Posted tagged ‘sin’

The Following of Fallen Leaders

August 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        August 20, 2018

                             

The allegations against Bill Hybels, Lead Pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, have caused a torrent of unrest and a flood of tears in the Christian community throughout our country. Hybels began Willow Creek back in the 1970’s and it has influenced the thinking and ministry of thousands of churches around the world. 

The allegations of inappropriate flirtations and embraces that lingered too long have come in the midst of the tidal wave of other “MeToo” movement outraged voices. The accusations against Hybels have traced acts of inappropriateness back to the 1980’s. 

It’s sad! It’s sad for everyone that has had to speak in this tragedy, from accusers to accused to church leaders to the two people who had already been named to succeed him as pastor, and who now have had to back out of their decisions. 

I’ve read several books that Bill wrote, attended a few Willow Creek services, been a Global Leadership Summit conferee, and referred back over the years to lectures from those Summits that Hybels gave. 

And now the church of Jesus Christ has its mouth open in disbelief! Questions thunder from the pews. Was it all a farce, a big show with no substance? When he was seeking to attract unchurched people to attend Willow Creek what were his true motives?

When leaders fall questions abound. We want our leaders to be above reproach. In fact, when a leader with a great personality has accusations hurled at him/her most of the followers initially react defensively in support of the accused. 

Side step! We all fail and fall. When a leader we follow fails, however, it’s similar to when we were kids and heard a rumor that Santa Claus isn’t real. We refused to believe it until some of our friends confirmed the suspicions. We don’t want our leaders to be fallible!

Back to the blog road! When people idolize certain personalities they tend to not see the impending avalanche until it’s too late. 

There are those people who are cynical and skeptical about everything…and there are those people who would believe the earth is flat if a certain person said it. 

So…in recent months big-time football coaches, famous actors, politicians, mega church pastors, priests, denominational leaders, film directors, civic leaders, other professional athletes, and CEO’s have been held responsible for past actions. Accusations have been made against our current president, but his supporters have been acting as shields in defense of him. We’re not sure yet how that one will play out.

When followers become disillusioned with those they’ve believed in, it leaves a mixture of apathy and outrage in its wake. Who is speaking the truth if the truth tellers are found to be suspect? 

A conflicted form of grief fogs in our understanding of how life is to be lived and how the world operates. And where there is grief there must be a chapter of healing- slow and painful, seeking to find that firm place to step onto. 

And, finally, where there is grief over what has been and what is there will be the ripple effects of loss and revision. Things will change. The people who journeyed in the caravan known as “church” will not be the same. The disillusioned will seek to find different kinds of oases and we can only look at them and say “We understand!” 

Tilted Spectacles

December 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 11, 2017

                                  

I have history with eyeglasses! I’ve worn them since I was in fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Riley, noticed my “squinting to all get out” as I tried to figure out what she had written on the chalkboard. She contacted my parents and about month later I was officially a “four eyes!”

Through the years I’ve tried to stay within two decades of what the stylish spectacles are. I’ve gone from Atom Ant, to geek, to thin, back to geek, and have now settled into “grandpa” frames. Since I’m a granddad three times over I’m okay with that.

Recently my glasses got hit by someone- maybe even me- to the point that they were  creating a ravine on the top side of my left ear. I was coming to the point where I dreaded putting them back on in the morning. Any time I could get them off of my left ear for a few moments I did it.

Finally, my tough guy image broke and I crept into my optometrist’s office. His assistant sat me down and looked at how the glasses were positioned on my face. He stroked his chin a few times and then took them to the back room to make an adjustment. A few moments later he returned, had me position them again, and took another look. Another quick adjustment and I was good to go. He told me that they were just a little bit tilted and the slight tilt over a period of time had taken its toll on my delicate ear skin with its constant pressure.

Four days later I’m okay!

Just a slight tilt had caused all that discomfort! It’s like that for me spiritually when my life is just a bit out of whack, when I’ve lost my clear focus on the direction Jesus would have me go. Just a slight waywardness has the potential to bring me an abundance of sensitivity and pain. When that happens I come to the point of letting go of my tough guy image and letting the Great Physician speak to the source of my pain and things seem to come into clear focus again.

The End of Grace (Tree)

July 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 5, 2017

                                    

On January 9th of this year a wind storm whipped through our area, registering speeds of 103 miles per hour. Power lines were downed, semis were overturned, shingles were blown off roofs, fences collapsed, and trees were uprooted.

At our house the “Grace Tree” lay on its side like the family pet hit by a car. Hospice didn’t need to be called. It had been put out of its misery already!

