Thoughts on another pastor’s fall

Yesterday I learned that David Yonggi Cho is going to prison. Here’s the scoop:

David Yonggi Cho, the 78-year-old leader of the world’s largest Pentecostal mega church, was recently convicted of embezzling $12 million and sentenced to serve three years in prison. (You can read the entire story here).

The following are my unfiltered soul rumblings…

I’m devastated. This man has been a giant in the other world in which I live… the world of the church. He has written books, created paradigms, and showed lots of pastors “how to do it.” He has effectively built a church that has brought honor to God and resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being transformed… and now this. I feel betrayed. Angry. and even a little skeptical… for if David Yonggi Cho succumbed to temptation then who isn’t vulnerable? Are there any trustworthy spiritual leaders?

I’m not as surprised as I used to be. Over the last decade of my life I’ve watched many leaders fall; leaders ranging from political (e.g. Mark Sanborn) to religious (e.g. Ted Haggard). I’ve staggered and been nauseated as I learned, multiple times, of personal acquaintances and mentors who have made irresponsible choices that have led to their public disgrace and put a dent in the reputation of the organizations they represent. I used to be surprised… I’m not so much anymore.

I’m scared. I’m a leader. I’m also a man. The things that led to every other leaders failure (e.g. sex, power, money) could also lead to mine. I promise myself, my wife, my children, my accountability partners, and my God that I’ll not fail. I’m sure these leaders said similar things before succumbing.

I am grateful for the men and women I know who consistently model integrity. There are men and women who live lives of integrity. They are gentle and courageous souls who quietly live lives of righteousness. They remain consistent when the times are good and equally so when suffering is required of them. I am grateful to know people like this… I’d name names but I know some of them read this blog and I don’t want to embarrass them. I am grateful for you.

This is to be expected. Not to be a Debbie Downer here but if you believe that all of humanity is smeared by sin then you can expect that ugly monster to rear its head and crash a life. I believe that God rescues us from the damaging control of sin, but it is absolutely necessary to continually nurture our relationship with Him and “run from” those things that would make us vulnerable to bad choices. Check out what St. Paul said to his protege in ministry, Timothy, on this subject.

OK, enough “soul rumblings”. Here are a few things I am doing in an effort to live a life of integrity:

  • Every day I put my face in the Bible. God gives warnings about this stuff and instruction on how to live a strong, long life of integrity. I really need to have this conversation with God every day… because I’m vulnerable to stupidity if I don’t… and often vulnerable even when I do!
  • I pray with my wife every night and give her a kiss before we go to sleep. This daily ritual reminds me of my spiritual and relational responsibility to my family. It keeps me humble before my wife as I talk to God, out loud, in front of her.
  • I have accountability partners who ask me anything and everything about my life. I tell them the truth.
  • I share my mistakes/sins in appropriate environments. Be wary of a man who never admits to being wrong. (You wouldn’t believe how many times I just edited that sentence! I had a pretty sophomoric way of saying that… but cleaned it up because of the nature of this post). On the other hand, I also like to hear, and share, successes so that others can see how it’s done! Sharing just failures leads to a sense of pessimism. We all fail. And we can all rise!
  • I have hope! I have hope because of this piece of wisdom from the Bible – “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again….” (Proverbs 24:16).

OK, the ladies are all getting out of bed… it’s time to get ready for school so I’ve gotta wrap this up.

Today I encourage you to pray for those in leadership, and then do a self-check… how’s your integrity level?

How bad do you want it?

Right now I’m working with a young man who is preparing to be a “walk-on” for a college football team. This requires brutal workouts that exhaust both the body and the mind!

Recently he asked me for a “motivational talk” that he could listen to that would re-engage his tired body and mind!

I know how he feels! Right now I am training for my third physique show. This is a mentally and physically draining experience.

I drew on my experiences from previous show preparations and also shared two videos with him that I have found inspirational during the training process, and I thought you might find this conversation helpful too.

Here’s how it went…

Hey man!

Two years from now you will look at yourself in the mirror and say one of two things:

  • “I’m glad I did it!”
  • “I wish I would have done it.”
The decisions you make about training, diet, friendships, etc. will determine which one you say.
A life of regret usually follows on the heels of a series of poor decisions. These decisions usually look like fun… at first (spend money you don’t have, half-ass workouts, eat like crap, indiscriminate sex, little sleep, hours of thoughtless activity, etc.). At the time these decisions seem like fun. But “at the time” is always followed by “a future time” and that’s where the payoff lies.
On the other hand, a life of satisfaction and fulfillment is always preceded by a series of hard choices and painful sacrifice.
To get where you want to be you are going to have to make decisions and sacrifices that others don’t understand, aren’t strong enough to make, don’t care enough to go through the pain for. You will lose friends, miss out on short-term fun, hurt physically, and even struggle mentally while you are going through these days… but the future you long for lies on the other side of “these days.”
You are a man. You get to make your own decisions. No one is forcing you either way. People will try to influence you… but no one can make you do it… only you. You are the creator of your future. What are you going to create? Another overweight, middle-aged man who talks about what he used to be? Or will you create a bad-ass monster who enjoys what he has made through consistent hard work, and unwavering personal discipline.
Your choice man.
Here’s a couple of videos that have been helpful for me while training for shows:

Why you should stop

This weekend I stopped.

