. A pastor being untouchable.
  3. The pastor’s family. 
  4. The need to be needed. 

The fifth sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of giving away too much at home. I think this sin could just be labeled to all men.

This can look any number of ways:

A pastor disciples people for a living so is lazy at home. Much like the first sin we discussed that a pastor uses his bible only for sermon prep, when you disciple people for a living, the last thing you want to do is come home and do more “work.” As a pastor, I get this. It is easier to disciple others than those closest to you. The problem is that as a man, you are called to pastor your family. Every man, every father. Many men fall into this trap because his wife spends more time with the kids, he lets her disciple more than she should. Now, hear me out here because if you miss this, you will miss the point. In our family, Katie spends more time with our kids than I do. But, as the head of our house, it is my job to set the tone of family worship and discipleship. Together, we talk through what our kids will learn, what as a family we will study, what things she thinks will work best for our kids at their various ages. Too many men simply let their wives do this alone instead of walking together in it.

Does not give a vision to his family of where they are going. Many pastors are strong visionaries. They lead building campaigns, launch new ministries, cast a vision for where their church is going. Yet, they have no vision for their family. Think for a moment, do you have a way of deciding how to spend your money or time as a family? How do you know who you should spend time with? What is the most important thing for your family in the next 2-6 months? How will you know if the next season will be busy or if it is time to slow down as a family? Your family needs this, they need the structure that you as the husband/father should provide.

If you don’t have a clear mission statement for your family, read this. The bottom line, if your ran the church how you run your family, how would it go? How long until you got fired for having no vision or organization?

Makes his church more important than his family. Many pastors children grow up to despise the church and the reason is because they grew up feeling like the church was more important than they were. Dad skipped things for church stuff. They were pushed aside for things at church. Now, pastors should work hard, just like any other man. No child should grow up feeling they got leftovers from their dad.

Here are some ways to communicate to your wife and kids they are more important than your job:

  1. Tell them. One day, someone else will pastor Revolution Church. I will die or retire. No one else will parent my kids.
  2. Date nights and daddy dates. Every week you should have a date night with your wife, pursuing her, wooing her, loving her. Every week, you should have a daddy date with one of your kids. Spending time with them, doing something they want to do.
  3. Don’t look at email, social media or messages when you’re off (especially during dinner). This seems obvious, but a lot of people in our culture are addicted to technology. We go into cold sweats at the prospect of not checking social media or email for an evening, let alone a whole day. If that’s you, you should for sure turn it off.
  4. Communicate your family’s important to your church. Tell your church from up front how much your family matters. Bottom line pastor, if your marriage or family falls apart, so does your ministry. If your marriage falls apart and your church doesn’t fire you or put you on a leave of absence, you shouldn’t be there anyway. It is one of the qualifications of being an elder. You should never use an illustration that paints your wife or kids in a bad light. Need an illustration of what not to do, use yourself as an example. Talk about how important they are. Tell your church that by valuing your family, they are valuing the church. If I’m talking to someone at church and one of my kids comes up and says, “Excuse me Dad” like we’ve taught them, I’ll ask the person I’m talking to to wait. If this frustrates them, that’s okay. My wife and kids are that important. I’d expect and hope someone would do that to me.
  5. Be at their stuff.  As a pastor, you have a flexible schedule. Use that to your advantage with your family. You can work on a sermon after your kids are in bed, you don’t have to do it at 2pm during a school recital.

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The Sins of a Pastor || Need to be Needed

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Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.

So far we’ve covered:

  1. Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
  2. A pastor being untouchable.
  3. The pastor’s family. 

The fourth sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of the need to be needed. This directly affects what we talked about yesterday and how the pastor and his family are seen.

Many pastors as they become pastors do so out of a sense of wanting to help people. This can be seen in counseling, in discipling people or walking alongside of them. They want to help people.

This can hide for a time any way, the need to be needed. This shows up when a pastor:

  1. Must be at every meeting or party for the church.
  2. Visit every person in the hospital.
  3. Follow up with every guest or new Christian.
  4. Baptize everyone.
  5. Always preach.
  6. Never take a vacation.
  7. Respond to every email and call.

Now, I’m not calling for pastors to be lazy. In fact, the last sin we’ll talk about is how lazy many pastors are.

