When Leaders Fall….and what we can learn from them

leaders The subject line read Another Homeschool Tragedy. As I opened the email my heart grieved. Similar to other stories reported over the past year, it contained scandalous news involving a local homeschool father/spiritual leader. A man has fallen into sin. Families are torn up. Lives are devastated. Ministries are tarnished. The testimony and integrity of Christians are questioned. And, the homeschool community faces shame and disgrace.

Opinions will always abound when scandals surface. Some will throw rocks at the accused. Others will call for grace. Some will claim that it was inevitable. Other will say they cannot believe it happened. But placing opinions aside, there are things we can learn when those in leadership fall. After all, did not God give us examples in His Word of men and women who fell into sin in order that we can learn from them?

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

No doubt there are just as many examples of people doing wrong than right in the Bible. Keeping this in mind, there are at least four principles we can learn when considering this subject. As the old adage goes, a wise man will learn from the mistakes of others; an ordinary person will learn from his own; a fool will learn from neither.

Do Not Believe Everything You Hear

The first principle is something that we should already understand. It is not wise to accept at face value everything we hear second hand. We should certainly not believe every word we read on the internet. In this information age of blogging, social media and online news, the internet is to gossip as fuel is to fire.

As a pastor, my husband counsels with many couples. Occasionally he will ask me to sit in on the sessions. Something that I have gained from this experience is that almost always there are three sides to every story – his, hers, and the right one. If this is true of face to face conversations, how much more should we be cautious of news traveling online?

Negative news loves to spread, especially when it involves Christian people. The world is looking for a reason to criticize our faith. This is why a standard of living is so meticulously laid out for the church in Titus 2. God’s children are to look and live differently than the world with three reasons mentioned specifically in this passage. The first reason is so that the Word of God will “not be blasphemed” (verse 5). Another is that those who are “of the contrary part my may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say,” (verse 8). And finally, so that others “may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,” (verse 10). We are to live “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” Titus 2:12. Unfortunately, Christians do not always do so.

Believers need to walk circumspectly. We also need to speak with caution and be careful with our accusations especially when it involves a spiritual leader. On the other hand, we do not want to be guilty of hiding or covering up sins to the determent of others. Often, people will downplay the reality of what is happening or ignore it all together in fear that Christianity will look bad. When leaders fall into sin there is a warning in Scripture toward both ends. “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear,” 1 Timothy 5:19-20. This is, of course, in context of a local assembly.

When we hear news of scandal it is good to remember to not believe everything we hear. Also, when people fall into sin, note that it rarely helps to take those sins and magnify them before the world. Unless you are directly involved in the situation, often the best response is none at all. Silence is never misquoted.

Let it Serve as a Reminder

Since the beginning of time pride has caused sin, ruin, and heartache for mankind. It was Satan’s pride that caused his fall (Isaiah 14:12-14). Eve was tempted with pride when the serpent tricked her into believing that she would become as a god, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Our Lord was tempted with pride in the wilderness (Matthew 4:5-7). We are warned in I John 2:16 about the “pride of life”. Pride is such a stumbling block that one of the qualifications to be a pastor or elder is that he must not be a novice, “…lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” I Timothy 3:6.

How many times have we heard of a man preach or teach against the very sin that he ends up falling into? (Being transparent here, how many times have I lectured my children about sin in their life to only have the same sin rear its ugly head in my life.) Pride tells us that we are untouchable. Pride dismisses accountability. Pride elevates man and pushes God far away. So given the warning of pride, when we hear of leaders falling into sin let it serve as a reminder to remain humble ourselves. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” 1 Corinthians 10:12. The truth is that none of us are immune to sin. In fact, it is that very moment we begin to think that we are immune when we are at the highest risk of falling.

People are people; nothing more. It is pride that tries to make more of man than he is. But lest we forget, God is God and nothing less. When we grasp this concept the pride in our lives become detestable and we are left in humility before the One who discerns of the thoughts and intents of our heart.

Understand Healthy Emulation

Romans 12:3 warns, “to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” We fall into danger of temptation when man is elevated too high and no doubt this can become a problem. On the other hand, we see in scripture the concept of healthy emulation. God places people in our lives as examples to follow. Christians should imitate those of noble character. The Apostle Paul spoke to the church in Corinth saying, “wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me,” 1 Corinthians 4:16. To the Jewish believers he said to be, “followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises,” Hebrews 6:12. Speaking of pastors and elders, Paul wrote, “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation,” Hebrews 13:7. We are to look to our leaders, consider their behavior, and follow their example. This is healthy emulation. The Apostle John gives the same instruction in his third epistle stating that we are not to follow after evil, but that which is good (3 John 1:11). In other words, imitate those who do good things.

