Posts tagged howard hendricks

How to avoid moral failure



EDITOR’S NOTE: This post appeared in the blog feed for The Gospel Coalition addressed to those in ministry, but the lesson from these failed pastors is instructive to every man. How does a man protect himself from moral failure?

During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late, great Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Hendricks shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.

NormandyLandingAt the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromise. At one point in those days, the falls came so frequently I felt as if I was on the spiritual beach of Normandy watching buddies’ lives get blown apart all around me.

Fallen Soldiers of Christ

The study examined 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period. As far as Hendricks could discern, these full-time clergy were born-again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation; they had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an adulterous relationship.

After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives:

  • None of the men was involved in any kind of real personal accountability.
  • Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship.
  • More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
  • Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”

As I reflect on this study, four lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms, and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.

1. Sin thrives in isolation.

Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there. Lies live best in the darkness. That’s why when God calls us to himself, he calls us into the church.

God has created the church to be many things, including a community of people who help each other fight sin and love him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:1525), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matt. 18:10-20Gal. 6:1-2James 5:19-20).

Who knows you? I mean, who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon that permission to ask you penetrating questions? Are you answering those questions honestly, or are you hiding details and painting over your sin to guard your image? Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.

2. If you flirt with sin, you will fall into sin.

Sin’s slope is slippery. The longer you walk along the edge of the abyss, the more likely that your foot will slip. The men in the study put themselves in dangerous situations again and again. They ignored the words of Solomon, who warned his sons to “keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8).

These men did not guard their hearts, or the hearts of the people they were supposed to be protecting. Instead, they became blinded by the deceitfulness of sin (Eph. 4:22Heb. 3:13) and were led into the ditch of destruction (Matt. 15:14).

What ways are you flirting with sin? What provisions are you making for the flesh with regard to lust (Rom. 13:14)? What guards have you stepped over? What details are you hiding? What e-mails are you deleting? What search histories are you erasing?

Sin is crouching at your door (Gen. 4:7), and the tempter is looking for an opportunity to pounce (1 Pet. 5:8). How are you making his aim easier?

Flee from sin, don’t flirt with it (Gen. 39:6-12; Prov. 5-7, Rom. 6:12-132 Tim. 2:221 Pet. 2:11).

3. Pride blinds us to our weakness.

Many of us think this sort of serious sin would not happen to us, just as those fallen pastors thought. But 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Let us not forget that Samson, the strongest man in the Bible; Solomon, the wisest man in the Bible; and David, the man after God’s own heart, were all overcome by the temptations of sexual sin (Judg. 14-16; 1 Kings 11:1-8; 2 Sam. 11-12; Ps. 51). No one is above the temptation to sin in grievous ways. If you doubt, you are on your way to a great fall.

Beware! Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

4. Purity is cultivated by loving Jesus.

Somewhere along the line, each of the men in the study began to drift. Prayers became less passionate. The promises of God in his Word grew dusty. Love for Jesus became something spoken of in the past tense. The seduction of sin and enticement to sacrifice all to satisfy inner longings became too strong to resist.

But Christ is stronger. Hear these words of promise afresh:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14–16)

There is no sweeter assurance of help than Christ Jesus the Lord. He stands ready at God’s right hand to supply the grace and mercy we need.

Do not allow your hearts to grow cold toward the Lord who loves you so. Draw near to him daily, moment by moment, in hopeful expectation that he is better than any fleeting pleasure that might entice your heart. Do not seek him only in days of desperation, but seek him daily. Walk with him. Rekindle passion. Plead with him to help you. He is able to do it, and he delights to do it:

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24-25).

Come Lord Jesus, come.

© 2015 by Garrett Kell. All rights reserved.

KellGarrettGarrett Kell came to know the Lord through the witness of a friend and the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ while a student at Virginia Tech, and later received his ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary. He currently serves as Lead Pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Garrett and Carrie have four children, Eden, Haddon, Phoebe, and Graham. Follow him on Twitter.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “How to avoid moral failure” by guest blogger Garrett Kell on the Stepping Up blog for men.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistWhich one idea can you implement TODAY to keep you from wandering down the road toward moral failure?

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHave you suffered a moral failure. Sam and Toni Gallucci tell about their road to redemption on FamilyLife Today.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistJoin with other men to keep each other strong by going though the Stepping Up Small Group Video Series together.

Making 2014 count



making 2014 countOn New Year’s morning I got up and sat by the fire, reflecting on the past year and the start of my 43rd year of ministry – looking back on what God has done and looking forward to the future.

“This new year, God, what do You expect of me?” I asked. I wasn’t talking about New Year’s resolutions. I wanted to pull back and see the big picture so I could discern God’s will for me in 2014.

My heart and my Bible were opened to Matthew 22. The narrative finds Jesus before the Pharisees – the religious leaders of His day – and he is asked to choose the most important commandment in all of the Law. Jesus answered clearly:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

There are 613 commands in the Law. Jesus didn’t just pick the most important commandment. He summed up the whole counsel of God in just two commands.