The “Grace Tree” was situated in the front yard of our house to the side of the driveway. It had been about five feet tall when we moved in eighteen years ago. At the Day of Reckoning it was about fifteen feet in height, but…ugly in appearance. Our former neighbor, David Volitis, labeled it “the ugliest tree ever.” Think teenager with a bad case of acne…and warts…and missing half of his front teeth!

Across the street at McGillivray’s another pine tree has the look of one of those special trees that gets chopped down and re-situated in front of the White House at Christmas time. It looks like it could be the inspiration for a few Thomas Kincaid paintings.

And the thing is…that tree and our Grace Tree were planted at the same time. Now they looked like the Homecoming Queen and her ugly sister!

What our tree reminded me about…every time I pulled into our driveway…was the grace of God. It got harder to look at every year. Instead of growing wider each year, like me, it just kept growing taller with no increase in width! Each time I arrived home to see it standing there I would say to myself, “If not for the grace of God…” Every year I thought about borrowing our neighbor’s axe and going “Paul Bunyan” on it, but I held off. Every time I saw the homely pine I thought about how undeserving I was of God’s blessings.

“If not for the grace of God…”

And then January 9th arrived and grace ended with a thud around 6 A.M. I suppose you can say that even grace has its limits! We expect it to always be the operating system of our life but at some point we tend to stop seeing it as a gift and view it, instead, as an expectation. Grace gets mis-defined as something we’re entitled to, and will always be there…regardless!

The lesson I take from our “Grace Tree” is not that God’s wrath is surely to come if I don’t get my act together. On the contrary, what I take from it is that God’s love for me goes far beyond the tipping point. In a world where things and people are tossed to the side when they lose their beauty grace is difficult for people to understand. It is rooted in love and shaded by kindness.

Loving kindness, that’s what it is!

Carrying The Weight of the World

August 20, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 20, 2016

                                  

There was a situation recently that took a bad turn for a friend of mine. Even though he was not responsible for the outcome his immediate reaction was to take the blame and question his value as a person. Even though the root of the problem was planted in the bad decisions and words of others he still felt guilty.

I felt bad for him. The next time I see him I’ll make it a point to tell him what an incredible person he is. Perhaps if I, and others, tell him that enough times the scales that seem to tip so easily to the side that gets “down on himself” will be balanced. The thing is…this person is a caring, compassionate individual who will do anything to help someone else.

I have had long stretches in my life where I tried to carry the weight of the world. If there was a conflict in the church I pastored there were many times that I assumed the responsibility or, bore the guilt even though I was not the culprit or instigator. Mind you, sometimes I was the culprit, but my ability to differentiate between being the cause and not being the cause was limited.

It is difficult for many of us to not bear the blame. We often throw around that saying that we live in a wounded world, but what we detour around is the fact that each one of us is wounded. One of the side effects of being wounded is to carry the blame. Another of the side effects surfaces in some wounded folk who willingly make someone else the source of the problem. Not assuming any responsibility is the scar of their woundedness.

Guilt-carriers and guilt-givers…we’re all cut from the same mold.

One of the things I love about writing is that I can think through a snappy response that will put the attacking person in their place. If only real life was like that! But it isn’t! Too often the verbal accusations are thrown in my direction and I catch it like a sure-handed tight end, but then fall to my knees in misery and self-flagellation of my spirit.

I’ve preached numerous sermons and talked to even more people about the fact that Jesus took our sins upon himself when he went to the cross. I’ve recited those words from Isaiah 53:5-6 countless times:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed. 

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.

But sometimes even the messenger surrenders to the voices and retreats back into that place of doubt, and picks up the weight of the world once again. It is part of who we were, and it is part of the lie that we keep believing over and over again.

We treat the redemption of Jesus like a home mortgage; one that won’t get paid off for thirty years or more…so we keep thinking we have to make the monthly payments.

One of the most powerful scenes I’ve experienced in any movie came in the film entitled The Mission. Robert DeNiro was cast as one of the main characters, a man who bore the guilt of killing his brother in a dispute. A Catholic priest who has set up a mission to one of the primitive tribes in one of the mountain areas of South America has him join him at the mission. To get there they must climb up part of the mountain beside a waterfall. DeNiro has a net tied to him that is carrying the weight of various possessions in it. He won’t let anyone else help him. He must carry the weight. The scene is painful to watch as he slowly climbs the mountain. There are more elements to the story that I won’t go into, but at the top of the mountain one of the men of the tribe takes a knife and cuts the rope away from DeNiro and tosses it over the side of the waterfall. The implications are clear. The weight-carrier has been freed. It’s the beginning of healing for a tormented soul.

I think of that scene often as I’m about to bend over and pick up the weight of a situation. When someone throws the blame in my direction I’m getting somewhat better in remembering that I’m not the sure-handed football tight end but rather one position over, offensive tackle- an ineligible receiver! I don’t need to catch everything that is thrown in my direction!