There is a balance. Extreme tenets almost always lead to problems. I have known those who will put a man or ministry on a pedestal, but then jump to the other extreme (complete disregard for any man or any ministry) when that man falls. I believe that we can find that balance in the local assembly, which brings us to the next point.

Recognizing the Importance of the Local Assembly

The problem I see with online ministries and parachurch organizations is that while they do good works for the Kingdom, if we are not careful these organizations can easily become a surrogate for the local assembly. When the intimacy of the local assembly is replaced with a general or broad application, accountability is no longer possible. You see, the local assembly is not an organization, but an organism – a living body.

Consider Paul’s instructions to the Philippians. “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you,” Philippians 4:9. Paul had already told the Philippians in 3:17 to be followers of him, now he reminds them again. Do the things that you have not only learned, received and heard from me, but also those things that you have personally seen in me. Paul practiced what he preached and those in Philippi could verify his words because they had seen the way he lived. It is hard to follow someone solely based on their bio. This is why the local assembly is important for healthy emulation. We need to witness the walk of those we look to for examples.

I certainly do not want to discount all works and resources outside the local assembly. That would be foolish. Many ministries provide valid support for believers. Many organizations and leaders greatly influence others in the Christian community. I am thankful for the wealth of books and tools that are available for Christians and the homeschool community. These resources have personally brought value to my life over the years. I have written books to the Christian community as well as the homeschool community. But the bottom line is that while books can be a great resource, they are no substitute for the Word of God. And just as resources are no substitute for God’s Word, ministries or organizations should not be a substitute for the local assembly.

Thousands upon thousands of men and women are faithfully and silently serving the Lord. They are placed in our churches as examples to follow. There are spiritual leaders who set a good example to follow, families who are living out godly principals, and parents that are bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Look to the local fellowship for support. Personally know those who you follow. Be an example for others to follow. And welcome accountability that can only come from a local fellowship of believers.

News of scandal brings concern and uncertainty to our community. But like all things, good can come from it. When news travels remember to not believe everything you hear. Let it serve as a reminder to stay humble before the Lord. Understand the importance of healthy emulation and the need for the local assembly.

“Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13.

Guilt ….Good or Bad?

guiltI did not pack enough bags for this guilt trip! I am not to blame and will certainly not feel bad about this! I wish they would stop making me feel so guilty. Have you ever said these words or had these thoughts? It is likely that if you are over the age of 3 that you have. No one likes to feel guilty. It’s an ugly feeling that starts in the bottom of your stomach and lingers until resolved. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves. Sometimes it is others in our life that seems content to constantly push guilt and shame our way. It is in these moments in life when a single word or look, like a sharp knife, slices thorough our emotions only to leave a sinking feeling of culpability behind.

Seeing that guilt leaves such an ugly mark, one would think that it is a bad thing, bad indeed and something to be avoided at all cost.

But is it all terrible? Can guilt be beneficial? Is it good or is it bad? The answer is yes.

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”

What things do you think Paul had to forget?  Was it his accomplishments in the flesh before salvation?  Maybe so.  After all he was a Pharisee of all Pharisees.  But just maybe it was his past sins.  After all, I can only imagine the guilt of his past must have plagued him. Maybe those things that were behind him were the memories of the many Christians that suffered and died at his own hands.  We all know how easy it is to feel guilty about past sins.  God forgives and forgets.  We try to, but yet Satan never does. The enemy loves to bring our faults and failures back up to us. It is this type of guilt that is bad, guilt from our past that has already been forgiven.

 But some guilt is necessary. The law of God makes the unbeliever guilty. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God,” Romans 3:19.

 Likewise, when a believer sins it is accompanied with guilt. “For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin,” Psalm 38:17-18.  This type of guilt is good. It is a necessary emotion given to us by God.  Picture it as a “check engine light” on the dashboard of your car.  It brings to your attention a problem under the hood.  It should be used to help us acknowledge our sins.  It should drive us to repentance.  But once we have done that we need to leave our guilt at the cross.

 Here is a sure way to tell if guilt is good or bad. Bad guilt – the kind that we need to let go of – will always push us away from God. It brings shame and makes us self focused. It hinders our spiritual walk and makes us ineffective for the Kingdom. However, be sure that good, godly, healthy guilt will drive us strait to the arms of God as His mercy and grace floods our hearts.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s all about me!

all about meHave you ever met that person? You know, the one who thinks the whole world revolves around them. Everything is about them. If you hurting, they are in more pain. If you have a praise, they have a bigger praise. If you have a story to tell, they have a better story. It’s all about them!