After reading those words, I assessed myself in three areas that New Year’s morning.

First, I ruthlessly analyzed the affections of my heart. At the top of the page in my Bible above Matthew 22 I have written, “The human heart is an idol factory.” We like to deceive ourselves that we have our priorities in order, but the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that “The heart is most deceitfully wicked, who can know it.” We choose to love other things more than God, and those things become idols.

As I looked back over the past year, I asked myself, “What did I love?” I thought of the ongoing battle to love myself more than God. I’m really good at that. We seem to do a good job about thinking about and meeting our own needs.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Look through the factory of your heart to see what it had produced in the past year. What things did you love more than God? And how well are you loving your “neighbors” — especially your wife and children?

Second, I contemplated where God is working, and how I could join in what He’s doing. Dr. Henry Blackaby wrote in his classic book, Loving God, “watch to see where God is working and join Him in His work.”

One reason I don’t hesitate to challenge people to be involved in helping reach families is that this is an area where God is at work. It’s also an area where the devil of hell is attacking. One of the purposes of God since the beginning of time is for His image to be reflected in marriages and families for generations. Where is that learned? It’s learned by a little boy and a little girl looking at a mom and a dad, hopefully in a marriage and a family committed relationship, learning what it means to be a man, to be a woman, investing in your marriage and your children. God is at work in this issue today on many levels, and He’s at work generationally.

Finally, I took a hard look at the horizon. The conclusion of one year and the genesis of yet another should result in us sharpening our eyesight on where we’re headed. My personal mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks, would often say, “Man is immortal until God’s work for him on earth is done.”

With each new year, the finish line for me is getting closer, and so I need to look more attentively at the horizon. I need to make sure I’m running in the right direction, and that I’m stretched out toward the finish line.

As I reflected on this for the coming year, one question I wrote is, “How do I get the gospel to more people?” The essence of who I am as a Christian is to proclaim Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. That’s also the goal of FamilyLife. As a ministry, we touched over 14 million people last year. This year, we want to touch more people, and do that more effectively.

I really like the urgent picture painted by 18th century preacher Charles Spurgeon, imploring us to implore others to consider who Jesus Christ is.

“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there un-warned and un-prayed-for.”

I urge you to do the same self-evaluation I did on New Year’s morning. Ask God to reveal what and who you truly love and to help you make necessary corrections in the factory of your heart.

We have a heavenly Father, full of grace and mercy, who pursues us, even in the stubbornness of our idol factories as we continue to love the wrong things. Ask Him, as David did, to create in you a pure heart. And as Christ commanded those Pharisees as he summarized the Law, in 2014, pray that you may better love Him with all your heart, and to do a better job of loving your neighbor.

Ask Him to help you see where He is working and show you how to get involved. And ask Him to open your eyes to clearly see the horizons set before you, and to help you run the race with endurance that is set before you (Hebrews 12).

May God’s favor be upon you – in your marriage, in your family, in the work of your hands and our hands this year. Is there any better way of making 2014 count?

 

Retirement: the most courageous step you can take



Stepping up and becoming a patriarch may be the most courageous step a man ever makes. It’s not only politically incorrect, which makes an even stronger case for it, but it’s countercultural, demanding grit and character to go against the grain of a youth-oriented society.

A man who doesn’t step up at this point in his life will most assuredly step down. True patriarchs are such an endangered species that most men don’t know this step exists. Others wrongly assume that they could never stand on this step; they don’t see themselves ever becoming a patriarch. As a result, we have a generation of men entering this last season of their lives feeling aimless, useless, and bewildered, instead of being on the cutting edge of what could be their most productive and fruitful years.

Grand theft of the elderly?

About a dozen gray-haired men sat at the table in a prestigious country club, all former executives who had been highly successful. Leaders. Champions. Bright, intelligent minds. These were risk takers who’d led big lives, checkered with successes and failures. Married between 45 and 60 years, these men clearly had plenty to impart to younger generations. As I prepared to speak to them, I couldn’t help but think that their gray heads only added to their dignity.

They had asked me to speak for 10 minutes about what FamilyLife was doing to strengthen marriages and families. As I unpacked what we were doing, I mentioned that I would be speaking to a gathering of executives a couple of days later about “Three Qualities of a Patriarch.”

What happened next was fascinating. It was as though I’d touched an open nerve. For 45 minutes, they peppered me with questions, peeling back their hearts and sharing disappointments, frustrations, doubts, and desires.

They talked about how their adult children were critical of them, pushing them to the fringes of their lives. They were treated as unnecessary — except as babysitters — and they felt their families really didn’t want their influence or their involvement. They said the only opportunities their churches offered were ushering, serving on the stewardship committee, and giving to building programs. They lamented that the culture had become so youth oriented, they felt emasculated — treated as though they were done and had nothing to give back.

These men — who had once been kings in their families, their businesses, and their communities were for the first time in their lives uncertain what their roles should be. Like broken antiques gathering dust in the attic, they were without purpose.