I stopped all work related activities. I completely disengaged from work and fully engaged in Nerf gun wars, Uno, sled races, reading books, taking naps, cuddling with my favorite people, and I even had the chance to slide down a snow covered hill on a saucer with Mrs. Peterson on my lap!

This weekend we spent time making memories, nurturing friendships, and doing things that “normal” life doesn’t have space for.

Many people think a “stop” is a waste of time. I used to think that. I don’t anymore.

A large part of my change in thinking has to do with a book I read a couple of years ago and am now currently re-reading… The Power of Full Engagement.

The authors of this must-read book say: “Our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.”

Oh man are they ever right!

I find that when I don’t disengage I become less and less engaged in the work at hand. BUT…

When I intentionally disengage I am more engaged than ever when I re-engage!

Let me give you some examples of how this works:

  • If you’re a parent and you’ve had the chance to take a night away or a weekend away from your kids… you can’t wait to get back to them! It’s like the time away (i.e. the period of disengagement) has reinvigorated you!
  • When you miss the gym for a few days… you CAN’T WAIT to get back! Smart lifters actually build down time into their training schedule. They call it “de-load week“.
  • “Amazingly” distance from your spouse for a short period of time often serves to rekindle the passion in your romance!
  • Studies consistently show that people most often get their best and most creative ideas in the shower, while driving, on the golf course, etc. in other words, our best ideas of come to us in places in which we are most disengaged!

I really can’t wait to get back into the swing of life this week! I ready to re-engage because I have disengaged!

If you have trouble disengaging, take a minute to read this journal entry from a man who was more busy than you or I will ever be, David. He had hundreds of wives, multiple children, a nation to lead, wars to fight, literature to write, and on and on and on. Read this, and note all of the references to “disengaging” that he makes…

The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23 NLT)

Well, I’ve got to get going… the kids are waking up, but I hope that you can find a chance to disengage/stop soon so that you can re-engage later with increased passion and focus!

 

Determine your future with this action…

ninja“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”

So says Solomon, purportedly the wisest man to ever live and the author of 3,000+ proverbs (this one is found in the Bible book of Proverbs – 4:23).

I read this and wondered several things:

 

  • What is the “heart”?
  • How does one “guard” it?
  • How does this action determine your/my future.

I spent some time in further reading and reflection and needed to write out some of what came to mind.

The heart…

Literally it is the organ that pumps blood throughout the body. If/when it stops working we stop living.

Metaphorically it is the essence of who you are. If your heart is not working you are not breathing. No heart = no life.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this about the term “heart”:

…in its abstract meanings, “heart” became the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature. In biblical literature it is the most frequently used term for man’s immaterial personality functions as well as the most inclusive term for them since, in the Bible, virtually every immaterial function of man is attributed to the “heart.”

You get the point… the heart, in it’s metaphorical sense, is who you REALLY are.

How does one “guard” the heart?

As you read through the Scriptures you see the heart affected by anger, grief, depression, and disappointment. You also see hearts that overflow with joy, anticipation, love, and gratitude.

The heart, the inner-self, is capable of many emotions… many times all in one day! You know as well as I do that some feelings can make you dangerous while others can make you desirable company.

The question is, how do I guard my heart?

Well, I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do know a few things that will help to guard the heart:

  • Forgiveness reduces the chance of bitterness and anger.
  • Smiling increases the chance of joy and likability.
  • Gossip reduces the chance of genuine, healthy friendships.
  • Encouragement increases the likelihood of meaningful interactions.
  • Dishonesty, greed, anger, laziness, selfishness, pride, etc. all of these will take you to a place of loneliness and disappointment. While on the other hand…
  • Honesty, mercy, hard work, humility, self-control, etc. will take you to a desirable future.

It really comes down to this… I guard or abandon my heart with the decisions I make every day. 

When I choose to post gossip, tweet anger, lie, lust, or refuse to share… I make the decision to become a gossip, angry man, liar, lustful jerk, selfish man.

Likewise, when I choose to smile, work hard, think, and tell the truth… I make the decision to become a happy, prosperous, thoughtful, and honest man.

In other words… I become on the outside what I decide to do on the inside!

How does this action determine my future?

An angry man today makes a reputation for himself… as an angry man.

An honest man today makes a reputation for himself… as an honest man.