Pastor, take a minute and ask yourself some of these questions:

  • How much do I need to be needed?
  • Do I need to check every alert on Facebook, twitter or email?
  • Do I keep my phone on during dinner with my family and answer it when it rings?
  • Do you check your email or answer your phone on your day off?
  • Do you take a day off every week?
  • Do you take all your vacation days?
  • Do you miss any Sundays?
  • Do you take any Sundays off from preaching?

You may fall prey to the desire to be needed and that may be driving you and your ministry more than Jesus. If so, take a day off, turn your phone off and take a break from preaching.

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The Sins of a Pastor || The Pastor’s Family

book

Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.

So far we’ve covered:

  1. Your Bible is for more than just sermon prep.
  2. A pastor being untouchable.

The third sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of the pastor’s family and the view they give.

The blame for this sin sits with the pastor, his wife and the church. Often equally.

First, many pastors and their wife feels the need to be perfect. They feel that they are on this pedestal and must always appear happy, put together, growing in their relationship with Jesus. No flaws can ever be seen in their marriage, parenting or life. Often, church members want this. They want their pastor and his wife to appear above the struggles they have. Consequently, a pastor and his wife always feel like they are putting on a show, unsure of who they can be real with, unsure of who they can let their guard down around. What quickly happens is anger, frustration, sadness stay pent up until it becomes bitterness and rage that is let out at the worst possible moment.

This gets past on to the kids of a pastor. They feel that they have to behave perfectly, almost like little adults. I remember when we first started Revolution and after a service all the kids, read that again, all the kids in our small church plant were dancing on the stage and jumping off. A woman came up to me and said, “Is it a good idea for your kids to be on stage dancing and jumping off the stage? I’m not sure a pastor’s kid should behave like that?” Notice, there were 12-15 kids doing this. My kids at the time were a little over 1 and 3 and a half. I looked at her and said, “I can’t think of a better thing for my kids to do be doing right now than acting like little kids and having fun.”

This one is difficult because when expectations don’t match up, fights and division occur.

As the pastor, you have to lead on this one. In your home and in your church. You set the tone.

For me, I have friends I can vent to. Friends I can be myself around. Friends I can blow off steam with. Friends that when I get angry at someone, am hurt or frustrated will listen and then challenge me with the gospel. Friends who don’t expect me to be perfect.

Your wife also needs to have friends like this.

As a pastor, you must give your wife permission to be your wife and a church member. We tell the wives of our pastors, we expect you to act and serve like any other mature church member at our church. We think mature Christians will serve and use their gifts, have a quiet time, raise their kids if they have them. This changes with life stage. There was a time when my wife did nothing but help to lead a missional community with me. I had some people ask why she didn’t do other things and I explained our philosophy, Katie’s gift mix and the age of our kids. They were unhappy and left our church.

Your reaction to that last line pastor will determine if you will find a healthy balance in this.

If you are a church member, expect your pastor to live out the qualifications of an elder, but don’t expect him to be Jesus. Your pastor did and will not die on the cross for you and rise from the dead. He cannot be Jesus. He doesn’t need to be Jesus, we already have a Jesus and he is perfect and amazing and worthy of our worship. Not your pastor.

Here are a few more things to do:

  1. Ask your pastor and his wife how you can pray for them. Don’t look for gossip, just to pray for them.
  2. Give them a gift card to a restaurant for a date night as a way to bless them. Don’t expect anything in return, you are blessing them.
  3. Expect their kids to be kids and act their age. If they have teenagers, expect them to make boneheaded teenager moves like every other teenager. If they have little kids, expect them to tear things up like other little kids.
  4. When you hear someone say, “My old pastor did this or my old pastor’s wife did this, why doesn’t this pastor or his wife do that?” Gently but firmly explain this and then tell them, “If you liked it so much, maybe you should go back to your old church and your old pastor.”

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The Sins of a Pastor || Untouchable

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Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in.

If you missed the first sin: your bible is more for than sermon prep, you can read that here.

The second sin that many pastors deal with is the sin of being untouchable. While every pastor would tell their church they should be in community, have an accountability partner, have people in their life that knows them, very few pastors actually experience this.

This can be hard for a pastor. Knowing who to trust, how much to trust them are difficult things to wrestle with. If you are curious how to find an accountability partner as a pastor, read this.