Today, I’m going to be that person. I’m not going to worry about you, or think about others. It is all about me…that is when it comes to sin, confession, and repentance.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18 about two men. One was a Pharisee and the other a publican. Both went to the temple to pray. When it came to sin, the Pharisee was concerned with others. He contumeliously stood and prayed, “God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.” But the publican was only thinking of self. He wasn’t concerned with the Pharisee. I want to be like him. His prayer was, “God be merciful TO ME a sinner,” speaking of himself as if he were the only sinner in the world.

David had this same attitude in Psalm 51.

…wash me

…cleanse me

…my sin

…my transgressions

…purge me

…create in me

…cast me not

…restore unto me

…uphold me

He is a little self-focused, wouldn’t you say? But, isn’t that exactly how we should be when there is sin in our lives. And unfortunately, that is every single day for me.

Oh, but let’s not end here. For King David didn’t. After he confessed his sin before God and a right spirit was restored within him, he then continued ….

“…Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee,” Psalm 51:13.

When we are right before God, our hearts desire is to teach others. Why? Because we are filled with such love from God’s mercy and forgiveness that we greatly desire for others to experience the same.

Probably the most misquoted verse in all of scripture is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But if people would just continue to read the Bible they would see that it never commands us to not judge others, only to not judge hypocritically.

“Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye,” Matthew 7:5.

When we “first” cast out the beam from our eye “then” we can see clearly to cast out the mote from our brother’s eye. For in truth, if we love our brother and our heart is right, we will want to do just that.

So maybe, it isn’t all about me

It just starts with me!

Strangely Dim

strangelyLife is certainly consuming! So much thought, emotion, and energy is poured into the things of this fleeting world. We have to live, provide, and plan, but should this world be all-consuming? For an unbeliever, worldliness makes sense. It is all they have. But as a believer, I ask myself why. Why do I invest in things that will not matter in eternity?

Every time God’s Word is preached I get convicted. Last Sunday was no exception. My husband preached a sermon from 1 Corinthians 3:1-7 addressing the cause, characteristics and cure of carnality. Two things stood out in particular. He called them external and internal influences that cause worldliness. I like to call them the delights of this world and the desires of the flesh.

The Delights of this World

All these delights (or external influences) could be summed up with one word – things. Things we love, things we buy, things we invest in, things that distract us, things that cause us to sin, things….things…things…

Or we could call our things “childish pursuits” as David Breese did when he said,

“Strong sons of God are not perfected by childish pursuits.”

The cure if found in I John 2:15-17. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”

The Desires of the Flesh

These desires are the internal influences. Not only do we battle against the world, but also our own flesh. I can relate to the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:19:

“For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

I want to do good things, but I don’t do them. And the things that I don’t want to do, those I do. This is the battle of the flesh, constantly warring within.

Although the war rages, know that we are overcomers! We overcome the delights of this world by seeking God. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matthew 6:33.

We overcome the desires of the flesh by pouring God’s Word into our hearts and turning our eyes to Jesus. As Helen Lemmel so eloquently penned in 1922:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

If we allow it the world will certainly consume our life, but if we will turn our eyes to Jesus, seek the things above, this world will have no hold over us, and all these things will  become strangely dim. That is my heart’s desire.

A Song of degrees. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. (Psa 123:1-2)


self conceit“I would never…”

“That happens to other people…”

“Thank God I’m not like that…”

“If that were me, I would…”

Have you ever spoken these words? I cringe just thinking about times in my life I have had similar thoughts. Over the years God has shown me the grievous sin of pride in my life. Today, He continues to remind me. It is pride that whispers, “I would never.” It is pride that says, “Thank God I’m not like that…” And it is the pride of life that without fail brings about destruction (Proverbs 16:18). This is why we are warned to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought.

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith, Romans 12:3.

Am I above any sin? Isn’t this sinful flesh capable of anything? Couldn’t I fall just as easily as David, a man after God’s own heart, did – or even Abraham the friend of God? I believe so; we are all susceptible to falling into sin. But notice I said “falling.” Christians do not commit sin deliberately or consistently. It is against our new nature. As the Prince of Preachers said, “Sin murdered Christ; will you be a friend to it? Sin pierced the heart of the Incarnate God; can you love it?” No, as children of God we do not love sin. We hate everything about it. And we tremble at the slightest thought of committing deliberate sin. We do, however, fall into sin on occasion and it is wise to remember just how easy it is.

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall, 1 Corinthians 10:12.

It is for this reason we need one another. We need accountability.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

But in this, let us never become prideful……

For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself, Galatians 6:1-3.