See, what you do today shapes what you believe about yourself and what you believe about yourself becomes your reality!

You are what your heart says you are, and that’s why it’s so important to guard your heart!

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT)

How to improve all your relationships

I know that’s a pretty presumptive title for a blog post… but I happen to believe it’s true because of the source from which I get it AND the fact that when I’ve tried it, it’s worked!

Here’s the magic:

Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
and you will earn a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:3-6 NLT)

When it comes to human relationships… the key words are loyalty and kindness!

When it comes to your relationship with God… the key word is trust!

These characteristics, when put into practice, have the power to develop and nurture healthy relationships with the people around you and the God above you!

Make an analysis of your relationships, both human and divine. How are things? By the way, if you need some ideas about how to “do” loyalty and kindness I taught on this subject a while back in a series called “Climate Change.” You can hear that particular lesson here.

Stop “playing small”

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.” Steven Pressfield

Oh my! How liberating those two sentences are! It’s okay to be good! It’s okay to be REAL good! It’s okay to be the best! No need for shame. No need to be embarrassed. It’s okay to do well.

Of course the best are even better served when they are the best AND humble… but still… it’s okay to be good!

Don’t let the lowest common denominator in your circle of peers set your standard. Don’t let broke people determine how you feel about your savings plan; obese people determine how you feel about your diet; unhappy couples determine how you feel about your marriage; etc.

Don’t be arrogant… but for crying out loud, don’t be shy! Don’t slink away. Don’t be small on purpose!

Stop regretting and apologizing for what you have developed through hard work. Do what you do with pride, determination, and purpose and you might even find that your colleagues soon come along!

Seven lessons I’ve learned about prayer

Admittedly I’m not the greatest prayer you might know. Having said that, I do pray and have been praying for about 17 years. During that time I’ve stumbled onto some key lessons regarding this spiritual discipline. I shared them last Saturday with the “Band of Brothers” at Church180 and thought you might find them helpful too.

So with no further ado let me share seven lessons I’ve learned about prayer…

There are 3 attitudes that block my prayers

#1 I don’t give a rip

God detests the prayers of a person who ignores the law. (Proverbs 28:9 NLT)

I find that when I don’t care about what God has said… He doesn’t say much more.

As a parent I totally understand that! When my kids don’t listen to what I tell them… I feel the need to repeat what I’ve already said until they get it! I’m not going to share new information until they start doing what I’ve already told them!

#2 I’m not sure

Rob Polenik, owner of Brutal Iron Gym, has a sign hanging on his door that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, then maybe you should do it the way I told you to in the beginning.”

In other words… trust the expert! Don’t come to him for advice then doubt what he says or choose not to do it like he says… do it!

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:5-7 NLT)

This third one is a biggie, and one that I didn’t fully understand until I had daughters.

#3 She’s just a woman

You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:7 NLT)

As a dad I know this… any boy that mistreats my girls will not only not receive my ear, but he may receive my foot!

Men, the way we treat our wives directly impacts the effectiveness of our prayers! Essentially God is saying, Don’t talk mean to hear then talk nice to me… I’m not listening to you until you fix things up with her!

Some of the best advice here comes from St. Paul, “Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26 NLT)

So there are three attitudes that can block my prayers.

But there are three ways I’ve found to know it’s God telling me something…

3 ways I know it’s God:

#1 The Bible says it.

A couple of months ago I wrote a post titled, “Why I have to read the Bible”, that goes into greater detail about this subject. You can read it here.

#2 I can’t quit thinking about it.

I find that often if a thought comes and goes… it’s my idea, BUT if a thought comes and lingers, almost haunts me… then it’s probably God! His ideas don’t seem to go away quickly.

Of course this isn’t ALWAYS true. There are some things that regularly come to mind which would not make God happy if I carried them out. I always seek to confirm the “rightness” or “wrongness” of what I’m thinking about by checking out what the Bible says. For instance, carrying out a lustful desire = not good. Asking forgiveness for hurting my wife’s feelings = good. Pretty basic… but you get the point.

#3 My mentors and my wife say it.

I’ve found that when I listen to her, God often speaks to me through my wife! There are multiple Scriptures that teach us that there is wisdom found in the voices of wise counselors, friends, family, etc.

Now the order is important here! Don’t get it mixed up! Sometimes we make that error and listen to people and thoughts first! Run them through the grid as you are determining whether or not it is God you are hearing!

And now the seventh lesson I’ve learned about prayer…

For years I’ve wrestled with HOW to pray!

Before I went to college I was a high school dropout, pothead, and spiritually dead moron. When I made the decision to follow the leadership of Jesus and began nurturing my friendship with God prayer became an important part of my daily routine.

At college I would literally pray 1-2 hours a day! No exaggeration! Keep in mind that I was at a Bible College, surrounded by all things spiritual and good so praying that much was not as difficult as it might sound.