Fleeing The Embarrassment

August 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               August 4, 2016

                                  

Yesterday I was at a stoplight waiting to turn right onto a six lane road in our area. The green arrow to turn left was lit for the vehicles coming towards me. I waited for four cars to make the turn, and then the green light appeared for me. I did not see the young lady who was beginning to cross the street. She noticed that I was beginning to turn and hesitated out of nervousness. I should have just stopped at that point, but, instead, I swung wide around her to the far lane and proceeded.

My thought at that moment was some guilt and shame at causing her a moment of questioning her safety, and my embarrassment at seeming to be in a rush to go…nowhere!

But then I noticed the car that had been behind me in the turn lane correctly pausing to allow the young lady to cross in the crosswalk before proceeding in the same direction I was going.

My thought at that moment was “He/She saw what I just did, and if that person catches up to me at the next red light they are going to give me “the look”, yell at me, and tell me that I’m going to Hell.”

I speeded up to get away from the pursuer!

Isn’t it interesting in our world where everything seems to get filmed by cell phones how we worry about those we fret are watching us?

Kind of like belching in a vacant area of a store and then looking around with embarrassment to see if anyone heard it!

What is it about that moment? The fear of being discovered to be a lawbreaker, the anxiety of being seen as doing something our mom would have scolded us for in our growing up years? What causes us to look in our rearview mirror to see if we got away with it?

The car that was “pursuing me”, actually turned right at the very next block. I experienced instant relief, like a get-away vehicle from a bank robbery.

Why?

Like David and his reaction about the after-effects of his Bathsheba rendezvous, I like to think that I get away with things that would cause me embarrassment. It is how I am wired. In fact, I think it’s how most of us are wired. In a world where the gray area is growing like the creature in the 1958 film The Blob, I believe we’re still fairly clear on what is right and what is wrong.

Some of us just like to think we’re getting away with things! Fleeing the embarrassment is the certainty of my imperfections, the signature on my humanness.

Building and Destroying

June 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 2, 2015

                                              

Last week I swung by my insurance agent’s office to get a recommendation on a roofing company to call. As I pulled into the parking lot something was different. The two story building next door to theirs was no longer there.

I mean…gone! A dirt-covered empty lot!

It’s interesting when you become accustomed to something being there…and then it isn’t…you are taken back a little bit! In fact, my insurance agent’s one story building suddenly seemed to look smaller because of the vast empty space that now shadowed it to the east.

I asked Michelle, one of my agents, what was going on next door. She said they were going to build some other structure in the coming year on that spot. And then she made this statement:

“You wouldn’t believe it, but it took them less than a day to tear down the building that was there!”

Less than a day!

Six to eight months to build…less than a day to tear it all down!

A reputation is built over a long period of time, but it can be destroyed quickly.

As I think about that, a photo book of faces flashes through my mind of people who have been evidence of that statement. Well-respected, intelligent, esteemed for their leadership, recognized and followed…and then a weakened moment, or a hidden flaw that suddenly was exposed, or a conversation that went viral…and the structure came tumbling down.

It goes without saying that we all fall and stumble. The lives that we build are filled with pockets of errors…some more like chips of the plaster, but others that threaten the stability of tomorrow.

Writing a blog post about building and destroying won’t solve our tendency to screw up our blessedness, but maybe it will be a wake up moment for someone who is teetering on the edge of the cliff.

What is evident about the empty lot by the insurance office is just that! The emptiness of it…where just a few weeks ago there was life being lived, decisions being made, a structure to protect from the uncertain weather elements…and now having to start over from the ground up.

May today be a day of building just one more solid brick on to the firm foundation…a day where we are solid in our thoughts and actions, anchored even deeper to the Foundation!

Receiving The Gift

December 23, 2014

 

“ For God so loved the world that he gave…”

We know what the rest of the verse says. It talks to Jesus and his mission and purpose.

But the mission had to be ignited with God’s attitude of giving. He gave and gave and gave.

What if the Holy God who created us didn’t want to give? What if he was content to sit on his throne and exclusively receive? Most of the false gods that people have worshiped through the ages are like that. Sacrifices were offered to appease the gods. People were terrified about the possibility of making the gods angry.

The One and Only true God, however, could not help himself. He gave. He gave his Son. And he continues to give. His”grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) His peace “transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:7) 

    “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

God was not a one-time giver. His gifts are on-going and life-changing.

So what do we do in return? What can we give God? Romans 12:1-2 summarizes it.

    “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1) 

Give God this day, and then give him the next day…and then the next. Worshiping him involves that capturing and giving of each day, each moment, to be used for the glory of God.

Have a blessed Christmas!