This isn’t the only reason pastors aren’t known and have an air of untouchability about them. Their churches often demand it and pastor’s fall right in line with it. Many churches want their pastor’s to be superman. They want their pastor to talk about struggles to the point that they seem relatable, but not too much. Churches often want to keep their pastor, his wife and his kids on a pedestal. Because of this, pastors work hard to keep that pedestal up and working.

This leads pastors into all kinds of dangerous places. If no one knows a pastor well enough, no one can call out his sin. No one can challenge him with working too much, not eating well (which is an enormous problem for many pastors as so many are overweight), not sleeping enough.

Pastors are also very good at wielding their influence. People will do what the pastor says. Even in our culture that hates authority or holds pastors no in high regard, people care what a pastor does, what he reads, what he likes and then they often emulate that. If a pastor is not careful, he can easily push to the outside someone who gets on his nerves or seems to be divisive. People pick up on this and do the same thing.

Pastor, can anyone call you on your sin? What happens if they do? I’m not talking about the person who will email you next week to complain about an illustration. I’m talking about an elder, another pastor who can look you in the eye and say, “What you said was inappropriate. How you treated your wife is not okay.” Do you have anyone like that? If not, you are bordering on being untouchable.

Yes, I know. As a pastor you are accountable to God. I get it, I preach it, I believe it. We are also brothers and sisters in Christ and are to be accountable to each other. That’s in the Bible too.

If you care about pastor, make sure he has someone in his life who knows his junk, who he can talk to and is being held accountable to.

Here are some questions I work through with my accountability partner:

  • What is God teaching you right now?
  • What in your life can we celebrate?
  • How are you serving your family? (for our time, we have to bring the answer our wife gives to this question)
  • How are you pursuing your wife? (for our time, we have to bring the answer our wife gives to this question)
  • What can I be praying for you about?

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The Sins of a Pastor || Your Bible is for More than Sermon Prep

book

Pastors, like any person sin. While this may be surprising for some people as they put their pastors and their wife on a pedestal, it is true. Because of the nature of being a pastor and the life they live, their sins are often not obvious and ones that no one will ever know about. In fact, some of the most hurtful and dangerous sins are ones that a church and elders can unknowingly encourage. These sins are not in any particular order, just the order I wrote them in. This is the first part in a series of blogs on The Sins of a Pastor. 

The first one is Your bible is for more than sermon prep. 

Most pastors spend the majority of their week in their Bible working on a sermon. There is a debate among pastors as to whether that should count as their devotions or if they should separate their devotions from sermon prep.

For me, my devotions are tied into my sermon prep. Right now, I am preaching through John. As I work on each sermon, I spend the first part of my week simply mediating on the passage I’ll be preaching from. This allows the text to become personal and work on my heart so my sermon becomes an overflow of what God is doing in me.

Because of planning ahead, I also use my devotional time to research future sermon topics and let different books of the Bible speak to me. For example, a few years ago I was going to do a series on Habakkuk but on vacation really felt like I needed to read through 1 & 2 Peter everyday while we were away. I had no idea why, just a sense that I needed to dive into these books. Through those readings, we changed our sermon calendar and I ended up preaching through those books.

Often though, pastors will use the reasoning that so much of their job and life is spent in the Bible. “I spend so much time on my sermon that I don’t need to spend time alone with Jesus.” I’ve never had a pastor tell me this, but it runs through many pastor’s heads. What happens then is they preach from a dry heart, from a place that is not meeting with Jesus. They spend so much time discipling other people that they aren’t feeding themselves. They don’t read books outside the Bible that challenge their thinking or bring conviction to their life.

As long as sermons are helpful, no one will notice this sin. Pastors can fly under the radar for years on this and their elders, wife and church will have a hard time knowing. Over time, it will become obvious that a pastor is working from past time with God, meaning, they are running off the fumes of years past. Because pastors often move from churches and job to job, people aren’t able to notice that he is preaching old sermons or using the same stories.

How do you know if this is happening? Here are a few ways:

  • If a pastor has no new illustrations of God’s grace in his life
  • The pastor does not talk about being pushed out of his comfort zone.
  • He has no conversations with unchurched neighbors.
  • He is not praying big prayers for the Holy Spirit to move.
  • His heart does not break for his people and those who do not know Jesus.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll talk about the second sin of pastors, the sin of being untouchable.

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