Then I got married, got a job, had one girl… then six, and my prayer life started looking different. Real different!

For years I’ve compared my prayer life now to my prayer life then! BIG MISTAKE! Why? I’m not in the same situation today as I was back then… and I’m not the same person today I was back then! I’ve grown up, added responsibility, and matured in my relationship with God. Still though… I’ve made the mistake of comparing then to now… and often felt guilty about how “now” looks.

Then I found this nugget of wisdom from St. Paul, and this is the seventh lesson I’ve learned about prayer…

1 way to pray

The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. (1 Timothy 2:1 MSG)

That’s it! Pray every way you know how for everyone you know! That means sometimes I pray in the car for our president. Sometimes I pray in my office for you. Sometimes I pray in the gym for people I know. Sometimes I pray in bed for myself. Sometimes I pray while I walk around the church and other times I pray while I’m in the shower.

It’s kind of like this… I talk to God… and listen to God and that happens in a variety of times and places! That’s what St. Paul said to Timothy… and it works!

Certainly there are times when I need to just “get away” to quietly think about and talk to God, but prayer… prayer is something that can happen anywhere, for anything or anyone.

I ended my conversation with the men of Church180 like this:

So I want to challenge you men to carve out some time every day to talk to and listen to God! It’s as important as going to the gym, balancing your checkbook, going on a date with your wife, and changing the oil in your car!

I suppose that’s a good way to end this conversation as well… I challenge you to take time to talk to and listen to God every day… I think you’ll be happy you did!

 

How to beat a giant

David and GoliathIt really comes down to this…

If you want to BEAT the giant, you’ve got to CONFRONT the giant!

Scared? Yep. Possibility of harm? Likely. Overwhelmed? Sure. Is there another way? No.

Oh I guess you could wait until the giant dies… but who knows how long that will be? Are you willing to live under his domination that long? By the time he dies you’ll have grown accustomed to living like a coward and you’ll not do anything different then.

Really. Seriously! The only way to beat the giant is to confront him. Take a breath and go for it.

Where’s all this coming from? I’m working on the teach for this weekend at Church180 in our Super Bowl Preach off and couldn’t hold it in any longer! We’re telling the story of David and the giant (Goliath). Hope you can be there at 10 a.m.!

Step forward!

dangerDanger – the possibility that you will be hurt or killed. : the possibility that something unpleasant or bad will happen. a person or thing that is likely to cause injury, pain (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

 

 

What do you do when the “Danger Light” flashes; when the “Warning Siren” screams, or the door down the hall creaks as it opens slowly? 

Most of us run.

So I was reading my Bible this morning and saw a different reaction to danger.

It was night time. Jesus was just about to be betrayed by his “friend”, Judas. Here’s how St. John tells the story:

Jesus crossed the Kidron Valley with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. 

“Who are you looking for?” he asked“Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied.

“I Am he,” Jesus said.

“He stepped forward to meet them”… even though He knew what was going to happen! They were going to put the ultimate beat down on Him! They were going to humiliate, pound, and ultimately kill Him… but He “stepped forward” anyhow!

He could have run… denied that He was the guy they were looking for… fought back (like some of his disciples wanted to do)… He could have done so many things but instead He chose to… “step forward.”

And in stepping forward He won! He soaked up the hardest beatings, greatest humiliation, worst names, and ugliest death the thugs could parcel out, and then He came back!

Jesus is so courageous! He knew that the BIG WIN was on the other side of the BIGGEST DANGER… so He stepped forward!

I read this and wonder… Have I run away from things that I should have stepped forward to meet? Has my fear kept me from the biggest and best? What has the fear of pain, embarrassment, and betrayal kept me from experiencing?

Today I’m going to live with these words on the front of my brain, “Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them,” and pray for courage to “step forward” when the time arises.

 

The profile of an “older man”

I am a man. I have a wife who needs/wants a strong, godly man. I have six daughters for whom I want strong, godly men. You can see then why I am interested in what God has to say about being a man.

So I was reading my Bible this morning and came across a conversation between St. Paul and a young leader he was mentoring, Titus. Paul had sent Titus to the island of Crete (the largest and most populated of the Greek islands) to appoint leaders to the churches that had been started there.

Paul wrote to Titus:

As for you, Titus, promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching. Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

I love the profile that Paul gives here… the expectations of older men! This is the model that young men are to be working to create in our lives!

  • Self-control
  • Worthy of respect
  • Wise
  • Sturdy faith
  • Loving
  • Patient

Do you know a man who has these characteristics? I know a few… and I’ve gotten close enough to a couple of them to call them “mentors.” Men like Virgil, Dick, and a few others. I love these men and hope to be like them someday.

I love reading the Bible because it gives me a sense of what can be in my life!