Tag Archives: consequences

The Future of the Church…It’s Complicated

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon,I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:10-11

Then the Lord said, “I have pardoned, according to your word. But truly, as I live, and as all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, none of the men who have seen my glory and my signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet have put me to the test these ten times and have not obeyed my voice, shall see the land that I swore to give to their fathers. And none of those who despised me shall see it.When it comes to understanding the God of the Bible, context is everything…and perspective counts for something as well.  Numbers 14:20-23

My brothers and sisters who preach a prosperity gospel (i.e., that God intends for you to have material wealth and to have it right now) claim Jeremiah 29:11 separate and apart from Jeremiah 29:10. complicated journeyIn other words, they catch the good news of the promise of hope and a future but they gloss over the bad news that it would come only after a  lifetime of exile and hardship (and for many who would die in exile, it would not come in this life at all).

By the same token, my brothers and sisters who favor a dark, judgmental, angry gospel point to Numbers 14 and God’s judgment on the people of Israel who rebelled against Him, but they tend to miss the unbelievable mercy He showed …

Loving God’s People (When Killing them Would be Easier)

Tuesday Re-mix –

So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.  But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”  Exodus 32:31-32

Of the men who went to explore the land, only Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh survived.  Numbers 14:38

Thinking today about the twelve spies in Numbers who explored and investigated the promised land and reported back to the people.  Ten of the spies brought a discouraging report and two (Joshua and Caleb) brought a faith-filled report.  The people went with the majority report and cowered from the task to which God had called them.  All of them were cursed and sent to wander in the wilderness another forty years.  Caleb and Joshua had to go with them.

I’m wondering if Joshua and Caleb had a regular Tuesday night support group for each other during those forty years of living under the consequences of everyone else’s mistakes. Can you even imagine the frustration…the pain of giving up forty of their best years to pay the price for other people’s sin? Can you imagine the temptation of gathering the entire assembly of Israel together on the annual anniversary of their collective cowardice and, together, Joshua and Caleb yelling out “We told you so!”  But as far as we know, they did no such thing.  As far as we know, Joshua and Caleb bit their tongues and continued to lead well throughout those forty years in the wilderness.  That is what leadership sometimes calls us to do in the church…to suffer the consequences of other people’s mistakes.

But not only is it a call to suffer consequences, it is a call …

Raising Legalists

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them… When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22

When I work in a church where there has been a moral failure on the part of a leader, especially a pastor, I am always intrigued by the wide variety of responses from the church members.  They range from complete denial (pretending it never happened) to cries for the death penalty, and every imaginable consequence in between.  But the responses that break my heart the most usually come from some of the teenagers.

legalismOddly enough, it is often teenagers who are the most troubled by the moral failure and who are the most demanding that there be severe consequences.  I believe this is true because of the way they have been taught to think.  In many cases, they have been conditioned to believe that, for every good act there must be a visible reward and for every bad act there must be bad consequences.  And when either of those things does not happen, their world is turned inside out, creating chaos and confusion.  So, in an attempt to maintain some degree of “rightness” in their world, they are often the most vocal proponents of severe consequences in the life of the fallen leader.  I can’t blame them for that.  It is what their parents taught them.

You see, when we use behavior modification techniques to get our children to make right choices, this is what we get.  When our motives have more to do with …

Learning to say, “I’m sorry”

Tuesday re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

(Read this post in connection with this previous post on Learning to Say, “Ouch”. They belong together, because that is what happens in reconciliation. )

Remember when your little brother did something really mean and hateful to you or to your stuff and you “told on him”?  And remember how your mom grabbed him by the ear and dragged him over to you and literally forced him to say the words “I’m sorry” under threat of some unspeakably horrible punishment?  Do you remember how you felt after that happened?

WAIT!  …o.k., you felt like you got your revenge and you enjoyed seeing him nearly get his entire ear ripped off the side of his head…but what about the apology?  Did it make you feel reconciled to him?

Of course it didn’t.  Because that is about as poor as apologies get in terms of actually bringing any healing to a situation.  But what if you could actually learn to express regret in a way that adds value to a relationship?  After all, feeling genuine regret in your heart is one thing, but learning to express it in a way which heals a broken relationship is another thing altogether.  If there were some practical things to learn, some skills to perfect in terms of communication, some things that would help you make a positive difference in your relationships, would it be worth your while to learn them?

We have an amazing example of the kind of apology that brings healing in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 11:21).  Using the prodigal’s apology as a kind of model, here are some things we learn about how to express regret in a relationship:…

Forgiveness is Not Foregoing the Consequences

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I once consulted with a church where a deacon was caught sexually molesting a little girl in the children’s department. He was the only adult (1st mistake) in a children’s Sunday School room with no windows (2nd mistake) and the church had never run any kind of background check on him (or any of their other volunteer workers…3rd mistake). The man fully confessed to the authorities and to the parents of the little girl, and then even more fully confessed to both a problem and a history in this area. He stood before his church and confessed as well. There was actually reconciliation between him and the injured family and there was spiritual restoration of this brother. It was a pretty extraordinary situation in that regard. All of this happened before the church ended up calling me for mediation.

Why then the need for mediation if there was reconciliation all the way around? It was because of what happened in his criminal prosecution and what happened in the church after his release from prison.

A dispute arose in the church about whether the injured family, who said they had fully forgiven him, should have nonetheless testified in the criminal prosecution. Another dispute arose after that, when the man asked to return to work in the children’s Sunday School department, but this time under strict supervision. There was a dispute about how to respond to this request. The argument in both instances centered around the meaning of forgiveness. “If we have forgiven him, shouldn’t we forego testifying at his trial and shouldn’t we trust him again with our children?” Eventually, the church concluded (rightly, I believe) that the correct answer to these …