But as they interacted, I could see in their eyes that they longed to be challenged again. War hardened and savvy, these sage soldiers wanted to fill their nostrils with the smoke of the battlefield and engage in the fight again. They really didn’t want to trade their swords and armor for a 5 iron and a golf shirt. They realized they were made for something far nobler than watching cable news in a La-Z-Boy recliner.

I sat there astonished at what amounted to “grand theft” — men robbed of their glory — no longer dreaming because of a complicity of forces that had cruelly swindled them out of their courage to step up.

These men had been left behind. Disoriented. Lost. And if they didn’t act soon, this last season of their lives would be wasted.

Pursuing the most courageous step?

I left that meeting with two conclusions: First, most men don’t know how to think about aging. They don’t know what the Bible has to say about aging. Instead of facing upward on the fifth step and pursuing God and his purposes for their lives, they step down and squander a lifetime of experience, wisdom, and abilities. They erroneously conclude that their impact is over and take their cues from the culture about retirement. As they shrivel in self-absorption, all wrapped up in themselves, their lives become the smallest of packages. The result? A perennial shortage of sages.

Think with me for a moment: How many men do you know in their sixties, seventies, and eighties who are vigorous, still growing, and still using their influence for good? Men so visionary, so alive, so positive and expectant about how God is going to use them that you’d want to be like them when you grow old.

A second conclusion was evident: It’s time to resurrect the mantle of patriarch. It’s time for a new order of noble, life-seasoned men to courageously arise, strip away encumbrances, and do battle on behalf of their children, grandchildren, communities, and nation. God created men not to rust out but to wear out as they stretch out toward the finish line.

For those of you who are over 55 years old — and especially if you are retired — I have a tough question: If you’re finished making a difference, then why are you here?

Do you think your best days are behind you? Do you think you don’t have anything else to give? Are you going to believe the culture that thinks you should clip coupons, collect seashells, and spend your kids’ inheritance?

Or on the other hand, wouldn’t you love to be able to articulate your mission for the years you have left? Wouldn’t you like to know and feel noble about what you’re living for? Could you imagine others considering you to be … a patriarch?

A word that drips with dignity

The word “patriarch” comes from the Latin word patri, which means “father.”  Webster defines a patriarch as it relates to a family as, “a man who is a father or founder, the oldest representative of a group, a venerable [esteemed] old man. Unfortunately, in today’s culture, many people consider “patriarch” a dirty word.  For some it conjures images of male chauvinism, of self-serving men who rule their homes through fear, force, and manipulation.

But I believe it’s a word that drips with dignity. In the Old Testament, patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and David served as heads of their families and were described as men after God’s heart. In today’s culture, patriarchs are men who spend their final years investing in the generations to come. They are men who realize their potential to have a lasting influence in their families and in their communities.

I began to become interested in the thought of being a patriarch as my children grew into adulthood and began to marry. My role as a father was changing; I knew that as they established their own families I no longer had the same type of authority in their lives. But I also began to recognize that my work as a father was not finished — it was just changing. Even though my children were adults, they still needed my encouragement and prayers.  I’m no longer the head coach calling the players, but I’ve become a fan on the sidelines, cheering them on.  Young men raising a family in this culture need enthusiastic applause.

As patriarchs we have the time to cheer for our grandchildren and pass on stories of how God has worked in our lives.  One of my grandchildren once asked me how I helped start FamilyLife.  I gave him the Reader’s Digest version of the story, and was reminded of Psalm 71:17-18, a passage you might call the memoirs of a patriarch: “O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds.  And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come.”

A new title

What an opportunity we have as we enter into the final years of life to use the wisdom and influence we’ve accumulated to reach out to the next generation. This is the vision many men today need for their final years. I think of Bill Barber, a lifelong Texan with a wonderful, earthy sense of humor. I met Bill after his son, Clay, came to work at FamilyLife, and I remember when I called him a patriarch. He later wrote me to say he was surprised at my remark. “Heck, I didn’t realize that I was one.”

Bill said he’s been called repulsive, obnoxious, anachronistic, a con man, funny, crazy, opinionated, a rascal, and “an enigma with savoir faire.”  But he kind of liked this new title of “patriarch.”

“Fact is, I’m really loving this patriarching,” he wrote. It is “a lot simpler than most of my peers think. You gotta quit fighting it. Admit your age. Oh, yes, it doesn’t hurt to be 1) an encourager; 2) a servant; 3) a discipler; 4) a man who is silent sometimes; and 5) forgiving to others and self.

“Being a patriarch is just not too bad.”

Taken by permission from Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood, by Dennis Rainey, FamilyLife Publishers.  Copyright © 2011 by Dennis Rainey.  All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just finished reading “Retirement: the most courageous step you can take” by FamilyLife founder Dennis Rainey.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistDr. Howard Hendricks invested his life into countless men, including Dennis Rainey. Read about that impact.

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistListen to “Finishing Well” broadcasts on FamilyLife Today to learn what retirement should and shouldn’t be.

STEPPass - 10-point checklistInvest in other men by doing a Stepping Up small group video series together. Find out how.

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.