A person who does not understand their own character can easily be deceived.

In truth, the better we know our own hearts, the more compassionate we are with others. The better we know our own hearts, the more on guard we are against sin. The better we know our own hearts, the more we trust in God alone. God resisteth the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Help me, dear Lord, to be humble. I need Your grace. Help me to hate even the smallest amount of pride in my life. Help me Lord to understand how sinful I am and how righteous and holy You are. And may I never forget that self-conceit is but self-deceit.

“For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself…..”

The Root of the Problem

 Have you ever let something go? You knew that it needed attention but due to lack of time and priorities it just got ignored. That’s what happened to the landscaping at our house. These past 5 weeks, since we’ve moved in, have been busy. And pulling weeds were at the bottom of the list of things to do. Frankly, even if it had taken precedence it has been just too hot outside to spend hours working in the yard.

But like everything else that gets ignored, eventually you have to deal with the problem. So yesterday morning Abigail and I decided to attack our overgrown garden. An hour into pulling weeds we were both covered in dirt. The looks of our garden was beginning to improve and opportunity sprung up for a spiritual lesson.

“Abigail” I said, “You have to pull the roots up with the weeds so that they will not grow back.”

I explained to my daughter that while it was easier to just pull the tops off the weeds, that if she did not dig down deep in a few days they would pop back up. I continued to explain that the same principle applied to our spiritual life.

“Take for example the problem of jealousy. A person can say in their heart that it is wrong to be jealous and that they will try to stop their behavior. However, unless the root of the problem is dealt with – SIN – jealousy will return in a few days.”

Like ugly weeds, a Christian will have to deal with many thorns during their life – anger, bitterness, selfishness, covetousness, deception – just to name a few. Our flesh desires to cover up the problem by removing the outward part that shows. After all, our prideful nature does not want others to see us as we really are. But hiden in our heart there is an underlying root at each problem that must be dealt with. And because this root is SIN only God can uproot it. Only God can cleanse us from these sins. Only God has the power to forgive and cast them as far as the East is from the West. Only God can give us the ability to overcome our sins and properly deal with them.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness,” Romans 6:14-18.

I am thankful that my Lord is a better gardener than I am. If we allow Him, He will continually uproot the sins in our life that cause us to stumble. He will carefully plant into our hearts faith in that we can be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17) and become a beautiful creation for His glory alone.

A Bat in My Skimmer

My husband had an exhausting weekend.  Due to a wake, funeral and church function, he spent 26 hours at the church house between Friday and Saturday.  Around 8 p.m. Saturday evening, as we were walking back over to the house, my husband said, “All I want to do is go to bed.”  But trying to be a thoughtful wife I said, “Why don’t you take a swim with me.  You’ll feel refreshed.  Then you can go to bed.”  There really is nothing like an evening swim where we live.   With the Desoto National Forest behind us, it is quiet peaceful.  So, the children put on a movie and we went for a swim.  All was well for about 5 minutes; that is until my husband went to clean out the skimmer and found a dead bat.  I won’t go into the details, just let me say that it was not pleasant!   We are logical people and we know in our minds that the 18,000 gallons of water could not possible be contaminate by one dead bat.  But that did not change the fact that my husband was not happy.  In fact, he was rather disgusted.  He got rid of the bat and tried really hard to enjoy the water.  He just couldn’t.  We got out.  He went to bed.

You know, there is a biblical principle that applies here.  It is found in Ecclesiastes 10:1.  “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.”   How true it is that it just takes a little folly to wreck a person’s reputation.  A person can work their whole life on building a reputation of wisdom and honor and one act of foolishness ruins it.  This is how sin works.  It just takes a little.  It is true with the individual person but also with the family.  I try to teach my children that when one person in the family sins the whole family is affected.  It is especially important that my boys learn this truth.  They will one day be the head of their homes.  The responsibility of being a leader is extremely weighty.   The decisions they will make as husbands and fathers will affect their whole family.  But not only is it true for the individual and families, it is also true for the church.  This is because the church is a family of families.  Galatians 5:9 says, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  I realize that we live in a society that says, “Don’t judge me.  What I do is none of your business.  How I live is my personal decision.”  But, according to Scriptures, when it comes to the church we are our brother’s keeper.  Why?  Because a little leaven  leaveneth the whole lump.          

So, I will try to remember that it just takes a little sin and that little sin doesn’t just affect me, but also those around me.  I’ll also try to remember that a dead fly can spoil all the perfume, that folly can wreck a reputation, and that a little leaven leavens the whole lump.  Oh, and that one dead flying rodent ruins the whole swim.